20 November 2020

Digital India: Technology to transform a connected nation

By Noshir Kaka, Anu Madgavkar, Alok Kshirsagar, Rajat Gupta, James Manyika, Kushe Bahl

With more than half a billion internet subscribers, India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers, but adoption is uneven among businesses. As digital capabilities improve and connectivity becomes omnipresent, technology is poised to quickly and radically change nearly every sector of India’s economy. That is likely to both create significant economic value and change the nature of work for tens of millions of Indians.

In Digital India: Technology to transform a connected nation (PDF–3MB), the McKinsey Global Institute highlights the rapid spread of digital technologies and their potential value to the Indian economy by 2025 if government and the private sector work together to create new digital ecosystems.

Section 1

India's consumers are taking a digital leap

By many measures, India is well on its way to becoming a digitally advanced country. Propelled by the falling cost and rising availability of smartphones and high-speed connectivity, India is already home to one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing bases of digital consumers and is digitizing faster than many mature and emerging economies.

The Taliban Don’t Care About a Free Press. Neither Does the Afghan Government

By Sabera Azizi

On the morning of November 7 in Kabul, a weeping father rushed with his sons to the scene of a red car engulfed in flames. The ground was covered in blood, and remnants were stuck on adjacent tree branches. Bystanders brought a white cloth as the family picked up the burnt and bloody remains of their beloved.

This was the scene of the attack that took the life of Yama Siawash, a calligrapher and poet, a renowned journalist and former TV anchor. 

Siawash was well-known for shedding light on corruption, exposing government officials, and questioning the Afghan government’s official narrative. In one of his last programs, he challenged a minister who was involved in a controversial deal with the Taliban. This was the final straw in the mounting pressure against Tolo News, a local news channel and Siawash’s employer at the time, to dismiss him. According to Siawash’s childhood friend, Tolo News was pressured to fire Siawash because he echoed the realities of the country. His childhood friend further noted that Siawash received threats due to his outspokenness. 

Atrocities Pile Up for CIA-Backed Afghan Paramilitary Forces

By Emran Feroz

KHOST, Afghanistan—Members of a CIA-backed paramilitary group have allegedly killed some 14 civilians during raids in Afghanistan’s restive Khost province in the past month, in one case bursting into the home of a man in his 40s, Muhammad Shawkat, dragging him into the street, and shooting him dead for no apparent reason, according to interviews with several residents of the area. 

At least one woman was among the dead, the residents said. They declined to be identified in describing the killings because they feared retribution from the group, known as the Khost Protection Force (KPF). Word of the killings also spread on social media in the past month.

The KPF controls much of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan, one of the more volatile parts of the country. The CIA established the force in the first days of the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, drawing on fighters from local Pashtun tribes for its membership. Nineteen years later, CIA operatives continue to train and arm the KPF, though it has been implicated repeatedly in atrocities against civilians, including torture and killing, according to human rights groups.

RCEP: A new trade agreement that will shape global economics and politics

Peter A. Petri and Michael Plummer

On November 15, 2020, 15 countries — members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and five regional partners — signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), arguably the largest free trade agreement in history. RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which concluded in 2018 and is also dominated by East Asian members, are the only major multilateral free trade agreements signed in the Trump era.

India and the United States were to be members of RCEP and the CPTPP, respectively, but withdrew under the Modi and Trump governments. As the agreements are now configured (see Figure 1), they forcefully stimulate intra-East Asian integration around China and Japan. This is partly the result of U.S. policies. The United States needs to rebalance its economic and security strategies to advance not only its economic interests, but also its security goals.

Water Wars: Shadowboxing in Taiwan and the Senkakus

By Sean Quirk

An uptick in Chinese military activity around Taiwan and China Coast Guard presence at the Senkakus have kept the region on edge. Beijing seems keen to use military action short of war to test both maritime boundaries and the patience of officials in Taipei, Tokyo and Washington. Such a “shadowboxing” strategy is consistent with long-standing Chinese efforts that began at least in 2012 to “win without fighting” in the South and East China Seas. But the strategy is hardly novel, as it is a core premise in Sun Tzu’s Art of War: “to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Resistance from Taiwan, Japan and the United States, however, shows little sign of breaking.

