8 February 2020

Pakistan And China’s Hybrid Warfare against India – Analysis

By Dr Subhash Kapila
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Pakistan and China in continuation of their relentless adversarial and conflictual military postures against India for decades now appear to have switched over in years preceding 2020 to strategies of hybrid warfare against India having failed to arrest India’s noticeable geopolitical and military rise with the advent of Indian PM Narendra Modi in 2014.

“Hybrid Warfare is defined as a military strategy which employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods such as fake news, diplomacy warfare and foreign electoral intervention”.

The global geopolitical environment in favour of India prompts Pakistan and China to hesitate in any conflict-escalation with possibilities of serious armed conflict and Hybrid Warfare offers an appropriate strategy of keeping India militarily occupied and besieging India from within and weakening it.

Pakistan-Brunei Military Relations in Focus with Navy Chief Introductory Visit

By Prashanth Parameswaran
On February 5, Pakistan’s navy chief completed a scheduled introductory visit to Brunei in his current capacity. The trip highlighted the defense aspect of the relationship between the two Asian countries that is otherwise not often in the headlines.

As I have observed previously, Pakistan and Brunei have long enjoyed close bilateral ties, with their status as Muslim-majority nations playing a role in the forging of the relationship and contemporary relations extending into the security realm as well. Defense ties were first codified with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defense cooperation back in 2004, and ties include components such as visits, exchanges, and training, even though some of this often happens quite quietly and challenges have at times slowed the pace of ongoing collaboration.

Over the past few days, the defense aspect of the relationship between the two countries was in the headlines again with the visit of Pakistan’s navy chief to Brunei. Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Pakistan’s chief of naval staff, was on his first visit to the Southeast Asian state since being appointed chief of staff of the Pakistan Navy back in October 2017.

Abbasi’s visit, which lasted from February 2 to February 5, consisted of a series of interactions between the two sides. In terms of meetings, he met with a range of top defense officials from Brunei, including the commander of the Royal Brunei Army (RBN), the commander of the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF), and the acting commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF).

CIDOB Briefings 'War and Peace in the 21st Century 2020: A World of Two or Three? The US, China and the EU in a New Global Order'

Pol Morillas

CIDOB Briefings nº 22

“A World of Two or Three? The US, China and the EU in a New Global Order” was the subject of the eighteenth edition of the War and Peace in the 21st Century seminar, held on January 18th 2020. Organised in collaboration with EsadeGeo - Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and supported by Barcelona City Council and “La Caixa” Foundation, the seminar provided expert insight into the current and future state of the international relations system and the future of the liberal international order. 

The world appears complex, diffuse and uncertain, and differs on many fundamentals from the Cold War environment of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. What, then, is the new world order? Both US allies and rivals continue to receive contradictory messages from the country, as it makes full use of its foreign and commercial policies to strengthen the interests of President Trump’s “America First” policy. At the same time, news outlets and social media fret about China’s emergence as a rival superpower, not only to the United States but also to the Western liberal order. The European Union is reinforcing its diplomacy, but it still hesitates to decouple itself from the Trump administration’s isolationism or to fully embrace the rise of China.

The PLA Beyond Asia: China’s Growing Military Presence in the Red Sea Region

By Joel Wuthnow 

China has gradually expanded its military footprint in the Red Sea region, an area of critical importance for global maritime commerce and energy production. Key aspects include a People’s Liberation Army role in United Nations peacekeeping, anti-piracy patrols, and a new base in Djibouti.

China’s military presence—its largest outside the Indo-Pacific—supports Beijing’s diplomatic relations in the region, contributes to China’s maritime security interests, and provides useful lessons in building an expeditionary capability.

U.S. officials need to address operational safety and counterintelligence issues and determine whether China’s presence—which also includes military diplomacy and arms sales— is eroding traditional U.S. advantages as a security partner.

Opportunities for military cooperation should be explored in areas where U.S. and Chinese interests align, such as disaster management and maritime safety.

