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Friday, March 15, 2019

2014 article - Crimea Accession

{*** As a new Indian Government - the Modi Government was being sworn-in in 2014 I wrote the following article **** } 

{ As India is on to select a new Government in 2019 - it may be of interest to read this and see how India responded in subsequent 5 years after 2014 and what potentially India should prepare for for next 5 years } 


First Task for Modi Government - Crimea Accession – Ukraine on the Brink?
On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait and declared it to be its integral part. Within less than six months USA and allies unleashed their new war-making doctrine called the Air Land battle doctrine which started on 16th January 1991 with massive air strikes on Iraqi forces. The Desert Storm took close to 40 days of air bombing followed by just 4 days of ground operations to decimate and defeat formidable Iraqi forces and “free” Kuwait.
Another radical change the world saw during that period (1989-1991) was division of the superpower – the USSR, into commonwealth of independent states.  The glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) that Gorbachev started in USSR had failed or may be one can say succeeded as the communist USSR resulted into many democratic independent nations. Russia and Ukraine – two most important countries resulting from the division share common history – economic, cultural and even political relations. They also shared a piece of landmass above the Black Sea called Crimea. Historically, Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev, although that time both Russia and Ukraine were in the same USSR.
It is exactly 60 years later, in 2014, in a sudden, almost shocking turn of events - Crimea along with its seaports and oil and gas reserves, is back in Russian fold today.  The speed with which Vladimir Putin could architect the “peaceful” accession of Crimea from Ukraine has stumped the USA and western world. Six weeks from now, Ukraine will be electing its next President, on 25th May to be precise. Given the 1991 scenario when Kuwait was annexed by Iraq and US and allies unleashed the Gulf-war, will the Putin’s Crimean adventure lead to a USA-Russia war over this “illegal” accession? If no, what it points to for the future of world? Are there any implications for India? What can India do or should do?
Russia is neither Iraq nor Iran
Russia is neither Iraq where USA can get its dictatorship removal and embedding democracy algorithms executed militarily, nor Iran, which can be potentially subjugated by economic sanctions and isolation. USA and western countries have already reacted by taking Russia out of the G8. The Sochi G8 summit was cancelled and the G7 (which is G8 – Russia) was held in Brussels. The sanctions against Russia are a strong measure, however, not the strongest possible. Though, the military action by USA and western powers doesn’t look a great option. However, it shows the limitation of the USA in “shaping the world” as per its national interests by all means. In this case, we are talking about a military action against a substantial military power, in fact, a substantial portion of the erstwhile superpower. Russia, in turn, has responded with disconnecting its foreign trade from hard currency (read US Dollar). This is an interesting economic counter. It may impact US dollar and in turn US economy further. It is further to be noted that China and India have been relatively silent on these developments. Chinese and Indian silent support has been appreciated by Putin.
The world however, is suddenly getting fractured with these developments. Technology and economic connections that resulted in greater globalization since 1990 are already facing fissures that threaten to increase the global divisions and lead us to potential chaos. The wikileaks and Ed Snowden’s revelations of the way the single policeman of the Unipolar world – USA – keep spying on the world online is already creating an extreme mistrust of the USA even with its close allies. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, is so miffed up with USA that she is planning to create a new internet by laying new sea cables between Brazil and Spain – creating a USA-Government-free internet. Freeing the internet was what Ed Snowden demanded in his TED talk that was delivered through Skype, from Russia.
India has responded to the fissures being created by Crimea and Ukraine crisis based on a policy of diplomatic silence. Further, the new government need to articulate new policy and response creation for the world that is getting fractured. The evolution of the world and India’s response to the rapidly emerging polarization of countries in a shifting world order – where strengthening Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) as an economic group is one piece, and responding to internal and external security threats is the other dimension – will need to be responded to as soon as possible. It is noteworthy to observe that no mention has been made by any of the election manifestos of the main Indian parties about the Crimea, Ukraine and Russian events and our potential response.
Global Fissures – Is Crimea a Model?
The Crimean amalgamation by Putin, is actually a dangerous model. From India’s point of view, it gives someone like China a potential model of capturing say Arunachal Pradesh or Senkaku/Diaoyu islands from Japan. China, potentially now, can demand Putin to support it in annexing these islands, which are controlled by Japan. Further, say in couple of decades China can lay its claim on larger part of Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. What should India do and what should be our strategic response?
The start of 1914 was considered as a peaceful year. It changed into the greatest war the world has seen. The First World War resulted due to sudden polarization of nations in Europe. The year 2014, was looking as a potential year of emergence of the world from the economic recession started in 2008.  Given the increasing fissions of technology (especially internet and World Wide Web), world economic and political discontent, are we seeing a world that will spiral us deep into the third world war, or the world will emerge better, more balanced and more equitable. Only the time will tell. While we hope for the better, we need to be prepared for the worst.
Modi Government – Is India ready?
It is with above in mind, that the new Indian government and of course the world at large has to keep an eagle-eye on the events in Crimea and Ukraine, besides the Putin-Obama dynamics. The New Modi Government will have to respond to the play in the dynamic Ukrainian elections. Many may actually say, the future of Indian foreign policy will be guided by how India responds to the Ukrainian elections. Will there be a radical change? Or is it too early to say anything?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Of Aircraft Carriers in New Age of Lethality

