27 February 2017

*** Jihadism: An Eerily Familiar Threat


As part of my day-to-day job, I read a lot of news reports, books and scholarly studies. Though the never-ending avalanche of information sometimes feels like a mild version of electronic waterboarding, it also allows me to pick out interesting parallels between different events.

Not long ago I re-read Blood and Rage, an excellent book by historian Michael Burleigh that outlines the cultural history of terrorism. As I flipped through the chapters on nihilist and anarchist terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I couldn't help but notice some intriguing similarities to jihadism. This week I'll share them with you to put the modern threat that jihadists pose into better context.

Above image: Assassination of President McKinley. During their heyday, anarchists managed to assassinate a number of world leaders. Jihadists share similar ambitions but so far have fallen short. (T. DART WALKER)

The technological tools today's jihadists use are certainly new; after all, the internet and social media only emerged over the past few decades. But many of the tactics they rely on are as old as terrorism itself. And despite the more primitive means at their disposal, anarchists were often far more successful than their jihadist counterparts in using propaganda and the media to recruit, radicalize and equip their followers.

** Darker Shades of Gray: Why Gray Zone Conflicts Will Become More Frequent and Complex

Nora Bensahel PDF Version

The United States has long fielded the world’s most capable armed forces. It spends more on its military than the next nine nations combined, of which five are U.S. treaty allies.[1] It fields more active-duty military personnel than any country other than China,[2] and its weaponry and technological capabilities are peerless. U.S military superiority has helped deter major power wars, secure the global commons, and maintain the global order for many decades, and it continues to do so today.

Yet, every strength has a corresponding weakness, every advantage a corresponding vulnerability. Perhaps paradoxically, this conventional military dominance means that few adversaries are likely to directly challenge the United States with the use of force, since doing so risks complete military defeat. As Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster has often quipped, “there are two ways to fight the U.S. military – asymmetrically and stupid.”[3] Fighting asymmetrically can mean fighting at the lower end of the conflict spectrum, through terrorism and insurgency. But it also can mean fighting in what has become known as the “gray zone,” which may not involve military forces at all.

Gray zone conflicts are neither war nor peace, but instead lie somewhere in between. As I’ve written elsewhere, “their defining characteristic is ambiguity – about the ultimate objectives, the participants, whether international treaties and norms have been violated, and the role that military forces should play in response.”[4] Such ambiguities enable adversaries to pursue their interests while staying below the threshold that would trigger a military response – and, if they remain ambiguous enough, they might avoid any response. They are therefore a smart approach for revisionist powers, who wish to change the current U.S.-led international order to better serve their own interests. According to Hal Brands, the goal of gray zone approaches “is to reap gains, whether territorial or otherwise, that are normally associated with victory in war. Yet gray zone approaches are meant to achieve those gains without escalating to overt warfare, without crossing established red-lines, and thus without exposing the practitioner to the penalties and risks that such escalation might bring.”[5]

Our children aren't taught the ugly truth about the British Empire - it's time for them to learn

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Millions were displaced and countless murdered in India, as folk – who had lived peacefully – turned on each other. 

The Viceroy's House, a feature film by Gurinder Chadha, director of the joyous Bend it like Beckham, is out on general release in March. It is a beautifully made, devastating expose of Winston Churchill's dirty tricks as India gained independence in August 1947.

The country was partitioned, millions displaced, and countless murdered, as folk, who had lived peacefully, turned on each other. Ever since then our historians and film and TV programme makers have framed this savagery in religious terms: Intemperate Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims slaughtered each other because they could not share the land.

Using newly discovered documents, Chadha shows how Churchill had well set plans to scythe through India because he was worried about the influence the USSR would have in that region. Lord Mountbatten, who was sent out there to organise British withdrawal, had no idea about this dark plan. Nor do today's Brits, Indians or Pakistanis. This state guards its wicked deeds and noxious secrets. Always did. Always will.

104 satellites, World’s Cheapest, and more ISRO fluff

Pavan Srinath
 ISRO’s many launch vehicles. Only the PSLV is active. GSLVs are not yet fully mature — with GSLV Mk II having launched two satellites so far, and GSLV Mk III only completing one development flight till date.

