Category Archives: Defence Technology

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

(Published March 27, 2018  IndraStra Global http://www.indrastra.com/2018/03/Cupping-Pacific-China-s-Rising-Influence-003-04-2018-0055.html#more)

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

China’s Rising Influence in the Pacific through Sale of Arms

There is one aspect of the recent revolution in Hawaii which seems to have been kept out of sight, and that is the relation of the islands, not merely to our own and to European countries, but to China. How vitally important that may become in the future is evident from the great number of Chinese, relatively to the whole population, now settled in the islands…….China, however, may burst her barriers eastward as well as westward, toward the Pacific as well as toward the European Continent.

                        Alfred Thayer Mahan, Captain, United States Navy. New York, Jan. 30, 1893

 

Arms sales are always for enhancement of self-interest of the seller country, they are primarily for furtherance of own strategic and commercial interests. The strategic reasons include, widening of areas of influence vis-a-vis a perceived adversary, projection of power in the desired region, quid pro quo proposition in times of hostilities through utilisation of recipient’s military facilities and resources or for gaining political upper hand in international bodies. Arms sales are invariably never without a hidden agenda on the part of the seller. The sales are justified under the garb of strengthening self defence capabilities of the recipient or providing support against an adversary. The commercial interests include furtherance of own defence manufacturing capabilities, enhancement of the profits accrued to its own defence industries or as a quid pro quo for other products of interest from the recipient.

This article takes in to account only the certified arms sales as recorded by SIPIRI and does not detail political, social, educational or other soft-influence approaches in the Pacific region by China. The article considers towering influence of the United States in the Pacific region since the second world war as a given and hence the arms sales by the US are not discussed vis-à-vis China. Further, an attempt has been made to indicate to the rising Chinese influence in view of its sales of arms in the region so as to spur some timely corrective measures to ensure cooperative and collective freedom of the Pacific commons. The countries considered in the article comprise SE Asia and South America.

American Approach to the Pacific Ocean

The American approach to the Pacific is largely an implementation of the thoughts of Mahan detailed in his book ‘The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future’[1]. He had held forth on the importance of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for the Pacific, stating that they should be under the American control. He foresaw that the commercial shipping from Japan and China would pass near to the Hawaii island group and thus provide America a strong position in the Pacific to safeguard its maritime interests. He had said that Hawaii forms the centre of a circle of about 2100 nm radius in the Pacific, the periphery of which touches the archipelago system of Australia- New Zealand as well as the American west coast. The power which will hold Hawaii island group, in his opinion, would over see the Pacific. It is for the simple reason that in case of hostilities the supply lines would stretch back to over 3000-4000 nm each way making such an assault against America unstainable. The United States had structured its maritime thrust in to the Pacific along a virtual ‘arrow head’ from its west coast to Hawaii on to Guam and thereafter to Taiwan. Further, the concept of Island chains was constructed utilising island groups in the north-west pacific[2] during the cold war, to contain the spread of communism by Soviet Union and China. Some distances which describe the US ~6940 nm arrowhead across the Pacific up till Taiwan are: San Francisco – Hawaii (Honolulu) ~2095nm; Hawaii (Honolulu) – Guam ~3333nm; Guam – Taiwan ~512 nm. With Hawaii and Guam as entrenched US naval bases and the fact that a warship can sail 600 nm per day at 25kts the arrowhead is well established logistically to sustain prolonged operations from the west coast of the US. The allies would also provide unstinted support in times of inevitable hostilities in the region.

Chinese Perception of the Pacific

Chinese view their seaboard frontier as seas of denied opportunities, seas where their access is perpetually under watch by inimical powers. The Chinese threat perception encompasses Japan in the north and Malacca in the south. The access to the SLOCS from the Gulf is overlooked by India right up to Malacca straits, thereafter by nations which have been under the western influence. Indian island Chain of Laccadives sits astride the important 9-degree channel SLOC and the Indian island chain of Andamans looks over the entry to Malacca straits. It may be interesting to note that Singapore and Malaysian port of Penang lie just ~1176 nm and ~807 nm from Port Blair in Andamans.

The construct of the island chains is viewed as an attempt by the Western Powers to inhibit its naval expansion to within the First Island Chain. Once China has started looking seaward it finds layers of obstruction lined up in the Pacific to dissuade it from becoming a modern Naval power. The Chinese aim in the Pacific appears to be; to overcome or pierce the island chains at their weak points by strengthening its onshore long-range missile capabilities and its naval might. Japan and Guam are considered the strongest components of the first and second Island Chains. Taiwan and Philippines are relegated to a weak component status. However, it is held that Taiwan needs to be in the Chinese fold for a strong grip on the seas.

The US-Japan-Australia-India ‘quad’ (with France in support), if and when it takes concrete shape, would definitely be taken as an attempt to thwart Chinese ambitions of attaining global power status in its envisaged multipolar world. The positioning of road/rail mobile Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM) DF-21 D and DF-26 C in the recent past is to put a serious deterrent in place to thwart any intimidating attempt by the US Navy. It is claimed that the DF 21 D (CSS-5 Mod 5) has a range of ~1,500 km and is armed with a Manoeuvrable Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV). DF 21 D has the ability to attack large ships like the aircraft carriers. DF-26, has a claimed range of 3,000-4,000 km enough to strike Guam. It is estimated that China has command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities required for targeting ships at sea. However, ASBMs also require over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting support that can integrate target information from multiple sources. Once fully deployed the Chinese ASBM system-of-systems would be the world’s first system[3] capable of targeting a moving carrier group with long-range ballistic missiles fired from land-based mobile launchers and would pose a grave threat to the US forces and bases in the region.

China appears to be forging along a strategic trajectory in the Pacific in that it is developing its Navy to blue water capabilities, upgrading its land based ballistic missiles to target mobile assets of the adversary with conventional and nuclear warheads at great ranges, and courting countries in and across the Pacific through Arms sales to build up sympathetic logistic linkages to counter US influence. It is opined that China would keep building up its military might and its cross-Pacific network through sale of arms and/or dole of economic benefits to nations till such time that Taiwan comes firmly in its fold thereafter it could plan for making a bold move in the Pacific to challenge the US power.

Arms sales by China

Chinese arms and weapons are in demand as China has started supplying modern equipment which can meet the economic requirements of middle and lower tier countries. The arms are cheap, reasonably reliable and are supplied with access to easy term loans from Chinese banks. Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles are considered nearly as good as those offered for export by western countries. This has made China a leading arms supplier across the globe. It is understood that the guiding tenets of China’s arms export include, non-interference in internal matters of the country like its political or human rights record; perceived strengthening of the recipient’s self-defence capabilities; and bringing about regional arms balance. China also offers transfer of technology which makes countries gain a degree of self-reliance and allows development of their own defence industry. Whether the loans offered push the recipients into a debt trap or force it to part with its resources or make it pliable to extract military gains for China is yet to be seen. The fact that the importing country becomes politically indebted to China cannot be denied, even when a country is hedging or diversifying its sources of arms import, as it would definitely adopt a more benign stance where China is concerned.

The major countries where China seeks influence in the Pacific are those in SE Asia, Oceania and countries in South America.

Arms Transfer to SE Asian Countries by China

China has arms trade with seven of Southeast Asia’s countries namely Indonesia, Myanmar Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Timor-Leste.

