Category Archives: Armament

Massive Ordnance Air Blast, MOAB – A Perspective

(Published in CASS Journal, Vol4, No.3. Jul-Sep 2017. ISSN 2347-9191)

On 13th April 2017 at 7:32 p.m. local time[1], U.S. Forces Afghanistan conducted a strike using a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, MOAB dropped from an U.S. aircraft on an ISIS (Khorasan) tunnel complex in Achin district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Some of the immediate reactions were: –

-Mr Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, said that the strike was “designed to support the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)” and “precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties”[2],

-Mr Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president condemned the attacks in a series of tweets saying “This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons”[3]

In January 2015, the ISIS had announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch, it was also the first time the ISIS had officially spread its wings outside the Arab world. In December 2015, analyst Harleen Gambhir of Institute for the Study of War, ISW had indicated that ISIS is likely to expand in Afghanistan- Pakistan region[4] as ISIS associate Wilayat Khorasan, controlling Nangarhar province, had commenced attacking Kabul and Jalalabad. It was estimated that ISIS influence is likely to increase further due to many factors such as, infighting among Taliban, vacuum due withdrawal of international forces and reduction in competition with al-Qaeda due to support of Khorasan.

Nangarhar Province is located in eastern Afghanistan, on the Afghanistan – Pakistan border. It is bordered by Kunar and Laghman provinces in the north, Pakistan in the east and south, and Kabul and Logar provinces in the west. It provides the easiest passage to Pakistan from Afghanistan. Topographical Features of Nangarhar include Spin Ghar and Safed Mountain Ranges along the southern border; belt of forests along southern mountain ranges and in Dara-I-Nur District in north; Khyber Pass in Mahmund Dara District in east; bare soil, and rocky outcrop throughout centre of the province. Achin, the target of the MOAB on 13 April 2017, is one of the districts in southern Nangarhar, bordering Pakistan.

The ISIS (K) were using a tunnel and cave complex in Tora Bora area which was apparently created by Central Intelligence Agency, CIA for the Mujahideen in 1980 in their fight against the Soviets. Tora Bora has steep heights, mountains, valleys and caves. The Tora Bora CIA complex constitutes of miles of tunnels, bunkers and camps built with the financial support of CIA 35 miles south west of Jalalabad[5]. It is understood that the complex was built by the Saudi Binladen group and the young Osama bin Laden had played a big role in its construction. The complex is said to have its own ventilation and hydroelectric power supply system.  Subsequently Osama bin Laden had hidden in the same tunnel complex before escaping to Pakistan during attack on Tora Bora. The MOAB was dropped on the same mountain ridge in the Achin district of Nangarhar.[6]

Conventional/Incendiary/Fuel Air Explosive/Thermobaric Bombs

It is required to differentiate between conventional, incendiary, Fuel Air Explosive and Thermobaric bombs because MOAB is compared with different types of Bombs like the Russian 15, 650-pound Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP) also called the FOAB (father of all bombs), as well as the 30,000-pound GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

Conventional Bombs. A conventional bomb is a metal casing filled with high explosives (HE). Conventional bombs are generally classified according to the ratio of explosive to total weight. They are mainly of three types namely general purpose or GP, penetration and cluster bombs (The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that has prohibited the use, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster bombs, which scatters submunitions (“bomblets”) over an area). A GP bomb produces a combination of blast and fragmentation effects with weight of its explosive filling approximately equal to half of its total weight. In the fragmentation bomb the explosive filling is up to 20% of its total weight, with fragmentation cases making up the remaining weight. The damage is caused due to fragments travelling at high velocities. The penetration bombs have up to 25/30% of explosive filling and remaining is taken up by the body designed for penetration.  The kinetic energy of the bomb or the shaped charge or a combination of both achieve the penetration of the target.

Incendiary Explosives. Incendiaries cause damage by fire. They are used to burn supplies, equipment, and structures.

Fuel Air Explosives FAE. These disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel ignited by a detonator to affect an explosion. The wave front expands rapidly due to overpressure and flattens objects in the vicinity of the FAE cloud, and also causes heavy damage in the neighbouring area. A FAE bomb contains fuel and two independent explosive charges. After deployment, the first explosive charge is used to burst open the fuel container at a predetermined height and disperse the fuel. The fuel disperses and mixes with atmospheric oxygen and flows around the target area. The second charge is then made to detonate the cloud, which creates a massive blast wave. The blast wave results in extensive damage to the target especially in enclosed spaces.

Thermobaric weapons. Thermobaric weapons have been designed to overcome the short comings of conventional weapons when used against fortified structures/buildings. The blast wave generated by thermobaric weapons are not designed for penetration and it is effective in causing blast damage in a large radius. Fuels are chosen on the basis of the exothermicity of their oxidation, ranging from powdered metals, such as aluminium or magnesium, to organic materials, possibly with a self-contained partial oxidant. During detonation of a high explosive bomb, rapid formation of a blast wave, thermal radiation, break-up of the munition casing, and acceleration of the fragments takes place. In the case of conventional blast/fragmentation warheads, a large part of the energy is consumed by the breaking-up of the shell and acceleration of the fragments. Thermobaric weapons have thin casings and maximum energy is released in a couple of microseconds as a blast/shock wave. In the initial detonation only a small part of energy gets released, the products of detonation thereafter suck oxygen from the air and burn in what is termed as after-burning[7]. This increases the blast pressure wave as well as the fire envelope.

Guidance of Bombs

Air to surface bombs today have either laser guidance kits or Global Positioning System, GPS guidance kits. The laser guided bombs were found to be difficult to deploy in bad weather/visibility conditions or when the targets could not be safely illuminated by the designator, and this led to the preference for GPS guided munitions. Munitions with integrated Inertial Navigation System, INS coupled to a GPS receiver like the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) of Boeing are all weather deployable. The GPS/INS coupled with a tail control system provide the guidance. The Aircraft provides the initializing position and velocity, the target coordinates are also fed/updated by the aircraft through a data link. With GPS, the bomb gives a circular error probable (CEP) of five meters and without the GPS (signal lost/not available/jammed) for flight times up to 100 seconds the CEP is 30 meters. Thus, the GPS/INS kits have enabled the bombs to have the following advantages[8]:

  • Deployable in all weather conditions.
  • Fire and forget capability, the aircraft can proceed to its next task after launch.
  • Enhanced Launch Acceptance Region or LAR because these kits enable the weapon to adjust the flight trajectory at the time of launch to hit the target.
  • GPS provides an accurate common time code for all systems.
  • Flight trajectory can be programmed to hit the target at desired angle of impact.

As a further improvement Laser JDAM is now operational which has an add on laser kit in addition to the GPS/INS to take care of manoeuvring targets and midcourse alterations. A new wing kit (extended range- ER) can also be added to extend the range of the bomb up to 38 nm.

The MOAB – ‘Mother of All Bombs’

The GBU-43/B (MOAB) is a large, powerful and accurately delivered conventional bomb. It has KMU-593/B GPS-guidance with fins and inertial gyro for pitch and roll control. The KMU-593/B kits have been further upgraded with SAASM (Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module) technology in the GPS receivers. In a further improvement, the KMU-xxx/C kits are additionally fitted with Anti-Jam technology. The MOAB is a satellite guided improved version of the 15000-pound BLU-82 Daisy Cutter bomb. It is 30 feet in length with a diameter of 40.5 inches. The warhead is a BLU 120-B aluminium casing weighing 3000 pounds with an explosive weight of 18,700 pounds. The warhead is designed for blast effect. It was designed to be delivered by a C-130 and originally used the explosive Tritonal, a mixture of 80% Tri nitro toluene, TNT and 20% aluminium powder. It was first tested in March 2003 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, when it produced a mushroom cloud that could be seen up to 20 miles away[9]. The current explosive filling is 18,700 pounds of H6. H6 is a type of HBX explosive composition, which is a cast able military explosive mixture composed of 44.0% RDX (Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), 29.5% TNT and 21.0% powdered aluminium by weight. The MOAB delivers a massive explosive blast (over pressure), with lesser fragmentation effects due to a thin-walled aluminium casing. MOAB is a good choice against caves and earthen tunnels since the pressure waves on entering the complex can severely injure personnel and collapse the structures. The MOAB provides a capability to perform psychological operations, attack large area targets, or hold at-risk threats hidden within tunnels or caves. It is not designed for deep penetration and is an area impact weapon.

The MOAB is cradle launched from C-130 Hercules or MC-130 Talon II aircraft by means of a drogue extraction parachute. [10] Thereafter, the MOAB is guided for approximately 3 nautical miles through a GPS system (with inertial gyros for pitch and roll control), JDAM actuators, and is stabilized by series of fixed wings and grid fins.  The MOAB does not use a retarding parachute, thus permitting the aircraft to fly at higher altitudes, and making it safer for US pilots.

Future Trends in Design and Development of Conventional Bombs

It is understood that nanotechnology is spearheading the development of highly potent explosives, however, not much information is available through open sources, much of it has to be gleaned from research papers and patents (for e.g. Patents like US20150210605 – Structure of energetic materials, US6955732 – Advanced thermobaric explosive compositions and WO2013119191A1 – Composition for a fuel and air explosion).

Essentially, Nano energetic materials (nEMs) perform better than conventional materials because of much larger surface area, which increases speed of reaction and larger energy release in much shorter time. Addition of Super thermites[11] (nano-aluminium based) have shown instantaneous increase in explosive power of existing compositions[12]. Further, use of nano-sized materials in explosives has significantly increased safety and insensitivity by as much as over 30% without affecting reactivity. It is predicted that nEMs would provide the same explosive power at mass up to two orders of magnitude less than the current explosive systems[13].

While Nanosizing of high explosives leads to increasing their explosive power[14] and decreasing their sensitivity to external forces[15], it also decreases its thermal stability. The shelf life of such explosives could therefore stand reduced; however, some patents reveal that this issue has also been resolved technically (e.g. patent US20120227613 Thermal enhanced blast warhead). In India, the work on explosives and propellants is being undertaken at High Energy Materials Laboratory, HEMRL, a Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO laboratory, and it is understood that the research in nEMs is progressing satisfactorily.

