The emerging world of hypersonic weapons technology


May 1st, 2019

The now-cancelled NASA X-43 experimental unmanned hypersonic aircraft was meant to test various aspects of hypersonic flight, as part of the X-plane series and NASA’s Hyper-X program.

The now-cancelled NASA X-43 experimental unmanned hypersonic aircraft was meant to test various aspects of hypersonic flight, as part of the X-plane series and NASA’s Hyper-X program.View Image Gallery

U.S. military leaders find themselves in a global technology race to develop hypersonic weapons able to travel at speeds faster than Mach 5, which requires research breakthroughs in electronics, thermal management, electronics, and command and control.

By J.R. Wilson

For most people, hypersonic weapons and aircraft represent yet another 21st century technology breakthrough in which science fiction becomes science fact. As with the vast majority of such “overnight” miracles, however, hypersonics have a long history, stretching back more than half a century. Just as with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the same time, hypersonics languished in the lab largely due to military indifference.

To begin with, hypersonic refers to aircraft, missiles, rockets, and spacecraft that can reach speeds through the atmosphere faster than Mach 5, which is near 4,000 miles per hour.

“I believe we were well poised to attack this problem in the 1960s, with the X-15, which was a successful hypersonic vehicle,” says William Carter, program manager for the Materials Architectures and Characterization for Hypersonics (MACH) at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.The X-51 Scramjet Engine Demonstrator, called Waverider, flew four times between 2010 and 2013 to prove the viability of a scramjet-powered vehicle for hypersonic weapons applications.The X-51 Scramjet Engine Demonstrator, called Waverider, flew four times between 2010 and 2013 to prove the viability of a scramjet-powered vehicle for hypersonic weapons applications.

The North American X-15, was a rocket-powered hypersonic aircraft of the 1960s. Three of these research aircraft were built, and one of them set a world speed record 52 years ago that still stands — Mach 6.7, or 4,520 miles per hour, at an altitude of 102,100 feet.

“Aside from the NASP [National Aerospace Plane], there hasn’t been a strong national need to sustain research in this area,” Carter continues. “There was a lot more trial and error 50 years ago because we didn’t have the computing capabilities we have today.”

The U.S. Air Force played a major role in the NASP program, says James Miller, principal advisor to the High-Speed Systems Division of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Although it never was completed, the NASP program advanced many hypersonic technologies, including computational fluid dynamics, air-breathing propulsion, and high-temperature structures and materials.

“Following NASP, the Air Force focused on developing technologies to enable hypersonics for a range of applications, with weapon concepts representing the near-term application,” Miller says. “The Air Force developed a scramjet engine that burned liquid hydrocarbon fuel [JP-7]. This was flight tested on the X-51 Scramjet Engine Demonstrator — Waverider — which flew four times between 2010 and 2013. This proved the viability of a scramjet-powered vehicle for weapon applications. The Air Force has been leading in developing technologies for a High-Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) to enable a responsive, long-range strike capability via a partnership with DARPA.”

Withstanding high temperatures

Today active research and development is in progress on all aspects of hypersonic flight, from materials to withstand high temperatures generated in the atmosphere, to more efficient propulsion systems, to size, weight and power (SWaP)-constrained enhanced electronics for sensors, guidance, communications, and other harsh-environment applications. Space programs have used many of those for decades to protect spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.

“The community is responding tremendously and the number of young, early-career engineers who have expressed interest in hypersonics is very encouraging,” DARPA’s Carter says. “I hope we will see the emergence of a community very much like what we had back then [the 1960s], but informed by the new computing capabilities and materials science capabilities we have today, fueled by the American entrepreneurial spirit.”Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. in Atlanta is developing technologies expected to lead to military and commercial hypersonic flight.Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. in Atlanta is developing technologies expected to lead to military and commercial hypersonic flight.

Advances in technology, especially since the turn of the century, have improved greatly on what was possible half a century ago. The need for such capabilities also has grown substantially.

“There have been significant advances in computational fluid dynamics, air-breathing propulsion, and high-temperature structures and materials. Current efforts are using advanced design and manufacturing techniques. Cost is an important factor that has received significant emphasis in the current generation of programs. And, finally, the need for hypersonic systems is emerging and maturing,” AFRL’s Miller says.

“Hypersonics is one of the game-changer technology areas that provide high-speed options for engaging time-sensitive targets and improving the survivability of our systems,” Miller continues. “Hypersonics amplifies many of the enduring attributes of air power — speed, range, flexibility, and precision. Systems that operate at hypersonic speeds offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems. Such systems could provide significant capabilities for future U.S. operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance.”

The new foothold hypersonic research has gained in military, academic, and industrial labs in recent years has not been limited to the United States, but also has grown significantly in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region — especially China and Russia. Both of those old adversaries, who are challenging America’s technological lead, have boasted of great advances in hypersonics and their intentions to field operational aircraft and weapons in the near future.