Some of the major Arms transfers to SE Asian countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Indonesia- Surface to Air Missiles (SAM), Anti-Ship Missiles (ASM), Naval Guns, Close-in weapon system (CIWS), Anti-Aircraft Guns (AA Guns), Multi-Rocket Launchers (MRL), various Radars, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Myanmar- Frigates, various Radars, ASM, Trainer/combat aircraft, Naval Guns, Main Battle Tanks (MBT), MRL, UAV, UCAV, SAM, Transport aircraft, Fifth generation aircraft J-17, Armoured Fire Support Vehicle (AFSV), Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).

Malaysia- Offshore patrol vessels (OPV)

Thailand- Self-propelled MRL, ASM, Arty Locating Radar, SAM, Tank, Submarines, Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Anti-ship and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) torpedoes.

Cambodia- Helicopters, Transport aircraft

Laos- Transport and light aircraft

Timor-Leste- Patrol aircraft

As far as Philippines is concerned, China has recently donated 3000 Assault rifles for tackling the drug mafia.

Interests in Oceania

 ‘China is not just filling a political vacuum created by Western neglect…. [i]t is incorporating the Pacific islands into its broader quest to become a major Asia-pacific power with a long-term goal to replace the US as the preeminent power in the Pacific Ocean’.

John Henderson and Benjamin Reilly, 2003[4]

Among the Pacific rim countries, Chinese relations with Australia and New Zealand have been very good traditionally, however, there has been a turbulence with respect to Australia in the recent past. Its relations with Tonga have raised eyebrows in the neighbourhood since it has a population of only 300-400 Chinese people and offers practically no economic benefits apart from its vast unexplored EEZ and fishery resources.

A word about maritime Tonga would not be out of place here. Tonga has a settlement history of over 3000 years based upon the discovery of Lapita pottery fragments on the islands. Lapita people are now supposed to be the ancestors of the Polynesian people. The Lapita people were considered to be proficient sailors and expert navigators.  The Polynesian people succeeding Lapita settlers were great sailors and sea warriors. Tongans also continued the seafarers’ legacy and excelled in building large bi-hulled, 20-30-meter-long, Kalia sailing crafts. The structure of the Kalia was unique in that it had one larger and one smaller hull. Stability could be achieved with the smaller hull rising with the ocean swell and the larger hull dipping in the swell.  They were joined by a platform forming a sort of bridge. The Tongans have been crisscrossing the pacific islands regularly over the past three millennia.  In fact, it is said that no Fiji boat ventured to and from Tonga without Tongan sailors on board. The Tongans procured stone tooling from Fiji, Society islands and Samoa. Tonga had also became a trading hub during the past millennia. Tongan waters have been a witness to one of the most filmed mutinies at sea amidst its Ha’apai island group, namely “the Mutiny on the Bounty”.

Tonga, today, sits astride the SLOC from Asia to South America & Australia/New Zealand to the US and has underground sea cables running through its EEZ. It also has rights to a number of satellite launch sites[5]. The area has a large number of air strips and ports.

Apart from the economic aid, humanitarian assistance and education programs, Chinese ships make frequent goodwill visits to the islands.  China had also gifted a turbo prop aircraft to Tonga, which had ruffled feathers in New Zealand. Recently the King Tupou VI of Tonga visited China where he stated that “Tonga agrees with China on its vision to build a new type of international relations and stands ready to work with China to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”[6]

Keeping the above in view, it does not appear that Chinese largesse towards these islands is a display of its charitable and humane side. It is Tonga’s strategic location on the third island chain that could be the more likely reason for the Chinese strategic foray in to the region.

Arms transfers to South American countries by China

It is noteworthy that China has not only made arms sales to SE Asian countries and is making friendly overtures in Oceania but that it has also made deep inroads through arms sales in South America. Significantly, it has sold arms to Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Some of the major Arms transfers to South American countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Venezuela- Radars, Trainer/combat aircraft, Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SRAAM), Transport aircraft, self-propelled MRL/Mortar, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), Armoured Protected Vehicles (APV), Armoured personnel carriers (APC), light tanks, ASM

Peru- SAM, 122 mm MRL

Argentina- APCs

Ecuador- Air Search Radars

Bolivia- Trainer/ combat aircraft, helicopters, APV

Trinidad and Tobago- OPVs

Strategically China has thus ‘cupped’ the Pacific by securing not only its south eastern shores and Oceania but also the western shores of South America.

San Francisco System

A Japanese peace treaty was signed on 6 September 1951 between 49 allied countries and Japan which also contained elements of regional security. A separate security treaty was signed between the US and Japan on that day which made Japan’s economy, military, and diplomacy dependent upon the US. There were a slew of bilateral agreements and treaties thereafter which resulted in a loose and flexible collective security & cooperation structure in the region. The result was a hub and spoke structure with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia as spokes and the US as the hub. Historian John W Dower coined the term San Francisco System (SFS) to describe this informal arrangement under the security umbrella of the United States. The SFS continues to this day in the absence of any other formal security structure covering the Pacific region.

Conclusion

China has been working on the strategy of casting a strategic net across the seas with its arms sales which raises security concerns for nations directly or indirectly dependent upon sea trade. It has almost put in place a multi-polar power structure which would be difficult to dislodge. The string of pearls in the IOR, has grown in to a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’[7] with its pendant as the cupped Pacific.

The Chinese arms sales should not be wished away as insignificant since the market share of the US remains undented, it should instead be assessed in terms of collapsing geo-strategic and geo- political space of the US and its future ramifications.

The option available today in the Pacific is striving for freedom of the Ocean commons and loosening the trade & economic web spun by China through strengthening the spokes in the San Francisco System. It may be worthwhile to look for additional spokes in the nearly 70-year-old system especially in the third island chain. Island nations with rich maritime heritage like Tonga offer a good strategic foot hold and geostrategic advantage in the Pacific. For example, Tonga is ~3182 nm from US base at Guam, ~2752 nm from Hawaii, and ~1959 nm from Sydney. It has a large swath of uninhabited islands which can be utilised for security infrastructure. With the available sensor technologies innovative and cost effective ISR stations can be created which in turn would help in the development of the South Pacific Nations and wean them away from the influence of China.

Picture1

A new node in these islands nations offers the US the flexibility of using the existing sea ports and airstrips as well as an alternate manoeuvring and staging Area. In turn it could accrue scarce strategic space and strengthen the third island chain.

Time to act is slipping away!

[1] Mahan A. T. The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future. http://www.archive.org/stream/theinterestofame15749gut/15749.txt (Accessed 10 Mar 2018)

[2] On 4 January 1954, US State Department Advisor John Foster Dulles propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains. The key component of the First Island Chain was Taiwan (it was thereafter christened as one of the Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers); it extended from northern Philippines & Borneo, up to Kuril Islands. The second line of defence was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania.

[3] Andrew S. Erickson. Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development and Counter-intervention Efforts

Testimony before Hearing on China’s Advanced Weapons. Panel I: China’s Hypersonic and Manoeuvrable Re-Entry Vehicle Programs U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Washington, DC.23 February 2017. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Erickson_Testimony.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[4] John Henderson. Benjamin Reilly. Dragon in paradise: China’s rising star in Oceania. The National Interest; Summer 2003. https://crawford.anu.edu.au/pdf/staff/ben_reilly/breilly1.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[5] What Does China Want with Tonga? Featuring Gordon Chang & Cleo Paskal’, online video, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5vTeUJbN3M, (accessed 15 March 2018).

[6] China, Tonga agree to promote strategic partnership. Xinhua. 24 Mar 2018.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/02/c_137009307.htm (accessed 17 March 2018).

