Tag Archives: Military

Civilian Micro Drones, IEDs, and Extremists


Kulshrestha, S. “Civilian Microdrones, IEDs, and Extremists”, IndraStra Global Vol. 04, Issue No: 01 (2018), 0035, http://www.indrastra.com/2018/01/Civilian-Micro-Drones-IEDs-and-Extremists-004-01-2018-0035.html | ISSN 2381-3652


“I look to the skies
and expect artificial passenger pigeons,
blackening the light,
people taking potshots for kicks
imagining one day they will be extinct.”
Carl-John X Veraj

The proliferation of COTS drones
Unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UAS), have been used by military forces in conflict zones to meet various operational requirements for a long time. However, it is only now, due to the availability of Drone technologies from commercial off the shelf (COTS) market sources, that the use of the UAV/Drones [End note 1]. in the civilian arena have found multifarious applications. This availability of Drones is also being gainfully exploited by terrorists/extremists/non-state actors/insurgents & rebels for furthering their nefarious purposes. The Drones have been weaponised innovatively to drop mini bombs, booby trapping, and carrying out kamikaze attacks on the targets of interest. The exploding of a precision crashed drone, in a target area using remote means, at a time of choice is a more recent phenomenon. For example, Skywalker X-8 drone has been spotted by Kurdish forces since 2015. It is understood that a modified Skywalker X-8 (drone borne improvised explosive device or DBIED-End note 2), white in colour, crashed at approximately 1200 hours on 2 October 2016, about 30 to 40 metres from the Peshmerga trench in the Mosul Dam area. Because the drone was light (approx. 2 kg), it was assumed that it was not booby-trapped. It exploded soon thereafter, resulting in the death of two Peshmerga soldiers and wounding of two French paratroopers. The burns they endured were probably due to the detonation of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil explosive (ANFO), and from the melted expanded polyolefin (EPO) material of the UAV body generated by the heat of the explosion {1}. The explosion of the UAV created a small crater (approximately 15-20 cm in diameter) on the ground where the victims were standing. Since then, the Isis has frequently used weaponised Drones to carry out attacks. The type of Drones are commercially available Chinese mini hobby UAVs with ranges upwards of 7km and payloads of up to 40kg {2}.
As per a report by Bard College, UK, the Drone use by extremists has increased exponentially in 2017. Drones are being used in conflict zones like, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Philippines. In fact, the ISIS has a well organised system for its Drone operations, it is understood that the US had targeted the leaders of the ISIS Drone program during airstrikes in 2017 {3}. The easy availability of cheap drones in the hands of the extremists has also raised the spectre of the extremists carrying out a spectacular attack using a large number of drones akin to a swarm attack by locusts.
Counter UAS – cUAS [End note 3]
The use of consumer drones by Militant groups; for battlefield reconnaissance, dropping small bombs/IEDs, propaganda footage for recruitment videos, acts of terrorism, flying drones into the flight path of commercial airliners, swarming, or creating fear in the minds of public by other acts etc; has accelerated the developments of Counter UAS technologies in major countries.
Western Countries. Whereas the militaries today are conscious that in case of a drone swarm attack it may not be feasible to destroy or take under control of all the attackers it may be a better idea to have a calibrated and a multi layered approach to the problem. This may include both the kinetic and the electronic warfare options. The threat from small UAVs operated by extremist lone wolves are also being looked at with concern. Some of the efforts at tackling drones by the US include applicability of the British Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS), which integrates Blighter’s A400 series Ku-band electronic scanning air security radar; Chess Dynamics’ stabilized electro-optic director, infrared and daylight cameras, and target tracking software; and an Enterprise directional radio frequency (RF) inhibitor to detect, track, classify, disrupt, and defeat UAVs up to a range of six miles {4}. The US Army is utilising multiple equipment to deal with the drone threat. For example; US Army has announced a $65 million contract to SRC Inc. New York, to develop, build, and maintain the low slow small unmanned aerial system integrated defeat system; it has also awarded Leonardo DRS, USA a contract of $16 million to develop a counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) capability to protect soldiers from enemy drones; and it has purchased the “Dronebuster,” which is a 5-pound radar gun-like device that soldiers can use to jam weaponized commercial drones.
Drone Defence of UK uses Dedrone DroneTracker to detect and identify unauthorized UAVs, then utilises either the man-portable Dynopis E1000MP to jam the UAV or its Net Gun X1 C-UAV system to capture the aircraft. Operating from either a fixed location or as a mobile unit, DroneTracker uses acoustic, optical, and infrared sensors for real-time detection and identification.
Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France, has developed a cUAV System combining the company’s radars, IR cameras, and direction finders with state-of-the-art data fusion and signals analysis. The system can identify an approaching drone and assess its threat potential at ranges between 5km and 10km, then offer electronic countermeasures like its Smart Responsive Jamming Technology, to minimize the risk of collateral damage.
Russia. The first Russian permanent tactical unit to combat unmanned aircraft has been positioned around Kursk {5}. It is equipped with R-330KMK Zhitel or “Resident” automated radio interference systems. These systems are understood to be able to detect and jam radio signals and interfere with UAV mission systems up to a radius of 30km. “Zhitel” (R-330Zh) system consists of two elements: a wheeled platform with an operator station for the reconnaissance system (0.1-2GHz frequency range) and a trailer with emitters and antennas of the active jamming system. The system’s purpose is to detect, track and jam the Inmarsat and Iridium satellite communications and GSM 1900 cell phones, and also to act against GSM navigation system utilizing the NAVSTAR satellites. “Zhitel” may be operated autonomously or it may, alternatively, be remotely controlled by the R-330KMK station. Its range has been defined as 15 kilometres in case of the ground-system jamming and 200 kilometres, with regards to the airborne platforms.
Israel. At the Singapore Air show in February 2016, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) revealed the Drone Guard, its new system for drone detection, identification and flight disruption. ELTA, a subsidiary of IAI, offers 3D radars and Electro-Optical (EO) sensors for detection and identification, as well as dedicated Electronic Attack (EA) jamming systems for disrupting drone flight {6}.
China. China’s Ministry of National Defense released images of the new cUAS on 28 Nov 2017. The cUAS is a container based, road mobile short-range air defence system. As per UAS Vision {7} ; the detection and jamming vehicle is equipped with roof mounted radar, electronic jamming system, and a small electro-optical (EO) ball turret. The other vehicle has a roof mounted laser emitter, a tracker (EO and thermal), and a laser range-finder on a stabilized elevatable and rotatable platform. SZMID High Technology Co. Ltd of China, has offered a new cUAS against illegal intrusion, which claims that it can disrupt the navigation of an unmanned aircraft, forcing it to land or return to base {8}.
Attack by Rebels on Russian Bases in Syria using Drone Swarm
“As for these attacks, they were undoubtedly prepared well. We know when and where these unmanned vehicles were handed over [to the attackers], and how many of them there were. These aerial vehicles were disguised – I would like to stress that – as homemade. But it is obvious that some high-tech equipment was used, {9}”
Vladimir Putin
On 6th Jan 2018 rebels in Syria launched a Swarm attack using drone borne IEDs. The attack involved using more than a dozen of weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles on Russia’s Khmeimim airbase and a Russian navy supply base in Tartus. Khmeimim or Hmeimim Air Base, is a Syrian airbase is located south-east of the city of Latakia in Hmeimim. It is being operated by Russia under a 2015 treaty with Syria. The airfield facilities of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport are utilised by the Khmeimim Air Base. The Russian naval facility at the Syrian port city of Tartus is a leased facility. It is used as a minor repairs and logistic supply base by the Russian Navy.
It is understood that 13 drones were used in the attacks, seven were shot down using Pantsir-S1 system and six were force landed using electronic warfare {10} . The Pantsir-S1 is an anti-missile and anti-aircraft system which has a combined missile/gun for automatically engaging up to 4 targets simultaneously. However, using an anti-aircraft/anti-missile system to bring down ISD modified COTS drones is a very expensive way to neutralise the drone swarms, and militaries are looking for cheaper solutions and measures for the same {11}.
The bombs attached to the captured drones were recovered and had “semi-transparent casings, white plastic fins, and a thick metal hook to attach them underwing.” The bomb’s explosive payload consisted of metal ball bearings epoxied to an explosive core and placed in a mortar bomb-like aerodynamic shell {12} . It is understood that Russians were able to track down the militant launch site after decoding the data recorded on the UAVs and kill the militants responsible for the swarm attack.
The swarm attack by rebels has caught the world by surprise mainly because of the complexities involved in controlling and directing a large number of drones to designated target tens of kilometres away. That the rebels have been able to modify the commercial drones to carry explosives as well as procure rudimentary software to carry out a coordinated attack has shaken the Russians and Americans alike. The possibility of such attacks in near future on non-military targets and urban areas cannot be ruled out.