Hypersonics technology race

While there is considerable debate over the validity of Russian and Chinese claims, some of America’s top military officers say there is enough evidence to make dismissing them a serious mistake. That is especially true regarding China, which Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says has made hypersonics a Manhattan Project-level operation on which they are willing to spend “up to hundreds of billions to solve the problems of hypersonic flight, hypersonic target designation, and then, ultimately, engagement.”

For example, in March 2018, China’s state media announced construction on an 870-foot wind tunnel capable of simulating conditions from Mach 10 to Mach 25. Scheduled for completion in 2020, it will join existing wind tunnels able to simulate environments from Mach 5 to Mach 9. The U.S., by comparison, has Mach 5 to Mach 9 wind tunnels, but they are smaller than the Chinese tunnels, and capable of tests lasting only a few seconds.This artist’s rendering of the Waverider Scramjet Engine Demonstrator is yielding propulsion technologies that could be used aboard first-generation hypersonic weapons.This artist’s rendering of the Waverider Scramjet Engine Demonstrator is yielding propulsion technologies that could be used aboard first-generation hypersonic weapons.

That same month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced testing on the Kinzhal missile, which he claims can reach Mach 10 speeds, carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, while impervious to existing or prospective air and missile defenses.

At a Colorado space conference in April 2018, Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, currently head of the U.S. Strategic Command and recently nominated to succeed Selva on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters “you should believe Vladimir Putin about everything he said he’s working on … We listen to what they say very closely and none of what he said surprised me.”

Michael D. Griffin, former NASA Administrator who became the nation’s first undersecretary of defense for research and engineering last year, has said developing and deploying hypersonic technology is his number-one priority — and he is extremely concerned about the progress China has made while the United States, which once had a commanding lead, essentially shuttered its efforts in the mid-2010s. As a result, he said, China has made 20 times as many hypersonic tests as the U.S. in the past five years.

Disruptive technology

Shortly after taking his new post, Griffin told a McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference that a U.S. hiatus in hypersonic research must change because leaving the Chinese unchallenged in hypersonics could enable them to “hold at risk our carrier battle groups … [and] our entire surface fleet. They hold at risk our forward-deployed forces and land-based forces.”

Without a way to respond in kind or defend against a hypersonic attack, he warned, means “our only response is either to let them have their way — or go nuclear”, which, he added, is “an unacceptable situation for the United States.”

The Pentagon’s budget allocations and requests for hypersonic research demonstrate just how seriously military leaders now take pursuing this technology. Funding for hypersonics seesawed between $50 million and $100 million a year during the two decades following cancellation of NASP, then ballooned to more than $250 million in the 2019 budget. That was dwarfed in the 2020 budget request, however, with $2.6 billion requested for hypersonics.

“As technology matures, it gets easier to fund,” says Richard L. Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at market researcher The Teal Group in Fairfax, Va. “In the ‘60s, it would have been on the scale of the Manhattan Project in terms of cost. The thing to look for is areas where technology gets less costly to develop and mature and relevance remains high. That may be the case with hypersonics. It’s not a technology issue; it’s a money issue, although there may be show stoppers we don’t know about with the horizontal air-breather,” Aboulafia continues. “When it comes to something like this, it’s all about the building blocks. A lot of that comes down to the materials.” This is where DARPA’s MACH project comes in.The Generation Orbit X-60A project seeks to develop an affordable launch and propulsion system that could be applied to future hypersonic munitions and vehicles.The Generation Orbit X-60A project seeks to develop an affordable launch and propulsion system that could be applied to future hypersonic munitions and vehicles.

Advanced electronics cooling

“The purpose is to develop new leading-edge technologies for the front of the vehicle, which meets the atmosphere first, enabling it to go faster or go deeper into the atmosphere,” DARPA’s Carter explains. “Looking at it from a thermal management perspective, the design of the vehicle is dominated by heating at hypersonic speeds. These are topics that recently the electronics and program management world has started to address. A common holy grail in electronics is one kilowatt per square centimeter of heating, which is very similar to what is required for the leading edge of hypersonics.

“We’re trying to advance the technology very quickly and develop a leading edge component that future designers can use in the vehicle,” Carter continues. “The approaches you see there are things like heat pipes, which are used extensively in high-performance electronics.”

Moving heat from hot components like microprocessors and leading-edge aeronautic structures also is a big issue. This is how trees keep cool through leaves and was applied to some of the earliest hypersonic platforms back in the 1950s. In addition, film cooling, which is used in turbine engine blades today, enables materials to survive in environments where they ordinarily would melt.