It can be envisaged that nEMs would replace the conventional explosives in the next decade. This would provide existing conventional weapons with explosive powers higher in magnitude by a factor of two and enhance the safety to external stimulation by at least 30%. In simple terms, a missile warhead having an explosive content of 200 kg of TNT equivalent would have an explosive power of 20,000 kg of TNT equivalent when substituted with nEMs material of same weight of 200 kg! This advancement could displace Tactical nukes from the battlefield.

Nanotechnology is permeating in all fields of design & manufacturing of weapons and ammunition. It is bringing unprecedented precision in weapon systems, robustness in triggering mechanisms and opening new frontiers in propellant and pyrotechnic functioning. In addition to explosive and propellants, Nanomaterials have ushered in innovative improvements in many characteristics of ammunition such as guidance, penetration capacity, embedded sensors for monitoring condition, embedded antennae for guidance and so on.

Russian Answer to MOAB

An Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP) was tested by Russia on 11 September 2007. It was said to be the most powerful conventional bomb in the world, with a 7-Ton explosive mixture resulting in a devastating effect equivalent to 44 tons of TNT[16]. It was nicknamed the Father of All Bombs (FOAB). It was hinted that the FOAB contained a liquid fuel, such as ethylene oxide, mixed with energetic nano-aluminium powder, which was dispersed by a high explosive booster. Some reports speculated that the liquid fuel was purified using nano-filters. What caught the imagination of defense experts was the fact that the Russian FOAB had less fuel than the MOAB, but was four times more powerful. It was also probably the first time that the nonprofessional learned of the lethal uses of nanotechnology.

India’s Biggest Conventional Bomb – SPICE

India has acquired the 2000 pound Israeli SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) bomb. It is the biggest bomb in the inventory of the Indian Airforce. Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence System’s first precision guidance kit for dumb bombs was called the SPICE. SPICE kits claim a CEP (Circular error probable) of three metres. SPICE’s Automatic Target Acquisition capability works by comparing a real-time image received from the dual Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) and infrared seeker to a reference image stored in the weapon’s computer. The SPICE can be carried on Mirage 2000 as well as on a variant of SU-30 MK1 aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The SPICE-2000 is stated to have a stand-off range of 32.3nm (60km).

MOAB the New WMD?

‘In the more distant future, weapons systems based on new principles (beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, psychophysical and other technology) will be developed. All this will, in addition to nuclear weapons, provide entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals. Such hi-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but will be more “acceptable” in terms of political and military ideology. In this sense, the strategic balance of nuclear forces will play a gradually diminishing role in deterring aggression and chaos.[17]

Vladimir Putin, 2012

There are differing definitions of weapons of mass destruction WMD, therefore it is better to adhere to the one adopted by the United Nations. The definition of WMD was arrived at by the United Nations Convention on Conventional Armament in its first resolution in 1948.The Commission advised the Security Council that “all armaments and armed forces, except atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction fall within its jurisdiction” and also stated that “weapons of mass destruction should be defined to include atomic explosive weapons, radioactive material weapons, lethal chemical and biological weapons, and any weapons developed in the future which have characteristics comparable in destructive effect to those of the atomic bomb or other weapons mentioned above”.[18] This definition provides the guidelines to distinguish between the conventional weapons and the WMDs.

The determining factors distinguishing the Conventional weapons from the WMD could be the terms Mass Causalities and Mass Destruction. However, mass casualties can also be inflicted by conventional weapons during extended periods of siege or carpet bombings. There is ambiguity in the sense that that event of occurrence of mass casualties could be a single event or a series of consecutive events. The number of casualties could in fact be higher in sustained usage of conventional weapons than in the case of a single use WMD. The other notable point is that there is no quantification of the term ‘Mass’, i.e. how many dead humans would qualify for an event to be termed as Mass casualty. The term mass destruction also suffers from similar dichotomy.  A barrage of conventional weapons can cause a larger scale physical destruction spread across tens of miles as compared to a single WMD in a single event, again, quantification as to what constitutes Mass Destruction has not been defined clearly.

The MOAB has been incorrectly compared to a nuclear bomb. It has less than 1000th[19] of the power of the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ dropped on Hiroshima because the MOAB blast was equivalent to 11 tons of TNT whereas the Hiroshima blast was close to 13000 tons equivalent of TNT.  The ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was a 20,000 tons equivalent of TNT. However, the blast radius of MOAB lies in the same one mile radius as the atomic bombs of WWII. Conventional bombs can never achieve the damage potential of the exponential rise of energy that ensues upon a nuclear bombs detonation. The most powerful of nuclear bombs today is the B83 bomb of the United States, it uses a fission process similar to that used in the atomic bombs, the initial energy is then used to ignite a fusion reaction in a secondary core of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium. The nuclei of the hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium, and result in a chain reaction leading to a far more powerful explosion. The nuclear fission bomb B83, has a blast equivalent to 1,200,000 tons of TNT compared to 11 tons equivalent of TNT blast by the MOAB. The tactical nuclear weapons range from 10 tons to 100 kilotons. What unambiguously differentiates a conventional weapon from a WMD would be the latent effects of the deployment, which in case of atomic/nuclear weapons last across generations in case of humans and decades in case of remediation of the material. The UN definition of WMD covering atomic, radiological, chemical, biological, or any weapon producing similar effects appears to be sustainable, from this it can be inferred that MOAB/FOAB type of conventional bombs; which lie on the lowest limits of the destructive power of tactical nukes without the attendant latent effects; would not fall in the category of WMD.

An U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 Combat Talon transport aircraft dropped the MOAB out of the cargo ramp on 13th April 2017.The bomb detonated at 7.32 pm local time in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar[20].  The Guardian reported that “a local security official said they had requested a large strike because fighter jets and drones had failed to destroy the tunnel complex”. Also, Ismail Shinwari, the district governor of Achin, said, “the strike was closely coordinated with Afghan soldiers and special forces, and tribal elders had been informed to evacuate civilians.[21] He also told AFP that that at least 92 ISIL fighters were killed in the bombing.[22] It was confirmed later by the Afghan officials that foreign militants, including 13 Indians, were also killed in the bombing.[23] The Indians had joined ISIS and were fighting for caliphate.

The MOAB had proved itself in Global War on Terror.

 

[1] U.S. Bombs, Destroys Khorasan Group Stronghold in Afghanistan. U.S. Department of Defense. 13 April 2017. https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1151139/us-bombs-destroys-khorasan-group-stronghold-in-afghanistan/ (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[2] D’Angelo, Bob. “Afghan official: 36 ISIS fighters killed by ‘MOAB’”. ajc.com. 14 April 2017. http://www.ajc.com/news/military/afghan-official-isis-fighters-killed-moab/2eZENK0N1wpZNmp2OJZJaK/ (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[3] “U.S. drops ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan, marking weapon’s first use”. CBS News. 13 April 2017. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-drops-mother-of-all-bombs-in-afghanistan-marking-weapons-first-use/ (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[4] Harleen Gambhir, ISIS in Afghanistan: ISW Research. 3 December 2015.

http://iswresearch.blogspot.in/2015/12/isis-in-afghanistan-december-3-2015.html (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[5] Weaver, Mary Anne. “Lost at Tora Bora”. The New York Times. 11 September 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/magazine/lost-at-tora-bora.html (Accessed 25 May 2017).

[6] Robertson, Nic (2017-14-04) MOAB hit caves used by ISIS, drug smugglers and Osama bin Laden. CNN.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/13/asia/afghanistan-moab-target-robertson/index.html (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[7] Dr Anna E Wildegger-Gaissmaier. Aspects of thermobaric weaponry. ADF Health Vol 4 April 2003.

http://www.defence.gov.au/health/infocentre/journals/ADFHJ_apr03/ADFHealth_4_1_03-06.pdf (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[8] Attariwala, Joetey. Dumb Bombs with Graduate Degrees, Armada International. 27April 2017.

https://armadainternational.com/2017/04/dumb-bombs-with-graduate-degrees/ (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[9] Mizokami, Kyle. U.S. Air Force Drops the Largest Conventional Bomb Ever Used in Combat. 13Apr 2017. http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a26055/us-air-force-drops-moab-isis/ (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[10] GBU-43/B “Mother of All Bombs”, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/moab.htm (Accessed 05 Jun 2017)

[11] Nano-Thermite or Super-Thermite is a metastable intermolecular composite (MICs) containing an oxidizer and a reducing agent, which are intimately mixed on the nanometer scale. This dramatically increases the reactivity relative to micrometer -sized powder thermite. MICs, including nano-thermitic materials, are a type of reactive materials investigated for military use, as well as for general applications involving propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics.

[12] Gartner, John. “Military Reloads with Nanotech.” Technology Review, an MIT Enterprise, 21 January 2005. http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/14105/page1/ (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[13] Yang, Guangcheng, Fude Nie, Jinshan Li, Qiuxia Guo, and Zhiqiang Qiao. “Preparation and Characterization of Nano-NTO Explosive.” Journal of Energetic Materials, 25, 2007.

[14] Kaili Zhang, Carole Rossi, and G.A. Ardila Rodriguez. “Development of a Nano-Al/CuO Based Energetic Material on Silicon Substrate.” Applied Physics Letters No. 91, 14 September 2007.

[15] Guangcheng Yang, Fude Nie, Jinshan Li, Qiuxia Guo, and Zhiqiang Qiao. “Preparation and Characterization of Nano-NTO Explosive.” Journal of Energetic Materials, 25, 2007.

[16] Russia tests giant fuel-air bomb. BBC. 12 Sep 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6990815.stm / (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[17] Vladimir Putin, “Being Strong: National Security Guarantees for Russia,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 20, 2012, http://archive.premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/18185// (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[18] Commission on Conventional Armaments (CCA), UN document S/C.3/32/Rev.1, August 1948, as quoted in UN, Office of Public Information, The United Nations and Disarmament, 1945–1965, UN Publication 67.I.8, 28.

[19] Tayag, Yasmin. How Does the “Mother of All Bombs” Compare to a Nuclear Bomb? 13 April 2017. https://www.inverse.com/article/30306-moab-mother-of-all-bombs-compare-nuclear-atomic-bomb-hiroshima-nagasaki (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[20] Ackerman, Spencer; Rasmussen, Sune Engel (14 April 2017). “36 Isis militants killed in US ‘mother of all bombs’ attack, Afghan ministry says”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/13/us-military-drops-non-nuclear-bomb-afghanistan-islamic-state (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[21] Rasmussen, Sune Engel. “‘It felt like the heavens were falling’: Afghans reel from MOAB impact”. The Guardian. 14 April 2017.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/14/it-felt-like-the-heavens-were-falling-afghans-reel-from-moabs-impact?CMP=share_btn_tw (Accessed 25 May 2017).

