23 December 2016

***** The COAS Controversy Shows Need For Reform In Army

 By Lt Gen H S Panag

The government needs to ensure that senior positions in the army don’t seem like they’re the result of political patronage.

"Hail to the chief who in triumph advances," wrote Sir Walter Scott in ‘The Lady of the Lake’. And we say the same to Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, who will assume the duties as the 26th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on January 1, 2017. We hail him, salute him and support him to lead the Indian Army (IA) for the next three years to ensure external and internal security of India, to carry out much-needed structural, organisational, moral and human resource development reforms; and to influence the government to reform the higher defence management, formulate a formal National Security Strategy and the dependent Force Development Strategy. A very tall order indeed, but we hope that he will remain steadfast and succeed.

Unfortunately, Rawat begins his tenure under controversial circumstances with respect to his selection. He has ‘on merit’ (as decided by the government) superseded two seniors, Lt Gen Bakshi and Lt Gen Hariz. Though the principle of selection is 'merit cum seniority', seniority has been violated only once before in 1983 when Gen Vaidya superseded Lt Gen Sinha - a controversy that lingers till date. There is no doubt that it is the prerogative of the government to select the COAS based on the principle of 'merit cum seniority'. However, given the universal perception of our political culture in which merit at this level is influenced by 'political jan-pehchan', the principle of seniority has remained pre-eminent.

*** Trump Should Read India’s Playbook for Taunting China


Donald Trump’s decision to break protocol and become the first president-elect in decades to speak by phone with a Taiwanese president was either a colossal blunder or a shrewd strategic coup, depending on which Beltway insider you ask. At the least, Trump’s divisive exchange with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sparked a substantive debate about the nature of U.S.-China-Taiwan relations and the sanctity of Beijing’s version of the “One-China” policy, which codifies China’s inalienable sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet.

Yet, as Washington braces for potential blowback from Beijing, both critics and supporters of the Trump-Tsai exchange have overlooked one key fact. In an era when global powers are shunning both Taiwanese and Tibetan leaders (like the Dalai Lama) under the weight of Chinese pressure, one country has been openly challenging Beijing’s One-China policy for more than six years: India.

Like many of China’s neighbors, in the late 2000s India was still adjusting to the more assertive and nationalistic brand of Chinese foreign policy that emerged in 2008, when Beijing’s leaders interpreted the global financial crisis as symbolic of a great power shift from a declining West to an ascendant China. Bilateral ties were repeatedly tested by friction over Chinese incursions into India across their disputed border, Beijing’s efforts to block U.N. sanctions on Pakistan-based terrorists, and visits by the Indian prime minister and the Dalai Lama to the state of Arunachal Pradesh, most of which is claimed by China as “South Tibet,” among others.

*** In Defense of Nationalism

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Two overly reductive tropes are developing around the concept of nationalism. The first is the idea that “nationalism is rising.” In this conceptualization, nationalism is a kind of primordial haunting that has begun to possess various segments of society. It comes about via spontaneous generation, infecting the minds of those susceptible to notions of ethnic or religious superiority. Once sparked, it can be very difficult to stop and often ends in war and global catastrophe. The second is the way nationalism is often used in the same breath as words like authoritarianism, chauvinism and xenophobia, as if these concepts are synonyms, and nationalism is just one concept in a basket of “deplorables.”

Nationalism is rising, but an increase in nationalist sentiments is often a symptom of increased instability, not a cause. Nationalism began to emerge with the American and French revolutions, but nationalism as an ideology came to maturity as a political force in Europe in the 19th century. It is no coincidence that nationalism became powerful at the same time that massive economic dislocation was occurring because of the Industrial Revolution. What began in Great Britain as factories replaced cottage industries in the production of textiles soon spread across the Continent, fundamentally changing the structure of the family and the life of the typical worker, and bringing teeming numbers of workers from farms into rapidly growing cities.

* Optimising Ladakh’s strategic advantage

P. Stobdan

The best way to blunt the CPEC is to think about India's own belt- and-road idea. Modi should offer Xi Jinping an alternative energy corridor originating from an Indian port running across Ladakh to China. Why not jointly use the Aksai-Chin highway? J&K needs resetting for it to be advantage India.

