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Sunday, September 30, 2018

What's going on in the World Today 180930



Can The U.S. Air Force Add 74 Squadrons?

The U.S. Air Force’s proposal to increase in size by nearly 25% is being greeted with a mix of admiration and skepticism, as it sets the stage for future budget debates.

“The Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at the annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Sept. 17.

Growth would take place over 10 years

Analysts say plan would require 40,000 more airmen

The analysis leading the Air Force to seek 386 squadrons, up from 312, is driven by the 2018 National Defense Strategy, says Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. The strategy calls on the Air Force to defend the homeland, provide a safe and effective nuclear deterrent, meet a peer threat and deter a near-peer threat while maintaining campaign momentum against global extremism. All these objectives would have to be met while assuming a moderate risk, based on intelligence assessments of the future threat, he says.

While thorough, analysis driving the increase to forces not seen since the Cold War is not complete, Wilson notes. “There are 5-6 more studies due by next March,” she says, stressing that Air Force leadership is not naive about the affordability challenges this plan will face. “We’re engaged in a conversation right now. We haven’t laid out a complete program plan.”

The details are scant. The official breakdown would grow the force by a number of new squadrons (see graph). To equip a force of 386 squadrons, the Air Force will need 182 fighters, 60 bombers, 210 tankers and 15 airlifters over the next decade, according to John Venable, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Other estimates vary. Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners, for instance, projects the force would add 210 fighters, 140 tankers and 50 bombers, resulting in requests of more than $5 billion annually...

Wilson Pegs Initial Space Force Cost At $12.9B

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has outlined a plan to build a Space Development Agency and lay the foundation for a separate military service known as the U.S. Space Force by fiscal 2020.
The first five years of the Space Force is estimated to cost $12.9 billion, according to a Sept. 14 report included in a letter from Wilson to “colleagues.” Space Force funding would come in next February’s fiscal 2020 budget request, and the first year of the Space Force, which would fund the creation of a headquarters and combatant command, would cost $3.3 billion, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Aerospace DAILY.

That new Space Force would include space elements of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), but Wilson’s letter to does not make reference to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which cooperates extensively with the NRO and uses Earth-observation satellites for mapping purposes.

Wilson proposes having the Space Rapid Capabilities Office assume the duties of a Space Development Agency and declare initial operational capability in fiscal 2019. The Space Rapid Capabilities Office was approved by Congress in 2018 and was given authority to move quickly and efficiently.

“Like the National Reconnaissance Office, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, fulfilling the role of the Space Development Agency, will be staffed with members from all Services and U.S. government agencies,” the report reads. “We propose other military departments have a direct role in developing capability solutions to ensure sustainment, training, logistics and other organize, train and equip activities fully considered across the Services...”

U.S. Naval Update Map: Sept. 27, 2018




A Military Crackdown in Tajikistan Could Draw in Bigger Powers


- Tajikistan's security forces could soon launch a military operation in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region, raising the possibility of a wider conflict.

- The region's proximity to the Tajik-Afghan border could draw in Russia and China, both of which share a strategic interest in containing militancy in the area.

- Military movements by Tajikistan and Russia, as well as potential militant attacks against government and security forces, will determine whether the conflict escalates.
wenty years after a destructive civil war, Tajikistan is potentially facing renewed conflict. The country's military is reportedly deploying troops to the eastern city of Khorugh in preparation for a special operation there, according to opposition sources in Tajikistan. During a meeting with local officials in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region — the capital of which is Khorugh — on Sept. 15, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon criticized local leaders for their failure to crack down on criminal and drug-trafficking groups in the region, giving them a one-month deadline to "establish order." Rahmon also reportedly replaced many of the top regional posts during his visit, including four deputy regional governors, the head of the regional police department and the head of the regional court...

India: Oil Imports From Iran to Fall Toward Zero in November

What Happened: None of India's major firms are planning on importing any oil from Iran in November, Bloomberg reported Sept. 25.

