27 May 2020

Cyber Wargame - An Indian Scenario

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF


Immediately after the first gulf war in the early 1990’s the theories of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and Information Warfare were being studied all over the world as a new kind of warfare. During that time, a course on Information Warfare was conducted at the National Defense University of USA. The course participants were from senior officers of the armed forces, representatives of Department of Defence and Department of State and policy makers from the government. Rand Corporation of US was conducting this course.

Takshashila Strategic Assessment: The Economics and Politics of Pakistan’s COVID-19 Response

By Sarthak Pradhan, Sakshi Arora, and Pranay Kotasthane

As of March 27th, Pakistan had the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the subcontinent. This outbreak is likely to slow down Pakistan’s economy and increase its dependence on China in the short-term. Domestically, this has the potential to tilt the balance of power in favour of the army and increase the likelihood of sectarian conflicts.

What is the current situation in Pakistan?

As of March 26th, 2020 there have been 1057 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan, making it the worst-affected country in the subcontinent as of now.

Majority of the cases have been from the Sindh province (413) while the 8 fatalities have been in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(3), Punjab(2), Sindh(1), Balochistan(1), Gilgit Baltistan(1) provinces. National Institute of Health (NIH), the coordinating body for diagnosis of all cases in Pakistan classifies the current impact on Pakistan as “high risk”.

Two factors make Pakistan particularly vulnerable. One, it shares a border with both China and Iran – both hotspots of COVID-19. Through the winter months, the land border with China remained closed due to heavy snowfall. International flights to and from China were initially suspended on January 29th but were resumed 3 days later with greater scrutiny. But it is the border with Iran that is of greater threat to Pakistan. A large chunk of COVID-19 cases reported in Pakistan are pilgrims who returned from Iran. 2000 more people are expected to return from Iran to Pakistan in the next few days.

South Asia’s Battle With the Coronavirus


In South Asia, the coronavirus pandemic is at once a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a humanitarian crisis. Nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives in the densely settled region, but its residents’ access to quality infrastructure and healthcare varies enormously. Despite the increasing penetration of mobile phone networks, many South Asians have limited awareness of public health issues such as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Countries in the region have extraordinarily large informal economies: the bulk of their working populations have no employment contracts or benefits. Differing levels of development within countries drive large-scale internal circulation of workers. South Asia is also plugged into the global labor force, not least via migrant workers in the Middle East and elsewhere whose financial repatriation is crucial to their families back home.

Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at Carnegie India. His primary research focus is on the contemporary and historical aspects of India’s foreign and security policies.

Post-Coronavirus Asia: A Land of Great Power Tensions Set to Boil Over?

by William R. Hawkins

Discussion has flourished about what kind of "new" world will emerge after the coronavirus pandemic recedes. There is nothing new about hoping a global crisis will generate peace and cooperation, and nothing new about how it will turn out. The world will go on as before because nothing has changed geopolitically in the last few months other than major trends have accelerated. A quick tour around the Indo-Pacific region shows continued tension and conflict. 

On May 8, a gun battle erupted when Chinese troops crossed the border into Muguthang Valley in Sikkim province, a long-disputed region under Indian control but which Beijing claims is being illegally occupied. Tensions have been rising since January. In April, a Chinese “surveillance” ship rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in a disputed area of the South China Sea. Both countries claim sovereignty over what Hanoi calls the Hoang Sa archipelago and Beijing calls the Paracel islands. Besides sitting across vital shipping lanes, the islands also mean access to potentially rich undersea energy and mineral resources. Beijing has claimed Sikkim and the entire South China Sea as its territory based on the long past historical domination of these areas by Imperial China. 

On May 4, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed that China will establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, to match the one they have in the East China Sea where they have disputes with Japan. An ADIZ requires all aircraft to identify themselves, the point of which is to acknowledge the official expansion of Chinese airspace over the expanded maritime domain it claims. 

How Should Biden Handle China?

Thomas Wright
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In a recent campaign ad, Joe Biden accused the president of being too soft on China over COVID-19. This decision to criticize Donald Trump on China and subsequent signals that Biden will take a tough approach toward Beijing have made some progressives nervous.