Carter says he hopes MACH will lead to development of a disruptive technology “that will get us on a new design curve that will transcend materials we use today, such as carbon/carbon composites. In a way, it’s history coming back to us. Carbon/carbon was one reason we stopped working on thermal issues.”

All the U.S. military services, academia, and corporate research organizations, are working on hypersonics and sharing information. Still, Pentagon leaders have expressed a strong aversion to creating a joint program such as the F-35 jet fighter. Instead of trying to create one system that can be all things to all users, U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) experts say they want several programs to solve technological challenges common to many service requirements, without adversely affecting individual programs. Dealing with a submarine-launched hypersonic missile, for example, could slow development of a missile designed for launch from a tracked vehicle.

Dispersing efforts across all military and non-military labs, could encourage a wide range of out-of-the-box thinking, experts say. This approach also allows more inquiry into different approaches, such as a boost/glide system that launches a weapon or sensor payload like a ballistic missile to hypersonic speed, then glides down to its target.The U.S. Air Force and NASA X-15 achieved hypersonic flight more than 50 years ago in attempts to set new aircraft speed and altitude records through the atmosphere.The U.S. Air Force and NASA X-15 achieved hypersonic flight more than 50 years ago in attempts to set new aircraft speed and altitude records through the atmosphere.

Launch challenges

Another candidate is horizontally launched payload from an aircraft or missile, but with its own engines to maintain hypersonic flight and target changes. Military experts also are interested in a manned or unmanned system that takes off like an airplane, flies at hypersonic speed to a standoff position, launches hypersonic missiles, then returns to base for reload and another flight.

Recent and future advances several technologies are necessary to field true hypersonic systems. Those include high-temperature structures and materials; power and thermal management; solid rocket motors with high-energy propellants; advanced electronic guidance, navigation, and control systems; and advanced design and manufacturing techniques to build systems quickly and affordably.

“There are some efforts in space launch that may have applicability to hypersonics that could be useful for the military,” AFRL’s Miller notes. “The Hadley liquid rocket engine was developed by Ursa Major and will be used on the X-60A. The X-60A will provide flight research allowing affordable, routine and flexible access to hypersonic flight conditions. Like the X-15, the X-60A will provide a ‘flying facility’ to test and advance hypersonic technologies quickly, affordably and at relevant hypersonic flight conditions.”

The Teal Group’s Aboulafia says he expects China and the U.S. — and possibly Russia — to deploy boost/glide hypersonic systems in the next five to ten years, although that approach still will have all the problems of launching a ballistic missile, such as targeting and stabilization. This technology also is easier to defend against. The U.S., he says, is ahead in horizontal air-breathing technology, but deployment of that capability is further out, possibly the late 2020s or early 2030s.

“The Russians are talking a good game about doing something air-breathing, but they don’t have the same resources as the U.S.,” he says. “Air-breathing is all about the propulsion system. Some people think we’re close to a supersonic combustion ramjet [scramjet], but others think that’s still far away.”

“Hypersonics are fundamentally offensive and strategic,” Aboulafia continues. “You won’t use them for anything less than the highest-value targets. One school of thought says it is destabilizing because you don’t have any reaction time. It’s perfect for a unipolar world, which we don’t have anymore and, technologically, the genie has a way of getting out of the bottle. The boost/glide approach involves a ballistic missile launch, which, alone, is a little disconcerting. But the full-up air-breathing, horizontal launch capability is the most destabilizing of all because it can appear just offshore of a capital city and you have less than a minute to decide what to do.”The DARPA Falcon Project seeks to develop a reusable, rapid-strike hypersonic cruise missile, as well as a launch system to accelerate the weapon to hypersonic cruise speeds.The DARPA Falcon Project seeks to develop a reusable, rapid-strike hypersonic cruise missile, as well as a launch system to accelerate the weapon to hypersonic cruise speeds.

Defining research

The next five to ten years will be critical to the development of new and advanced technologies required for hypersonics, such as MACH.

“If we are successful, we can see dramatic improvements in the capability of these platforms in velocity, range, the atmospheric conditions we can fly in,” Carter says. “We’re also thinking about manufacturability, so I expect to see an industrial base to produce these structures. And we’ll see American ingenuity come to the fore in other areas of hypersonics. One is how we model those, which is a cornerstone of how we develop systems. I expect to see dramatic advances not only in modeling materials but in modeling vehicles; model-driven design is being done today, but it’s not as connected and powerful as we would like.”

“You cannot recreate the conditions a hypersonic vehicle will experience in flight in the lab; there’s always some kind of gap, but I believe we will close that gap. We have new tools in the toolbox, not only advances on the computational side, but in meeting the longstanding challenge of scaling. Nobody in the world can do this today, but I believe we will crack it. That will enable us to do small frames much more quickly and develop flight vehicles scaled up using the computational capabilities we’re developing. For the first couple of iterations, we’ll follow the discipline we have used for more than a century — crawl, walk, run — but we will be shortening that walking step very quickly.”