Why It Matters: Indian imports of Iranian oil could fall to near zero in November, when U.S. sanctions on such shipments will take effect. In addition to a relatively small negative impact on India's economy, the reduction in oil imports from Iran will also increase the pressure on the Islamic republic's struggling economy.

Background: India's government has not ejoyed success in negotiating an exemption from U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, which will take effect Nov. 5.


Managing Unmanned Flight

UK Companies Look To Push UAS Industry To The Next Level

It has become an accepted article of faith that the commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) sector is going to become one of aviation’s biggest future markets in Europe, North America and throughout
the world. To cite just one recent study: In late May, PwC published research that estimated drone
technology could increase the GDP in the UK alone by more than £42 billion ($54
billion) by 2030.

Yet any and all such claims are predicated on such unmanned aircraft being safely and seamlessly integrated into unsegregated airspace. The financial and practical benefits of routine flights by UASs — aka drones — in nationalairspace will only be realized if and when operators have a file-and-fly capability as easy and quick to access as that enjoyed today by pilots of conventional aircraft.

Unfortunately for the boosters of the coming drone revolution, such a system does not yet exist. There are a number of significant obstacles that appear likely to impede immediate progress — from the limited practicability of equipping small drones with sensor suites necessary to avoid inflight collisions, through the lack of any system to achieve regulatory approval, and convincing a skeptical or even hostile public that the touted benefits outweigh the perceived risks...

Poland: Warsaw Hopes to Increase Its Autonomy with a New Canal

The Big Picture

At a time of uncertainty about the future of the global order, Poland is trying to strengthen its strategic autonomy in the defense, energy and trade realms. An ongoing project to build a canal connecting a Polish port to the Baltic Sea is a small piece of the bigger puzzle, which sits in line with Warsaw's overall strategy.

What Happened

The leader of Poland's governing Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has promised that Warsaw will soon start building a canal connecting the Baltic Sea and the Vistula Lagoon in the north of the country. Currently, ships using the Polish port of Elblag, in the Vistula Lagoon, can only reach the Baltic Sea through a canal on the Russian side of the lagoon, near Baltiysk in Kaliningrad. To use the Strait of Baltiysk, Poland has to pay navigation rights to Russia. In an interview on Sept. 24, Kaczynski said the canal project will enhance Poland's independence and promised that "the times when Russia dictated what we could or not do on our territory are over..."

Netherlands police arrests foil 'major terrorist attack'

Police in the Netherlands have arrested seven men over an alleged plot to carry out what they describe as a major terrorist attack involving guns and explosives.

Police say the men were trying to source AK47s, hand grenades and bomb materials to carry out their attack.

The men, aged between 21 and 34, were arrested on Thursday.

Three had been arrested previously for trying to travel abroad to join foreign militants.

Prosecutors say the man at the centre of the group is a 34-year-old of Iraqi origin, who was convicted in 2017 for trying to travel to fight for the Islamic State group.

They say they were tipped off about the plot in April 2018 by intelligence services, who said the main suspect wanted to target "a large event in the Netherlands where there would be a lot of victims".

The seven men were arrested in the central city of Arnhem and southern municipality of Weert on Thursday afternoon by anti-terrorism teams from the country's Special Interventions Service (DSI).

Prosecutors believe the suspects wanted to carry out twin attacks involving a bomb and gun attack at an event and a car bomb detonated elsewhere.

"The suspects were in search of AK47s, hand guns, hand grenades, explosive vests and raw materials for several [car] bombs," prosecutors said in a statement...


What Happens When a Major Mexican Cartel Leader Falls?


- As the most powerful and aggressive cartel in Mexico today, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) will continue to drive record levels of violence as it battles rivals for control around the country.

- Because of the high levels of violence perpetrated by the CJNG, Mexican authorities will ultimately capture or kill the cartel's leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes – also known as "El Mencho."

