26 April 2024

Can India Become a Great Power?


Ever since independence in 1947, India’s leaders imagined that the country would become a great power — it possessed a storied civilization, a large landmass, and population and epitomized a successful experiment in liberal democracy. But becoming a great power required that its large population become much more productive and the country at large approach the global technological frontier.

On Thin Ice: Bhutan’s Diplomatic Challenge Amid the India-China Border Dispute


In October 2023, Bhutan’s foreign minister Tandi Dorji travelled to Beijing to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. For countries that do not share formal diplomatic ties, the visit was significant for several reasons. This was Dorji’s first official visit to China and marked the twenty-fifth round of boundary talks between the two countries. This in itself was a milestone, considering the previous round was held eight years earlier in 2016. A statement by the Chinese foreign ministry following the visit expressed hope that both sides would soon establish diplomatic relations and conclude their boundary negotiations.

The new momentum towards an early settlement of a dispute that has been ongoing for the last seven decades has strategic implications for Bhutan, China, and India. Bhutan and India have a friendship dating back to 1949 which affords New Delhi guidance over Bhutan’s foreign and defense policy. While for China, the willingness to conclude boundary talks with Bhutan is linked to the India-China border dispute, and particularly to the status of Arunachal Pradesh which it claims as an extension of South Tibet.

As a result, Bhutan faces a substantial diplomatic challenge as it aims to strike a delicate balance that resolves the border issue without incurring large-scale territorial concessions that alienate India or further encourage Chinese advances. This piece examines the strategic implications of Bhutan’s diplomatic efforts amid its border dispute with China, highlighting the thin ice it walks on to achieve a resolution without compromising its vital relationships. It also raises the question—Wedged between two Asian powers, how much agency does Thimphu truly have to steer these negotiations?


Bhutan and China share a 477-kilometer-long border. In 1951, the annexation of Tibet shifted Chinese borders farther south. This not only threatened the territorial integrity of Bhutan but fuelled the assumption that attempts at infiltration by Chinese troops would be hostile.

In a Taiwan conflict, tough choices could come for Big Tech


Searching for war criminals, identifying battlefield casualties, and tracking the movements of militaries are not the typical subjects of boardroom conversations at US tech companies. That is until two years ago when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

After that moment, these companies and their CEOs made choices that influenced the course of the war. They provided cutting-edge capabilities that fortified Kyiv against Moscow’s initial assault; Palantir software supported Ukraine’s targeting of invading Russian forces, SpaceX’s Starlink enabled battlefield communications, and numerous satellite companies helped Ukrainian forces track the activities of Russian troops. Throughout the conflict’s early stages, these and other firms, including prominent Big Tech players, made decisions that aligned with US goals.

Unlike their government counterparts, however, companies were not animated by nation-state concerns like diplomatic commitments or electoral politics. Many did so because they believed it was the right thing to do, they possessed useful capabilities, and because their businesses did not depend on Russia. Microsoft, Apple, and Google, for example, made around 1 percent of their total revenue in the country and did not rely on local manufacturers, and start-ups that supported Ukraine had no operations in Russia.

It is unclear, however, if these conditions will hold in the case of a conflict over Taiwan.

As one of us argues in a recent report, several of the companies that came to Ukraine’s defense have much deeper economic ties to China than they did to Russia, and those connections could expose them to Chinese coercion. For example, Tesla reportedly manufactures over 50 percent of its electric vehicles in China, while Apple produces 95 percent of its hardware in the country. Both companies earn around 20 percent of their revenue there. Microsoft and Amazon conduct AI- and computer science-related research in China. These companies, along with Cloudflare, Google, Cisco, and Oracle, all of which supported Ukraine to some degree, have other business interests in China that could affect their decisions about supporting Taiwan in a conflict.

China’s new H-20 stealth bomber ‘not really’ a concern for Pentagon, says intel official


Whatever may come of China’s new long-range stealth bomber known as the Xi’an H-20, US officials are confident it won’t measure up to American designs, according to a DoD intelligence official.

“The thing with the H-20 is when you actually look at the system design, it’s probably nowhere near as good as US LO [low observable] platforms, particularly more advanced ones that we have coming down,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon today.

“They’ve run into a lot of engineering design challenges, in terms of how do you actually make that system capability function in a similar way to, like, a B-2 or a B-21,” the official added.

The H-20 is expected to be Beijing’s answer to American platforms such as the new B-21 Raider, though little is known about the Chinese program given intense state secrecy.

In March, a Chinese military official reportedly told state-owned newspaper Hong Kong Commercial Daily that the H-20 would be unveiled soon, though the timeline is not clear.

