Category Archives: Wall Street Journal

Between Threats and War – Living in a World Addicted to UAVs

The New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow have conducted the first comprehensive public opinion SURVEY covering sensitive political issues in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. According to these polls people in tribal areas strongly oppose the US military pursuing al-Queda and Taliban fighters based in their region; American drone attacks deeply unpopular. The report concludes that nearly nine out every ten people in FATA oppose the U.S. military pursuing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their region. Nearly 70 percent of FATA residents instead want the Pakistani military alone to fight Taliban and al- Qaeda militants in the tribal areas. This strongly suggests the high intensity opposition to the U.S military operations. For civilian officials, the military’s ability to find and destroy things from a safe distance never ceases to amaze. The CIA’s ongoing drone strike campaign is a particularly redoubtable example, with drone operators in the United States taking out targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

UAV – A New Way to Wage War

UAV – Unmanned Arial Vehicle, will only exist if they offer advantage compared with manned aircraft. Contrary to advantages, disadvantages are obvious to some of us as we see and hear every day. An old military adage (which also applies to civilian use) links the use of UAVs to roles which are dull, dirty or dangerous (DDD). To DDD add covert, diplomatic, research and environmentally critical roles.
Recently (as per 27 Oct 2010) Raytheon – major American defence contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in defence systems and defence and commercial electronics, who has tested a new UAV weapon Small Tactical Munitions (STM) (0.6m-long (2ft), 13lb (5.9kg) bomb) at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The dual-mode, semi-active laser seeker and GPS inertial navigation system enable it to engage fixed and moving targets in all weather conditions.

With US army moving its concentration from Iraq to Afghanistan and continuous use of UAVs in Pakistan tribal areas by USA the demand for small unmanned air vehicles is moving into higher gear as well. US Army plans to buy 3,000 Raven small UAVs with already 2,000 in hand.

From the CIA’s silent war in Pakistan – two UAVs extensively used, the Predator and the Reaper, both made by General Atomics, a San Diego defence contractor. The Predator is the older of the two; the first one was delivered to the Air Force in 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the CIA was using it to track bin Laden. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours without refuelling, the drone was a “brilliant intelligence tool,” recalls Hank Crumpton, then the CIA’s top covert-operations man in Afghanistan. Although the CIA was keen to weaponize the drone early on, the Air Force resisted the idea until 2000. Even then, firing the weapons was another matter. The Predator’s firepower is limited, but the Reaper can deliver laser-guided 500-lb. bombs like those commonly found on the F-16 jet, together with Hellfire missiles. Marc Herold, in looking at casualties in Afghanistan, quotes an ‘effective casualty radius’ for the Mk82 of 200 feet: this is radius inside which 50% of those exposed will die. Quite often the target is taking cover or lying down and the effect is reduced, but if you can catch people standing up or running then the full effective casualty radius will apply.

But why use UAV; Times (CNN) published a report in June 2009, The CIA’s Silent War in Pakistan saying:

“If we were sending F-16s into FATA–American pilots in Pakistani airspace–they might have felt very differently,” says James Currie, a military historian at the U.S.’s National Defence University.

“The basic problem with all aerial reconnaissance is that it’s subject to error,” says George Friedman, who heads the security firm Stratfor. “But in a place like Pakistan, errors have enormous political consequences.”

Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. And yet Pakistani leaders like army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani seem to have concluded that using drones to kill terrorists in FATA is generally a good thing. This is a major change in direction; although former President Pervez Musharraf allowed drones to operate, he placed severe limits on where and when they could strike. After Musharraf resigned last summer, the shackles came off. The U.S. struck a tacit bargain with the new administration in Islamabad: Zardari and Kayani would quietly enable more drone operations while publicly criticizing the U.S. after each strike. The arrangement has worked well for the U.S.