- The removal of Oseguera Cervantes, however, is likely to provoke more violence if the CJNG implodes into a host of competing smaller criminal groups.

The attack was almost cinematic: Just over a week ago, gunmen dressed as mariachi musicians shot dead five people at a restaurant in Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi, a place of attraction for locals and tourists alike. The latest violence to grab the headlines illustrates how cartel figures are now dragging violence with them into the tourist areas and upscale neighborhoods they frequent and inhabit. In fact, an American tourist on her honeymoon was killed by a bullet meant for someone else outside a palatial Mexico City restaurant on July 7...




Taiwan Can Win a War With China

Beijing boasts it can seize the island easily. The PLA knows better.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to the 19th Party Congress about the future of Taiwan last year, his message was ominous and unequivocal: “We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.”

This remark drew the longest applause of his entire three-hour speech—but it’s not a new message. The invincibility of Chinese arms in the face of Taiwanese “separatists” and the inevitability of reunification are constant Chinese Communist Party themes. At its base, the threat made by Xi is that the People’s Liberation Army has the power to defeat the Taiwanese military and destroy its democracy by force, if need be. Xi understands the consequences of failure here. “We have the determination, the ability and the preparedness to deal with Taiwanese independence,” he stated in 2016, “and if we do not deal with it, we will be overthrown.”

China has already ratcheted up economic and diplomatic pressure on the island since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen and the independence-friendly Democratic Progressive Party. Saber-rattling around the Taiwan Strait has been common. But China might not be able to deliver on its repeated threats. Despite the vast discrepancy in size between the two countries, there’s a real possibility that Taiwan could fight off a Chinese attack—even without direct aid from the United States.

Two recent studies, one by Michael Beckley, a political scientist at Tufts University, and the other by Ian Easton, a fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, in his book The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia, provide us with a clearer picture of what a war between Taiwan and the mainland might look like. Grounded in statistics, training manuals, and planning documents from the PLA itself, and informed by simulations and studies conducted by both the U.S. Defense Department and the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense, this research presents a very different picture of a cross-strait conflict than that hawked by the party’s official announcements.

Chinese commanders fear they may be forced into armed contest with an enemy that is better trained, better motivated, and better prepared for the rigors of warfare than troops the PLA could throw against them.Chinese commanders fear they may be forced into armed contest with an enemy that is better trained, better motivated, and better prepared for the rigors of warfare than troops the PLA could throw against them. A cross-strait war looks far less like an inevitable victory for China than it does a staggeringly risky gamble.

Chinese army documents imagine that this gamble will begin with missiles. For months, the PLA’s Rocket Force will have been preparing this opening salvo; from the second war begins until the day the invasion commences, these missiles will scream toward the Taiwanese coast, with airfields, communication hubs, radar equipment, transportation nodes, and government offices in their sights. Concurrently, party sleeper agents or special forces discreetly ferried across the strait will begin an assassination campaign targeting the president and her Cabinet, other leaders of the Democratic Progressive Party, officials at key bureaucracies, prominent media personalities, important scientists or engineers, and their families.

The goal of all this is twofold. In the narrower tactical sense, the PLA hopes to destroy as much of the Taiwanese Air Force on the ground as it can and from that point forward keep things chaotic enough on the ground that the Taiwan’s Air Force cannot sortie fast enough to challenge China’s control of the air. The missile campaign’s second aim is simpler: paralysis. With the president dead, leadership mute, communications down, and transportation impossible, the Taiwanese forces will be left rudderless, demoralized, and disoriented. This “shock and awe” campaign will pave the way for the invasion proper.

This invasion will be the largest amphibious operation in human history. Tens of thousands of vessels will be assembled—mostly commandeered from the Chinese merchant marine—to ferry 1 million Chinese troops across the strait, who will arrive in two waves. Their landing will be preceded by a fury of missiles and rockets, launched from the Rocket Force units in Fujian, Chinese Air Force fighter bombers flying in the strait, and the escort fleet itself.