Writing in The Atlantic, Peter Beinart called Biden’s ad “a jingoistic fantasy” that may put Asian Americans in the crosshairs of racist attacks, “hastening a geopolitical confrontation that threatens progressive goals.” In The New York Times, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft scholars Rachel Esplin Odell and Stephen Wertheim warned Biden about following Trump into a new cold war with China and argued that the United States should seek to work with Beijing on shared challenges such as pandemics and climate change.

Critics of Biden’s China policy are proposing far-reaching U.S.-China cooperation that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent diplomatic record suggests is chimerical at best. Yes, the United States should have a bilateral relationship with China and the two countries should cooperate on shared interests, including pandemics, but the proposition that a cooperative world lies just beyond the horizon if only the United States were to want it enough is not borne out by the evidence. And any progressive foreign policy needs to be based on a realistic assessment of China’s record.

Coronavirus Temperature Checks: Sued If You Do, Sued If You Don't

by Walter Olson

Last week in this space I noted that many businesses are faced with puzzling dilemmas as they try to reopen with social distancing without running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. One issue I didn’t mention: if they require the wearing of face masks as a condition of entering the premises, they may run into some customers who claim to have non‐​obvious disabilities which entitle them, as an accommodation under the ADA, not to have to wear a mask. Even if they strongly suspect such a customer of pulling a fast one, it may seem the less risky legal course just to back off, given that the law confers on business no right to demand medical documentation.

One issue I did mention last week is that the ADA creates legal risks should a business screen those who enter the premises for fever using some method such as a contact‐​free temperature gun. (Amazon announced last month that it was checking more than 100,000 employees a day this way, and checks at store entrances are familiar in some Asian countries.) Two new articles make it clear that this is one of those situations where you can look forward to being sued if you do and sued if you don’t.

Don't Listen to the ‘China Covered Up the Coronavirus’ Narrative

by Mitchell Blatt 

Since President Donald Trump’s early optimism that coronavirus was “under control” and “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero” has proven to be false hope, he has been trying to turn China into a scapegoat. He is attacking China and blaming them for the fact that America has 1.6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and ninety-five thousand deaths, even though many of the reasons for the severe outbreak here have to do with mistakes by governors, government agencies, and Donald Trump himself. 

China, for example, did not decide to continue to allow 140,000 travelers to fly into the U.S. from Italy, twice as many as the amount that came in from China, and 1.7 million from the rest of Europe, for weeks after Italy had become a hot spot, without so much as temperature checks or fourteen-day quarantines upon arrival. 

China made some mistakes, as did every country, in responding to the coronavirus, but China’s overall response was more effective than most countries, with domestic quarantines of inter-city travelers, widespread mask-wearing, and a testing and tracing regime with access to a vast trove of data. And the claims of a “cover-up” are inaccurate. They are nothing but a cover for politicians and countries with antagonistic relationships towards China to defend themselves in front of their domestic publics and to pressure China internationally.

Why America and China Are Set to Continue Their Rivalry

by Ron Huisken

Most cultures—especially, perhaps, those in Asia—regard cycles as one of the basic rhythms of life, including international life. Great Britain was recognised as the leading world power for more than a century from 1815. The United States roared into prominence over the few decades leading up to World War I and, after leading coalitions to victory in Europe and Asia in World War II, resolved to design and manage a thoroughly refurbished international system. By that time, it had long been clear that the UK wouldn’t contest being displaced in that role.

Over the past 2,500 years, China’s fortunes reached glittering heights on three occasions, usually separated by chaos, civil war or foreign conquest and occupation. Now China sees itself as on the cusp of a fourth age ranked among the world’s leading states and possibly—because it is for the first time intimately linked to the rest of the world—the first among equals. The remaining obstacle is the US, which is now itself deeply ambivalent about continuing to take on any kind of leadership responsibilities but which has also signalled its determination to resist China (and Russia), shifting the tone of the international system away from liberal democratic values in favour of more authoritarian guidelines and constraints.

Trump Is Playing the China Card. Who Believes Him?