“You may choose to unveil it just because they want to show that they’re a great, you know, military power. That doesn’t necessarily mean it actually delivers them the kind of capability that they would need or at the quantity that they would need,” the DoD intelligence official said.

Asked whether the H-20 is a concern, the official replied “Not really.”

The Digital Silk Road: A growing priority for Beijing as its tech champions expand overseas

Jacob Gunter & Rebecca Arcesati

In the Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) second decade, the focus is on smaller infrastructure projects involving new technologies, especially digital, that bring a good return on investment and promote Chinese firms overseas. The ‘Digital Silk Road’ (DSR), or the technology-focused leg of the BRI which exists alongside ports, rail, energy and roads, will therefore become more prominent, especially across the Global South. Not only are these key growth markets, but it will be important for China’s digital giants to expand overseas as they finish building out networks in China.

To better understand Chinese tech firms within the DSR, it is important to look at the factors pushing them overseas. Some, like Huawei and Bytedance, have been much written about. Here, we look at less well-known players in sectors such as undersea cables, AI, gaming and social media and ridesharing.

We found pressures for international expansion differed dramatically between consumer internet firms and China’s major players in the hardware and ‘real economy’ fields. Consumer-focused firms face a profit crunch in domestic markets that has sent them seeking growth markets elsewhere, whereas the hardware giants enjoy Beijing’s backing in the form of subsidies and project finance. At the same time, Beijing does welcome Big Tech investing abroad if that helps China dominate strategic technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), or at least generates revenue and profit that can be used to fund the right kind of R&D back home.

The importance of more “neutral” markets for China’s digital champions is growing as the tech rivalry with the United States has brought greater scrutiny of them in North America, parts of Europe and the Western Pacific. Besides, the domestic and emerging markets were often already more important. According to one analysis, for Huawei’s radio access network (RAN) business “any decline in European low-margin markets was offset in absolute terms by China and the emerging economies”.


Larry M. Wortzel


The entire system of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership and control of the armed forces and society is built on a foundation of strict, top-down guidance from the central leadership, covering all aspects of national security and military affairs. Ultimately, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the guarantor of the CCP’s continued leadership of China.

The CCP does not allow deviation from party guidelines provided by Xi Jinping, CCP General Secretary, Chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission (CMC) and President of China. At a meeting of political commissars at the PLA, the “All Army Party Building Meeting” in 2013, Xi Jinping directed the PLA to “unswervingly support the party and its spirit, [and] ensure the party and the people are under the command of the Central Military Commission.”1 In the same speech, Xi told political commissars that the PLA must increase its technological and scientific advancements. Xi’s challenge to the PLA is not a call to innovate, understand the commander’s intent or use creativity and initiative to accomplish military missions. It is a call to innovate in developing new weapon systems and ways to control them.

The concept of mission command and independently carrying out the commander’s intent would therefore seem anathema in the political culture of the CCP and PLA.

In 2022, however, four field grade officers from various organizations and backgrounds in the PLA authored an exploratory article on the theory of mission command (任务式指挥的理论). It was published in the PLA’s authoritative doctrinal journal, China Military Science (中国军事科学), a publication of the Academy of Military Sciences (中国解放军军事科学院), or AMS.2

A Progressive, Principled, and Pragmatic Approach Toward China Polic

Dave Rank, Alan Yu & Michael Clark

The U.S. relationship with China will be one of this generation’s defining foreign policy challenges. A key part of the challenge will be discussing the issues without falling back on simplistic, outdated, or inaccurate generalizations.

There are few historical parallels of great power rivals as deeply integrated as the United States and China. They have the world’s two largest economies; they are the world’s largest military spenders; and they both are increasingly in competition with each other. As the world’s two largest exporters, their two-way trade exceeded $750 billion in 2022, even as commercial ties frayed and (not coincidentally) the multilateral trading system came under deep stress.

Indeed, on issue after issue—from AI to social media and from Taiwan to Ukraine—sharp differences in values and interests create friction between Washington and Beijing. These frictions will play out in how we trade; how our technological ecosystems interact; and how we manage military competition. At the same time, U.S.-China relations cannot and should not be based solely on competition. On a range of critical issues—from climate change to illegal narcotics—cooperation will have tangible benefits for Americans and, often, for people in China and the rest of the world.

The principles behind a sound China policy

Smart U.S. policy toward China needs to be based on principles that align with the interests of people and the values of our system. As Washington formulates our approach to competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), we should look to policies that are:

Comparing Gray-Zone Tactics in the Red Sea and the South China Sea

Thomas Lim and Eric Ang

Amid turbulent times at sea, gray-zone tactics have become a preferred tool for actors seeking to advance their interests without resorting to outright military conflict. Essentially, gray-zone tactics mean operating in the murky spectrum between peace and war. Such actions risk eroding the freedom of navigation, a central concept undergirding global economic stability.

