15 June 2024

Agnikul’s first test flight: Time for private sector to be wings of Indian space industry

Ashwin Prasad

Launch Vehicle Startups in India

Accessing space is now easier than ever, creating new growth and innovation opportunities. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle ( SSLV ) to enable quick and flexible on-demand launches, complementing its existing fleet of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLV) for heavier payloads.

The private space industry in India is also making significant strides in improving the country’s launch capabilities. Leading the charge are the two startups, Skyroot and Agnikul. In 2022, Skyroot tested a suborbital-sounding rocket from Sriharikota. Following suit, Agnikul has successfully carried out its maiden suborbital flight test. Despite being 18 months behind Skyroot, Agnikul has tested a more advanced rocket in its fifth attempt.

Semi-Cryogenic Advantage

Agnibaan is a rocket powered by a 3D-printed semi-cryogenic engine. Cryogenic and semi-cryogenic rocket engines offer much higher energy density and specific impulse than traditional solid- and liquid-fueled engines. Specific impulse measures the engine’s efficiency in converting propellant to thrust. It is essentially the rocket’s ‘mileage’. Semi-cryogenic engines are the most popular rocket engines used today. Compared to solid-fuelled variants, semi-cryogenic engines allow for higher variability of thrust—the ability to throttle.

The dangers of Taiwan’s ‘strategic ambiguity’


When Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun, in Singapore late last month, he was treated to the usual litany of preemptive Beijing complaints alleging hostile U.S. intentions — “containment,” “encirclement” etc. — and U.S. bad faith by failing to honor the “one China principle.” Such charges have been repeated so often and so relentlessly that many Americans and others have come to accept them as historical fact.

Whether China’s professions of injured sensitivities are feigned or authentic depends on whether the communist leaders believe their own propaganda.

The bad-faith charge stems from the seminal document co-authored by Henry Kissinger and Zhou En-lai, the Shanghai Communiqué, the original sin of U.S.-China-Taiwan relations. Attempting to bridge the longstanding chasm between the Chinese and U.S. positions on Taiwan, Kissinger utilized what he, President Nixon, and many others considered “brilliant” wordsmithing.

China’s overseas bases aren’t a big threat, yet: RAND


China’s growing interest in opening more military bases abroad does not pose a big threat to U.S. forces in the next six years, RAND concludes in a new report out Monday. China is not well positioned to build foreign bases or run them in a way that will improve their ability to contest U.S. naval power, according to the report.

In 2017, China established a logistics support base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. “Houthi militants’ current attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and a renewed attack by pirates on shipping in the waters off Somalia have once again validated the strategic value of Djibouti and ensuring adjacent sea lines of communication such as the Bab al Mandab Strait remain navigable,” Henry Tugendhat of the United States Institute of Peace noted in January.

But according to a 2021 Defense Department assessment, the Djibouti pier China is building is large enough to support vessels like submarines and even aircraft carriers, which are not the sorts of vessels used for counter-piracy or humanitarian assistance.

China's New Era

Annie Luman Ren and Ben Hillman

The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, has declared his rule to be a ‘New Era’ 新时代. The Party’s Third Historical Resolution of 2021, which cemented Xi’s place in history, declared his leadership ‘the key to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. The Party distinguishes the New Era from the two previous eras in the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the first—the Mao Zedong era (1940–78)—China stood up and threw off the yoke of Western and Japanese imperialism. The second era—the Deng Xiaoping era (1979–2012), which includes the administrations of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessors—is recognised for its successful economic reforms and rapid industrial development. The third era (2013–), the era of Xi Jinping, promises to be the one in which China is restored to its place as one of the world’s great and powerful nations. This goal is encapsulated in the ‘China Dream’ and the two centennial goals that Xi Jinping set for his administration; namely, that China would become moderately prosperous by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, and an advanced, high-income economy and global power by 2049.

The real danger of Iran linking Hezbollah to Gaza - analysis


Eight months of war have provided Israel with a deeper understanding of the role of Iran in creating multi-front threats against Israel. Prior to October 7, it was widely believed that the real threat in the region was Iran and that Iran’s provision of weapons to Hezbollah was the main front that Israel should concentrate on. However, October 7 showed that Hamas could trigger a regional war by attacking Israel.

