Hypersonic Missiles and Global Security

Indian-Russian “BrahMos”-type missiles. Image: Mubeenk02/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Diplomat on 13 November, 2015.

Between 2014 and June 2015, China conducted four major tests of its hypersonic missiles (with a fifth test in August). The fourth test of Wu-14, its ultra high-speed nuclear delivery vehicle, demonstrated a capacity for “extreme maneuvers.” It was assessed as travelling at a speed of Mach 10 (flying at 10 times the speed of sound or approximately 7,680 miles per hour). To understand this in comparative terms, a missile flying at subsonic speed can reach a maximum of 500-600 miles per hour.

To qualify as “hypersonic,” a missile would have to move at least five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), as well as be able to evade counter-fire and strike with great precision. To date, no country has achieved this performance but several nations are working on it. » More

Is the Iraqi Army a Lost Cause?

Poster for the Iraqi Army. Image: Joseph-MNBC/Deviantart

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 11 November, 2015.

Building an army in a short space of time is a very difficult task. To be sure, there are some impressive examples. Cromwell’s republican New Model Army was put together while the English Civil War was already underway; Washington’s army of US Independence quickly wore down and beat the British in the 18th century; Napoleon’s revolutionary army was born from the French Revolution and swept all Europe before it; the Red Army of the Soviet Union was forged from the chaos of its defeat in World War I.

But the list of failures is just as spectacular. The South Vietnamese Army boasted billions of dollars, up-to-date equipment and state-of-the-art training, but couldn’t control even South Vietnam itself. It ultimately surprised observers only by holding on as long as it did after the Americans left. » More

Cuba: Russia’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Havana, Cuba. Image: nickdemarcofoto.com/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Jamestown Foundation on 30 October, 2015. Republished with permission.

Despite all of the other major foreign policy issues on its agenda, Russia has not forgotten Cuba. Indeed, it appears that Moscow’s strategic interest in this Caribbean island country has grown steadily, despite reported stagnation in their bilateral economic ties (House.gov, October 22). Recently, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced plans to establish a signals calibration center in Cuba for Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System, more commonly known as GLONASS—the Russian equivalent of the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS). He also announced that Russia may set up an aviation engineering center in Cuba (TASS, October 22). These initiatives are not coincidences or wholly new gambits. Russia has sought to reestablish military bases in Cuba for some time. For instance, in February 2014, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Moscow was seeking a network of global naval bases that included Cuba and Nicaragua; and Russia could be discussing similar arrangements with Argentina as well (RIA Novosti, February 26, 2014). Although Moscow’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, denied that Russia was seeking or needs foreign bases, he did admit that his country wants “repair and maintenance stations” for its ocean-going fleet. Yet, at the same time, Shoigu observed that Moscow not only wanted the use of ports for its ships but also installations for the refueling of its long-range bombers (TASS, March 17, 2014). » More

Obama’s Failure to Demilitarize US Foreign Policy

Obama exiting a camouflaged Air Force One. Image: Truthout/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 30 October, 2015.

The Obama administration has received much attention for its policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. The rebalance has been described as President Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative. Launched in 2009, it has received much attention from academics, practitioners, think tanks, and the media. In reality, the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been more evolutionary than revolutionary; a U.S. shift in focus and grand strategy began well before President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.

If the Obama presidency in fact initiated a revolutionary rebalancing, it was his effort to rebalance American foreign policy generally from over-reliance on the military and toward greater reliance on diplomacy and development. Despite a concerted effort, when viewed through several lenses it seems clear that demilitarization has failed and U.S. foreign policy remains very, perhaps overly, militarized. As a result, the Pentagon can expect to be handed messy military operations short of inter-state war that it may not be prepared, equipped, or organized to handle efficiently or effectively. » More

Russia’s Recent Airstrikes in Syria

Russian Airstrikes in Syria from 23 October – 1 November, 2015 (click to enlarge). Image: Genevieve Casagrande/Institute for the Study of War

This map was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 2 November, 2015.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) discontinued the release of daily airstrike reports from October 28 – November 1 amidst multilateral talks on the Syrian Civil War held in Vienna on October 30 and continued reports of civilian casualties. Nevertheless, credible local sources continued to report airstrikes in Dera’a, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo from October 31 – November 1. Russian airstrikes predominantly targeted rebel-held areas in Aleppo Province in conjunction with regime ground offensives against ISIS in the southeastern countryside of Aleppo and rebel forces southwest of Aleppo City. Local activist reporting claimed that Russian airstrikes and regime forces killed 64, including 28 children in Aleppo on October 31 alone. » More

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