Japan’s next-gen fighter progress responds to China’s fifth-gen evolution

By: Stephen Kuper
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It has been a long road. Japan’s Ministry of Defense has revealed that progress was gathering pace on the nation’s next-generation air dominance fighter program as Asia’s rising superpower, China, continues to enhance its own next-generation air dominance capabilities.

The current global and regional transition from fourth to fifth-generation fighter aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms, is reshaping the role of fighter fleets and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Designed to establish and maintain air superiority or air dominance, fighter aircraft have evolved from relatively simple wood and canvas airframes during the First World War to the highly manoeuvrable long-range aircraft that dominated the skies of Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War. The latest two generations of fighters are the pinnacle of these earlier designs.

Driven largely by advances in the capabilities fielded by both a resurgent Russia and a rising China, both of whom are increasingly eager to exercise their influence over strategically vital areas, like the East and South China Seas in particular.

On China’s National Strategy And Theoretical System – Analysis

For a long period of time in Chinese history, there was only one person related to the term “strategy”, this person is none other than Mao Zedong. Apart from him, there was no one else. It was the revolutionary leader Ye Jianying who said that at the PLA National Defense University. While the theoretical circles around the world also admit this fact, but it seems that the Chinese themselves are nowadays reluctant to admit it, because China is now full of “strategists”. Most of these so-called strategists are qualified as doctoral supervisors and bear the title of “professors”. They are articulate, active on TV or internet social media, and almost all of them are “internet celebrity”. The question is, should China be a great power with all these infinite number of so-called “strategists”?

A frank answer to this question requires a thorough review of the theories and realities relevant or irrelevant to strategy.

We hear the term “strategy” all the time in China. For instances, there are various types of strategic planning including the Belt and Road Initiative, regional coordinated development strategy, technological innovation strategy, city development strategy, industrial strategy, enterprise strategy, and even human resources departments of enterprises also have their own “talent strategy”, and so on. In short, everything without the term “strategy” is somewhat undignified and even self-deprecating. Nowadays, they are many so-called “strategists” active on TV or internet social media. In addition, there are countless people called themselves the “United Nations Sun Tzu strategy expert”, “strategic thinker”, “global strategist”, “digital reform strategist”, “Strategic planner” and so on.

New Revelation of China-Cambodia Secret Visit Heightens Military Links Fears

By Prashanth Parameswaran

On February 4, an Australian media outlet revealed new evidence of a previously undisclosed military visit between China and Cambodia that spotlighted defense links between them in areas such as military facilities and satellite navigation. The report shed light on some of the more secret components of China-Cambodia defense interactions and intensified the scrutiny on the two countries for the continued lack of transparency in security activities they are carrying out despite the wider regional implications they could have.

As I have noted before in these pages, the idea of a deepening Chinese security presence is not new, with China long being a key defense partner for Hun Sen’s Cambodia, including its top provider of military equipment. But over the past few years, China’s military links to Cambodia have been under increased scrutiny amid wider trends and developments, including Beijing’s cultivation of broader security partnerships in the region as well as evidence of specific manifestations of China-Cambodia defense ties such as access to Ream naval base, which would have wider geopolitical implications.

This week, we saw another instance that deepened concerns regarding Chinese military facilities in Cambodia. A document obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed a previously undisclosed Chinese military visit to Cambodia in late December 2019 and its potential significance for ongoing China-Cambodia defense cooperation.

China and Cambodia: Love in the Time of Coronavirus

By Shannon Tiezzi
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Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, many countries are shutting down travel to and from China and warning their nationals to leave if possible. Cambodia, however, is taking the opposite approach. Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived in Beijing on Wednesday, making a highly public vote of confidence in China’s ability to control the epidemic.

Earlier, in Cambodia, Hun Sen had slammed reporters at a press briefing for wearing face masks. “The prime minister doesn’t wear a mask, so why do you?” he demanded. The same brash fearlessness was on display in his China trip.

