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USA’s Military Empire: A Visual Database

The United States of America, unlike any other nation, maintains a massive network of foreign military installations around the world.

How was this created and how is it continued? Some of these physical installations are on land occupied as spoils of war. Most are maintained through collaborations with governments, many of them brutal and oppressive governments benefiting from the bases’ presence. In many cases, human beings were displaced to make room for these military installations, often depriving people of farmland, adding huge amounts of pollution to local water systems and the air, and existing as an unwelcome presence.

To explore this interactive database, please visit World Beyond War.

Video: A Look at China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet

The 14th International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition will kick off in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province on November 8.

More than 740 companies from 43 countries and regions will participate in the event, and over 100 aircraft will be on display.

One of them is China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet and CGTN reporter Zheng Songwu brings more about it.

Watch video at CGTN (1:43 minutes) . . . .

China PLA Rocket Force Organization

The PLA Rocket Force (PLARF), formerly known as the PLA 2nd Artillery Force (PLASAF) until 2016, is responsible for the PLA’s land-based nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles. The Second Artillery Force was officially established in 1966 and given command of China’s small inventory of land-based, regional nuclear missiles. These first-generation missiles were largely categorized as unsophisticated and of limited range and capability. The story of the PLARF/PLASAF, however, has been one of steady and progressive growth in both size and capability, beginning with the development of increasingly longer-range systems through the 1960s and 1970s and, with the introduction of the DF-5 in the early 1980s, the first intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States. The 1980s were a seminal decade for the PLASAF in two other ways: first, through its development of the DF-21, the PLA’s first road-mobile ballistic missile system, and second, through its decision to field conventional as well as nuclear missiles, leading to the introduction of the DF-11 and DF-15 short range ballistic missiles in the early 1990s. The steady diversification of platforms and improvement in capabilities assigned to the PLASAF was matched by its equally steady growth in size. Four new brigades were stood up between 1980 and 2000, three of which were equipped with these latest weapons systems. This expansion accelerated in the 2000s: between 2000 and 2010, the PLASAF stood up as many as eleven new brigades equipped with its growing array of weapons, including its first ground-launched cruise missile, the CJ-10, and its first road-mobile ICBM, the DF-31. The pace of growth continued to intensify between 2010 and 2020, as the PLASAF (and, following its name change in 2016, the PLA Rocket Force) added 13 new brigades, as well as more important weapons systems such as the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, the longer range and more capable DF-41 road-mobile ICBM, the dual nuclear-conventional DF-26 IRBM, and the DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Incredibly, between 2017 and late 2019 the PLARF added at least ten new missile brigades. This unprecedented expansion from 29 to 39 brigades represented a more than 33% increase in size in only three years.i This was followed by an apparent massive expansion of the PLARF’s silo-based ICBM force in 2021. Thus, the PLARF has evolved from a small, unsophisticated force of short-ranged and vulnerable ballistic missiles to an increasingly large and modern force with a wide array of both nuclear and conventional weapons platforms.

While recent scholarship has gone a long way toward demystifying China’s ballistic missile force, it remains in many ways a poorly understood phenomenon, with an unusually high degree of censorship even by the strict standards of the PLA. With this in mind, the purpose of this report is to improve the level of detail available to researchers by providing the most thorough encyclopedia of PLA Rocket Force units available in open sources. We have attempted to compile dossiers on as many PLARF units and institutions as possible, including information, where available, on each unit’s history, mission, location, leadership, equipment, and force structure, utilizing a wide range of mostly Chinese language sources. We hope that the information contained in this report will fill a critical gap in scholarship, serve as a valuable resource to the PLA research community, and help facilitate further research and greater understanding of the PLARF.

Source : Air University

Read the full report . . . . .

Xi Decade Reshapes China’s Military, and the Region

During Xi Jinping’s decade-long rule, China has built the world’s largest navy, revamped the globe’s biggest standing army, and amassed a nuclear and ballistic arsenal to trouble any foe.

With China’s neighbours now rushing to keep pace, Xi’s next five-year term is likely to see a quickening Asia-Pacific arms race.

From South Korea developing a blue-water navy to Australia buying nuclear-powered submarines, weapons shopping has surged across the region.

According to figures from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Asia-Pacific defence spending passed $1 trillion last year alone.

China, the Philippines and Vietnam have roughly doubled spending in the last decade. South Korea, India and Pakistan are not far behind.

Even Japan is proposing record defence budgets and inching towards ending its long-standing “no first strike” policy, citing an “increasingly severe” security environment.