Of Aircraft Carriers in New Age of Lethality
Navneet Bhushan

Military affairs have been revolutionized by increasing the dimensions of war. No one thought before the WW II thought that aircraft and submarines will play almost decisive roles. The War ended by US creating a totally new dimension of “mass lethality” by using fission bombs – not once but twice.  One of the major legacies of Second World War has been the aircraft carrier group that was used by Japan with a telling effect during Pearl Harbor attacks and later by US and Soviet Navy during cold war global shadow boxing. Lesser powers – UK and France also operated aircraft carriers and still do. India had an aircraft carrier that helped us block the East Pakistan during 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. May be that gave our naval planners a fixation on having aircraft carriers and plans have been in place to operate 3 aircraft carriers – so that 2 carrier groups are always at sea. The recent proclamation by Chief of Indian Naval staff reiterating the same is a clear indication of how it is not easy for Indian Navy or Indian military planners in general to understand the new technological and doctrinal shifts needed to create changes. Lethality the fundamental war making capability is seeing a marked shift. From “piecemeal lethality” to “massed lethality” and “stealth lethality” we have seen the evolution of lethality in the age of industrial revolution and a machine based world. In the information based world “remote lethality”, “virtual lethality” and “non-lethal lethality” are emerging new capabilities.

Dimensions of Warfare and Weapon Systems
War making requires ability to inflict disruption, damage, and destruction of enemy capabilities and resources. This reflects in the primary capability of war making systems, instruments and arms, i.e., their lethality. The lethality should be protected from enemy’s lethality – hence every weapon system needs a self-protection capability – a defensive capability. Further, many weapon systems need to operate together to achieve an effective lethality hence a weapon system requires integration capability that become more pronounced in the information age with systems such as C4ISR attaining same importance if not more than combat systems. Further, lethality needs to operate and be operable in multiple heterogeneous environments. Hence weapon systems need operability in multiple environments without impacting its main function – that is its lethality.

From massed destruction capability to de-massification of destruction has been achieved by advanced technologies for surgical, pin-point attacks on high value targets instead of using the earlier method of massed attacks on large area in the fond hope that the target will be made in-effective.  This is possible nowadays with the advent of ‘Smart’ and ‘Brilliant’ weapons and capabilities coming up in the form of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). Besides these the recent capability in the “cyber warfare” dimension demonstrated by the sole superpower against Iran in the form of Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame is an indication of shift to “virtual and non-lethal lethality”.  The unmanned systems are becoming more and more capable and with the advent of unmanned combat systems – we are entering an age of what we can call “remote, virtual and non-lethal lethality”.


Manned Fighter Aircraft and New Age of Lethality

In a telling article last year, the Economist wrote “the future belongs to Drones”. The article published is titled “The last manned fighter” and it gives a detailed account of F-35 fighter plane costs and ends with a future direction that clearly seems to be favoring unmanned combat aircraft. It states, “In many roles, unmanned planes are more efficient: they carry neither a bulky pilot nor the kit that keeps him alive, which means they can both turn faster and be stealthier. And if they are shot down, no one dies. Even the F-35’s champions concede that it will probably be the last manned strike fighter aircraft the West will build.” Given the promise and capability of unmanned aircraft, cyber warfare and increasing cost of training pilots to operate such complex aircraft, it is but foolhardy to build a future military capability ignoring the new age of lethality which is characterized by remote, virtual, non-lethal and cyber lethality.

Where can an Aircraft Carrier go in the New Age of Lethality

If manner fighter aircraft are facing extinction in the next 40-50 years, what can be said about aircraft carriers? These real big floating cities, visible on the high seas, operating manned fighter aircraft, has defined power – political and military global power, for last 70 years or so. They have been the key instruments of global military reach and have definitely carried the stick whenever, the sole superpower wanted to cajole or influence any other country in the strategic shaping that US has been involved in for last 20 years or so.  They are the instruments of sea-control. However, in the age of accurate, long range missiles and very efficient, effective and stealthier submarines, aircraft carrier has been described as “sitting duck”. To protect an aircraft carrier requires large number of other ships. The age of 40-70 manned aircraft carriers controlling high seas and projecting power may be ending.

During this phase, if Indian navy is planning, continuing the previous century’s lethality thinking, to operate 3 manned aircraft carriers – and committing large number of other ships to escort, protect and support these aircraft carriers – it can only be explained in terms of very slow process of understanding of shifts in the modern warfare – may be limited understanding of new revolutions in military affairs.

If indeed aircraft carrier (the manned aircraft carrier) is not the right choice, are we saying death of aircraft carrier? Just like many other weapons systems and platforms, typical evolution of technical systems leads to changes in the way these systems are designed and used. Potential ways in which the concept of aircraft carrier and the investment made in these ships still can be optimally utilized and meshed in a new doctrine. Most likely future of manned fighter aircraft is what people call Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV). Technologies exist to make such systems viable and robust to the extent they can be used at the fraction of the cost fighter aircraft and without endangering the human life as in the case of fighter planes.

Indian Navy should integrate UCAV and other possible unmanned remote systems to be placed on smaller ships instead of the big aircraft carriers. These remote unmanned systems can be aerial vehicles, submarines or even unmanned missile boats. The future of networked smaller ships with multi-dimensional capabilities that can disperse and re-assemble to swarm an enemy ship, positions or systems, will prove to be true network centric capability.


Given the shift to the new age of lethality which is network centric rather than platform centric, too much focus on platforms such as manned aircraft carriers will actually do more harm in future war making capabilities of the nation. We propose a rethink to integrate network centric concepts of smaller nodes connected through robust links with remote lethality capabilities that has more unmanned and virtual. We propose a focus on unmanned aircraft carriers – or more appropriately UCAV carrier groups which are smaller, swifter and we conjecture more lethal in the new age of lethality.


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