6 January 2021

India-Bangladesh Relations: Time to Move Beyond Connectivity

By Sudha Ramachandran

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina recently launched a railway link between the two countries. The 10.5-kilometer-long rail line connects Haldibari in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal with Chilahati in Bangladesh.

The Haldibari-Chilahati railway line was among several overland trans-border connections that were snapped in the wake of the India-Pakistan war of 1965. Bangladesh was then East Pakistan.

But even after it broke away from Pakistan to emerge an independent country in 1971, trans-border links remained severed, a reflection of the deeply troubled bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh in the period between 1975 and 1996. It was only after the Awami League came to power in Bangladesh in 1996 that bilateral ties began improving and the Indian and Bangladeshi governments started to restore road and rail links.

In 1999, a bus service linking Kolkata with Dhaka was inaugurated. Another connecting Dhaka with Agartala in India’s northeast followed soon after.

India’s Quantum Dreams

Given the damage the pandemic has done to India’s economy, it is not clear whether the government will be able to stick to its quantum tech spending pledge.By Abhijnan Rej

In February 2020 – long before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged economies, including India’s – the Indian government announced its decision to spend $1.12 billion over the next five years on the development of quantum technologies, a figure comparable to the United States’ 2018 financial commitment to quantum tech research. India has a long tradition of excellence in theoretical physics, including in quantum physics. So in many ways, the decision was logically sound as New Delhi looked to leverage that talent base for technological gains, cognizant of the spectacular advances neighbor and frenemy China has made in quantum information science. In recent years China has leapfrogged in quantum tech, including in developing new quantum encryption solutions that could – as the hope goes – someday lead to a “unhackable” internet and translate into a significant military edge for the country. 

Given the damage the pandemic has done to India’s economy, it is not clear whether the Indian government will be able to stick to its quantum tech spending pledge. The Indian economy is in an unprecedented recession. While the economy has shown modest signs of recovery in the past couple of months, India’s economic trajectory – and therefore, the fate of federal spending plans – remains unknown at the present. The prospects for non-essential spending are bleak. 

How the U.S. Can Rethink Growing China-Pakistan Ties

by Syed Mohammed Ali

The United States and China are locked in a new era of great power competition, the implications of which are being felt around the world, perhaps most acutely in Pakistan. With American strategic priorities undergoing a post-election transition, the cost of ignoring Pakistan runs the risk of compelling the economically struggling country more firmly into the Chinese camp, and in turn exacerbating regional instability. The most problematic outcomes of not paying adequate heed to this tenuous situation would include worsening prospects of stabilizing Afghanistan, increasing tensions between India and Pakistan, and escalating the chances of conflict in a heavily nuclearized region. 

The U.S. government can still salvage this evolving situation by using more flexibility in managing its strategic rivalry with China in South Asia. To do this, Washington should implement key policy prescriptions emerging from ongoing work focused on making the bilateral U.S.-Pakistan relationship more stable and from a recent Center for Global Policy webinar on the Pakistan-specific implications of unfolding U.S.-Chinese tensions. 

To prevent an already volatile South Asia from becoming a proxy arena for the U.S.-Chinese rivalry, a rethink of the growing American reliance on India to counterbalance China is needed, especially on issues that could damage America’s longstanding relationship with Pakistan. The United States must also continue its economic collaboration with Pakistan, which in turn will lessen Pakistan’s growing dependence on China. While the United States should continue pressuring Pakistan to dissuade use of militant proxies in neighboring states, it must also begin to hold Afghanistan and India to the same standards. Washington also needs to redouble its traditional mediation and conflict resolution role in South Asia, given the heightened cross-border volatility sparked by recent skirmishes between China, India, and Pakistan over their territorial disputes in the Himalayas. 

The Asia-Pacific in 2021: What to Expect

2020 taught us all a lesson about the dangers of prediction. The COVID-19 pandemic that emerged this time last year violently shoved nearly every forecast into the rubbish bin. But we’re trying again for 2021, with one big “known unknown” looming large for the Asia-Pacific: the continuing effects of COVID-19. How will governments keep their people safe while struggling to rebuild their economies?

