11 August 2023

India’s Military Turns Toward Integrated Theater Commands: A Rising Challenge for Pakistan

Usman Haider

An OSA-AKM mobile surface-to-air missile is fired during Exercise “Iron Fist 2013” at Pokhran Firing Range, Jaisalmer district, Rajasthan, India, on Feb. 22, 2013.Credit: Indian Ministry of Defense

The Indian government is set to announce the establishment of long-awaited integrated theater commands (ITCs) in the upcoming weeks. After months of discussion, the Indian tri-services have in principle agreed to 99 percent of the working framework for proposed theater commands. Moreover, India’s present chief of defense staff, General Anil Chauhan, recently hinted at the establishment of ITCs while addressing India’s elite scientific community in Delhi, by asserting that “in the national security realm, the concept of theaterization is a fundamental change that is on the anvil,”

If the implementation phase commences in August as reported, it would enable the Indian military to effectively deploy the army’s Integrated Battle Groups along Pakistan’s border in synergy with Indian Air Force (IAF) assets, thus affecting Pakistan’s national security by eroding conventional deterrence.

The concept of integrated theater commands was first formally proposed by the Shekatkar Committee in 2016, which identified the lack of jointness within the Indian military as a concern. The committee’s report recommended the establishment of three integrated commands: southern, western, and northern.

The recommendation got a jump start once General Bipin Rawat took over the office of the chief of defense staff. Rawat eagerly supported ITCs and proposed five commands, two more than the original idea. He fervently advocated for the creation of theater commands and secured popular support.

Why Southeast Asian Nations Must Do More to Protect Their Critical Maritime Infrastructure

Christian Bueger

When discussing the maritime domain, we often think of fishing and shipping activities, and how they can be better regulated or protected from pirates, criminals, or other hostile activities. What often gets forgotten is that today’s economies and supply chains increasingly depend on a wide array of maritime infrastructures.

Oil rigs, gas platforms, and the pipelines that connect them to the land are crucial fossil energy supply lines. Digital communication and access to the internet depends on underwater optic fiber data cables through which up to 95 percent of transnational data traffic runs. The green energy transition, vital to stopping global warming and climate change, implies new dependencies. Increasingly, energy production relies on offshore installations, such as wind farms or floating solar farms. These are the most effective carbon-neutral technologies available. Countries such as Vietnam or the Philippines have huge prospects for developing offshore wind energy and will be the region’s green power houses of the future. Green energy farms rely on underwater power cables to connect them to the land. Indeed, a new regional underwater electricity grid is in the making, which will provide the opportunity to trade electricity across large distances, including a new connection between Singapore and Australia.

However, this infrastructure at sea is very vulnerable. In Europe, the still unresolved sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines that occurred in September 2022 in the Baltic Sea highlights how maritime infrastructure can become the direct target of attack. Reports from Taiwan suggest the frequent sabotage of underwater cables, underlining that such threats must also be taken seriously in the region. Extremist groups and criminals might target maritime infrastructures. Many of the risks are also related to everyday marine activities. Fishing vessels frequently damage cables, and the new scale of infrastructure at sea can pose new navigational hazards for shipping. The expansion of investments in maritime infrastructures for green energy and digital connectivity imply that these vulnerabilities will gain in importance.


Elena Pokalova

Recently, a UK report on Russia’s Wagner Group has once again restarted calls for the UK government to designate Wagner as a terrorist organization. This follows the Lithuanian parliament’s unanimous proclamation of the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization in March and, a month later, the French parliament’s unanimous adoption of a nonbinding resolution calling on the EU to designate Wagner as a terrorist organization. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed such initiatives, urging that “every manifestation of terrorism must be destroyed, and every terrorist must be convicted.” Given the brazen atrocities Wagner has committed in Ukraine and elsewhere, the calls to further sanction the group are definitely understandable. However, the Wagner Group hardly qualifies as a terrorist organization. Rather, it is the Kremlin’s quasi-state agent of influence and should be treated as such. Not all entities that commit atrocities and crimes against humanity are terrorist groups and designating them would be a dangerous slippery slope.