[22] “IS death toll hits 90 from huge US bomb in Afghanistan”. Times Live. 15 April 2017. http://www.timeslive.co.za/world/2017/04/15/IS-death-toll-hits-90-from-huge-US-bomb-in-Afghanistan (Accessed 05 Jun 2017)

[23] “13 suspected Indian IS fighters killed as MOAB hit Afghanistan: Reports”. Hindustan Times. 18 April 2017. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/13-suspected-indian-is-fighters-killed-as-mother-of-all-bombs-hit-afghanistan-reports/story-q0klSwa0SH2CocXkyHMAWK.html (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

 

74. Weaponised Unmanned Vehicles in the Indian Navy: Technology Outlook

(Published IndraStra Global   May 22, 2016 )

In the Navy unmanned vehicles constitute four types of vehicles which operate in aerial, surface-land, surface-sea and underwater environments. Even though more glamorous terms like ‘autonomous vehicles’ are used to describe them, in reality, all these vehicles fall in the category of remotely controlled/piloted robotic vehicles. However, it is also true that in most of these categories, higher and higher degree of autonomous functioning can be built-in with the available technology.

The question that arises before the Indian Navy is whether it is ready to go for development of autonomous unmanned systems, which would be cable of engaging a target and inflicting lethal damage on their own? Is the Indian Navy willing to develop technologies that empower the vehicle with embedded artificial intelligence to make the final decision to launch weapons at the target independent of any human intervention?

It may be worthwhile to look at some innovative technologies, which are going to have a profound effect upon weaponised unmanned vehicles of tomorrow.

Cutting-Edge Artificial Intelligence (AI):

Whereas artificial intelligence would enable an unmanned vehicle to perceive and respond to its changing environment, the cutting edge AI would enable the unmanned vehicle to learn automatically by assimilating large volumes of environmental and tactical information. There is a need for the Indian Navy to look in to technologies and software formulations which  would permit an unmanned vehicle, for example, to launch itself, proceed to learn acoustic, magnetic or electromagnetic signatures and identify the target on its own (as distinct from current weapons like mines, torpedoes and missiles which have a tested and tried inbuilt code). The need to pursue technologies that would enable it to go a step further by taking a decision to launch its weapons could be looked at  in future.

Profound/ Deep Learning in respect of Unmanned Vehicles:

There is a definite need to look into Profound or / Deep learning technological issues since for most of the areas of their operations, unmanned vehicles would be required to accumulate vast amounts of data/ intelligence inputs from the surroundings, process it and upload it to systems for decision making by humans. Fundamentally, advanced algorithms need to be developed for unmanned vehicles through which the vehicle on its own can differentiate changes from the normal that need to be highlighted for predicting a future course of events by the analysts. Since Unmanned underwater vehicles would operational for periods extending over months at a time,one area of importance could be to make the vehicle unlearn (specific areas it has self-written the codes for), since it occupies memory space or it may no longer remain relevant.

Green Technologies for Unmanned Vehicles:

As the Unmanned systems race to achieve higher and higher levels of autonomous operations, there is a need to look into technologies, which would make unmanned vehicles more environmental friendly, like the use of green plastics of the poly hexahydrotriazines or PHTs category, which provide the same strength but are biodegradable. Similar advances need to be explored for providing the unmanned vehicles with green electrical power and its storage for long endurance operations.  Neuromorphic Technology.  Neuromorphic chips are designed to process information by mimicking human brain’s architecture resulting in massive computing and processing power. These combine data storage and data processing components in same interconnected modules thus providing power as well as energy efficiency.

Communications Pathways:

Satellites are not the only pathway for reliable communications, be it for data, voice, or command & control. There is a requirement for a resilient architecture that can act as a redundant pathway to atmospheric communications (including underwater) through electromagnetic domains including digital communications utilizing fiber domain. Fiber carries far larger bandwidth than what can be carried through the satellite systems. Multiple pathways would provide greater safety and protection to the cyber networks. Technologies need to be developed, to make the network physically resilient to deal with High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), and to make the network react by itself to tampering by external actors.

Additive Manufacturing Technology:

Distributed manufacturing enables efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories. It also reduces the amount of capital required to build the first prototypes and products. Further, it limits the overall environmental impact of manufacturing since digital information is transferred over the internet with local sourcing of raw materials. However, Additive manufacturing poses a potentially disruptive challenge to conventional processes and supply chains. Its nascent applications in aerospace sectors need to be developed for the unmanned systems across the Naval unmanned requirement. There is a need to examine and develop 3D printing of circuit boards and other integrated electronic components. Currently, Nano scale component integration into 3D printing is a formidable challenge for this technology. Taking a step further, adaptive-additive technologies (4D printing) would be ushering in products that would be responsive to the natural environment (like temperature and humidity) around them.

Test and evaluations of Unmanned Systems:

Test and evaluation of collaborative (Humans and robotic) systems is a big technological leap that needs to be addressed at the earliest. As of now, there is no software, which can test a collaborative system both physically, and intellectually, once an unmanned system has been tasked to learn on its own, it should have the capability to convey the extent of its learning as it progresses in its knowledge acquisition process. Navy needs to delve into cognitive testing aspects of software for unmanned vehicles today to fruitfully operate autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

Disruptive Unmanned Warfare:

Autonomous vehicles have ushered in a paradigm shift from the few big, expensive, and lethal weapons to large numbers of small, cheap, and smart unmanned systems capable of swarming the adversary. The unmanned vehicles today can carry significant amounts of weapons utilizing new designs of weapons with nano materials. The Navy needs to explore technologies for developing new types of weapons for use in the autonomous vehicles.

Finally, the Indian Navy has to focus in the coming years on the technology developments in the commercial sector which have outpaced the developments in the military; especially in the software; and the artificial intelligence sector. It has to seek ways and means to synergize the commercial sector developments such that it can become a force multiplier ushering in the next RMA.

 

Weapons and Sensors that Wait to Strike

(Published 24 Jun 2016, CLAWS)

 

Passive sensor triggered weapons have been in use for a considerable time by the military. They have been in form of Bangalore Torpedo, anti tank mines or anti personnel mines on land and as ground or moored mines at sea. Passive sensors have been extensively used on land for electronic support measures and at sea for detection of ships by submarines. One of the largest chains of passive sensors in the WWII era was Sound Surveillance System or SOSUS. It was a chain of hydrophone sensors located at various places in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. The main aim was locating Soviet submarines transiting the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom gap (GIUK gap). With developments in stealth technologies, other elements have been added to it such as the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS), and it has become part of the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS)[1].

One of the important weapons of the cold war era, that lay dormant until activated, was the anti submarine encapsulated torpedo MK 60 CAPTOR. It was a deep-water mine which could be laid by aircrafts, ships or submarines. The mine could distinguish between surface ships and submarines as well as between friendly and enemy submarines based on their acoustic signatures. It would thereafter launch the MK 46 torpedo, which would then acquire and attack the enemy submarine. Both Russia and China had also developed similar mines.

With the rapid advances in sensor technologies, it is now feasible to expect robustness, high quality, and reliability in commercially produced sensors. The sensors today are produced using novel signal processing methods, provide very high speeds, and utilize low cost electronic components. Similarly, two main developments in manufacture of chips, which have acted as a catalyst in exponential improvements in computing technologies, include, firstly, coupling of traditional electronics with optical components using Ge Laser to obviate usage of wiring in chips. The ongoing work at MIT’s Microphotonics center utilizes a series of subterranean tunnels instead of buried fiber cables for transmission of the laser[2]. This would achieve at least 100 times faster speeds than current systems. Secondly, the use of Mermisters or resistive random access memory (ReRAM) chips. These are 1000 times faster and can store twice as much data as flash memory chips. The main advantage is that ReRAM does not lose contents once power is switched off. [3] Further, they can be used in logic computations, implying thereby that both memory and computation functions can be carried out on the same chip[4].

Interestingly, Russia, China, and Iran have taken active interest in passive radar technologies. As per reports of a Rossiyskaya Gazeta’s online affiliate, in February 2015, Moskva-1 (developed by KRET) is a passive radar system, which would enable Russian troops to detect and identify airborne targets as far as 240 miles away without disclosing their location. It is understood that this could also be supplied to Iran[5].

The USAF had also released a request for information RFI RFI-PKS-0001-2012 for development of a Phased Array Antenna in respect of its Passive RF Sensing program. This involves development of analog and digital beam forming techniques for wideband phased array radar antennas that can operate over a 10:1 bandwidth[6]. The US Army too has evinced interest in such systems that lie in wait submerged at sea and could be launched at an opportune time[7].

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has undertaken a project titled Upward Falling Payload (UFP) in which it is envisaged that drones would be made to lie in wait at concealed locations on the sea floor, for prolonged periods before being launched to the surface and into the air[8].

As per DARPA, “Nearly 50 percent of the world’s oceans are deeper than 4 km, which provides vast areas for concealment and storage. Concealment provided by the sea also provides the opportunity to engage remote assets that may have been dormant and undetected for long periods, while its vastness allows simultaneous operation across great distances. Getting close to objects without warning, and instantiating distributed systems without delay, are key attributes of UFP capability.”[9] The DARPA UFP program in its study phase, looked at long-range communications, deep-ocean high-pressure containment, and payload launch. It is understood that one of the firms that participated in the first phase was Sparton Electronics of De Leon Springs, Florida; this firm had worked to develop conceptual designs of a system with the potential to launch a plethora of non-lethal weapons like electronic warfare jammers, blinding lasers, and distracting light strobes upon surfacing.

The second phase would be development of proto types. The sub systems of the UFP program include; the pressure tolerant container or riser which would hold the payload for prolonged periods; the communication package, which would trigger the encapsulated payload to be launched to the surface, and the payload, which should be able to execute its function after it, is made to surface. To achieve the above aims the technologies that DARPA is looking at include, long endurance reliable electro-mechanical systems, very small sensors, small-unmanned systems, long-range underwater communications, navigation technologies etc. Phase 3 would be demonstrations of the systems at sea.

