Turkish and Israeli Drones Enable Azerbaijan's Decisive Victory Over Armenia
Defense analysts believe that Turkish and Israeli drones have helped Azerbaijan achieve decisive victory against Armenia. "Azerbaijan’s drones owned the battlefield in Nagorno-Karabakh — and showed future of warfare" says the Washington Post headline as tweeted by drone warfare expert Franz-Stefan Gady. Low-cost Azeri drones killed thousands of Armenian soldiers in Nagorno-Karabakh and destroyed hundreds of Armenian tanks and artillery pieces, giving a huge advantage to Azerbaijan and forcing the Armenian surrender. Armenian Prime Minister accused Pakistan of sending troops to help Azerbaijan in the conflict. Pakistan rejected Armenian allegations and congratulated Azerbaijan on its victory.
Azeris deployed a variety of drones in their war against Armenia to wrest control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that is legally part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenians. Azeris used Turkish Bayraktar drones which are large and reusable drones. They also Kamikaze drones made by Israel which are small and designed for one-time use in destroying targets. The small Israeli-made suicide drones are sometimes also referred to as "loitering munitions". Azeris used big old WW2 Antonov AN-2 biplanes as decoys to fool Armenian air defense systems.
Michael Kofman, military analyst and director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va. is quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “Drones offer small countries very cheap access to tactical aviation and precision guided weapons, enabling them to destroy an opponent’s much-costlier equipment such as tanks and air defense systems.” “An air force is a very expensive thing,” he added. “And they permit the utility of air power to smaller, much poorer nations.”
In 2019, dozens of cheap drones were deployed against Abqaiq and Khurais oil fields to cut Saudi Aramco's production by half, according to multiple media reports. Saudi and US officials have blamed Iran for the destructive hit. This was the first time that cheap drone swarms loaded with explosives dodged sophisticated air defense systems to hit critical infrastructure targets in the history of warfare.
Small drones are hard to detect even by the most sophisticated radars. It's even harder to shoot down a drone swarm because of their small size and large numbers. After Abqaiq and Khurais attacks last year, Saudi sources revealed that 25 drones and missiles were used to hit the two sites that produced 5.7 million barrels of oil per day. The incoming low-flying small drones and missiles successfully evaded US-supplied sophisticated air defense system. Multi-billion dollar cutting edge American military hardware mainly designed to deter high altitude attacks has proved no match for low-cost drones and cruise missiles used in a strike that crippled its giant oil industry.
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Drone warfare does not diminish the importance of tank warfare. It just reinforces the need for better air cover for the armored corps to do their job of taking and keeping territory.
These drones are small and hard to detect even by sophisticated radars. It's even harder to shoot down a drone swarm because of their small size and large numbers.
Besides, Azerbaijanis used big old WW2 Antonov biplanes as decoys to fool Armenian air defense system.
While most countries struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil wars in Syria and Libya have become battlegrounds for foreign states backing different local sides. External powers have intervened in both civil wars supplying advanced conventional weapons that have intensified the conflicts, but not all the weapons have performed as claimed. Perhaps the most startling example of this is how ineffective modern Russian air defense systems have been at countering drones and low-flying missiles. In the face-off between expensive air defensive systems and lower cost offensive drones and low-flying missiles, the offense is winning.
In recent weeks, drones supplied by Turkey (PDF) in support of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord have reportedly destroyed the Russian Pantsir short-range air defense systems (SHORADS) that the opposition Libyan National Army (LNA) used to protect their forces. The inability of the LNA to protect their forces has turned the tide of the conflict and is a reminder of how difficult effective air defense is in an era of comparatively inexpensive armed drones and precision guided low-flying cruise missiles.
The LNA is not alone in having difficulty employing air defense systems effectively. The Syrian regime is protected by several Russian-origin air defense systems, including the S-300, S-400 High Altitude Air Defense Systems (HIMADS), Buk-M1 medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and Pantsir SHORADS. The Israeli Air Force has regularly defeated these systems through the combined use of electronic warfare, anti-radiation missiles, and stand-off precision guided munitions. Many of the tactics, techniques, and procedures used to defeat SHORADS in Libya were tested during the Turkish military's brief 2020 winter campaign in Idlib Province during which Turkey destroyed Pantsir SHORAD and Buk-M1 medium-range SAM systems operated by the Assad Regime. Some of the destroyed Syrian and Libyan Pantsir systems appeared to be operational in the field, while others were being moved on flatbed trailers or hiding under sheds at the time they were knocked out. This shows how good intelligence aiding offensive attackers can easily neutralize defensive systems.
Not all of these systems were defeated due to inherent technical shortcomings. The tactical and strategic situation in which these air defense systems are employed also affects their performance. For example, as part of a United States government foreign assistance-funded project, RAND has examined open source reporting that highlights how Syrian personnel operating newly-acquired advanced Russian air defense systems lack the training time that is needed to effectively operate these complex systems. The repeated success of forces using drones and low-flying missiles to destroy or suppress multiple air defense systems on the battlefield is a cautionary note about the effectiveness of these systems against modern air threats. In both Libya and Syria, lower cost offensive drones and low-flying missiles have bedeviled more expensive, complex, and difficult to operate air defense systems.
Even well-equipped countries like Saudi Arabia know from the drone and missile strikes on its oil facilities during the late summer of 2019 by Houthi rebels or Iranian operatives that effective air defense against armed drones or low-flying missiles is very difficult. Similarly, as Iran knows from its own tragic misfires of its Russian-supplied Tor air defense system that shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, operating sophisticated precision guided missile systems requires extensive training, and even then tragic errors can occur.
China shows off its ability to rapidly launch 48 weaponized drones from the back of a truck, as well as from helicopters.
Loitering munitions have also demonstrated the ability to have a devastating impact on an opponent, even when just used en masse rather than as part of a truly networked swarm. This reality has been especially visible, as seen in the video below, during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. You can read about more about this in The War Zone's recent coverage of that conflict. The danger that small drones, even home-brew types non-state actors are capable of building, pose to nation-state militaries is only becoming more and more apparent.
China recently conducted a test involving a swarm of loitering munitions, also often referred to as suicide drones, deployed from a box-like array of tubular launchers on a light tactical vehicle and from helicopters. This underscores how the drone swarm threat, broadly, is becoming ever-more real and will present increasingly serious challenges for military forces around the world in future conflicts.
The China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology (CAEIT) reportedly carried out the test in September. CAEIT is a subsidiary of the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), which carried out a record-breaking drone swarm experiment in June 2017, involving nearly 120 small fixed-wing unmanned aircraft. Four months later, CAEIT conducted its own larger experiment with 200 fixed-wing drones. Chinese companies have also demonstrated impressive swarms using quad-copter-type drones for large public displays.
We don't know the name or designation of the drones CAEIT used in its September test, or that of the complete system being employed. However, video footage, seen below, shows that the unmanned aircraft are very similar in form and function to more recent models of China Poly Defense's CH-901 loitering munition.
When the tube-launched CH-901 first emerged in 2016, it featured a pair of pop-out wings, as well as a folding v-tail. More recently, that design has evolved and replaced the v-tail with another set of pop-out wings and folding twin-tail arrangement, similar to the drones we see in the CAEIT test video.
Of course, designs featuring two pairs of folding wings are very common for tube-launched drones and loitering munitions, including the Switchblade suicide drone from U.S. manufacturer AeroVironment. The unmanned aircraft CAEIT employed in its experiment is also reminiscent of American defense contractor Raytheon's Coyote.
The Coyote comparison also extends to launch options CAEIT demonstrated in its recent test. The 48-tube ground-based launcher, which is mounted on a modified 6x6 version of the Dongfeng Mengshi light tactical vehicle, is similar in some respects to multi-tube trail-mounted launchers that the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research used to launch Coyotes as part of its Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) effort, as seen in the video below. Poly Defense has also shown at least a mock-up of an array of tubular launchers for the CH-901.
The recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan might have shown how effective these drones could be against enemy armor, meanwhile, it also shows the high number of drone losses for both sides. The high costs and the susceptibility of these systems (US MQ9 Reaper SkyGuardian Drones) would also have raised eyebrows for the Indian services.
The deal’s Acceptance of Necessity (AON) is still yet to be approved by the Defense Acquisition Council, which is one of the most important steps in a foreign arms procurement in the Indian government.
