6 July 2020

India Shows the World How to Use ‘Cyberspace Sovereignty’ Against China

By Chauncey Jung

On Monday, the government of India announced its decision to ban 59 Chinese mobile applications within its borders. In a statement from the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, governing authorities from India accuse these Chinese mobile applications, including TikTok, WeChat, and Weibo, of mining user data and transferring data to servers outside of the country.

The ban on Chinese mobile applications was not appreciated by the Chinese government. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concerns over the decisions and urged India to “uphold the legitimate rights of international investors.”

Despite showing concerns about another country restricting the use of certain mobile applications within its domestic network, China has consistently blocked foreign apps, websites, and other internet services using its “Great Firewall,” which stops internet users in China from accessing websites such as Google, the New York Times, and The Diplomat. Smartphone users are also not allowed to use mobile applications such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Chinese regime also has strict restrictions on the distribution of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which can be used to get around the restrictions. In 2018, a software engineer faced criminal charges and received a suspended prison sentence for selling software that helped internet users to bypass the Chinese government’s Great Firewall to visit prohibited websites.

What’s This Unit of Russian Spies That Keeps Getting Outed?

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On Friday, the New York Times broke the explosive story that a unit of Russia’s military intelligence—Unit 29155 of the GRU—had allegedly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, has emerged as a key player in Moscow’s efforts to sow chaos around the world, including the operation to hack and release emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

Unit 29155, accused of offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants, has spearheaded some of Russia’s most brazen overseas operations in recent years—or at least the ones we know about, from the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 to the botched effort to assassinate former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in England. 

It’s not clear how the U.S. intelligence community was able to tie the operation back to Unit 29155. Information about the bounty plot, which was included in the president’s daily intelligence briefing early last year, is filtering into the press in bits and pieces. On Tuesday the Times reported that the assessment was backed up by evidence of bank transfers between bank accounts linked to the GRU and the Taliban.

Russian Bounties on U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Fit Right Into Putin’s Playbook

Frida Ghitis 

From the moment The New York Times broke the news that U.S. forces had found massive amounts of cash during raids in Afghanistan, and ultimately concluded that Russia has been offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American and coalition troops, the focus has centered on President Donald Trump and his failure to take action in response.

Observers have paid much less attention to whether this is the kind of operation Russia would run—and why Moscow might undertake activities so brazen that if discovered, they might qualify as a casus belli, risking armed confrontation or at least a sharp deterioration in already frayed ties with the United States and the West

China’s Own Documents Show Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans in Xinjiang

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These are direct quotes from the 2019 family planning budget of Hotan, the capital city of a prefecture with a population of 2.53 million in in southern Xinjiang, China. The neighboring county of Guma, population 322,000, set a similarly precise “performance target” figure of 5,970 intrauterine contraception device (IUD) placements and 8,064 female sterilizations for that year.

These two counties, predominantly home to members of the Uighur ethnic minority, planned to sterilize approximately 14 and 34 percent of women between 18 and 49—in a single year. Per capita, that represents more sterilizations than China performed in the 20 years between 1998 and 2018 combined. Documents from Xinjiang’s Health Commission indicate that this is part of a wider project targeting all of Xinjiang’s southern minority regions in 2019 and 2020.

Since 2017, up to 1.8 million Uighurs, Kazaks, and other Turkic minority groups in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang have been swept up in what is probably the largest incarceration of an ethnoreligious minority since the Holocaust. Exile Uighurs and China researchers have described this campaign as a “cultural genocide.” Now, new research I published this month with the Jamestown Foundation provides strong evidence that Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang also meet the physical genocide criterion cited in Section D of Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the [targeted] group.”

Deng To Xi, The Troubling "Sovietization" Of China

In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and on the eve, 30 years ago, of the collapse of the USSR, Chinese leaders emphasized the fundamental differences between the choices of Moscow and those of Beijing.