Another big question mark that will impact nearly every sector and state is the ascension of the Biden administration in the United States. Governments throughout Asia are looking to see what new policies and priorities could be rolled out from Washington, especially with regard to China. And, of course, some things never change, pandemic or no: Climate change will continue to pose an existential crisis to us all.

Beyond those big shared questions, though, each country has its own concerns. From elections in Kyrgyzstan, India, and South Korea to the peace process in Afghanistan; from protest movements in Pakistan and Thailand to Olympic dreams in China and Japan; we offer suggestions of key markers to watch in the new year.

Should Vietnam Embrace Middle Power Status?

By Huynh Tam Sang

Scholars are calling for Vietnam to see itself as a middle power and to behave like a true middle power to accommodate its growing role in regional settings. But is Vietnam already a middle power or just one in the making?

While there remains a range of perspectives on defining the typical features a middle power should possess, I suggest looking into Cooper’s middle power notion, with positional, geographic, normative, and behavioral approaches. A comprehensive probe into Vietnam’s normative and pragmatic power would provide a critical answer to its current status.

Vietnam satisfies the status condition of being situated in between large developed and large developing countries. With more than 97 million people, Vietnam ranks 15th out of 251 countries and territories by population. The young and vibrant population — mostly living in bustling metropolises like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and the central coastal city Da Nang — has constituted the emergence of Vietnam as a “next top model of growth,” with a psyche of being hungry for success. Vietnam’s economic resiliency, with real GDP growth of 7 percent in 2019, has accounted for “its deep integration with the global economy.” Via embracing trade liberalization, domestic reforms, and heavy public investments, Vietnam has become one of the top five economic freedom gainers in the Asia-Pacific region, ranking 21st among 42 regional countries. The country’s economic rise as the fastest-growing digital economy in the Asia-Pacific has made it a prime alternative manufacturing hub in Asia. According to the 2020 Lowy Institute Asia Power Index, Vietnam ranked 12th of 26 regional nations for comprehensive power and 11th in military capability. It was hailed as “a middle power in Asia.”

4 Predictions for Defense, Strategy, and Technology in 2021

By Jacob Parakilas

If I had made predictions for the coming year in December 2019, I suspect most of them would have been wrong: 2020 confounded expectations and frustrated plans from the personal to the grand strategic. 2021 is likely to be a very different kind of year, and doubtless has more than a few surprises in store. Nevertheless, I think it’s worthwhile putting down a few brief markers for what I expect in the defense and strategic space over the coming 12 months.

1. Armed Robots Will Spread To Different Domains

2020 might reasonably be described as the year the armed drone went global, as a widespread weapon of war rather than a specialist tool operated only by the wealthiest states. But the overall robotization of warfare is an uneven process. If armed aerial drones have become commonplace, the same cannot be said for armed ground or naval robots. There are sound technical reasons for this – safe, autonomous navigation on land is much more difficult than in the air, and aerial platforms have obvious military applications in surveillance and strike.

But there are missions that aerial vehicles are poorly suited to or incapable of, and there has been steady but low-profile progress on ground and undersea robots. Given the lack of a legal framework to prohibit arming such units, and the proliferation of low-cost, high-precision compact weapons, their operational debut might well occur in some capacity in the next 12 months.

2. More Hacks, Less Attention

New Year Resolutions for Asia’s Biggest Economies

By Anthony Fensom

Asia’s Year of the Rat was plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new “Cold War” between the United States and China and global recession. In hope of better times ahead, Pacific Money takes a look at some New Year resolutions for the region’s biggest economies for 2021, Asia’s Year of the Ox.

China: Keep the Champagne on Ice

China’s ruling Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary in July 2021, having grown from a group of around 50 revolutionaries to more than 90 million members. Yet will it be bouquets or brickbats for Chinese President Xi Jinping at this milestone event?

Economically, Xi can boast of a swift recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged a year ago in Wuhan. While China has not been immune – it is set for its slowest growth since the Mao era – it has been one of the only major economies to expand in 2020.