Fortress Taiwan

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held a large-scale military exercise in the provinces bordering Taiwan to simulate an island invasion on Oct. 10, coinciding with Taiwan’s National Day. The exercise demonstrated joint integration among China’s military branches and featured drones, special forces and airborne troops.

RPEC: Why World's Largest Free-Trade Pact Matters

by Dan Steinbock

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is an extraordinary achievement amid aggressive geopolitics, self-defeating trade wars, and accelerating global pandemic. It is also a leap toward a better future.

Last June, the ministers of RCEP countries underscored their determination to sign the free-trade agreement amid unprecedented headwinds in global trade, investment and supply chains. Following almost a decade of talks, 15 countries are poised to sign the world’s largest free-trade pact during the ASEAN Summit.

The RCEP is expected to increase trade integration between the 10 ASEAN countries, East Asian leaders (China, Japan, South Korea), and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand).

Surprisingly, India withdrew from the RCEP talks late last year, following Prime Minister Modi’s increasing cooperation with the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative. Nonetheless, India can still rejoin the talks at a later date, if it chooses to do so.

China to Build New Railway Link to Tibet as India Watches Apprehensively

By Sudha Ramachandran

China is set to begin construction of a strategic railway line linking Ya’an in Sichuan with Nyingchi in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Part of a larger rail project to link Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, with Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, the Ya’an-Nyingchi rail line constitutes the middle sector of this project. At 1,011-kilometers in length it is the longest of the three sections.

While the Chengdu-Ya’an section of the project, which runs within Sichuan province, is complete and started operations in December 2018, the Lhasa-Nyingchi leg will be ready in 2021. The Ya’an-Nyinchi railway line is expected to be completed by 2030.

Construction of the Ya’an-Nyinchi railway line is a priority for the Chinese government; President Xi Jinping recently called for speeding up completion of the project. He cited the railway line’s importance for implementation of the Chinese Communist Party’s plans for Tibet’s governance and the project’s role in securing China’s national unity and stability in the border areas.

Chinese Ballistic Missiles Fired Into South China Sea Claimed to Hit Target Ship

By Steven Stashwick

In August, China launched several anti-ship ballistic missiles into the South China Sea. Now sources close to the Chinese military claim that the missiles did not simply fall into the sea but successfully hit a moving target ship.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) first reported that DF-21D and DF-26B anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from separate sites on August 26 and travelled thousands of kilometers before splashing down in the South China Sea somewhere between the Paracel Islands and Hainan Island. The Pentagon later confirmed that China tested ballistic missiles that landed near the Paracel Islands during exercises that week but offered no details about the launch.

The DF-21D is believed to have a range of about 1,500 kilometers and U.S. Department of Defense reported that the anti-ship variant reached an early capability in 2010. The missile was dubbed the “carrier killer” for possibly being able to hit U.S. aircraft carriers far out to sea.

The DF-26B has a much longer range of around 4,000 kilometers, leading some to call it the “Guam Express” because it could theoretically target U.S. military bases on the island of Guam.

The Next Administration Needs a Saudi Reset

By Daniel DePetris

Joe Biden will enter the White House with a lengthy agenda. While much of it will be domestic in focus, the incoming administration cannot afford to ignore foreign policy. There is plenty of work to do, and no area needs reform more than U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.

Since its establishment in 1945, the relationship between Washington and Riyadh has been simple: In exchange for access to Persian Gulf oil resources, the United States would protect the Saudis against threats to the kingdom. The oil-for-security arrangement mostly worked, for both states. The United States got a partner in an energy-rich region, and Saudi Arabia enjoyed strong ties to a superpower. As time went by, policymakers in both capitals came to believe that what was good for Saudi Arabia was also unquestionably good for the United States.

That belief no longer holds today. The world has changed, and U.S. and Saudi interests have evolved. Those interests were aligned during the Cold War on some big issues, including oil and preventing Soviet hegemony in the Middle East. There is no overarching national security objective today that ties the two countries together. Today, oil prices are determined less by U.S. defense assurances to the kingdom and more by simple supply-and-demand economics. Iran’s activities in the Middle East are a concern to both states, but Iran is a middle-tier power with an antiquated military, incompetent governance, and an economy roughly 25% the size of New York state. What power Iran does possess is less a result of its own strength than of Tehran’s tenacity in exploiting the mistakes of its adversaries.