The US diplomats wanted the SkyGuardian deal to be the highlight of their visit to India, however, they had to be satisfied only with the highlights of the inking of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), an important milestone between the two nations.
This also allows the Indian operators to use the American navigational and mapping systems, paving a way for future procurement of the MQ-9Bs. The deal could still be signed in the future, but the plan appears to be shelved by New Delhi, at least for now.
Instead, the services might go forward with the “Project Cheetah”, which is to upgrade the existing drones to carry out offensive operations against the enemy. Under this project, 90 Heron drones of the three services would be upgraded to be armed with laser-guided bombs, air to ground, and air-launched anti-tank guided missiles.
The costs saved from signing the SkyGuardian deal could be used more efficiently by investing in long-sought indigenous procurement of LCA Tejas Mk-1As and Light Combat Helicopters, and supporting the internal industries under the helm of “Aatmnirbhar Bharat”.
China and Pakistan have reportedly reached an agreement for the co-production of 48 Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles.
State-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) have agreed to co-produce 48 Chinese-designed next-generation medium-altitude long-endurance and strike-capable Wing Loong II unnamed aerial vehicles (UAV), the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) revealed in a social media post on October 6.
Neither AVIC nor PAC have so far publicly confirmed the inking of a sales contract. It is also unclear when the purported deal was signed or how much it is worth. Additionally, there is no information when the 48 UAVs are slated for delivery. Pakistan has been mulling the purchase of additional Chinese-made UAVs for a number of years. (The PAF is currently operating four China-made Caihong 4 (CH-4), or Rainbow 4, UAVs.)
The Wing Loong II UAV successfully completed its first maiden flight on February 27, 2017. As I reported in March 2017:
China’s latest strike-capable drone has been designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, a subsidiary of AVIC. With an overall length of 11 meters, a wingspan of 20.5 meters, and a height of 4.1 meters, the Wing Loong II UAV was first publicly revealed at the Airshow China 2016 in November 2016. At the airshow, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s (CASC) for the first time publicly displayed a prototype of its latest and most capable attack and reconnaissance UAV, the Caihong 5 (CH-5), or Rainbow 5.
The Wing Loong II is an upgraded variant of the Wing Loong UAV first introduced into service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2008. An export version of the drone has been sold to a number of international customers including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. (…) In terms of size and payload, the original Wing Loong combat drone is comparable to the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which is slated to be retired by the U.S. Air Force by the end of the year.
Indian LT GEN H S PANAG (RETD) on drones:
As early as 2013, Pakistan had displayed two domestically produced drones based on China’s CH-3 model that were already in service in its armed forces. In 2015, Pakistan used its domestic model, the Burraq, based on CH-3 in a publicly-owned strike on militants in the North Waziristan region. In 2018, China finalised its biggest drone sale when Pakistan agreed to buy 48 GJ-2 drones, under its export name Wing Loong II. Pakistan is also likely to possess loiter munitions in unknown numbers.
Over the years China and Turkey have been cementing their ties which have often been constrained by Turkey’s NATO membership. However, the bilateral ties got a fillip ever since China launched its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized the opportunity as he struggles to consolidate his AKP Party and reclaim the glory of Turkey’s Ottoman past. Another reason was that Erdogan’s ambitions to anoint himself as the leader of the Muslim world saw Turkey embroil itself in wars in foreign lands, thus putting Ankara in financial difficulties.
Straddling two continents, Turkey is strategically important for China’s BRI, as a trade and transport hub, significantly cutting down freight transportation time from China to Europe and Africa. Turkey had also launched its own connectivity project to access the Caucasus and Central Asia through the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway, known as the Middle Corridor.
Turkey is also a priority country with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The bank is helping in the construction of the Salt Lake underground gas storage facility project, said to be the world’s largest storage project. Turkey is also an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
So eager is Turkey for its partnership with China, that Erdogan who is positioning himself as the modern-day Caliph of the Muslims, has turned a blind eye to China’s oppression of its Uighur Muslim community.
While Erdogan has turned a blind to the plight of Uighur Muslims, he has voiced support for Indian Muslims living in Kashmir. In fact, Turkey was one of the three countries, besides China and Pakistan, to condemn India’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status.
Erdogan raised the issue in the UN General Assembly. During his February visit to Pakistan, he compared the struggle of Kashmiris with the Ottoman Empire’s fight during World War I.
Turkey provides Pakistan with emotional, ideological, and political support, while China is providing both material and political support. With China’s support, the Kashmir issue has thrice been discussed in the UN Security Council since August 5, 2019.
Pakistan’s insistence and Turkey’s focus has also seen the Organization of Islamic Cooperation raising the Kashmir issue more than it normally would have.
Considering Erdogan and his party’s Islamist orientation and well-documented support to radical and terror groups, together with Pakistan’s support and sponsor of cross-border terror, and China’s expansionist tendencies, the China-Pakistan-Turkey nexus is one India needs to watch out for.
It is simultaneously not limited to offense but also supplying and supporting formations.
India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) have inked a deal with the Armenian government to supply India produced weapon detecting radars in a $40 million deal, Times of India has reported.
Under this defense deal, India will supply four indigenous ‘Swathi’ weapon Locating Radar (WLR) to Armenia. The supply of the weapon to Armenia has already started.
According to Indian Government sources, this deal is being considered as a big boost for ‘Make in India’ in defense sector.
Armenia had conducted trials of weapon offered by India, Russia and Poland. After conducting the trial, Armenia found Indian Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) is more reliable and they decided to go for the Indian made system.
This Weapon Locating Radar(WLR) is cureently used by Indian Army at LoC in Jammu & Kashmir. The main work of this system to trace the source of attack by Pakistani positions. This Radar system can trace multiple weapons fired from different locations.
In a major success for India’s defense sector, India reportedly outbid Russia and Poland to win a $40 million defense deal to supply four indigenously-built military radars to Armenia. These radars, known as SWATHI, were developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
Indeed, this deal is a major achievement for the “Make in India” program in the defense sector as it could open new opportunities in Europe for the sale of India’s indigenous systems, at lower costs than equivalent European systems. It could also help the Indian defense industry to make inroads into markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. But this deal has other strategic implications. It is clearly aimed at countering increasing hostility from Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toward India.
In September 2019, speaking at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Erdogan – who has aspirations to position himself as a strong leader in the Muslim world – raised the issue of Kashmir at the behest of Pakistan. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir have been kept “virtually under blockade,” Erdogan, told the UN General Assembly, referring to the measures taken by New Delhi to maintain law and order in Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370. Erdogan also stated that the Kashmir issue has awaited a solution for 72 years and that a solution can only be found through dialogue between India and Pakistan — a position that India has strongly rejected, maintaining that Kashmir is an integral part of India.
Since then, New Delhi has not pulled any punches on Turkey. An immediate fallout of Erdogan’s speech was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi met – on the sidelines of the UN Summit itself – with the heads of Ankara’s archrivals, including neighboring Greece, Cyprus, and Armenia, all of whom have an ax to grind with Turkey. Particularly, Armenia is still locked in acrimony with Turkey over the 1915 genocide (a term Ankara strongly rejects), which saw the killing of over a million Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey. Next, New Delhi cancelled Modi’s planned visit to Turkey and a lucrative $2.32 billion naval deal with Turkish defense company Anadolu Shipyard for five 45,000 ton fleet support ships for India, followed by a reduction in imports from Turkey. Pertinently, Pakistan awarded fresh naval ship contracts to Turkey to offset their loss. India also condemned Turkey’s military offensive against the Kurds and urged the Erdogan government to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Undeterred by New Delhi’s response, Erdogan has continued with his tirade against India. During his February visit to Islamabad, he reiterated his country’s support for Pakistan on Kashmir, telling a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament that India’s decision to revoke the erstwhile state’s special status had “exacerbated the troubles of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters.”
New Delhi’s response to Turkey has been evenly matched. And in a classical realpolitik move, as advocated by ancient Indian strategist Chanakya (regarded by some as the Indian Machiavelli) New Delhi has stepped up relations with Armenia. An enemy’s enemy is your friend, as the logic goes.
Thus, while Erdogan was cozying up with Imran Khan in Pakistan, the Indian and Armenian foreign ministers held a one-on-one dialogue in the United States. A joint statement read, “Armenian-Indian relations have gained a new quality,” stressing on “the importance of preserving the dynamics of bilateral political dialogue.”