This means that it’s worth understanding now how Hamas continues to have its hand on the trigger. If there is a ceasefire in Gaza, for instance, there may be “quiet” in northern Israel. This means that Hamas’s actions may determine Hezbollah’s actions. Together, their actions are likely coordinated with Iran and also its other proxies such as the Houthis.

Any escalation in Gaza may therefore lead to escalation in the North. This is one of the main learning curves of this conflict. Israel did not plan for this eventuality. While Israel had planned for a multi-front war, it had not envisioned the Gaza front being the main one and Hezbollah being the stand-off front, where there is tit-for-tat rocket fire and airstrikes.

Houthis Attack Merchant Ship in Red Sea Off Yemen’s Coast

Anjana Sankar

Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a merchant ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday in the latest escalation of the Iran-backed militia’s campaign against shipping in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

A British government maritime agency said the vessel was “hit on the stern by a small craft” about 66 nautical miles southwest of the Houthi-held port of Hodeida in Yemen.

After the attack, the ship was “taking on water, and not under command of the crew,” the agency, The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, said in a statement on its website. The statement said the ship’s master had reported it was also “hit for a second time by an unknown airborne projectile.”

A majority of Iranians now favor possessing nuclear weapons. Their leaders take note.

Peyman Asadzade

Iran is currently in a state of nuclear latency; it possesses the necessary materials to develop nuclear weapons should it decide to proceed. However, Iranian leaders have consistently stated that the country has no such intentions. Historically, public opinion polls since the mid-2000s have consistently demonstrated that while Iranians favored a peaceful nuclear program, a majority of them opposed developing nuclear weapons.

A recent survey, however, suggests that Iranian citizens are growing more receptive to nuclear weapons.

The survey, conducted between February 20 and May 26, was designed and carried out by the author in collaboration with the Toronto-based company, IranPoll. It used an online panel of 2,280 Iranian citizens that closely reflects the demographic structure of the national population, with targeted quotas across region, age, income, and gender.

How a U.S.-Saudi Deal Could Reshape the Middle East

It’s a tantalizing dream for diplomats and longtime observers of the Middle East: A grand bargain that would normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, pause or end the war in Gaza, and deliver at least a roadmap to a Palestinian state. It’s also widely seen as a non-starter for the current Israeli government – and with that in mind, the U.S. is now pursuing a major strategic arrangement of its own with Saudi Arabia.

The two countries are reportedly close to finalizing a deal that would include U.S. security commitments to Saudi Arabia, a deepening U.S. military presence in the region and the cementing of a relationship that could serve as a bulwark against Iran as well as growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region. There are also economic benefits to be had for both nations – including civilian nuclear assistance for Saudi Arabia – as well as the prospect of pursuing that broader arrangement with Israel once this deal is done.

Joe Biden’s Ceasefire Proposal: Why It Won’t Work With Hamas

Lawrence Haas

“We await the answer from Hamas,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the group’s anticipated response to President Biden’s ceasefire proposal for Gaza, “and that will speak volumes about what they want, what they’re looking for, who they’re looking after.

“Are they looking after one guy who may be pronounced safe…” Blinken said of Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza who planned the group’s barbaric slaughter of 1,200 Israelis on October 7, ”while the people that he purports to represent continue to suffer in a crossfire of his own making? Or will he do what’s necessary to… help end the suffering of people, to help bring real security to Israelis and Palestinians alike?”

Did we really need to await Hamas’ response? Do we really wonder whether Sinwar – who’s hiding in Hamas’ tunnels in Gaza, reportedly shielded by some of its hostages – would ever put an end to Palestinian “suffering” and the onset of “real security to Israelis and Palestinians” before himself and his ruthless agenda? Must we slavishly pull at the presumed heartstrings of someone with blood on his hands and genocidal intent on his mind?

Lift the Restrictions and Let Ukraine Defend Itself | Opinion

Mark Temnycky

Officials from the United States, France, and Germany recently stated that the Ukrainians could use some of their weapons to strike Russian military targets near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv for "counter-fire purposes" only. The announcement was welcomed by many, but it was puzzling why it had taken Western officials so long to make the decision.