PlayStation Mentality

We are now more facinated with War Games then before, even COD now includes Karachi and Kabul in their Missions

Warning that the technology is making target killings much easier and more frequent, a report issued by New York Times raised concerns that drone operators based more than thousand miles away from the battlefield, risk developing a PlayStation mentality towards killing. Target killing outside the war zone, never likely to be legal but US administration argues their legality after September 11-2001. Inaccurate and unprofessional attitude by military drone operators from remote locations, do indeed led to civilian killings. CIA so far has carried out more than 80 drone attacks in 2010 alone, according to The Long War Journal, which tracks these strikes. Surprisingly of vast majority of the attacks involved firing multiple missiles or bombs.

Pakistan’s Latest Military Gadgets

Pakistani officials were fortunate to be greeted with a fresh offer of military hardware – possibly totalling as much as $2 billion over the next five years. This latest gear includes (likely to include) night vision goggles, and helicopter spare parts. This is not new for Pakistanis, since 9/11 Pakistan’s gotten lots of big-ticket items from the U.S. military. According to the Congressional Research Service’s tally, that includes eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft; six C-130 cargo planes; over 5000 TOW anti-armor missiles; 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; and even an Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile frigate. And by next year, Pakistan will receive 18 new F-16 combat jets from the U.S. — fighters capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Considering the latest gear what options does Pakistan have? According the Spencer Ackerman of Wired MAGAZINE

“Unless al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban have developed an armor corps and a submarine-heavy Navy while no one was looking, these weapons have more utility against the Indians than the terrorists.”

This gear is either a treat from US for Pakistan to use against terrorists or U.S. military seeks to prevent a deepening erosion of a relationship that US can’t live with. This especially true after recent wikileaks suggesting a strong ties between Pakistan and Insurgents. WikiLeaks has freaked out the White House, though, by clearly raising questions about whether Pakistani aid to the Afghan insurgency is far deeper than typically acknowledged. How much truth is in it, I think it will be too early to say anything. However, it’s not a surprising news that the Pakistani ISI has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami. How much of this money or gear will go to Afgan pockets no one knows, it is only a time who will show a true motivation behind these large spendings on US non-NATO ally. But Is there a silver lining to Pakistan’s relationship with the insurgents? Not known, at least to me. Are things still Koran, Kalashnikov and laptop or do I have to add heat seeker missiles to it as well? I am not so sure.

A Silent War in Waziristan

The wilds of Waziristan, an unlikely showcase for the future of warfare

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a new report on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report is based on the study conducted by former national security advisor and former Deputy Secretary of State. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the report broadly endorses U.S. policy of trying to build a long-term partnership, while also aiming to persuade it to turn convincingly against all militant groups. It reiterates a U.S. complaint that while Pakistan is ready to act against militants that threaten the Pakistani state. Reuters cited, that the report’s endorsement of U.S. support for Pakistan comes with a hard edge, warning that failure to achieve results, or an attack on the United States traced back to Pakistan-based militants, could lead to a much more aggressive U.S. policy:

“There are several strategic options available to the United States if the administration concludes that the current strategy is not working. In Pakistan, Washington could turn away from its present emphasis on rewarding and encouraging long-term bilateral cooperation. Instead, it could undertake increasingly aggressive, unilateral U.S. military strikes against Pakistan-based terrorists deeper into Pakistani territory, coercive diplomacy and sanctions, or a range of financial, diplomatic, and legal restrictions to control the flow of people, money, goods, and information to and from Pakistan. This strategy of containment and coercion could be coupled with a distinct diplomatic ’tilt’ toward India, with New Delhi serving as Washington’s main strategic and counterterror partner in the region.”

Almost week after the report was published US showed its interest to expand the operations for drone within Pakistan up to Quetta, which Pakistan has rejected, with an agreement to practise more modest measures. US intend to expand the boundaries where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight boxes over the country’s tribal belt but not other provinces such as Baluchistan. In reference to the arguments put forward by both countries, it is evident that the disagreement over the scope of drone programme underscores broader tensions between the US and Pakistan, who are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising level of insurgent violence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan officials stressed that Quetta is densely populated city where strike is more likely to result in civilian causalities, however US officials have long suspected that there are other reasons for Pakistan’s aversion including the surveillance of Pakistan nuclear facilities based in Baluchistan.