At the same time, hypersonics requires greater care than other programs when it comes to making changes, both external and internal.

“Hypersonics is a very interconnected design process. Every change you make has to be connected to every other component, unlike building an airplane. With MACH, we’re talking about a leading-edge technology that will improve the capability of the vehicle with very little redesign required,” he says. “It’s one thing to have an aeroshell on the leading edge, but you also have to have all the communications and other stuff on the inside protected from the heat of hypersonic flight. Just swapping out one component could leave you vulnerable to a thermal shift.”

“Cooling is interesting because you are trying to get heat off a very hot vehicle. SWaP is important because these are very constrained platforms. Based on the aerodynamic principles involved and launch capabilities, you have a highly SWaP-constrained platform. So, advances in electronics, fuel and materials in general will be very important.”

Thermal-management materials

A greater understanding of material composition and applications in just the past five or so years has set the stage for a new century of development that could take hypersonic technology into areas never before considered.

“Our ability to model materials at the atomic scale is really emerging as a way to not only understand materials but to be predictive tools. When you marry that up with AI [artificial intelligence], we have a truly new way to approach materials development,” DARPA’s Carter says. “These new capabilities are very inspiring and I’m anticipating the next century will be just as exciting as the last in materials science as we integrate all that into multidisciplinary design, looking at how the mission may drive fundamental development. We’ve tried to model MACH on that new future, not only making new materials, but what is driving that development so sensible engineers will want to use them.

One area is new materials that involve compositionally complex alloys (CCAs). “For the past two centuries, we have looked at the periodic table and added small amounts of other materials,” Carter says. “CCAs bring together at least five or more elements in an attempt to confuse nature that actually works. They have some interesting properties — high temp, anti-corrosion, fatigue, and toughness you don’t see in traditional alloys. The story of composites really has yet to be written. Some of those have properties that could be very useful in building other aspects of the vehicle.”

Other thermal-management design approaches, such as insulating and highly conductive materials to manage heat pathways inside of hypersonic vehicles also are of considerable concern. “In the world of thermal management, we are still making substantial inroads in ultra-high heat,” Carter says. “The headroom to go to even higher heat flux and temperatures still has a long way to go.”

Hypersonics Manhattan project?

The development of hypersonics has been likened to developing the atomic bomb, yet some say there are significant differences that may limit the number of nations attaining hypersonic capability even further.

“The market probably would be close to the nuclear level, but without the cultural taboo. So, a country like Japan could have hypersonics where they wouldn’t have nukes,” says Teal’s Aboulafia. “But the cost factor and technology base will keep the number of nations using hypersonics limited, maybe just to the U.S., China and Russia. It’s hard to do something efficiently with a hypersonic, where nukes can be delivered by oxcart, as the saying goes. So, while Iran is working on nukes, it’s hard to see what they would do with hypersonics.”

There is another reason countries may opt not to develop hypersonic weapons — to avoid becoming preemptive targets. A nation with nuclear weapons, even if it does not have intercontinental ballistic missiles, forces potential adversaries to think twice about an attack. But hypersonic weapons without the added threat of nukes could encourage its enemies to attack first.

“It’s basically an invitation for retaliation, sort of a less intimidating form of nukes,” Teal’s Aboulafia says.

Source: militaryaerospace.com “The emerging world of hypersonic weapons technology”

Note: This is militaryaerospace.com’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China, India agree to disengage troops on contested border


By Reuters Staff

SEPTEMBER 11, 20208:54 AMUPDATED 22 MINUTES AGO

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and China’s State Councillor Wang Yi pose for a picture during a meeting in Moscow, Russia September 10, 2020. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

BEIJING/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – China and India said they had agreed to de-escalate renewed tensions on their contested Himalayan border and take steps to restore “peace and tranquillity” following a high-level diplomatic meeting in Moscow. Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar met in Moscow on Thursday and reached a five-point consensus, including agreements the current border situation is not in their interests and that troops from both sides should quickly disengage and ease tensions, the two countries said in a joint statement.

The consensus, struck on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, came after a clash in the border area in the western Himalayas earlier this week.

Shares of defence-related firms fell in China early Friday after the news, with the CSI National Defense Industry Index down 1.2% and on track for its steepest weekly decline since Oct. 12, 2018. Tongyu heavy Industry shares tumbled as much as 16.4%.

China and India accused each other of firing into the air during the confrontation, a violation of long-held protocol not to use firearms on the sensitive frontier.

Wang told Jaishankar during the meeting the “imperative is to immediately stop provocations such as firing and other dangerous actions that violate the commitments made by the two sides,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Wang also told Jaishankar all personnel and equipment that have trespassed at the border must be moved and that frontier troops on both sides “must quickly disengage” in order to de-escalate the situation.

