5 May 2021

I Commanded a NATO Brigade in Afghanistan. Now Is Not the Time to Leave.

by James L. Creighton

On the surface, the recently announced withdrawal of American and coalition forces from Afghanistan this September looks appealing both from a political and public opinion perspective. Close to 3,000 American and coalition lives, and tens of thousands of Afghan lives have been lost in this twenty-year war. Over a trillion dollars have been spent combating the Taliban and trying to help the Government of Afghanistan build a stable society.

Critics argue it is difficult to justify continued support of an effort that has not achieved its intended goals, at the cost of lives and significant financial investment. Moreover, the Taliban continues to exert influence throughout the country, while the Afghan government struggles to establish a rule of law free from corruption. However politically expedient and seemingly justifiable, leaving Afghanistan to its own devices at a still critical juncture, may yield a far worse situation and pose a greater threat to Western security.

Afghanistan has a sad and troubled recent history, evidenced by a ten-year conflict (1979-1989) with the Soviet Union that saw over one million Afghans killed. Following Soviet withdrawal, a power vacuum resulted in a brutal civil war (1992-1996) that saw the emergence of the Pashtun “Taliban.” The Taliban began a reign of terror with their brand of sharia law, influenced by Wahhabi doctrines, which created an oppressive society that sacrificed social services, education, healthcare, and other state functions, punctuated by the administration of brutal punishments and public beatings to enforce standards. By the end of their rule in October 2001 over 1.5 million refugees had fled to Iran and two million to Pakistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan citizens had been either murdered or lived in extreme poverty, the economy lay in ruins and education levels were almost non-existent in many rural areas. The physical and emotional scars of the people who had suffered the Soviet invasion, a violent civil war, and a terrifying Taliban rule remain evident in every aspect of society.

The end of this frightful chapter came about through a timely multi-country intervention.

How China Has Toughened Up the Pakistani Military

by Charlie Gao

Here's What You Need to Know: While the Pakistani military has long relied on the Pakistan Air Force for air defense, the Pakistan Army has acquired the Chinese HQ-16 medium-range surface to air missile (SAM) for the defense of its formations on the ground.

As Pakistan’s relationship has soured with the United States in the past two decades, Pakistan’s armed forces have largely looked towards Chinese suppliers for equipment. While China has long supplied Pakistan’s armed forces, the relationship has deepened in recent years, with Pakistan making major purchases of top-of-the-line Chinese export equipment.

Here are some of the most powerful weapons China has sold or licensed to Pakistan.

1. Nuclear Weapons Program

The acquisition of nuclear weapons in the 1990s is considered to be one of the largest failings of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. But, it is widely said that China provided significant assistance to the Pakistani nuclear weapons program (in addition to the A.Q. Khan’s espionage). China is alleged to have provided missile components, warhead designs, and even highly-enriched uranium. The political motive behind this is clear, Pakistan acts as an effective foil against growing Indian regional ambitions. But it is clear that nuclear assistance is the most deadly example of Chinese/Pakistani defense cooperation.

2. JF-17 Fighter

Leaving Afghanistan Will Be More Expensive Than Anyone Expects

By Mackenzie Eaglen

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced the full withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 this year. This policy has some in Washington banking on a windfall of freed-up money for other defense priorities.

Don’t count on it.

Leaving costs more than staying. The Department of Defense is seeking some new and plenty of ongoing investments in counterterrorism infrastructure in the region as a result of the pullout. Salaries and other expenses for roughly 300,000 members of the Afghan National Security Forces will endure.

Departing a country where U.S. forces, contractors, and government employees have been operating for 20 years is expensive. That’s to say nothing of the 8,000 other allied military troops in Afghanistan alongside the Americans. Not only is there a lot of property, buildings, and equipment, but there’s also a network of private entities that have been doing a large portion of the work there.

Breaking contracts struck with those players costs money. During the Iraq drawdown, the Army found that in some cases, it was cheaper to pay an existing contract to fulfillment rather than change or shorten it. Depending on how the contracts in Afghanistan are written, they could entail large penalties for amending or breaking them.