[7] Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans”. IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html  (Accessed 19 Mar 2018)

Cyber Warfare: Protecting the Soldier

(Published in CLAWS Scholar Warrior, 06 Jan 2018)

The machine has presented us with a central nervous system, protected with no spinal vertebrae, lying almost naked for the cutting. If, for one reason or another, the severance is made, we face a terrifying, perhaps mortal crisis…. Day by day the complexity, and hence the potential danger, accelerates; materials and structures ceaselessly and silently deteriorate.

                                                                Stuart Chase, in Men and Machines, 1929

The warfare domains have traditionally included those which have geographic and topographic warfighting constraints, for example the land, sea, and air (now aero-space) domains. However, in Cyberwarfare the physical domains are no longer relevant since the domain has changed to the all-encompassing global electromagnetic spectrum. There is a need therefore, to look for the definition of the Cyberspace in which a modern soldier is required to operate.

The US Department of Defense defines cyberspace as, “A global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures and resident data, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers”.[1]

Kuehl has defined it as,[2] “an operational domain whose distinctive and unique character is framed by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to create, store, modify, exchange, and exploit information via inter-connected information and communication technology-based systems and their associated infra-structures.”

The above definitions draw upon the interrelated effects of the physical, the informational, and the cognitive. These together comprise: the physical platforms, systems & infrastructure that provide global connectivity to interconnect information systems, networks, and human users; the massive amounts of information that can be digitally and electronically shared; and the impact on human behaviour & decision making when faced with the deluge of information.[3]

Some characteristics of cyberspace are that: it exists and functions within the natural electromagnetic spectrum (EMS); it exists due to man-made technologies; it can be replicated; and that it is far more economical to operate and utilise cyberspace than other domains. These lead to a more encompassing definition of Cyberspace that,[4]it is a global domain within the information environment whose distinctive and unique character is framed by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to create, store, modify, exchange, and exploit information via interdependent and interconnected networks using information-communication technologies”.

The cyberspace has been preferred by nations, criminals and hackers for cyber-attacks across the globe due to the fact that: its usage is becoming the backbone of the society; the current systems do not have adequate protection and predictive intrusion detection systems[5]; it is very fast, its reach is worldwide, and it provides anonymity. The increasing usage of digital sensing, and software based control in critical infrastructure, and dependence upon communication network for movement of network based data has made cybersecurity a national security problem. Cybersecurity can be defined[6] as, “Prevention of damage to, protection of, and restoration of computers, electronic communications systems, electronic communications services, wire communication, and electronic communication, including information contained therein, to ensure its availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and nonrepudiation”.

Based upon the above Military cyber power can be defined[7] as, ‘the application of operational concepts, strategies, and functions that employ the tools of cyberspace to accomplish military objectives and missions’.

Cyber Threat Assessment – China

The establishment of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence Research Centre in June 2014 to ‘provide strong support in obtaining high-quality intelligence research findings and help China gain advantage in national information security’ indicates to the focus of the PLA on cyberspace[8]. Strategic Support Force (SSF) of China is a Military Theatre-grade organisation responsible for the space, cyber, and electronic warfare missions of the PLA and strategic-level information support for joint operations. The SSF is more or less the information warfare branch of the People’s Liberation Army. While detailed information about the SSF is not available, it is understood that the SFF will be composed of three separate forces: space troops (recognition and navigation satellites), cyber troops (offensive and defensive hacking), and electronic warfare forces (jamming and disrupting radars and communications) [9]. As per Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, its main task will be ensuring the military’s local advantages in aerospace, space, cyber, and electromagnetic battlefields through operations such as target tracking and reconnaissance, satellite navigation, and attack and defence in cyber and electromagnetic spaces – the underlying goal of which should be attaining victory in future wars. Further, the SSF will assume responsibilities in defending the civilian infrastructure to increase the security of China’s financial institutions as well as people’s daily lives in general[10]. It implies that the SSF will be responsible for all aspects of information warfare, including intelligence, technical reconnaissance, cyber warfare, and electronic warfare. This is in line with China’s strategic thinking, which sees paralysing and sabotaging the enemy’s operational and command systems as a key to achieving dominance in all other domains, land, sea, and air[11].

Desmond Ball has brought out that PLA Information Warfare (IW) units have reportedly developed and tested ‘detailed procedures’ for Internet warfare, including software for network scanning, obtaining passwords and breaking codes, and stealing data; information-paralysing software, information-blocking software, information-deception software & other malware; and software for effecting counter-measures. These procedures have been tested during simulated cyber-attacks against Taiwan, India, Japan and South Korea. The PLA has reportedly established at least twelve facilities for Integrated Network Electronic Warfare (INEW) training at unit levels in computer network attack & defence operations, jamming & other forms of electronic warfare, and other IW activities. The facility is supposedly located at Zhurihe in the Beijing Military Region[12].

It is understood that Chinese hackers have been able to: crash selected Web servers, penetrate Web-sites and deface them, erase data from them, post on them, and have developed various viruses/Trojan Horse programs for spreading/inserting by e-mails to disable/steal information from targeted computer systems. However, there is no evidence yet that these hackers would be able to penetrate highly secure networks/command and control or weapon system networks to copy or manipulate critical data. Currently, China’s extensive cyber-warfare capabilities are very good for simple attacks but not for sustained cyber-warfare. As a result, the PLA may seek to use its cyberwarfare capabilities to collect data for intelligence and cyberattack purposes; to constrain an adversary’s actions by targeting network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities; or to serve as a force multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks during times of crisis or conflict[13].

Military Cyber Vulnerabilities

The Future Soldier Vision (FSV)

The FSV design for UK as unveiled by MOD UK includes[14]:

-Head sub-system concept incorporating hearing protection, lightweight sensors for information sharing and an integrated power supply.

-Torso sub-system concept of segmented armour that can be customised to the user or situation with integrated connectors and power supply.

-Smart watch style wearable communications concept which incorporates sensors to record the user’s biometric data.

-Smart glasses concept which include a heads-up display, integrated camera and bone conducting headphones to increase situational awareness without compromising hearing.

-A robust personal role computer concept enabling better information sharing and communications between personnel.

-Ergonomically designed and customisable the weapon concept that will allow targeting information to be shared between soldiers and their units.

-Further the FSV is designed to work as an integrated system with survivability, enhanced situational awareness and network capability. Protection technology, a network of sensors for information sharing and power and data connectors will also all be built-in.

At the 2017 Association of the United States Army annual meeting (AUSA 2017), US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) presented a concept for the US Army’s future soldier of the 2030 which also promised everything from powered exoskeletons, to futuristic optics, to individual network capability[15].

The modernisation program for the infantry in India began with the F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier As a System), but it has now evolved in to two separate programs – arming the Infantry with better offensive and defensive gear and the Battlefield Management System. The system is technology based with sensors, laser range finders, and cameras etc. The system will merge the information to give the soldier a real-time picture of the battlefield. The tactical level communication will take place over secure radio networks, and command level communication would be carried over Indian satellites. Each soldier will have a personal GPS device and will be able to see the position of other soldiers via a helmet mounted display[16].

As can be envisioned from the FSV above, the future soldier would be operating in an environment where he would be subjected to direct and indirect cyber-attacks by the adversary since the FSV is designed around the core concept of network centric warfare. In addition to the FSV, the complete architecture of modern warfare revolves around network centricity which itself is vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Military Systems

The military cyberspace domain under which its systems operate comprises of two major types of networks namely, an open network which relies on data-sharing, situational awareness, and teamwork, whereas the other utilises secure networks which depend upon speed, reliability and data integrity. The military communications utilise various types of modes for example, the global communications systems, military controlled commercial networks, and highly secure networks for target-shooter systems.