First of all, terrorist organizations engage in acts of violence for a political purpose. They are nonstate actors that often challenge state legitimacy and use terrorist attacks as an asymmetric means to fight against the usually militarily superior government forces. For example, al-Qaeda is a transnational nonstate organization that treats the United States as its main enemy and uses terrorist violence in the name of a declared goal to expel the US presence from Muslim lands. The Islamic State in turn is more focused on the “near enemy”—namely, what it considers to be apostate regimes in the Muslim world—and has used terrorist violence to establish and protect its version of the Islamic caliphate in place of such regimes. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, another group designated as a foreign terrorist organization, has used terrorism to challenge the Sinhala rule in Sri Lanka with the objective to establish an independent Tamil state.

The Wagner Group, on the other hand, does not pursue a coherent political agenda of its own. Its operations have ranged from security assistance to political advising to military action, all of which have been tailored to various objectives the Kremlin sets out, not those determined by the group itself. For example, in Ukraine Wagner was clandestinely involved in the takeover of Crimea before moving to support Russia’s activities in the Donbas. The Group’s head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, eventually acknowledged that his Wagner Group of “Russian patriots” was active in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics to protect Russia’s interests as early as 2014. In Syria, Wagner deployed to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad while the Russian government denied any responsibility over what it characterized as private citizens who chose to fight in foreign countries. In Sudan, Wagner arrived to prop up the regime of Omar al-Bashir, and in Mali Wagner came in the wake of the French withdrawal to provide counterterrorist assistance. The group’s objectives have varied based on location, reflecting Moscow’s geostrategic interests in each specific place. There is very little evidence that in any of these places the Wagner Group has pursued a political agenda separate from that of the Kremlin. It has served as a shadowy structure carrying out the Kremlin’s foreign policy rather than a nonstate organization that uses terrorism for political ends.

A New Stan-dard? Sino-Russian Recalibration in Central Asia

 Erhan Yalvaç

Although even though Xi and Putin pledged at their March 2023 summit meeting to expand Sino-Russian cooperation in Central Asia, we have yet to seen any substantial progress. China’s Central Asian diplomacy has been more active of late, but this has not necessarily come at the expense of Russian influence. While some Chinese experts see Russia’s distraction with the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to advance the PRC’s economic interests in the region, others point to China’s soft-power deficit as an obstacle to further gains. Despite China’s growing economic clout, Russia retains considerable negative hegemony and has sought to check Chinese plans for energy connectivity to maintain its own role as a regional energy supplier. Though the two countries share an interest in preventing the expansion of Western influence, Russian and Chinese actions have in fact led the Central Asian countries to seek partners outside the region.

China and Russia are in greater alignment than ever before on the threats they perceive to their respective interests from Western alliances—but are they in agreement on security and economic governance in their immediate neighborhood in Central Asia? Previously, experts believed that there existed a division of labor between Russia and China in Central Asia, according to which Russia provided security in a region it has always considered its sphere of influence while China became increasingly involved in trade and investment in the region. Has the deepening partnership between Moscow and Beijing led to new Sino-Russian harmony in Central Asia? Or is a war-weakened Russia now obliged to cede ground to China in Central Asia?

Russian Military Recruitment Ads Reportedly Target Kazakhstan

Catherine Putz

While recruitment of Central Asians more broadly into Russia’s war in Ukraine has occurred since the largescale invasion in February 2022, it appears Russian efforts are expanding from targeting migrant workers already in Russia toward more direct outreach.

Last week Reuters reported that ads featuring Russian and Kazakh flags alongside the slogan “shoulder to shoulder” had begun appear in Kazakhstan (with RFE/RL reporting that the same ads also appeared in Armenia):

They promise a one-off payment of 495,000 Russian roubles ($5,300) to those who sign a contract with the Russian military, along with a monthly salary of at least 190,000 rubles ($2,000) and undisclosed extra benefits.

The ads lead to a website that offers potential recruits a chance to join the Russian army in the Sakhalin region in Russia’s Far East. The website lists its owner as the Human Capital Development Agency of the Sakhalin region, an organization set up by the local government.

Russian authorities announced a “partial mobilization” and increased support for “volunteers” in September 2022. Soon after, the governments of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan all warned (or rather, re-issued earlier warnings) to their citizens that joining foreign military conflicts could yield them legal trouble back home.

What the PLA Rocket Force Shakeup Means for Taiwan

Eric Gomez

On July 31, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced that two generals from other branches of China’s military would be taking over the two top leadership positions in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF). A report by the South China Morning Post claims that the former commander and deputy commander of the PLARF are under investigation for corruption, but Beijing has not given an official reason for their dismissal. Turmoil at the top of the PLARF provides a valuable glimpse into the persistent challenges on China’s road to becoming a modern military.