Under Gorbachev, the USSR favored political openness over economic reform. Deng Xiaoping's China took the exact opposite route. The USSR was on the verge of collapse, a victim of its contradictions and inability to follow the United States in an arms race that it could not afford to maintain. The Chinese regime stressed economic growth and maintained a low profile in its relations with the world. Following the lessons of Bismark, if not the advice of Henry Kissinger, China saw self-confidence and self-restraint as going hand in hand.

A re-emerging empire, China had some time to kill and could have humble success. With the uninterrupted growth of the economy, the main thing was to maintain the confidence of a society that lived better and longer. And yet, it now seems that China has forgotten these wise precepts, the very ideas that kept it so long from meeting the same fate as the USSR.

The parallels between today's China and yesterday's USSR are as fascinating as they are disturbing. 

Renewing America’s Commitment to the Indo-Pacific

By Jim Inhofe and Cory Gardner

As China brashly tries to impose its own system of rules and order in the Pacific, the United States and our allies in the Indo-Pacific confront a time for choosing. We must choose to advance our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. We must choose to ensure the success of the principles of regional and global order that remain essential to our shared security and prosperity. These are difficult choices that will come at increasingly greater cost. Beijing will do its best to make sure that the right choice and the easy choice are never the same, but we believe Americans and our allies are up to the task.

For instance, U.S. allies like Australia are already making the tough choices, while braving Beijing’s bluster and bullying. By standing by its calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus and by remaining open to trade while refusing to trade away fundamental values, Australia has set a proud example for all the world. As Beijing lashes out across the region from the Himalayan Mountains to the South China Sea, Australia’s actions serve as a reminder for our other allies that in a free and open Indo-Pacific, right makes might — and not the other way around.

Australia should not be alone in this effort. The United States stands with our allies, and we are prepared to make our own tough choices.

COVID-19 Complicates the US-China Cyber Threat Landscape

By Lee Clark

In February 2020, in an article for The Diplomat, I argued that the U.S.-China Phase One trade deal would not prevent future cyberattacks from China. At the time, the full scale and implications of the coronavirus outbreak was difficult to forecast and integrate into cyber strategy. A month later, COVID-19 was designated a global pandemic, and the crisis went on to generate mass shutdowns, economic chaos, and increased geopolitical tensions worldwide. The central argument of my earlier piece — that some level of Chinese cyberespionage activity will continue regardless of the success of trade negotiations, because the risks are low and the rewards great — remains true. However, events involving the pandemic have overshadowed any potential fallout of the trade negotiations.

U.S.-China relations have deteriorated under the stress of COVID-19 despite hopes for a trade deal and a focus on a warm interpersonal relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the past few months alone, tensions have been exacerbated by widespread misinformation on the origins of the virus from both Chinese and U.S. official representatives and racist language from the U.S. administration. Trump also decided to end the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization over accusations that the global body was complicit in China’s misleading reporting in the early stages of the outbreak.

Did a Cyber-Weapon Blow Up an Iranian Missile Factory—And Is This Cyber-War?

by Matthew Petti 

An Iranian general would not rule out that a massive explosion east of Tehran last week was caused by “hacking,” amidst speculation that the incident was an act of sabotage.

Iranian authorities had attempted to downplay the blast—which tore through a missile factory east of Tehran—as a gas tank explosion at a different industrial park. But one official refused to rule out an act of cyber-sabotage.

“On the explosion of the Parchin gas facilities, it has been mentioned that the incident was caused by hacking the center's computer systems,” said Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, head of the Passive Defense Institution, at a conference on anti-chemical weapons defense. “But until we come to a conclusion on the dimensions of this incident and the claim, we cannot comment.”

The explosion damaged the Khojir missile production complex, according to satellite imagery, but Iranian authorities have insisted that it actually took place at the Parchin industrial park forty kilometer away.

The apparent coverup—along with international tensions around Iran’s missile program—have raised suspicions of foul play.

The Two-State Solution Is Dead. What Comes Next Is Worse.

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On July 1, Israel could move to annex parts of the occupied West Bank under the terms of a coalition agreement signed in April. Palestinians, meanwhile, are left questioning their leadership and wondering how they became so far removed from their original goal of a Palestinian state.