Complex Military C4I systems are relying more and more on sophisticated software and communication systems and hence they remain lucrative targets for hackers and adversary states. Next come the weapon systems which use software, like aircraft, warships and military special vehicles. Thereafter come the communication nodes, wide area networks, logistics and GPS feeds etc. Ingress into a system using software can be made by physical means through inputs to the system for example, like spare ports, by installing malware, or installing clandestine wireless devices. Indirect ingress can be made through connectivity ports for example, through internet, or through connection leading from other computers, or indirectly accessing the device from a distance using operating software vulnerabilities. In case of the Military both these methods of attack can be guarded against effectively but not absolutely.

The widespread usage of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) or open-source systems for military uses has increased the vulnerability to cyber-attack, their use should be guided by policies that assure the Military of obviating the risks and by carrying out a risk and cost benefit study.[17]

Standardisation has reduced costs, but it exposes a large number of similar products through exploitation of common vulnerabilities. Trojan horses could be introduced in the process of developing or maintaining the software. Vulnerabilities could be deliberately planted in a device or software program. By and large critical military systems are carefully designed and operated and are expected to remain safe during cyber-attacks.

The cyber space interlays and overlays with the civilian and military cyber domains therefore, even though military defences at local level can be strengthened; using physical access controls, password regimes, complex logging procedures & biometrics, isolation, human interfaces for critical equipment operations etc; it is an effort at the policy level which has to be put in place by the government so that the cyber-attack does not debilitate national security.

Policy Level Efforts

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has three primary cyber missions: Defend DoD networks, systems, and information; Defend the nation against cyberattacks of significant consequence; and Support operational and contingency plans.

US DoD has set five strategic goals for its cyberspace missions[18]:

  1. Build and maintain ready forces and capabilities to conduct cyberspace operations; This strategy sets specific objectives for DoD with regard to manning, training, and equipping its forces and personnel over the next five years and beyond.
  2. Defend the DoD information network, secure DoD data, and mitigate risks to DoD missions; DoD must take steps to identify, prioritize, and defend its most important networks and data so that it can carry out its missions effectively. DoD must also plan and exercise to operate within a degraded and disrupted cyber environment in the event that an attack on DoD’s networks and data succeeds, or if aspects of the critical infrastructure on which DoD relies for its operational and contingency plans are disrupted.
  3. Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks of significant consequence; The Department of Defense must work with its interagency partners, the private sector, and allied and partner nations to deter and if necessary defeat a cyberattack of significant consequence on the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests.
  4. Build and maintain viable cyber options and plan to use those options to control conflict escalation and to shape the conflict environment at all stages; During heightened tensions or outright hostilities DoD must be able to provide the President with a wide range of options for managing conflict escalation. If directed, DoD should be able to use cyber operations to disrupt an adversary’s command and control networks, military-related critical infrastructure, and weapons capabilities.
  5. Build and maintain robust international alliances and partnerships to deter shared threats and increase international security and stability; All three of DoD’s cyber missions require close collaboration with foreign allies and partners. In its international cyber engagement DoD seeks to build partnership capacity in cybersecurity and cyber defense, and to deepen operational partnerships where appropriate.

Way ahead

It would be utopian to expect an integrated military cyberspace infrastructure which can fulfil all the requirements of open and closed networks of the military to cater to its multifarious requirements of data sharing and weapon-shooter-target engagements. Further, expecting it to be vulnerability proof, having infinite band width, reliable, survivable & upgradable, virtually amounts to asking for the moon. However, under the prevalent technology regime a pragmatic structure can be provided with sufficient redundancy to enable it to withstand cyber-attacks and carry out assigned tasks during the period of the conflict. Two major adversaries the US and China have well defined cyber security policies in place which offer India a workable platform for tailoring its own policy. The government of India is planning to create a new tri-service agency for cyber warfare. The Defence Cyber Agency will work in coordination with the National Cyber Security Advisor. It will have more than 1,000 experts who will be distributed into a number of formations of the Army, Navy and IAF. According to reports, the new Defence Cyber Agency will have both offensive and defensive capacity[19].

It would be the exhaustive implementation of this policy, as and when it materialises, which would protect the soldier during a cyberwar.

End Notes

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 1-02, Washington D.C., US Department of Defense, 08 Nov 2010;as amended through 15 Feb 2016. https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp1_02.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[2] Daniel T. Kuehl, “From Cyberspace to Cyberpower: Defining the Problem,” in Franklin D. Kramer, Stuart Starr & Larry K. Wentz, eds., Cyberpower and National Security, Washington D.C., National Defense University Press, Potomac Books, 2009. http://ctnsp.dodlive.mil/files/2014/03/Cyberpower-I-Chap-02.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Richard A. Clarke & Robert K. Knake, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to do About it, New York, Ecco, 2010, pp. 103-149.

[6] 1 Ibid.

[7] Elihu Zimet and Charles L. Barry. Military Service Cyber Overview in Military Perspectives on Cyberpower

edits Larry K. Wentz, Charles L. Barry, Stuart H. Starr. Center for technology and national security policy at the National Defense University, Washington, DC. July 2009. https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=32100 (Accessed 02 Jan 2018).

[8] Yao, Jianing. ‘PLA Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence Research Center Founded.’ China’s Military. 30 June 2014. http://eng.chinamil.com.cn/news-channels/china-military-news/2014-06/30/content_6025789.htm. (Accessed 03 Jan 2018).

[9] Mikk Raud, China and Cyber: Attitudes, Strategies, Organisation. The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. Tallin 2016. https://ccdcoe.org/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdf/CS_organisation_CHINA_092016.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[10] Costello, John. ‘The Strategic Support Force: China’s Information Warfare Service.’ The Jamestown Foundation. 8 Feb. 2016. http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=45075&cHash=97580

54639ab2cb6bc7868e96736b6cb#.V6RA_Lt95aQ>. Accessed 23 Aug. 2016. (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Desmond Ball. China’s Cyber Warfare Capabilities. Security Challenges, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 2011), pp. 81-103. https://indianstrategicknowledgeonline.com/web/china%20cyber.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[13] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments

Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017. https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017_China_Military_Power_Report.PDF (Accessed 02 Jan 2018).

[14] Ministry of Defence UK, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and The Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP. MOD unveils futuristic uniform design. 16 September 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mod-unveils-futuristic-uniform-design (Accessed 02 Jan 2018).

[15] Nathaniel F. “SOLDIER OF THE FUTURE” Concept Displayed by US Army at [AUSA 2017]. The Firearm Blog. 30 Oct 2017. http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/10/30/soldier-future-concept-displayed-us-army-ausa-2017/ (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[16] Abhishek Saksena. Indian Army’s Future Infantry Soldiers To Get Lethal Weapons And Better Protection. India Times. 18 Jan 2017. https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/indian-army-s-future-infantry-soldiers-to-get-lethal-weapons-and-better-protection-269775.html (Accessed 03 Jan 2018).

[17] Howard F. Lipson, Nancy R. Mead, and Andrew P. Moore, “Can We Ever Build Survivable Systems from COTS Components?” CMU/SEI–2001–TN–030 (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University, Software Engineering Institute, December 2001). http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1630&context=sei (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[18] The DOD Cyber Strategy 2015, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2015/0415_cyber-strategy/Final_2015_DoD_CYBER_STRATEGY_for_web.pdf (Accessed 05 Jan 2018).

[19] India is quietly preparing a cyber warfare unit to fight a new kind of enemy. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-is-quietly-preparing-a-cyber-warfare-unit-to-fight-a-new-kind-of-enemy/articleshow/61141277.cms (Accessed 05 Jan 2018).