Once developed the UFP would provide pre-deployed sensors or non-lethal weapons in open seas. These could be  used by the US Forces for surprise deployment in times of international conflicts across the globe.

The author is not aware of any such futuristic research initiatives in respect of Indian Armed Forces by the Defence Research and Development Organisation in India.

 

 

 

[1] http://fas.org/irp/program/collect/iuss.htm

[2]http://www.computerworld.com/article/2512857/computer-processors/shining-a-light-on-the-chip-interconnect-bottleneck.html

[3] Six minute Memrister guide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvA5r4LtVnc

[4]  http://www.computerworld.com/article/2516972/computer-hardware/hp-chip-discovery-could-be-a-tech–game-changer-.html

[5]http://www.armyrecognition.com/november_2015_global_defense_security_news_uk/russia_could_deliver_electronic_warfare_systems_moskva-1_and_rtut-bm_to_iran_11511151.html

[6] https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=ce67bff643299c827cb5b3f1d106f37f&tab=core&_cview=0

[7] http://my.nps.edu/web/cruser/blog/-/blogs/105727309

[8]http://gpsworld.com/darpa-ocean-drone-would-lift-upward-falling-payloads/

[9] http://www.darpa.mil/program/upward-falling-payloads

 

Surface-to-Surface Missiles on Warships

(Published SP’s Naval Forces. Jun-Jul 2016 Vol 11 No. 3)

Surface-to-Surface Missiles on Warships

Blue water navies defend and attack with a variety platforms utilizing wide range of weapons. The three-dimensional operations of a formidable navy involve aircrafts, surface ships, and submarines. Each of these platforms has weapons designed for its specific role. A naval force far away from its homeport is thus fully capable of meeting threats arising from the air, surface or under water. A warship’s weapon outfit includes; missiles for anti air and anti ship warfare; torpedoes, depth charges and rockets for anti submarine warfare; and guns for anti surface, anti air, anti missile and naval gunfire support roles. Among the missiles, a warship’s outfit generally comprises of surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) and surface to air missiles (SAM). The SSM capability has rapidly advanced to the realm of the cruise missiles. The cruise missile owes it origins to the German V1/V2 rockets and mainly to the fact that manned aircraft missions had proved to be very expensive during the wars (loss of trained fighter pilots as well as expensive aircraft). Unfortunately, the cruise missile development until the 1970s resulted only in unreliable and inaccurate outcomes, which were not acceptable to the armed forces. Cruise missiles overcame their inherent technical difficulties and owe their tremendous success and popularity to notable technological advances in the fields of; propulsion (small turbofan jet engines resulted in smaller and lighter airframes); miniaturization of electronic components (smaller on board   computers led to much better guidance and control abilities); and high-density fuels, much better explosives, & smaller warheads.       Cruise missiles have become weapons of choice at sea because of their ability to fly close to the sea surface at very high speeds (sub-sonic/supersonic), formidable wave point programming, and lethal explosive capabilities. These make the missiles very difficult to detect and counter at sea.

A survey of some of the most powerful weapon platforms at sea would confirm that the surface-to-surface missile is one of the most potent armaments onboard. The significant surface-to-surface missiles include the Tomahawk, the Exocet, the Uran, the YJ-18, the RBS 15, the Brahmos, and the under development LRASM.

Tomahawk

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) has proved its versatility by successfully carrying out attacks on various types of land targets under hostile environments. The land attack Tomahawk is equipped with inertial and terrain contour matching (TERCOM) radar guidance. The missile constantly matches its database with the actual terrain to update its position. For terminal guidance, it uses the optical Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) system for comparing the actual target image with the stored one. In TERCOM a digital characterization of an area of terrain is mapped based on digital terrain elevation data or stereo imagery and loaded in the missile. During flight, the missile compares the stored map data with radar altimeter data, missile’s inertial navigation system is updated, and the missile can correct its course if required. In Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC), a digitized image of an area is mapped and then embedded into a TLAM mission. While in flight the missile compares the stored images with the actual image for updating its inertial navigation system to enable course corrections.

The Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) comprises of four major components; Tomahawk Missile, Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC), Afloat Planning System (APS), Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TWCS) for surface ships, and Combat Control System (CCS) for submarines. Systems of the missile include Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver; an upgrade of the optical Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) system; Time of Arrival (TOA) control, and improved 402 turbo engines. The missile is provided to ships as an ‘all-up-round’ (AUR). It includes the missile, the booster, and a transportation container which itself acts as a launch tube. TLAM-C has a conventional unitary warhead for attacking hardened targets, and TLAM-D has a conventional sub munitions (dispense bomblets) warhead for use against softer targets.

The Tomahawk TLAM Block III system upgrade had included jamming-resistant Global Positioning System (GPS) system receivers, Time of Arrival, and improved accuracy for low contrast matching of Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator, extended range, and a lighter warhead. The warhead for Block IV, the WDU-36, has an insensitive PBXN-107 explosive, the FMU-148 fuse, and the BBU-47 fuse booster.

Tactical Tomahawk has the capability to reprogram the missile during flight to attack any of 15 preprogrammed alternate targets or the warship can redirect the missile to any new GPS designated target. It is also able to loiter over a target area for some hours, and with its on-board TV camera, enable battle damage assessment & if required redirection of the missile to any other target. Addition of Network-centric warfare-capabilities is a major improvement to the Tomahawk where in it can use data from multiple sensors (ships, satellites, aircraft, UAVs etc.) to find its target as well as  share its own sensor data.

The new features in Block IV modifications include, a new multi mode passive seeker, As far as warhead is concerned, it is understood that Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System (JMEWS,  bunker busting feature) as well as Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile technology is being incorporated for increasing the warhead versatility. The TLAM-D contains 166 sub munitions in 24 canisters; 22 canisters of seven each, and 2 canisters of six each of Combined Effects Munition bomblet used with the CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition of the US Air force. Developments are also underway to use scramjet technology and make TLAM a supersonic missile with a speed of Mach 3.

The Exocet

The variant Block 3 MM40 is the ship-launched version of the Exocet. The basic body design of the Exocet (MBDA) is based upon on the Nord AS30 air to ground tactical missile. It has a solid-propellant booster and with a turbojet sustainer motor providing it a range of more than 180 km. It is a missile, which flies 1-2 m above the sea level and remains very difficult to detect until about 6 km from the target. It is guided inertially and has an active radar terminal guidance. The Exocet MM40 has three main versions Block 1, Block 2, and Block 3 for deployment from ships as well as coastal batteries. The Block 3 version can attack targets from different angles through GPS based waypoint commands. It weighs 670 kg, with a warhead weight of 165 kg.

URAN

The Russian Uran missile is a subsonic anti ship missile with active radar terminal guidance. It is the booster launch version of the Kh-35 U missile. Target designation and flight mission details are fed to missile prior to the launch. The missile is guided through inertial navigation system until it reaches the target zone. There after the radar is switched on for locating and tracking the target, once target has been acquired the missile traverses at very low altitude until it hits the target. It is said that it can be launched in sea states up to six. The acquisition range of the radar is 20 km. The ARGS-35E radar is being replaced by SPE Radar MMS built Gran-KE seeker. The Uran is highly secure even in a hostile counter-measure environment. It has a weight of 610 kg with a shaped charge warhead of 145 kg.

YJ-18

The YJ-18 is a Chinese anti ship cruise missile with a NATO designation of CH-SS-NX-13. It is said to be a copy of the Russian 3M-54E that is subsonic during the cruise phase and turns supersonic in the terminal phase. It has a range of 540 km. It may be having a BeiDou based inertial guidance with a warhead (explosive/ anti radiation) of 300 kg. It is said to be deployed from the Type 052D destroyers.

RBS-15

The RBS-15 is potent long-range surface-to-surface missile developed and manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics. It weighs 800 kg with a blast/ pre-fragmentation warhead of 200 kg. It has inertial, GPS guidance with active radar terminal homing. It has range of 250 km and cruises at subsonic speeds. The RBS-15 Mk3 missile system is claimed to have extremely flexible trajectory, an advanced target seeker with all weather capability and high defense penetration capability. Saab claims that it will support the missile system throughout its 30-year service life and offer in-country maintenance and other flexible maintenance solutions for its customers.

BrahMos

The BrahMos is a supersonic ramjet cruise missile being produced under a joint venture between the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Russian NPO Mashinostroeyenia. It is the fastest cruise missile in the world with a range of 290 km. Because of its high speed (close to Mach 3), it can penetrate current anti missile defenses. It has a wingspan of 1.7 m, diameter of 70 cm with a warhead of 200 kg. Its Block III version can carry out land attack also. It is understood that it has been tested in supersonic dive mode, without any seeker; against hidden land, targets with G3OM based navigation system, which can use GPS, GLONASS, as well as the Indian GAGAN satellite systems. Brahmos-II (K) is a hypersonic missile under development with a range of 290 km and a speed of Mach 7.It is likely to be propelled with scramjet air breathing jet engine.

Missiles of the Future (LRASM)

DARPA is developing an anti ship cruise missile with advanced stealth features as a replacement for the Harpoon missile for the US Navy. Lockheed Martin has been given a limited production contract for 90 missiles to meet US Navy’s urgent requirements. In August this year, the US Navy has officially designated the air-launched LRASM as the AGM-158C. LRASM will be fitted with a modified Mk 114 jettison-able rocket booster for launch from ships using the existing Mk 41 Vertical Launch System. LRASM is likely to herald autonomous targeting capabilities by utilizing on-board targeting systems. The LRASM would not require GPS, data links or any prior intelligence, it would be able to carry out positive identification of its target and track and attack it on its own. It will have advanced counter-counter measures to penetrate the enemy defenses under highly adverse conditions.

The basic design of LRASM is derived from the AGM-158B JASSM-ER with addition of a new weapon data link, radio frequency sensor (multi mode), altimeter, and better power system. It is a sea skimmer with a range of 370 km, which can be guided to target, given midcourse corrections, or function in standalone mode for selection of the target. The guidance system and the homing head have been designed by BAE Systems. These comprise, imaging infrared homing with automatic scene/target matching recognition, jamming resistant GPS/INS, passive RF and threat warning, ESM, radar warning sensors, and data link. Data link enables the missile to collate real time digital picture of the target zone from friendly assets. The emission data is autonomously classified, and acquired for generation of the missile’s attack trajectory. The LRASM can search and attack the target on its own using the active radar, the multi-mode homing head enables the missile to avoid being decoyed and hitting the incorrect target. It is claimed that the missile can also operate in swarms and has land attack capability.