As Israel slowly carved out parts of the West Bank over the years, its settlements swallowing hilltops and displacing Palestinians by destroying their homes, the Palestinian leadership cravenly chose its political dominance and economic interests over holding the occupier of its land accountable. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has often resorted to empty threats: this time, opting not to lodge a war crimes case at the International Criminal Court over whether Israel is breaking Articles 47 and 49 of the Geneva Conventions, citing the looming annexation and the country’s long-standing practice of transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

And as the Trump administration proved willing to change decades of U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grown emboldened. First came the U.S. decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then the recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. In January, Netanyahu renewed his vow to “impose Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.”

Trump’s Syria Policy Is Working

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Two years after celebrating victory in the Syrian civil war, the regime of Bashar Assad is facing renewed unrest. A mini-insurgency is under way in Daraa province, the birthplace of the 2011 revolt. Stormy demonstrations are under way in adjacent Suwayda. The economy is hurtling toward the abyss.

What has changed, in two short years? How has Assad’s triumph turned to disaster? The answer is the Trump administration’s Syria policy. The application of quiet but unrelenting pressure is transforming the Syrian president’s victory into ashes. What it has yet to do is persuade Russia to cease backing the Assad regime, which means the strategy remains at a stalemate.

When James Jeffrey, U.S. special envoy for Syria, said on May 12 that his job was to make Syria “a quagmire for the Russians,” the remark went largely unnoticed. Jeffrey’s words were not merely, it turns out, intended to convey a general sense of opposition to Russian designs in Syria. They headlined a series of measures intended to prevent the return of normality to regime-controlled Syria, to foment renewed crisis, and thus to turn Syria from an asset to a burden for both Moscow and Tehran.

Murphy's Law: Lethal To Aircraft Lasers At Last

June 28, 2020: In May 2020, Russian media reported that a Russian Peresvet mobile (truck-mounted) laser system had downed an Israeli UAV in southern Syria. Israel denied it and no one produced wreckage indicating otherwise. Russia does have one of its Peresvet systems in Syria and pictures of it have circulated. Russia has released little information about its capabilities. From what has been released, or deduced from items seen in pictures of Peresvet, the Russian system can emit jamming signals to disrupt the control signals for UAVs as well as use a high-powered laser to damage or destroy UAVs at shorter distances.

From the pictures of Peresvet, the Russian systems appears similar to an American system, LaWS (Laser Weapon System) that was developed for the U.S. Navy and was installed on one warship for several years and is being installed on several more. This began in 2013 when the navy announced that it had developed a laser technology capable of being useful in combat. This was not a sudden development but had been going on for most of the last decade. In 2010 the navy successfully tested this new laser weapon, which is actually six solid-state lasers acting in unison, to destroy a small UAV. LaWS was not yet powerful enough to do this at the range, and power level, required to cripple the most dangerous targets; missiles and small boats. The manufacturer convinced the navy that it was just a matter of tweaking the technology to get the needed effectiveness. In 2013 another test was run, under more realistic conditions. LaWS worked again, knocking down a larger UAV at a longer range. At that point, the navy said it planned to install the system in a warship within the year for even more realistic testing. Those tests took place in 2014 and were successful enough to install LaWS on at least one warship to be used to deliver warnings (at low power) while at full strength (30 kilowatts) the laser could kill people and damage or destroy UAVs.

Why No One Ever Really Wins a Proxy War

by Brittany Benowitz and Alicia Ceccanese

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series addressing the challenges associated with proxy warfare, in particular as it plays out in the Middle East and North Africa, and ways to address these issues at the national and international levels. See also Part 2 on civilian casualties and Part 3 on the U.N.’s role.)

As the world struggles to marshal the resources needed to contain the coronavirus, the need to resolve long-simmering conflicts around the world has become all the more pressing, if for no other reason than the need to re-direct resources to the health crisis and to rebuilding devastated economies. It was therefore somewhat surprising that in the midst of the epidemic, the U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intent to continue to advance multi-billion dollar arms deals with India. These deals have been in the works for some time, but they include the sale of Stinger missiles and other small arms and light weapons that may be of particular interest to the Indian government now, considering the flare-up in the conflict with Pakistan in Kashmir over the past year. The irony is that such missiles might one day be used to shoot down American-made F-16s that were sold to Pakistan on the condition that they would not be used in Kashmir, but nonetheless were deployed there last year. While the direct conflict between India and Pakistan has subsided for the moment, both sides continue to support proxies aimed at containing the other side.