Although it has not been confirmed as the cause, corruption is a plausible explanation for the PLARF leadership shakeup. Corruption has long been a serious problem within the PLA, especially during the “reform and opening up” period, which saw meteoric economic growth and, by Xi’s reckoning, lax discipline. Rooting out corruption has thus been one of the major goals of Xi’s military reforms.

While anti-corruption campaigns have undoubtedly removed potential rivals to Xi’s hold on power, they have also been essential for emphasizing the Communist Party’s control over the PLA and enabling organizational changes necessary to turn the PLA into a modern military. In other words, Xi has made an explicit link between combatting corruption in the PLA and the military’s readiness to fight wars.

Indeed, since the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has arrested nearly 40 officials, including members of the armed forces, in a new anti-corruption campaign. China is in the midst of a large expansion of its nuclear arsenal, which has meant a big influx of cash for the PLARF to expand its missile forces and supporting infrastructure. That’s fertile ground for officials looking to make a quick buck on the side.

Will China Embrace Nuclear Brinkmanship as It Reaches Nuclear Parity?

Michael Tkacik

A war between the United States and China would have catastrophic global consequences. Thus, deterring Chinese revisionism must be the sine qua non of U.S. policy in the Indo-Pacific. While war has been avoided to date, China’s behavior is increasingly assertive as it seeks to become the dominant global power. China has shown itself adept at utilizing political coercion to achieve its goals. It uses a wide variety of statecraft tools and tactics to achieve its goals, from hybrid warfare to “comprehensive national power” (CNP) to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s “Three Warfares” framework to “gray zone tactics.”

China’s revisionist efforts typically occur below the level of outright violence, but are nevertheless illegal under international law or violate the norms and expectations that make up the liberal international order, incomplete though it is. Similarly, China does not appear to distinguish between peacetime and wartime conflict, again giving it an advantage in perpetual struggle.

The one tool of statecraft that China has avoided is nuclear weapons. China has not threatened other states with nuclear weapons and its declaratory policy is “no first use.” Many believe China will continue its no-first-use policy, even after it reaches parity with the United States. But this thinking finds its root in China’s traditional position as an inferior nuclear power and simply projects straight-line into the future. China’s approach to achieving its strategic goals since at least 2008 reveals another possibility: Beijing may incorporate nuclear weapons into its framework of political threats, intimidation, and even the use of force to achieve its international goals. After all, nuclear weapons are another element of CNP.

Note I am not arguing that China will use its nuclear forces as political instruments; rather I am arguing that we should examine the possibility more carefully, given China’s willingness to incorporate all elements of statecraft into its geopolitical strategy.

Philippines Blasts China For ‘Dangerous Maneuvers’ Near Disputed Shoal

Sebastian Strangio

In this photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, a Chinese Coastguard ship, front, allegedly blocks the path of a Philippine Coast Guard ship near the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal, South China Sea during a re-supply mission on Saturday Aug. 5, 2023.

The Philippine military has accused China’s coast guard of blocking and shooting a water cannon at a Philippine military supply boat in the South China Sea, condemning the actions as “excessive and offensive.”

The “dangerous maneuvers,” which were aimed at preventing a Philippine boat from resupplying forces stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, were undertaken “in wanton disregard of the safety of the people on board and in violation of international law,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement yesterday.

The military called on the Chinese coast guard and China’s central military commission “to act with prudence and be responsible in their actions to prevent miscalculations and accidents that will endanger people’s lives.”

According to The Associated Press, Philippine navy personnel on board two chartered supply boats were cruising toward the shoal on Saturday, escorted by Philippine navy vessels, when “a Chinese coast guard ship approached and used a powerful water cannon to block the Filipinos from the shoal.”

China still invaluable to global value chains


The end of the Cold War witnessed a period of “Hyperglobalization“, during which China emerged as a central player in trade and global value chains (GVCs).

Nowadays, GVCs account for more than 70% of international trade and China is moving toward a more upstream position in GVCs, in line with its transition to becoming a global supply hub in GVC networks.

China’s participation in GVCs enabled its transition from low-end manufacturing to higher value-added production activities. Initially, China capitalized on low labor costs and favorable investment policies to attract foreign investments in labor-intensive but low-value-added industries.