The comments contrast with recent show of force by the Chinese military. China’s Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, reported on Wednesday the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were moving soldiers, bombers and armoured vehicles into the border.

Chinese state media also recently reported armed jump drills by PLA paratroopers in Tibet.

The Global Times said in an editorial published late Thursday that any talks with India should be paired with “war readiness”.

The Chinese side must be fully prepared to take military action when diplomatic engagement fails, and its frontline troops must be able to respond to emergencies, and be ready to fight at any time,” the newspaper said.

India has an abnormal confidence in confronting China. It does not have enough strength. If India is kidnapped by extreme nationalist forces and keeps following its radical China policy, it will pay a heavy price.”

Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Michael Perry, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle

Source: Reuters “China, India agree to disengage troops on contested border”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


This Experimental Drone Could Change America’s War Strategy


Is the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie the future of combat aircraft?

BY ALEX HOLLINGS

MAR 17, 2020

Photo XQ-58A

© AIR FORCE/SENIOR AIRMAN JOSHUA HOSKINS

For nearly 20 years, the United States Air Force has been focused on anti-terror operations in uncontested airspace. Now, as America transitions its focus away from the War on Terror toward potential near-peer conflicts, the U.S. is looking to pull a page out of its own World War II playbook by building inexpensive combat aircraft that can overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses through sheer numbers.

The Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, an unmanned and experimental combat aerial vehicle, is tough to spot on radar and could be directly linked to the F-35 through an encrypted data connection to serve as a wingman under the pilot’s control. But even with these pros, it’s the cost of the Valkyrie, not its capabilities, that could change America’s aerial warfighting strategy.

Photo fb-22

© THIAGO ISVAMSINSK VIA FLICKR

While there’s no question the U.S. boasts the largest air force in the world in terms of total military aircraft, the makeup and size of that force has shifted dramatically since the final days of World War II. At that time, the U.S. boasted some 300,000 combat aircraft. Today, the nation has only around 13,400, spread out across its various military branches.

The reason for this change is the steady progress of technology, which has dramatically increased the combat capabilities and the cost of each aircraft in service today. These parallel developments in aviation production have resulted not only in a leaner, more capable Air Force, but a change in combat strategy altogether. Gone is the World War II mindset that called for superiority through volume. On today’s battlefield, it’s technology, not numbers, that makes the biggest difference.

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But the capability gap offered by technology alone is difficult to maintain. As near-peer level opponents like China and Russia field more advanced air defense systems, America’s aircraft face the possibility of a more contested battle space than ever before. With American fighters costing upward of $80 million each, regardless of whether or not they possess stealth capabilities, each and every loss would be truly felt in a large-scale conflict. That’s why the strategic scales may be tipping back toward a force reliant on a high volume of aircraft, rather than the amount of tech that can be crammed into each one. And that’s where the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie could really shine.

Photo f-15e

© BOEING

The Valkyrie has an internal weapon payload capacity of at least two small-diameter bombs and boasts a flight range of more than 2,000 miles, but more importantly, the Department of Defense (DoD) has a plan to connect these unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) to F-35s and the new F-15EXs via encrypted data links to serve as support drones—an initiative known as the Skyborg program. These links, coupled with on-board artificial intelligence, will allow pilots of manned aircraft to control their drone wingmen, even sending them out ahead to relay sensor information back to the pilot.

That means the Valkyries would be able to engage ground targets on behalf of a manned fighter and potentially even sacrifice themselves to protect manned aircraft from inbound missiles.

We can take risks with some systems to keep others safer,” Will Roper, Ph.D., assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told Defense News reporter Valerie Insinna last year.

Currently, combat aircraft rely on their own sensor suites to identify targets and potential threats, but with the Skyborg Program, unmanned aircraft could fly ahead to spot targets and relay data back to pilots. That would allow fighters to engage threats from further distances or avoid them all together.

4 Kit Planes to Tackle in 2020

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The Panthera has retractable landing gear and a sexy, aerodynamic shape. A glass cockpit and extra-comfy seats make long journeys feel luxurious. panthera-aircraft.comPIPISTREL

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The manufacturer notes that this plane is such a quick build, you’ll “be sitting in the fuselage within a few hours of opening the kit.” For those who can’t wait to play with their new toy. azaleaaviation.com

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The SuperSTOL has low-speed capabilities that allow it to land on short runways or small clearings. It just needs 150 feet of runway to take off. justaircraft.com

Photo DARKAERO

Darkaero claims this is the longest-range aircraft you can build—1,700 statute (land) miles at 275 mph cruising speed. That can fly you from Boston to Houston. Production begins in 2020. darkaero.com

In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook,” Roper told Defense News.