“The incident itself, while it wasn’t necessarily a spectacular attack by terrorist standards, it certainly portends a very dark future.”
Colin Clarke, RAND
Chinese Drones
A look at China’s ingress into the global drone market is required at this juncture since China is making sophisticated and inexpensive drones that are beginning to dominate the global military and civil markets. The emphasis in this section is on drones which could be easily acquired for exploitation by extremists or rogue regimes.
Military drones. Chinese drones have been purchased by many countries including allies of the US. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased Wing Loongs, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Myanmar operate CH-3. Nigeria uses CH-3 against Boko Haram. Saudi Arabia and the UAE utilise CH-4s and Wing Loongs against Houthi in Yemen {13} . Iraq has got CH-4s. Jordan and Egypt have also bought Chinese drones. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the manufacturers of CH-4 UAV, have already set up production factories in Pakistan, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia {14}.
The bigger combat UAVs come under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) but China is not a signatory to the same and can therefore proliferate its military drones.
Commercial Drones. China’s DJI is a company that has risen to one of the top manufacturers in the commercial drone market. DJI is famous for its Phantom and Mavic Pro drones. It represents 50 percent of market across all price categories {15} . DJI’s rise in the consumer drone market has been due to its ability to innovate and produce feature rich drones. DJI also reduces its prices periodically forcing other manufacturers, at times, out of the market.
The commercial drones are far cheaper and easily available in the open market, further, there is no current binding or international law against sale of commercial drones and therefore it is very lucrative for the extremists to buy and modify them to suit their objectives.
China’s Swarm technology
“Our swarming drone technology is the top in the world,”
Zhang Dengzhou of CETC, China
For years, the U.S. appeared to have a clear lead when it came to swarming drones. In 2015, the Advanced Robotic Systems Engineering Laboratory (ARSENL) of USA, had claimed a world record by launching a swarm of 50 drones. However, at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) bettered that record with a swarm of 67 drones flying together {16}. The drone used was Skywalker X6s, made by the Skywalker Technology Co. of China. Skywalker drones are popular because they’re cheap, readily-available, and easy to customize. ISIS has adapted Skywalker drones to carry bombs {17}. At the Zhuhai 2016 Air show, the SW-6 was showcased, it is a small drone with folding wings which can be dropped from a mother aircraft. Its stated role is reconnaissance, but it is also a good candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project.
Chinese Micro Killer Drones
There are a number of combat drones or CUAVs developed by China but of interest and likely application in swarm warfare include the CH-802 and CH-803. These drones have been developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
CH-802. It is a fixed wing micro air vehicle (MAV) with elevated high-wing configuration and V-tail. It is hand launchable. It has a cylindrical fuselage and a two-blade propeller driven by an electric motor. It has a payload capacity of 1 kg and a range of 30 km.
CH-803. It is a fixed-wing UAV with a cylindrical fuselage propelled by two-blade propeller driven by engine mounted in the nose. It is launched by catapult and recovered by a parachute. It has a range of 30 km and a payload capacity of 3.5 kg.
The Future
The drone and drone swarms in the arsenal of the extremists are going to be here for a long time to come. The drones are going to carry more and more harmful weapons like the chemical sprays or the biological viruses. They will be deployed against the state & civil infrastructure as well as personnel. The targeting and guidance is going to be better and better in tandem with the advances in commercial sector. Better speed, obstacle avoidance, longer range, night operability and payload capacities etc. are going to be the norm in near future.
India, as of today, appears to be deficient in effective cUAS/anti-DBIED defensive measures. Major nations across the globe have already strengthened their capabilities in this field while pursuing Unmanned technologies. It is true that as of now such attacks by extremists have more of a propaganda value than a debilitating one. However, considering the capabilities which can be easily transferred by our adversaries to the terrorists under the current trade regimes, and without any fear of international repercussion, the feasibility of a multitude of attacks upon diverse targets launched from across the borders by non-state actors should not be ruled out. India could capitalise on innovative use of artificial intelligence, AI in collating information leading to purchase of drones, their modification, purchase of civil explosives & chemicals, flight pattern of drones etc to augment the EW and kinetic options of cUAS.
It is imperative that India should put in place an AI based robust kinetic and EW counter drone program at the earliest for protection of the military as well as civil areas of interest to the terrorists.


1.Drones and UAVs are considered to be synonymous references.

2. DBIED (Drone-borne improvised explosive device) – is a drone attached to a bomb fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy or incapacitate personnel or vehicles.

3. A UAS is an all-encompassing description that encapsulates the aircraft or UAV, the ground-based controller, and the system of communications connecting the two.