Evolution and Role of Naval UAVs

(Published in special edition of Economic Times, India on 04 Dec 2017)

Earliest mention of a drone/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the Naval context is found in 1917, when the US Navy commissioned the design of an ‘aerial torpedo’ for use against German U-boats. A contract was awarded to the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, and the airplane was named the Speed-Scout. It was designed to be launched from naval ships carrying a 1,000-lb. payload and to be stabilized by an autopilot. It suffered several failures before it achieved its first successful flight on 06 March 1918, making it the first flight of an UAV. On 15 April 1923, the Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) specially equipped F5L seaplane was controlled by radio signals up to a range of 10 miles from the transmitter. The NRL also reported that radio control of take-off and landing of aircraft was possible. Project Fox, equipped with a television camera, was developed by The Naval Aircraft Factory in 1941. It was controlled by TG-2 aircraft and successfully carried out torpedo attack on a destroyer in 1942.

McDonnell Aircraft developed a radio-controlled target drone TD2D-1 in 1942 for anti-aircraft and aerial gunnery practice of U.S. Navy. TD2D was gyro-stabilized, radio-controlled and could be recovered by parachute. The Ryan Firebee was a 23-feet long target drone, which could fly at over 700 miles per hour on a pre-programmed flight path. It could be recovered mid-air by a C-130 Hercules with a capture net, or parachute into the sea for recovery. A modified Firebee with cameras called a ‘Lightning Bug’ could fly over a target area and take aerial pictures, it carried out over 3,000 reconnaissance missions in Vietnam. The drones have been tested on carriers, and have flown in combat, the TDR-1s launched from the USS Sable in 1943, and the Firebees took off from the USS Ranger from 1969 to 1970.

The Gyrodyne model QH-50D was a remotely controlled UAV which was built and delivered to the U.S. Navy as the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH). The QH-50D was a rotary-winged, anti-submarine weapon carrier designed primarily to deliver two MK44 acoustic homing torpedoes or a Mk 17 Nuclear depth charge using the W-44 warhead and also had a provision for a ‘classified weapon’.

The maritime UAV serves in national security, paramilitary and wartime missions. It expands the user’s horizons by providing Over The Horizon Targeting (OTHT). In addition, it increases the scanning area, time over target and the mission flexibility. It also serves in real time battle damage assessment. During peacetime, it prevents the penetration of any sea borne hostile intruder, protects the country’s rights and interests in the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and supports in Search and Rescue operations. In war-time it assists in achieving naval superiority, helps in destruction of enemy naval forces, defends the coast lines, and supports ground operations (littoral warfare). The role of the Maritime UAV system is to provide unmanned, long endurance aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition. In addition, the UAV can create a comprehensive, real time, naval tactical picture for the ship’s commander and naval HQs.

A typical Maritime UAV System consists of at least three aircraft, with ground control system (GCS), Launch & Retrieval Station (LRS), Ground Data Terminal (GDT), Launch & Retrieval Data Terminal (LRDT), and mission oriented Payloads. A typical Payload consists of a Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) with multi-mode functions, an Electro-Optical sensor with day/night capabilities, and an optional ELINT package. The payload package provides the necessary data for detection, classification, and identification of surface vessels at sea. Having a line of sight data link package provides a system range of 250 km and an air data relay extends the patrolling distance to 350 km.

The launching of UAVs from warships presents less of a challenge than recovery. UAVs can be launched through a variety of catapult options, including rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) as used by the US Navy for embarked Pioneer UAV operations. The IN operates the Lakshya unmanned aerial target system that uses boosters to launch without any ground run. Recovery of UAVs is more problematic than their launch. Vertical landing UAVs can be recovered using manual remote piloting to a conventional vertical landing, or by automatic landing systems such as the US UAV common automatic recovery system (UCARS). Fixed wing UAVs are presently recovered by more extreme methods, such as by flying it into a recovery net, by stopping the motor and ditching it into the water by parachute for a manual recovery, or by mid-air recovery using a manned helicopter or aircraft.

The IN currently operates the Heron and the Searcher MK II UAVs manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. These are capable of beaming real time live pictures of maritime targets to Commands ashore, thus enhancing the joint defence capability by synergizing capabilities of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and local authorities. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has initiated a request to the US for procuring 22 multi-mission Guardian UAVs for the Indian Navy. A RFI has also been issued for 50 ‘Naval Ship-Borne Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (NSUAS) for Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), monitoring of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC), Exclusive Economic Zone safety, anti-piracy, and anti-terrorism functions along with Search and Rescue (S&R) roles. The MoD, is also considering procurement of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs for use by the three defense services.

For the near future, the US Navy is progressing ahead with procurement of The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAS (BAMS UAS), the Vertical Take-off and Landing UAV (VTUAV) Fire Scout MQ-8B unmanned helicopter, and The Small Tactical UAS (STUAS), RQ-21 Blackjack. The indigenous AURA and Rustom (& its variants) are being developed by DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces.

The question that the Indian Navy faces today is, whether it is ready to go for development of fully 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? If yes, then there is a need for the Indian Navy to look in to:

– technologies and software formulations which would permit an unmanned vehicle to launch itself, proceed to learn acoustic/magnetic/electromagnetic signatures, and identify the target on its own.

– technologies, which are more environmental friendly, for e.g. the use of green plastics of the poly hexahydrotriazines or PHTs category, and green electrical power including its storage for long endurance operations.

– a resilient architecture that can act as a redundant pathway to atmospheric communications through electromagnetic domains including digital communications utilizing fibre domain.

– Distributed manufacturing to enable efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories, and develop 3D printing of circuit boards and other integrated electronic components.

– cognitive testing aspects of software for unmanned vehicles today to fruitfully operate autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

– exploring technologies for developing new types of weapons for use in the autonomous vehicles.

– focusing on the technology developments in the commercial sector, especially in the software, and the artificial intelligence sectors. As it appears, the only option is to synergize with the commercial sector to ensure that UAVs become a force multiplier in the next decade.

Russia Deploys the Father of all Bombs?  

 

(Published IndraStra Global 12 Sep 2017)

“These are fuel-air explosives, designed to generate intense blast pressure over a large area. It is reported that the Russian bomb is a so-called thermobaric bomb that produces both blast and heat. The Russian military has been a pioneer in the development and use of these thermobaric weapons. This would have to be one of the largest deliverable, droppable bombs in military history[i].”

                                                                                                                                       John Pike

It is understood that Russia has deployed the Father of all Bombs, the FOAB, on 07 Sep 2017 at Deir ez-Zor in Syria killing several ISIS leaders[ii].  Deir ez-Zor is located 450 km northeast of Damascus on the banks of the Euphrates River. It is the largest city in eastern Syria. It is reported that thousands of ISIS terrorists had moved to Deir ez-Zor area as a result of the advances made by the Syrian Arab Army[iii].

The technical name of the FOAB is The Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP). It is supposed that the Russians dropped the FOAB using the Tu-160 (NATO designation Blackjack) which is considered to be the largest operational bomber in the world. It can carry out low-level penetration at transonic speeds as well as high-level penetration at ~Mach 2 [iv].Tu-160 can carry 12 Kh-55 and up to 24 Kh-15 nuclear capable missiles. It can also be used to deploy up to 40 t of bombs.

The US had dropped its Mother of All Bombs, MOAB or the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, on 13th April 2017 on the tunnel complexes in Achin district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan[v].

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. In a thermobaric bomb, the high pressure blast pulse and the low pressure pulse are enhanced by addition of various oxygen rich chemicals and fuels. This results in much larger combustion zones and pressure pulse of much longer duration which debilitates the target effectively[vi]. 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[vii]. This increases the blast pressure wave as well as the fire envelope.