TERRITORIAL ADVANTAGE: Unique geographical advantage of Ladakh will allow India to offer connectivity to Eurasia and China. Ladakh has suffered due to demographic deficiency or low weight in electoral politics. PTI

THIS government has made a distinct shift in policy to deal with Pakistan. But mending the chronic nature of Kashmir imbroglio needs other steps than just accosting Pakistan. An equally radical step is needed to reset the internal parameters of Jammu and Kashmir. The government can do it. It is time to look at India's internal political statecraft. The initial flawed decision on Kashmir was essentially crafted by Jawaharlal Nehru who had wistful familial links with the Valley. It undercut India in several poignant ways. The faulty statecraft failed to check both China and Pakistan eating into the state's territory. Over 55 per cent of the State's 222, 236 sq. km territory is under the occupation of either China or Pakistan.

Impact of an unusual selection

Anil Chait

At the outset, Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat must be congratulated upon being appointed as the next Chief of the Army Staff. His rich experience, exposure and hoary regimental traditions will stand him in good stead as he assumes the mantle.

Lt. Gen. Rawat’s challenges are many. The most daunting will be to unite the institution, underlining a single ethos against the diverse aspirations of soldiers. He has the potential and time to do this.

Supersession of two very competent seniors for the appointment was bound to cause anguish and evoke strong reactions — not just about the abrogation of the rightful claims and expectations of the two officers but, more importantly, on the impact it would have on the apolitical nature of the Army. To this end, the elaborate justifications put forth on the part of the establishment and certain voices from the so-called strategic community have been unhelpful, and that is worrying.

The government’s prerogative to appoint the person who it considers most suitable in these circumstances, as has been done, is unfettered. But it should have been accompanied by transparency and logic.


Deepak Sinha

The Government has missed out on an opportunity to restructure the defence establishment in a meaningful way

On the hotly-debated issue of selection of the Chief of Army Staff, let there be no doubt that hypocrisy and selective use of facts seem to be the norm on both sides of the fence. At the outset, in the 21st century, Service chiefs have been reduced to pygmies by successive Governments over the years. They are no longer the divine entities to the rank and file that they were in the past. Social media and the Internet has put paid to that. Their inability over the years, to either influence policy or ensure that the military is appropriately treated along with blatant acts of partiality and unethical behaviour on the part of some incumbents, has also seen to that. 

There are three major issues that have come to the fore in this debate over suitability of a particular individual to hold that appointment. To suggest that this is an issue of merit versus seniority, as some have attempted to do, is a non sequitur, given that all those who reach the rank of Army commander or equivalent after 36 years or so of service, are obviously at par, though each has his own strengths and weaknesses. The difference in seniority and experience is only either in months or just ranking within the batch on commissioning and means little at this rank, except purely in bureaucratic terms.

Peeping into a secret world

Amitava Chakraborty

The role of the army in Pakistan has baffled analysts across the world. The army has not only failed to maintain the territorial integrity of the nation but also continues to play a crucial role in sustaining violence in the subcontinent. The civil-military relationship in Pakistan is different from that of its neighbours. Although the army does not take over the seat of power, it retaliates with signals of a coup, thereby, forcing democratic institutions to back down. The Inter-Service-Intelligence is the military's intelligence wing. The ISI is known for its overseas covert strike capabilities as well as its interference in domestic matters.

Hein G. Kiessling lived in Pakistan between 1989 and 2002 as a representative of the German Political Foundation. During his stay, he built close relationships with the top-ranking military and intelligence officers. The book provides an insight into the functioning of the organization and the generals who ran the show since its inception. The ISI was created in 1948 to gather intelligence and protect national interests from a hostile India and an expansionist Russia. During the Cold War, the ISI moved towards the United States of America to counter Soviet and Indian influence in Afghanistan and Kashmir respectively.

A romance with nuclear particles

Bikash Sinha

Theoretical physics to most is a complicated and complex affair. There is absolutely no romance, even hidden, in the maze of intricate formulae. The obvious question that comes to mind is what one has got to do with it? With that perspective, Roger Penrose's latest book, Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe, is a unique treat.

In the preface to the book, Penrose asks, "Are fashion, faith or fantasy relevant to fundamental science?" According to the author, science is not only rigorous but the rigor is also continuously being questioned by experiments; the question of faith in poetry seems almost irrelevant in this context.