How Should President-Elect Joe Biden Address the US-China Competition?

By Junyang Hu and Dingding Chen

This year’s U.S. presidential election were especially dramatic. By election day on November 3, the early votes cast nationwide had reached a record-setting 99 million, around 78 percent of the total turnout from the 2016 election. Buoyed by voters’ enthusiasm amid the pandemic, Democratic nominee Joe Biden won the presidency after a vote count filled with twists and turns. Biden emerged with a substantial lead in both popular and electoral votes over President Donald Trump.

Outside observers found themselves trying to decipher the swing state puzzle, to deduce every possibility of voter turnout, to gauge the potential for domestic turbulence following the result, and, most of all, to predict what it will all mean for U.S. foreign policy over the next four years. The winner of the election will guide the country’s future relationship with allies and competitors toward a new direction.

The U.S.-China relationship is a case in point. One of the most prominent bilateral relationships worldwide has undertaken a drastic fall since 2018 and will likely continue on its downward slog in the short term, at least, given the prevalent zero-sum perception within Washington. President-elect Biden now faces a nadir between the two colossi unprecedented since the normalization of relations in 1979. Figuring out how his administration should and will approach China is therefore on the top of the list.

Watch Out Wall Street: Biden May Be Coming for You

By Michael Hirsh

In a tumultuous 10 days in which U.S. President Donald Trump refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, paralyzed the presidential transition, purged the Pentagon, and washed his hands of the pandemic, very little about the future of American policy has become clear.

But one trend line may be clarifying itself: Biden’s willingness to strengthen the regulation of Wall Street in a perilous international financial environment. He has convened a financial reform transition team led by Gary Gensler, an aggressive regulator who made a remarkable progression in public life from Wall Street employee and loyal acolyte of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (who deregulated Wall Street in the 1990s) to one of the financial sector’s most threatening nemeses.

As head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in the 2010s, Gensler implemented major new rules on derivatives trading around the world and strengthened the Dodd-Frank regulatory law that Trump has sought to weaken. He also led the charge to toughen the so-called Volcker Rule seeking to bar banks from risky proprietary trading, especially when it became clear that banks could evade it by shifting trading to their overseas operations.

Biden Can Engage Southeast Asia and Still Promote Good Governance

Michael J. Green, Gregory B. Poling

Southeast Asia is on the frontlines of U.S.-China competition and a vital arena for defending U.S. economic and security interests and those of its closest allies. The region itself is not of one mind when it comes to Beijing or Washington, but it generally favors a greater U.S. presence. Nevertheless, faith in American reliability has been shaken, and partners in the region are eager for signals that the United States is committed and ready to provide alternatives to Chinese hegemony.

The incoming Biden administration will face an apparent contradiction in U.S. objectives, though. On the one hand, it is critical to expand engagement and capacity building in Southeast Asia to reinforce resilience against coercion by Beijing. On the other hand, democratic governance in much of the region is deteriorating, and that has gone unaddressed over the last four years. Weak governance and lack of government accountability enables coercion and foreign interference. But more authoritarian states may lean away from the United States if Washington elevates these issues too much in the bilateral and regional policy agenda.

France’s thankless war against jihadists in the Sahel


The twin-engine French army helicopter swoops at high speed and low altitude over the arid plains of the Sahel, its side-mounted machineguns trained on the ground. A vast expanse spreads out in each direction, interrupted only by acacia trees and the occasional herd of goats sent scampering by the helicopter’s roar. It is en route from the French military base in Gao, central Mali, to Ménaka, at the heart of a zone where a jihadist insurgency last year killed some 4,800 people.

Arising from the rust-coloured sand, the French forward base at Ménaka is a compound of newly built tents and converted containers. Under a searing sun on a November morning, parachutists and commandos line up to brief Florence Parly, the French defence minister, who is visiting from Paris. The soldiers have just conducted an operation code-named Bourrasque against jihadists from Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (isgs) in the plains and valleys of the Liptako region.