The Manic Mountain

By Nick Paumgarten

Ueli Steck’s closest brush with death, or at least the time he thought it likeliest that he was about to die, came not when he plummeted seven hundred feet down the south face of Annapurna, or spidered up the Eiger’s fearsome North Face alone and without ropes in under three hours, or slipped on wet granite while free-climbing the Golden Gate route of El Capitan with his wife, on their honeymoon, but, rather, while he was hugging his knees in a tent on Mt. Everest, hiding from a crowd of Sherpas who were angry that his climbing partner had called one of them a “motherfucker,” in Nepali. They were threatening to kill him. He had no escape. He had planned everything so scrupulously. The intended route up the mountain was sublime, the conditions perfect. He had spent years honing his body and his mind while tending to his projects and the opportunities that arose out of them. As a climber, he knew that the mountains can foil the best-laid plans, that in an instant a routine ascent can turn into a catalogue of horrors. But it would be ridiculous to die like this. The expedition had hardly begun.

Steck had made his first trip to Everest in May, 2011, at the age of thirty-four. He’d built a reputation as one of the world’s premier alpinists—“the Swiss Machine,” some called him, to his dismay—by ascending, in record time, alone and without ropes, Europe’s notorious north faces and then by taking on bold Himalayan routes, with style and speed. Everest hardly fit the pattern. In recent years, accomplished mountaineers in search of elegant, difficult, and original climbs had tended to steer clear of its crowds, expense, and relative drudgery. Still, Everest is Everest. Steck felt the pull.

How to Win A War Without Fighting? The U.S. Has Done it Once Before.

by James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Remember: The United States ushered Victorian Britain out of the Western Hemisphere, more or less, by the turn of the twentieth century. It did so by making itself the strongest contender in the New World, harnessing its burgeoning industrial might to build a navy able to command the waters Washington cared about most.

Westerners make much of China’s obsession with “winning without fighting.” As though any sane statesman, Eastern or Western, relishes losing or longs to take up arms with all the dangers, hardships and perverse turnabouts of fortune that come with combat. Winning without fighting is what we call “diplomacy,” and it is a mode of interaction that spans all countries, civilizations and times.

Now, Chinese Communist diplomacy does display distinctive characteristics. For one, it’s a 24/7/365 enterprise. Beijing wages “three warfares” in peacetime, shaping opinion constantly through legal media, and psychological means. For another, there’s a warlike edge to Chinese diplomacy seldom encountered among the pinstriped set. It is about winning, and it aims to deliver gains normally achieved on the battlefield without so many hazards.

This single-mindedness doubtless stems from Chinese strategic traditions—in part. After all, it was China’s own iconic general Sun Tzu who taught that the commander or sovereign who wins without fighting has reached the zenith of strategic artistry. Master Sun’s maxim is engraved on China’s way of diplomacy.

Japan’s Diplomatic Blue Book 2021 expresses stronger concerns about China

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Foreign Ministry published on Tuesday the 2021 version of its Diplomatic Blue Book, which outlines deeper concerns about China’s military advancement than earlier versions.

The blue book clearly states that China’s military advancement “has been a source of strong concerns over the security of the region, including Japan and the international community.

The terminology was toned up from the 2020 version that stated “common concerns in the region and the international community,” indicating the Japanese government’s sense of urgency.

Regarding China’s military power, the blue book notes that the country’s defense budget has risen about 44-fold in the past 30 years. It also introduces an analytical view from the U.S. Defense Department that “China has already achieved parity with — or even exceeded — the United States in several military modernization areas, including land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles.”

The blue book says that while the economies of many countries worldwide have experienced negative growth due to the impact of the coronavirus, China has realized positive growth and proactively utilized vaccine diplomacy.

It also clearly says China has “shown remarkable advancements in various fields.”

Could China’s HQ-9 Unseat Russia’s S-300 Missile Defense?

by Charlie Gao

Here's What You Need to Remember: What’s surprising is that Russia continues exporting the near latest missiles such as S-400 to China, when it’s likely that China will pump out an updated version of the HQ-9 for export with the same features within a few years, potentially cutting into Russia’s market share.