Over time, Chinese firms have shifted towards higher value-added activities through industrial upgrading, research and development, technology adoption and workforce skill enhancements.

Domestically-owned firms have evolved into manufacturing supply centers and new regional hubs for service supply and demand. China has become a leading innovator in various industries as it transitions from an assembler to a sophisticated supplier and innovator in GVCs.

China’s evolving economic conditions, including rising labor costs, are also changing multinational enterprise investment behavior. Its aging population will result in a further decline in the working-age population and a shift in the structure of its labor market.

Here’s How Scared of China You Should Be

Stephen M. Walt

A critical issue in current debates on U.S. grand strategy is the priority the country should place on competing with China. How many resources (money, people, time, attention, etc.) should the United States devote to this problem? Is China the greatest geopolitical challenge the United States has ever faced, or a colossus with feet of clay? Should countering China take precedence over all other problems (Ukraine, climate change, migration, Iran, etc.), or is it just one issue among many and not necessarily the most important?

Long-Distance Resistance


The latest bogeyman invoked by pro-establishment thought-leaders in Hong Kong, “long-distance resistance” refers to any activism carried out by Hong Kong people beyond the city’s borders — framing what was once normal political engagement as an imminent national security threat.

Hong Kong has moved “from chaos to order” under the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020, according to the city’s leaders. The pro-democracy protests that brought millions to the streets have been quashed; critical media outlets have been silenced; opposition politicians have all been jailed, forced into exile, or barred from contesting office.

This mix of triumphalism and paranoia among Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed elites demands the creation of new threats to justify a crackdown with no end in sight. Zhang Zhigang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and head of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, has identified its latest target: “long-distance resistance” (遠對抗), a companion to the now frequently invoked threat of “soft resistance” (軟對抗).

In a July 27 editorial for Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper, Zhang wrote that “soft resistance” is like an amoeba; “long-distance resistance” is just one “genetic variation” thereof. Many self-exiled activists, he says, are continuing to oppose the government from their new bases abroad, beyond the reach of national security police.

The government’s concern with “long-distance resistance” was underscored earlier in the month by the arrest warrants and bounties issued on the heads of eight prominent overseas activists from Hong Kong, including the territory’s youngest elected lawmaker Nathan Law. Family of the “Hong Kong Eight” have since been taken in by police for questioning, and another five people have been arrested for running a shopping app accused of aiding Law, a resident of the UK since 2020.

Inside the Newest Conflict in Somalia’s Long Civil War

James Barnett

The roads on the eastern side of Las Anod are littered with so many torched cars that you begin to wonder whether arson isn’t a deliberate tactic in this war. Next to the carcass of one Honda sedan lies an empty jerrycan that is caked in dried mud and a stain of what might have been blood. It almost looks as if someone had emptied the can of fuel, tossed aside the can and set the car ablaze, a riotous act by a defiant individual undeterred by the escalating artillery battle around them. But the car was probably just blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade, like the house next to it.

One of the soldiers makes an angry remark in Somali as we walk past.

“They killed his dog, man,” Hussein explains, his soft Midwestern twang and slow cadence somewhat incongruous with our surroundings here in the sparse mountains of northern Somalia. The soldier grunts and gestures at the caved-in roof of another house across the street, mumbling bitterly. “The Somalilanders killed his dog. He’s calling them motherfuckers.”

Hussein, a Somali American who was living in Ohio six months ago, dresses like an officer, a pistol holstered by his hip and a beige beret cocked to one side of his head. But he has no military experience, and the cause for which he is fighting, the SSC-Khatumo, does not have an army. It has heavy artillery and scores of technicals — Toyota pickups mounted with Russian machine guns, an economical synthesis of Japanese capitalism and aging East Bloc arsenals ubiquitous across the Horn of Africa. And it has mobilized thousands of young men willing to die for its cause: the creation of an autonomous state within Somalia for the Dhulbahante clan. But if the fearlessness of the SSC’s fighters is the movement’s great strength, as activists like Hussein say, this fearlessness borders on a recklessness that calls into question what it will take for this collection of pseudo-insurgents to succeed in their goal of breaking away from the state that broke away from Somalia.

The Ukraine War Has Found the Machinery of Western Governments Wanting

Dr Jack Watling

While the provision of Western support to Ukraine has seen some notable successes, the slow pace of decision-making has made it more difficult to capitalise on Russian weaknesses.