Science geek turned wonk, loves everything in between. Fellow and faculty member at the Takshashila Institution. Anchors the Indian National Interest platform.

It’s the season to celebrate ISRO again. But pardon me if I don’t get up from my seat for this anthem. ISRO‘s competence is to be expected, and only higher achievements merit widespread celebration.

Yesterday, India’s space agency ISRO set a new record by launching 104 satellites from one single launch vehicle. This is about three times what anyone had done before.

The magical 2% How much should India spend on defence?

Nitin Pai

While it is true that India’s defence expenditure has been rising over the past two decades, it is falling as a fraction of GDP. Headline defence expenditure is set to drop from 2.29% of GDP this year to 2.14% of GDP next year. Furthermore, the share of capital expenditure is set to drop from 34.7% to 33% — more than two-thirds of the defence expenditure is on “revenue” or operational expenses. Then there’s the money that the defence ministry returns back to the treasury because it is unable to spend it. Pavan Srinath points out that actual defence expenditure is 1.6% of GDP.

For many analysts 2% of GDP is a magical figure, an anchor, that is used to benchmark whether we are spending more or less that what we should.

So where does this 2% come from? What’s its significance?

It comes from NATO. The alliance came up with that number to ensure that each member of the alliances pays its fair share of the costs of defending the West. The United States was especially keen that NATO member states do not free ride on its own contributions. I’m not sure how the 2% figure was arrived at, but it’s usefulness lay in the fact that each member-state had to spend a minimum amount on (collective) defence. (James Mattis, the new US defence secretary, has just warned NATO that many of its members have not met this target)

Clearly, it does not follow that India must spend 2% on defence. However, because spending has been around that mark for several years, it has ended up becoming a traditional norm. So we have the absurd situation where our defence spending levels are anchored to an arbitrary 2% of GDP that lacks a sound analytical basis.

Battle of the Trolls II — A.I. botnets

Puru Naidu

Politically sanctioned A.I. botnets for micro-targeting of voters for political messaging poses a threat to our democracy.

Last week, I blogged that politically sanctioned troll armies on social media to manage public perception and opinion is a weaponized tactic, and has become the new status quo of political campaigning. But, it seems like I had the mild version of the new reality. Using paid troll armies is just the surface of it. The advanced version is using big data analytics and behavioral science to form psychographic profiles of users for political messaging. ‘This isn’t anything new! Its basic advertising tactic that has been done for years’, is probably what you are thinking right now. No, not at the level of accuracy, speed, and collective influential power an intelligent botnet is capable of.

This is what Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, did during the Brexit and Trump campaigns. It used big data to create personality profiles and used A.I. botnets to prey on users with manipulative political messaging that ultimately changed their behavior. The company started off with massive amounts of data collection from data brokers and social media companies. Used it to develop personality profiles, a.k.a psychographic profiles, for each individual users. Then used A.I. botnets with automated scripts to target each of those users with A/B testing tactic that probes them for response towards different news articles, fake news, advertisements, and dark posts. The psychographic profiles are further updated with specific information about the user, and user manipulation continues.

Fighting Islamic State: A Trap For India – Analysis

By Ashok Malik

Located in the Sindh town of Sehwan, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is among Pakistan’s best-regarded Sufi shrines. It is associated in popular culture with the haunting voice of Reshma, the late artiste whose family migrated at Partition from the deserts of Rajasthan to Sindh and who shot to fame as both a devotee of Shahbaz Qalandar and the singer who gave us Dama Dam Mast Qalandar. Ironically many Indians first heard that devotional song not in the voice of Reshma, but of Runa Laila, a Bangladeshi icon, establishing how culture, music and faith link the subcontinent in more ways than we can imagine.

All this makes the terrorist bombing of the Shahbaz Qalandar shrine on 16 February 2017 that much more poignant. It is an act of infamy for which the Islamic State (IS), or Daesh as it is known, has claimed responsibility. It has been suggested, correctly, that Daesh’s puritan version of an Islam practised in the medieval desolation of Arabia cannot fathom or sanction divergent and regional practices of Islam, specially in South Asia. As such, targeting a Sufi shrine that is, frankly, beyond just Islamic in its appeal is entirely in keeping with the IS worldview.