The HQ-9 is China’s primary long-range domestic surface-to-air missile. Outwardly, it seems similar to the S-300, using large flat face radars and a large missile that vertically launches out of a canister. But since the Sino-Soviet split in the 1950s, China didn’t receive that much assistance in surface-to-air missile development from the Soviet Union. Is the HQ-9 just a parallel evolution that reached a similar end state?

At the time of the Sino-Soviet split, China’s only true long-range SAM was the S-75 (SA-2). Work proceeded on various medium and short-range SAMs such as the HQ-61 and HQ-6. However, as China began modernizing its military fully in the 1990s there was a lack of a true mobile long-range SAM such as the Patriot or S-300, both of which entered service in the United States and Russia in the 1980s.

The Chinese research and development complex took two approaches to this. Domestic prototypes of the HQ-9 began development in the 1980s, and continued slowly through the 1990s. During the 1990s, China probably saw the opportunity to buy the then-advanced S-300PMU-1 from the Russian Federation and took the offer, acquiring some sets in 1993.

We Don’t Need a Better Nuclear Arsenal to Take on China


This week, top military officers launched their big push on Capitol Hill for a total overhaul of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, at an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion over the next 30 years, and their top rationale—the go-to rationale for just about every large federal program these days—was the threat from China.

Their case was less than compelling.

Yes, China is displaying some bellicose behavior these days, economically, politically, and militarily. But a new generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, cruise missiles, and submarines would do nothing to deal with the problem.

Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, which runs plans and operations for the nuclear arsenal, laid out his case in hearings before House and subcommittees on strategic forces. He noted that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal at an “unprecedented” pace, on course to double in size by the end of the decade. It’s building more solid-fuel missiles, which can be launched right away (older liquid-fuel missiles require hours to load). It’s also building better early-warning radar, putting some of its ICBMs on trucks and moving them around. It might have adopted a launch-on-warning policy.

How Warren Buffett Got So Rich

by Rainer Zitelmann

Berkshire Hathaway will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting on May 1, 2021. In response to the coronavirus crisis, this year’s meeting will be a virtual event, as the company explained: “We hope that the 2021 meeting will be the last time that shareholders are unable to attend in person. We look forward to 2022 when we expect to again host shareholders in Omaha at our usual large gala aka ‘Woodstock for Capitalists.’” For us, the upcoming meeting presents the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at Warren Buffett and his life.

Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time. With a fortune of $100 billion, he is one of the richest men in the world and, for many years, he was the richest. He runs Berkshire Hathaway, which owns more than sixty companies, including the insurer Geico, the battery maker Duracell, and the restaurant chain Dairy Queen.

Warren Buffett was born on August 30, 1930, and grew up as the son of a conservative politician who was determined to teach his children that they should be guided by their own inner values rather than the shifting opinions of society as a whole. “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always pose it this way: I say: ‘Look. Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?’”

Russia Wants to Take the S-400 Global

by Mark Episkopos

Russia’s defense industry seeks to build on its prior successes with a new round of ambitious export contracts for the S-400 missile system.

Earlier this week, Russian specialists took some eighty military envoys from fifty-two countries to the Ashuluk proving ground in the Astrakhan region of southwestern Russia. There, participants were given a live demonstration of Russia’s S-400 “Triumf” missile defense system and the Pantsir-S short-range surface-to-air missile system (SAM). “The officers of foreign states were shown the combat capabilities of S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range surface-to-air missile systems and also Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile/gun launchers for detecting and eliminating practice aerial targets," read a press statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry accompanying the event. A list of attendees was not provided, though the Kremlin noted that the event drew envoys from the former Soviet sphere, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

The S-400 is Russia’s flagship missile defense system, leveraging its diverse suite of compatible missiles and advanced tracking features to offer effective performance in a wide range of combat situations. The system can operate from short to very long ranges and can target manned aircraft, some types of drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles at a range of up to four hundred kilometers. Pantsir is a family of short-range SAMs, with the baseline Pantsir S-1 unit capable of striking targets at a range of twenty kilometers and an altitude of fifteen kilometers.