Software, AI, autonomy — these are the ultimate weapons. The Pentagon must get serious about integrating AI into everything it has for 'hyperwar.'
By Amir Husain
Five years ago, before many were talking about artificial intelligence and its practical applications to the field of battle, retired Gen. John Allen and I began a journey to not only investigate the art of the possible with AI, but also to identify its likely implications on the character and conduct of war.
In 2017, we wrote about how developments in AI could lead to what we referred to as “hyperwar” — a type of conflict and competition so automated that it would collapse the decision action loop, eventually minimizing human control over most decisions. Since then, my goal has been to encourage the organizational transformation necessary to adopt safer, more explainable AI systems to maintain our competitive edge, now that the technical transformation is at our doorstep.
Software, AI, autonomy — these are the ultimate weapons. These technologies are the difference between hundreds of old Mig-19 and Mig-21 fighter jets lying in scrap yards, and their transformation to autonomous, maneuverable, and so-called “attritable,” or expendable, supersonic drones built from abundant air frames, equipped with swarm coordination and the ability to operate in contested airspaces. Gone are the days when effectiveness and capability can be ascribed to individual systems and platforms. Now, it’s all about the network of assets, how they communicate, how they decide to act, and how efficiently they counter the system that is working in opposition to them. An individual aircraft carrier or a squadron of strategic bombers are no longer as independently meaningful as they once were.
In the emerging environment, network-connected, cognitive systems of war will engage each other. They will be made up principally of software, but also of legacy weapons platforms, humans, sometimes in combat, and newer assets capable of autonomous decision and action. The picture of the environment in which they operate across time and space will only be made clear by intelligent systems capable of fusing massive amounts of data and automatically interpreting them to identify and simulate forward the complex web of probabilities that result. Which actions are likely to be successful? With what degree of confidence? What are the adversary’s most likely counter-moves? The large scale, joint application of autonomously coordinated assets by a cognitive system will be unlike anything that has come before. It is this fast-evolving new paradigm, powered by artificial intelligence at every level, from the tactical to the strategic, that demands our attention. We must no longer focus on individual platforms or stand-alone assets, but on the cognitive system that runs an autonomous “Internet of War”.
SparkCognition, an Austin-based startup that ordinarily builds AI-enabled industrial technology for the oil and gas, aviation and telecommunications sector, announced the creation of a new subsidiary that will be entirely devoted to government and defense to help them “meet the needs of their most pressing national security missions.”
Founded in 2013, SparkCognition makes artificial intelligence and machine learning software for its various clients. Its Darwin, DeepArmor, SparkPredict and DeepNLP platforms were created to help these clients “adapt to a changing digital landscape” and meet their company goals. After closing on a $100 million Series C round last year, the company claimed to be “one of the most valuable startups in Texas and one of the most valuable AI startups in the United States.”
While it has been doing national defense work for several years now, SparkCognition says it decided to create its separate SparkCognition Government Systems company so it can apply a more focused approach on the category. The plan is to tailor its commercial systems and create a new generation of AI and intelligence technology.
“We started to develop software capabilities for a variety of (Department of Defense) clients and partners in the defensive industry,” founder and CEO Amir Husain said in a virtual event announcing the new company, as reported by the Austin-American Statesman. “We invented AI-powered weapon systems, prototyped a few and secured patents for many more. We have learned rich lessons and identified the shortcomings that prevent us now, as a country, from taking the lead in this critical new area.”
SparkCognition also announced a board for the new company, which consists of Husain and several other erstwhile high-ranking government and military leaders like retired Marine Corps General John R. Allen, former Air Force Under Secretary Lisa Disbrow, retired Navy Admiral John M. Richardson and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work.
According to Husain, SparkCognition Government Systems will be the first defense-focused AI technology company of its kind and will be used to help the government analyze complex data for quicker intelligence decisions, apply predictive and prescriptive analytics to improve logistics and deploy autonomous technology. Disbrow said in the same live event that the goal is to use this technology to decrease the need to send troops into “high risk zones.”
“Warfare of the future will be characterized by rapidly evolving technology, of which AI will perhaps be the most influential,” Allen said in a statement. “The side with the greater capacity to understand the implications of these technologies, and to employ them effectively, safely, and in accordance with the law, will be the side that prevails.”
by Ejaz Haider
Azerbaijan could either just swallow Armenian intransigence or wait for the right opportunity. It gambled on the latter.
But, and that’s important: war is serious business and cannot be undertaken lightly.
At the politico-strategic level, the growing differential between Azeri and Armenian economies unfolded in Baku’s favour. The bigger economy (oil revenues, tourism, higher exports etc) allowed Baku to spend more on defence. However, except for 2015 when Azerbaijan’s defence spending rose to 5.6% of its GDP, it averaged at just below 4% between 2009 and 2019. Armenia, while spending relatively more on defence as a percentage of its GDP, averaging 4.5%, could not catch up given the much smaller size of its economy. According to data by the Stockholm International and Peace Research Institute, Baku spent some USD24 billion on defence between 2009 and 2018. Armenia spent a little over USD4 billion for the same period.
Nonetheless, the economy is just one factor, though a very important one. A state intending to go to war must also have its diplomatic flanks covered. Armenia has always been a close ally of Russia. Russia’s relations with Azerbaijan have seen ebbs and flows. However, since 2018, Armenia-Russia relations despite a military pact (Russia also maintains a base in Armenia) have been strained while Moscow’s relations with Baku have improved.
Azerbaijan also has very close relations with Turkey for historical, ethnic and linguistic reasons. Armenia and Turkey have historically been inimical. Azerbaijan and Turkey might be two separate states, but they consider themselves the same people. Azerbaijan also has strong ties with Israel. Turkey is also the second most important state player in the Caucasus and under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has developed a complicated relationship with Russia, which considers the former Soviet republics as Moscow’s sphere of influence.
Azerbaijan has been buying military equipment from Turkey, Israel and Russia. Its military has very close ties with the Turkish military; both sides have been conducting joint exercises and Turkey has been training Azeri officers and ranks. Azerbaijan’s military training, deployment, employment of equipment and doctrinal development owes greatly to the Turkish military.
Lesson 2: if a state wants to go to war, it must have strong backers.
Azerbaijan also has a strong legal case on its conflict with Armenia and the separatist Armenian government (not even recognised by Armenia for that reason). The UN resolutions completely support Azerbaijan’s claims on N-K.
Lesson 3: it’s always good to have a strong legal case if a state wants to use force.
This is as far as the politico-strategic environment is concerned and Azerbaijan managed to create its asymmetric advantage over Armenia at that level.
But war, in the end, is a contest where the will of the fighting sides is tested. That’s where we come to the military-operational level. The lessons at this level are quite fascinating.
From the actual conduct of war it is clear that Armenia was fighting the previous war (when it had an edge) while Azerbaijan had planned its offensives for the present war. It showed superior planning (the opening phase targeted the relatively flatter southern districts abutting N-K) and execution. Here are some lessons.
by Ejaz Haider
Here are some lessons.
1: If a fighting side cannot integrate the battle space with sensors, other electronic warfare systems and counter-drone measures, its land forces (troops, armour, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, artillery guns, radar stations etc) will be in trouble. As has been noted by various analysts through the six weeks of the conflict, Azerbaijan used its Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drone (which has four hard points for delivering laser-guided smart munitions) and Israeli Harop, which is a loitering munition optimised for suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) ops. Given that it loiters, finds, acquires and attacks its target in a self-destruct, terminal mode, it’s also referred to as a kamikaze drone.
Azerbaijan employed both drones very effectively against Armenian tanks, IFVs/APCs, ground radars and artillery pieces.
Corollary: Armenian military had to hide its armour and mechanised assets and couldn’t employ them usefully in offensive mode. While it’s too early, as some analysts have suggested, that the era of the MBT and mechanised infantry is over, the conflict clearly tells us that without adequate counter-measures, armour and mechanised columns will be badly exposed to the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and firepower of combat drones.
Azerbaijan integrated its ground-based fire power (indirect artillery fire, multi-barrel rocket launchers) with ISR data from the drones and used that for target acquisition and engagement. It seems to have learnt both the use of combat drones and integrating them with land-based firepower from operations conducted by the Turkish military in northern Syria against the Syrian Arab Army.