Guidance of Air to Surface 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[viii]:

  • 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’

A bit about the MOAB of the US. 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[ix]. 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. [x] 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.

FOAB vs MOAB

The details about the FOAB are at best sketchy. Similar to other Thermobaric weapons it probably utilises a high explosive filler boosted with a mixture of aluminium powder and ethylene oxide for the high-intensity blast and associated shockwave[xi]. Some reports speculate that a new Nano-energetic material is utilised currently which results in supersonic velocity “shock front” and higher temperatures. A high explosive burster is likely to be surrounded by a liquid fuel mixture of ethylene oxide and Nano-aluminium [xii],[xiii]. It is supposed that nanofiltration techniques have been used to refine the fuel mixture to achieve very high purity levels which in turn have resulted in a much higher TNT equivalent yield. This has also provided a higher destructive area and temperature[xiv].Thus it would be appropriate to classify FOAB as a thermobaric bomb with fuel air explosive.

A comparison of MOAB and FOAB as sourced from Wikipedia is shown below :-

Bomb                              MОАВ                                          FОАВ

Mass:                             10.3 tonnes                                 7.1 tonnes

TNT equivalent:         11 tons (22,000 lb)                  ≈44 tons (≈88,000 lb)

Blast radius:                150 meters (492 ft)                  300 meters (984 ft)

Guidance:                     INS/GPS                                      GLONASS

Many times, the destructive capacity of both the bombs is compared with that of the nuclear bombs, however neither of the bombs come anywhere near the yield of the nuclear bombs. They lie at the lowest end of the Tactical nuclear bombs as far as TNT equivalent yield is concerned. What unambiguously differentiates them from a nuclear bomb are the latent effects of the deployment. The radiation effects of atomic/nuclear weapons last across generations in humans and require decades for remediation of the environment.

Recent Developments in Thermobaric Bombs

The research in the area of new explosive material is classified and only some idea can be gathered from patents which are filed. Nano energetic materials and techniques are being increasingly used in the manufacture of explosive mixtures and supporting constituents. For instance, US Patent 8,250,986 B1 talks of ‘Wrapping a high explosive core with an energetically and physically dense reactive material in a pressure vessel. The ‘reactive material’ is triggered prior to detonation of the high explosive. The triggering of the ‘reactive material’ prior to detonation of the explosive charge allows the slower reacting surround to completely release its stored chemical energy. Subsequent detonation of the explosive will rupture the pressure vessel and disperse the super-heated reactive material in a multi-phase flow field. The reaction products of the ‘reactive material’ surround will interact with the blast wind and will also after burn when exposed to additional ambient oxygen creating a significant enhancement in impulse. ‘Reactive material’ is any of the new class of thermite-like pyrotechnic compositions of two or more nonexplosive solid materials, which stay inert and do not react with each other until subjected to a strong mechanical stimulus, after which they undergo fast burning or explosion with release of high amount of chemical energy in addition to their kinetic energy. Mixtures that are potentially suitable include one or more finely powdered (down to nanoparticle size) metalloids or metals like aluminium, magnesium, zirconium, titanium, tungsten, tantalum, or hafnium, with one or more oxidizers like Teflon or other fluoropolymer, compacted to a high-density mass. To achieve a suitable reaction rate and insensitivity to impact, friction, and electrostatic discharge, fuel particles have sizes usually between 1-250 pm. One such composition is aluminium-Teflon (Al-PTFE). [xv]

All that is alive merely evaporates, [xvi].”

Alexander Rukshin, 2007.

A Facebook post by the Russian Defence Ministry stated, “As a result of a precision air strike of the Russian air forces in the vicinity of Deir ez-Zor city, a command post, communication centre and some 40 ISIS fighters have been killed [xvii].” Those killed are said to include important leaders of ISIS like Gulmurod Khalimov, their Minister of War and Abu-Muhammad al-Shimali.

In the coming days if it is conclusively proved that FOAB was indeed deployed, it would imply that it is no longer in the realm of speculation. The MOAB and the FOAB would both be battle ready to be used against rogue states or organisations which threaten international peace. They both present a far better choice than the nuclear or the tactical nuclear weapon option.

[i] Joris Nieuwint. Russia’s Father Of All Bombs: “All That Is Alive Merely Evaporates”. War History Online,17 Nov 2015.  https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/russias-father-of-all-bombs-all-that-is-alive-merely-evaporates.html (Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[ii] Jane Lavender. Russia drops ‘father of all bombs’ on ISIS. The Mirror,09 Sep 2017. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/russia-drops-father-bombs-isis-11142677 (Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[iii] Leith Fadel. ISIL mass retreating to Deir Ezzor for epic battle. Al Masdar News, 01 Sep 2017.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/isil-mass-retreating-deir-ezzor-epic-battle/(Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[iv] Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack, Long-range strategic bomber. Military Today.com.

http://www.military-today.com/aircraft/tupolev_tu160_blackjack.htm(Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[v] 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 11 Sep 2017)

[vi] Kenneth Cross, Ove Dullum etal. Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas: Technical considerations relevant to their use and effects. A report Prepared by Armament Research Services (ARES) for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), May 2016.

[vii] 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 11 Sep 2017)

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

https://armadainternational.com/2017/04/dumb-bombs-with-graduate-degrees/ (Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[ix] 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 11 Sep 2017)

[x] GBU-43/B “Mother of All Bombs”, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/moab.htm (Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[xi] Joseph Trevithick. Rumors Fly That Russia Has Dropped “The Father of All Bombs” in Syria. The War Zone. 7 September, 2017.

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/14175/rumors-fly-that-russia-has-dropped-the-father-of-all-bombs-in-syria(Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[xii] Russia tests giant fuel-air bomb. BBC, 12 September 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6990815.stm

[xiii] Father of All Bombs. High Technology Zone, August 17, 2010. http://hightechnologyzone.blogspot.in/2010/08/father-of-all-bombs_17.html(Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[xiv] Father of All Bombs. Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP). Global Security.

https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/avbpm.htm(Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

[xv] US Patent 8,250,986 B1

[xvi] Joris Nieuwint. Russia’s Father Of All Bombs: “All That Is Alive Merely Evaporate. War History Online,17 Nov 2015.  https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/russias-father-of-all-bombs-all-that-is-alive-merely-evaporates.html(Accessed 10 Sep 2017)

[xvii] Jane Lavender. Russia drops ‘father of all bombs’ on ISIS. The Mirror,09 Sep 2017. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/russia-drops-father-bombs-isis-11142677 (Accessed 11 Sep 2017)

 

Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Defence

 

( Published IndraStra Global 23 Aug 2017)

The current year has seen unprecedented amount of hacker/ransomware attacks on government as well as private enterprises spread all across the world. Shadow Brokers came in form this year by leaking alleged NSA tools, which included a Windows exploit known as EternalBlue. In May, WannaCry ransomware crippled hundreds of thousands of computers belonging to public utilities, large corporations, and private citizens. It also affected National Health Service hospitals and facilities in the United Kingdom. It was halted in its tracks by utilising its flaws and activating a kill switch. WannaCry rode on Shadow Brokers leak of Windows OS weakness EternalBlue and the fact that the Windows MS17-010 patch had not been updated on many machines by the users.  In June, Petya (also known as NotPetya/Nyetya/Goldeneye) infected machines world-wide. It is suspected that its main target was to carry out a cyber-attack on Ukraine. It hit various utility services in Ukraine including the central bank, power companies, airports, and public transportation[1].