There is a triumphalism to Western governments’ messaging over the war in Ukraine. As Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin told the UK’s House of Commons Defence Committee, Russia has expended about half of its combat power over the past 18 months, a result of Ukrainian bravery and the steady supply of arms by Ukraine’s international partners. US and UK intelligence successes in providing early warning of Russia’s intentions, combined with the unity and expansion of NATO, all contribute to a sense that Western defence establishments are not only doing what is right, but doing it well.

The upbeat narrative is partly justified. But the war in Ukraine has also highlighted significant deficiencies in the machinery of government across NATO capitals, and it is vital that these are corrected to ensure the readiness of the Alliance for future threats. The most glaring deficiency is the inability of Ukraine’s partners to appreciate the lead times between decisions and their desired effects.

This deficiency is being demonstrated at great cost in Ukraine’s current offensive. That Ukraine would need to be on the offensive by late 2022 was already acknowledged in assessments as early as April of that year. The capability requirements for such operations were becoming apparent from July, and reports to Western capitals were articulating clear training, equipment and support needs from September. Despite the requirements being known and understood, the decision to provide this support was not taken until January 2023, with the implementation of these decisions still in the process of being carried out.

Had the decision to equip and train Ukrainian forces been taken and implemented when the requirements were identified in the autumn, Ukraine would have had a much easier task in reclaiming its territory

UN Sending States: The Forgotten Parties in the Korean War

Clint Work

United Nations Command celebrates its 73rd Anniversary at the UNC Memorial, U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea, July 7, 2023.Credit: U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Almon Bate

On the July 27 anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, there were numerous tributes to the ultimate sacrifice so many paid during the Korean War. It was the latest milestone in a year-long campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, part of a broader effort to shore up an alliance that has faced numerous challenges in recent years amid an uncertain international environment and former President Donald Trump’s “America First” movement within the United States.

However, before the armistice was ever signed or Washington agreed to enter a mutual defense treaty with Seoul, U.S. officials hoped the collective forces and voices of their fellow United Nations Sending States – the states that fought under the U.S.-led U.N. Command (UNC) during the Korean War – would uphold deterrence on the Korean Peninsula in the future. This little-known aspect of armistice history has increased salience today in a context of worsening China-U.S. relations, advancing North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities, and the need for multilateral partners in upholding an increasingly unstable international order.

Although U.N. Sending States decreased their commitments to the UNC during much of the Cold War, their increasing involvement in recent years indicates growing multilateral support for enhancing security on and around the peninsula. Nowadays, deterrence on the Korean Peninsula is seen almost entirely through a nuclear lens, resulting in increasing nuclear threats and tensions. Finding ways to enhance deterrence through broader multilateral partnerships may offer a less destabilizing method to, if not achieve a formal peace, then at least avoid another conflagration.

Air Force developing new architecture for JADC2 ‘kill chains,’ wants faster ABMS development


U.S. Air Force Lt. Col James Forrest operates a virtual reality headset in support of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Onramp 2, Sept 2, 2020 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez)

WASHINGTON — A key Air Force official said the service is developing an “architecture” to address integrated “kill chains” for its new battle network framework and is addressing operational gaps for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), as the service ramps up its contributions to the Pentagon’s sprawling Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative.

The first analysis of what that architecture would look like was delivered to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in June, Brig. Gen. Luke Cropsey, program executive officer for command, control, communications and battle management, said during a keynote speech at the Air Force Life Cycle Industry Days conference in Dayton, Ohio last week.

While Cropsey didn’t elaborate on what that initial analysis looked like, he said the details will be available to “anybody with the right security clearances” in the fall “so you understand the problem the same way that I understand the problem.”

Speaking to reporters after his keynote, Cropsey said the analysis would answer questions like where progress on the Department of the Air Force (DAF) Battle Network needs to be quicker and more resilient, and what programs need to be built to “fill in gaps or holes.”

Cropsey told reporters that a new digital infrastructure, which will accompany the new architecture, will specifically address questions around connectivity.

“What do we need to do for compute and processing?” he asked. “How does the ability to put that capability out further toward the edge and maybe in disadvantaged locations otherwise influence and affect your ability to maintain your command and control through a variety of different operational environments?”