The conflict has also shown how combat drones can perform in SEAD and DEAD (destruction of enemy air defence) operations. Again, the Azeri military seems to have learnt this from the Turkish military. Bayraktar TB-2 has made a name for itself in Syria and Libya for successfully hunting the Russian-made Pantsir short- to medium-range mobile AD system. Like the Turkish military, Azerbaijan also used the MAM-L smart micro-munition against Armenia’s Strela system (9K33 and 9K35), a highly mobile, short-range surface-to-air missile.
The effective employment of combat drones against land forces, integrating them with ground-based firepower and using them for SEAD/DEAD missions not only managed to destroy much of Armenia’s offensive capability while also degrading its defences, but, by extension, made it easier for Azerbaijan to use its own armour, APCs and ground forces to capture and hold territory. In other words, Azerbaijan first dented the Armenian offensive and defensive capabilities and then used its land forces in a traditional offensive mode to capture and hold territory.
This is of course an overview of how the conflict unfolded. It does not mean that future wars will always be fought like this. Adversaries with symmetrical capabilities will have to further innovate to establish an asymmetrical advantage. There are other emerging technologies that are changing, and will change, the conduct of war in ways that one can only conjecture about at this time.
There is also the issue of escalation dominance and spirals, especially between adversaries that are nuclear armed. That raises other questions apropos of how effectively operations can be conducted and how, if at all, they can be conducted without the two sides getting into a spiral that could lead to crossing the nuclear thresholds.
The most important point to note, however, is the nexus between innovation (both in planning and employment of equipment and systems) and creating and maintaining an asymmetric advantage. That is what Azerbaijan achieved in this war. And that is why it has emerged as the victor.
With neighbours such as Pakistan and China, threat lies for India at any given point of time. Bolstering its military with the latest technology is the need of the hour, for which India has already been making moves in the combat drone/UCAV spectrum. The Indian Army is in possession of around 90 Heron Surveillance drones and the Harop loitering munition. Additionally, the army is planning to acquire more of these from Israel.
In August this year, the defence approved the upgrade of Heron UAVs. The upgrade will include arming some of these drones, sources in Indian security establishment said. The decision comes amid the India-China standoff as the Indian military is preparing to enhance its surveillance capabilities at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Heron UAVs are already being used in the forward areas of Ladakh.
India is also looking to expedite its testing of the indigenous surveillance drones ‘Rustom-2’ before inducting them into service.
During the defence expo in Lucknow in February this year, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) from Israel and Dynnamatic Technologies Limited signed an agreement for manufacturing of drones.
The Indian Army also opted for the SpyLite mini-UAV for high-altitude aerial surveillance. This is built by Cyient Solutions & Systems (CSS), a joint venture between Cyient Ltd (India) and BlueBird Aero Systems (Israel).
With the opening of the American drone market, India is also exploring the possibility of acquiring several GA-ASI MQ-9 Reapers from the US subject to approval.
Talking about threats from neighbours, Pakistan has a plethora of options to choose from if it decides to expand its already existing combat drone options. Both Turkey and China design and manufacture high-end drone equipment. On the other hand, India will hope to bank upon Israel and the US.
With regards to the use of combat drones in our part of the world (read India’s border with Pakistan and China) drone warfare may not be as successful as it was in the Armenian context. This is because both India and Pakistan have heavy air defence systems.
Unless India completely dominates the air warfare, drones may not be as successful when it comes to combat operations. The induction of Rafale may help India with this regard.
China is the bigger player when it comes to drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It has invested a lot of effort in developing civilian drones and the same has been translated into them developing combat drones. China is one of the leading countries when it comes to R&D concerning drone technology.
China also possesses anti-drone technology used to jam signals that disrupt drones or shoot incoming drones in order to divert or destroy them.
With China’s growing dominance in global drone market and Pakistan’s proximity with Beijing, India needs to quickly adapt to the changing game of drone warfare as it is likely to become even more prevalent in coming years.
UCAVs also have a less carrying capacity compared to fighter jets. Hence, they are used in small but precise attacks rather than air-based raids that jets usually engage in. Azerbaijan used a new method of precision warfare that best compliments the use of such drones. This was only possible for rich and well-established militaries before, but now technology has made this more accessible to countries like Azerbaijan.
To name a few, countries with outstanding border conflicts include India, Pakistan, Serbia, Ukraine and many others. All these nations have already started purchasing attack drones and UCAVs.
The combat drone market can further explode by the Trump administration's push to deregulate their armed drone sales in a bid to allow the US manufacturers to compete in an export market dominated by China, Israel and Turkey.
on Strategic Stability
and Nuclear Risk
South Asian Perspectives
edited by petr topychkanov
The ongoing renaissance of artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping the world. Just
like many other developing countries, India and Pakistan—the two nuclear-armed
states of South Asia—are exploring the subsequent opportunities for economic and
social change. Their political leaders seem to prioritize civilian applications of AI
over the military, and public attention reflects the political priorities. National
efforts to militarize AI do not receive the same public coverage as civilian AI
Meanwhile, according to the available open-source information, India and
Pakistan are increasingly interested in the potential benefits of AI for defence and
security. This might be one of the reasons why an expert debate on the opportunities and risks posed by the AI renaissance in the military realm has started
in recent years. However, the debate suffers from large gaps, particularly in the
emerging discussion on the potential impact of AI on strategic stability and
nuclear risk in South Asia. This issue has been underexplored by scholars studying South Asia from both inside and outside the region.
This edited volume—which follows earlier volumes on Euro-Atlantic and East
Asian perspectives—tries to fill the gaps in the scholarly debate on this important
topic and to facilitate further regional debate. It is based on a workshop held in
Colombo in February 2019. The eight expert contributors—from South Asia and
around the world—reflect the variety of issues, approaches and views.
It is clear from a comparative study of the state of adoption of AI in South
Asia that India and Pakistan are playing catch-up in the world competition on
military AI. Compared to the United States, China and Russia, India’s advances
are modest, while Pakistan’s are even less visible. One of the reasons seems to
be under-resourcing and inefficiencies in defence research and state industries.
These prohibit the development and adoption of emerging technologies within a
reasonable time frame.
However, according to contributors from India and Pakistan, both countries are well aware of the strategic significance of AI. They see AI as one of many enablers of the mutual strategic balance. India must also take into consideration the role of AI in the military build-up of China, one of its long-term security concerns.
In assessing the strategic significance of AI, the expert contributors—regardless of their origin—agree that AI is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, AI could enhance nuclear command and control, early warning, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and the physical security of nuclear capabilities, among other areas. In this way it would improve states’ sense of security. On the other hand, the same advances could cast doubt on the survivability of their respective second-strike capabilities. This doubt would stimulate more aggressive nuclear postures that could increase nuclear risk.
Turkey’s armed low-cost unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have proven their capabilities on the field are reshaping battlefields and geopolitics, a (Wall Street Journal) report said Thursday.
The drones were successfully used in several recent regional conflicts in which they were seen pinpointing and hunting down armored vehicles and air defense systems, including in Libya, Syria and the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The drones also proved particularly useful in the fight against terrorist groups.
Smaller militaries around the world have been seen deploying inexpensive missile-equipped drones against armored enemies, proving it to be an advantageous new battlefield tactic, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Using affordable digital technology, the Turkish drones wrecked air-defense systems, tanks and other armored vehicles in wars in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan, the report notes.
"These drones point to future warfare being shaped as much by cheap but effective fighting vehicles as expensive ones with the most advanced technology," it said.
Last July during a virtual gathering of the Air and Space Power Conference, Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stressed the "game-changing" role of Turkish drones in modern warfare in the Middle East and North Africa.
"We need to look at the lessons of others. Look how Turkey has been operating in Libya, where it has used Bayraktar TB2 UAVs since mid-2019," said Wallace at the time.
The Bayraktar TB2 is a tactical armed UAV system developed and manufactured by drone magnate Baykar Makina.
According to the company, currently, 160 Bayraktar platforms are being put to use by Turkey, Qatar, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
Poland last month announced it would buy 24 Bayraktar drones.
The Wall Street Journal report compared Bayraktar TB2 with the American MQ-9.
The TB2 is lightly armed with four laser-guided missiles. Its radio-controlled apparatus limits its basic range to around 200 miles, roughly a fifth of the ground the MQ-9 can cover, said the report.
"Yet it is utilitarian and reliable – qualities reminiscent of the Soviet Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle that changed warfare in the 20th century," praised the report.