For a month, troops from France, Niger and Mali, backed by special forces and acting on French and American intelligence, tracked jihadists. Temperatures inside armoured vehicles were at times sweltering. Tyres often blew out, and sand snarled up the mechanics. They killed several dozen insurgents and seized weapons, motorbikes, fuel and food supplies. It was “intense”, says a unit captain, with “violent encounters” at close range on the ground, often at night. “We slept when we could.”

Russia’s Search for Strategic Depth

By George Friedman

In 2005, in a speech delivered in front of Russia’s Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe in Russia’s history. What he meant is that the fragmentation of the Soviet Union would cost Russia the element that had allowed it to survive foreign invasions since the 18th century: strategic depth.

For a European country to defeat Russia decisively, it would have to take Moscow. The distance to Moscow is great and would wear down any advancing army, requiring reinforcements and supplies to be moved to the front. As they would advance into Russia, the attackers’ forces would be inevitably weakened. Hitler and Napoleon reached Moscow exhausted. Both were beaten by distance and winter, and by the fact that the defenders were not at the end of their supply line.

At the height of the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,000 miles from NATO forces, and Moscow about 1,300 miles. Today, St. Petersburg is about 100 miles away, and Moscow about 500 miles. NATO has neither the interest nor the capacity to engage Russia. But what Putin understood was that interest and capacity change and that the primary threat to Russia is from the west.

Calls for negotiation are driving Ethiopia deeper into war

by Bronwyn Bruton

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Prize for his peacemaking with Eritrea, has confounded allies by resisting all attempts to dampen the ongoing military confrontation with a powerful northern insurgent group, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF effectively controlled the Ethiopian government from 1991 until February 2018, when it was driven from power by a surge of popular revolt. Global officials fear that the fighting between the TPLF and Abiy’s government forces may provoke widespread unrest in Ethiopia and a humanitarian crisis in the Horn; spark international war if neighboring states are drawn into the conflict; or cause Ethiopia to break apart like the former Yugoslavia.

But there is a worse alternative: and that is the very realistic prospect that the two sides will fight each other nearly to the death, then agree to negotiations that will allow both sides to heal and re-arm, until some provocation inevitably retriggers a new round of conflict, which will lead to another conflagration with immense costs to human life, and so on, as the cycle endlessly repeats itself. This is the scenario that has played out time and again in South Sudan, and it is by far the likeliest outcome of current demands for negotiation between the TPLF and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF).

The reason for this is simple: the TPLF has good reason to think that it can attack the Ethiopian government forces, and yet not be held accountable by the Western democracies that wield so much influence in the country.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Puts the Spotlight on Global Health Governance

The novel coronavirus caught many world leaders unprepared, despite consistent warnings that a global pandemic was inevitable. And it has revealed the flaws in a global health architecture headed by the World Health Organization, which had already been faulted for its response to the 2014 Ebola pandemic in West Africa. Will there be an overhaul of the WHO when the pandemic is over?

After the novel coronavirus first emerged late last year in Wuhan, China, its combination of transmissibility and lethality brought the world to a virtual standstill. Governments restricted movement, closed borders and froze economic activity in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of the virus. At best, they partially succeeded at slowing down the first wave, with the second wave experts warned about now upon us. According to official records so far, more than 50 million people worldwide have been infected, and more than 1 million have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The actual toll of the virus is far worse and will continue to climb.

Emerging Technology Trends to Watch in 2021

By Susan Fourtané

As the end of the year approaches, we go through the impressive work market leading industry analysts have done to bring us the latest reports on technology trends that we should watch in 2021.

Emerging technologies as well as other young technologies have led the way businesses have taken to advance and implement their digital transformation throughout the decades. The ones that follow, are some of the trends that will shape the way we work and live next year and beyond. 

Those of us who have been following industry analysis trends for over a decade know the importance of staying tuned with what is happening in all spheres of technology.