Africa After Prigozhin Is an Opportunity for the West

Jaynisha Patel

June’s dramatic escalation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin brought into focus the challenges of relying too heavily on an unpredictable entity. Overnight, Wagner’s partner nations in Africa seemed to be at the mercy of an enigmatic power play within the Kremlin.

Putin’s Forever War

Roger Cohen

Roger Cohen and Nanna Heitmann traveled from Moscow to Siberia to Russia’s border with Ukraine to report and photograph this article.Aug. 6, 2023

Through towering pine forests and untouched meadows, the road to Lake Baikal in southern Siberia winds past cemeteries where bright plastic flowers mark the graves of Russians killed in Ukraine. Far from the Potemkin paradise of Moscow, the war is ever visible.

On the eastern shore of the lake, where white-winged gulls plunge into the steel-blue water, Yulia Rolikova, 35, runs an inn that doubles as a children’s summer camp. She is some 3,500 miles from the front, yet the war reverberates in her family and in her head.

“My ex-husband wanted to go fight — he claimed it was his duty,” she said. “I said, ‘No, you have an 8-year-old daughter, and it’s a much more important duty to be a father to her.’”

“People are dying there in Ukraine for nothing,” she said.

Image“People are dying there in Ukraine for nothing,” said Yulia Rolikova, who persuaded her former husband not to join the fight thousands of miles from their home in Siberia.

He finally understood and stayed, she told me, with a look that said: Mine is just another ordinary Russian life. That is to say the life of a single mother in a country with one of the highest divorce rates in the world, a nation plunged into an intractable war, fighting a neighboring state that President Vladimir V. Putin deemed a fiction, where tens of millions of Russians, like herself, have ties of family, culture and history.

Kratos, Hypersonix team up on hypersonic systems for US market

Courtney Albon

WASHINGTON — Kratos Defense and Security Solutions and Australia’s Hypersonix have formed a partnership to integrate their hypersonic vehicle and propulsion systems and expand their footprint within the U.S. national security market.

Under the agreement, Kratos committed to initially buy 20 of Hypersonix’s DART AE hypersonic vehicles once the system is completed and demonstrated. The U.S.-based company will integrate its Zeus line of propulsion systems with DART AE.

“This exclusive partnership . . . enables the Kratos/Hypersonix team to be first-to-market with relevant capability in support of U.S. and Australia hypersonic initiatives,” Dave Carter, president of Kratos’ defense and rocket systems business said in an Aug. 9 press release.

The teaming arrangement comes as the U.S. looks to expand its cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom through the trilateral security agreement known as AUKUS. That means deepening its partnerships with those allies on a range of advanced capabilities -- including hypersonic systems, which can travel at speeds above Mach 5.

The move also will expand Hypersonix’s presence in the U.S., following a contract award in March from the Defense Innovation Unit. The Pentagon’s commercial technology hub selected DART AE for its Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities program, which aims to leverage commercial progress developing reusable, low-cost hypersonic test vehicles to help alleviate strain on government test infrastructure.

Hypersonix expects DART AE to fly for the first time in 2024.

Kratos is No. 88 on Defense News’ 2023 Top 100 list, which ranks companies based on annual defense revenue. The company’s hypersonic development work includes both propulsion and vehicle development for DoD and classified national security customers.

The company is on contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory for its Mayhem program, which is developing a hypersonic ISR and strike platform, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonics Testbed.

The Poland-Belarus border is becoming a tinderbox

Ted Snider

Aside from the horrendous loss of life, limb and land, the greatest danger of the war in Ukraine has been the threat of nuclear weapons and the risk that NATO could get drawn into a third world war. President Joe Biden has promised — repeatedly — that won’t happen.

But while NATO has so far avoided being drawn into a war with Russia and World War III on the Russian-Ukrainian border, things are threatening to go sideways on the Poland-Belarus border right now.

On the Belarusian side, the military has started drills along its border with NATO members Poland and Lithuania. In addition, there were reportedly upwards of 10,000 Russian Wagner Group forces headed to Belarus in July (according to a Wagner commander) and their mercenaries are training Belarusian special forces just a few miles from the boundary. On the Polish side, troops are are massing in response, and officials in Warsaw have accused Belarus of hosting “redeployed” Wagner forces “to NATO’s eastern flank to destabilize it.”