As a result, its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) has jumped to its highest on record at around 18 percent, according to Capital Economics. Yet the consultancy cautions against extrapolating this strength too far into the future, given China’s structural weaknesses including demographics, rising debt, and diminishing returns on investment, which are being “papered over” with stimulus.

What Does Vietnam Want from the US in the South China Sea?

By Derek Grossman

As the incoming Biden administration formulates its South China Sea strategy, one regional partner that looms large is Vietnam. Over the last few years, tensions between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea have remained high, impacting fishing and natural resource exploration in disputed waters. While the Biden administration is likely to continue the positive momentum in bilateral ties, it is less clear what specifically Hanoi seeks from Washington to help it effectively deter Beijing.

This is wholly understandable. As I have recently examined at length in a RAND research report, Vietnam is doubling-down on its delicate balancing act as U.S.-China competition throughout the Indo-Pacific dramatically heats up. Although Hanoi feels compelled to counter China’s bad behavior in the South China Sea, it also understands that its future is inextricably tied to peaceful relations with Beijing. Thus, Hanoi typically avoids publicly airing policy preferences, and even privately, the Vietnamese are notoriously subtle and difficult to read.

That leaves Washington in the dark most of the time. But through my research and discussions with Vietnamese interlocutors over the years, a few policy preferences have become apparent.

The EU is taking a gamble with China

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen posing in front of EU and Chinese flags

It took Brussels and Beijing seven years to agree an investment deal. A deal that, until its conclusion a few days ago, had been largely eclipsed by the Brexit process. Once the negotiations had concluded, however, the European side suddenly came under intense criticism — China, detractors said, was not the sort of country the EU should be cosying up to.

That the deal was finalised on the penultimate day of the year was a sure sign that Angela Merkel was pushing for closure. She had stated before the pandemic that advancing EU-China relations would be one of the goals of Germany’s EU Council presidency (now passed on to Portugal). A goal for Germany perhaps, but there was substantial opposition to the deal among European heads of states.

Eurocrats are keen to avoid falling into the growing rift between the US and China

The Netherlands feared that China would never obey the mandatory workers’ rights regulation and prohibitions on forced labour. Eastern Europeans — particularly reliant on US military spending to secure their borders — argued that it would not be wise to close a deal before Joe Biden’s inauguration, thus reducing his room for manoeuvre in any US talks with China. Other sceptics, including French President Emmanuel Macron, eventually agreed to the deal, but doubts remain. How Merkel convinced the French President, in particular, remains a mystery. One possibility is that the deal will not be ratified until the first half of 2022 when France chairs the EU Council. That way Macron would have time to put pressure on China by threatening to let the deal collapse if Beijing does not follow the workers’ rights regulations. Even if that scenario comes to fruition, it is still astonishing how both Merkel and Germany got their way yet again.

Can China’s Military Win the Tech War?

By Anja Manuel and Kathleen Hicks

As the Chinese government has set out to harness the growing strength of the Chinese technology sector to bolster its military, policymakers in the United States have reacted with mounting alarm. U.S. officials have described Beijing’s civil-military fusion effort as a “malign agenda” that represents a “global security threat.” And as China’s defense capabilities have grown, some Western policymakers have started to wonder whether the United States needs to adopt its own version of civil-military fusion, embracing a top-down approach to developing cutting-edge technologies with military applications.

Chinese President Xi Jinping formalized the concept of civil-military fusion as part of the extensive military reforms laid out in his 2016 five-year plan. He established a new Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development, with himself as its head. The commission’s goal is to promote the development of dual-use technology and integrate existing civilian technologies into the arsenal of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The United States and its allies should take seriously Beijing’s efforts to militarize China’s technological base. Yet they should also recognize the strategy’s limitations, to avoid overreacting in ways that would prove counterproductive. China’s bureaucratic and authoritarian approach to civil-military fusion is likely to waste considerable time and money. By trying to control innovation, Beijing is more likely to delay and even stifle it.

The United States will fare no better if it tries to mimic China’s model of civil-military fusion. Instead, it should build on existing U.S. advantages in research and technology—advantages that are increasingly at risk not because of China but because of a lack of agility and creativity among U.S. planners and policymakers.