Yet, while not discounting IS, it needs to be kept in mind that attacks on Sufi shrines, on Shias, on Ahmediyyas and on forms and modes of subcontinental Islam that are considered “deviant” and “blasphemous” by Wahhabi and similar interpretations of the faith are not new in Pakistan. They have been sanctioned and supported by the ideologues of Pakistan, by a state-back religious police, and even by sections of the military.

Military—Jihadi Complex S16E1: Bajwa the bibliophile

Pranay Kotasthane

Feat. India and Pakistan’s favourite pastime

My contention: the pastime that unites Indians and Pakistanis is not cricket as it is commonly believed to be but a far more interesting game called Clutching at the Straws.

The mechanics of this game are as follows: 

gameplay resets/begins when a new person replaces an incumbent one in any of these three positions: the PM of India, the PM of the putative state of Pakistan, or the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) who heads the Pakistani Military—Jihadi Complex (MJC). 

You earn straws whenever there’s a statement from the new appointee that can even remotely be construed as a measure to bring down tensions between India and Pakistan. More the media traction this statement gets, more the straws you earn. 

You get a leg-up if the new appointee actually translates these initial statements into actions. Common actions are: a photo op between any two leaders in the triad that can be used as a sign of bonhomie, a meeting on the sides of a multilateral summit, or even a bilateral meeting. 

The Philippines Criticizes China

By Jacob L. Shapiro

China’s commerce minister canceled a planned trip to the Philippines on Feb. 23 after only informing Philippine officials about the cancellation the previous afternoon. Unnamed sources at the Philippine trade and finance ministries told Reuters that China canceled the visit because of the Philippine foreign minister’s critical comments about China at an ASEAN meeting on Feb. 21. China’s foreign minister told reporters in Beijing that the meeting simply had been postponed, not canceled, and that preparations to execute previously negotiated economic deals between the two countries were continuing. China’s foreign minister, however, also made a point of describing his Philippine counterpart’s remarks as “baffling and regrettable.”

Since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, the Philippines has maintained an unprecedentedly open stance toward cooperation – and even alliance – with China. This openness was punctuated by Duterte’s visit to China in October 2016, where he agreed to many deals concerning economic development (Chinese investment in the Philippines) and proclaimed a Philippine “separation” from the United States. The honeymoon phase turned out to be very short. The investment checks have not been written or cashed, but merely promised. The Philippines sent a note of diplomatic protest to China in January over Chinese moves in the South China Sea. The Philippine defense minister said in January that China’s activities in the South China Sea were “very troubling.” In other words, the Philippines has been cultivating a position of strategic ambiguity when it comes to its relationship with China.

China’s weapons of trade war

Keyu Jin

China exports more to the US than the US exports to China. That makes US President Donald Trump furious—so furious, in fact, that he may be willing to start a trade war over it.

Trump has levelled tough protectionist threats against China. As he attempts to consolidate his presidency, he is unlikely to back away from them. And with the Communist Party of China’s 19th National Congress set to take place in Beijing in November, Chinese leaders are unlikely to yield to US pressure.

A trade war would undoubtedly hurt both sides. But there is reason to believe that the US has more to lose. If nothing else, the Chinese seem to know precisely which weapons they have available to them.

China could stop purchasing US aircraft, impose an embargo on US soybean products, and dump US Treasury securities and other financial assets. Chinese enterprises could reduce their demand for US business services, and the government could persuade companies not to buy American. The bulk of numerous Fortune 500 companies’ annual sales come from China nowadays—and they already feel increasingly unwelcome.

China Moves to Put North Korea in Its Place

In response to North Korea's latest missile test, and perhaps to the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, China has declared it will cease coal imports from North Korea for the entirety of the year. Beijing's threat to North Korea could significantly impact Pyongyang's finances, already stretched as the North continually seeks ways around international sanctions. But it also shows the limits of Beijing's actions toward North Korea. Even as China takes a more assertive role internationally, in finance, politics and even militarily, it views its global role — and potential responsibilities — far differently than the United States or earlier European empires.