Two recent cases – the Houthis’ activities in the Red Sea, and the Chinese actions around Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea – display remarkable similarities when it comes to the operationalization of gray-zone tactics, despite being cut from entirely different contextual cloths.

A deep-dive analysis of the two cases reveals notable similarities in tactical conduct and adversarial responses, with three critical lessons distilled for the international community to navigate future iterations of such gray-zone tactics out at sea.

The Red Sea Gambit

Based in Yemen, the Houthi movement is a non-state actor that can be classified as an organized armed group with political aspirations. Since hijacking a cargo ship on November 19, 2023, the Houthis have allegedly been targeting Israeli-linked ships to stop Israel from attacking Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank, with this target list further expanding to United States- and United Kingdom-linked ships in March 2024.

Although the Houthis have utilized military force on commercial vessels, existing international law (including the law of naval warfare) does not apply to conflicts between states and non-state actors. The Houthis’ identity as non-state actors engaging in gray-zone operations makes it tricky for the international community to respond proportionately, despite the threat that their actions pose to regional shipping and maritime security.

Iran says it shot down Israel’s attack. Here’s what air defense systems it might have used.


In the early morning hours today, multiple explosions reportedly took place in central Iran, the result of Israeli munitions striking near Isfahan or, possibly, the result of Iran’s air defense systems knocking some threats out of the sky.

As details slowly emerged, it remained unclear what Jerusalem supposedly used for the attack — some reports indicated missiles, while Iranian media made references to small drones. So far there have been no reports of casualties, and though Isfahan is home to some Iranian nuclear facilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency said those had not been damaged.

Tehran has played down the attack as small scale, compared to the approximately 350 missiles and drones it launched at Israel on April 13. In that case Israel’s air defense systems, with significant help from the US, UK, France and even Jordan, managed to knock out a vast majority of the threats before they could do any damage.

Though Iranian officials claimed its air defenses were successful in today’s incident as well, it remains to be seen exactly how well those systems did against the much smaller Israeli sortie. Either way, air defense has been an area of increasingly public focus for Tehran in recent years, going as far as to show off its systems at an international defense conference in the Middle East.

Here’s a look at the systems Iran is believed to operate, based on information available at the shows, published analysis from the US Defense Intelligence Agency and media reporting. While it is unclear how many of any given system Iran currently has active, the takeaway is clear: Tehran has made the creation of a multilayered air defense network a priority.


Peter Mitchell

Iran directly moved against Israel over the weekend with a three-pronged saturation attack consisting of approximately 185 Shahed drones, 110 medium-range ballistic missiles, and 36 land-attack cruise missiles. The Iranian attack came after a weeklong telegraphed buildup of tensions triggered by the Israeli strike against the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this extensive preparation phase, Tehran’s hope for an overwhelming bombardment of Israeli targets appears to be largely foiled. The vast majority of incoming munitions were intercepted by a variety of layered air defense systems, with the only substantive impacts appearing to be on Ramon air base in the Negev, far to the south of the main body of the Israeli air defense network. Since the runways at Ramon were undoubtedly cleared by scrambling the aircraft long before the missiles arrived, it is unlikely any hits on grounded aircraft were scored. The Israel Defense Forces released footage of engineers already repairing the minor cratering done to the runway, underscoring the optics of the Iranian attack being rendered largely ineffective.

Regardless of whether the attack was launched for a performative or a strictly military purpose and setting aside the panoply of political, strategic, and other questions it raises, its immediate outcome should be viewed as clear evidence that integrated air and ground air defense systems can provide adequate coverage against saturation attacks—at least under certain conditions. Simply put, the old assumption that states could invest in plentiful and cheap ballistic and cruise missiles to provide a sort of “poor man’s air force” for power projection has shown to be wanting. Just as the 1990 Gulf War proved the massive superiority of modern precision weapons against massed armored formations, so has the Iranian attack shown that integrated air defense systems are not all hype. China’s leaders will be taking notes, just as they did in 1990. For attacks like this to succeed, far more preparation of the battlefield is required.

Iran's Air Defense Purchase From Russia Backfires

Ellie Cook

An Israeli attack on Iran damaged a Russian-made S-300 air defense system, according to a new report, marking a possible embarrassing performance for the Moscow-designed system provided to a crucial Kremlin ally.