For nearly two and a half years, Ukrainians have been subjected to Russia's brutal and violent invasion. Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed. Numerous villages and towns have been destroyed. One-fourth of Ukraine's total population is displaced due to Russia's war.

When the war initially began, several Western news outlets believed that Ukraine would fall quickly to Russian forces. Many foreign leaders were hesitant to provide the Ukrainians with the weapons they needed to defend themselves from the onslaught of Russian troops, and several international observers watched the war anxiously.

Israel and Lebanon Won’t End Up at Wa

Ali Hashem

On the Lebanese side of the border with Israel, only a few villages remain intact, and vast neighborhoods in the towns that remain standing, like Marwaheen, are entirely destroyed. When night falls and darkness envelops the area, the only distant light visible is from nearly 30 kilometers away—the glowing Bahai Gardens in Haifa, Israel’s largest northern city, home to around 280,000 people.

US Army deploys a completely new type of cyber missile unit as part of Aukus alliance


The United States Army’s newly established Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) in the Pacific is a completely new kind of military unit. Armed with an array of cutting-edge technologies, such as high-altitude balloons, Precision Strike Missiles, cyber warfare units and unmanned systems, the MDTF is also the first real world manifestation of the lesser-known second pillar of the Australia-UK-US defence pact – Aukus.

Although Aukus Pillar 1, which concentrates on nuclear-powered submarines, has garnered much attention. Pillar 2 is less known. It involves advanced capabilities, including hypersonics, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence, and is equally, if not more, significant.

In the words of the agreement itself: “Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are pooling the talents of our defence sectors to catalyse, at an unprecedented pace, the delivery of advanced capabilities.”

How to Convince Putin He Will Lose

Dan Altman

Two ideas dominate discussions about how to bring the war in Ukraine closer to an end: the West should either pressure Ukraine to make concessions to Russia or support Ukraine’s efforts to win on the battlefield. Both approaches rightly recognize that negotiations will remain futile until changing circumstances compel one side to accept peace terms that it rejects today. Nonetheless, neither approach is likely to end the war.

Withholding arms from Ukraine could eventually force it to offer concessions to Russia as part of a desperate attempt to end the war, but advocates of this approach overlook how it would also affect Russia’s war aims. Moscow would react to its newfound military advantages by doubling down on its most extreme demands—further territorial gains in places such as Kharkiv and Odessa, regime change, demilitarization, and more. Any willingness in Kyiv to make concessions would be offset by Moscow’s newly expanded war aims. The result would be Russian gains on the battlefield, not peace.

White House bashes idea of creating Army Drone Corps


You can count White House leaders among those opposed to lawmakers’ proposal to establish a Drone Corps as a basic branch of the Army.

A provision in the House of Representatives’ version of the fiscal 2025 Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 8070, would mandate the creation of such an organization, giving it primary responsibility for programs, projects and activities involving small and medium unmanned aerial systems and counter-UAS weapons.

The secretary of the Army would be responsible for appointing the chief of the new branch.

The corps would be expected to serve as a “command center” for Army operations involving these types of weapons; help integrate the platforms with forces that have not traditionally used them; conduct research, development, testing and evaluation of technologies; provide personnel with specialized training; attract and retain personnel with relevant expertise; and develop strategies, according to the text of the legislation.

A Requiem for Hyperglobalization

Dev Patel, Justin Sandefur, and Arvind Subramanian

The Berlin Wall’s fall was a unique moment in geopolitical history, ushering in an era of unipolarity as the United States became the world’s hegemon. But it also heralded an unprecedented economic phenomenon: convergence. As early as the fifteenth century, formerly prosperous societies from Mesoamerica to China suffered reversals of fortune, falling—or being pushed—behind the West. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, growth rates in rich and poor nations diverged even further. But as the Cold War drew to a close, this grim historical pattern broke, and developing countries started growing faster. Within another decade, they began catching up, albeit slowly, with living standards in the rich West.

Some poorer economies had already experienced success in the twentieth century—South Korea and Taiwan prospered beginning in the 1960s, followed by Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand. But the era of convergence that began around 1990 stands out for its ubiquity of remarkable growth, extending to a plurality of developing countries. As a group, they started reversing their previously bleak economic fortunes. The world saw a historic decline in poverty not just in China and India but also in Latin America and, starting in the mid-1990s, in sub-Saharan Africa.