Spread Out and Networked: How the Navy Plans to Fight and Win Future Wars

Kris Osborn

Key point: America is keenly aware of the large challenges that come with competing with China. Here is how the Navy hopes to be able to handle long-range, numerous threats such as anti-ship missiles.

The Navy’s now multi-year use of the word “Distributed” to explain its fast-evolving maritime warfare strategy is expanding and, in an interesting and significant way, building upon years of recent weapons development placing a not-so-surprising premium upon a need to massively expand its range and speed of attack weapons.

“Ubiquitous and persistent sensors, advanced battle networks, and weapons of increasing range and speed have driven us to a more dispersed type of fight,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday writes in his new CNO NAVPLAN strategy paper.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Arming the overall fleet with longer range weapons has indeed been a major focus for the Navy for many years now. As long ago as 2015 and earlier, the Navy began announcing and moving on a Distributed Lethality strategy intended, simply put, to massively arm the surface fleet with newer, far more capable and much longer-range weapons. Arming the LCS with deck-launched Hellfire missile to extend ship-based air-defense ranges and giving the ship the new “over-the-horizon” NSM missile, strategy also employed on the Navy’s new Frigate, emerged years ago as part of the Distributed Lethality concept.

Russia Is Rapidly Growing Missile Defense Network

by Mark Episkopos

Russia’s Aerospaces Forces have tested a new interceptor missile, one of Moscow’s latest investments into its rapidly growing missile defense network.

“The combat team of the Aerospace Force’s air and anti-ballistic missile defense troops conducted another successful test-launch of a new missile of the Russian anti-ballistic missile defense system at the Sary-Shagan proving ground (the Republic of Kazakhstan),” read a statement issued by Russia’s Defense Ministry.

The statement was accompanied by a video from the launch, published on the Defense Ministry’s Youtube channel. The clip showed the missile being transported, loaded into a silo, and launched. “The ABM system’s new interceptor missile reliably proved its inherent characteristics while the combat teams successfully accomplished the task, striking a mock target with the required accuracy,” Aerospace Force Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Formation Major Gen. Sergei Grabchuk told reporters. The Defense Ministry’s statement indicates that this was not the missile’s first test, though concrete production and delivery timelines remain elusive. Following an earlier test of what appears to be the same missile, Deputy Commander of the Air and Missile Defense of the Aerospace Forces Andrey Prikhodko told Russian media that the missile “considerably surpasses those of weapons operational today” in such categories as range, accuracy, and service life. Russian defense sources believe that the new interceptor missile can handily outperform the anti-missile capabilities of the S-400 missile defense system—in particular, Russian experts maintain that it can reliably intercept hypersonic ballistic missiles.

Is Joe Biden Transforming Forever Wars Into Culture Wars?

By Eric Bordenkircher

The Biden administration recently announced a new condition for the successful withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. A peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban must ensure the maintenance of women’s rights. Witness the words of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in her address to the UN Security Council on March 23rd:

…. we must do more to support the women and girls of Afghanistan. Any agreement must preserve their gains if Afghanistan wants to ensure the international community’s continued political and financial support. We will not give an inch on this point.

The ambassador’s comments are unprecedented and raise serious questions about what is fueling U.S. foreign policy and the future of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Are progressive values hindering resolutions? Exacerbating conflict? Damaging U.S. interests? Is the Biden administration transforming forever wars into culture wars?

Conversations on National Security: Major General Michael J. Lutton

By Michaela Dodge

Conversations on National Security is a series of interviews with key national security experts. This interview was conducted by National Institute Research Scholar Dr. Michaela Dodge.

An Interview with Major General Michael J. Lutton, Commander, Twentieth Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command.

Q. Why is it necessary to modernize the ICBM leg of the Triad?

A. Minuteman III nuclear forces have been a bedrock of U.S. national security for more than five decades. As one looks ahead to the next five decades, the question of investing in U.S. nuclear force modernization is as relevant today as ever. Our nation and allies face an uncertain future full of many challenges. In an era of Great Power Competition, we are playing an infinite game with adversaries playing, not to win once and for all, but to survive and keep playing.