Confused, cut off, and overwhelmed, the Taiwanese forces who have survived thus far will soon run out of supplies and be forced to abandon the beaches. Once the beachhead is secured, the process will begin again: With full air superiority, the PLA will have the pick of their targets, Taiwanese command and control will be destroyed, and isolated Taiwanese units will be swept aside by the Chinese army’s advance. Within a week, they will have marched into Taipei; within two weeks they will have implemented a draconian martial law intended to convert the island into the pliant forward operating base the PLA will need to defend against the anticipated Japanese and American counter-campaigns...


Iran: Attack in Restive Khuzestan Raises Suspicions of Foreign Involvement

The Big Picture

The regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia is heating up. As a result, each country is concerned that the other is supporting minority groups in their populations — Saudi Arabia's Shiite community and Iran's Arab community in Khuzestan province — to stir up domestic unrest. In the wake of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Khuzestan's capital, the Iranian government is on guard for signs of foreign support for insurgent groups in the restive region.

What Happened

Four gunmen opened fire on a military parade and celebration in Ahvaz, capital of Iran's Khuzestan province, on Sept. 22. The attack killed at least 25 people — including 12 members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — and injured more than 70 others. Though it is still unclear who committed the attack, Iranian officials were quick to point the finger at local separatist groups and at international rivals such as the United States and Saudi Arabia...








Ukraine and Russia Take Their Conflict to the Sea


- As the standoff between Ukraine and Russia intensifies in eastern Ukraine, the Sea of Azov will become a new area of contention.

- Both Ukraine and Russia will increase their military presence in the sea, and Kiev has already announced plans for a new naval base there before the end of the year.
- The military buildup could lead to growing economic disruption of shipping in and out of the sea.

Russia is stronger than Ukraine on the sea, but robust U.S. support for Kiev could alter the situation in the area.

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia has so far been restricted to ground battles over control of eastern Ukraine. Recent developments, however, suggest that the war — now in its fifth year — could soon spread to the sea. On Sept. 16, the Ukrainian government announced plans to create a naval base in the Sea of Azov before the end of the year, four days before President Petro Poroshenko confirmed Kiev's intentions in a speech to parliament. The statements come amid military buildups by both Ukraine and Russia in the Sea of Azov, which have been provoked in part by Moscow's construction of a bridge between Crimea and mainland Russia. The bridge has allowed the latter to harass Ukrainian vessels as part of larger restrictions on its shipping. As a result of the growing tensions, a flare-up is now entirely possible on the Sea of Azov, especially if the United States also brings its weight to bear in the conflict...

Russia's Plans to Deter Israeli Airstrikes in Syria Could Backfire


- Russia will bolster the Syrian air defense network in the wake of the accidental loss of its IL-20 surveillance plane in Syria.

- Its measures to enhance Syria's air defenses will not stop Israel from conducting further airstrikes in the country.

- Israel's insistence on continuing to stage attacks in Syria, combined with Russia's increasing efforts to prevent it from doing so, will improve the chances of the Syrian civil war escalating into a larger conflict.

Russia is trying to avoid disaster in Syria. After a Syrian surface-to-air missile battery accidentally shot down a Russian surveillance plane Sept. 17 while responding to an Israeli attack, Moscow is moving to secure Syria's airspace, as expected. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Sept. 24 that his country would increase its support for Syria's air defense network in hopes of preventing future accidents and "ill-considered actions" by "hotheads" — namely, Israel. But Russia's actions won't stop Israel from carrying out airstrikes against Iranian assets in Syria. In fact, they may raise the risk of an escalation between Iran and Israel...


U.S. removing some missile systems from Middle East: WSJ

(Reuters) - The United States is pulling some of its anti-aircraft and missile batteries out of the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. military officials.