Friday's attack on Iran damaged or destroyed an S-300 radar designed to track targets, a "crucial" part of the air defense system, The New York Times reported, citing Western and Iranian officials and satellite imagery analysis.

Israel launched an attack on Iran early on Friday, with explosions reported over the central Iranian city of Isfahan, south of Tehran. Air defenses fired at a "suspicious object" near the city at around 4 a.m. local time, Iranian state media reported. A spokesperson for Iran's space agency, Hossein Dalirian, said Iran intercepted three quadcopter drones. Several reports from anonymous Western and Iranian officials have suggested Israeli warplanes fired at least one missile at Iran.

Isfahan is home to a major military base and a large nuclear facility. The Israeli strike damaged the air defense system positioned near Natanz, north of Isfahan, the Times reported. The Natanz uranium enrichment facility is one of Iran's most well-known sites.

Russia, increasingly isolated from the international community following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has tightened ties with its allies, not least Iran. Moscow has extensively used Iranian-designed explosive drones in its war effort, and in mid-February, Reuters reported that Tehran was supplying Moscow with hundreds of powerful ballistic missiles.

Eluding The Crossfire While Giants Fight: East And Southeast Asian Geopolitics And The South China Sea Dispute – Analysis

Rizal G. Buendia

The new geopolitics of East Asia is dominated by the emerging regional rivalry between China and the United States. This new strategic reality has been driven by China’s economic rise against the backdrop of the US’ “rebalancing” foreign policy in Asia and its relative economic decline. The rivalry extends well beyond maritime issues. East and Southeast Asian states have been drawn into this contest, whether or not they have disputes with China in the South China Sea (SCS). The geopolitical transformation in East Asia has been shaped by political and economic developments in the world in the last two decades.

The first is focused on the changing balance between East and West. (1) At the end of the Cold War, the center of gravity of the world was shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But as Asia integrates with itself amidst the rise of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC), the geopolitical emphasis has shifted from “Asia-Pacific” to Asia. While the concept of Asia-Pacific includes the US and other countries from the Americas, the latter has come to represent greater economic integration within East Asia.

China’s economic rise and success not only won the admiration of Southeast Asian countries, but also helped Beijing establish strong trade and financial ties with them. The “pivot” is taking place in the context of deepening Chinese regional relationship. As a result, seven (7) Asian economies have been identified as the future engines of global growth, with the growth in the emerging middle class being a key driver (see Table 1).

A war is brewing in the Pacific Will Aukus make the same mistakes as Nato

Thomas Fazi

The US may be losing ground to new global powers in many respects, but when it comes to the business of sowing conflict around the world, it remains unrivalled. As it slowly abandons Ukraine to its own fate, after playing a crucial role in triggering the conflict in the first place, and as it contributes to the dangerous escalation in the Middle East, it is also laying the ground for a future war with China in Asia.

For much of the past half-century, the US and its Asia-Pacific allies shunned a collective Nato-like approach to security in the region, opting instead for a so-called hub-and-spokes system: with the United States as the hub and various bilateral and multilateral alliances as the spokes of an ideal “wheel of security”. In recent years, amid growing tensions with Beijing, these initiatives have multiplied, with overlapping political, military and economic deals creating, in the words of The Economist, “an ever-thickening lattice on China’s periphery”.

The US, however, now appears determined to take this approach one step further, by transforming its patchwork of arrangements into a full-blown military alliance: an Asian Nato. The first major step in this direction was the creation, in the early days of the Biden administration, of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States pact (Aukus), a new trilateral military partnership that included, as its central pillar, the provision of nuclear-powered (but not nuclear-armed) submarines to Australia. The project was initially met with scepticism and hostility — especially, as one might have expected, from China, which said that the partnership risked “severely damaging regional peace”.

While this led to a sluggish start for the new alliance, Aukus has gained momentum in recent months. The three countries recently announced the launch of Pillar II of the pact, which will see its members collaborate on next-gen military technologies — including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons and undersea capabilities — and decide whether to invite new members, such as South Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Earlier this month, the US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, wrote that Japan was “about to become the first additional Pillar II partner”.

Understanding Israel-Hezbollah Clashes Since October 7

Ahmad Sharawi

Eighty thousand Israelis have evacuated their homes near the country’s northern border as Hezbollah rockets rain on their communities. Yet, Israeli forces are drawing the most fire on the Lebanese border. The rocket and mortar fire across the border can seem like skirmishes without a pattern or purpose. However, a closer look shows there have been three distinct stages to the fighting that began when Hezbollah fired the first rounds on October 8 to demonstrate its solidarity with Hamas.