"A set of six Bayraktar TB2 drones, ground units and other essential operations equipment costs tens of millions of dollars, rather than hundreds of millions for the MQ-9," said the report.
The Bayraktar TB2 first made an international name for itself in the Syria war early last year after the Turkish military launched Operation Spring Shield in northern Syria, backed by electronic warfare systems, ground troops, artillery and warplanes.
The report also highlighted the role of the drones in the Libyan civil war, which it said "helped turn the tide" in the conflict last spring.
Turkey backed the Tripoli-based government against putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar and his forces.
"Improved drone tactics honed in Syria provided the upper hand against Russian-made surface-to-air missile systems known as Pantsir, handing the Tripoli government aerial supremacy. By June, Haftar's forces retreated from Tripoli," outlined the report.
The TB2 (armed drone) was born of Turkey’s dissatisfaction with available models from the U.S. and Israel, and the country’s desire for systems under its control to fight the PKK, a Kurdish militant group.
“Those countries did not cooperate with us sufficiently, so we had to launch our own program,” Mustafa Varank, Turkey’s minister of industry and technology, said in an interview. “Turkey is now reaping the fruits of taking the right decisions at the right time.”
Baykar emerged as a leader among several Turkish drone producers after spotting a niche in the early 2000s, said Mr. Bayraktar, the company’s chief executive. His brother Selcuk Bayraktar, who took advanced studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came up with flight-control software and guidance systems while using off-the-shelf components.
During development, company officials set up a workshop at a military base to get a firsthand understanding, including from a colonel who took them to a patch of bloodied ground where, they said, Turkish soldiers were killed by the PKK.
In 2007, Turkey launched a national competition to supply mini drones, which yielded an order of 76 from Baykar. At the time, the U.S. wouldn’t sell armed drones to Turkey. Baykar developed the TB2 and gradually replaced foreign components with locally produced ones. In 2015, the company successfully test-fired a precision-guided munition.
Turkey’s military initially used the drones within its own borders and in northern Iraq and Syria. Soon, Mr. Erdogan deployed them in wars near Turkey’s borders.
Azerbaijan, geographically and culturally close to Turkey, procured a set of TB2 drones last year. The country had lost control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Armenia in a war that ended in a 1994 cease-fire. Rising petroleum wealth had bolstered Azerbaijan’s military in the years since.
The TB2s, as well as Israeli-made drones, helped Azerbaijan overwhelm Armenian forces. Attacks were recorded for videos and posted online by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry.
Oryx, a blog that verifies destroyed equipment using photos and videos, cited the destruction by the drones of 106 Armenian tanks, 146 artillery pieces, 62 multiple rocket-launch systems, 18 surface-to-air missile systems, seven radar units and 161 other vehicles. Total losses, Oryx noted, were likely higher. Azerbaijan had 30 tanks destroyed, among other vehicles and equipment, according to the blog.
After six weeks of fighting, the Kremlin, which is close to both countries but has a military alliance with Armenia and troops on its territory, brokered a cease-fire in November, and Azerbaijan regained most of its long-lost territory.
The Azerbaijan victory caught the attention of Turkey’s suppliers. Some companies and countries, including Canada, halted export of components used in the TB2. Baykar company officials said they have integrated a Turkish camera and accelerated work on a replacement engine, which is expected by year’s end.
Pakistan is also known to have acquired 50 Wing Loong II armed drones from China, which according to official Chinese media, could turn out to be a “nightmare for Indian ground formations in high-altitude areas,” with India having the little capability to repel advanced stand-off weapons.
Both China and Pakistan are bolstering their unmanned attack capabilities, while India is preparing to lease the US and Israeli armed drones to boost its capability at the borders. India has so far employed its Israel-imported Searcher and Harop drones only for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.
Last year’s war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh clearly demonstrated the decisive advantage attack drones could bring to any battlefield.
Drone strikes by Azerbaijan targeting Armenian troops, destroying military installations, tanks, air defense systems, and artillery tilted the balance of the war in favor of the Turkey-backed country. The war over Nagorno-Karabakh was unequivocal proof of the strategic advantage provided by armed drones to the militaries possessing them.
Drones have proved to be a powerful, effective and low-cost alternative to conventional weapons, and countries around the world are in a race to acquire the most advanced armed drone fleets.
The US was the first country to use Predator armed drones in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks and since then many countries have been producing and exporting them, most notably Israel, Turkey and China.
Azerbaijan had acquired a substantial fleet of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and Israeli kamikaze drones that allowed it to decimate the Armenian ground forces and Russian air defense systems.
Turkey has reaped the benefits of the performance of its drones in the Nagorno-Karabakh war with multiple nations lining up to procure the country’s unmanned systems.
The country has sold its Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to countries like Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Qatar, and Libya so far. Poland recently became the first NATO nation to buy 24 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey and according to reports, another NATO member from Europe, Latvia, may follow suit.
There have been reports that Pakistan has expressed deep interest to acquire TB2 drones from Turkey and going by the strong defense ties both nations enjoy, these speculations could soon turn out to be a reality.
The Bayraktar TB-2 drones, as demonstrated in the recent battle, can deceive modern air defense systems which include, as proven recently, Russian Pantsir and S-300 air defense systems.
Pakistan is also known to have acquired 50 Wing Loong II armed drones from China, which according to official Chinese media, could turn out to be a “nightmare for Indian ground formations in high-altitude areas,” with India having the little capability to repel advanced stand-off weapons.
Both China and Pakistan are bolstering their unmanned attack capabilities, while India is preparing to lease the US and Israeli armed drones to boost its capability at the borders. India has so far employed its Israel-imported Searcher and Harop drones only for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.
Is India Prepared To Counter China, Pakistan?
India is also acquiring new advanced Heron drones on lease from Israel to keep an eye on the activities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. The new fleet will have more capabilities in terms of anti-jamming capabilities and weapons, reports indicate.
The Indian Navy also equipped itself with two Predator drones leased from the American firm General Atomics. The MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones will be deployed for long-range missions over the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
Turkish, Azerbaijani and Pakistani militaries launched their first-ever joint exercises in Baku on Sunday.
The "Three Brothers – 2021" exercises kicked off with a solemn opening ceremony. While national anthems of the participating countries were played and their flags raised, a minute of silence was also observed to commemorate their martyrs.
Speaking at the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Hikmat Mirzayev, Azerbaijan's special forces commander, said he was pleased to see the representatives of Turkish and Pakistani special forces in his country.
"Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan have entered the history of humanity as close friends and brothers. At the heart of these relations are the close ties between our peoples. Evidence of this can be seen in the solidarity and support of Turkey and Pakistan to Azerbaijan from the first day of the 44-day counteroffensive operations launched by Azerbaijan against the Armenian armed forces on Sept. 27, 2020," Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry quoted him as saying.
He was referring to the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which began last September and ended six weeks later following a Russia-brokered truce in November.
Azerbaijan liberated several cities and some 300 settlements and villages after a nearly three-decade occupation.
"Today, cooperation between our countries in all areas is at the highest level. Important measures are being taken to further strengthen and develop our relations to ensure the region's and peoples' security," Mirzayev said.
He hoped that the exercises, which will be held until Sept. 20, will provide an extensive exchange of experience and views between servicemen of the three countries and will "greatly contribute" to further improvement of the professional training.
Turkish, Pakistani and Azerbaijani troops attend the opening ceremony of the joint military drill in Baku, Sept. 12, 2021. (Azerbaijani Defense Ministry Handout via AA)
Turkish, Pakistani and Azerbaijani troops attend the opening ceremony of the joint military drill in Baku, Sept. 12, 2021. (Azerbaijani Defense Ministry Handout via AA)
The heads of Turkish and Pakistani delegations, Lt. Col. Kursat Konuk and Lt. Col. Aamir Shahzad, said the existing bond of friendship between the nations and armies "would stand the test of time" in a rapidly changing global environment.
The "three brothers will grow closer" as reliable regional partners and collaborators despite international political changes, they added.
The readout said that the joint military drills will serve to "further strengthen the existing" ties between the armies, as well as provide an opportunity to discover new ways to combat terrorism.
In July, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Pakistani parliament speakers accepted the Baku Declaration in a ceremony held at the Azerbaijani Parliament.
The joint declaration emphasizes the need to strengthen cooperation among the three countries, based on cultural and historical ties, mutual respect and confidence. It also emphasizes Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan's roles in building peace, stability and development in their regions.