2021 will mark the start of a decade that will require CIOs to both respond to digital acceleration and proactively manage uncertainty. The 2020's Covid-19 pandemic has helped us all become very much acquainted with uncertainty. It has also shown us the importance of technologies that we thought were more developed than what they perhaps are. Such is the case of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

How China’s Control of Information is a Cyber Weakness

By Valentin Weber

In 2015, news broke that Chinese hackers had breached computer networks at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, exposing the personal data of millions of government employees. In response, the White House took the initiative to improve government network security through a variety of measures. Among other actions, the White House Office of Management and Budget called for all government websites to have implemented HTTPS by the end of 2016. HTTPS, an acronym for Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (Secure), ensures that the visitor’s connection to a website remains confidential, that the website is “authentic”— meaning that it is the website visitors thought they were logging into—and that the data between the visitor and the website has not been modified. HTTPS implementation on a website is not a panacea to fend off malicious cyberattacks, but it makes the widespread tracking and interception of browsing traffic more difficult. Likewise, while it is not clear whether a lack of HTTPS on government systems played a role in the Office of Personnel Management breach, implementing HTTPS eliminated a security flaw that could have been exploited by future hackers.

Cybercrime Moves to the Cloud to Accelerate Attacks Amid Data Glut

Tara Seals

Cybercriminals are embracing cloud-based services and technologies in order to accelerate their attacks on organizations and better monetize their wares, researchers have found. This is largely driven by cybercriminals who sell access to what they call “clouds of logs,” which are caches of stolen credentials and other data hosted in the cloud.

The cloud-based approach makes the information more easily available to interested buyers, who then turn around and use the data to conduct secondary attacks, according to Trend Micro. Malicious actors are offering “cloud-based tools [to buyers] for analyzing and extracting the data that they need to conduct [these] further malicious activities,” explained the firm in a Monday posting, which characterized the development as a relatively new approach.

The move to the cloud for cybercriminals has the same main benefit as it does for legitimate organizations: Speed. Trend Micro said that the time between an initial data heist to that stolen information being used against an enterprise has decreased from weeks to days or even hours when the cloud approach is taken.

US Intercepts and Destroys ICBM in Space in a Test From a Ship

By Abhijnan Rej

The United States has intercepted and destroyed an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) during its midcourse flight in space using an interceptor fired from an Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) destroyer, in a first such test on November 16. Reuters and other news outlets quoted U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Vice Admiral John Hill as saying “We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target,” going on to add that this capability could boost the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. The test marks an important milestone in the United States’ pursuit of BMD.

According to a U.S. Army document on the GMD, “it currently protects against the threat of limited intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) attacks. GMD relies on ground-based interceptors (GBIs) based at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.”

Missile Defense Drama: Why America Isn’t Prepared

by Peter Huessy

During the recent seventy-fifth anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea surprised the world and revealed a new liquid-fueled Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with the capability of reaching the United States, potentially with multiple nuclear warheads. This evolving threat highlights the critical importance of our homeland missile defense system and the country’s need to continue investing in missile-defense system upgrades.

However, the upgrades to the national defense contained in the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program may not be funded if the defense budget continues for the rest of the year under a continuing resolution. Those funds will also be negatively impacted if congressional opponents of defenses push to eliminate some of the upgrades—especially technology that can intercept multiple warheads coming at the US simultaneously.

Currently, America’s forty-four interceptors, the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs), are silent sentinels standing alert twenty-four/seven, in concrete silos in Alaska and California. Their mission is to fly out of their silos, find and destroy the incoming warhead. The mission is extremely complex, in fact, it is likened to the precision of a bullet hitting a bullet.

How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps

By Joseph Cox

The U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps, Motherboard has learned. The most popular app among a group Motherboard analyzed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide. Others include a Muslim dating app, a popular Craigslist app, an app for following storms, and a "level" app that can be used to help, for example, install shelves in a bedroom.

Through public records, interviews with developers, and technical analysis, Motherboard uncovered two separate, parallel data streams that the U.S. military uses, or has used, to obtain location data. One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance, bought access to Locate X to assist on overseas special forces operations. The other stream is through a company called X-Mode, which obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors, and by extension, the military.

The news highlights the opaque location data industry and the fact that the U.S. military, which has infamously used other location data to target drone strikes, is purchasing access to sensitive data. Many of the users of apps involved in the data supply chain are Muslim, which is notable considering that the United States has waged a decades-long war on predominantly Muslim terror groups in the Middle East, and hundreds of thousands of civilians have died during military intervention in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Motherboard does not know of any specific operations in which this type of app-based location data has been used by the U.S. military.