In 2009, Conficker[2] worm had infected civil and defence establishments of many nations, for example, the UK DOD had reported large-scale infection of its major computer systems including ships, submarines, and establishments of Royal Navy. The French Naval computer network ‘Intramar’ was infected, the network had to be quarantined, and air operations suspended. The German Army also reported infection of over a hundred of its computers. Conficker sought out flaws in Windows OS software and propagated by forming a botnet, it was very difficult to weed it out because it used a combination of many advanced malware techniques. It became the largest known computer worm infection by afflicting millions of computers in over 190 countries.

It is evident from the above incidents, which have the capability to inflict damage to both military and public institutions, that the amount of data and the speeds at which processing is required in case of cyber defence is beyond the capacity of human beings. Conventional algorithms are also unable to tackle dynamically changing data during a cyber-attack. Therefore, there is an increasing opinion that effective cyber defence can only be provided by real time flexible Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems with learning capability.

The US Defence Science Board report of 2013[3] states that “in a perfect world, DOD operational systems would be able to tell a commander when and if they were compromised, whether the system is still usable in full or degraded mode, identify alternatives to aid the commander in completing the mission, and finally provide the ability to restore the system to a known, trusted state. Today’s technology does not allow that level of fidelity and understanding of systems.” The report brings out that, systems such as automated intrusion detection, automated patch management, status data from each network, and regular network audits are currently unavailable. As far as cyber defence in military is concerned, in the US, it is the responsibility of the Cyber Command to “protect, monitor, analyze, detect, and respond to unauthorized activity within DOD information systems and computer networks”[4]. The offensive cyber operations could involve both military and intelligence agencies since both computer network exploitation and computer network attacks are involved. The commander of Cyber Command is also the Director of National Security Agency, thus enabling the Cyber Command to execute computer exploitations that may result in physical destruction of military or civilian infrastructure of the adversary.

AI utilizes a large number of concepts like, Machine Learning, Fuzzy Logic Control Systems, and Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs), etc. each of which singly or in combination are theoretically amenable for designing an efficient cyber-defence systems. The designed AI cyber defence system should proficiently monitor the network in real time and must be aware of all the activities that the network is engaged in. The system should be able to heal and protect itself. It should have self-diagnostic capabilities and sufficient inbuilt redundancies to function satisfactorily for a specified period of time.

Some advance research work in respect of active cyber defence has been demonstrated under various fields of AI, a few successfully tested examples are:

Artificial Neural Networks- In 2012, Barman, and Khataniar studied the development of intrusion detection systems, IDSs based on neural network systems. Their experiments showed that the system they proposed has intrusion detection rates similar to other available IDSs, but it was at least ~20 times faster in detection of denial of service, DoS attacks[5].

Intelligent Agent Applications-In 2013, Ionita et al. proposed a multi intelligent agent based approach for network intrusion detection using data mining[6].

Artificial Immune System (AIS) Applications- In 2014, Kumar, and Reddy developed a unique agent based intrusion detection system for wireless networks that collects information from various nodes and uses this information with evolutionary AIS to detect and prevent the intrusion via bypassing or delaying the transmission over the intrusive paths[7].

Genetic Algorithm and Fuzzy Sets Applications- In 2014, Padmadas et al. presented a layered genetic algorithm-based intrusion detection system for monitoring activities in a given environment to determine whether they are legitimate or malicious based on the available information resources, system integrity, and confidentiality[8].

Miscellaneous AI Applications- In 2014, Barani proposed genetic algorithm (GA) and artificial immune system (AIS), GAAIS – a dynamic intrusion detection method for Mobile ad hoc Networks based on genetic algorithm and AIS. GAAIS is self-adaptable to network changes[9].

In May, this year it was reported by Gizmodo[10] that over 60,000 sensitive files belonging to the US government were found on Amazon S3 with public access. Amazon S3 is a trusted cloud-based storage service where businesses of all sizes store content, documents, and other digital assets. 28 GB of this data contained unencrypted passwords owned by government contractors (for e.g. Booze Allen) with Top Secret Facility Clearance. It appears that many users had failed to apply the multiple techniques and best practices available to secure S3 Buckets and files.

This month, Amazon became the first public cloud provider to amalgamate Artificial Intelligence with cloud storage to help customers secure data[11]. The new service, Amazon Macie, depends on Machine Learning to automatically discover, classify, alert and protect sensitive data stored in Amazon Web Service, AWS.

From the above it can be seen that there is rapid progress in design and development of cyber defence systems utilizing AI that have direct military and civil applications.

 

[1] https://www.wired.com/story/2017-biggest-hacks-so-far/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conficker

[3] Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat, United States Department of Defence, Defence Science Board, January 2013

[4] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Defence Department Cyber Efforts,” May 2011, 2–3, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1175.pdf.

[5] D. K. Barman, G. Khataniar, “Design Of Intrusion Detection System Based On Artificial Neural Network And Application Of Rough Set”, International Journal of Computer Science and Communication Networks, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 548-552

[6] I. Ionita, L. Ionita, “An agent-based approach for building an intrusion detection system,” 12th International Conference on Networking in Education and Research (RoEduNet), pp.1-6.

[7] G.V.P. Kumar, D.K. Reddy, “An Agent Based Intrusion Detection System for Wireless Network with Artificial Immune System (AIS) and Negative Clone Selection,” International Conference on Electronic Systems, Signal Processing and Computing Technologies (ICESC), pp. 429-433.

[8] M. Padmadas, N. Krishnan, J. Kanchana, M. Karthikeyan, “Layered approach for intrusion detection systems based genetic algorithm,” IEEE International Conference on Computational Intelligence and Computing Research (ICCIC), pp.1-4.

[9] F. Barani, “A hybrid approach for dynamic intrusion detection in ad hoc networks using genetic algorithm and artificial immune system,” Iranian Conference on Intelligent Systems (ICIS), pp.1 6.

[10] http://gizmodo.com/top-defence-contractor-left-sensitive-pentagon-files-on-1795669632

[11] https://www.forbes.com/sites/janakirammsv/2017/08/20/amazon-brings-artificial-intelligence-to-cloud-storage-to-protect-customer-data/#465ef0ef7432

Big Data Analytics in Indian Navy  

 

(Published IndraStra Global 16 Aug 2017)

“The single most effective thing you can do right now to improve the security of your computer is unplug it from the Internet. Pull out that Ethernet cable; throw the wireless router in the microwave. The vast, vast majority of infections that plague your machine will arrive via the Web[i].”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Omar El Akkad

Today standalone computers and devices can be injected by viruses using drones and aircraft to cripple a nation’s cyber capability. Air Gaps placed at critical points in cyber infrastructure does not provide protection against a cyber-attack anymore. US has been flying EC-130 H on daily missions to deny ISIS military leaders and fighters the ability to communicate and coordinate defensive actions by shutting down their cell phones, radios, IEDs and very likely their new weapon of choice, drones[ii].

Big Data management (Storage, Handling, Analysis, Transmission) is directly linked to its security. Big Data security involves, infrastructure security, data management, data privacy, and integrity & reactive security[iii]. The Government of India has appreciated the all-pervasive nature of the cyber space domain and has therefore structured a holistic approach to the issues of Cyber Security and Big Data.

Cyber Security

The Indian IT Act 2000 defines “Cyber Security” as means for protecting information, equipment, devices, computer, computer resource, communication devices and information stored therein from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction[iv].