Initially, Israel restricted its response to targeting Hezbollah launch sites near the border, yet in mid-November, it shifted to attacks deeper inside Lebanon with an eye toward degrading Hezbollah’s military infrastructure. Then, in January, the Israelis struck Dahiyeh—Hezbollah’s South Beirut stronghold—killing senior Hamas official Saleh Arouri. This prompted Hezbollah to match the Israeli escalation, yet Israel retains the initiative and has inflicted far greater damage while its adversary remains wary of provoking an all-out war.

Israel is determined to restore security for the tens of thousands of its citizens who live within range of Hezbollah rockets and mortars in southern Lebanon. In contrast, Hezbollah has to weigh the risk of provoking a massive response for which the Lebanese people across the political and religious spectrum would hold Hezbollah responsible. The group also needs to keep its powder dry so it can threaten retaliation in the event of an Israeli attack on its patrons in Tehran.

One day after Hamas launched the surprise attack that killed over 1,100 Israelis, Hezbollah intervened on Hamas’s side with rocket and artillery fire across Israel’s northern border. The attacks quickly spread across the breadth of the Blue Line—the de facto border between Israel and Lebanon—but their depth was limited, focusing on border towns and moshavs (collectives) like Shtula and Shlomi. The IDF retaliated by striking at the sources of the rocket and artillery fire, including southern Lebanese towns like Marwahin and Ayta Ash Shab. This choice of targets signaled that Israel sought to avoid escalation yet would exact a price from any unit that fired across the border.

The Geopolitics of the Central Caucasus

Natalie Tavadze

For years, to avoid the confusion between Georgia the country, and Georgia the U.S. state, international media referred to the former as a post-Soviet entity. It seemed that only in the wake of the 2008 Georgian-Russian war (when Americans were finally assured that it was not their state being attacked) did the country rise to global attention. Nowadays, it appears that Georgia, next to its immediate neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan (together forming the Central Caucasus), draws attention due to its role in the so-called Middle Corridor (TITR). However, it eluded the attention of many that the area has long obtained three distinctive geopolitical roles owing to its location. These were: a bridge of economic interactions, a buffer between Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, and a border of different civilizations.

There were reasons why it evaded the notice of many, but first and foremost, we should mentally map the area. The Central Caucasus, comprised of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, is a historically constructed, complex political concord, embodying a geopolitical tapestry woven over centuries and forming a culturally, ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse area stretched between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

In the geopolitical discourse, as explained by Saul Bernard Cohen, an eminent American geographer, the axiom stands firm: “Geopolitics is a product of its time.” Each historical period has produced a geopolitical model offering a lens through which to interpret the world map and the world order of that time. In imperialist geopolitical writings of the 19th to early 20th centuries when a state’s greatness lay in its maritime power and/or in domination of the Heartland (the territory ruled by the Russian Empire and later by the Soviet Union), the distance of the Central Caucasus from the Anglo-American space resulted in little to no mention of the region.


Paul Cormarie and John Hoehn

In 2016, RAND ran a series of wargames examining a contingency in the Baltics. NATO did not do well. Russia often gained control of the Baltic states before NATO could respond, creating a fait accompli and dealing a severe blow to the alliance.

At the time, US forces in Europe had atrophied. Both ground and air forces had been drawn down to respond to threats elsewhere. US forces were still largely postured in Germany, a relic of the Cold War. This posed vulnerabilities to NATO’s new borders in both the northeast and the southeast. While under the NATO deterrence umbrella, the Baltic states in particular were viewed as defenseless to Russian aggression. Though NATO began to improve its posture with a tripwire force, it remained far from completely deterring Russian forces.

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine fundamentally changed Europe’s security environment. Finland and Sweden—both longtime neutral states—decided to join NATO. This in turn drastically changed Europe’s airpower from its mid-2010s levels. What do these new alliance members bring to the air fight, and how does this impact the wargame scenario in the Baltics?

New NATO Capabilities

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO brings significant additional airpower contributions. In the case of Finland, those contributions are a function of its fleet of aircraft. Finland has ordered sixty-four F-35s, the largest order in Europe after the United Kingdom. These orders represent the equivalent of multiple squadrons, either fighter or electronic attack—capabilities that offer a significant contribution for penetrating and rolling back Russian air defenses.

In Sweden’s case, NATO also gains valuable airpower in the form of its operational aircraft. Swedish forces operate around seventy-five JAS 39 Gripens. The Gripen has modern electric warfare capabilities and high readiness that can perform expeditionary operations—limiting Russia’s ability to target aircraft on the ground. Moreover, Sweden has an active defense aerospace industrial base. Few other NATO nations have active production lines capable of producing modern fighter aircraft.