“All the key players in the Indo-Pacific region are responding to China’s military modernisation, basically as fast as they can,” said Malcolm Davis, a former Australian defence official now with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Paper tiger no more

For years, the People’s Liberation Army was seen as ill-equipped and ineffective — disparaged by one historian as “the world’s largest military museum”.

It was kitted out with ageing Soviet-derived weaponry, riddled with corruption and was a predominantly infantry force with a less-than-stellar record in foreign campaigns.

The PLA’s participation in the Korean War cost almost 200,000 Chinese lives. A 1979 invasion of Vietnam cost tens of thousands more and has been mostly airbrushed from official histories.

When Xi became commander-in-chief of the PLA in 2013, some reforms were already under way.

They began in the 1990s, when Jiang Zemin was shocked and awed into action by US military prowess during the Gulf War and the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.

But “it wasn’t really until Xi Jinping came in that that effort started translating to capability”, strategic consultant Alexander Neill told AFP.

The PLA had then just launched its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning — a refurbished Ukrainian ship — and the J-15 multi-role fighter aircraft, based on a Sukhoi prototype.

Beijing’s military budget has now increased for 27 consecutive years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

‘Only competitor’

Today, China boasts two active aircraft carriers, hundreds of long- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, thousands of warplanes and a navy surpassing even the United States’s.

After China launched a brief and partial blockade of Taiwan in August, a top US military officer tacitly conceded that preventing the real thing would not be easy, even for Washington.

“They have a very large navy, and if they want to bully and put ships around Taiwan, they very much can do that,” Seventh Fleet commander Karl Thomas told US media.

Meanwhile, China’s nuclear stockpile is increasing exponentially and — according to the Pentagon — can probably now be launched from land, sea and air, echoing the US nuclear triad.

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, China has about 350 nuclear warheads, double the amount held during the Cold War.

US intelligence predicts that this stockpile may double again to 700 by 2027. New nuclear missile silos are being built in the northwest of the country.

Washington has pulled no punches in describing the scale of might and ambition held by the People’s Republic of China.

“The PRC is the only competitor capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” a Pentagon report last year said.

“Beijing seeks to reshape the international order to better align with its authoritarian system and national interests.”

As much as any hardware, it is this perceived global intent that has spooked China’s neighbours.

Xi’s ‘huge favour’

Many of the big-ticket military projects around the region plainly have deterrence in mind — whether it is thwarting the “little blue men” of Beijing’s naval militias or a conventional attack.

South Korea plans to develop naval power capable of operating far from coastal waters, which experts say has little to do with the threat from rapidly arming North Korea.

Australia plans to acquire eight nuclear submarines — which can stay underwater for extended periods and launch retaliatory strikes — with British and American help, part of the so-called AUKUS agreement.

There is also discussion in Canberra about obtaining hypersonic weapons, longer-range ballistic missiles and even state-of-the-art B-21 stealth bombers, capable of striking anywhere in the world virtually undetected.

For Davis, all of these projects point to a realisation that China increasingly has the power to shape the region to its will.

“The days of the US Navy dominating the seas in the Western Pacific are fast approaching an end,” he said, and Asia-Pacific allies are beefing up their own defences accordingly.

“We wouldn’t have had AUKUS if it wasn’t for Xi Jinping. He’s done us a huge favour in that sense.”

Source : France 24

Ukrainian Combat Robots Join Fight Against Russian Invasion

David Hambling wrote . . . . . . . . .

Ukrainian forces are getting a new helper, a locally made robotic battlefield scout called GNOM (“Gnome”). The small machine will stealthily reconnoiter Russian positions and provide fire support with a machinegun, according to its maker, a company called Temerland that’s based in Zaporizhia. Gnomes versus ‘Orcs’ may sound like fantasy, but the first robots will enter service next week, the company said in a statement.

While drones seem to be ever-present, remotely operated robots, or Uncrewed Ground Vehicles (UGVs), have so far played little part in this conflict. As the battle lines have stabilized, both forces are increasingly using of portable radio-frequency jammers to knock drones out of the sky which may reduce their impact. GNOM offers an alternative, jam-proof way to spy remotely.

Not much larger than a microwave oven and weighing 50 kg (110 pounds), Temerland says GNOM is highly mobile on four large wheels with 4×4 drive and a quiet 5-horsepower electric motor. The current version is armed with a 7.62mm machinegun. U.S. Army research shows that UGVs make stable firing platforms, allowing a remote gunner to hit targets with considerable accuracy.