According to Xinhua, China’s state new agency, Hun Sen told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he had “decided to make a special visit to China with an aim to showcase Cambodia’s support to China in fighting the outbreak of the epidemic.” Chinese media repeatedly emphasized the “special” nature of Hun Sen’s visit, noting that he had decided to make the trip just before leaving — and presumably after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency.

Terrorists and Technological Innovation

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Colin P. Clarke, Matt Shear 

Often when terrorists use new technology, they bungle it—the new bomb design does not detonate or the new video technology fails to upload. Yet terrorists often quickly master new technologies and use them in unanticipated ways. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Matt Shear of Valens Global, along with Colin Clarke of The Soufan Center, propose a new way of thinking about this threat. They detail the terrorist learning curve and how counterterrorism agencies respond and adapt.

Daniel Byman

On Oct. 9, 2019, a terrorist motivated by anti-Semitic beliefs descended on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, where people were observing the Yom Kippur holiday. Stephan Baillet had penned a manifesto describing his objective as killing “as many non-Whites as possible, Jews preferred.” Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware note that Baillet “allegedly used steel, wood and 3-D-printed plastic components” to manufacture three weapons. His use of homemade weapons may have helped him avoid authorities’ scrutiny, and another of his stated objectives was to “prove the viability of improvised weapons.” Fortunately, his innovation seemed to fail, as his weapons jammed three times, probably saving many lives.

Future Warfare: The Two-Dimensional Security Challenge – Analysis

By Steven Metz*
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It is impossible to predict the evolutionary path of armed conflict, in part because human decisions can send history spinning in unexpected directions. Imagine, for instance, what today’s global security system might look like had not a small group of Al Qaeda leaders distracted the United States from the high tech “revolution in military affairs” that it was pursuing before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The future of armed conflict will, like its past, be determined by the interplay of broad trends and human choices. But despite the difficulty of precise prediction two things do seem clear: Asia will form the vortex of the global security system; and armed conflict will have both conventional and hybrid dimensions.

The Two Dimensions of Armed Conflict

The conventional dimension of armed conflict will be shaped by the growing assertiveness and expanding military power of China. There may be conventional war between other nations but any conflict involving China will, by definition, be strategically significant.

Examining Iran's Role in the New Middle East

by Andrew Gilmour Tom Palaima

Like two hostile prisoners on the run and shackled to each other by fate, Iran and the United States continue their mutual loathing and periodic conflict. The inevitability of talking and even cooperating, however, also looms over both in a region neither can shape unilaterally. Washington and Tehran’s shared distaste for a wider military conflict and the gradual demise of the Iran nuclear agreement are again focusing attention on the path to any renewed U.S.-Iranian diplomacy. 

History can be useful here. The ancient Persian encounter with the West began with a push in the mid-6th century BCE from the Iranian heartland. The stunning result was the consolidation of culturally diverse and mutually antagonistic kingdoms into an empire comprising the vast area of modern Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey. Parts of the Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania would be added by the early fifth century BCE. This strategic success hinged on highly adept internal diplomacy and effective administration by regional satraps or governors who were the Persian king’s eyes and ears and mouthpieces.

No wonder then that the story of Persia and the West in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE features strategic competition and conflict. That story begins with Herodotus’ account of the Persian Wars of 490 and 480–479 BCE and still shapes our modern perspective. But we ignore at our own cost the recorded instances of cooperation, respectful co-existence, and cultural exchange during these two centuries—patterns and precedents that can expand how we conceive of today’s U.S.-Iran rivalry. The kind of history Iran and the United States now choose to frame their future diplomacy will set the tone and define the limits of dialogue as much as the difficult issues to be negotiated.