By Susan E. Rice

There is a long history of American presidential candidates using China as a campaign cudgel — from Bill Clinton blasting President George H.W. Bush in 1992 for dealing with a Chinese premier known as the “Butcher of Beijing” to Donald Trump’s 2016 attack that the Obama administration had allowed China to “rape” the United States while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. This election year, China-bashing will reach a new level, as Mr. Trump seeks to capitalize on high voter disapproval of China, Beijing’s failure to contain the coronavirus and persistent bilateral tensions between our countries.

Desperate to obscure the reality of more than 90,000 American deaths and 36 million unemployed amid Mr. Trump’s utterly incompetent handling of the pandemic, Republicans have no better strategy than to play the China card. The Republicans are executing a 57-page campaign memo that recommends branding opponents “soft on China” and reveals their rationale for repeated refrains of the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan lab.”

Pressure Can Work: Iran Looks At Risk Of Collapse

by Michael Rubin

Here's What You Need To Remember: he Islamic Republic’s old guard is dying of old age, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei realizes he may not be far behind. Unlike in 1989—the last time Iran had a leadership transition at the very top—there is no clear successor nor confidence within the system that transition will be smooth. More likely is a stalemate or even a military coup which would subordinate the clerics to the generals. Islamic Republic or not, that has been the norm throughout the bulk of modern Iranian history.

Iran and the United States are as close to direct conflict as they have been for three decades, since Operation Praying Mantis in 1988 which was, at the time, the largest surface naval engagement since World War II.

A lot of ink has been spilled and oxygen expended discussing the matter, some of it good and some of it simplistic. Here a few thoughts, informed by being lucky enough to spend close to seven months studying in the Islamic Republic while finishing a doctorate in philosophy on Iranian history. I worked on the Iran desk at the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration, frequently visit the Persian Gulf, and have followed Iran almost continuously for a quarter century.

Iraq’s New Prime Minister Is Taking Things Slow

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After months of horse-trading and two failed attempts, Iraq finally has a new prime minister. Former head of intelligence Mustafa al-Kadhimi is set to lead the country through an economic crisis stemming from a collapse in the oil price, a health crisis caused by an inadequate coronavirus response, and a potential security crisis due to a resurgent Islamic State.

But the root of all these crises is political. Over the past few years, Iraq’s ruling elite has become less able to respond to the needs of its citizens. As protesters in the squares of Baghdad and the country’s south continue to call for revolution, the political elites are engulfed in infighting, vying for control of ministries and what’s left in the state coffers.

Despite this dire context, the new prime minister is neither a revolutionary who will overhaul the system nor a strongman who will centralize power. Instead, he is seeking incremental reform, working within the existing system. His vision is to navigate the impasse between citizens and elites—and the political fragmentation between elites themselves—by striking a new balance between reform and the status quo.

The Real Science Behind the "Game-Changing" Hydroxychloroquine Drug

by Teresa G. Carvalho
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The White House’s confirmation that US President Donald Trump has been taking hydroxychloroquine every day for the past two weeks, with his doctor’s blessing, has reignited the controversy over the drug. It has long been used against malaria but has not been approved for COVID-19.

Trump said he has “heard a lot of good stories” about hydroxychloroquine, and incorrectly claimed there is no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it. His previous claims in March that the drug could be a “game changer” in the pandemic prompted many people, including Australian businessman and politician Clive Palmer, to suggest stockpiling and distribution of the drug to the public.

But the dangers of acting on false or incomplete health information were underlined by the death of an Arizona man in March after inappropriate consumption of the related drug chloroquine. It’s important to know the real science behind the touted health benefits.

How do these medicines work?

Why the Iran-North Korea Missile Alliance Is Pure Trouble

Bruce E. Bechtol

On January 7, 2020, Iran launched ballistic missiles at American bases located in Iraq. One set of the missiles launched were in the “Qiam” series, missiles based on the North Korean built (and proliferated to Iran) Scud C system—and likely enhanced with North Korean assistance as well. But this is only the latest example of North Korea’s deep involvement and support of Iran’s ballistic-missile programs, an activity that has been ongoing since the 1980s, wrongly assessed by some poorly informed analysts to have “declined” following the 1990s, and a very real threat that continues with the likely presence of North Korean advisors and technicians in Iran today. But the threat is probably more compelling than most analysts realize.