Hezbollah fires 200 rockets at Israel after senior commander killed

Hezbollah has launched one of its largest rocket barrages at northern Israel since the start of the war on Gaza.

The launch of more than 200 projectiles on Wednesday morning came in response to the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in southeastern Lebanon in a strike the previous evening. The attacks raise concern that the military confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah is escalating, with both saying they are prepared for war.

The Israeli military confirmed on Wednesday it had killed Taleb Abdullah as well as three other Hezbollah fighters in the strike.

Gaza War: Tet Offensive Redux?

Leon Hadar

In January 1968, during the Lunar New Year (or “Tet”) holiday, North Vietnamese and communist Viet Cong forces launched a coordinated attack against a number of targets in South Vietnam. The U.S. and South Vietnamese militaries sustained heavy losses before finally repelling the communist assault.

The North Vietnamese had hoped that the offensive would trigger a popular uprising, leading to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government and forcing the United States to negotiate a peace agreement or perhaps even withdraw.

The strikes on the major cities of Saigon and Hue had a strong psychological impact as far as the game of expectations was concerned. They demonstrated that the North Vietnamese were not as weak as the administration of then-President Lyndon Johnson had claimed; after all, they managed to breach the outer walls of the U.S. Embassy.

Selecting Generals and Admirals Who can Fight and Stay out of Jail

Gary Anderson

U.S. Naval Institute Photo ArchiveThe recent arrest of Admiral Robert Burke on corruption charges is an indication of the decline in the quality and integrity of our general and flag officers (GFOs) to an alarming degree. To remedy this decline, Congress needs to re-evaluate how we GFOs. Since retiring from active duty in 2000, I have known several military officers who achieved flag or general officer rank and for a disturbing number of them, I would not follow into a pillow fight, much less armed combat. Too many reached that rank by being skilled bureaucrats, not making enemies, and keeping superiors happy.

An alarming number led our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, not all were ineffectual, but too many were. That does not mean that they were bad officers, many are accomplished managers and technocrats who have done great service for their country, and we need them to keep our complex war machine running. For example, General Leslie Groves, who managed the Manhattan Project that developed the Atomic Bomb would have been a mediocre combat leader, but his managerial skills and judgment were superb. But how to we ensure that our GFOs possess the warfighting and leadership skill necessary to lead our military.

Defence diplomacy in the war in Ukraine – cooperation and challenges

Lech Drab and Marzena Żakowska


The ongoing war in Ukraine presents a large-scale cooperation between the Ukrainian government and Western countries, aimed at defending against Russian aggression. This cooperation directly illustrates that security is no longer solely a state or regional issue but has become a global problem. Within the framework of this cooperation, various diplomatic domains come into play, with defense diplomacy emerging as a prominent facet. Defense diplomacy, in this context, can be defined as the strategic and non-confrontational use of defense capabilities to foster constructive relationships and achieve positive outcomes in bilateral and multilateral interactions with specific countries. Crucially, defense diplomacy distinguishes itself from military operations. Instead, it operates through a diverse set of cooperative measures. These include the exchange of personnel, the deployment of ships and aircraft, high-level visits by senior military officials, bilateral meetings and dialogues, joint training exercises, active participation in regional defense forums, provision of military assistance, implementation of confidence-building measures, and engagement in non-proliferation efforts. (Dodd and Oakes 1998, p. 22; Ministry of Defence, London 2011, p. 7).

A new NATO command structure

Richard D. Hooker

The 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in the Donbas brought home to NATO the need for a relook of the NATO Command Structure (NCS), resulting in the creation of Joint Force Command Norfolk and the Joint Support and Enabling Command, both in 2018.1 The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO have once again altered the security landscape in the North Atlantic treaty area. These dramatic events suggest an urgent need for a revised NATO Command Structure, better suited to the security needs of allies and better organized to deter and defend in light of these new realities.2

The current structure consists of two strategic military commands: Allied Command Operations (ACO) based in Mons, Belgium, and Allied Command Transformation (ACT) based in Norfolk, Virginia. These are supported by three “operational” commands: Joint Force Command Brunssum, oriented to the east; Joint Force Command Naples, oriented to NATO’s southern flank; and Joint Force Command Norfolk, oriented to the North Atlantic sea lanes of communication. In addition, there are three “tactical” commands: Allied Air Command, based in Ramstein, Germany; Allied Land Command, based in Izmir, Turkey; and Allied Maritime Command, based in Northwood in the United Kingdom.3 While suitable for peacetime requirements, these arrangements are not optimized for major theater war against Russia. What has changed, and why do these changes require new command structures?