Conclusion

Cruise missiles are very expensive weapons costing millions of dollars per piece. Therefore, selection of the target becomes a difficult task, as cost benefit analysis has to be carried out prior to launching the cruise missile on its mission. However, with their minimal signatures in the visual, infrared and radar spectrums they become weapons of choice in mission of high priority and stealth.

It appears that the trend towards developments of supersonic/hypersonic scramjet cruise missiles will continue to gather momentum and such missiles could be in the naval inventories by 2020. Coupled with hypersonic missiles, would be real time target data updating and guidance by extremely fast on-board computers and satellite-based systems. The kinetic energy of hypersonic cruise missiles would be a lethality multiplier against targets at sea and therefore such a missile would be a formidable weapon without a credible countermeasure as on date. The costs continue to increase with new developments; however, maintenance requirements appear to be reducing with canisterised missiles. The proliferation of precision guided missiles would continue to increase with reductions in cost of components, electronics, and software.

Nanoenergetic Materials (nEMs) in Conventional Ammunition

(Published on 17 May 2016, CLAWS,http://www.claws.in/1571/nanoenergetic-materials-nems-in-conventional-ammunition-sanatan-kulshrestha.html)

Nanoenergetic Materials (nEMs) in Conventional Ammunition

 Nanotechnology “could completely change the face of weaponry,”

Andy Oppenheimer, Jane’s Information Group[1]

On 11 September 2007, Russians tested Father of All Bombs (FOAB), an Aviation Thermo baric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP). It was said to be the most powerful conventional bomb in the world, with a 7-Ton explosive mixture resulting in a devastating effect equivalent to 44 tons of TNT[2]. It was hinted that the FOAB contained a liquid fuel, such as ethylene oxide, mixed with energetic nano-aluminium powder, which was dispersed by a high explosive booster. Some reports speculated that the liquid fuel was purified using nano-filters. What caught the imagination of defense experts was the fact that the Russian FOAB had less fuel than the similar US device Mother of All Bombs (MOAB), the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, but was four times more powerful. It was also probably the first time that the nonprofessional learned of the lethal uses of nanotechnology. Not much information is available through open sources about the developments involving nanotechnology in explosives, much of it has to be gleaned from research papers and patents (for e.g. Patents like US6955732 – Advanced thermo baric explosive compositions and WO2013119191A1 – Composition for a fuel and air explosion).

            Since 2004, ‘Combat Safe Insensitive Munitions’ concept has shifted the focus of safety from a pure materials approach to making marine explosives insensitive to a platform based approach based upon mechanics to increase insensitivity[3]. US Navy has been at the forefront of R&D into new energetic materials since a long time and it is opined that nanotechnology enabled energetic materials would form the backbone of the future defense systems. Timely induction of nano enabled energetic systems with controlled energy release is the focus of current research at institutes like the U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and the University of Maryland.

            In simple terms, Nanoenergetic materials (nEMs) perform better than conventional materials because of much larger surface area, which increases speed of reaction and larger energy release in much shorter time. Addition of Superthermites[4] (nano-aluminium based) have shown instantaneous increase in explosive power of existing compositions[5]. Further, use of nano-sized materials in explosives has significantly increased safety and insensitivity by as much as over 30% without affecting reactivity. It is predicted that nEMs would provide the same explosive power at mass up to two orders of magnitude less than the current explosive systems[6].

In rocket, propellants nEMs have shown similar capabilities at Los Almos National Laboratories with nitrogen-energized nEMs[7]. In addition, incorporation of more than one burning rate in rocket propellants has given rise to novel design options by creating grains with continuously varying properties along the length as well as across the radius of the grain in Functionally Graded Materials (FGM).

While Nanosizing of high explosives leads to increasing their explosive power[8] and decreasing their sensitivity to external forces[9], it also decreases its thermal stability. The shelf life of such explosives could therefore stand reduced, however, some patents reveal that this issue has also been resolved technically (e.g. patent US20120227613 Thermal enhanced blast warhead). In India the work on explosives and propellants is being undertaken at HEMRL, a DRDO laboratory, and it is understood that the research in nEMs is progressing satisfactorily.

Projections

Nanotechnology is permeating in all fields of design & manufacturing of weapons and ammunition. It is bringing unprecedented precision in weapon systems, robustness in triggering mechanisms and opening new frontiers in propellant and pyrotechnic functioning. In addition to explosive and propellants, Nanomaterials have ushered in innovative improvements in many characteristics of ammunition such as guidance, penetration capacity, embedded sensors for monitoring condition, embedded antennae for guidance and so on.

It can be envisaged that nEMs would replace the conventional explosives in the next decade. This would provide existing conventional weapons with explosive powers higher in magnitude by a factor of two and enhance the safety to external stimulation by at least 30%. In simple terms, a missile warhead having an explosive content of 200 kg of TNT equivalent would have an explosive power of 20,000 kg of TNT equivalent when substituted with nEMs material of same weight of 200 kg!

This advancement could displace Tactical nukes from the battlefield.

What can also be foreseen is the mushrooming of new classes of extremely precise and lethal small/micro weapon systems, which could be scaled down by at least second order of magnitude from the current systems. Thus creating space for the likely paradigm shift from bigger & larger to the smaller & numerous holdings of weapons. This in turn would herald the era of Swarm Warfare.

[1] Gartner, John. “Military Reloads with Nanotech.” Technology Review, an MIT Enterprise, January 21, 2005. http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/14105/page1/

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6990815.stm

[3] Insensitive munitions:

Improve the safety and survivability for Armed Forces and civilians in urban areas or near combat zones because they can safely be stored at closer distances. Reduce the vulnerability of platforms and resources against unintended or hostile aggression, violent reactions with blast overpressure and fragmentation damages are under control. Maximize the storage capabilities and improve flexibility logistics: IM can safely be carried by land/sea/air; storage platforms can be closer together and are key to Inter-Operability between the Armed Forces.

[4] Nano-Thermite or Super-Thermite is a metastable intermolecular composite (MICs) containing an oxidizer and a reducing agent, which are intimately mixed on the nanometer scale. This dramatically increases the reactivity relative to micrometer -sized powder thermite. MICs, including nano-thermitic materials, are a type of reactive materials investigated for military use, as well as for general applications involving propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics.

[5] Gartner, John. “Military Reloads with Nanotech.” Technology Review, an MIT Enterprise, January 21, 2005. http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/14105/page1/

[6] Yang, Guangcheng, Fude Nie, Jinshan Li, Qiuxia Guo, and Zhiqiang Qiao. “Preparation and Characterization of Nano-NTO Explosive.” Journal of Energetic Materials, 25, 2007.

[7] Tappan, B.C., S.F. Son, and D.S. Moore. “Nano-Aluminum Reaction with Nitrogen in the Burn Front of Oxygen-Free Energetic Materials.” Shock Compression of Condensed Matter, American Institute of Physics, 2005

[8] Kaili Zhang, Carole Rossi, and G.A. Ardila Rodriguez. “Development of a Nano-Al/CuO Based Energetic Material on Silicon Substrate.” Applied Physics Letters No. 91, 14 September 2007.

[9] Guangcheng Yang, Fude Nie, Jinshan Li, Qiuxia Guo, and Zhiqiang Qiao. “Preparation and Characterization of Nano-NTO Explosive.” Journal of Energetic Materials, 25, 2007.

Neuromorphic Chips – Defence Applications

(Published Claws 30 Apr 2016 )

(http://www.claws.in/1563/neuromorphic-chips-%E2%80%93-defence-applications-sanatan-kulshrestha.html)

..And I had an opportunity to grow from the time where we couldn’t make a single silicon transistor to the time where we put 1.7 billion of them on one chip!

                                                                                 Gordon Moore, Cofounder Intel

Last year Kris Gopalakrishnan pledged $ 50 mn at IISc and IIT Madras on research that seeks to model next level computing based on the functioning of the Brain.[1] Neuromorphic engineering is an emerging interdisciplinary field that involves designing sophisticated devices based on the complex neural circuits of the brain. It uses principles of the nervous system for engineering applications to achieve a better understanding of computations occurring in actual biological circuits and utilize the unique properties of biological circuits to design and implement efficient engineering products. Neuromorphic chips aim to mimic the massive parallel computing power of the brain, circumvent the size limitations of traditional chips, and consume less power. It is also predicted that such chips could adapt in response to stimuli. As a technology demonstrator, P. Merolla et al [2] at IBM have developed a 5.4-billion-transistor chip (TrueNorth) with 4096 neurosynaptic cores interconnected via an intra-chip network that integrates 1 million programmable spiking neurons and 256 million configurable synapses. With 5.4 billion transistors, occupying 4.3-sq cm area TrueNorth has ∼428 million bits of on-chip memory. In terms of power, consumption where a typical central processing unit (CPU) consumes 50 to 100 W per sq cm the TrueNorth’s power density is 20 mW per sq cm only. This qualifies it to be a good candidate for ushering in green technology in to computing.[3] However, for purposes of clarity TrueNorth is not a brain, it is inspired by the brain[4] and mimics some functions of the brain to carry out computations.

Market for Neuromorphic Chips

The main factors, which have driven research and development of neuromorphic chips, are tremendous demand for data and data analytics, miniaturization of sensors, ingress of Artificial Intelligence into software of almost all intelligent machines and high cost of further miniaturization of integrated circuits. These factors have spurred the demand and growth of the market for neuromorphic chips, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 26.31% between 2016 -2022.[5] One of the key areas where such systems would need break-through research would be in design of algorithms since biological systems autonomously process information through deep learning whereas any human designed chip or system would be limited by human designed algorithms. The applications areas currently comprise sensors in military as well as medical fields.

Military Applications

Militaries today are coping up with an exponential increase in the amount of data from a wide variety of sensors.  Unprecedented data collection has severely strained the limited available bandwidth for military use. The data needs to be processed, as close to the sensor as possible before further transmission therefore sequential computational techniques with their large size and power requirements are not very efficient in this regard. NeuroSynaptic chips can carry out this parallel task much more efficiently.