Penrose opines that "fantasy is surely the province of certain area of fiction and entertainment, where it is not deemed essential that significant regard be paid to the requirement of consistency and observation or to strict logic or even to a good sense. Indeed, if a proposed scientific theory as being too much influenced by the enslavement of fashion following an experimentally unsupported faith or by romantic temptation of fantasy, then it is our duty to point out such influence and steer away any who might perhaps unwittingly be subject to influence of this kind." However, Penrose is not totally sold out to the inapplicability of such terms as "fantasy", "faith" and "fashion". There are many such cases in history, the history of physics.

With an eye on China, India steams ahead in the battle for naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean

Manu Balachandran

India is flexing its maritime muscles in the Indian Ocean.

Since 2011, India’s naval voyages across the world’s third-largest ocean have grown in number by 300%, according to consultancy firm IHS Markit, bolstering the country’s presence in a key region where China has been making inroads.

China has increasingly deployed nuclear and conventional submarines in the Indian Ocean as it looks to assert its dominance as a regional superpower, and counter India’s growing influence, in South Asia.

The Indian Ocean is a prominent trade route as nearly 36 million barrels of oil are transported daily through its shipping lines. This is roughly about 40% of the world’s oil supply. The ocean also accounts for 40% of the global offshore oil production. For India, as much as 95% of its trade and 80% of crude oil imports take place through the Indian Ocean.

“Dominance in the Indian Ocean translates, in a way, to dominance in Asia, because of the primary maritime trade routes and energy trade,” Caron Natasha Tauro, south Asia analyst for security research firm IHS Jane, said in a statement. “This boosted competition between India, which sees the ocean as its backyard, and China, which has the potential to enlarge its influence with the One Belt, One Road project and the Maritime Silk Road initiative.”

Pakistan in deep Deception – India has a Difficult Deal

By Bhaskar Roy

Depression can be treated. But self-inflicted deception which hurts neighbours can be controlled to an extent if the patient is locked up in a padded cell. This self-deception is like a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing, frustrating everyone including even Pakistan itself.

A couple of recent examples. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke to US President-elect Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory. They immediately published the conversation with comma, semicolon, exclamation mark, with no full stop. The aim was to project to the people of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan among others, how much Trump appreciated him. The Trump team had to clarify with their own account of the conversation, setting it in the correct perspective.

The Sharif account was criticised both in the US and by some Pakistanis like PPP leader and member of the Senate, Sherry Rehman, Sharif and his advisors completely upturned diplomatic protocol. Delusional, and self-deception at its worst.

Pakistani naval officers informed (Nov. 25, 2016) that the Gwadar Port had become operational and Chinese naval ships would be deployed there to ensure maritime security. Then they added that Russia had agreed in secret discussion to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which opens in Gwadar. This was rebutted strongly by the Russians officially. Egg on the face again. These officers would not have spoken unless cleared by upper echelons of the command.

Presumed Innocent


How the Indian media sees Nawaz Sharif 

Over the years, the Indian media has tended to focus more on Sharif’s conciliatory statements, and less on his role in the midst of several institutions tussling for power.

When Nawaz Sharif was elected the prime minister of Pakistan in June 2013, Indian media outlets were largely optimistic about the development, particularly after reports emerged that he had invited the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to his swearing-in. The Hindu said Sharif “had vowed to revive the peace process which was interrupted by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf.” The Indian Express said Sharif “has reached out to India,” while the Hindustan Times said “India has genuine reason to be pleased” by the election’s results.

The perception of camaraderie between the two countries was further boosted after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, and Sharif accepted Modi’s invitation to attend his swearing-in. NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, who conducted an off-camera interview with Sharif, reported that he said he was keen on removing “fears, misgivings and mistrust.” He insisted that the decisive mandates that both leaders had won freed them “to turn a new page in the history of India and Pakistan.”

Not Since Nixon Has a U.S. President Faced Such a Tough China Challenge


For most of the past four decades, American presidents have presumed that a “successful” China would be good for the United States. But this is no longer the case. Today, that long-standing consensus is breaking down in the face of several dynamic changes. These include China’s rapid military buildup, its unprecedentedly quick industrial and economic development, an increasingly assertive Chinese foreign policy, and new competitive pressures on the United States’ economy and fiscal health.