UK pledges ‘generational’ leap in defense spending, industry to go on ‘war footing’


The UK will increase defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by the end of the decade to deliver a “generational investment” and respond to a world at its most “dangerous” since the end of the Cold War, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said during a visit to Warsaw, Poland, today.

Under the new plan, London wants to spend a cumulative extra of £75 billion ($93 billion) over the next six years, culminating in a 2030 annual defense budget of £87 billion ($108 billion), and which would make it the largest military spender in Europe, leapfrogging Germany, and second for NATO members behind only the US.

There is no guarantee that the plan will succeed however as the Conservative Party, which Sunak leads, must call a general election on or before January 2025, with polls showing that the opposition Labour Party is on course to take power.

Sunak has consistently refused to say when exactly the election will take place, committing only to the “second half” of 2024.

“Today is a landmark moment in the defence of the United Kingdom,” he said of the defense spending plan, at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Sunak added that the spending hike was necessary because the “pace and intensity” of state-based threats had changed significantly.

“An axis of authoritarian states with different values to ours, like Russia, Iran, North Korea and China are increasingly assertive,” he added. “The danger they pose is not new, but what is new is that these countries or their proxies are causing more instability, more quickly, in more places at once … they’re increasingly acting together, making common cause in an attempt to reshape the world order.”

Lockheed Martin projects potential $1 billion loss on classified program


Lockheed Martin took a $100 million loss on a classified program inside its missiles and fire control unit and could rack up an additional $225 million in losses by the end of the year, executives said today.

Regulatory filings that will be available later today will state that the world’s largest defense contractor could incur in excess of $1 billion in potential losses on this program, Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Jay Malave told analysts during an earnings call today.

However, CEO Jim Taiclet characterized the program as a long-running franchise that will deliver a strong return on investment after going through a period of teething pains.

“For a quarter for the year, maybe for a couple of years, we’re going to absorb the loss,” but afterwards “it’s going to be significantly positive,” he said.

Malave said factors such as “technical milestone achievement through the balance of the year, discussions with our customers [and] visibility of funding” could all impact the size and timing of future losses, but that the company currently expects the program to become profitable on an annual basis around the 2028 timeframe.

The loss contributed an 18 percent decrease in profits in the company’s missiles and fire control segment compared to the same period last year, executives said. Overall, however, Lockheed’s net sales grew from $15.1 billion in the first quarter of 2023 to $17.1 billion this year, led by about 25 percent sales growth in missiles and fire control.

Israel beefs up armored corps with new tank companies, for now and the future


The Israel Defense Forces are expanding the number of regular army tank companies in each battalion of the armored corps, a direct result of lessons learned from six months of war in Gaza — and one taken with an eye towards future conflicts.

The IDF’s decision to increase the number of tank companies manned by regular army soldiers, as opposed to reservists, reverses a decision made more than a decade ago to reduce the number of active tank companies, and is one of several new units and reorganizations the IDF has embarked on due to the ongoing war.

It also may seem counter-intuitive on its face, as tanks are generally viewed as ineffective for urban warfare. But while most photos of Gaza show destroyed buildings and high-rises, the region features quite a bit of open area outside of Gaza City proper, which is where Israeli tanks have been largely operational.

Capt. Amitai, a company commander in the 82nd battalion of the 7th armored brigade who spoke to Breaking Defense last week about the new initiative, said that armored vehicles have played a critical role in the conflict.

In addition to the 7th armored, the IDF also operates the 188th and 401st regular armored brigades. Each has seen service in Gaza. The armored brigades played a key role in the ground offensive which began on Oct. 7, with tanks rolling across Gaza and down the coastline to link up and cut off Gaza city from central and southern Gaza.

Amitai — whose full name was not provided for security reasons — praised the tanks’ role as providing “protection and firepower and the ability to move quickly in difficult terrain” for infantry and engineers who then are involved in the more urban elements of the conflict. He noted that tanks have proven themselves in this conflict, especially spotlighting the Trophy Active Protection system on the IDF’s Merkava IV main battle tanks.

Biden’s Small Win — and Bigger Failure — in the Middle Eas

Trita Parsi

President Biden’s behind-the-scenes crisis management appears to have helped stop a wider war from igniting in the Middle East — for now. But that tactical win for the administration is actually part of its much larger strategic failure in the region.