A study by an expert working group convened by the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, where we work (one of us was on the working group), examined the dynamics of such proxy conflicts — and the role of arms sales. It concluded that such conflicts are particularly likely to become protracted and deadly for civilians. Yet, despite those risks, governments continue to engage in proxy warfare, because they believe the perceived positives — ability to influence events far afield, lower risk to their own personnel, lower cost, less political blowback — outweigh the negatives.


By Robert C. Jones

“Tenet 14 – ‘design in real time,’ because knowledge is durable, but ideas are fleeting.” I looked out across the audience in Jones Auditorium (no relation) at the faculty and students of the 2020 Air War College class. To my amazement, they were actually listening with interest to my presentation on “Thinking about Thinking.” This class of Colonels were in their second week of Operational Design, and I appreciated full-well their primary focus was on getting their design products completed in their respective seminar teams, and completing their individual writing assignments. I held no delusions. I realized carving out an hour on this rainy morning at Maxwell Air Force Base to listen to some retired Army Special Forces Colonel drone on about his thoughts on design was not something they had been eagerly anticipating.

On the massive screen behind my slowly pacing form (I hate podiums even more than I hate scripts) was a slide built around a photocopy of a page from my notebook. Eyebrows raised as I revealed a mess of sloppily doodled Venn diagrams from my own active listening at the SMA (Strategic Multi-layer Assessment) Conference at Joint Base Andrews the previous year.

The Rise of Strategic Corruption

By Philip Zelikow, Eric Edelman, Kristofer Harrison, and Celeste Ward Gventer

Graft is nothing new; it may be the second-oldest profession. Powerful people and those with access to them have always used kickbacks, pay-to-play schemes, and other corrupt practices to feather their nests and gain unfair advantages. And such corruption has always posed a threat to the rule of law and stood in the way of protecting basic civil and economic rights.

What is new, however, is the transformation of corruption into an instrument of national strategy. In recent years, a number of countries—China and Russia, in particular—have found ways to take the kind of corruption that was previously a mere feature of their own political systems and transform it into a weapon on the global stage. Countries have done this before, but never on the scale seen today.

The result has been a subtle but significant shift in international politics. Rivalries between states have generally been fought over ideologies, spheres of influence, and national interests; side payments of one kind or another were just one tactic among many. Those side payments, however, have become core instruments of national strategy, leveraged to gain specific policy outcomes and to condition the wider political environment in targeted countries. This weaponized corruption relies on a specific form of asymmetry. Although any government can hire covert agents or bribe officials elsewhere, the relative openness and freedom of democratic countries make them particularly vulnerable to this kind of malign influence—and their nondemocratic enemies have figured out how to exploit that weakness.

Libya: A Catastrophe for Russia’s Pantsir S1 Air Defense System

By Altan A. Ozler

The Pantisr is no stranger to making headlines – but after news of disastrous losses in Libya, is its reputation now in tatters?
A Trouncing in Tripoli

Last month has proven to be catastrophic for the credibility of one of Russia’s most touted air defense systems. The troubles for the Pantsir S1 air defense system in Libya began when Khalifa Haftar’s yearlong Tripoli offensive against the Ankara-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) began to collapse.

Believed to have been supplied to the Libyan strongman as early as last year by his backers in the Gulf, the Russian system was meant to be used as a trump card against Turkey’s combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) air interdiction operations. Yet, after a major GNA counteroffensive last month, and the retaking of the strategic Al-Watiya airbase and key suburbs in Tripoli, it became clear that the system had been trounced. Analysis of open source data has estimated that up to 9 Pantsir units were lost in quick succession to UAV strikes during May, with footage of the strikes going viral on social media. To add insult to injury, a tenth Pantsir system was dramatically captured by GNA forces, and to great fanfare paraded through Tripoli as a war trophy. It is speculated that the captured Pantsir’s final fate is to be picked apart for intelligence purposes.