Meanwhile the Poles accused Belarus military helicopters of violating Polish airspace last week. Belarus denied this, and charged Poland with fabricating the incident to justify the build up of Polish troops on the border. “We call on the Polish side not to escalate the situation and not use it to militarize the border area,” Belarusian ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said at the time.

Tensions are rising high enough to see how one match might set the tinderbox aflame.

“Our response to the provocation is to increase the size of the Polish Army on the eastern border of the country by redeploying troops from the west,” Poland’s defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak said last Thursday. “In accordance with the applicable law, soldiers in a specific situation can use weapons. They are not defenseless.”

How Have Ukrainian Drones Beaten Russian Jammers — And Will It Last?

David Hambling

The commercial drones which make up the bulk of Ukraine’s force operate on known radio frequencies, making them highly vulnerable to jamming. A report by UK thinktank RUSI suggested that Russian electronic warfare took out 90% of Ukraine’s drones in the early stages of the war. Now, however, things seem to have changed, and Russia’s ability to jam drones has been neutralized by smart, but currently mysterious, technology — but this may be a temporary victory.

Jamming was always going to be a problem using cheap quadcopters in war. Consumer drone controllers operate on known, legally-controlled frequency bands. All a jammer needs to do is to transmit enough radio noise on the same frequency as the drone controller, and the drone’s control signal disappears in a blizzard of static and it stops responding. And as the war progressed, Russia brought up increasingly powerful and sophisticated jammers to target the drones which were directing artillery fire on to their positions and dropping grenades into their trenches.

One drone operator told the Guardian that late last year drones could fly 6 km (3.7 miles) beyond the frontline, but in Bakhmut more recently they flew “1 km maximum, sometimes it was not possible to cross the border.”

I have heard the same story from other drone operators, and this steady shrinking of operations was echoed in the media with one Ukrainian Colonel complaining in a newspaper interview in March that quadcopters used by the infantry lasted “half a day,” compared to those used by the artillery which can hang further back from the front line and have a lifetime of a month.

A RUSI report in May suggested that Ukraine was losing 10,000 drones a month, mainly to jamming. Ukraine appears able to sustain this level of drone losses, but perhaps more serious is the effect on operations. When the drones cannot fly, directing artillery becomes vastly more difficult.

U.S.-Made Cluster Munitions Fuel Ukrainian Counteroffensive

Ian Lovett and Nikita Nikolaienko

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine—Newly delivered, American-made cluster munitions have given fresh impetus to Ukraine’s campaign to retake territory captured by Russia, after weeks of little progress.

Ukrainian soldiers say they have used the cluster bombs—which release dozens of smaller bomblets and can cause devastation over a broader area than ordinary artillery shells—to hit concentrations of Russian infantry, groups of vehicles and other targets, clearing the way for ground advances.

Kyiv’s counteroffensive operations have struggled in the face of wide minefields and Moscow’s superior air power, which have impeded large-scale efforts to use Western-supplied tanks and armored vehicles to reach and punch through lines of entrenched Russian forces.

While the cluster bombs alone won’t tilt the battlefield balance of power decisively in Ukraine’s favor, soldiers say they have helped them retake Russian positions that they had struggled to reach.

The munitions have been coupled with a change in tactics, which has allowed Ukrainian troops to advance to within striking distance of the main Russian defensive lines in some places. That progress has come with substantial casualties.

WSJ explains the technology behind cluster munitions and why they have raised humanitarian concerns. Illustration: Jacob Alexander Nelson

“The cluster bombs are good. They are effective,” said Capt. Anatoliy Kharchenko, commander of a reconnaissance company. “But the Russians are dug in deep, and they learn quickly.”

Kharchenko said Russian trenches can be 7 feet deep and that the Russians are adapting by spreading their troops more thinly to avoid heavy losses.

Recent fighting around the village of Robotyne, southeast of Zaporizhzhia city, has demonstrated the effectiveness of the new weapon in Ukraine’s arsenal.

The AI Regulation Paradox

Bhaskar Chakravorti

While former U.S. President Donald Trump’s third indictment includes a charge of spreading “pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud,” we can rest assured that this will be followed by a fresh avalanche of disinformation. After all, Trump has already been on a roll for the upcoming election season. In May, he posted a fake video of CNN host Anderson Cooper saying that President Joe Biden “predictably continued to spew lie, after lie, after lie.”