While most UGVs are radio-controlled, GNOM spools out a reel of fiber-optic cable behind it. Eduard Trotsenko, CEO and owner of Temerland, told me that the tough, wear-resistant cable provides a broadband link which is immune to radio countermeasures.

“Control of GNOM is possible in the most aggressive environment during the operation of the enemy’s electronic warfare equipment,” says Trotsenko.

Also because the operator is not using a radio, they cannot be detected and targeted by artillery, which may happen to drone operators.

“The operator doesn’t deploy a control station with an antenna, and does not unmask his position,” says Trotsenko. “The cable is not visible, and it also does not create thermal radiation that could be seen by a thermal imager.”

Similar arrangements with fiber optics were used for guided missiles in the early 2000s, notably the French Polyphem and U.S. Army EFOG-M, as well as DARPA’s Close Combat Lethal Recon munition, which developed into the Switchblade. They are also used for some tethered drones and also for remotely operated underwater vehicles, but the sort of electronic warfare seen in Ukraine may see a new demand for fiber-optic control for UGVs.

GNOM’s cable gives it a range of 2,000 meters (1.25 miles); if it is broken the vehicle automatically returns to a predetermined location. While it is usually operated by remote control, GNOM clearly has some onboard intelligence and is capable of autonomous navigation. Previous Temerland designs have included advanced neural network and machine learning hardware and software providing a high degree of autonomy, so the company seems to have experience.

Trotsenko says the machinegun allows GNOM to defend itself and also to provide fire support in situations which might be too dangerous for personnel. He notes that other versions of the GNOM can be used for logistics, intelligence gathering, sabotage and engineering. Temerland has previously shown off a cargo carrier GNOM able to bring ammunition or other supplies to the front line, which can also evacuate casualties with the addition of a special trailer.

A more aggressive GNOM delivers TM62 anti-tank mines: Temerland released a YouTube video showing the robot driving underneath an enemy vehicle and detonating. From underneath, the mines’ 7-kg explosive charge will destroy the heaviest tank, but even getting close should be enough to damage a track and immobilize it. (The Australian Army signed a contract for similar kamikaze ground robots last year).

“Work is underway on mobile platforms for transporting mines,” says Trotsenko. “New designs are being tested.”

Previously the company has announced other possible GNOM variants armed with anti-tank missiles or acting as communications relays or drone carriers.

For the meantime, GNOM will be on scouting duty. Temerland developers say that the vehicle is nearly silent and has a low profile. It can be equipped with a 360-degree camera on a telescoping mast to give a detailed view of the surroundings.

Ukraine fields other remote systems, including a sedan armed with a remote-controlled 14.5mm heavy machinegun, but the GNOM will be the first robotic vehicle on the scene. Russia also has military robots, but so far the only units seen in Ukraine are Uran-6 demining robots; the Uran-9 robotic tank, which performed poorly in Syria, has not shown up in this war.

Tactical robots have long been promoted as a way to reduce casualties and keep soldiers out of the line of fire, while maintaining contact with the enemy. GNOM may prove invaluable for getting a close view of Russian forces – and directing artillery fire on to them – without risking Ukrainian lives.

As the war rages in Ukraine, manufacturers are rolling out large numbers UGVs at the Eurosatory 2022 trade show, some larger and seemingly more sophisticated and more expensive than the GNOM. But the success or otherwise of the small Ukrainian robot in action may do more to shape the future of remote warfare than any of them.

Source : Forbes

Watch video at You Tube (0:28 minute) . . . .

Chart: NATO Countries Have Heavily Cut Troop Levels

Source : Statista

DARPA Large Seaplane Liberty Lifter Aims to Revolutionize Heavy Air Lift

DARPA has launched the Liberty Lifter project to demonstrate a leap in operational logistics capabilities by designing, building, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical lift. The new vehicle concept seeks to expand upon existing cargo aircraft by proving revolutionary heavy air lift abilities from the sea.

The envisioned plane will combine fast and flexible strategic lift of very large, heavy loads with the ability to take off/land in water. Its structure will enable both highly controlled flight close to turbulent water surfaces and sustained flight at mid-altitudes. In addition, the plane will be built with a low-cost design and construction philosophy.

Although current sealift is very efficient in transporting large amounts of payload, it is vulnerable to threats, requires functional ports, and results in long transit times. Traditional airlift is much faster, but has limited ability to support maritime operations. Additionally, today, such aircraft suffer payload limitations or require long runways.