Friendshoring the Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Chain: Battery Cell Manufacturing

William Alan Reinsch, Meredith Broadbent, Thibault Denamiel, and Elias Shammas


Nearshoring the lithium-ion battery supply chain requires substantial policy efforts at every stage. Upstream inputs, such as critical minerals sourcing and processing, are concentrated in a few nations. Although many more countries engage in midstream and downstream processing of critical resources, access to this end of the supply chain is becoming less secure for U.S. manufacturers because of uncertainty in the domestic and geopolitical spheres.

Commensurate to the breadth of the challenges is the importance of overcoming them. An adequate, predictable supply of lithium-ion batteries, as well as the supply chain and raw materials, is essential to reaching green transition goals in the United States. These batteries power key products that enable a sustainable, large-scale switch away from fossil fuels essential to long-term environmental goals.

National Defense University (NDU) PressPRISM, June 2024, v. 10, no. 4

Examining the Value of a “Soft Power” Net Assessment: Comparing Chinese and U.S. Power Projection in Africa

Demoralizing Defeat: An Assessment of the Strategic Breakthrough, from Alexander the Great to Operation Iraqi Freedom

Preparing for a Post-Armed Conflict Strategic Environment

Strategic Political Sabotage and How to Tackle It

Cybersecurity on Retainer: Supporting National Incident Response Capability Through the Private Sector

Space as Warfighting Domain: From Education to an Enhanced Global Space Strategy

The Russia-Ukraine Crisis: How Regional Conflicts Impact the Global Economy

A Gray Zone Option for Integrated Deterrence: Special Operations Forces (SOF)

Jamestown FoundationChina Brief, June 7, 2024, v. 24, no. 12

Taiwan’s Reform Bills Indicate Volatility

PRC Transfer of Military and Dual-Use Technology: the Case of the International Conference on Defence Technology

PRC Pursuit of Geopolitical and Military Objectives in the South Pacific

Hong Kong’s Ambitious and Difficult Cryptocurrency Foray

The Untold Psychological War in Hong Kong: Gray Media’s Influence Operation on the Legislation of Article 23

6 Ways AI Will Change War and the World

Hal Brands

Artificial intelligence will change our everyday lives in innumerable ways: how governments serve their citizens; how we drive (and get driven); how we handle and, we hope, protect our finances; how doctors diagnose and treat diseases; even how my students research and write their essays.

But just how revolutionary will AI be? Will it upend the global balance of power? Will it allow autocracies to rule the world? Will it make warfare so fast and ferocious that it becomes uncontrollable? In short, will AI fundamentally alter the rhythms of world affairs?

It is, of course, too soon to say definitively: The effects of AI will ultimately hinge on the decisions leaders and nations make, and technology sometimes takes surprising turns. But even as we are wowed and worried by the next version of ChatGPT, we need to wrestle with six deeper questions about international affairs in the age of AI. And we need to consider a surprising possibility: Perhaps AI won’t change the world as much as we seem to expect.

Air Force tests AI-designed, 3D-printed drones


The Qatar-based U.S. Air Force task force that’s been experimenting with unmanned technologies—including AI-designed, 3D-printed drones—may add a component on U.S. soil.

The small group, based at Al Udeid Air Base, has a three-year “strategic workforce plan” that “envisions a stateside element that continues to develop and grow partnerships with the global innovation ecosystem,” said Col. Jeffrey Digsby, commander of Air Forces Central Command’s Task Force 99.

Launched in October 2022 as an experimental unit, the task force has already used some of its new drones in Middle East operations, and is testing out new ways of quickly manufacturing cheap drones with artificial intelligence.