Even the most sanguine voices now view the U.S.-China relationship as competitive, and urge the United States to respond decisively, if carefully, especially to Beijing’s security behavior in Asia. Among Washington foreign-policy elites and a growing number of U.S. companies, China is viewed as a strategic competitor, a military threat in Asia and, ultimately, a possible adversary. Indeed, during the election campaign, Donald Trump pledged to adopt a more confrontational approach toward China, not least by threatening to impose significant tariffs on its exports to the United States. But Trump is by no means alone in this regard. Across the American political spectrum, from right to left, a new and more skeptical consensus about the rise of Chinese power is eroding the aspirational and optimistic view that prevailed for more than forty years.It would be difficult to understate just how important and dramatic this shift could turn out to be. Eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, fostered closer relations with China. Washington opened American markets and welcomed Chinese products into the United States. It encouraged U.S. firms to invest in China, sharing business practices and U.S. technologies. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s administrations supported China’s admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Over three decades, Washington enabled China’s participation in nearly every major international forum.

How Donald Trump Can Stave Off Defeat in the South China Sea

Ross Babbage

What should the president-elect do about Beijing's aggressive adventurism?

What should the Trump administration do about Beijing’s adventurism in the South China Sea?

China is asserting sovereignty over some 80 percent of this strategic waterway and reinforcing its claim by maintaining by far the largest military, coastguard and maritime militia presence in the region.

During the last five years, Beijing’s footprint in the South China Sea has been dramatically bolstered by the construction of facilities for surveillance, anti-air, anti-shipping and strike forces on a series of artificially dredged-up islands. Beijing’s expansionism has been involved a succession of modest incremental steps, each of which falls below the threshold that would trigger a forceful Western response. In consequence, China is now close to being able to declare and then enforce an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over most, if not all, of the South China Sea.

This Chinese campaign of island creation and militarization poses a serious challenge to the operational freedom and power of the United States and its allies, to the immediate security of the maritime states of Southeast Asia and, more fundamentally, to the rules-based global order.

Factories Shut Down, Cars Stopped as China Struggles With Smog

By Cal Wong

Northern China was literally shrouded in smog on Tuesday morning as several of the capital’s air quality monitoring sites reported levels of PM2.5 pollution had hit 300 micrograms per cubic meter.

Across China’s industrial north, city pollution readings exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter — 50 times larger than the World Health Organization guideline. PM2.5 is the finest pollutant particles and can cause the greatest harm to public health. These particulates are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, and can easily be inhaled, causing damage to lung tissues. They are especially bad for developing children.

In response to the smog, Beijing and surrounding provinces have issued a “red alert,” the highest alert of a four-tiered pollution warning system. It is estimated that more than 460 million people will be affected by this red alert.

State media reported that 169 flights had been canceled at Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday morning, where visibility at one point fell to 300 meters. Many more flights are expected to be canceled. A number of schools have closed, while hospitals prepared teams of doctors to handle an expected surge in cases of pollution-related illnesses. Sections of Beijing’s sixth ring road, the outermost highway encircling the city, were shut down in a bid to keep cars off the roads.

Germany's Nightmare, Merkel's Nightmare

By Severin Weiland and Philipp Wittrock

The attack on Berlin has the potential for shaking up German politics. Angela Merkel said what she needed to say, but her task of reuniting the country ahead of next fall's general election just became more difficult.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel signs the book of condolence for the victims of the Monday night attack.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in crisis mode. Again. But this time, it hurts worse than before and has shaken the entire country. The attacks over the summer in Würzburg and Ansbach were merely harbingers of Monday night's bloodbath. Now, 12 people are dead and dozens more wounded after an attacker drove a semi-truck into a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin.

Merkel was fully aware that something like Monday's night's attack could happen here too -- indeed, that it was almost inevitable. But that hasn't mitigated the shock. "This is a difficult day," the chancellor said. The country, she went on, is "united in deep mourning."



The Germans have accused Saudi Arabia of funding radical mosques. 

Updated | Even before the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) claimed the allegiance of the driver of the truck that slammed into a Berlin Christmas market on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had set herself on a collision course with the ideologues and Gulf leaders who condone and support radical Islamists.