There is a history of attempting to develop aircraft created to fly with “wing-in-ground effect,” which means the aircraft is flying no more than the length of its wingspan above ground or water. The most well-known examples are the Soviet “ekranoplans.” These vehicles were high speed and runway- independent, but were restricted to calm waters and had limited maneuverability.

“This first phase of the Liberty Lifter program will define the unique seaplane’s range, payloads, and other parameters,” said Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Innovative advances envisioned by this new DARPA program will showcase an X-plane demonstrator that offers warfighters new capabilities during extended maritime operations.”

To address the shortcomings of existing vehicles and operational concepts, the Liberty Lifter program focuses on addressing three main challenges.

Extended Maritime Operations: Emphasis will be placed on operating in turbulent sea states by creating high-lift abilities at low speeds to reduce wave impact load during takeoff/landing, and innovative design solutions to absorb wave forces. In addition, the project will address risks of vehicle collision during high-speed operation in congested environments. Finally, the aim is for the vehicle to operate at sea for weeks at a time without land-based maintenance activities.

Full-Scale Affordable Production: Construction will prioritize low-cost, easy-to-fabricate designs over exquisite, low-weight concepts. Materials should be more affordable than those in traditional aircraft manufacturing and available to be purchased in large quantities.

Complex Flight and Sea Surface Controls: Advanced sensors and control schemes will be developed to avoid large waves and to handle aero/hydro-dynamic interactions during takeoff/landing.

Source : Darpa

Watch video at You Tube (1:14 minutes) . . . .

Infographic: U.S. and Russia’s Biggest Arms Trading Partners

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

China Military Body May be Target of Japan Counterstrike Capability

Speculation is growing in security circles in Japan as to whether targets of a proposed “counterstrike capability” would include China’s Central Military Commission, the highest decision-making organ of the country’s armed forces led by President Xi Jinping.

The speculation came to light in a parliamentary meeting last week when the Defense Ministry did not answer directly a question from an opposition lawmaker seeking to know whether what has until recently been called “enemy base attack capability” targets would include China’s CMC.

The meeting came after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on April 27 suggested Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government acquire counterstrike capability to attack enemy bases and “command and control functions.”

The LDP has yet to clearly say what such functions entail but defense experts say the proposed capability could cover command centers issuing orders for missile attacks and would expand Japan’s options for retaliating against mobile- and submarine-launched missiles.

In a meeting last Wednesday of the House of Representatives Committee of Foreign Affairs, Japanese Communist Party member Keiji Kokuta asked if the government envisages the CMC and the Five Theater Commands as among the targets of a counterstrike capability.

The five commands are in charge of defense of the eastern, southern, western, northern and central regions of China. The Eastern Theater Command, for example, oversees Taiwan, Japan and the East China Sea.

Masahisa Sato, director of the LDP Foreign Affairs Division, and other security experts say China has about 1,900 short- and medium-range missiles that can reach Japan.

Kokuta cited a document the Japanese Ground Staff Office used in an internal meeting in September 2017.

The document shows an organizational chart of the Chinese military and says there is a command system between the CMC and the Five Theater Commands.

Kokuta said the LDP proposal does not exclude the CMC and the five commands from possible targets, and asked, “Wouldn’t this lead to a full-scale war with China?”

Makoto Oniki, deputy minister of defense, did not directly address the question and said, “Attacking the base of a guided missile would constitutionally fall under the scope of self-defense if (the government) perceives there were no other means (to defend Japan).”

Oniki said he is not in a position to comment on the LDP proposal, which also includes a call to double Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent or more of gross domestic product over five years.

The LDP wants the proposal to be reflected when the government revises the National Security Strategy and other documents by the end of the year.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the government is considering adopting a counterstrike capability “without ruling out any possible option so as to fully prepare ourselves for safeguarding people’s lives.”

LDP lawmakers hope developing a counterstrike capability will serve as a deterrent against possible attacks on Japan, especially in light of China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

Critics, however, say such a measure would represent a major shift from Japan’s exclusively self-defense-oriented security posture under its war-renouncing Constitution.

Source : The Mainichi

Ukraine: What Have been Russia’s Military Mistakes?

Jonathan Beale wrote . . . . . . . . .

Russia has one of the largest and most powerful armed forces in the world, but that has not been apparent in its initial invasion of Ukraine. Many military analysts in the West have been surprised by its performance on the battlefield so far, with one describing it as “dismal”.

Its military advances appear to have largely stalled and some now question whether it can recover from the losses it has suffered. This week, a senior Nato military official told the BBC, “the Russians clearly have not achieved their goals and probably will not at the end of the day”. So what has gone wrong? I have spoken to senior Western military officers and intelligence officials, about the mistakes Russia has made.