U.S. Military Wants to Bring Allies into AI Fold

By Jon Harper

The Defense Department has kicked off a new initiative to bring like-minded nations together to work on AI policies and capabilities.

In September, the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center hosted the inaugural AI Partnership for Defense meeting with military officials from 13 nations including:

Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Israel, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The two-day gathering focused on AI ethical principles and best practices for implementing them.

Alka Patel, head of the AI ethics team at JAIC, deemed the event a success. Some of the countries participating have already developed their own AI ethics principles while others are in the process of creating theirs, she noted.

China’s DF-21D and DF-26B ASBMs: Is the U.S. Military Ready?

By Andrew Erickson

Editor’s Note from Harry Kazianis: Just about a decade ago, I made the tough decision to change careers, going from the telecommunications industry to national security studies. It was not an easy transition, to say the least. However, along the way, I met people who inspired me that I could make such a move and that the work could be truly meaningful considering the changing security environment the United States was facing around 2009 to 2o10. Through a combination of hard work and luck, I would go on to Harvard and do graduate work on China’s military modernization and efforts to develop anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weapons platforms inspired by much of the research done at the U.S. Naval War College, where I was a research assistant.

There I met Dr. Andrew Erickson, perhaps the first person to warn of the dangers of China’s ASBM weapons. Considering Beijing’s August DF-21D and DF-26B tests–and the recent revelation such weapons hit an ocean-going vessel–I went back to him to get his reaction. Below is his response to several questions I asked:

US software fuels China’s military research, despite Washington ban

Stephen Chen

Chinese military researchers are continuing to use US software – including for cutting-edge developments in hypersonic weapons technology – despite Washington’s efforts to restrict China’s access to these powerful design tools.

A research paper published in the Chinese Journal of Aeronautics on Tuesday revealed US software had been used to simulate the aerodynamics of a hypersonic missile capable of taking out all existing defence systems.

Zhang Feng, a professor with the National University of Defence Technology in Changsha, in the central Chinese province of Hunan, led the research team which set out to identify how to control manoeuvrability at five times the speed of sound or above.

According to the research paper, the team used software provided by Ansys, a US company based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, for the bulk of its aerodynamic simulations which set out to solve the problem of controlling flight at such intense speeds.

The Chinese Air Force Sure Is Buying A Lot Of Bombers

David Axe

The U.S. Air Force is cutting bombers. The Chinese air force is adding them. That mismatch could weigh on the USAF’s budget priorities under the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Just three countries have bombers. The Russian air force has 135 Tu-22s, Tu-95s and Tu-160s. The U.S. Air Force operates 156 B-1s, B-2s and B-52s. China’s bomber fleet is bigger by far. According to a new count by plane-spotter Thomas Shugart, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force possesses as many as 231 H-6s.

And alone among the three bomber-operators, China is actually building new bombers. True, Russia is rebuilding many of its bombers and the U.S. Air Force is about to begin buying new B-21 stealth bombers. But Beijing has the advantage of a hot production line churning out new planes.

And fast. According to Shugart’s count, the PLAAF has added around three dozen H-6s—upgraded copies of the twin-engine Soviet Tu-16—in just two years. The Chinese bomber fleet now includes a number of variants of the H-6, including the H-6J anti-ship missile-carrier, the H-6K land-attack missile-carrier and the new H-6N, which can be refueled in mid-air and could carry a new hypersonic missile.

The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse

by Graeme Wood

Peter turchin, one of the world’s experts on pine beetles and possibly also on human beings, met me reluctantly this summer on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where he teaches. Like many people during the pandemic, he preferred to limit his human contact. He also doubted whether human contact would have much value anyway, when his mathematical models could already tell me everything I needed to know.

But he had to leave his office sometime. (“One way you know I am Russian is that I cannot think sitting down,” he told me. “I have to go for a walk.”) Neither of us had seen much of anyone since the pandemic had closed the country several months before. The campus was quiet. “A week ago, it was even more like a neutron bomb hit,” Turchin said. Animals were timidly reclaiming the campus, he said: squirrels, woodchucks, deer, even an occasional red-tailed hawk. During our walk, groundskeepers and a few kids on skateboards were the only other representatives of the human population in sight.