Merkel’s welcoming of Muslim refugees into Germany has proved to be highly unpopular for her at home. But she is also one of the few Western leaders who has spoken out against Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations for funding the Salafist mosques that have been brainwashing young men into becoming violent radicals throughout Europe. And she has called for a full-face burqa ban in Germany, a move that inflamed Islamists when France banned it in 2010.

Last week, the German government released a report compiled by Merkel’s intelligence agencies that accused Gulf Arab states of funding extreme Islamist groups in Germany that have links to ISIS. The report named Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar as alleged financing sources for Salafist mosques, preachers and faith schools in Germany. The report warned that more than 9,000 people have links to Salafism in Germany and that many more could be converted.

Hezbollah using U.S. weaponry in Syria: senior Israeli military officer

By Ori Lewis 

Israel has informed the United States that Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in Syria are using U.S. armored personnel carriers originally supplied to the Lebanese Army, a senior Israeli military officer said on Wednesday. 

The U.S. State Department said last month that the American embassy in Beirut was working to investigate images on social media purporting to show Hezbollah, which supports President Bashar al-Assad, displaying U.S. military equipment in Syria. 

Those images were widely reported to have been of U.S.-made M113 armored personnel carriers, which the State Department said were extremely common in the region. 

In an intelligence briefing to foreign reporters in Tel Aviv, the senior officer showed a photograph of military vehicles, which he said included U.S.-made armored personnel carriers (APCs), along a road. 

"These APCs are of the Hezbollah, while fighting in Syria, that they took from the Lebanese armed forces," he said in English, describing the guerrilla group as dominant in Lebanon. 



The destruction of Syria's former commercial capital is a harbinger of more terrible things to come in the Middle East—and in Europe. 

Monday was a catastrophic day: A Turkish gunman in Ankara murdered a Russian ambassador; a ramming attack in Berlin rivaled the horror of last summer’s massacre in Nice; and a divided United Nations Security Council passed a toothless resolution requesting monitors for the embattled city of Aleppo, Syria. All of these events harken back to Sarajevo in 1914, when a young Serbian assassin named Gavrilo Princip killed Archduke Ferdinand, sparking the Great War.

What ties Monday’s events together is Aleppo, both its fall and what happens after it. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, predicted it was “likely the harbinger of more terror to come, post-Aleppo fall and as ISIS loses Mosul and Raqqa.”

He may be right. On Monday, the Russians finally agreed to a Security Council resolution allowing U.N. monitors to observe the evacuation of Aleppo. In theory, it seems like a good idea: The Security Council has long been divided over Syria, with the Russians and Chinese vetoing anything that might help the rebels. But the resolution, drafted by the French, actually holds little weight: The monitors will not be blue helmets, peacekeepers or even human rights officials who might document war crimes that take place during the evacuation. Instead, they will be at the mercy of the Syrian government’s cooperation.

A Cruel Test for Germany, and Europe

The populist right has wasted no time waiting for facts to emerge about the identity of the attacker in Berlin or a motive to slam Chancellor Angela Merkel for her humane asylum policy and to push its xenophobic agenda. This dangerous — if predictable — reaction plays directly into the hands of the Islamic State, which would like nothing better than to start a war between Christians and Muslims in Europe.

Shortly after the attack on Monday, Marcus Pretzell, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, viciously tweeted, “These are Merkel’s dead!” On Tuesday, Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, tweeted an image of Ms. Merkel spattered with blood; Nigel Farage, of Britain’s U.K. Independence Party, tweeted that such events “will be the Merkel legacy”; and Marine Le Pen, the French nationalist, issued a statement on the “Islamist” attack in Berlin and called for reinforcing Europe’s national borders there.

More may soon be known about the person who drove a truck into a Christmas market near Berlin’s Memorial Church, killing 12 people and injuring at least 48. A Pakistani immigrant detained after the attack was freed Tuesday, and the assailant, still unidentified, remains at large.

Ukraine Investigates Suspected Cyberattack on

Ukraine is investigating a suspected cyberattack on Kyiv's power grid over the weekend, the latest in a series of strikes on its energy and financial infrastructure, the head of the state-run power distributor said on Tuesday.

Vsevolod Kovalchuk, acting chief director of Ukrenergo, told Reuters that a power distribution station near Kyiv unexpectedly switched off early on Sunday, leaving the northern part of the capital without electricity.

It comes after a Ukrainian security chief said last week that Ukraine needed to beef up its cyber defenses, citing a spate of attacks on government websites that he said originated in Russia.