North Korea has either developed or assisted with the development of the majority of Iranian liquid-fueled ballistic missiles systems. In fact, the majority of Iran’s ballistic missile systems can trace their genesis back to North Korean proliferation and/or technical assistance. Some key examples include several Scud systems, the No Dong series, the Musudan series (now seen in the Khorramshahr), the “Safir” satellite launch vehicle (the first stage is a No Dong), and Unha technology—now seen in the Iranian “Simorgh.” The first stage of the Unha rocket is a cluster of four No Dong engines—which is also the first stage of the “Simorgh.” Iranian technicians were reportedly present at both the 2009 and 2012 “Unha” launches. In short, as the North Korean ballistic-missile programs advance their capabilities, these new developments are often then proliferated to Iran. But there is more, and this now involves both IRBM and ICBM advances in North Korea (and of course a new rocket).

Question: What Direction Do You See U.S.-North Korea Relations Heading in For the Rest of the Year?

by Lucia Husenicová

Looking at the situation in the United States, given the coronavirus crisis, it is hard to foresee any significant change in U.S.-North Korean bilateral relations. It would be difficult to plan for another summit meeting in the current pandemic-focused world, even though it was suggested at the beginning of this year. It is hard to imagine how the American public would react if President Donald Trump were to leave the country in both a time of crisis and in the middle of presidential election season.

However, coming closer to the election, if Trump feels the need to show the voters a win, he might opt for a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Since 2018, we know that the administration is very flexible when it comes to organizing a summit in a mere three-month period. But I would still rate the possibility of another summit as low, as North Korea’s leadership would also have a say in any plans related to a summit.

Looking at DPRK’s motivation to meet with Trump, there are two possible trajectories. In the first case, the idea of a summit would require Kim Jong-un foreseeing Trump as U.S. president for the next four years and being able to bring benefits to his country. The DPRK can evaluate how the summit could be reflected at the voters’ behaviour and decide upon that.

Should Trump Really Take Hydroxychloroquine?

by Teresa G. Carvalho

The White House’s confirmation that US President Donald Trump has been taking hydroxychloroquine every day for the past two weeks, with his doctor’s blessing, has reignited the controversy over the drug. It has long been used against malaria but has not been approved for COVID-19.

Trump said he has “heard a lot of good stories” about hydroxychloroquine, and incorrectly claimed there is no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it. His previous claims in March that the drug could be a “game changer” in the pandemic prompted many people, including Australian businessman and politician Clive Palmer, to suggest stockpiling and distribution of the drug to the public.

But the dangers of acting on false or incomplete health information were underlined by the death of an Arizona man in March after inappropriate consumption of the related drug chloroquine. It’s important to know the real science behind the touted health benefits.

How do these medicines work?

Americans Need Work, Not Coronavirus Handouts

by Rachel Greszler
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With more than 1 in 5 Americans filing for unemployment benefits over the past eight weeks, policymakers’ top priority is clear: restoring conditions that allow workers to resume their previous jobs or find new ones.

Federal assistance can help bridge a temporary gap in employment and incomes, but the only long-term solution is to let people get back to work. After all, deficit-financed unemployment checks are no replacement for the valuable goods and services Americans produce.

Two bills, both introduced in Congress on Tuesday, take a very different approach to helping American workers.

The first, the Getting Americans Back to Work Act introduced by Reps. Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Ken Buck, R-Colo., would fix a highly problematic component of the CARES Act that Congress passed in March.

In addition to vastly expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits, CARES added an additional $600 a week on top of usual unemployment benefits. The Budd-Buck legislation would cap total unemployment benefits at 100% of workers’ previous wages.

At Eurasian Economic Union E-Summit, Tokayev Finds His Voice

By Wilder Alejandro Sanchez

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev criticized aspects of a new strategy for the development of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) this week. While the Central Asian nation’s membership will certainly continue, the criticisms are noteworthy as they demonstrate that EAEU member states are willing to push back against Moscow’s attempts to use the Union to spread its influence in Eurasia.