The lens of China's latest actions on North Korea is a useful prism to understand how China throughout history has dealt with its periphery and beyond — and how it is likely to do so in the future.

For on a nearly daily basis, there are reports suggesting the decline of U.S. global power, and the attendant rise of China. This despite the slowing pace of Chinese economic growth, high levels of domestic bad loans and the massive undertaking of a shift from an export-led economic model to one based on domestic consumption, with the attendant structural shift in political and social patterns. China is seen as the next major global power, overshadowing the former Soviet Union and giving the United States a run for its money.

North Korea Cultivates Ultimate Deterrence

Lim Byung-shick Yonhap 


North Korea has long been at work developing a comprehensive nuclear deterrent — and it's making progress. On Feb. 12, the country launched a Pukkuksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile, proving what was once a distant goal is now a reality. In fact, North Korea has conducted several nuclear and missile tests recently that have caused alarm among its adversaries. And it won't soon give up its nuclear program in any potential negotiations. Instead, it will cultivate its nuclear capabilities in the hopes that doing so will ensure its security. Meanwhile, regional and global powers are adapting their own military strategies in response.


The Pukkuksong-2 missile test — the first of its kind — was at least partly successful. The missile, adapted from the fairly reliable Pukkuksong-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile, flew to an altitude of around 550 kilometers (340 miles) and a distance of 500 kilometers. At a flatter trajectory, the missile's range could be as far as 2,000 kilometers. The Pukkuksong-2 missile program is more dangerous for North Korea's foes.

Last year, the North Koreans focused their testing on the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, but the tests largely failed: Only one launch could be considered a partial success out of almost a dozen. The Pukkuksong-2, however, exceeds the Musudan in mobility, launching speed and flexibility, inferior only in range. While the transporter erector launcher (which carries, elevates and launches attached missiles) of the Musudan is wheeled, the Pukkuksong-2 uses a missile vehicle with tracks, granting it greater off-road mobility and access. Furthermore, unlike the Musudan, which uses liquid fuel, the Pukkuksong-2 uses solid fuel, which is more stable and provides a much faster launch time. Such quick and road-mobile launchers enable North Korea to better conceal, and thus shield, its ballistic missile force. The result is a more flexible and threatening North Korean ballistic missile arsenal that can better survive enemy retaliation.
Countries in Range

Russian military admits significant cyber-war effort

Russia's military has admitted for the first time the scale of its information warfare effort, saying it was significantly expanded post-Cold War.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russian "information troops" were involved in "intelligent, effective propaganda", but he did not reveal details about the team or its targets.

The admission follows repeated allegations of cyberattacks against Western nations by the Russian state.

Nato is reported to be a top target.

During the Cold War both the USSR and the West poured resources into propaganda, to influence public opinion globally and sell their competing ideologies.

Speaking to Russian MPs, Mr Shoigu said "we have information troops who are much more effective and stronger than the former 'counter-propaganda' section".

Keir Giles, an expert on the Russian military at the Chatham House think-tank, has warned that Russian "information warfare" occupies a wider sphere than the current Western focus on "cyber warriors" and hackers.

Is America Still the Anchor of European Defense?

John Hemmings

Europe’s defenses have become more reliant on America than ever.

The recent Munich Security Conference once again highlighted the difference between Americans and Europeans on security matters. Unfortunately for the West, many European leaders—and even some American ones—took the opportunity to grandstand about the new American president. While it is true that the U.S. leader presents internal challenges to Western cohesion, this grandstanding ignored the very real external structural threats to the Western alliance. Those threats are really threefold: first, there is the inability of western Europe to safeguard its own border; second, there is Europe’s inability to defend its easternmost member states; and third, there is China’s ongoing effort to take control of a main artery of Europe-Asia trade in the South China Sea.

If Donald Trump and his parochial America First vision for the world present one internal threat to the cohesion of the West, then certainly the second internal threat—by no means unrelated—is that of European passivity in global affairs and a propensity to see the global order as an American construct. This is simply wrong, and ignores western Europe’s long history in creating and defending the rules-based system—including its crucial role in creating international law, the UN and NATO itself. Despite this, more and more European elites speak of China’s challenge to the American order, which neatly obviates their responsibility for its defense. While it’s true that European passivity has not precluded much diplomatic activity, over Iran, over Syria and even over Ukraine, it should be noted that power is a mixture of hard and soft power. One cannot forfeit one without forfeiting the other.