Kovalchuk said the outage amounted to 200 megawatts of capacity, equivalent to about a fifth of the capital's energy consumption at night.

"That is a lot. This kind of blackout is very, very rare," Kovalchuk told Reuters by phone. He said there were only two possible explanations for the incident: either a hardware failure or external interference.

Is this the end of democracy?


Democracy is the will of the people but what if the people have little clue as to what they are doing? 

A month before the Brexit vote, the Ipsos Mori polling firm discovered that the British public was systematically misinformed. For instance, Leave voters believed that EU immigrants comprise 20 per cent of the UK’s population. Remain voters estimated 10 per cent. The truth is about 5 per cent. Both Leave and Remain voters vastly overestimated what percent of the UK child benefit goes to children living in Europe. Both vastly underestimated how much foreign investment comes from the EU, and overestimated how much comes from China.

Brexit voters were misinformed about the basic facts, though Remainers on average were less wrong than Leavers. Yet even knowing these basic facts would not suffice to make voters well informed. To cast a smart vote, a citizen would need significant social scientific knowledge. They would need to know about the economics and sociology of trade and immigration, the politics of centralised regulation, and the history of nationalist movements. But there is no reason to presume even a tenth of the UK’s population has a basic grasp of the social science needed to evaluate Brexit.

Future Underwater Drone Warfare?

By James Hasik

In what Ankur Panda in The Diplomat termed an “exceptionally brazen and illegal move by Beijing,” the Chinese Navy this past week stole an American ocean glider. On Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced that the Defense Department had contacted the Chinese government to demand the glider back. After some nonsensical whining about American reconnaissance around its ships, the Chinese government agreed to return the little guy. After all, seizing another Navy’s boat on the high seas can be construed as an act of war. At the same time, seizing this one—indeed, almost any single one like it—provides no useful intelligence. While this particular stunt may not be soon repeated, incidents involving autonomous craft at sea may increase considerably, as robotic boats and subs proliferate quickly.

First, let's recount the action, such as it was. The glider in question was most likely a Slocum, designed initially at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and now serially manufactured by Teledyne Webb Research. That class of submersible (one could almost call it an underwater drone—just don't) is named after the famous Canadian-American explorer Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail on his own around the world. In November 1909 he disappeared from his 36-foot yawl the Spray. The ship was later recovered, but Joshua himself had never learned to swim.

Visions of Victory: The Cultural Disconnect Over Airpower Application

By John Amble

If the debacle over the Air Force’s proposed retirement of the A-10 proved anything, it demonstrated that there is a major cultural disconnect between the services. As the Air Force leadership tried to make a difficult case for retiring an aging attack aircraft, the A-10 was magically morphed into a proxy aircraft for a specific mission. No longer a multirole attack aircraft, it was now a single-mission close air support (CAS) airplane. Even Air Force officers made the mistake of referring to the Warthog as a “close air support (CAS) aircraft,” as if every other counter-land mission that the aircraft does is irrelevant to the fight. The Air Force foolishly accepted this utterly erroneous description of the A-10 and presumably all other aircraft with air-to-ground capability were now not “CAS aircraft,” despite thousands of CAS missions they flew over two decades. This aircraft-level discussion obscured the deeper issue with combat airpower—that the air and ground components have fundamentally different views of how victory is achieved, and the “proper” use of airpower in achieving victory. The underlying assumptions are so deeply held in service culture that we no longer recognize them—and we fall into domain-centric arguments that fail to appreciate the flexibility inherent in airpower.

Australia, France Sign Deal to Build 12 Submarines

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Australia and France have signed an intergovernmental agreement to build 12 submarines. 

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French Minister for Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for the construction of Australia’s future submarine fleet on December 20, according to an Australian government press release.

The agreement establishes the legal framework for the development and construction of 12 Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A submarines, a diesel-electric derivative of French shipbuilder Direction des Constructions Navales Services’ (DCNS) Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine under the Royal Australian Navy’s SEA 1000 Future Submarine Program.

“The IGA is the last foundation stone needed to ensure Australia is able to develop a cutting edge sovereign submarine capability. It follows the selection of French company DCNS as Australia’s Future Submarine design and mobilization partner and Lockheed Martin Australia as the combat system integrator,” Turnbull said in a prepared statement.