DARPA had initiated a project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE), in 2008 and had contracted it to IBM and HRL. It has funding of over $ 100 mn. The aim of SyNAPSE is stated ‘to build an electronic microprocessor system that matches a mammalian brain in function, size, and power consumption. Further, it should recreate 10 billion neurons, 100 trillion synapses, consume one kilowatt, and occupy less than two liters of space’.[6]

The US Army has projected a requirement for a high-performance, low-power bio-inspired parallel processor. This would be integrated in to cognitive communication systems and image processing platforms on unmanned vehicles. The project is being undertaken by Physical Optics Corporation (POC) under their BRAINWARE processor program.

The U.S. Air Force has projected a requirement to develop a new class of advanced, wide field of view (WFOV) imaging sensors that sample the radiation field in multiple modes: spectral, temporal, polarization, and detailed object shape. These multimodal sensors are for deployment on high altitude ISR functions of drones. Scaled down versions are required for use with autonomous micro-air vehicles (MAV) for guidance, navigation, and control. Two types of bio-inspired multimodal sensors, one operating in the visible wavelength regime, and the other operating in the infrared wavelength regime are being developed by The Spectral Imaging Laboratory (SPILAB) in collaboration with the University of Arizona. Both sensors will have a neuromorphic processing capability based upon visual brain areas of insects and crotalid snakes.

Conclusion

It is apparent that neuromorphic chip based computational systems scalable to the capabilities of the human brain are  a clear possibility provided an all-round research and development effort is synergized in hardware, software, architecture, and simulation & understanding of functioning of the brain. The neuromorphic chips as well as quantum computing have ushered in a paradigm shift from the focus on microchips to that of the system as a whole.

In the ultimate goal of mimicking the human brain, it is likely that development of artificial brains of smaller species or specific parts of the human brain may turn out to be more enchanting purely from a commercial point of view. The impetus to the rapid development in neuromorphic systems would be provided by the availability and applications of such systems for large-scale commercial utilization.

[1] http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-30/news/58625701_1_brain-research-kris-gopalakrishnan-indian-institute

[2] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/668.full

[3] Computational power efficiency for biological systems is 8–9 orders of magnitude higher than the power efficiency wall for digital computation;

[4] http://www.research.ibm.com/articles/brain-chip.shtml

[5]http://www.reportlinker.com/p03302865- summary/Neuromorphic-Chip-Market-by-Application-End-User-Industry-and-Geography-Global-Forecast-Analysis-to.html

[6] http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2014-08-07

Dimensions of Submarine Threat in the Littorals –A Perspective

(Published :  “FEATURED | Dimensions of Submarine Threat in the Littorals –A Perspective by RADM Dr. S. Kulshrestha (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY.” IndraStra Global 01, no. 11 (2015): 0408. ISSN 2381-3652,)

Dimensions of Submarine Threat in the Littorals –A Perspective

Abstract

The littorals present a very complex environment in which the platform, weapon and the target interplay is dependent upon the real time and archival understanding of the medium parameters. The article aims to provide a perspective into the extent of the littoral underwater submarine threat and the constraints which hamper its successful prosecution. It also brings out the fact that the Blue water Navy would have to enhance its environmental understanding and modify its approach towards anti submarine operations to reduce likely attritions during littoral conflicts. The article brings out the imperative need to dove tail fundamental environmental research and Indian Naval requirements to tackle the threats in littorals.

 

 “…the very shallow water (VSW) region is a critical point for our offensive forces and can easily, quickly and cheaply be exploited by the enemy. The magnitude of the current deficiency in reconnaissance and neutralization in these regions and the impact on amphibious assault operations were demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm.”

Maj. Gen. Edward J. Hanlon Jr., Director of Expeditionary Warfare, Sea Power, May 1997

A blue water navy’s ability to execute manoeuvre in littorals is severely compromised due to confined sea spaces, lesser depths, heavy traffic, threats due to lurking quiet diesel submarines, coastal missile batteries, swarms of armed boats, deployed mines and threats from the air. The definition of a littoral region encompasses waters close to the shores as well as greater than 50 nm at sea. The Indian Navy, like all the other blue water navies has not been fundamentally positioned for close combat encounters. It is has generally been expected that sea warfare would have standoff distances of at least 50/60 km if not more between adversaries   (outside range of torpedoes and guns). If Carrier groups and anti ship cruise missile (ASCM) cruisers are deployed, the standoff can be up to a couple of hundred kms (ASCM and Air craft limits). However today littorals present an inevitable close quarter engagement situation with CSG remaining well clear of coastal missile batteries and aircraft operating from shore based airfields. In case of countries like China, the CSG may even remain a thousand km away to save itself from a barrage of carrier killer missile like the Don Feng 21 D with a range of over 2000 kms[i].

 Thus littorals have withered away the advantage of the CSG and the big ships as manoeuvring in close quarters is not feasible any more. The lighter ships would have to fight in the littorals with a much larger risk of attrition from the diesel electric submarine, mines, swarm of boats and shore based assets. The blue waters represent large swaths of sea with adequate depths for operations, and much less uncertainties in the sensor – weapon environment. The littorals are confined zones with reducing depths and a very adverse sensor environment. This has drastically compressed reaction times leading to requirements of great agility for the men of war.

 A worthy defender is always considered to be in an advantageous position in the littorals, fundamentally due to the intrinsic knowledge and experience in operating in his home environment. It constitutes what the US DOD calls an access denial area likely to impinge upon the US national interests in the Vision 2004 document this has been articulated as “To win on this 21st Century battlefield, the U.S. Navy must be able to dominate the littorals, being out and about, ready to strike on a moment’s notice, anywhere, anytime[ii] The Indian Navy has in all probability identified areas in Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean where it may have to engage in littoral conflicts either singly or in concert with coalition of navies, should such a contingency arise. On the other hand 26/11 had opened the coasts to attack by terrorists and the Government of India has initiated efforts to tighten its coastal security. As to the plans of defending own littorals against a formidable expeditionary force, nothing much is known in the open domain, in all likely hood it remains a simplistic defensive model due to insufficient focus and the inevitable funding. The fact remains that ocean rim state navies today are focussing more on littoral capability than building a blue water navy. Indian Navy has to consider the littoral capability seriously whilst modernising and achieve a balance, depending upon its current and future threat perceptions. The blue water force has to have an embedded littoral component force so that the IN can operate in littorals far away from her home ports.

 The major under water threats comprise of mines and undetected diesel submarines. However as far as mines are concerned, they are every coastal country’s weapon of choice as they are economic, easy to lay but very hard to detect and sweep. They are the psycho sentinels of defence, since unless their existence is proved it has to be assumed that waters are mine infested and have to be swept before warships can attempt a foray in to the littorals[iii]. The clearing of mines for safe passage is a very time consuming and intensive exercise which introduces significant delays in any operation, while taking away element of surprise and granting time to adversary to plan tactics. Therefore in case delays are not acceptable, littoral operations would have to cater for some attrition on account of mines as well as navigation hazards posed due to sunken or damaged ships on the sea route.

 The aim of this article is to derive a perspective in to the fundamental dimensions of the littoral medium, platform and weapon with respect to the underwater submarine threat which constitutes the most potent hazard to a powerful navy.

Operating Littoral Environment

The littorals comprise of different types of zones in which a Navy has to operate. These include continental shelf, surf zones, straits and archipelagos, harbours and estuaries. The main thrust of naval operations hinges upon the underwater acoustics (sonic ray plots) which provide not so accurate measure of effectiveness of Sonars. In the continental shelf not much is known about the tactical usage of bioluminescence, plankton or suspended particles and other non acoustic environmental information. Quantifiable effect on performance of different sensors and weapons under various conditions is also not available to the Commander to help him deploy them optimally. Further predictions about conditions for naval operations in continental shelf areas of interest are at best sketchy and no reliable database exists to provide correlation between various environmental conditions that may be encountered. In the surf zone region (within 10 m depth line till the beach), temporal and spatial environmental data is required for effective planning of naval operations however, there are large variations in acoustic data over short and long term. Archipelagos and straits are subject to; swift changes in currents and water masses due to restricted topography, dense shipping, fishing and human traffic which complicate planning. Most of the harbours are estuarine in nature and present a highly intricate and variable environment (tides, currents, wave amplitudes etc) warranting a holistic approach to understand the same.

Thus it can be seen that carrying out missions in littorals also involve other aspects of environment in addition to the uncertain under water acoustics which have a direct bearing on the missions. These aspects include real time and archival data bases of; meteorological surface conditions required for efficient operation of IR, Electro optical, and electromagnetic sensor and weapon systems; under water topography, accurate bathymetry, bottom composition, and detailed assessment of oceanographic water column environment for under water sensors and weapons.

The availability of overarching oceanic environmental knowledge would provide insight into enemy submarine operating/hiding areas, location of mines and underwater sea ward defences. Currently the Indian Navy does not have the capability to carry out exhaustive littoral environmental scanning let alone field any sensor or weapon system that can adapt to the dynamic littoral environment and carry out missions with conviction. In fact, even for own littoral zones this type of information is not available which would enable effective deployment of static or dynamic defences.

Effect of Environment on Propagation of Sound in Shallow Waters

A brief description of the acoustic environment in shallow waters is relevant at this stage. The main factor affecting acoustic propagation in deep oceans is the increase in pressure of water column with increasing depth as the temperature remains nearly constant. The speed of sound increases with depth and the sound waves finally hit the bottom and reflect upwards. In shallow waters the rays tend to refract, that is bend upward without going to the bottom. This phenomenon takes place when the refracted sound velocity equals the sound velocity emitted by the source. On reaching the region of the source they again refract towards the depths and this process continues.[iv] In very shallow waters the sound rays are reflected upwards from the bottom. The amount of sound energy reflected upwards depends directly on the nature of the sea bottom. Harder the sea bottom better is the reflection and vice versa.[1]In shallow waters it is clear that the sound speed depends mainly on the temperature which in turn depends upon the amount incident solar radiation, wind speeds, wave action etc.