The Real Culprit – The PLA’s Strategic Support Force

Yossef Bodansky 

On 30 December 2019, the PLA celebrated the fourth anniversary of its newest branch - the Strategic Support Force (SSF).1 The PLA SSF is equal in institutional hierarchy to the likes of the PLA Rocket Force, PLA Air Force, and PLA Navy. The SSF was officially established in late 2015. During 2019, the profile of the SSF rose prominently in Beijing. For the first time, a large contingent of SSF troops marched in the PLA’s great parade on 1 October, wearing uniforms of ground troops, navy personnel and air force troops, along with a large variety of combat vehicles with diverse electronic warfare systems. On 12 December, the recently appointed Commander of the PLA Strategic Support Force Li Fengbiao was promoted by Xi Jinping to the rank of full General (4 stars) as part of the start of Xi Jinping’s modernizing and streamlining of the Chinese High Command. 

The PLA SSF is responsible for both the Chinese space operations, including space warfare, and the wide and not clearly defined electronic/cyber operations (including information operations). A primary mission of the SSF is providing the Forbidden City with strategic intelligence from all-source technical means - from satellites to hacking. The analysis and delivery of the collected intelligence is done through the Intelligence Bureau within the PLA’s Joint Staff Department that controls the country’s most leading think tanks and research institutions who conduct the pertinent analysis and make policy recommendations. 

Trump’s Transactional Myopia


CAMBRIDGE – US President Donald Trump’s attacks on unfair Chinese trade and technology policies may have been justified, but his tactics have damaged the alliances and institutions on which the United States depends. Will the short-term gains outweigh the long-term institutional costs?

Until Donald Trump, the United States had never had a president who maintained such a tight stranglehold on his party. Now that it does, the Constitution’s provisions for removing the president – through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by a two-thirds majority of the Senate – have been neutered.3Add to Bookmarks

Trump’s defenders claim that his aggressive unilateral approach broke the inertia in the international trade regime and prevented other countries from diluting US power. But Trump’s transactional diplomacy is very different from the institutional vision of foreign policy that former US Secretary of State George Shultz once described as patient “gardening.”1

These will be the most important cities by 2035

However, the most important cities of today may be quite different than those leading the charge in the future. This week’s chart looks forward to 2035, using a report by Oxford Economics to forecast the top 10 cities by measures of economic size, population, and GDP growth rate.

Each map is categorized by one of these metrics—and depending on which one you look at, the leaders vary greatly.

Top 10 cities by projected GDP

The top 10 cities by gross domestic product (GDP) in 2035 will be fairly widespread. Three cities are expected to be in the U.S.—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The Big Apple’s forecasted $2.5 trillion GDP likely stems from its strong banking and finance sectors.

RAND Corporation

Small Wars Journal

U.S. Missile Defense Woefully Prepared for 21st Century Threats

Jared Whitley
There’s a memorable scene in the first “Iron Man” movie where a naïve but well-meaning liberal journalist confronts Tony Stark with the nickname “Merchant of Death” and accuses him of war profiteering. Tony coolly responds, “It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee you the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace; we'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals." The journalist has no comeback, surrendering to Tony’s reason (and his charm).

Although that scene was written to be funny, its basic premise is true and the reasoning inarguable: we live in an extremely dangerous world, populated by bad actors with no reservation of using weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations. Meanwhile, our nuclear superiority is decaying. The same year "Iron Man" came out, way back in 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that, “No one has designed a new nuclear weapon in the United States since the 1980s, and no one has built a new one since the early 1990s. … At a certain point, it will become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal.”

The Navy Is Arming Nuclear Subs With Lasers. No One Knows Why.

By David Hambling

Laser weapons can strike at the speed of light, and they’re quickly deploying to every possible fighting domain, whether on land, in the air, and at sea. But what about under the sea?

Open-source budget documents, the earliest of which date back to 2011, show the Navy’s plans to arm Virginia-class nuclear subs with high-energy laser weapons. It’s a strange idea seeing as laser weapons definitely do not work underwater. Submarines are also quiet recluses by design, rarely popping their heads above water

But despite these glaring contradictions, experts talking to Popular Mechanics say a laser sub makes more sense than you might think.