Specifically, Russia, China, and North Korea, share five themes in foreign nuclear development and proliferation:
Increasing numbers or capabilities of weapons in existing programs;
Enduring security threats to weapons and material;
Developing delivery systems with increased capabilities;
Developing nuclear weapons with smaller yields, improved precision, and increased range for military or coercive use on the battlefield;
Developing new nuclear weapons without conducting large-scale nuclear tests.

Climate change: World's glaciers melting at a faster pace

Jonathan Amos

The world's glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, according to a comprehensive new study.

A French-led team assessed the behaviour of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet.

The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tonnes of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century.

The meltwater produced now accounts for about a fifth of global sea-level rise, the scientists tell Nature journal.

The numbers involved are quite hard to imagine, so team member Robert McNabb, from the universities of Ulster and Oslo, uses an analogy.

"Over the last 20 years, we've seen that glaciers have lost about 267 gigatonnes (Gt) per year. So, if we take that amount of water and we divide it up across the island of Ireland, that's enough to cover all of Ireland in 3m of water each year," he says on this week's edition of Science In Action on the BBC World Service.

Keeping Norms Normal: Ancient Perspectives on Norms in Civil-Military Relations

The norms that uphold democratic values are a vital part of a healthy system of civil-military relations, but they are not well understood in the United States today. Ancient political philosophers, however, developed rich analyses of what norms are and how they work. We argue Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius established useful ways of thinking about civilian control focused on the apportionment of public honor and shame. We apply their insights to an ancient case: the civil-military breakdown in the Roman republic during the time of Marius. We argue that ancient modes of civilian control — based on education, honor, shame, unwritten norms, and social pressure — have enduring value. An orientation toward non-material incentives can help us better understand why civil-military norms have been weakening in the United States over recent decades. Ancient modes of civilian control may also help us prevent the type of civil-military problems that hastened the fall of the Roman republic.

During his first overseas troop visit in late December 2018, President Donald Trump signed campaign memorabilia — including “Make America Great Again” hats and campaign flags — for soldiers and airmen stationed in Iraq and Germany. When members of the media released pictures of the event, controversy ensued.1 Some critics claimed it was a clear violation of the military’s tradition of non-partisanship, with uniformed servicemembers showing partisan favoritism that extended beyond normal respect and deference for the commander-in-chief. No servicemembers were formally sanctioned for their actions because they had broken no laws. The items Trump signed were personal items and they had not been distributed by the White House.2 Nevertheless, several experts agreed that this behavior, while legal, had crossed the line and violated a norm prohibiting partisan behavior by those in uniform.3

The Future of Sino-U.S. Proxy War

Strategic thought in both the United States and China has focused on the potential for a Sino-U.S. interstate war and downplayed the odds of a clash in a foreign internal conflict. However, great-power military competition is likely to take the form of proxy war in which Washington and Beijing aid rival actors in an intrastate conflict. The battlefield of Sino-U.S. military competition is more likely to be Venezuela or Myanmar than the South China Sea. Proxy war could escalate in unexpected and costly ways as Washington and Beijing try to manipulate civil wars in far-flung lands they do not understand, ratchet up their commitment to avoid the defeat of a favored actor, and respond to local surrogates that pursue their own agendas.

In the 2017 movie Wolf Warrior II — the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time — the hero, a veteran of Chinese special operations forces, rescues civilians in Africa who are being held by rebels fighting in a civil war. The nefarious puppet masters, however, are the U.S. mercenaries who control the rebels. The movie ends with the hero defeating his American nemesis and the Chinese Navy obliterating the rebel forces. The scenario may be outlandish, but the idea that foreign civil wars will become an arena for Sino-American competition is highly plausible.