It can therefore be inferred that the acoustic signal in shallow waters is dependent upon factors like temperature, sea surface, nature of sea bottom, waves and tides, in-homogeneities and moving water masses amongst others. These present a very complex effect on the acoustic signal by altering its amplitude, frequency, and correlation properties. Further, multipath reflections from the bottom, as well as surface put a severe constraint on signal processing. The understanding of the underwater sound propagation remains unsatisfactory to this day. The complex interplay of acoustics, oceanography, marine geophysics, and electronics has bewildered Navies searching for submarines or mines in the shallow waters. Two fundamental issues that of beam forming and lining up the sonar are discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.

 Zurk et al[v] in their paper “Robust Adaptive Processing in Littoral Regions with Environmental Uncertainty” have addressed a real time problem in underwater, i.e. the dynamic nature of the sensor, target, medium and the interfering element’s geometry. The moving sensor, target and medium causes difficulties for adaptive beam former sonars which are designed to assume a certain level of stationary conduct over a specified time period . The time period required is dependent upon the number of elements in the array and the coherent integration time. Since large arrays give much better resolution  they have a larger number of elements, leading to a moving source transiting more beams during a given observation period. If target is in motion, the target energy is distributed over many beams weakening the signal and degrading the accuracy of targets location. The arrays with larger volumes thus have larger probability of motion losses. Some techniques to reduce these errors include sub-aperture processing, time-varying pre-filtering of the data, and reduced-dimension processing.

 Naval sonar systems have become more and more complex over time and require expert operators. Optimising sonar line ups has become essential in a littoral environment where the acoustic properties change rapidly over time and space domains. With the sonar automatically determining the optimal line up based upon desired inputs from the operator and the sensor feeds of operating environment, the sonar operator would be able to give his full attention to the task of detection, identification and classification of the targets. The necessity of   autonomous environmentally adaptive sonar control is imperative in littorals because of the tremendously large number of objects which may be present below the water line and skills of the operator would be put to test to sieve out the elusive submarines.

 Warren L.J. Fox et al. “Environmental Adaptive Sonar Control in a Tactical Setting.”[vi]  Have addressed the issue of sonar line up and have recommended neural networks for generating acoustic model simulations required.  Control schemes for Sonars are of two types, namely acoustic model-based and rule-based. Model-based controllers embed an acoustic model in the real-time controller. In acoustic model based controllers, acoustic performance predictions are inputted in to the controller, based upon available estimates of the existing environment, which in turn, gives the feasible sonar line ups. The choice of line up depends upon the chosen parameters for the operation. In the rule based controller, a generic set of operating environmental conditions are defined by the sonar and acoustic experts, which are then subjected to acoustic modelling and the sonar equations to generate the best possible line up. The existing environmental conditions would have to be assessed in real time prior to selection of the best line up available as per design. This approach however may not account for the large number of varying environments that are the hallmark of different littorals, and lead to discrepancies in results. Thus it appears that acoustic model based controller may be a better choice, as it largely takes care of the prevailing conditions at sea, than the rule based one, but it requires much more computational power and time to assess the situation prior to lining up the sonars. Warren L.J. Fox et al[vii] have recommended a method of training artificial neural networks for use in a sonar controller for ships as well as unmanned under water vehicles, to emulate the input/output relations of a computationally intensive acoustic model. Artificial neural networks are much faster and utilise far lesser computational capacity.

 The Submarine Threat in Littorals

 The shallow waters pose a serious problem for under water acoustics, they remain unfriendly to current sensors like towed arrays, variable depth sonars and air dropped sonobuoys due to depth limitations, deployment of torpedoes ( both ship and air launched) and depth charges. Shallow waters with close proximity to land also pose difficulties for radars and magnetic anomaly detectors thus providing a relatively safe operating area for small diesel electric submarines. Detection of surface craft by submarines in passive sonar mode is much easier because of their higher acoustic signatures. The surface ships would perforce resort to active sonar transmission as their passive capabilities are degraded in littorals. This in turn makes them more acoustically visible.

 The littoral submarine however has a limited period of quiet operation under water of a couple of days, as it has to either surface or snorkel for recharging its batteries by running its diesel generator sets. The battery capacity drainage is directly proportional to the running speeds, faster the submarine travels quicker is the discharge and hence larger is the discretion rate, which is the charging time required. Interestingly it is this discretion rate, which allows the submarine to be vulnerable to detection. During charging, the radiated noise of diesel generators, the IR signatures and the likely visibility of the snorkel make it susceptible to observation by trained crews. The submarine therefore prefers to lie in wait, barely moving or just sitting at the bottom for the prey to arrive.

 Development of Air independent propulsion technology (AIP) has enhanced the submerged time of submarines by a great extent (from a couple of days to about two weeks). The AIP is dependent upon availability of oxygen on board. The AIP while granting more submerged time to a submarine unfortunately provides the same level of acoustic signature as a snorkelling submarine, thus making it prone to detection.[viii]

 Fuel cell technology has been successfully interfaced with AIP and Siemens 30-50 KW fuel cell units have been fitted in the German Type 212A submarines since 2009, it is said to be much quieter , provides higher speeds and greater submerged time.

 The weapons for the submarines include mines, torpedoes and the submarine launched missiles. The technology ingress in computing, signal processing, hull design and materials have benefitted the submarine, its sensors, weapons and fire control systems. These advances coupled with vagaries of the acoustics in shallow waters have made the diesel submarine a very potent and lethal platform. While many countries have AIP submarines, of interest to India is the acquisition of these submarines by Pakistan[ix] since the Indian Navy does not operate an AIP submarine. The Indian Navy today even lacks the adequate numbers of diesel electric submarines required.

 The Unmanned Submarine (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle; UUV)

 An UUV generally is a machine that uses a propulsion system to transit through the water. It can manoeuvre in three dimensions (azimuth plane and depth), and control its speed by the use of sophisticated computerised systems onboard the vehicle itself. The term Unmanned underwater vehicle includes, remotely operated vehicles, Paravane, sea gliders and autonomous underwater vehicles.

It can be pre programmed to adhere to course, speed and depths as desired by the operator, at a remote location and carry out specific tasks utilising a bank of sensors on the UUV. The data collection can be both time and space based and is referenced with respect to coordinates of the place of operation. It can operate under most environmental conditions and because of this, they are used for accurate bathymetric survey and also for sea floor mapping prior to commencing construction of subsea structures. The Navies use them for detecting enemy submarines, mines, ISR and area monitoring purposes etc.

 The UUVs carry out their routine tasks unattended, meaning there by that once deployed the operator is relatively free to attend to other tasks as the UUV reaches its designated area of operation and starts carrying out its mission, be it survey, search, or surveillance.

Compared with many other systems, UUVs are relatively straightforward, with fewer interoperable systems and component parts, facilitating reverse-engineering of any components that might be restricted in the commercial market place. All of these factors, however also increase the likelihood that even a low tech littoral adversary could easily field offensive, autonomous UUVs, this in turn leads to seeking rapid developments in UUVs by major navies.

 UUVs are on the verge of three developments which would accelerate their induction into modern navies. First is the arming of UUVs to create Unmanned Combat Undersea Vehicles (UCUVs). This is virtually accomplished with UUV designs incorporating light weight torpedoes as weapons of choice. Heavier UUVs are contemplating missile launchers and/or heavy weight torpedoes as weapons in their kitty. However these appear to be interim measures, as a new class of weapons specific to unmanned vehicles are already under advanced development. These include much smaller and lighter missiles, torpedoes and guns firing super-cavitating ammunition.

 A second potential technology development is radically extended operational ranges for these armed UUVs. Already, the developed countries have invested in programs to create long-range underwater “sea gliders” to conduct long-range Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (IPOE) missions[x]. While the technologies enabling the “sea glider” approach probably do not provide the flexibility and propulsion power to enable armed UUVs, such programs will significantly advance the state of UUV navigation and communications technologies. Leveraging these advancements, other nascent technologies such as Air-independent-propulsion (AIP) or Fuel Cell propulsion or perhaps Aluminium/Vortex Combustors, could provide the propulsion power necessary to effectively deploy armed UUVs even well outside of the operating area limitations of conventionally powered submarines.

 Finally, “autonomy” for these armed, long range UUVs will allow them the flexibility to conduct operations far away from the home port. Artificial intelligence (AI) based autonomous control systems are being developed at a frenetic pace, fuelled principally by demand for improved UAVs. Such developments will directly contribute to UUV autonomy, but in fact, are not actually necessary for the majority of “sea denial” missions envisioned for UCUVs. Even with current state of missile seeker technology, UCUVs would only need enough autonomy to navigate to a known area of operations (a port, choke point, or coastal location) and launch, and the missile would do the rest. For more complex missions, weapons could be guided by an on-site observer, for instance on a trawler or even ashore, in real-time or near-real-time. In short, there are a remarkably small number of “hard” technology barriers standing in the way of the long range, autonomous, armed and capable UUVs. There is little reason to think that this capability will be limited to high end, navies only. Thus networked operations of unmanned vehicles with PGMs are going to become the lethal weapon combo for the future.

 A request for information has been floated by the Indian Navy to meet its requirement for at least 10 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). These AUVs are to be developed and productionised within four years of contract finalisation. The Navy has opted for a special category MAKE for the armed forces under the Indian Defence Procurement Procedure for high technology complex systems designed, developed and produced indigenously .Modular payload capability of the AUVs have been asked for, where in  payloads like underwater cameras for surveillance reconnaissance and high definition sonars can be mounted.

  UUVs in various configurations and roles such as communication and navigation nodes, environmental sensors in real time or lie in wait weapon carriers are going to be the choice platform in the littorals. These are expendable if required, economically viable, and offer flexibility in design as being unmanned they can have much lesser degree of safeties.

 Weapons

 “The Navy’s defensive MCM capabilities in deep water are considered fair today, but they are still very poor in very shallow water (VSW) – not much better in fact than they were some 50 years ago.” [xi]

Milan Vego.

 The naval mine is a relatively cheap, easy to employ, highly effective weapon that affords weaker navies the ability to oppose larger, more technologically advanced adversaries. The mere existence of mines poses enough psychological threat to practically stop maritime operations, and thus deny access to a desired area at sea. Further they can be used as barricades to deter amphibious forces and cause delays in any naval operation in the littoral. Thus, a mine doesn’t have to actually explode to achieve its mission of access denial. North Koreans were able to deter and delay arrival of U.S Marines sufficiently to escape safely, by mining Wonsan Harbour in October of 1950 with about 3000 mines.