Jordan Must Be Included in Future Israeli-Arab Normalization Deals

by Ben Fishman

Jared Kushner took the first direct flight from Israel to Morocco on December 22 to celebrate the Trump administration’s efforts to normalize relations between Israel and the Arab world. He should have flown back to Jordan. It may seem odd that a country with a twenty-six-year-old peace treaty with Israel and unofficial ties dating back decades is now being left out in the cold. But the Trump administration has taken one of America’s most reliable allies in the tumultuous Middle East for granted. If the process of normalization proceeds without integrating Jordan’s interests—especially if a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel materializes—Jordan’s stability could be threatened, and it would be a missed opportunity to improve its sputtering economy.

King Abdullah II is usually one of the most visible foreign leaders in Washington where he enjoys bipartisan support and typically visits the White House annually (though he has not been in the Oval Office in over two years). Jordan receives more than $1.275 billion a year from the U.S. based on a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding—aid that is essential to supporting its economy and American-supplied military. But Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposed a 30 percent cut in economic aid to Jordan—a substantial chunk of Jordan’s $11 billion budget. Fortunately for Jordan, Congress restored—and even expanded—Jordan’s previous funding in the spending bill just signed by the president.

UK Wants To Buy Cheap Drones In Wake Of Azerbaijan's Victory In Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

By Bhavya Sukheja

Following Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the United Kingdom’s military is expected to embark on a new armed drone programme. UK defence officials believe that Azerbaijan had used Turkish drones in the six-week war and their controversial use of technology was crucial in defeating the Armenians. Now, according to The Guardian, the UK defence officials said that Britain wanted to procure its own cheaper drones as part of the five-year defence review due to be unveiled early in 2021, despite warnings about the risks of the proliferation of deadly unmanned aircraft. 

Previously, the UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had said that the Turkish TB2 drones were an example of how unmanned aircraft were now “leading the way”. He said that the drones have been responsible for the destruction of hundreds of armoured vehicles and even air defence systems. However, it is also worth noting that there is reported video evidence that suggests the drones had also killed many people in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

The TB2 drones, which are manufactured by Baykar Makina, cost around $1million to $2million. They are far less than the near $20 million per drone paid by the British military for a fleet of 16 high-end, next-generation Protector drones manufactured by US specialist General Atomics. The unmanned aircraft have a much shorter operating range of up to 150 km, however, they are able to loiter in the air for up to 24 hours. 

Cheaper drones could fuel conflict

Cambodia Announces Game-Changing Crude Oil Extraction

By Sebastian Strangio

Late last month, after years of delays and unfulfilled promises, Cambodia announced that it had finally begun extracting crude oil from fields in the Gulf of Thailand.

In 2017, the Cambodian government signed a joint venture with Singapore’s KrisEnergy to develop more than 3,000 square kilometers known as Block A, with production initially scheduled to begin in 2019.

On December 29, the day after the first drops of crude trickled from KrisEnergy’s offshore rigs, Prime Minister Hun Sen hailed the extraction as “a new achievement for Cambodia’s economy.” “The year 2021 is coming… and we have received a huge gift for our nation – the first oil production in our territory,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

For years, Cambodia’s government has harbored ambitions to exploit the significant oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Thailand, but has struggled to get production started as depressed global oil prices have discouraged companies from investing in exploration.

In the 1990s, Cambodia divided its territorial waters into a total of six offshore oil blocks for oil and gas exploration, in addition to 19 blocks onshore. Of these six offshore blocks, only one—Block A—contains a proven oil discovery, which was first located by the U.S. oil giant Chevron in 2005.

Three Things Joe Biden Must Do to Restore American Foreign Policy

by Robert D. Kaplan

Over the past four years, too many positions at all levels of the bureaucracy have gone either unfulfilled or filled by officials with insufficient experience or credentials. The result has been that around the globe, in a myriad of crises, the American policy footprint has shrunk. Merely by quickly staffing the bureaucracy with high-grade talent, a new president can undo much of the damage of the past four years. Competence has often been lacking and those who are competent have been demoralized. Thus, do not underestimate the dynamic effect of simply providing competent leadership in the Foreign Service and among the Pentagon’s civil servants.