[1] The Use of Weaponised UAVs by the Islamic State: Analysis of DBIED Incident on Peshmerga Forces in the Mosul Dam Area on 2 October 2016. A Report by Sahan Research Ltd London circulated on 29th December 2016. http://sahan-eu.stackstaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sahan-Research-Report-1st-Investigation-of-an-ISIS-Weaponised-Drone-29xii2016.pdf (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[2] Charles Clover and Emily Feng. Isis use of hobby drones as weapons tests Chinese makers. Financial Times. 11 December 2017. https://www.ft.com/content/82a29f96-c9e7-11e7-ab18-7a9fb7d6163e (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[3] Drone Year in Review: 2017. Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, 3 January 2018. http://dronecenter.bard.edu/drone-year-in-review-2017/ (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[4] J.R. Wilson. The dawn of counter-drone technologies. Military & Aerospace. 1 November 2016. http://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/print/volume-27/issue-11/special-report/the-dawn-of-counter-drone-technologies.html (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[5] Philip Butterworth-Hayes. Russia forms first battlefield tactical counter-UAV unit Kursk. Unmanned Airspace. 01 November 2017. http://www.unmannedairspace.info/counter-uas-systems-and-policies/russia-forms-first-battlefield-tactical-counter-uav-unit-kursk/ (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[6] IAI Unveils “Drone Guard”: Drone Detection and Disruption Counter UAV Systems. Israel Defense. 18 February 2016. http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/iai-unveils-drone-guard-drone-detection-and-disruption-counter-uav-systems (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[7] China Test-Fires New Laser-Based C-UAS. UAS Vision. 30 Nov 2017. https://www.uasvision.com/2017/11/30/china-test-fires-new-laser-based-c-uas/#24TYFbwDTJLE1El6.99 (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[8] Dylan Malyasov. Chinese defence company offers new counter-UAV system. 22, Sep 2017.  http://defence-blog.com/news/chinese-defence-company-offers-new-counter-uav-system.html (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[9] Putin slams drone attack on Russian base in Syria as provocation. Russian Politics & Diplomacy January 11, 20:01. http://tass.com/politics/984721 (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[10] Kyle Mizokami. Russian Bases in Syria Attacked with Black Market Drones. Popular Mechanics. 12 Jan 2018. http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a15062767/russian-bases-in-syria-attacked-with-black-market-drones/ (accessed 20 Jan 2018)

[11]Marcus Weisgerber.  Air Force Buys Mysterious Israeli Weapon to Kill ISIS Drones. Defence One.23 Feb 2017. http://www.defenseone.com/business/2017/02/air-force-buys-mysterious-israeli-weapon-kill-isis-drones/135620/ (accessed 20 Jan 2018)

[12] 10 Ibid.

[13] Ben Brimelow. Chinese drones may soon swarm the market – and that could be very bad for the US. Business Insider. 17 Nov 2017. https://www.businessinsider.in/Chinese-drones-may-soon-swarm-the-market-and-that-could-be-very-bad-for-the-US/articleshow/61687119.cms  (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[14] Minnie Chan. Chinese drone factory in Saudi Arabia first in Middle East. South China Morning Post.26 Mar 2017.http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2081869/chinese-drone-factory-saudi-arabia-first-middle-east (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[15] April Glaser. DJI is running away with the drone market. Recode. 14 April 2017. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tLjIuXb8JLUJ:https://www.recode.net/2017/4/14/14690576/drone-market-share-growth-charts-dji-forecast+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=in (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[16] David Hambling. If Drone Swarms Are the Future, China May Be Winning. Popular Mechanics. Dec 23, 2016. http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a24494/chinese-drones-swarms/ (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[17] 16 ibid.

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.

Book Review-Strategic Vision 2030: Security and Development of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

(Published IndraStra Global 24 Aug 2017)

Air Marshal P K Roy and Commodore Aspi  Cawasji, Strategic Vision 2030: Security and Development of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Pages 177. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. Delhi, India. ISBN: 978-93-86457-18-9

The book is a topical release during a tense period in geopolitics of the region. The Doklam standoff between China and India, the South China Sea issues and the belligerent stance of North Korea, all have the potential to spark large scale wars in the Indo Pacific.

I have known the authors for a long period and admire them for their professionalism and their ability to put complex strategic issues in the correct perspective. This book represents their expertise in region of the strategic Andaman & Nicobar island territories of India, which sit astride the vital SLOCs leading to the Malacca Straits.