Technical Challenges

US Adds ‘Low Yield’ Nuclear Weapon to Its Submarine Arsenal

By Robert Burns

The U.S. military has deployed a new addition to its nuclear arsenal — a long-range missile armed with a nuclear warhead of reduced destructive power. The so-called low-yield missile joins other, more powerful weapons aboard stealthy submarines prowling the oceans.

The debut deployment aboard long-range submarines, known as boomers, is a landmark in U.S. nuclear weapons policy. It is the first major addition to the strategic nuclear arsenal in recent decades and is a departure from the Obama administration’s policy of lessening dependence on nuclear weapons in pursuit of a nuclear-free world.

In confirming the missile deployment to The Associated Press, the Pentagon’s top policy official asserted that the weapon makes Americans safer by making nuclear war less likely. Critics, including some Democrats in Congress, call it a dangerous excess that increases the risk of war.

John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said in an AP interview Monday that adding the “low-yield” warhead, known as the W76-2, to submarines which tote Trident II ballistic missiles lowers the risk of nuclear war. He said the United States will continue its stated policy of using nuclear weapons only in “extraordinary circumstances.” He also said the warhead will help the United States dissuade Russia from risking launching a limited nuclear conflict.

A New US Strategy for Central Asia: Continuity Under Better Conditions

By Catherine Putz

On the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Trump administration officially unveiled its updated Central Asia strategy. At an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, three officials tasked with building and implementing the strategy discussed its main features.

The contours of the strategy — officially titled United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity — should be familiar to regional observers. The motivation for a revamp wasn’t a shift in American priorities in the region, but the opening of new possibilities prompted by changes in the last few years inside the region itself.

Lisa Curtis, deputy assistant to the president and senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, commented in her remarks that given “important shifts” that have occured in the region, the administration “decided it was time to update our approach and vision.” Among the changes that “have brought us new challenges as well as opportunities” Curits cited “shifts in leadership dynamics that have given rise to new opportunities for intra-regional cooperation,” renewed threats from extremist ideology, namely the Islamic State and returning foreign fighters, deepening Chinese influence in the region and opportunities for Central Asia to support U.S. peace efforts in Afghanistan.

But, Curtis remarked, many things remain the same in Central Asia and continue to be very important, including “continued, robust Russian influence in all spheres,” serious public health threats such as tuberculosis, trafficking in persons, migration, and the “need to improve human rights and democratic institutions.”

Russia's Impeachment Saga Survival Guide

by Dimitri Alexander Simes

As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump comes to an end, Russia looks to what comes next with pessimism.

Just months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Moscow found itself at the center of another political controversy that enveloped Washington. This time it was over Trump’s decision to temporarily halt military aid to Ukraine, a move which critics assert was politically motivated and emboldened Russia. 

Although Trump is likely to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate, the Russian politicians and experts interviewed by the National Interest expect tensions between Moscow and Washington to remain high. They argued that rather than benefiting Russia, the fierce partisan divisions exhibited during the impeachment battle made improving relations with the United States impossible and forced the Kremlin to draw uncomfortably close to China. 

Moscow has sympathized with Trump’s plight throughout the month-long impeachment saga. In December, Russian president Vladimir Putin publicly dismissed the charges against Trump as “far-fetched” and argued that the Democrats were pushing impeachment to avenge their defeat in the 2016 election. 

Two Experts Make the Case Why New U.S. Weapon Strengthens Nuclear Deterrence of Russia

by Bradley Bowman 

The Department of Defense announced this week that the U.S. Navy has deployed a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) nuclear warhead. This deployment, which aims to deter Russia’s first-use of a low-yield nuclear weapon, represents an important but insufficient step to deter Russian aggression.

According to the Pentagon, “there is a large and growing disparity in the nonstrategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) fielded by the United States and the Russian Federation.” In fact, Moscow possesses a stockpile of up to 2,000 active NSNWs that it can employ using ships, planes, and ground forces. Underscoring Washington’s concerns, Moscow’s statements and military exercises demonstrate that it has developed a war-fighting doctrine that emphasizes the first-use of low-yield tactical nuclear strikes.