Russia’s Army Retroffited With New Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile System

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Russian military is slated to rearm all of its missile formations with a new ballistic missile by the end of 2017. 

The majority of missile units within the Russian Ground Forces (RGF) have been retrofitted with the short-range nuclear-capable road-mobile 9K720 Iskander-M (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) ballistic missile system as the obsolete Soviet-era OTR-21 tactical missiles are being phased out, the head of the RGF, Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov, told reporters on February 22, TASS news agency reports.

“Work continues in the ground forces to rearm military units and formations with the modern types of armament and military hardware. The ground forces’ missile formations are switching over in a planned procedure from the Tochka-U tactical missile complex to the Iskander-M system. As of today, over 80 percent of missile formations have received the new missile systems,” Salyukov said.

The general noted that two more missile units will be rearmed with the Iskander-M ballistic missile in 2017. Separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on February 22 in the lower house of the Russian Parliament that the RGF will complete the switch to the new ballistic missile system by the end of 2017.

“We’ll complete the rearmament and the switchover to Iskander complexes across the country this year. Some of our [radar] stations are on experimental combat duty today but this year all of them will switch over to the mode of combat alert and we’ll fully cover the entire perimeter, all the country’s radar field for missiles of all types, all trajectories, including ballistic paths,” the defense minister said.

How McMaster Could Change the Way the US Goes to War


How did Trump’s new National Security Advisor win over the President — and what changes might he make in his new role?

The most important thing to know about Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s new National Security Adviser, is that he’s not a fan of committing troops to action if they, or their allies, can’t hold the territory they seize — in his terms, “consolidate their gains.” His previous comments suggest that he’s skeptical of surgical special operations raids and drone strikes absent a realistic plan to change political realities on the ground.

Back in February 2015, when McMaster was the deputy commanding general of futures at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, he offered an indirect—but unmistakable—critique of the light-footprint approach to dealing with escalating conflicts in places like Iraq, the approach that the United States was taking toward the Islamic State, or ISIS.

McMaster, who had first gained fame as the tank commander in the Gulf War’s Battle of 73 Easting, then solidified his credentials as a thinking soldier with the well-received Dereliction of Duty, said that the chaos in Afghanistan and the parts of Iraq and Syria then held by ISIS was the fault of multiple parties but stemmed from a single cause: a failure to consolidate gains. Read that to mean the deployment of a substantial number of troops, enough to manage the transition of an occupied territory into a reliable U.S. ally, or at least a stable country.

McMaster Has the Islamophobes Worried. Good.


Trump’s new national security adviser can be a powerful counterweight to the baleful influence of Steve Bannon. 

When America’s most influential Islamophobes are upset, you know the president made a good choice. “Score one [for] the swamp,” whined Robert Spencer upon hearing the news that Donald Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his national security adviser. Spencer makes a living scaring Americans about the dangers of Muslim soccer moms. “John Bolton lost out to this guy?” sputtered his frequent partner in whine, Pamela Geller, who scoffed at the general for saying, “Every time you disrespect an Iraqi, you’re working for the enemy.”

The Islamophobes are not wrong to sense that McMaster will be hostile to their worldview, according to those who know him best. McMaster spent much of his career fighting and winning wars in the Middle East, which required him to know the local cultures and treat Muslims like humans rather than scripturally programmed robots. “He absolutely does not view Islam as the enemy,” said Pete Mansoor, who served with McMaster in Iraq. “He understands that the world is not one dimensional, that the Muslim world is not one dimensional,” said John Nagl, who also served with McMaster. In other words, the complicated causes of terrorism require complicated solutions.

How to Hunt a Lone Wolf

By Daniel Byman

In the last two years, “lone wolf” jihadists seemed to emerge as the new face of terrorism. In December 2015, husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik attacked a Christmas party held by Farook’s employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, killing 14. In June 2016, Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida—the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. And in July, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck through a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, killing 86 people. The attacks by the San Bernardino killers, Mateen, and Bouhlel followed an increasingly common pattern: the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) claimed credit for them, but the perpetrators appear to have planned and executed their operations alone.