Turkey and Azerbaijan held joint live-fire drills in Baku earlier this year.
A generation of #engineers and students are engaged in efforts to develop & build civil #drones for #Pakistan. Civilian drone apps include #infrastructure inspection, #delivery business, #mapping, #agriculture & #mining. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2331335/pakistans-silent-drone-revolution
The last two decades have reshaped the technological landscape of the world perhaps more drastically than any other time in history. The digital revolution, which perhaps began not that remarkably in the second half of the previous century, has evolved and expanded exponentially. Once seen as novelties for the well off, electronic items like smart devices and digital cameras have now become integral to daily life.
But while new generation of upgrades in these gadgets, smartphones and laptops hog most public attention, the civilian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone has gone through a silent but drastic evolution of its own. The world over, these miniature flying machines are now an essential tool in the kit of various industries. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, their immense utility is now clearer than ever before.
In July 2020, the government of Pakistan shared plans to formulate a National Drone Policy and in March 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced creation of Civil Drone Authority to regulate unmanned aircraft in Pakistan.
Ikram highlighted that the National Drone Policy needed a three pronged approach.
“Firstly, it should enable the growth of UAV industry in the country by turning it economical to design and manufacture UAVs in Pakistan as opposed to importing them,” he said. “Secondly, it should provide a practical framework for authorisation of UAV flying in coordination with CAA and other stakeholders.”
Finally, he added that it should enable the formation of UAV ports and training centers so that our next generation is in step with rest of the world.
Many stakeholders term absence of approval of drone policy a major hurdle in growth of the drone industry in Pakistan.
Giving details of the National Drone Policy, Siddiqui said that it would demand licensing of drone because the government needed to know who is flying them and for what purpose.
“This will curb smuggling and increase legitimate businesses which is a good thing for the industry,” he said. “Following implementation of the policy, local and international drone dealers in Pakistan would be encouraged with the passage of time.”
Raza Sabri, who is involved in production of customised drones for defence forces and the government, agreed that the market of non-combat drones in Pakistan was quite visible and it was growing day after day. According to him, the most prominent civilian applications of drone included land survey, mapping, agriculture use and mining.
He appreciated that the revenue earned by his company from non-combat drones was rising as well given the rapid adoption of service drones in Pakistan. Sabri added that his enterprise was exploring this segment and at this point, the potential of such machines in Pakistan was extremely strong.
According to Sabri, the biggest hurdle to the drone ecosystem was the absence of a dedicated policy to regulate drones. “Massive amount of work was done in this area and the government took a huge amount of stakeholders, including us, on board however the federal cabinet has not ratified it yet,” Sabri elaborated. “Until the policy takes effect, the arrangement of drone components and usage of drones will remain a huge challenge in Pakistan.”
According to details, the SHAHPAR-II MALE reconnaissance drone has a combat range of 1,050 km and a real-time data link range of more than 300 km along with SATCOM Beyond Line of Sight (BLoS) capabilities.
For surveillance missions, it has a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and an endurance time of 14 hours. For attack missions, it has a service ceiling of 18,000 feet and an endurance time of 7 hours.
The drone is armed with two new advanced semi-active laser-guided air-to-surface missiles named BURQ, indigenously made by the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM). The two weapon stations of the drone can effectively install missiles up to 60 kg each.
BURQ missile has a mass of 45 kg that can effectively engage enemy personnel, light and armored vehicles, bunkers, and buildings in a radius of 8 km.
Reports from India claim that China has started to deploy armed robotic vehicles to handle the altitude and terrain that has proven too difficult for its troops.
China and India clashed in Sept. 2020 during a border dispute along the southern coast of Pangong Lake in an area known in China as Shenpaoshan and in India as Chushul, but the armies continued their standoff along the two nations' borders throughout 2021. China has now reportedly deployed unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) to the region of Tibet to strengthen its position.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) acquired the vehicles – known as the Sharp Claw and the Mule-200 – as early as 2014, but they have not seen much deployment until now. The Chinese military has deployed around 120-300 Mules to Tibet, the majority of them stationed near the border, WION News reported.
Operators can control the Claw wirelessly, but it can also move on its own, according to National Interest. The Mule can serve as either an unmanned delivery truck or utilize weapons, such as mounted guns.
The PLA has deployed around 88 Sharp Claws into Tibet, with 38 of them in the western part of the province close to where the Indian and Chinese armies maintain a standoff, Times Now News reported.
The region in which the vehicles may have deployed is described as exceedingly arid, remote, and largely inhospitable. The area mainly serves as access for a few commerce routes to cross the desert.
The PLA has also deployed the VP-22 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, which can help move troops through the difficult terrain or serve as an ambulance. Most of the 70 units reportedly deployed to Tibet have also focused in the western sector.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic have called on world governments to halt the development of war robots for almost a decade, but efforts continue.
Tech company Zhong Tian Zhu Kong Technology Holdings developed the Mule, which has a range of roughly 31 miles (50 km)and can carry up to 440 pounds (200 kg) of ammunition, supplies or weapons.
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Chinese Defense Company NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation) developed the Sharp Claw for reconnaissance and limited engagements. The operator wears a small control unit to utilize the vehicle, Army Recognition reported.
In this week's
: my 10-page Technology Quarterly on hiding vs finding in warfare: the impact of more sensors, better sensors & better-connected sensors. It ranges from synthetic aperture radar, to anti-submarine warfare, to modern deception. https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2022-01-29
Hide and Seek
TECHNOLOGY QUARTERLY - JAN 29TH 2022
War among the sensors poses new challenges, says Shashank Joshi
Like smartphones, but lethal: The technology of seeing and shooting your enemies
All the targets, all the time: Synthetic-aperture radar is making the Earth’s surface watchable 24/7
See-through seas: Finding submarines is likely to get easier
Lots of signal, lots of noise: Where to process data, and how to add them up
Fierce contests: Deception and destruction can still blind the enemy
One of Turkey’s leading unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) producers, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), has inked a contract with Pakistan's National Engineering and Science Commission (NESCOM) to produce components for TAI's medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) combat drone, Anka.
TAI and NESCOM will be jointly responsible for employment, resource and technology transfer within the scope of the agreement that was inked to expand the markets for the Turkish drones, an Anadolu Agency (AA) report said Saturday.
TAI General Manager Temel Kotil said, “The contract we made with Pakistan within the scope of our Anka UAV systems will provide significant gains to the UAV industry. This acquisition, especially with Pakistan’s National Engineering and Science Commission, will strengthen our UAVs.”
The Anka UAV performed its maiden flight in September 2016 and entered serial production in 2017.
The drone, which is manufactured locally, is currently in active use by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the Gendarmerie General Command and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).
Anka can stay in the air for more than 24 hours at an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) with a payload capacity of 250 kilograms (550 pounds).
Anka has three configurations. The Anka-S configuration has Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) capability through satellite links and is being used by the TSK and the Gendarmerie units. The Anka-B configuration can use Link Relay capabilities and is also used by the TSK and the Gendarmerie The Anka-I, which is the configuration that performs signal intelligence, is used by the MIT.
Turkey Widens War Tech Hunt by Tapping Pakistan’s China Ties
Turkey wants to produce fighter jets, missiles with Pakistan
Pakistan makes jets with China, said to use its missile design
Turkey is pushing to co-manufacture warplanes and missiles with Pakistan, a hookup that could also give it access to prized war technology from China.
Turkish defense and government officials have held periodic talks with Pakistani counterparts -- the last high-level discussion was in January -- about developing and manufacturing military hardware with Pakistan, according to people from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations. The people didn’t say when they’ll meet again or how close they are to an agreement.
Why Turkey wants tie-up with Pakistan to build '1st big fighter jet of Muslims'The TF-X project is considered cornerstone of Turkey's defence modernisation plans
Bloomberg noted the apparent aim of the cooperation with Pakistan was to bring "Turkey closer to some of China’s military technology". China has been Pakistan's main strategic benefactor for decades, helping Islamabad build fighter aircraft, missiles, warships, tanks and submarines.
In 2013, Turkey announced a Chinese company had been selected to develop a long-range surface-to-air missile system. However, in 2015, Turkey announced the cancellation of the deal with China, apparently over Beijing's reluctance to transfer technology for the project as well as pressure from NATO allies.