Over the past two weeks, Mr. Biden has scrambled to ensure that the unprecedented open exchange of fire between Israel and Iran did not spiral into a full-blown conflict. After Israel struck the Iranian Consulate in Syria on April 1, killing senior Iranian military officials, Mr. Biden publicly urged Iran not to strike back while privately negotiating a choreography that ended in Tehran’s well-telegraphed barrage of missiles and drones being shot down before they could inflict major damage in Israel. Mr. Biden then tried to persuade Israel not to retaliate. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t heed the order, but Israel’s response was so muted that Tehran effectively ignored it. Mr. Netanyahu’s minister of national security called it “lame.”

Mr. Biden deserves credit for orchestrating this crucial de-escalation. Iran launched an attack that failed, as it was designed to; Israel’s response was limited enough that Iran could pretend it hadn’t been attacked at all. But while the president’s maneuvering helped avoid an immediate disaster, it is his own policies that have set the Middle East on its current dangerous trajectory. Israel and Iran have been embroiled in a shadow war for more than a decade, but they had never been this close to all-out war.

Since Hamas’s attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, Mr. Biden has refused to leverage America’s considerable influence over Israel to rein in the behavior of Mr. Netanyahu’s government, to secure a cease-fire or to deter Israel from committing what may amount to war crimes or acting against American interests. Instead, he has followed Mr. Netanyahu’s lead, even as Israel has put vengeance over interest.

Censorship Wars: Elon Musk, Safety Commissioners And Violent Content – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

The attitudes down under towards social media have turned barmy. While there is much to take Elon Musk to task for his wrecking ball antics at the platform formerly known as Twitter, not to mention his highly developed sense of sociopathy, the hysteria regarding the refusal to remove images of a man in holy orders being attacked by his assailant in Sydney suggests a lengthy couch session is in order. But more than that, it suggests that the censoring types are trying, more than ever, to tell users what to see and under what conditions for fear that we will all reach for a weapon and go on the rampage.

It all stems from the April 15 incident that took place at an Assyrian Orthodox service conducted by Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and the Rev. Isaac Royel at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, Sydney. A 16-year-old youth, captured on the livestream of the surface, is shown heading to the bishop before feverishly stabbing him, speaking Arabic about insults to the Prophet Muhammed as he does so. Rev. Royel also received injuries.

Up to 600 people subsequently gathered around the church. A number demanded that police surrender the boy. In the hours of rioting that followed, 51 police officers were injured. Various Sydney mosques received death threats.

The matter – dramatic, violent, raging – rattled the authorities. For the sake of appearance, the heavies, including counter-terrorism personnel, New South Wales police and members of the Australian domestic spy agency, ASIO, were brought in. The pudding was ready for a severe overegging. On April 16, the NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb deemed the stabbing a “terrorist incident”. NSW Premier Chris Minns stated that the incident was being investigated as a “terrorist incident” given the “religiously motivated” language used during the alleged attack.

‘Poisoned’ data could wreck AIs in wartime, warns Army software acquisition chief


Even as the Pentagon makes big bets on big data and artificial intelligence, the Army’s software acquisition chief is raising a new warning that adversaries could “poison” the well of data from which AI drinks, subtly sabotaging algorithms the US will use in future conflicts.

“I don’t think our data is poisoned now,” deputy assistant secretary Jennifer Swanson emphasized Wednesday at a Potomac Officers Club conference, “but when we’re fighting a near-peer adversary, we have to know exactly what those threat vectors are.”

The fundamental problem is that every machine-learning algorithm has to be trained on data — lots and lots of data. The Pentagon is making a tremendous effort to collect, collate, curate, and clean its data so analytic algorithms and infant AIs can make sense of it. In particular, the prep team needs to throw out any erroneous datapoints before the algorithm can learn the wrong thing.

Commercial chatbots from 2016’s Microsoft Tay to 2023’s ChatGPT are notorious for sucking up misinformation and racism along with all the other internet content they consume. But what’s worse, Swanson argued, is that the military’s own training data might be deliberately targeted by an adversary – a technique known as “data poisoning.”

“Any commercial LLM [Large Language Model] that is out, there that is learning from the internet, is poisoned today,” Swanson said bluntly. “[But] I am honestly more concerned about what you call, you know, the ‘regular’ AI, because those are the algorithms that are going to really be used by our soldiers to make decisions in the battlefield.”

Making better chatbots isn’t the big problem for the Pentagon, she argued. “I think [generative AI] is fixable,” she said. “It really is all about the data.” Instead of training an LLM on the open internet, as OpenAI et al have done, the military would train it on a trusted, verified military dataset inside a secure, firewalled environment. Specifically, she recommended a system at DoD Impact Level 5 or 6, suitable for sensitive (5) or classified (6) data.

If the Pentagon has to share 5G spectrum, it wants some new ground rules


For years, Pentagon leaders have warned that commercial 5G wireless systems could prevent the Defense Department from accessing a key band of spectrum used for everything from testing counterdrone technologies to tracking ballistic missiles to helping jets avoid birds.

