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Security Defense CSS Blog

Russia’s hypersonic story in Ukraine: “Is this a dagger which I see before me?”

Image courtesy of @mod_russia on Twitter.

What does the reported first battle use of a hypersonic missile mean for the dynamic of Putin’s war in Ukraine? Open-source intelligence sources suggest that the Russian Kinzhal is a propaganda weapon.

On early Saturday March 19, the Russian Ministry of Defence released a video claiming that Russian forces fired a Kinzhal (“dagger” in Russian) missile against a military ammunitions warehouse close to Ukraine’s borders with Romania and Hungary. If this strike really did occur, it would be the first known battle use of a hypersonic weapon. However, the expert community has already pointed to several inconsistences in this Russian story. Furthermore, the use of Kinzhal would not alter the military balance in Russia’s favour. The second alleged launch of Kinzhal, which was supposed to have hit a fuel depot in Kostiantynivka near Mykolaiv on Sunday, was simply announced by defense ministry spokesman at a press conference.

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Terrorism

Where Do Sahel Terrorists Get Their Heavy Weapons?

Image courtesy of Magharebia/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS) on 12 February 2020.

With arms flows from Libya declining, military barracks and poorly controlled national stockpiles are being targeted.

Terror attacks on military outposts in the Liptako-Gourma area where Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet are increasingly ambitious and complex. Their frequency and the damage inflicted on defence and security forces is worrying, and raises questions about where the terror groups are sourcing their heavy weapons.

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Technology

Hypersonic Weapons: Tactical Uses and Strategic Goals

Image courtesy of DVIDS

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 12 November 2019.

Hypersonic flight is not new. The V-2 rocket and the vast majority of the ballistic missiles that it inspired achieved hypersonic speeds (i.e., speeds faster than the speed of sound or Mach 5+) as they fell from the sky, as did crewed aircraft like the rocket-powered X-15. Rather than speed, today’s renewed attention to hypersonic weapons owes to developments that enable controlled flight. These new systems have two sub-varieties: hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles. Glide vehicles are the cousins of ballistic warheads: they are lofted on high velocity boosters, separate, then use momentum and control surfaces to skip and glide through the upper atmosphere before crashing onto their targets. The cruise missiles use an advanced propulsion system (a SCRAMJET) for powered flight. While the descriptions are straightforward, the engineering needed to accomplish the guidance and maneuvering (not to mention survivability) of these weapons is far from clear.

Categories
Technology Defense

Why China is Not about to Catch Up with US Military Technology Just Yet

Image courtesy of DVIDS/Ericha Guyote.

This article was originally published by ETH News on 26 February 2019.

Is China about to catch up with the US, the world’s leading military and geopolitical power? Researchers at ETH’s Center for Security Studies and NATO’s Defense College say no. The growing complexity of military technology makes it difficult for modern weapon systems to be imitated.

Categories
Technology Defense

War in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Image courtesy of US Navy/John Williams.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 19 June 2018.

Retiring Chinese general He Lei recently made news by suggesting that China’s greatest military weakness compared to the United States was that it has never fought a real war. He noted none of Beijing’s increasingly advanced weapons, jets, and ships have been tested in combat. Moreover, the large People’s Liberation Army continues to rely upon conscripts rather than the long-serving professionals in the U.S. military. He argued the Chinese military “will be ridden with doubts until they get into a real fight.”