Kuwait says U.S. decision to remove missile systems is routine
The Pentagon will pull out four Patriot missile systems from Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain next month, the report said, adding that the realignment step marks a shift of focus away from long-lasting conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan to tensions with China, Russia and Iran.

Two Patriot missile systems will be redeployed from Kuwait, and one each from Jordan and Bahrain, the report said. Patriots are mobile missile systems capable of shooting down missiles and planes...


India’s Supreme Court Limits Aadhaar, a Sweeping ID Program

The government says its identification system for public services has already saved billions of dollars, but critics are worried about data security and a surveillance state.

NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court limited the government’s sweeping national biometric identity system on Wednesday, but found that the program did not fundamentally violate Indians’ privacy rights.

The five-judge panel limited the use of the program, called Aadhaar, to the distribution of certain benefits. It struck down the government’s use of the system for unrelated issues like identifying students taking school exams. The court also said that private companies like banks and cellphone providers could not require users to prove their identities with Aadhaar...

...The decision affects everything from government welfare programs, such as food aid and pensions, to private businesses, which have used the digital ID as a fast, efficient way to verify customers’ identities. Some states, such as Andhra Pradesh, had also planned to integrate the ID system into far-reaching surveillance programs, raising the specter of widespread government spying.

Aadhaar, a Hindi word meaning “foundation,” was initially intended as a difficult-to-forge ID to reduce fraud and improve the delivery of government welfare programs. The plan was to scan the fingerprints, irises and faces of every one of India’s 1.3 billion residents, and then use them to check identity when someone was picking up subsidized rice or joining a government work program.

U.S.: The White House Takes a Quantum Leap

The Big Picture

Technology is a critical theater where China and the United States compete, and quantum information science (QIS) is a key part of that competition. A new strategy paper from the National Science and Technology Council represents the Trump administration's first attempt at developing a QIS policy.

What Happened

A subcommittee of the White House's National Science and Technology Council released a report, the "National Strategic Overview for Quantum Information Science," on Sept. 24. The 15-page document recommends goals for President Donald Trump's administration to pursue to help strengthen U.S. capabilities in quantum information science (QIS). Representatives from companies such as Alphabet, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and Northrop Grumman met at the White House with various academics and government officials to discuss QIS strategy...

Google Maps Is a Better Spy Than James Bond

Open-source intelligence is a vital tool for governments—and for checking them.

Emily Thornberry, a member of the British Parliament, recently made a statement to the House of Commons that “relying on so-called open-source intelligence provided by proscribed terrorist groups is not an acceptable alternative” when it came to identifying the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Thornberry’s words betray an alarming lack of knowledge not only about the situation in Syria but also about how open-source investigation has revolutionized nation-state and commercial intelligence, journalism, and conflict monitoring. This is particularly worrying because Thornberry is the shadow foreign secretary—the opposition member charged with monitoring foreign affairs and who’s most likely to take the same office if the Labour Party forms a government in the future.

Open-source intelligence, in its simplest form, refers to sources of data that are open; anyone can see and read them if they choose to. The internet, for example, is the greatest collection of open-source data that has ever existed. This vast repository is not only useful for intelligence agencies and private companies; it has also become a vital source for civil society groups to track conflict, fight corruption, and investigate crimes. Open-source intelligence is, in fact, potentially far more reliable and checkable by a democratic public than traditional closed sources...




In Pictures: Stratolaunch PGA Rocket Engine Revealed

Stratolaunch recently unveiled plans to develop a complete launch vehicle family to operate from its giant carrier aircraft. They range from the previously announced Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Pegasus XL to ‘Black Ice’, a fully reusable spaceplane which, the company says, will eventually be capable of carrying astronauts to low earth orbit.

Designed to power the family of air-launched vehicles unveiled by the company in August, the emergence of the PGA marks a major gambit in Stratolaunch’s bid to take a slice of the growing small- and medium-payload space-launch market...

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