President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is Exhibit A of how not to manage a crisis. A crisis is not about husbanding attention, but about husbanding power towards a dynamic result. President-elect Joe Biden must select a national security team that can handle crises in a harmonious fashion and without illusions. The greatest crisis management since the Nixon-Ford era was demonstrated by the national security team of President George H.W. Bush. Their reactions to the Tiananmen Square massacre, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait were brilliant and counterintuitive at the time. That is the gold standard that Biden must aim for. And, make no mistake, there will be a plethora of crises around this semi-anarchic world of ours, buffeted by COVID-19 and its economic repercussions.

The U.S. Army's Plan to 'Augment' Soldiers to Win the Wars of the Future

by Kris Osborn

If an infantry soldier is under enemy fire from multiple directions, altitudes, and ranges, what are the boundaries of human perception defining how to best respond to the attack?

This question offers a window into an interesting technical and scientific challenge now being addressed by U.S. Army weapons developers who are working with soldiers to test and adjust requirements on a high-tech sensor system able to “augment” and improve key characteristics of human vision and perception such as angle, range, distance or multiple variables at one time. 

Army Futures Command is further refining a cutting edge combat system for soldiers which uses augmented visual reality technology to change the equation regarding how infantry might navigate close-quarter combat while under enemy fire

The technology, called the Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), are soldier goggles built with sensors to help soldiers operate beyond the limitations otherwise imposed by human vision. The Army plans to deploy 200,000 of the headsets in 2021, a service statement said. 

“IVAS is designed to enhance the lethality and survivability of the Army’s Close Combat Force through a combination of technologies and augmented reality capabilities delivered in the form of a Heads-Up Display device. It is a single platform that allows the Soldier to fight, rehearse, and train, because it leverages networked information sharing and mixed and augmented reality technologies,” an Army report said.

This most recent exercise, called Soldier Touchpoint 2, took place at Fort Pickett, Va., to offer soldiers an opportunity to experiment with the system and offer feedback to commanders and weapons developers in a position to make adjustments. 

Russia Strikes: 5 Critical Lessons from the Sunburst Cyber Attack

by Paulo Shakarian

So much remains unknown about what is now being called the Sunburst hack, the cyberattack against U.S. government agencies and corporations. U.S. officials widely believe that Russian state-sponsored hackers are responsible.

The attack gave the perpetrators access to numerous key American business and government organizations. The immediate effects will be difficult to judge, and a complete accounting of the damage is unlikely. However, the nature of the affected organizations alone makes it clear that this is perhaps the most consequential cyberattack against the U.S. to date.

An act of cyberwar is usually not like a bomb, which causes immediate, well-understood damage. Rather, it is more like a cancer – it’s slow to detect, difficult to eradicate, and it causes ongoing and significant damage over a long period of time. Here are five points that cybersecurity experts – the oncologists in the cancer analogy – can make with what’s known so far.

1. The victims were tough nuts to crack

Monopoly Versus Democracy

By Zephyr Teachout

The so-called Gilded Age in the United States began with the Compromise of 1877, which settled the disputed presidential election of 1876 by awarding the White House to the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from three Southern states. In the short term, the compromise effectively ended Reconstruction. In the longer term, it empowered white terrorists in the South and led to a major realignment in U.S. politics that weakened the federal government’s ability to govern the “Money Power,” the term used by critics at the time to describe the forces that were steadily taking over markets and political systems.

By 1900, one percent of the U.S. population owned more than half of the country’s land; nearly 50 percent of the population owned just one percent of it. Multimillionaires, who made up 0.33 percent of the population, owned 17 percent of the country’s wealth; 40 percent of Americans had no wealth at all. Black men had been violently and systematically deprived of the hard-won right to vote in the South, where authorities had thrown up every possible barrier—literacy tests, poll taxes, gerrymandering, grandfather clauses—to prevent the restoration of Black political rights and the growth of Black economic power. After a quarter century, it had become impossible to see these outcomes as aberrations: monopolization and repression had come to define the American system. 