A Significant System

Losing Germany

By Edward Goldberg

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times writes regularly about how you can’t fool, deceive, or trick Mother Nature. Well the same logic applies to history and geography. Although the headlines are currently focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing COVID pandemic, a geopolitical blunder of historic importance is being committed: President Donald Trump is pushing Germany away from the United States. Former Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and George Marshall are turning over in their graves. Henry Kissinger, the Merlin of balance of power thought in international relations, must be in total despair.

Germany is not only the fourth-largest economy in the world; it is the industrial and financial engine of the European Union. Furthermore, with its interlocking trade connections to the other 25 members of the European Union, its economic weight is significantly amplified. Germany is truly the leader of Europe, and Europe is America’s largest trading partner. In 2018 (latest data) the European Union accounted for 22.4% of total U.S. trade.

In our globalized world, where national sovereignty is still key but where market power counts as it never did before, the European-American relationship is crucial to the United States’ position in the world. Because of the explosive growth of the global economy, the GDP of the United States went from being 36% of the world’s totalin 1969 to only 15.2% today. However, the combined U.S.-EU economic relationship (a key to the Western alliance) should in principle dramatically magnify the economic power and influence of the United States.

Taking Climate Risk Seriously


FRANKFURT – COVID-19 has shown how a long-recognized but underappreciated global risk can suddenly materialize and wreak social and economic devastation in a matter of weeks. The implication is clear: While the world is rightly focused on battling the current pandemic, firms and governments must also recognize and plan for other risks, particularly climate change, which, like a pandemic, could upend the global economy if not managed properly.

That is not a conclusion we arrive at lightly. At the McKinsey Global Institute, we spent a year assessing the possible socioeconomic impacts of climate change over the coming three decades. What we found is that these effects already exist and are increasing, often in non-linear ways.

As part of our analysis, we conducted nine case studies across regions to gauge potential effects, linking climate models with economic projections in each case. We estimated inherent physical risk, absent climate adaptation and mitigation, to assess the size of the challenge and highlight the case for action.

Climate researchers frequently use Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios, ranging from lower (RCP 2.6) to higher (RCP 8.5) atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. We adopted the higher-emission RCP 8.5 scenario in order to assess inherent physical risk in the absence of further decarbonization.

Viewpoint: Hackers Putting Global Supply Chain at Risk

By Steven D. Carter

“Cybersecurity really is a supply chain problem” that encompasses the telecom carriers that are used by businesses, the hardware and software that supports organizational workflow, and the cloud assets that so many organizations are leveraging today, Richard George, former National Security Agency technical director of information assurance and current senior advisor for cybersecurity at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, recently said in a speech to cybersecurity professionals.

“It’s not just the government that’s a target, everybody’s a target,” he added.

Part of the problem is that “there is no risk aversion” for these bad actors. No one stands trial for their behavior while the Chinese deny their role in this activity and say, “not us, not us,” George said.

Kevin O’Marah, former manufacturing and supply chain contributor to Forbes, wrote, “Where once we worried about localized mistakes or oversights upstream, now we worry about cataclysm, potentially at the hands of actors bent on destruction. The new world of supply chain risk means preparation for widespread, systemic disruption in our immediate future.”


Zachary Kallenborn 

In 2017, artificial-intelligence researcher Stuart Russell presented the “Slaughterbots” video at a meeting of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons. When Dr. Russell and the Future of Life Institute released the video on YouTube, it quickly went viral. In the video, fictionalized swarms of drones recognize, target, and kill opponents autonomously. The drones assassinate activists and political leaders, and a slaughterbots manufacturer claims that $25 million of drones can wipe out half a city.