The subject is quite intrinsic and needs a historical background to understand and reach the root cause. But to take the current situation only in account, in my opinion this is a reaction to the US Obama-Led administrations cohesive gesture and voices of triumphs for India, has shunned the Pakistan’s political and military regimes expectations as Pakistani’s are engaged in a large scale war on terror in alliance with the United States.

On the very other side, it may be taken into account the tribesmen residing on the western borders of Pakistan, have been so badly hit by their own army in alliance with the foreign intervention that the Pakistani military and government is now thinking of changing their footprints towards a dialogue to settle the area down, which indeed is a good option not good for the United States to continue with its military voyage to hunt down the terrorists.

Now when NATO summit concludes that the foreign forces shall handover the military command of Afghanistan to the National Afghan Army, they plan to flee this place till 2014. I also wonder role played by the Pakistani intelligence by supporting the pro-Pakistani Taliban likewise the silent war fought against the USSR 3 decades back.

This may be taken into consideration that the public opinion against the American intrusion has crossed the limits, and the Pakistani- Government now fear that this may not burst up and may not be end of its times.

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The Buzz on China’s Drones

Chinease Ajain - Dark Sword

Since UAV (or Drones, as known to Asia Pacific) are very much in main-stream these days. So, I had to dedicate some more space within my blog to these unmannes vehicles. In an ongoing Chinease 8th International Airshow – Zhuhai 2010, Chinese commercial and defense aviation companies are exhibiting more than 25 UAV models. That is a record number of UAVs, according to show officials, and continuing evidence of China’s growing interest in unmanned technology. So Chinease are not only competing western industry for civilian or military jets, but UAVs also, as the show reveals. Some of the UAVs will serve as combat and battlefield reconnaissance roles. In one video, a UAV locates a U.S. aircraft carrier and relays the information for a follow-on attack by Chinese anti-ship missiles. Three Chinese companies – ASN Technology Group, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) produced most of the UAVs on display.

ASN Technology is the largest UAV production company in China, with a history of developing unmanned aerial platforms, including drones, since 1958, said a company press release. The primary customer is the Chinese military and the company controls more than 90 percent of the UAV market in China. ASN showed off 10 different UAVs, including the new ASN-211 Flapping Wing Aircraft System, which simulates a bird in flight. The prototype on display has a take-off weight of only 220 grams with a maximum speed of six-to-10 meters a second and an altitude ranging from 20-200 meters, primarily for low-altitude reconnaissance missions.

The largest UAV on display by the company was the ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV. Equipped with a satellite data link, it can perform aerial reconnaissance, battlefield surveys, target location and artillery fire adjustment during the day or night. It has a take-off weight of 800 kilograms and a cruising speed of 160-180 kilometers per hour with an endurance of 20 hours. Weighing in at 800 kg, ASN’s largest system was the armed ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV, which is still under development. Able to cruise at 180 km/h, the 5.5 m-long ASN-229A can perform reconnaissance, target location or artillery observation missions via a satellite data-link. Also among the 600 exhibitors were China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Both state-owned companies showcased sophisticated missile-armed UAVs. CASC displayed the CH-3 carrying two air-to-ground missiles akin to the AGM-114 Hellfire. This 640 kg medium-range craft with 220 km/h cruising speed is optimised for reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, artillery fire adjustment and electronic warfare, as well as the depicted attack platform.

CASC displayed the CH-3 multipurpose medium-range UAV system suitable for battlefield reconnaissance, artillery fire adjustment, data relay and electronic warfare. A company official said the CH-3 could be modified as an attack platform carrying small precision-guided weapons. Weapons outfitted on the display included two air-to-ground missiles similar in configuration to the U.S.-built Hellfire. CASIC took the prize for UAVs capable of intimidating the U.S. military. These included the jet-powered WJ-600. Aerospace Science and Industry Group, according to the material, WJ-600 can be mounted opto-electronic reconnaissance, synthetic aperture radar, electronic surveillance and other mission equipment, with fast response, and strong penetration ability, and can all-time effect of all-weather reconnaissance and damage assessmenttask, you can also load other types of equipment to achieve the task of ground attack, electronic warfare, information relay, and target simulation and other military tasks. Moreover, this means that WJ-600 drone is capable of trabelling faster than both U.S Predator and Reaper, currently opnerational in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The general speed of the UAV flying only about 30 m/s (58.3 knots), while the WJ-600 can be up to 200 m/s (389 knots – about 100knots greater than U.S MQ-9 Reaper who is equipped with turboprop engine), better on the flight altitude, up to ten thousand meters altitude – thanks to its jet engine. At this stage the project look rather ambitious