 Mines are classified based upon their depth of operation, methods of deployment or the way they are actuated. The versatility of deployment can be gauged by the fact that mines can be laid by majority of surface craft, submarines, crafts of opportunity and aircrafts/ helicopters. Mines have been used by countries and non state actors alike with dangerous effects and thus continue to pose a credible threat to Navies as well as merchant marine.

   Types of mines are based upon the depth at which they are deployed. As per the  21ST Century U.S. Navy Mine Warfare document[xii] the underwater battle space has been divided into five depth zones of, Deep Water (deeper than 300 feet), Shallow Water (40-300 feet), Very Shallow Water (10-40 feet), the Surf Zone (from the beach to 10 feet) and the Craft Landing Zone (the actual beach). Mines are of three basic types namely, floating or drifting mines, moored or buoyant mines and bottom or ground mines.

  Drifting mines float on surface and are difficult to detect and identify because of factors like visibility, sea state and marine growth etc. Moored mines are tethered mines using anchoring cables to adjust their depths. These can be contact or influenced based mines. Bottom mines are most difficult to locate as they can also get buried under sediment layer which cannot be penetrated by normal sonars.

Mines can be actuated by contact, influence, and by remote or a combination thereof. With modular Target Detection Device (TDD) upgrade kits, the older contact mines can be easily upgraded to actuate by influence methods. The influence needed for actuation could be pressure, acoustic or magnetic or a desired combination. In addition ship counters and anti mine counter systems are also being incorporated in to the mines to make them much more potent and lethal.

Mine technology has kept a step ahead of the ships designs for low acoustic and magnetic signatures, and many countries are engaged in development and production of naval mines. Non metallic casings, anechoic coatings, modern electronics and finally reasonable costs have made mines a choice weapon for poor and rich nations alike. It is estimated that about 20 countries export mines while about 30 produce them. Sweden Russia, China and Italy are the leading exporters. Mine MN 103 Manta from SEI SpA of Italy is one of the most exported mines in the world with about 5,000 Mantas in inventories throughout the world.

 It is estimated that China has in its inventory about a hundred thousand mines of various vintages and from the WWI simple moored contact mines to modern rocket-propelled mines with advanced electronic systems for detection and signal processing. [xiii]

 The submarine torpedoes are an embodiment of a synergetic mix of engineering disciplines ranging from mechanics, hydraulics, electronics, acoustics, explosive chemistry etc. to sophisticated software and computing. Their development has therefore involved differences in propulsion designs from steam engines to electrical motors to thermal engines and rocket motors. The control and guidance systems have also evolved from simplistic mechanical/ hydraulic to sophisticated electronic and onboard computer based systems. The guidance has further diversified in to self guided and wire guided varieties. The simple straight runners have given way to active passive homers and wake homers to attack moving targets. The warheads have moved from minol based to TNT/RDX/Al and now on to insensitive explosives with a life of over 40 years. The warheads over the years have been fitted with simple contact exploders, to acoustic influence and magnetic influence proximity fuses. The diameter of the torpedoes has ranged from 324mm to 483mm to 650mm, and before settling for internationally acceptable 533mm. Interestingly with the advent of microelectronics space has never been a constraint for the torpedo and electronic/ software updates always get comfortably accommodated in the torpedo.

A major technical feature that sets apart a torpedo from a missile is the fact that a practice torpedo is recoverable for reuse; this enables excellent weapon capability assessment, crew training as well as analysis of vital firing geometry. Some of the noteworthy heavy weight torpedoes are the American Mk 48 Adcap, the Italian Blackshark, the German DM2A4 and the Russian 53-65 K oxygen torpedo.

The torpedo has been evolving with leaps in technology but some characteristics towards which the heavy weight torpedoes are headed include; faster speeds (~over 60 Kts), Quieter signature, better reliability in detection, enhanced ranges of operation (>100 Kms),smarter electronics, and increased lethality.

The cruise missile owes it origins to the German V1/V2 rockets and mainly to the fact that manned aircraft missions had proved to be very expensive during the wars (loss of trained fighter pilots as well as expensive aircraft). Unfortunately the cruise missile development until the 1970s resulted only in unreliable and inaccurate outcomes which were not acceptable to the armed forces. Cruise missiles overcame their inherent technical difficulties and owe their tremendous success and popularity to some of the technological advances in the fields of; firstly, propulsion, namely small turbofan jet engines which resulted in smaller and lighter airframes; secondly miniaturisation of electronic components, which led to much smaller on board computers thus to much better guidance and control abilities and finally,  high density fuels and much better explosives and smaller warheads.

  Cruise missiles have become weapons of choice at sea because of their ability to fly close to the sea surface at very high speeds (sub-sonic/supersonic), formidable wave point programming and lethal explosive capabilities. These make the missiles very difficult to detect and counter at sea. Some of the naval cruise missiles worth mentioning are the Brahmos, the Tomahawk, the Club and the Exocet family.

It appears that the trend towards hypersonic scramjet cruise missiles will continue to gather momentum and such missiles could be in the naval inventories by 2020. Coupled with hypersonic missiles would be real time target data updating and guidance by extremely fast computers and satellite based systems. The kinetic energy of hypersonic cruise missiles would be a lethality multiplier against targets at sea and therefore such a missile would be a formidable weapon without a credible countermeasure as on date. The costs continue to increase with new developments; however maintenance requirements appear to be reducing with canisterised missiles.

As Far as weapons are concerned the Indian Navy has a fairly reliable capability in mines, torpedoes and cruise missiles, however the numbers appear deficient for the defensive role in own littorals.

The submarines today can launch such missiles from their torpedo tubes or from vertical launchers which can also be retrofitted. In fact the submarines can launch torpedoes, missiles, UUVs and also lay mines comfortably. Thus making them, the toughest of platforms to counter.

Conclusion

“The marriage of air independent, nonnuclear submarines with over-the-horizon, fire and forget antiship cruise missiles and high endurance, wake homing torpedoes . . . [means that] traditional ASW approaches, employing radar flooding and speed, are not likely to be successful against this threat.”[xiv]

                                                                                    Rear Admiral Malcolm Fages

 The dimensions of submarine threat in the littorals, discussed briefly above encompass the underwater acoustic environment, the developments in submarine technology, the underwater unmanned vehicle, and the weapons. The discussion has brought out the potent danger an undetected submarine in littorals presents to the aggressor.

The Navy today faces a deficiency in an all inclusive understanding of the undersea environment in the coastal areas due to which it is difficult to counter the diesel electric submarine threat in the littorals. This deficit would not allow correct positioning and deployment of sensors for timely detection of the underwater peril. Research and development is also needed in the quality of sensors such that they are embedded with real time environmental information and can calibrate themselves accordingly for best results. As far as other environmental sensors are concerned, like those dependent on zoo plankton behaviour or bioluminescence fundamental research needs to be initiated with naval needs in focus. The acquisition of submarines and UUVs should be fast tracked if Indian Navy wants to be a credible littoral force.

 


[1] The speed of sound is given by the equation (available in text books):-C(T,P,S)=1449.2+4.6 T+0.055 T2+1.39 (S−35)+0.016 D(1)

Where: C is in m/sec, T in ° Celsius, D in metres and embodies density and static pressure effects. S in parts per thousand.

The speed of sound is dependent upon temperature and depth because the S, the salinity is nearly constant at 35 ppt for sea water.

————–

 [i] G D Bakshi China – Dong Feng 21-D: A Game Changer?

http://www.globaldefence.net/portals/aviation/21579-china-dong-feng-21-d-a-game-changer.html?showall=1    ( Accessed 20 Oct 12)

[ii] VISION | PRESENCE | POWER 2004, A Program Guide to the U.S. Navy, Chapter 1 http://www.navy.mil/navydata/policy/vision/vis04/vpp04-ch1.pdf ( Accessed 17 Oct 12)

[iii] US Navy DOD document, Concept for future naval Countermeasures inlittoral power projection 1998. http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/weaps/docs/mcm.htm ( Accessed 23 Oct 12)

[iv] Robert J. Urick, Principles of Underwater Sound 3rd Edition Peninsula Pub (August 1, 1996)

[v] Lisa M. Zurk, Nigel Lee and Brian Tracey, “Robust Adaptive Processing in Littoral Regions with Environmental Uncertainty” in Impact of Littoral Environmental Variability of Acoustic Predictions and Sonar Performance, ed. Nicholas Pace and Finn Jensen [Bruxelles, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 2002], 515.  http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~zurkl/publications/saclant_2002.pdf ( Accessed 30 Oct 12)

 [vi]  Warren L.J. Fox et al. “Environmental Adaptive Sonar Control in a Tactical Setting.” in Impact of Littoral Environmental Variability of Acoustic Predictions and  Sonar Performance, ed. Nicholas Pace and Finn Jensen [Bruxelles, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 2002], 595

 [vii] Ibid.

 [viii] Benedict, Richard R. “The Unravelling and Revitalization of U.S. Navy Antisubmarine Warfare.” Naval War College Review 58, no.2, (Spring 2005), http://www.jhuapl.edu/ourwork/nsa/papers/art4-sp05.pdf ( Accessed 27 Oct 12)

  [ix]  Rajat Pandit, Pak adding submarine muscle as India dithers, The Times of India Apr 11, 2011.

 [x] K. L. Mahoney and N. D. Allen Glider Observations of Optical Backscatter in Different Jerlov Water Types: Implications to US Naval Operations, Research paper, 2009. Naval Oceanographic Office, Stennis Space Center, MS 39522 USA

 [xi] Milan Vego. “Future MCM Systems: Organic of Dedicated, Manned or Unmanned,” Naval Forces 26, no.4,(2005).

[xii]  21ST Century U.S. Navy Mine Warfare, http://www.navy.mil/n85/miw_primer-june2009.pdf

[xiii]  Scott C. Truver. TAKING MINES SERIOUSLY Mine Warfare in China’s Near Seas, Naval War College Review, Spring 2012, Vol. 65, No. 2

 [xiv] Malcolm I. Fages, Rear Adm., USN; remarks at Naval Submarine League Symposium, June 2000, as published in Submarine Review (October 2000), p. 34.

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