Abiy Ahmed’s Crisis of Legitimacy

By Nic Cheeseman and Yohannes Woldemariam

In early November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed began a military offensive against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, an estranged regional government that once dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition. Abiy’s forces swiftly captured major cities in Tigray, inflicting heavy causalities on the TPLF and sparking fears of a wider conflict that could extend well beyond the country’s borders.

Now, Abiy insists that the war in Tigray is over. He claims that his forces won a decisive victory over the TPLF and that reports of a continuing insurgency are false. The prime minister has even resumed his normal calendar of official events, traveling to northern Kenya earlier this month to open a new border post with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta—and no doubt to reinforce the impression that Ethiopia has returned to business as usual.

There will be lots of new space missions in 2021


THRILLING SPACE missions are scheduled for blast- off in 2021. To tweak the orbit of an asteroid’s moon that is nearly as big as a stadium, America’s NASA plans to launch a car-sized craft to smash into it the following year. Neither the asteroid, Didymos, nor its moon, Dimorphos, threatens Earth, but the collision should yield potentially handy “planetary defence” know-how. NASA also plans an uncrewed flight around the Moon, and, with help from the space agencies of Canada and Europe, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the biggest and priciest ever. India may put three astronauts into orbit. India and Russia aim to launch lunar landers. And China will begin launching parts of its next and biggest space station, Tiangong-3.

It is ambitious stuff for all parties concerned. ­NASA’s asteroid spacecraft must eject an Italian Space Agency observation pod before hitting its target at a closing speed of 6.6km a second. Unfolding the nearly $10bn space telescope’s mirror and tennis-court-sized sunshield will require weeks of intricate robotic origami at -230°C. India has never attempted crewed space flight. Its previous lunar lander crashed. Russia must develop new systems for difficult ballistic navigation to an unvisited region near the Moon’s south pole, says Lev Zelenyi of the government’s Space Research Institute in Moscow. China hopes to complete its space station with a blitz of a dozen launches over two years.

Abiy Ahmed’s Crisis of Legitimacy

By Nic Cheeseman and Yohannes Woldemariam

In early November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed began a military offensive against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, an estranged regional government that once dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition. Abiy’s forces swiftly captured major cities in Tigray, inflicting heavy causalities on the TPLF and sparking fears of a wider conflict that could extend well beyond the country’s borders.

Now, Abiy insists that the war in Tigray is over. He claims that his forces won a decisive victory over the TPLF and that reports of a continuing insurgency are false. The prime minister has even resumed his normal calendar of official events, traveling to northern Kenya earlier this month to open a new border post with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta—and no doubt to reinforce the impression that Ethiopia has returned to business as usual.

The reality in Tigray is very different. Ethiopian forces now hold much of

5 projects that advanced the Army’s future networking capabilities in 2020

Andrew Eversden

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army Research Lab made important progress in 2020 on projects that will have major implications for war fighter communications and networking in the future.

The projects tackled a wide range of futuristic technologies, from “unhackable” quantum networking developments to an X-ray vision-like project that could enhance surveillance capabilities. The lab also made advances mesh networking, a capability that the Army views as core to the future of its battlefield communications.

Here’s a look at five of the Army’s scientific advancements this year:

A step toward an ‘unhackable’ quantum network

A quantum device developed by Army scientists this year allows large amounts of information to be stored as holographic patterns, an important step toward building a quantum network.

The scientists were able to trap millions of rubidium atoms in laser beams and cool them near absolute zero, allowing for the quantum bits to be stored as patterns or images.

As the research lab put it earlier this year: “To imagine this technology better, picture a canvas or sea in which quantum images or waves can be written. ... Those images or wave patterns, called spin-waves, can then be stored as information. Spin-waves are like the paint for [the] .... metaphorical canvas.”

Warfare Evolved: Quantum Radar

By Alessandro Gagaridis

When it was first introduced by the US armed forces toward the end of the Cold War, stealth technology represented a major shift in the conduct of military operations. Low radar observability – a more appropriate term for ‘stealth’ – allowed American aircraft to safely penetrate into heavily defended areas without being detected by enemy sensors; and it demonstrated its operational value for the first time during the 1991 Gulf War. It then became an integral part of US military operations, one that was gradually applied to other platforms, including ships. While today it is no longer a US monopoly, since other powers like Russia and China have also deployed hardware with purported low-observability features, the technology remains the exclusive domain of advanced militaries and provides a significant operational advantage.