Other UAVs displays included a little-known company called Zhuhai X.Y. Aviation, which exhibited two new reconnaissance platforms, the 200-kilogram Blue Arrow (UR-J1-001) and 40 kilogram Sky Eyes (UR-C2-008). A company spokesperson said there were three prototypes of the Blue Arrow now being test-flown and that the prop-driven engine was from an unidentified “German company.”

Closing the UAV Gap

The recent display of 25 UAVs at the Zhuhai was not only the surprise for westeran but also flet by Japan, North and South Korea, and the Taiwanese officials.Drone technology, thus far, has been led by the U.S. and Israel. China now has UAVs that are comparable, although not equal, to the American Predator and Global Hawk. most of the ASN models in use by the Chinese military are older, more like the 1990s technology found in the U.S. Army Shadow 200 (now being replaced by the Predator-like, 1.2 ton Gray Eagle). One of the most numerous Chinese army models, the ASN-206/207, is a 222 kg (488 pound) aircraft, with a 50 kg (110 pound) payload. The 207 model has a max endurance of eight hours, but more common is an endurance of four hours. Max range from the control van is 150 kilometers and cruising speed is about 180 kilometers an hour. A UAV unit consists of one control van and 6-10 trucks, each carrying a UAV and its catapult launch equipment. The UAV lands via parachute, so the aircraft get banged up a lot. A UAV battalion, with ten aircraft, would not be able to provide round the clock surveillance for more than a week, at best. But Chinese planners believe this is adequate.

Sources suggests that many of the Chinese UAVs demonstrate an American influence, some appear to be using Israeli technology. That’s no accident, as four years ago, Israeli UAV manufacturer EMIT got busted after it was caught shipping UAV technology to China. EMIT was not a major player in the UAV industry, having only three models; the 450 kg Butterfly, 182 kg (400 pound) Blue Horizon, the 48 kg (hundred pound) Sparrow. The twenty year old firm has been scrambling to stay in business. The Chinese helped set up a phony cooperative deal in a Southeast Asian country, to provide cover for the transfer of EMIT UAV technology to China. Most of EMIT’s production is for export, but Israel has agreed to consult with the United States about transfers of technology to China. This is because Israel has been caught exporting military equipment, containing American technology, to China (in violation of agreements with the United States.) China tends to get technology wherever, and whenever, it can.

Chinease Xianglong

Two years ago, China revealed that it was developing a new UAV, similar to the U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk. Called Xianglong (Soaring Dragon – shown above), it is about half the size of the Global Hawk (shown below), at 7.5 tons, with a 14.5 meter (45 foot) wingspan and a .65 ton payload. Max altitude will be 18.4 kilometers (57,000 feet) and range will be 7,000 kilometers. It has a faster cruising speed (750 kilometers an hour) than the RQ-4. The Chinese Xianglong is intended for maritime patrol, as is a U.S. Navy model of the RQ-4. The shorter range of the Xianglong is apparently attributable to the lower capabilities of the Chinese aircraft engine industry.

U.S Global Hawk

Interestingly, This year’s models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could in theory fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The large number of UAVs on display illustrates clearly that China is investing considerable time and money to develop drone technology, not only that the equation is equally balanced by promoting these products to international market. The implications of this is not only China’s internal security, also this is also an opportunity for nations alike China or Pakistan who have sought in vain to acquire drones either for military purposes or for police surveillance and antiterrorist operations. However, this is of particular concern to the U.S. and Israel, whose drones are unrivalled in the world today, and could worry China’s neighbors. A further details about Chinease buzz on drone technology can be read at the Wall Street Journal who has recently published a detailed resarch about the Chinease catch-up to U.S and Israel.

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