China already has two stealth fighter projects: The J-20 fighter that is in service and the lighter J-31 fighter that is still in development. While China has also faced obstacles in developing aircraft engines, Beijing is beginning to make progress in building indigenous propulsion systems for its warplanes.
Interestingly, Pakistan also has a 'fifth-generation' fighter project under development referred to as 'Project Azm'. However, little is known about progress on the project and given Pakistan's economic and technological limitations, an indigenous project of this magnitude is unlikely to see the light of day. Hence, the offer of cooperation from Turkey may turn out to be appealing to Pakistan.
Ukraine’s air force confirmed two strikes on Russian targets by Turkish-made drones, evidence that Kyiv is using the drones effectively against Moscow’s invading forces.
The chief of Ukraine’s air force, Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleshchuk, called the Bayraktar TB2 drones “life-giving” in a Facebook post.
A video posted on Twitter by the Ukrainian Embassy in Ankara showed a convoy of more than a dozen vehicles consumed by a fireball and a plume of smoke. The embassy tweeted two more videos taken out the window of a moving vehicle showing the charred wreckage of military vehicles.
The Ukrainian air force confirmed that one of these videos depicted the result of a TB2 strike in the town of Chornobaivka, in southern Ukraine, an area that has experienced serious fighting over the past couple of days.
“Never a rose without a thorn,” the embassy wrote in one of the tweets. “Russian invaders have to put up with Bayraktar TB2s.”
The embassy called the strike “divine justice” for a Russian airstrike that killed 34 Turkish soldiers in Syria on this date two years ago.
Ukraine began receiving shipments of the Turkish-made drones in 2019 and has been using their high-powered cameras to view the battlefield and laser-correct artillery strikes. The TB2 can stay aloft for 24 hours, with an altitude ceiling of roughly 25,000 feet. A remote pilot can fly the drone from as far away as 185 miles, weather permitting.
Q: What do you make of the offer by Poland to provide MiG fighters to the United States that we would then deliver to Ukraine?
A: It was really not smart of the Poles to float this publicly. It was an unforced error on their part. The more visible this discussion is, the less helpful it is.
Q: So how will Ukraine get the fighters it needs?
A: There are countries that have MiGs that are not members of NATO. This is a classic case where the U.S. government gets its checkbook out and quietly goes to one of those countries. The fighters just show up in Ukraine. The Russians wouldn’t even necessarily know where they came from—remember, right now, they don’t even control the airspace over Ukraine. They would obviously know what happened, but the United States and NATO would have deniability. It’s called “foreign material acquisition.” We did this all the time during the Cold War.
Q: How vital is it to get those MIGs to Ukraine?
A: I don’t see it as being decisive. Maybe I’m wrong. The Ukrainians seem to want them badly. I’m sure they want to use them to hit Russian tanks and deny Russia control of the airspace. But they are doing an amazing job of that with the weapons we already gave them. We’ve supplied them with something like 17,000 anti-tank missiles and I don’t know how many [antiaircraft] Stingers. We should be giving them thousands more.
We are witnessing a new form of warfare. To put a tank on a battlefield costs maybe $30 million. A Javelin anti-tank missile costs $175,000. Similarly with fighter jets and antiaircraft missiles. You can defend territory at a tiny fraction of what it costs the aggressor to take it. The drones the Ukrainians bought from the Turks are doing incredible damage. But just the cheap commercial drones you buy at Walmart can give you total tactical awareness of the battlefield. So Ukrainians can see everything the Russians are doing. They don’t even need satellites. But you can buy satellite imagery on the commercial market, too, and that gives you strategic awareness.
Not much credit is given to this system due to its silent role and lack of publicity; however, there is no doubt that this system has enabled Turkey’s strategic and military planners to boost the efficiency and lethality of its UACVs. This is not to underestimate the unique capabilities of Ankara’s drones, but rather to underscore the value and role of the KORAL.
The KORAL is a land-based transportable EWS with an effective range of 150–200 km. The system offers advanced options and supports Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) operations. It consists of two subsystems: the first provides electronic support operations for conducting ISR, while the other is dedicated to attack operations to degrade, neutralise or destroy enemy combat capabilities. This kind of operation usually involves the use of electromagnetic energy against communication systems and radar systems.
The KORAL was part of a Land-Based Stand-off Jammer System project adopted by the Defence Industry Executive Committee around two decades ago. It came as a response to increasing threats and to meet the growing needs of the Turkish air force command. The system was contracted in 2009, and within seven years, the KORAL EWS entered the Turkey Armed Forces’ (TSK) inventory. In this sense, the EWS filled a gap and offered new opportunities for the TSK.
Since 2016, the KORAL has been battle-tested in different environments, including critical theatres in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan, demonstrating impressive capabilities and executing complex roles in the first-ever wars won by unmanned systems. Ankara incorporated the KORAL in a new unconventional drone doctrine that prescribes the use of drones as an air force in a conventional battle. The doctrine requires a high level of cooperation, coordination and integration between the deployed EWS (KORAL in this case), the UAVs (Aerospace Anka-S and Bayraktar TB2) and the smart micro-munitions (MAM-L and MAM-C).
This innovative military doctrine has generated a lot of discussion. Many defence ministers, military experts and security analysts worldwide have called on their countries and armies to observe what Turkey has done in this field and to draw appropriate lessons, in order to be prepared for the new age of automated wars. During the Royal Air Force’s online Air and Space Power Conference 2020, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace urged the force to go in this direction, hinting that ‘Even if half the claims [about Turkey’s drones and EWSs] are true, the implications are game-changing’.
During Operation Spring Shield against the Syrian regime and pro-Iranian militias, the KORAL set the stage for Ankara’s drones by securing aerial dominance for the TSK. As a result, Turkey’s drones were able to wipe out a large portion of Bashar al-Assad’s army in Idlib using pinpoint technology. During the battle, the Assad regime lost 151 tanks, eight helicopters, three drones, three fighter jets (including two Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24s), around 100 armoured military vehicles, eight aerial defence systems, 86 cannons and howitzers, multiple ammunition trucks and one headquarters, among other military equipment and facilities. Additionally, the KORAL humiliated Russia’s technology, including the air defence systems (ADSs) designed specifically to counter such drone threats.
Armenia lost around 256 tanks, 50 BMP vehicles, 40 OSA SAM systems, over 400 trucks, hundreds of artillery pieces, and other military equipment during the war. In an act of psychological and information warfare, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence released video recordings showing Armenian ADSs of all types (SA 8 Osa, SA 13 Strela 10, SA 15 Buk and even Russian-made S-300) being hit and destroyed by its forces. According to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri military destroyed at least six S-300 missile systems using mainly Turkish and some Harop loitering munitions or Kamikaze drones.
To gain leverage over Azerbaijan, Yerevan acquired Russia’s Iskander ballistic missile and Repellent EWS in 2016 and 2017. Yet, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discovered that these systems – worth tens of millions of dollars each – did not actually work, despite Moscow promoting them as advanced, complex and superior systems. Azerbaijan managed to disable and/or destroy many of these systems along with Armenia’s ADSs. In one documented case, an Armenian ADS is seen executing a series of unsuccessful attempts to launch missiles against an aerial target due to the powerful suppression targeting of the KORAL.
In November 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the KORAL. Confirming the EWS’s critical role in Ankara’s latest battles, he revealed that his country is working on a new, more advanced version of the KORAL. Under the leadership of the Presidency of Defence Industries, ASELSAN has been working on a new generation of KORAL with advanced capabilities, the Kara SOJ-2. More recently, the TSK added the new highly capable SANCAK EWS to its inventory.
These new developments mean that Ankara is now open to exporting the KORAL. Several news platforms claimed that Ankara signed a $50.7 million contract to sell the KORAL EWS to Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces. Last August, a report indicated that the Royal Army of Oman was mulling the possibility of buying the Turkish-made EWS. At the end of that month, Iraq’s Defence Minister Jouma Saadoun reportedly expressed his country’s willingness to purchase Turkish-made military equipment, including TB2 UACVs, 12 T-129 ATAK helicopters and six KORAL EWSs.
Considering Ankara’s rising ambition to become a leader in robotic warfare systems and its relentless effort to add more unmanned offensive and defensive systems to the TSK’s inventory in the coming years, it will definitely focus on boosting its electronic warfare capabilities in the future.
October 24, 2022
Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF’s) Public Relations Department recently released a video featuring various aircraft and weapon systems within the PAF’s fleet, including the Turkish-made Akinci combat drone.