The book has ten chapters apart from the introduction, which provide an all-encompassing perspective in to the islands. These include not only the natural, industrial and economical potential, but also cover the important strategic significance, security issues and policy recommendations. The rise of China as an economic and military power has made significant difference in the Indian Ocean security environment. Its interest in the IOR emerges from the need to secure its energy supply lines and the route for export of its finished goods passing through the IOR. It has been expanding its sphere of influence in the IOR and security of the SLOCs is its priority at present.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, ANI also face serious internal and non-traditional security threats that could have grave consequences affecting the security environment of ANI. These include terrorism, illegal migration, drug trafficking, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), arms smuggling, poaching of natural resources, etc. The book brings out that these islands can be developed as a self-sustaining economic model and rationale of development of both commercial and military infrastructure as a “dual maritime eco-system” to counter Chinese forays in to the Indian Ocean. Security of ANI and its use as a launching pad in shaping the environment of the region must remain a top priority for India.

The book aptly brings in to focus the fact that the connectivity initiatives taken by China on both, the Eastern and Western flanks of India along with the increasing economic relations with ASEAN countries of IOR adjoining Malacca will create a favourable maritime strategic environment for it. China with its modernized PLAN and the support of these logistic nodes will be capable of deploying its major forces in the Indian Ocean within the next five years.

The book recommends that the infrastructure development in terms of ports, jetties, airfields, docking and ship-repair facilities etc must be dual purpose infrastructure serving the needs of civilian as well as the armed forces. There is a need to create a comprehensive economic engagement plan of these islands with the littoral for them to have a stake in its developmental process. Only then such an engagement would allay suspicions amongst them while India enhances the capabilities of ANC and the consequent increased military activity in the region.

The book is a must read for all those who have a need to study strategic complexities of the Andaman & Nicobar Island territories.

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

Initiatives for Clean and Green Indian Navy

(Published in IndraStra Global 07 Aug 2017) 

On 12 February 2017, INS Sarvekshak, a survey ship of the Indian Navy had completed installation of a 5KW solar power system on board[1]. It is estimated that in this project, the profit generated would be Rs. 2.7 Cr, taking the service life of the ship to be about 25 years. This solar power installation avoids 60,225 kg of carbon a year and saves 22,995 liters of diesel.

Green Energy Generation Options to Defense Forces

Green Energy options that are available to defense forces depending upon their geographical locations include a combination of the following:

Solar Energy. Solar energy is being utilized by the forces to reduce load on traditional generators. Solar energy can be generated using both fixed and portable solar systems to provide a clean source of energy especially at remote locations. This also helps in reducing the number of costly and at times dangerous fuel re-supply missions. With the rapidly reducing costs of PV cells, the rates of solar power are highly competitive. Further, since the PV cells are much lighter they can be easily carried on the backpacks in battlefield.

Biomass. Developments in Biomass have resulted in corn-based ethanol and soybean or canola based biodiesel. Lately, however there is shift away from food crops for generating fuel towards use of lignocelluloses feed stocks and energy crops that can be grown on wastelands. The biomass to liquids (BTL) includes synthetic fuels derived thermo-chemically via biomass gasification and cellulosic ethanol produced biochemically. The production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids (FTL)[2] from biomass is considered advantageous over cellulosic ethanol.

Fuel Cells. Fuel cells are one of the most efficient techniques for power generation and an alternate to petroleum. They can function on a number of different fuel sources like biogas, hydrogen, or natural gas. They also provide scalable advantage from megawatts down to a watt, which enable meeting a large variety of applications for the forces. They can power transportation systems on land and sea, provide power in remote areas, act as power backups, assist in distributed power, and so on. The byproducts of fuel cells are water and heat since they directly convert chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity. They are also highly efficient with conversion in the range of ~60%, which is nearly twice that of conventional sources.

Waste to Energy. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) can be converted to energy in three ways, namely, pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion. These processes are differentiated by the ratio of oxygen supplied to the thermal process divided by oxygen required for complete combustion. It has been observed that a localized approach to generating energy from waste is beneficial as compared to a large facility located miles away. This helps in reducing the overall carbon footprint as well as facilities that do not look out of place.

Hydropower. Investments in small hydropower systems reduce the exposure to fuels considerably. Intelligently sited and planned systems assure clean and reliable energy over the years.

Marine Renewable Energy. A large source of renewable energy is presented by the oceans, in form of wind driven waves on the coast, ocean currents, ebbing and flowing tidal currents through inlets and estuaries, river currents, offshore wind energy and ocean thermal systems. All of these can be utilized for power generation by the forces.