The Race to Save the World’s DNA

Petra Péterffy

Four years ago, a few hundred miles off the coast of West Africa, a crane lifted a bulbous yellow submarine from the research vessel Poseidon and lowered it into the Atlantic. Inside the sub, Karen Osborn, a zoologist at the Smithsonian Institution who was swaddled in warm clothes, tried to ward off nausea. During half an hour of safety checks, Osborn watched water slosh across the submarine’s round window, washing-machine style. Then the crew gave the all-clear and the vessel descended. In the waters of Cape Verde, a volcanic archipelago that is famous for its marine life, Osborn felt the seasickness dissipate. She pressed her face against the glass, peering out at sea creatures until her forehead bruised. “You’re just completely mesmerized by getting to look at these animals in their natural habitat,” she told me.

Osborn was on a mission to find several elusive species, including a bioluminescent worm called Poeobius, and to sequence their genes for a global database of DNA. “We need the genome to figure out how these things are related to each other,” she explained. “Once we have that tree, we can start asking interesting questions about how those animals evolved, how they’ve changed through time, how they’ve adapted to their habitats.” Eventually, such genomes could inspire profound innovations, from new crops to medical cures. Osborn was starting to worry, however: she had already made several trips in the submarine and had not seen a single Poeobius. Each worm measures just a few centimetres in length and feeds on marine snow, or organic detritus that falls from the surface. Because it is yellow on one end, like a cigarette, it is sometimes called the butt worm.

As the pilot steered into deeper waters, Osborn operated a suction hose at the end of a robotic arm. Whenever she spotted organisms that she wanted to sample—crustaceans, sea butterflies, jellies—she’d suck them through a tube and into a collection box that was filled with seawater. She started to wish that the submarine had a rest room on board. Then, a few hundred metres down, she finally saw a group of Poeobius. “Oh, that’s what we want!” she remembers exclaiming. “Go! Go get that!” The pilot slowly turned the sub and Osborn sucked up the worms.

Cyber-attack on UK's electoral registers revealed

Paul Seddon

The UK's elections watchdog has revealed it has been the victim of a "complex cyber-attack" potentially affecting millions of voters.

The Electoral Commission said unspecified "hostile actors" had managed to gain access to copies of the electoral registers, from August 2021.

Hackers also broke into its emails and "control systems" but the attack was not discovered until October last year.

The watchdog has warned people to watch out for unauthorised use of their data.

In a public notice, the commission said hackers accessed copies of the registers it was holding for research purposes, and for conducting checks on political donors.

Chief executive officer Shaun McNally said the commission knew which of its systems were accessible to the hackers, but could not "conclusively" identify which files may have been accessed.

The watchdog said the information it held at the time of the attack included the names and addresses of people in the UK who registered to vote between 2014 and 2022.

This includes those who opted to keep their details off the open register - which is not accessible to the public but can be purchased, for example by credit reference agencies.

The data accessed also included the names - but not the addresses - of overseas voters, it added.

However, the data of people who qualified to register anonymously - for safety or security reasons - was not accessed, the watchdog said.

The Age of Disorder

Ben Johnson
Disorder is the defining feature of our era. This affects not just when we fight but, more importantly, how we fight. The evolutionary pressure of conflict requires armed forces to optimise. It’s easier said than done. The adaptation of militaries to change is historically erratic and, during peacetime, is impacted by multiple variables outside normal control. This problem is not new but technological acceleration is making it starker.

This article proposes putting the primacy of adaptation at the centre of British military thinking. Our conceptual thinking about war and conflict must move away from institutional arrogance and insisting we can predict and bring order to something that is inherently chaotic and complex. We can’t, and we won’t. We risk optimising for the war we want instead of the war we will have to fight. Arguing over expeditionary versus warfighting forces or drones instead of armour is a distraction. The real issue is resisting the siren call of certainty.
Adaptation, not optimisation

Change in conflict is the nature of war. From Corelli Barnett’s Audit of War to Andrew Krepinevich’s The Army and Vietnam, military history has highlighted the failure to adapt as a critical failure. Yet, despite its importance, it is not prioritised. Adaption is a principle of war, but we don’t select for it in recruiting or training to develop it specifically. With our expensive platforms, specialised systems and ‘just in time’ supply chains, Western nations have become good at designing forces around things going right. We should probably think more about how they should perform when things go wrong. You may believe you’re adaptable, but you’re part of a system that prioritises conformity and certainity over adaptation.
Embrace the Chaos