The Government of India has recognised that Cyberspace is vulnerable to a wide variety of incidents, where in targets could be the infrastructure or underlying economic well-being of a nation state. A cyber related incident of national significance may take any form; an organized cyber-attack, an uncontrolled exploit such as computer virus or worms or any malicious software code, a national disaster with significant cyber consequences or other related incidents capable of causing extensive damage to the information infrastructure or key assets. Large-scale cyber incidents may overwhelm the government, public and private sector resources and services by disrupting functioning of critical information systems. Complications from disruptions of such a magnitude may threaten lives, economy and national security[v]. The Government of India released the National Cyber Security Policy 2013 with the Vision “To build a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses and Government”. The stated Mission is “To protect information and information infrastructure in cyberspace, build capabilities to prevent and respond to cyber threats, reduce vulnerabilities and minimize damage from cyber incidents through a combination of institutional structures, people, processes, technology and cooperation”.

Some of the objectives of the policy are to; create a secure cyber ecosystem in the country, create an assurance framework for design of security policies, strengthen the Regulatory framework, enhance and create National and Sectoral level 24 x 7 mechanisms for obtaining strategic information regarding threats to ICT infrastructure, enhance the protection and resilience of Nation’s critical information infrastructure by operating a 24×7 National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) and mandating security practices, develop suitable indigenous security technologies through frontier technology research, improve visibility of the integrity of ICT products and services, create a workforce of 500,000 professionals skilled in cyber security in the next 5 years, create a culture of cyber security and privacy, develop effective public private partnerships, enhance global cooperation by promoting shared understanding[vi].

Important agencies dealing with cyberspace include- National Information Board (NIB) which is an apex agency with representatives from relevant Departments and agencies that form part of the critical minimum information infrastructure in the country. National Cyber Response Centre – Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) which monitors Indian cyberspace and coordinates alerts and warning of imminent attacks and detection of malicious attacks among public and private cyber users and organizations in the country. It maintains 24×7 operations centre and has working relations/collaborations and contacts with CERTs, across the globe. National Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIIPC) is a designated agency to protect the critical information infrastructure in the country.

Big Data Analytics

In India, Department of Science and Technology the under Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences has been tasked to develop Big Data Analytics, BDA eco system.[vii] DST has identified important areas for development of BDA eco system in India. Creation of the HR talent pool is the first requirement. This will require creation of industry academia partnership to groom the talent pool in universities as well as development of strong internal training curriculum to advance analytical depth. The Big Data Analytics programme has five steps: –

-to promote and foster big data science, technology and applications in the country and to develop core generic technologies, tools and algorithms for wider applications in Govt.

-to understand the present status of the industry in terms of market size, different players providing services across sectors, SWOT of industry, policy framework and present skill levels available.

-to carry out market landscape survey for assessing the future opportunities and demand for skill levels in next ten years.

– to bridge the skill level and policy framework gaps.

– to evolve a strategic road map and micro level action plan clearly defining roles of various stakeholders such as government, industry, academia and others with clear timelines and outcome for the next ten years.

National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) 2012 of DST is designed to promote data sharing and enable access to government owned data.

Big Data Analytics infrastructure development in India is being steered by the C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. State of the art hardware system and networking environment has already been created by the C-DAC at its various facilities. C-DAC’s research focus in cloud computing includes design and development of open source cloud middleware; virtualization and management tools; and end to end security solution for the cloud. A number of applications in C-DAC are being migrated to cloud computing technology. C-DAC regularly conducts Training on “Hadoop for Big Data Analytics” and “Analytics using Apache Spark” for various agencies including Defence.

Indian Navy-Big Data Analytics

The Big Data Analytics infrastructure for the Indian Navy operates under the holistic approach of the Government of India with respect to Big Data Analytics eco system and cyber security.

Indian Navy has a robust naval network with thousands of computers connected to it. This naval network ensures information availability/ processing, communication services, service facilitation platforms, multi-computing platforms, resources/information sharing, data warehousing, and so on. However, Cyber Security and Network Integrity is crucial to protect the naval network from data theft, denial of service, malicious viruses/ trojans attacks, single point failure, data & network integrity loss, and active/ passive monitoring.

Indian Navy has Naval Unified Domain NUD or Enterprise Intranet, which is back bone of Indian Navy. All communications, internal to enterprises, are through NUD only. It offers secure, isolated, fast and reliable connectivity across navy. NUD network operates only on controlled data (no unknown data from other applications is permitted) which can be easily segregated and analysed.

Vulnerabilities arise as personnel working on NUD may need to transfer data from internet to NUD and vice-versa, which may lead to security breaches of NUD. Further, physical guarding of NUD network lines against Men-in-the-Middle Attack is a complex task since Naval units are located at different geographical locations. There is also a possibility of attacks carried out by sophisticated software and hardware technologies such as via a mirror port or via a network tap to undertake passive monitoring, active monitoring, and certificates replications and so on.

The applicability of big data analytics in context of Indian Navy is very much in line with the developed forces in the world. There exists a requirement of efficient big data analytics in the fields of intelligence, operations, logistics, mobilization, medical, human resources, cyber security and counter insurgency/ counter terrorism for the Indian Navy. There is also the associated requirement to acquire predictive capability to anticipate specific incidents and suggest measures by analysing historical events.

However, due to nascent nature of big data analytics its awareness is limited to a small number of involved agencies in the Navy. The benefits of big data in operational scenario decision making while safe guarding accuracy and reliability have not yet been internalized. Big data projects even at pilot scales may not be available currently. In the present situation, decision makers are not clear about capability of big data, costs, benefits, applicability or the perils if any of not adopting big data.

Big data holds enormous potential in Naval Context to make the operations of Navy more efficient across the entire spectrum of its activity. The research and development necessary for the analysis of big data is not restricted to a single discipline, and requires an interdisciplinary approach. Computer scientists need to tackle issues pertaining to inferences, statisticians have to deal with algorithms, scalability and near real time decision making. Involvement of mathematicians, visualizers, social scientists, psychologists, domain experts and most important of all the final users, the Navy, is paramount for optimal utilization of big data analytics. The involvement and active participation of national agencies, private sector, public sector, and armed forces would ensure full exploitation of the potential of big data for the Indian Navy.

The need today is to start feasibility studies and research programs in select fields in order of desired priorities, followed by pilot studies and thereafter adapting COTS hardware and available big data analytic software suit

[i] Omar El Akkad. Nothing is hack-proof: The guide to safer computing. The Globe and Mail, 08 Apr, 2014. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/digital-culture/nothing-in-your-digital-life-is-hack-proof-the-guide-to-safer-computing/article17858297/ (Accessed 10 Aug 2017)

[ii] Wetzel, G. The Little-Known Aircraft That Wages War On ISIS’ Communications. Jalopnik,31 Mar 2017.

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-little-known-aircraft-that-wages-war-on-isis-commun-1793901527 (Accessed 12 Aug 2017)

[iii] Big Data Working Group; Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). Expanded Top Ten Big Data Security and Privacy. April 2013. https://downloads.cloudsecurityalliance.org/initiatives/bdwg/Expanded_

Top_Ten_Big_Data_Security_and_Privacy_Challenges.pdf (accessed 10 Aug 2017).

[iv] Indian IT Act 2000 as amended in 2008. http://meity.gov.in/writereaddata/files/it_amendment_act2008%20%281%29_0.pdf (Accessed 10 Aug 2017)

[v] National Cyber Security Policy -2013

http://164.100.94.102/writereaddata/files/downloads/National_cyber_security_policy-2013%281%29.pdf (Accessed 12 Aug 2017)

[vi] ibid.

[vii] Big Data Initiative.Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Government of India. http://dst.gov.in/big-data-initiative-1 (Accessed 10 Aug 2017)

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)