Tokayev’s comments took place on May 19, when the EAEU heads of state held a virtual summit to discuss the future of the union and the region’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the e-summit, the Kazakh leader spoke about the EAEU’s 2025 development strategy, currently in draft form. He said, “given the particular importance of this document, which lays the main lines of integration for years to come, it seems advisable to discuss it further and adopt it in person: sooner or later we will see each other,” according to the Kazakh president’s website.

COVID-19: A Reckoning for Russia’s Asian Energy Aims

By Nicholas Trickett

FILE – In this May 21, 2014 file photo, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and China’s President Xi Jinping, right, smile during a signing ceremony on a natural gas deal between their two countries, in Shanghai, China.Credit: AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service, File

COVID-19 has birthed an oil shock the likes of which the world has never seen. A mix of oversupply and lockdown-induced demand destruction have slammed oil exporters. Despite Russia’s reputation as a “Kalashnikov economy” – low-tech, cheap, and nearly indestructible – this shock is different than previous ones Moscow has weathered. 

The coronavirus has yet to run its course, and most focus is now drawn to the immediate damage to the Russian economy. Moscow is party to a renewed OPEC+ agreement to collectively cut roughly 10 million barrels of production. The latest deal has helped, but the overall story is clear. Demand will have fallen by an unprecedented amount for the year, and there’s growing unease among traders and international oil companies that it may never fully recover.

Coronavirus pandemic pushes US and China into new Cold War

HIROYUKI AKITA, Nikkei commentator

TOKYO -- While the U.S.-China relationship has become more toxic than ever since their dramatic rapprochement in the 1970s, the two have so far managed to avert a bigger blowup but the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the possibility for a further deterioration in ties.

Some had last year referred to increasingly frosty U.S.-China ties as a new Cold War, but that is an inaccurate description.

The broader context of U.S.-China relations is quite different from the geopolitical landscape during the Cold War between Washington and Moscow over four decades ago. Two key factors provided effective buffers against an intensifying of political and strategic relations between Washington and Beijing.

First, unlike the Soviet Union, China was not trying to spread communism around the world. Conflict between Washington and Beijing over the past few years was over the economy and the military, not over ideology.

Trump’s China Trade Deal Is as Dead as Can Be

When U.S. President Donald Trump is asked to point to the signature achievements of his first four years in power as he seeks reelection this fall, among those he trumpets will surely be his trade deal with Beijing. The January pact committed China to buying vast quantities of U.S. products, leading to a lower trade deficit and jobs for American workers. And a crucial component of Trump’s deal was massive Chinese purchases of U.S. oil and gas, which were supposed to boost the U.S. energy sector in the process.When Trump is asked to point to his signature achievements as he seeks reelection this fall, he will surely trumpet his trade deal with Beijing.

Trump’s much-touted trade victory has crashed and burned with the coronavirus pandemic, and nothing more dramatically signals that than the energy part of the deal. Amid the collapse in oil demand and prices unleashed by the pandemic, it is now all but certain that China will fail to meet its targets for energy purchases and expose the folly of Trump’s trade strategy. While Trump was right to address China’s problematic trade practices, the administration’s approach made little sense before the pandemic—and makes even less sense now.

One Year On, Zelensky Survives Impeachment (Trump’s, That Is) and Blunted Hopes

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When Ukrainians went to the polls in April 2019 to elect Volodymyr Zelensky as president, it was a collective shot in the dark. His previous political experience amounted to playing the role of the president in the popular Ukrainian TV series, Servant of the People. But in a country where politics as usual had failed to address endemic corruption or bring an end to the war in eastern Ukraine, people were hungry for change, and the comedian won by a landslide.