BY USING DRONE SWARMS, THE U.S. HOPES TO OVERWHELM DEFENSIVE SYSTEMS.

All that capability comes with the tiny price tag (for jet-powered combat aircraft) of around $2 million per plane. Considering Raytheon’s single-use Tomahawk cruise missiles ring in at an estimated $1.4 million each and combat drones like the RQ-4 Global Hawk cost over $120 million apiece, $2 million for a reusable combat aircraft like the Valkyrie’s is a steal.

The Valkyrie’s low price tag lands it squarely within the DoD’s “attritable aircraft” concept—planes that are so cheap to replace that commanders can take greater risks with them without fearing their loss as much as they would a manned platform or even a high-dollar drone. As Kratos points out, the Valkyrie also offers “open architecture” that allows them to modify the aircraft to suit different mission requirements with different payload options. This dramatically increases the number of mission types these drones can support, including air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements.

A shift toward producing a large number of these “attritable” platforms could offer a huge boost in America’s air power capabilities by returning to overwhelming force through volume. That’s important, because despite how advanced air defense systems have become, they still have a limited magazine. By using drone swarms, the U.S. hopes to overwhelm defensive systems, which is a big part of why the Air Force is emphasizing the “attritable” part of its drone program.

“Swarming allows you to build large numbers of low-cost expendable agents that can be used to overwhelm an adversary,” Paul Scharre, from the Center for a New American Security think tank, told BBC News’ Thomas McMullan last year. “This reverses the long trend of rising aircraft costs and reducing quantities.”

Unlike in the days of World War II, however, the value of all those aircraft can be bolstered further by the advanced data collection and leveraging capabilities of flying supercomputers like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

A decision on whether the Pentagon wants to move forward with mass production of the Valkyrie is expected to come as soon as 2021. (Since it’s a new platform that’s still in testing, there’s always the chance that new problems will emerge.) But regardless of that decision, it looks as though the future of air superiority will likely look an awful lot like this new Kratos drone.

As air defenses continue to mature, stealth won’t be enough to dominate the airspace above a battle, and that’s where old fashioned arithmetic may be the only route to victory. By sending more low-cost and unmanned aircraft at a target than the surrounding defenses can effectively engage, Skyborg drones can assure victory even when stealth can’t get the job done.

With both Russia and China reportedly developing their own “wingman” drones, the wars of the future may well be won through overwhelming air defense systems with swarms of armed UCAVs taking their cues from nearby human pilots.

Source: Popular Mechanics “This Experimental Drone Could Change America’s War Strategy”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


The Air Force Isn’t Dominant Anymore … Says Air Force Chief of Staff


The top officer warns of World War II-level casualties against China or Russia if the U.S. doesn’t act fast.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

SEP 9, 2020

General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the new head of the U.S. Air Force, warned casualties will be heavy in a future war.

Brown believes the U.S. will face World War II-level losses against an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

The general believes his service must “accelerate change or lose” the next war.

The new U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is warning his service it faces stiff competition in a future war, involving aircraft and personnel losses not seen for 80 years. General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. believes the Air Force must work to accelerate change, adapting to new technologies faster than its potential adversaries. Brown warns that “good enough today will fail tomorrow,” with grave implications for the entire country.

In his first new statement as Air Force Chief of Staff, Brown warns the Air Force, its ability to maintain air dominance, and the success of any future war is in serious jeopardy. Writing in Accelerate Change or Lose, Brown dumps a cold bucket of water on his service, saying the Air Force can longer count on the dominance it has enjoyed since the early 1990s, and that threats to the nation won’t always be faced thousands of miles from the country’s borders. Brown also notes U.S. adversaries are equipping themselves with new tech as quickly as the Pentagon is, if not sooner.

The Air Force has essentially been the supreme air force on the planet since 1991. The destruction of the Yugoslav Air Force in 1999 marked the beginning of more than 20 years of virtually uncontested air operations for the service lasting to this day. Since then, combat operations over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere have largely been uncontested.

Air Force fighters, bombers, attack aircraft, tankers, and surveillance planes fly wherever they want and bomb whoever they want, largely without concern of being shot down. With the exception of a handful of several uncrewed drones, most aircraft losses during this time period were due to pilot error or mechanical issues.

Adversaries like the Taliban and ISIS don’t even have air forces, but the Russian Aerospace Forces in the near future will likely operate advanced aircraft such as the Su-57 “Felon” stealth fighter and S-70 Okhotnik attack drone.

Brown believes a future war will require airmen to think differently about how to fly, fight, and win. Russia and China, with their large air forces and capable air defenses, are a world away from land power-only forces like the Afghan Taliban and the fighters of ISIS. These fully modern air forces, armed with weapons on par with those used by the U.S. Air Force itself, will inflict serious losses. Brown writes:

“Airmen are more likely to fight in highly contested environments, and must be prepared to fight through combat attrition rates and risks to the Nation that are more akin to the World War II era than the uncontested environment to which we have since become accustomed. The forces and operational concepts we need must be different. Our approach to deterrence must adapt to the changes in the security.”