Geothermal Power. It provides a number of advantages like, it is non-interruptible, it is cleaner, it is an established technology, and is abundant. This is a highly suitable energy source for land-based establishments that have access to it.

Green Initiative-US Navy

The US Navy had set the goals of energy efficient acquisitions, reducing the non-tactical petroleum use by 50 % by 2015 and sailing the Great Green fleet by 2016.Further, it had decided upon producing 50% of shore based energy from alternate sources, making 50 % installations net-zero by 2020, and lastly, ensuring that by 2020, 50% of its total energy requirements would be met from alternate energy sources.

The Great Green Fleet Initiative of the US Navy. The Great Green Fleet is a demonstrator of the strategic and tactical viability of bio fuels. A strike group had embarked on a yearlong deployment in West Pacific in January 2016. The strike group (JCSSG) consisted of USS John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW-9) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay and guided missile destroyers Chung-Hoon, Stockdale, and William P. Lawrence. CVW-9 consisted of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133; Fleet Logistics Combat Support Squadron (VRC) 30, Detachment 4 and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 151, 97, 41 and 14[3]. The JCSSG had used alternate fuel (10 percent beef tallow and 90 percent marine diesel) and incorporated energy conservation measures. The Great Green Fleet initiative also included use of energy efficient systems and operating procedures like changing of lights to solid-state lighting, temperature control initiative, installation of stern flaps to reduce drag etc.

Green Initiative -Indian Navy

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian Defense Forces and associated establishments the Government of India has initiated considerable efforts under phase-II/III of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission JNNSM. It includes setting up over 300 MW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Power Projects by Defense Establishments under Ministry of Defense and Para Military Forces with Viability Gap Funding under JNNSM. As per the annual report of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the year 2014-2015[4], some of the salient features of the scheme include:

-A capacity of 300 MW to be set up in various Establishments of Ministry of Defense with the minimum size of the project to be one MW. The defense establishments would identify locations for developing solar projects, anywhere in the country including border areas from time to time. The projects under this Scheme will mandatorily use solar cells/modules, which are made in India. The Defense organizations/Establishments will be free to own the power projects i.e. get an Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) contractor to build the project for them or get a developer who makes the investment and supplies power at a fixed tariff of Rs.5.50 per unit for 25 years. The MoD or the Defense Organization would be free to follow their own procurement systems or develop detailed guidelines or procedures for tendering.

-Inter-Ministerial group has recommended National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) Support of Rs. 750 cr.

Indian Navy has completed three years of its Green Initiatives Program on World Environment Day in 2017. Smart LED lighting in Naval stations is also being adopted on its warships. Navy has undertaken a large number of green measures to reduce its overall carbon footprint. An Energy and Environment Cell[5] at Naval Headquarters has been created to monitor the implementation of the green energy programs. The Navy has initiated efforts to go green in ship designs as well as its operations. It also carries out mass awareness drives in its dockyards, and shore establishments to sensitize the personnel to energy conservation.

The Navy has set a target of 19 MW Solar PV installation[6],  in line with the National Mission of Mega Watt to Giga Watt towards achieving 100 GW Solar PV installations by 2022. Navy has also pledged 1.5 per cent of its Works budget towards Renewable Energy generation. Navy is exploring the feasibility of exploiting Ocean Thermal Energy and Wave Energy as sources of green energy.


[1] INS Sarvekshak goes green; installs solar power system. Indian Express,12 February 2017.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ins-sarvekshak-goes-green-instals-solar-power-system-4520969/ (Accessed 29 Jul 2017)

[2] James T. Bartis &Lawrence Van Bibber. Alternative Fuels for Military Applications. RAND Corporation, 2011, Santa Monica. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG969.pdf (Accessed 30 Jul 2017)

[3]  The Great Green Fleet Explained. Military Spot, 27 Jun 2016.  http://www.militaryspot.com/news/great-green-fleet-explained  (Accessed 29 Jul 2017)

[4] Annual Report 2014-2015, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India. http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/annual-report/2014-2015/EN/Chapter%204/chapter_4.htm (Accessed 30 Jul 2017)

[5] Indian Navy Pledges 1.5 Per Cent of its Works Budget Towards Renewable Energy Generation. Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, 05-June-2016. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=145978 (Accessed 01Aug 2017)

[6] Initiatives for Clean and Green Navy. Indian Navy.

https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/content/initiatives-clean-and-green-navy/page/0/1 (Accessed 01 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)