Analysts traditionally define a lone wolf as a terrorist who is not part of a group or directed by an outside organization. In reality, few lone wolves truly act alone: Farook and Malik were a married couple, and some security officials believe that Bouhlel had been in contact with suspected extremists in his neighborhood. Nevertheless, the label is important: terrorists who act without external guidance pose a different threat, and call for a different policy response, than do those who are directed by an extremist group. 

An Understanding of the Mission: Former Military in Trump’s Cabinet


Compared to the rest of his proposed cabinet, President Donald Trump's pick of retired Marine Corps General James Mattis for Secretary of Defense has been one of his least controversial. However, due to his recent retirement from the military, Mattis needed - and received - a waiver from Congress to serve. Meanwhile, the choice of two other former military officers to fill high-ranking security related posts has made this one of the most military-heavy administrations since President Ulysses S. Grant. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA under President Barack Obama, about what role these former military figures might play in the new administration and how that role will affect foreign policy decision-making. 

The Cipher Brief: What does the appointment of James Mattis – a recently retired Marine Corps General – mean for civil-military relations and, more specifically, for Pentagon culture?

Leon Panetta: As with any nominee for a cabinet position, you have to weigh the merits of that individual, and whether or not that person has the background and capability to handle the job. In the case of General Mattis, I’ve worked with him and have tremendous respect and confidence in his ability, not only as a military commander but also as somebody who has the good sense to make the right decisions and the right judgements when it comes to our national security. My view is that certainly in this instance, Congress made the right decision in providing a waiver – required due to his recent retirement from the Marine Corps – to allow Mattis to serve as defense secretary.

Russian Defense Minister Says His Military Has Tested 162 Weapons In Syria


An Ilyushin Il-78 Midas air force tanker and a Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear strategic bomber flew during a military parade in 2015 in Moscow. The Bear bomber is among the weapons Russia has used in Syria.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made his way to the Duma, the lower house of parliament, on the eve of Defender of the Fatherland Day. The Feb. 23 national holiday was once known as Soviet Army and Navy Day, and Shoigu, dressed in the uniform of a general, came to boast about the Russian military's latest achievements.

"We tested 162 types of contemporary and modernized weapons in Syria, which showed a high level of effectiveness," Shoigu said. Only 10 weapons systems performed below expectations, he added.

The Kremlin has never made a secret that its intervention on behalf of the Syrian government has been an excellent opportunity to show off its new military prowess.

Shortly after Russia entered the conflict in September 2015, the country's navy fired cruise missiles at Syrian targets 900 miles away – an event that coincided with President Vladimir Putin's 63rd birthday. The air force sent long-range Bear and Backfire bombers on round-trip missions from bases in Russia. And the country's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, traveled all the way from the Arctic Ocean to the Syrian coast to launch airstrikes.

The Bloody Reason America's Aircraft Carriers Dominate the World's Ocean

Dave Majumdar

Another senior naval aviator mentioned that the Navy has learnt to have an “abundance of caution” over the service’s more than 75 years of carrier aviation experience as he explained why service rarely sees the type of problems that the Russians have been recently experiencing onboard Kuznetsov. “We have 75 plus years of experience with carrier aviation. There are a multitude of safeguards and interlocks to minimize error and ensure a successful arrested landing,” the naval aviator said. “Definitely an abundance of caution.”

Naval aviation is an inherently dangerous business, but over the course of more than 75 years, through robust procedures, rigorous training and continuous practice, the U.S. Navy has honed its carrier flight deck operations into a well-oiled machine. Accidents do happen, but the Navy is continually working on improving flight deck safety. Every time there is a mishap, the accident is investigated so that procedures can be refined to prevent a recurrence.

But those lessons have often come at price in lives lost, injuries and monetary costs. Hundreds of men have been killed or injured during accidents at sea onboard a carrier. As one now-retired naval aviator told me—with only slight hyperbole: “Every line in the NATOPS manual is written in blood.”