Although slaughterbots are fiction, numerous states are developing both drone-swarm technology and autonomous weapons. Every leg of the US military is developing drone swarms—including the Navy’s swarming boats and the Air Force’s plan to employ swarms in a wide range of military roles, from intelligence collection to suppression of enemy air defenses. Russia, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and others are developing swarms too. At the same time, a range of states have developed or are developing autonomous (primarily stationary defensive) weapons, from South Korea’s SGR-A1 gun turret to the United States’ Phalanx close-in weapon system. Combining these technologies creates a slaughterbots­-style weapon: an armed, fully autonomous drone swarm—or AFADS. (For the purposes of this article, I define “fully autonomous” to mean weapon systems that are both self-targeting and self-mobile; “drone” as any unmanned platform operating on land, sea, air, or space; and “drone swarms” as the use of multiple drones collaborating to achieve shared objectives.)

Because of this, AFADS should be classified as weapons of mass destruction. As I argue in my new study at the US Air Force Center for Strategic Deterrence Studies, AFADS can exceed any arbitrary threshold for mass casualties and are inherently unable to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

Why Classification Matters (and Why it’s Hard)

‘Melancholic and Fascinated’: Artificial Intelligence, Authentic Humanity, and the Future of War

by Christopher Ankersen

Imperfection, ambiguity, opacity, disorder, and the opportunity to err, to sin, to do the wrong thing: all of these are constitutive of human freedom, and any attempt to root them out will root out that freedom as wellEvgeny Morozov1

Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men.”Theodor W. Adorno

Humans now share their world with artificial intelligence (AI). AI does most tasks much better than we do. It can sift through data much more quickly than humans; it is adept at pattern matching; it is not prone to fatigue, to stress, or self-doubt. For these reasons, it is the subject of immense investment. Last year alone, over £1 billion was raised for research and development in AI in the UK.2 And for good reason: the global economic gains from AI are predicted to top £12 trillion by 2030.3

But the commercial world is not unique. Just as the Wright Brothers’ invention went from skimming along the sands of North Carolina in 1903 to observing, bombing, and dogfighting above the Western Front in 1914, AI has swiftly made the leap from a civilian to a military application. Since Alan Turing’s bombe literally ‘cracked the code’ in Bletchley Park all those years ago, we have come to rely on the power of computation to achieve superhuman results. In our visions of the future (whether of war or peace), AI is intimately implicated in defence as a means of overcoming the sluggish, fickle, and error-prone nature of human decision-making. If the wars of the 21st Century have imparted a singular lesson it is this: having our troops mired in ambiguous situations, unable to see into the next compound, incapable of loitering without exposing themselves to mortal risk is increasingly unacceptable to the generals, politicians, and citizens who—ultimately—put them there. 

Record number of UAV shoot downs prompt new USAF tactics and countermeasure pod

By Garrett Reim

After holding steady at a few instances per year, the number of suspected or confirmed downings of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) grew to 14 examples in 2019 and surged to 24 in the first six months of this year.

Highlighting a rising trend, episodes last year accounted for 61% of downings over the past five years, according to UAV crash data gathered by Drone Wars UK, an Oxford-based non-governmental organisation whose long-term goal is to realise an international ban on the use of armed drones, and supplemented with reporting by FlightGlobal. The crashes almost entirely appear over the Middle East, in particular active conflict zones in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

The UAV crash data discussed here was sourced from official government accident reports, plus news articles and social media posts that featured pictures or videos of crashed aircraft. Because governments are reluctant to confirm successful downings, and since some combatants are eager to claim credit for crashes whatever their cause, the true number of UAVs brought down is difficult to know.

Nonetheless, there appears to be a clear trend. Increases in suspected or confirmed downings of UAVs coincide with the growing use of unmanned aircraft in the Middle East. The crashes also coincide with the proliferation of surface-to-air missiles in the region.

The ‘crown jewel’ of the United States Army changes command

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. – Maj. Gen. Gary W. Johnston, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), hosted a virtual change of command ceremony in which Col. Brian D. Vile relinquished his command of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) to Col. Matthew J. Lennox on July 2.