The video by the PAF was released on October 19, when Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi visited the Air Headquarters, Islamabad as a chief guest to attend the inaugural ceremony of the two-day flagship international seminar titled ‘Global Strategic Threat and Response’ (GSTAR) arranged by Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS).
The video lasts for three minutes and twenty-one seconds. After two minutes and twenty-one seconds, a PAF Squadron Leader, reportedly wearing an Akinci patch, can inspect the Akinci drone armed with light glide bombs.
Pakistan Air Force is reportedly incorporating its newly acquired drones, including Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aircraft, within the nation’s air defense network.
According to Janes, the Southern Air Command of the PAF is integrating these newly acquired unmanned aerial vehicles into its air defense network. On September 28, Pakistan first showed off its Bayraktar TB2, a medium altitude long endurance (MALE), during an Air Force drill.
In March of this year, it was initially reported that Pakistan had acquired the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone to conduct assault and ISR operations. The number of drones delivered to Islamabad has not been made public by either side.
In late May, satellite images revealed the presence of one Bayraktar TB2 at PAF’s Murid Airbase. The exercise on September 28 was the first official documented usage of Pakistan’s Bayraktar TB2s.
According to a statement released by the PAF on September 28, the purpose of an operational air defense exercise was to promote “synergy” in counter-air operations. The PAF released a video of the drill, which featured two TB2s and at least three Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems Falco UAVs.
The PAF Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, also reportedly visited an undisclosed operational airbase to evaluate how newly acquired UAS were incorporated into the PAF’s operational framework.
Pakistan is also believed to be acquiring the Akinci drone, “Raider,” in Turkish. The Akinci is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV built as a successor to Turkey’s military’s primary tactical UAV, the TB2 Bayraktar.
Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar Technology, recently declared that his company would not sell drones to Pakistan’s fiercest adversary, India. He contended that providing weapons to both sides violates their company’s value that forbids “war profiteering.”
These advanced drones, which have demonstrated their effectiveness in Ukraine against the Russian forces, will provide Pakistan with a competitive advantage in the region.
The Turkish TB2 Drone
The Bayraktar TB2 is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle with a medium altitude and long endurance that can be remotely controlled.
Bayraktar’s astonishing performance over one of the world’s most powerful armies – Russia, has captured the world’s imagination. As a result, the demand for this drone has increased dramatically in the global market.
Earlier, Haluk Bayraktar revealed that his company had a three-year backlog of orders and could make roughly 20 Bayraktar TB2s per month. In addition, the Turkish firm has agreements to supply advanced Akinci drones to four nations, including Azerbaijan.
The monocoque design of the Bayraktar TB2 has an inverse v-tail structure. While the connection segments are precisely CNC-machined aluminum components, the fuselage comprises carbon fiber, Kevlar, and hybrid composite materials.
The engine is situated midway between the tail booms, and bladder tanks hold the fuel. The UAV is 6.5 meters long, has a wing span of 12 meters, and can carry 650 kilograms during takeoff.
The UAV is equipped with a triple redundant avionics system. An onboard avionics suite includes devices such as a microprocessor, engine control, servo motor power control, engine signal processing, I/O, and GPS receivers.
The sensor turret on Bayraktar has a laser designator, a night vision system, and an electro-optical camera. The drone’s laser designator can be pointed at a target once the operators have decided where to launch up to four Rocketsan MAM-C micro munitions.
The small, laser-guided glide bombs include thermobaric, high-explosive blast fragmentation, and armor-penetrating warheads. Although MAM-Cs are small, weighing only 48 pounds each, the operators can deploy them precisely where they want them, enhancing their efficacy.
The Bayraktar TB2 UAV is controlled by a ground control station placed on a NATO-spec ACE-III mobile shelter unit. The module incorporates consoles for the payload operator, the pilot, and the image exploitation.
The ground control station is provisioned with rack cabinets, an NBC filtration system, power supply units, wireless systems, an air conditioning unit, and internal communication systems.
The powertrain has a 100hp internal combustion engine driving a two-bladed variable pitch propeller. The tactical UAV can reach more than 150 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 27,030 feet.
The spokesperson for President Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that the process of the United States authorizing the sale of F-16 fighter jets to NATO member Turkey is progressing and could be completed in upcoming months.
However, Turkey seems to have taken upon itself the responsibility to upgrade its F-16 fleet with domestically built radars.
The president of Defense Industries, Ismail Demir, unveiled the new Aselsan AESA radar on November 10 and stated that the Turkish Air Force’s (TuAF) Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft, the Akinci unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), as well as the upcoming Turkish Fighter Experimental (TF-X)/National Combat Aircraft, will be retrofitted with the system.
“It is a radar project equivalent to the most advanced radars in the world at the moment,” Demir said at the event. While the F-16s have been in the Turkish fleet for decades, the delivery of Akinci UAV twin-engined UAV is just getting started. The TF-X/MMU is Turkey’s next-generation combat aircraft currently under development.
In March this year, a local Turkish portal informed that the F-16 active electronically scanned array [AESA] radar prototype developed by Aseslan was expected to be delivered by the end of this year. The report could not be corroborated at the time.
According to some sources, the development and integration of the AESA radar on the F-16 are one of the many upgrades in the modernization program undertaken by Turkey.
The single-seat C and twin-seat D variants of the F-16 are the cornerstones of the TuAF’s front-line combat aviation force. The domestic industry has conducted much of the upgrades on these fighters.
The need to upgrade the F-16 fighters becomes all the more important due to the growing might of the Hellenic Air Force with its acquisition of advanced fighter jets. Turkey remains locked in tensions with its Aegean Sea rival Greece, with the possibility of a spillover never being ruled out.
The RBE2 radar allows high levels of situational awareness with early detection and tracking of multiple targets, thus denying an aerial advantage to the enemy.
Speaking on a CNN Türk show, military editor and analyst Özay Şendir admitted that Greece is gaining a significant advantage with its new fighters.
Besides operating the advanced 4+ gen Rafales, Greece could also acquire the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter jets. It is only evident that Ankara is looking to add more teeth to its existing fighter fleet.
In June this year, the US Air Force and Northrop Grumman announced the conclusion of a significant modernization project that installed powerful new AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array radars on 72 Air National Guard Block 30 F-16C Viper fighter jets.
At the time, it was informed these AESA radars, known as Scalable Agile Beam Radars or SABRs, were being ordered for hundreds more Air Force F-16s and other Vipers around the globe.
Announcing the breakthrough, Northrop Grumman’s Mark Rossi said, “It’s the closest thing an F-16 can get to F-35 performance within the limitations of the jet.”
Any AESA would be a significant improvement for Air Force F-16C/Ds and other Vipers around the world.
In general, AESA radars provide substantial advantages regarding target acquisition speed, the range at which threats and potential threats can be detected, and the precision and fidelity of the ensuing tracks, especially for smaller objects. They are significantly more reliable, resulting in more “up time” and better jamming resistance.
AESA radars are produced indigenously only by a handful of countries, and now, Turkey has joined the elite club. With the US sale still uncertain, Turkey seems alive to its challenges and is consistently taking upgrades to face the ensuing Greek threat.
A drone strike attributed to Ukraine rocked an airfield inside Russia on Tuesday, demonstrating once again Ukraine’s ability to reach into Russian territory one day after its forces struck two other air bases hundreds of miles inside Russia.
The attacks have revealed major vulnerabilities in Russia’s air defenses and sent a signal to Moscow that its strategic assets far from the active combat zone are not off limits to the emboldened Ukrainian military.
Officials in the Russian city of Kursk, just north of Ukraine, said the Tuesday drone attack set an oil storage tank ablaze at an airfield.
The two airfields struck by drones on Monday — the Engels-2 base in the Saratov region and the Dyagilevo base in Ryazan, a few hours’ drive from Moscow — are home to jet bombers that can carry conventional missiles used to target Ukrainian infrastructure but can also carry nuclear weapons and normally serve as an important component of Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
Ukraine did not officially claim responsibility for the attacks and has been deliberately cryptic about its role in several explosions at strategically important Russian military sites in recent months.
But a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that all three attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones.
“These were Ukrainian drones — very successful, very effective,” the official said of the strikes. The official added that the Russians have “sowed the seeds of anger, and they’ll reap the whirlwind.”
The Russian Defense Ministry blamed the Monday attacks on Kyiv but said the damage done was minimal.