Misguided assumptions

Russia’s first mistake was to underestimate the strength of resistance and the capabilities of Ukraine’s own smaller armed forces. Russia has an annual defence budget of more than $60bn, compared with Ukraine’s spending of just over $4bn.

At the same time, Russia, and many others, appear to have overestimated its own military strengths. President Putin had embarked on an ambitious modernisation programme for his military and he too may have believed his own hype.

A senior British military official said much of Russia’s investment had been spent on its vast nuclear arsenal and experimentation, that included developing new weapons such as hypersonic missiles. Russia is supposed to have built the world’s most advanced tank – the T-14 Armata. But while it has been seen on Moscow’s Victory Day Parade on Red Square, it has been missing in battle. Most of what Russia has fielded are older T-72 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and rocket launchers.

At the start of the invasion Russia had a clear advantage in the air, with the combat aircraft it had moved near the border outnumbering Ukraine’s air force by more than three to one. Most military analysts assumed the invading force would quickly gain superiority in the air, but it has not. Ukraine’s air defences are still proving effective, limiting Russia’s ability to manoeuvre.

Moscow may have also assumed its special forces would play an important role, helping deliver a quick, decisive blow.

A senior Western intelligence official told the BBC that Russia thought it could deploy lighter, spearhead units like the Spetsnatz and VDV paratroopers, “to eliminate a small number of defenders and that would be it”. But in the first few days their helicopter assault on Hostomel Airport, just outside Kyiv, was repelled, denying Russia an airbridge to bring in troops, equipment and supplies.

Instead, Russia has had to transport its supplies mostly by road. This has created traffic jams and choke points which are easy targets for Ukrainian forces to ambush. Some heavy armour has gone off road, only to get stuck in mud, reinforcing an image of an army that has become “bogged down”.

Meanwhile, Russia’s long armoured column from the north that was captured by satellites has still failed to encircle Kyiv. The most significant advances have come from the south, where it has been able to use rail lines to resupply its forces. The UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, told the BBC that President Putin’s forces “have lost the momentum”.

“They’re stuck and they are slowly but surely taking significant casualties.”

Losses and low morale

Russia had amassed a force of around 190,000 troops for this invasion and most of those have already been committed to the battle. But they have already lost about 10% of that force. There are no reliable figures for the scale of either Russian or Ukrainian losses. Ukraine claims to have killed 14,000 Russian troops, though the US estimates it is probably half that number.

Western officials say there is also evidence of dwindling morale among Russian fighters, with one saying it was “very, very, low”. Another said the troops were “cold, tired and hungry” as they had already been waiting in the snow for weeks in Belarus and Russia before they were given the order to invade.

Russia has already been forced to look for more troops to make up for its losses, including moving in reserve units from as far afield as the east of the country and Armenia. Western officials believe it is also “highly likely” that foreign troops from Syria will soon join the fight, along with mercenaries from its secretive Wagner group. A senior Nato military official said this was a sign it was “scratching the bottom of the barrel”.

Supplies and logistics

Russia has struggled with the basics. There is an old military saying that amateurs talk tactics while professionals study logistics. There is evidence that Russia has not given it enough consideration. Armoured columns have run out of fuel, food and ammunition. Vehicles have broken down and been left abandoned, then towed away by Ukrainian tractors.

Western officials also believe Russia may be running low on some munitions. It has already fired between 850 and 900 long-range precision munitions, including cruise missiles, which are harder to replace than unguided weapons. US officials have warned Russia has approached China to help address some of its shortages.

In contrast, there has been a steady flow of Western-supplied weapons going into Ukraine, which has been a boost for its morale. The US has just announced it will be providing an additional $800m in defence support. As well as more anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, it is expected to include Switchblade, which is a small, US-developed, “kamikaze” drone that can be carried in a backpack before being launched to deliver a small explosive at targets on the ground.

Western officials still warn that President Putin could “double down with greater brutality”. They say he still has enough firepower to bombard Ukrainian cities for a “considerable period of time”.

Despite the setbacks, one intelligence official said President Putin was, “unlikely to be deterred and may instead escalate. He likely remains confident that Russia can militarily defeat Ukraine”. And while the Ukrainian forces have shown fierce resistance, that same official warned that without significant resupplies they too could “eventually be spent in terms of ammunition and numbers”. The odds may be better than when the war first started, but they still seem stacked against Ukraine.

Source : BBC