As I reported previously (See: “Australia’s New Subs to Operate Lockheed Martin Combat System”), the RAN selected a submarine combat system — the heart and brain of a submarine — manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin for the Shortfin Barracuda-class.

America's Air Force Prepares to Fight the Real Star Wars

Tim Broderick

The Air Force is increasing computer simulations and virtual testing for its laser-weapons program to accelerate development and prepare plans to arm fighter jets and other platforms by the early 2020s.

To help model the effects of such technologies, the service has awarded Stellar Science a five-year, $7 million contract for advanced laser modeling and simulation.

The Albuquerque-based company is expected to continue the work started in 2014, when the Air Force tapped the group to develop computer simulations and virtual testing of directed energy weapons.

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Solar Power Is Now The World's Cheapest Energy

By Sophie Weiner

The drop in price is driven by investments from developing nations. 

Over the past six years, the cost of solar energy has dropped dramatically, to the point where it is now even cheaper than wind power in emerging markets like China and India. This may be largely due to rising investments in solar over the last few years. Now, there is electricity being produced in Chile for $29.10 per megawatt hour–half the price of power produced by coal.

"Renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting" energy made by fossil fuels, Bloomberg New Energy Finance chairman Michael Liebreich wrote this week.

This is great news for developing nations, which do not generally have the kind of infrastructure that developed countries have dedicated to fossil fuels already in place. As they build their energy infrastructure, it will make sense to go with cheaper, renewable options, more so than it does for a country like the United States to abandon our formidable fossil-fuel based infrastructure.

Air Force, industry go on “offense” with cybersecurity


The Air Force and private industry are refining new cyber techniques designed to anticipate and thwart enemy attacks before they happen.

IT management firm Robbins Gioia, a cyber security partner with the Air Force and other government entities, told Defense Systems about some cutting-edge methods currently used to examine code behind firewalls.

“We create an intelligence radar for upcoming threats” to allow them to detect and respond proactively, Andrew Robinson, CEO of Robbins Gioia, said in an interview.

These tactics are aimed at filtering through current systems to establish areas where cyber-attackers might seek to penetrate networks.

“Look behind the firewall and start to filter through current systems and determine where weaknesses in their code and structure exist,” Robinson explained.

Another element of this approach involves a thorough assessment of prior cyber-attacks on other government systems as a method of setting up a defense against them.

Army establishes digital service

By: Mark Pomerleau

Continuing to build on successful initiatives established within the Pentagon by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the Army is standing up an Army Digital Service.

In a Dec. 16 announcement, Army Secretary Eric Fanning said the Army will be building upon the Defense Digital Service initiative. Fanning, who served as Carter’s chief of staff when DDS was originally established, explained he has observed the office’s success in bringing in people from the private sector for a “tour of duty” to help DoD solve difficult problems in the technological and digital world. DDS’s chief, Chris Lynch, described his staff as a “SWAT team of nerds” that come to the Pentagon to work on projects of impact.

The Army has a nearly unlimited set of issues they need help with, Fanning said during an event in New York City on Dec. 16 announcing the Army Digital Service Outpost, one of the first such projects among the services.

Two initiatives the Army’s new Digital Service will be working on involve recruitment and mitigating cyber vulnerabilities on Army websites. The Army’s current recruiting process is outdated and cumbersome, Fanning said, noting the need to attract the best and brightest into the Army.

What the US Should Learn from Israel’s Silicon Valley


The world’s hottest cybersecurity market is powered by a unique collaboration of government, industry, finance and academia. 

The debate over where “the Silicon Valley for cybersecurity” will be located is over. For some time now, the answer has been Tel Aviv. The Startup Nation has been producing new cybersecurity companies at a breathtaking speed. Boston, long a prospect in the race, seemingly has decided to settle for the consolation prize of being the preferred home from which to take Israeli startups public.

While I was in Tel Aviv speaking at the Globe’s Israel Business Conference, the Governor of Massachusetts was also there trying to find the next Cyber Ark and calmly reassuring Israeli founders that the weather in New England is not so bad.

The story of how Israel has become a factory for producing new technologies is familiar to most people in the space: take the best and the brightest out of high school, assign them to Unit 8200 for their obligatory military service, give them a few years in computer science finishing school, and then fund their startup.