Balancing the needs for commercial 5G providers, and the economic benefits they could provide, with military priorities has proven a significant challenge. But now, Pentagon leaders say they have an idea: a complicated technological arrangement that would require nearly unprecedented levels of cooperation between government and industry as well as engineering heft.

In short, Pentagon officials know they need a spectrum sharing plan and want industry to help make it work.

Success is not guaranteed. But the outreach to industry shows what many observers once thought would never happen: that cooperation from the Pentagon on this issue is possible.

DoD leaders, including John Sherman, the Pentagon’s top IT official, met Monday with the National Spectrum Consortium, a group of more than 350 members of academia and industry who work with the electromagnetic spectrum, to take the first steps to outline a framework to share the bandwidth with industry and to kickstart a discussion on a spectrum management program.

“No surprise. We know that spectrum will be challenging,” said Kevin Mulvihill, the Pentagon’s deputy chief information officer for command, control and communications. “But we need to work together across industry, government and academia to explore potential ways to achieve spectrum coexistence for the benefit of the entire nation while ensuring that the spectrum sharing that we choose does not negatively affect the primary mission of the Department of Defense.”

Current Conflicts Demonstrate Need for More and Better Tanks In Eastern Europe

Dan Gouré

The main battle tank (MBT) is as important to modern warfare today as ever. The proliferation of suicide drones and advanced antitank guided missiles (ATGMs) has caused some observers to predict the demise of the MBT. They point to the losses in MBTs sustained by both Ukraine and Russia as evidence that the tank’s day has passed. The reality is precisely the opposite.

The modern battlefield is becoming increasingly complex and lethal. The inherent capabilities of armored platforms – survivability, mobility, firepower, and sensing – are more important today than they were in previous eras. That is why European nations, particularly those closest to Russia, are on a tank buying spree. They need to acquire thousands of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles from a variety of sources.

Until recently, it was a commonly held view among Western defense experts was that the age of large-scale armored warfare ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and that the MBT, the central fighting platform of that period, was increasingly irrelevant. Without the looming presence of the Soviet Army and its massive inventory of tanks in Central and Eastern Europe, there seemed little need to prepare for major tank battles in the future.

In addition, the growing inventory of ground and air-launched anti-tank weapons seemed to make the tank an expensive anachronism. As a result, many militaries reduced their inventories of MBTs, or even, as in the case of the Netherlands, eliminated them entirely.

Most of the world followed in halting existing tank modernization programs. One of the few exceptions was the United States, which maintained a program to upgrade its exceptional MBT, the M1 Abrams. Another was Israel, with its Merkava. Israel also pioneered the development of active protection systems (APS) to defend armored vehicles against ATGMs, rocket-propelled grenades, and even cannon-launched projectiles.

Converting a Political- to a Military-Strategic Objective

Milan Vego

Political objectives are usually achieved by using one’s military power. Converting political objectives into achievable military-strategic objectives is the primary responsibility of military-strategic leadership. This process is largely an art rather than a science. There are many potential pitfalls because much depends on the knowledge, understanding, experience, and judgment of military-strategic leaders. Most often, mistakes made are only recognized after setbacks or defeats suffered during the hostilities. Despite its critical importance, there is no consensus on the steps and methods in converting political- into militarystrategic objectives. There is scant writing on the subject in either doctrinal documents or professional journals.

Political vs. Military Objectives

Any war is fought to achieve certain political objectives, which may be described as securing important national or alliance/coalition interests in a certain part of a theater. When aimed to achieve national interests, a political objective is strategic in scale. Its accomplishment could have a radical effect on the course and outcome of a war. In his seminal work On War, Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) wrote that “no one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is the political purpose; the latter its operational objective.”1 He observed that “the political object—the original motive for war—will thus determine both the military objective to be reached and the amount of effort it requires.”2 Political objectives may be purely political. However, they are often combined with ideological, geopolitical, economic, financial, social, ethnic, and religious objectives.

A military-strategic objective is ending the enemy’s organized resistance and thereby achieving a major part of a given political-strategic objective. Yet the entire political objective is not accomplished unless military-strategic success is consolidated during the posthostilities (or stabilization) phase of a war. A military-strategic objective must always be subordinate to a given political objective. The British theoretician B.H. Liddell Hart cautioned that political leadership must make sure that political objectives of a war are achievable with military means that are currently or will soon be available. He warned that policy should “not demand what is militarily—that is, practically, impossible.” The “war aims must be adopted to limitations of strength and policy.”