On Wednesday, Zelensky celebrated the first anniversary of his inauguration: Perhaps one of the strangest presidential debuts anywhere in the world, as the new and untried Ukrainian leader found himself unexpectedly at center stage in the impeachment drama over in Washington, with questions being raised about his relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ironically, although the impeachment imbroglio by itself did little to affect Zelensky’s ambitious if faltering reform agenda, it may have raised his stature among Ukrainians in the past year. Kyiv’s elites, who have long tried to stay away from U.S. partisan turf wars, have rallied around the political neophyte, and he remains hugely popular based on recent polls. 

This Creature Could Destroy the Great Lakes Ecosystem

by Oana Birceanu

Asea lamprey has no jaw, no proper teeth and no bones. Yet this predator can attach like a suction cup to a fish 100 times its size, use its tongue to burrow a hole into its side, liquefy its tissues and eat it.

A single lamprey can kill up to 20 kilograms of fish in just two years. On this fishy, bloody diet, a young lamprey weighing five grams will grow 40 to 50 times larger by the time it becomes an adult. And there are thousands of these vampire fish in the Great Lakes.

Are you horrified yet?

I am not, and here’s why: the Sea Lamprey Control (SLC) Program has the situation under control.

The SLC is one of the most successful invasive species management program in the world. It is so successful that those of us living in the Great Lakes basin have forgotten what a sea lamprey is. That is an extraordinary thing, because it means that the scientists are doing their job.

Five things you need to know about cyber war

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Cyber threats are part of the new way of war and will becoming increasingly common. Countries such as Iran have developed cyber capabilities, and other countries, such as the US, Russia and China may seek to act in the cyber realm as they jockey for power in the world.

A recent report of an Iranian cyberattack on Israel has put a spotlight on the threat. Israel is one of many countries that now faces threats and is also well placed to deal with them, having sought to create cyber defenses over the years. Here are some key issues involved with cyber war.

Iran has already threatened cyber warfare After the US killed IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, it was concerned about Iranian cyber retaliation against US infrastructure, such as the electricity grid, accord to Forbes. Iran already targeted Saudi’s Aramco in 2017. In 2019, Iranian hackers also targeted various businesses and oil refineries. Tehran is known to want to strike back for sanctions Washington has imposed.
Iran increased its cyber capabilities after the Stuxnet virus harmed its nuclear program between 2005 and 2010. The Islamic Republic wanted to respond to what it believed were US and Israeli threats. It also saw that cyber could give it a new weapon, exploiting this new field where it could excel while under sanctions. It recruited youth through its IRGC Basij militias, a kind of "Cyber Hezbollah" to strike at enemies.

Marine Corps May Replace Infantry M27s with the Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon

By Matthew Cox
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The Marine Corps hasn't yet finished fielding M27 infantry automatic rifles to all its grunt units as their new standard service weapon, but it's already eying the Army's Next Generation Squad weapon as its next infantry rifle.

The experimental 6.8mm NGSW is in the final phase of testing as three companies compete for the chance to replace the Army's M4A1 carbine and M249 squad automatic weapon with rifle and auto-rifle variants of the futuristic weapon system beginning in fiscal 2023.

While the Corps deliberates over committing to NGSW, it's working to finish issuing the M27 to infantry Marines by the end of this fiscal year, officials said in a recent release.

The M27 was initially fielded in 2011 to infantry units as a replacement for the M249 squad automatic weapon, but the popularity of the Heckler & Koch weapon prompted the Corps to expand fielding dramatically in January 2018.

These 5 Weapons Explain Why America's Army Is So Powerful

by Michael Peck

Here's What You Need To Remember: Today's U.S. Army can generate an astonishing amount of firepower and deliver it in a variety of settings from small-war counterinsurgency to big-war mechanized combat.

When it comes to lethal weapons, the U.S. Army has no shortage. Some may be too expensive, some too complex and others may be desired by politicians and defense contractors, but not the troops on the field.

Nonetheless, today's U.S. Army can generate an astonishing amount of firepower and deliver it in a variety of settings from small-war counterinsurgency to big-war mechanized combat. With that in mind, here are five of the best U.S. Army weapons:

AH-64 Apache:

Ironic it is that the best weapon of America's premier land force is an aircraft. But given the conflicts the U.S. military has recently fought and is likely to fight, airpower is the most decisive factor.