New experimental technologies, however, hold the potential to change the status quo. A new kind of sensor, called ‘quantum radar,’ holds the promise of detecting stealth platforms. While this technology is still in its early stages and currently presents notable technical limitations, if successful it could usher in the next chapter in the everlasting dialectic between defense and offense in warfare.


What are quantum radars?

The U.S. Military Wants to Kill Everything with Lasers

by Kris Osborn

Strykers (see picture above) will incinerate enemy drones, helicopters, aircraft, and maybe even incoming enemy missiles, rockets, and artillery with 50kw laser weapons during an upcoming “combat shoot-off” at Fort Sill, Okla.

During the shoot-off, and Army Futures Command statement says, the laser-armed Strykers will face a series of “scenarios designed to test the system and establish threshold requirements for this class of laser.” 

For quite some time, the Army and other laser weapons developers have been working on engineering power-scaled lasers able to fire with greater strength, power, precision, and range. This requires exportable sources of power, the proper form factors or hardware configurations and specially engineered laser-firing technologies built to optimize firepower. 

The Army has been integrating and testing laser weapons on Strykers for quite some time and has in recent years already armed tactical vehicles with some measure of power. The reasons for this are both clear and numerous. 

Lasers are quiet, meaning they can fire without a large acoustic signature which could give away an attack position, should a large missile or cannon be fired. They can offer a kind of silent attack. They are also scalable, meaning they can fire off to fully destroy and incinerate or merely stun or disable an enemy target, depending upon the power setting of the weapon. Higher and higher power lasers are fast emerging to the point where should technology and form factor miniaturization mature at the current pace, fighter jets, tanks, and other large-scale combat platforms will likely be armed with very high-power laser weapons. 

Overweight troops are costing the Pentagon more than $1 billion a year


That sailor getting an extra piece of cake in the galley or the soldier stretching the limits of his or her uniform buttons are apparently costing the Pentagon a hefty chunk of change, according to a report issued this month by the Congressional Research Service.

How much exactly? More than $1.2 billion each year in “higher healthcare spending and lower productivity,” according to the report, which references a study describing a “link between those with high weight and body fat and lower job performance in some military occupations.”

Indeed, the referenced study found that 80 percent of recruits who exceeded “weight-for-height standards but subsequently entered the military because they passed the standards later or received a waiver” left the military before finishing their first enlistment.

While it’s not just about the money, that’s the equivalent cost of 52 Apache attack helicopters going down the drain every year. But the more significant issue is that America is getting fatter as defense leaders speak ad nauseam about “great power competition” (read: rising China) that might require more people to join the ranks in the years ahead.

“The high and rising prevalence in obesity in the United States represents a substantial obstacle for military recruitment,” the report says, adding that obesity is one of the leading medical reasons that young adults are disqualified from joining the military.

US Army looks to millimeter waveforms to strengthen communications

Andrew Eversden

WASHINGTON — Future deliveries of U.S. Army tactical network tools could include new waveform technologies that would reduce adversaries’ chances of interfering with communications.

The research and development organization tackling future capabilities for the Army’s tactical network team has several efforts underway with millimeter wave technology, a frequency channel that could allow for improved communications in the future. The Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s C5ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) Center is exploring new capabilities that could allow for more secretive communication.

The first area the service is exploring is WiGig, essentially the latest version of Wi-Fi that uses the 60GHz frequency band. According to Dan Duvak, chief of the C5ISR Center’s Radio Frequency Communications Division, the service is attracted to WiGig because the advanced technology allows narrow beams that point in a specific direction. In the future, this will help the Army’s command posts evade detection.

“They’re like laser beams being pointed from your router to each user,” Duvak said. “So what we see on the battlespace is taking that commercial technology and pairing it with existing Wi-Fi capabilities at command posts. So now we reduce the detectability because we have these very small pencil beam-type signals, going just user to user, right, instead of a big bubble of blasting energy.”