Why America's B-2 Stealth Bomber Is Now 1,000-Times More Ready for War

Kris Osborn

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times.

All 20 Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have been outfitted with a new flight management control processor designed to modernize the aircraft’s computer system, improve its weapons integration and enable it to rapidly embrace software upgrades, service officials said.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, Air Force officials said. 

"The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor has been replaced with a modern Integrated Processor Unit. This upgrade is a quantum improvement over the legacy system, providing over a thousand times the processor throughput, memory, and network speed,” Maj. Gen. Jon Norman, Director of Global Power Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor Upgrade, also known as the Extremely High Frequency, Increment 1 processor upgrade, completed the final aircraft install in August 2016, Air Force spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog said.

Cyber Proxies: A Central Tenet of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare


Cyber operations remain at the forefront of confrontations between the West and Moscow as relations between them continue to deteriorate. Russia initially asserted itself in 2007 with “patriotic hackers” launching a volley of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Estonian systems. Then in 2008, cyber attacks preceded the Russo-Georgian war, and again in 2014 before Russian annexation of Crimea and large swaths of eastern Ukraine.

Throughout this period, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin cohort have shown a capacity for hybrid warfare, a blend of conventional, irregular, and cyber warfare. The term describes a way of approaching geopolitical relations with subtle deception and information operations backed by military might. This is a modern twist on Soviet-era “active measures,” – intelligence agencies’ movement beyond mere collection into disinformation, subversion, and use of proxy organizations, political parties, and criminals to expand Russian influence. The term hybrid warfare can be so broadly applied that it almost becomes meaningless, but two of its central tenets – the use of proxies and cyber attacks for plausible deniability – are worth exploring in the Russian context.

So how does the Kremlin work through proxies in cyberspace, and what is the character of its relationships with those entities?

Military still working out 'effectiveness' of cyber tools

By: Mark Pomerleau

Despite being declared a domain of warfare six years ago, there are still growing pains and concepts of operation to be worked through in cyberspace — one being the effectiveness of employing a non-kinetic tool — such as cyber or electronic warfare — versus a kinetic weapon.

“When a 2,000-pound bomb lands on your command post, you know,” Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, chief information officer and director of C4 for the Marines Corps, said Feb. 22 at the AFCEA West conference in San Diego.

These kinetic tools and weapons are normally verifiable in their effects, whereas its more difficult to pinpoint the effectiveness of a cyber operation that blocks or redirects, such as an influence or deception operation, he said.

Under the guise of the evolving and shifting nature of information warfare or information operations, Crall said these associated tools and effects can undergo all the planning in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be about “measure of performance and measure of effectiveness.”

“If you haven’t built that into the front end, you’ll have no way to make a determination of what you’ve done,” he said. “We owe it to those who pass the laws and who hold us accountable that we have [a] good system in place and we are patient to see those results.”

Japan-ASEAN Cyber Cooperation in the Spotlight

By Prashanth Parameswaran

News of a new training program highlights Tokyo’s important and growing role as an ASEAN partner in the cyber realm. 

On February 17, Japan’s NEC Corporation announced that it had secured a contract from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to help boost Southeast Asian cyber capabilities. The move is just the latest in a series that highlights Tokyo’s ongoing efforts to expand its security role in the subregion, including in the cyber domain.

According to a statement by the NEC Corporation, it has been charged with providing cyber-attack defense for officials from governmental institutions responsible for cyber security in six members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. The training will take place in Japan over a three year period, with the aim of improving incident response as well as the implementation of countermeasures. The first round is scheduled from February 20 to March 3.

The news comes as no surprise to seasoned observers of Asian security. As I have noted previously, since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return to office in December 2012, Japan has invested more in the defense side of its relationships in Southeast Asia, making inroads with several individual countries but also with ASEAN as a bloc with the convening of the inaugural ASEAN-Japan Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting back in December 2014. At the second iteration of that meeting in December in the Lao capital of Vientiane, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada unveiled what officials have said is Japan’s first comprehensive regionwide initiative for defense cooperation, called the Vientiane Vision (See: “Japan Reveals First ASEAN Defense Initiative with Vientiane Vision”).