Strategic doctrine in both the United States and China has downplayed the possibility of a clash in a foreign internal conflict and in the U.S. case in particular, focused on the potential for a conventional interstate war. However, the odds that the United States and China will engage in an interstate war are extremely low due to a number of factors, including nuclear deterrence, regime type, trade relations between the two countries, and international institutions. Military competition is much more likely to take the form of a proxy war in which Washington and Beijing aid different actors in an intrastate conflict because of a systemwide shift away from interstate war and toward civil war, continued American hyper-interventionism, and growing Chinese interventionism. In the coming years, internal conflicts in countries like Venezuela, Pakistan, Myanmar, or North Korea could become battlegrounds for great-power rivalry. Such U.S.-Chinese proxy wars will likely be much subtler than the heavy-handed proxy conflicts of the Cold War and involve diplomatic initiatives, economic aid, cyber war, propaganda, and competition within international institutions. Indeed, Washington and Beijing may compartmentalize a particular proxy campaign — sparring in one civil war while steering clear of each other or even cooperating in another internal conflict.

This Researcher Says AI Is Neither Artificial nor Intelligent

TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES LIKE to portray artificial intelligence as a precise and powerful tool for good. Kate Crawford says that mythology is flawed. In her book Atlas of AI, she visits a lithium mine, an Amazon warehouse, and a 19th-century phrenological skull archive to illustrate the natural resources, human sweat, and bad science underpinning some versions of the technology. Crawford, a professor at the University of Southern California and researcher at Microsoft, says many applications and side effects of AI are in urgent need of regulation.

Crawford recently discussed these issues with WIRED senior writer Tom Simonite. An edited transcript follows.

WIRED: Few people understand all the technical details of artificial intelligence. You argue that some experts working on the technology misunderstand AI more deeply.

KATE CRAWFORD: It is presented as this ethereal and objective way of making decisions, something that we can plug into everything from teaching kids to deciding who gets bail. But the name is deceptive: AI is neither artificial nor intelligent.

Meet the U.S. Army's New Ammunition Carriers: Robotic Drones

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Remember: An AI-capable ammunition-carrying robot might instantly know where ammo is most in need and network requests back to supply lines, optimizing the pace of attack and sustaining high op-tempo attack missions.

The Army seeks self-guiding, auto-loading robots empowered to arm combat vehicles and move ammunition from one platform to another quickly while reducing risk to soldiers and coordinating combined joint attacks.

The emerging artificial intelligence-centric system seeks to resolve a resupply problem often confronted by attacking forces traveling with finite amounts of ammunition. Furthermore, the need for ammunition, and the pace at which it is needed, is vastly different than it may have been in previous years.

“The rate of fire is different now compared to autoloaders that existed in the past. We have sophisticated ammo now. The autoloading problem is a really difficult one. We have confidence in our armaments center,” Brigadier General John Rafferty, Director, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told The National Interest.

By referring to sophisticated ammunition, Rafferty may have been citing several emerging high-tech artillery and rocket munitions such as new Excalibur variants. These include “shaped charge” or “shaped trajectory” 155mm rounds able to both course correct and, in some cases, tailor blast effects to meet a specific threat.

The Battle for the Soul of JADC2

By Douglas A. Birkey

In the summer of 1940, in the months after Nazi Germany had conquered France, Adolf Hitler was set on invading the United Kingdom. He began with an air offensive, and Germany had the clear advantage in numbers: Against the Royal Air Force’s 446 fighters, Germany amassed 3,500 combat aircraft to send across the English Channel. In a war of attrition, the odds were clearly stacked against the RAF.

As the battle began, RAF losses mounted quickly. From Aug. 8 to Aug. 18, the RAF lost 154 pilots and even more airplanes; it had just 63 green pilots to backfill as further losses mounted. The Royal Air Force appeared to possess too few fighters and too few pilots to take on a superior German force.

But the Royal Air Force had a secret weapon to make up for its aviation shortfall. Radar stations along the southeastern British coastline detected German bomber formations as they crossed the English Channel. They alerted information fusion centers, which would interpret the data, combine it with additional reports from ground observers, and map the German formation positions on a plotting board before ordering specific Royal Air Force fighter units to take to the sky. Once aloft, British aircraft could readily distinguish friend from foe, thanks to on board transponders that enabled controllers to vector those aircraft with real-time positions for the German bombers. Thus, despite overwhelming odds, the RAF prevailed.