The U.S. Army Air Force lost over 40,000 aircraft in World War II, a number greater than the total number of planes in the current U.S. Air Force many times over.

How will the Air Force do this? Drones, drones, and more drones.

Manned military aviation has been in a death spiral for some time. Technological complexity leads to increasingly sophisticated aircraft that require more time and money to develop. As a result, planes like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter require two decades to develop, cost $90 million each, and require months to build. The result is a smaller air force where even brand-new fighter jets feature 20-year-old technology, which isn’t capable of making up for World War II-style losses.

Drones, on the other hand, promise to break this death spiral. Uncrewed drones are easier and faster to develop, cost less, and can be built faster than crewed aircraft. Drones can also be stockpiled in larger numbers to quickly replace wartime losses. A shorter development time means new technology can be more quickly integrated into an uncrewed platform, and a modular capability means a single drone can be adapted to a multitude of tasks simply by swapping out the drone’s payload.

Source: Popular Mechanics “The Air Force Isn’t Dominant Anymore … Says Air Force Chief of Staff”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Rival powers jockey for the lead in hypersonic aircraft


By Michael Dempsey

1 September 2020

Hypersonic aircraft will need new engine technology Image copyright REACTION

“I’ve spent my career on things flying fast,” says Adam Dissel, who heads up the US operations of Reaction Engines.

This British company is building engines that can operate at dizzying speeds, under conditions that would melt existing jet engines.

The firm wants to reach hypersonic velocity, beyond five times the speed of sound, around 4,000mph (6,400km/h) or Mach 5.

The idea is to build a high-speed passenger transport by the 2030s. “It doesn’t have to go at Mach 5. It can be Mach 4.5 which is easier physics,” says Mr Dissel.

At those kinds of speeds you could fly from London to Sydney in four hours or Los Angeles to Tokyo in two hours.

However, most research into hypersonic flight is not for civil aviation. It originates from the military, where there’s been a burst of activity in recent years.

‘Zoo of systems’

James Acton is a UK physicist who works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Surveying the efforts of the US, China and Russia in hypersonic weapons he concludes that “there’s a whole zoo of hypersonic systems on the drawing board”.

Special materials that can withstand the extreme heat created around Mach 5, and a host of other technologies, are making hypersonic flight in the Earth’s atmosphere possible.

Experiments in piloted hypersonic flight date back to America’s X-15 rocket-plane of the 1960s. And Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) also re-enter the atmosphere at very high hypersonic speeds.

Now rival powers are striving to create weapons that can stay within the atmosphere, without needing to utilise the cooling properties of outer space, and that can be manoeuvred – unlike a static ICBM aimed at a city – towards a target that might be moving itself.

Carrier-killers

Military spending is driving the hypersonic push by the three big national players.

In a recent Pentagon media briefing Mike White, assistant director for hypersonics in the US military, talked about development being driven by “our great power competitors and their attempts to challenge our domain dominance”.

China displayed its hypersonic weapon at a parade in 2019 Getty Image

Accuracy is a major challenge for these hypersonic missiles.

Mere possession of hypersonic missiles, dubbed “carrier-killers”, might force US aircraft carriers to stay far from the Chinese coast in the mid-Pacific.

But hitting a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier travelling at 30 knots or more (35mph or 56km/h) requires fine adjustments to a missile’s course that are tough to achieve at Mach 5.

The heat generated around a missile’s skin creates a sheath of plasma, or gaseous matter, at hypersonic speeds.

This can block off signals received from external sources, such as communications satellites and can also blind internal targeting systems trying to see outwards to locate a moving object.

The nose of a hypersonic aircraft would have to withstand extreme temperatures

Plasma only builds up where the highest temperature is found. USAF image

A conical-shaped missile will have a uniform coating of plasma, but missiles that resemble sleek-winged darts may push that plasma screen away from surfaces that contain the most sensitive antennae.

Shark jaws

As if hypersonic flight isn’t difficult enough, chemical dissociation adds to the problems.

At extreme speeds and temperatures this phenomenon causes oxygen molecules to break down into their constituent atoms.

This in turn complicates the chemical model that any air-breathing engine is based on.

The X-51A flew at Mach 4.5 USAF image

Progress in the hypersonic arms race has been dramatic. In 2010 the US flew a shark-jawed, unmanned aircraft across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean at hypersonic speeds for five minutes.

The goal was more than sheer speed. It was time.

Five minutes may not sound like a long flight time, but in terms of defeating hypersonic barriers it was a triumph.