Activated on October 1, 2011, the 780th MI Brigade is the only offensive cyberspace operations brigade in the U.S. Army. The organization executes its mission to conduct cyberspace operations in support of Army and Joint requirements through two battalions spread across four states, and also supports both Task Force Echo, the National Guard’s largest activated cyber force, and the 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion which provides cyber support at the tactical level.

The COVID-19 pandemic precluded a formal change of command ceremony which would have included Soldiers and Army Civilians representing the brigade’s subordinate units, however, in his remarks, Johnston highlighted the brigade’s accomplishments over the past two years, including supporting effects delivery in every area of operations, and directly supporting each of the four Services.

American troops had only hours to react to Iranian ballistic missile attack. Here’s what they did.

Shawn Snow
“In the end, I said a prayer and asked God to guide my actions and protect my troops,” Lt. Col. Staci Coleman, the commander of 443 Air Expeditionary Squadron, at al-Asad air base in Iraq, said recounting Iran’s January ballistic missile strike.

“I resolved to place the fate of my team in His hands and I refocused my attention on executing the plan,” Coleman said in her account of the attack released by U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

U.S. service members stationed on two Iraqi airbases at al-Asad and Erbil had only hours to react to an incoming barrage of Iranian ballistic missiles launched early in the morning on Jan. 8, 2020, according to a report released by AFCENT.

While no U.S. troops were killed in the attack, more than 100 U.S. troops have been treated for traumatic brain injury, but the damage could have been far worse.

The Air Force assessed “countless” service members and hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment could have been lost in the attack if it were not for the quick thinking of leaders on the ground.

On the evening of Jan. 7, Coleman said she got the word that Iran was planning to attack the al-Asad air base located in Anbar province, Iraq.


Trevor Phillips-Levine, Dylan Phillips-Levine and Walker Mills
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At 11:40 am on October 4, 2017, a group of Army Special Forces embedded with Nigerien soldiers came under intense attack by Islamic State militants. Initially, the US operators only put out a “troops in contact” call without further request for assistance. Nonetheless, this call activated the quick response force consisting of Nigerien ground forces, a Nigerien helicopter, and French aircraft. Despite Nigerien ground units deploying only eight minutes after the initial notification, response time was over four hours due to terrain and distance. French Mirage fighter aircraft arrived overhead forty-seven minutes after the “troops in contact” call was made, but were unable to establish radio contact with the US operators. Outnumbered and under withering small arms fire, the US operators and their Nigerien counterparts attempted to withdraw. In the confusion, their convoy became separated. Taking casualties as they retreated, the US forces radioed that they were in danger of being overrun fifty-three minutes after the initial “troops in contact” radio call was made. The militants’ assault was finally broken when French Mirage aircraft performed shows of force over the battered convoy. By the time French helicopters arrived over five hours later to evacuate the remaining US and Nigerien troops, four Americans and four Nigeriens were dead.

Subsequent military investigations revealed several internal failures, including deficiencies in planning, notifications, and oversight. Airpower’s initial absence and, finally, its conspicuous presence, played a critical role in the attack that unfolded and underscored airpower’s immense importance to ground missions. Crucially, because of limited aviation resources at the time of the ambush, it appeared that no airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft were assigned to the mission. When French tactical aircraft responded, they were unable to establish radio communications with the ground forces or identify friendly positions, which prevented them from employing the immense firepower at their disposal. Even still, the presence of airpower likely saved the rest of the lives within the convoy.

Indo-Pacific in Focus as Australia Substantially Lifts Military Spending

By Luke Hunt

A starkly changed world has fired up Australia, prompting a realignment in its relationships with India, Indonesia, and the Pacific, backed by a substantial increase in its defense budget.

Earlier this week Canberra announced it would spend $186 billion on its military – including long range missiles – over the next decade amid rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, where China has enjoyed flexing its political, financial and military clout in recent times.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refrained from naming China as he pressed home Australia’s needs by defining a post-COVID world “that is poorer, that is more dangerous and that is more disorderly.”

Beijing had enjoyed cordial relations based on mutual prosperity with Australia under successive leaders, from Deng Xiaoping in the 1990s to Hu Jintao. But its big-bully approach under President Xi Jinping has soured ties.