Moscow believes the size and variety of its NSNWs “provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict,” according to the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This perception could increase the chances that Moscow employs low-yield nuclear weapons. Correcting this perception, the NPR notes, represents a “strategic imperative” for the United States.

Consequently, the Trump administration requested funding for fiscal year (FY) 2020 to deploy a low-yield SLBM, the W76-2. Despite opposition along party lines in the House of Representatives, the final FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) permitted the W76-2 deployment to proceed. Republican and Democrat senators voted to pass the final NDAA by a vote of 86-8.

A Scam Or the New Norm? Five Myths About Online Education Busted

by Vanessa Dennen

Editor’s Note: When U.S. News & World Report released its best online education program rankings this year, many schools that fared well in the rankings were quick to call attention to their success. Here, Vanessa Dennen, a researcher of online learning and co-editor-in-chief of the journal The Internet and Higher Education, offers insights into what college students should consider before they enroll in an online degree program.

1. Is online education as easy and convenient as it seems?

Online learning may give students a choice about when and where to study, but this flexibility should not be confused with being easy or fast. Learning is a process and it takes time. By studying online, you might be able to eliminate commute time and the dreaded hunt for parking on campus, but you still have to put in the time and effort to learn.

Students with good study habits and time management skills tend to perform better online than students who procrastinate. It’s easy to put off schoolwork when there isn’t a specific class meeting time, and students who regularly choose to put other activities first may find themselves quickly falling behind in an online course. Also, some students are overly optimistic about time and energy, imagining that they’ll come home from work, put on their pajamas, and start to study. However, the reality may be that once they get home from work and put on their pajamas they’re too tired to study.

Weak encryption means putting our military at risk – CyberScoop

by Ari Schwartz
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Last month, a brigade of U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East received instructions from their superiors to use two commercial encrypted messaging applications, Signal and Wickr, on their government issued cell phones. These leadership cues trickled down from the Department of Defense’s (DoD) position that strong encryption is critical to national security. While U.S. Attorney General William Barr continues to push for a broad mandate for backdoors for law enforcement, those on the front lines of protecting America have notably decided on a different approach. Simply put, weakening encryption means putting our military service members at risk.

In a recent letter to Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy made clear that the use of encryption to protect the mobile devices of our service members and their stored data is an “imperative.” Deasy makes clear that the use of commercial encryption and virtual private networks (VPNs) are key to DoD’s cybersecurity strategy. Therefore, “maintaining a domestic climate for state-of-the-art security and encryption is critical to the protection of our national security.”

Meanwhile, Barr continues to vilify encryption. He suggests that tech companies are refraining from building backdoors in their products because they feel that they can flaunt law enforcement’s role. Barr does not seem to consider that, if the United States asks for backdoors, other countries, including China and Russia, will do so as well. Even if tech companies decide not to do business in those countries, a backdoor becomes a known target for nation-state and criminal hackers to exploit.

SOCOM Announces Plans to Buy 75 ‘Armed Overwatch’ Planes

By Brian W. Everstine
US Special Operations Command is moving forward with its armed overwatch plan, independent of the Air Force’s light attack experiment, inviting industry for a briefing on a proposal to buy an estimated 75 aircraft.

SOCOM will hold Industry days March 4-5 for the Armed Overwatch program, which will “provide Special Operations Forces deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems” that will be used for “close air support, precision strike, and SOF intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments,” according to a Feb. 3 announcement.

SOCOM plans to release a draft Other Transaction Authority prototype demonstration proposal, which gives the military a way to pursue research and prototyping outside of regular contracts, on Feb. 14. The eventual follow-on contract is expected to be an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, with a base ordering period of five years and another option for two more years with an expected total of 75 aircraft, according to the announcement, which was first reported by Aviation Week.