This speed machine, the X-51A, was dropped from a high-flying B-52 bomber and used a rocket booster to reach Mach 4.5 before its main engine kicked in.

The X-15 was a 1960s trailblazer DEAN CONGER/CORBIS/GETTY image

Known as a scramjet, this engine combined the rush of air into a jagged intake with jet fuel – to accelerate to hypersonic speeds.

That meant coping for several minutes with air temperatures entering the intake at 1,000C. Four X-51As eventually took a one-way trip over the Pacific between 2010 and 2013.

Shockwaves

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a California space and rocket engine specialist that worked on the X-51A. It is a measure of the secrecy surrounding this technology that its staff will only speak on condition of anonymity, even seven years after the project ended.

One hypersonics expert at the firm says of the X-51A: “The really hot part of the machine is at the front where shockwaves form, so that’s where the investment in materials goes”.

He says much was learned from the X-15 rocket-plane of the 1960s and from the subsequent Space Shuttle programme.

Reaction Engines has developed a pre-cooler to chill air coming into the engine REACTION Image

Reaction Engines has now demonstrated a process that should enable its aero-engine to ingest super-heated hypersonic air without hiccups.

Its Sabre engine incorporates what it calls a “pre-cooler”. This is the first part of the engine to encounter the raging hot hypersonic air.

The challenge then is to mix it with fuel to create thrust.

As hot as lava

The Sabre engine was subject to an intensive test regime at a Colorado site in October 2019, during which Reaction Engines had to find a way to replicate hypersonic air speeds.

The firm took a supersonic engine, nailed it down and channelled the air blasting out of its rear into the Sabre engine’s intake.

The Sabre pre-cooler did its job, piping coolant into the system at high pressure and allowing Sabre to mix that air with fuel.

The materials required here are not simple. The Space Shuttle relied on ceramic tiles comprised of composite materials known as ablatives to shield it during the white-hot re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The US Air Force is evaluating a possible hypersonic presidential jet HERMEUS image

An alternative approach to ablatives is to employ a nickel alloy called Inconel which can cope with airflow heated to the same intensity as a lava flow.

Mr Dissel says Reaction Engines is now going down this Inconel alloy route. “That’s kind of where we are now, and also running cooling channels to sap the heat,” he says.

So a sophisticated thermal management system paired with Inconel points the way forward.

Hypersonic leaders

If this combination works the vision of paying passengers on a hypersonic flight might become a reality within 15 years.

The potential for hypersonic travel to let VIPs arrive with maximum impact has been spotted by the US Air Force unit that deals with presidential jets.

It has commissioned Atlanta-based hypersonic start-up Hermeus to evaluate a Mach 5 transport design carrying up to 20 passengers.

It means that in the future, the president of the United States might one day join a very select band of Mach 5 travellers.

Source: BBC “Rival powers jockey for the lead in hypersonic aircraft”

Note: This is BBC’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the articles views.


US’ F-35s Jets Not Really Stealth As German, Russian Firms Expose Its Loopholes


Published 8 hours ago on August 26, 2020

By EurAsian Times Desk

If there are any aircraft that are most sought-out for anywhere across the world, they are America’s elite set of F-35 fifth-generation stealth jets. Renowned for their stealth technology, the jets have enabled the US to stamp absolute air dominance as it provides the Air Force, Navy, and Marines a supreme jet that is simply unmatchable.

But what sets the F-35 a cut above the rest is its Electronic Warfare (EW) system, considered to be world’s most advanced system, coupled with its stealth technology, which makes use of its integrated stealth design, to make not only the most survivable combat aircraft ever built, but to make it invisible to detection or tracking by radar and other sensors.

However, despite US President Donald Trump reiterating the same beliefs of the fighter jets being “truly invisible and simply impossible to be seen with the naked eye”, a German defense contractor, Hensoldt has debunked such myths by stating that its newly invented radar system, named TwInvis, which reportedly it tracked the jets for nearly 100 miles.

According to a press report, TwInvis was set up at the 2018 Berlin Air Show in Germany, which was participated by two US Air Force F-35s, which were tracked by the radar system for over 93 miles (150 kilometers).

The passive radar system, which operates by studying electromagnetic emissions in the atmosphere, thinks radio station signals, Television signals, cell phone tower signals, and commercial radars, can detect aircraft moving through this invisible sea of signals by “reading how the signals bounce off airborne objects”.

However, it can only be used as an early warning radar by detecting a stealth fighter’s approach and is still not sophisticated enough to guide radar-guided missiles. Although, according to press reports, TwInvis can still provide enough location data for an infrared-guided missile to search for a target’s hot engine exhaust.

Moreover, the radar system could be refined with complementary systems to make it more effective in stealth detection, forcing adversaries to purchase even expensive passive systems.

The second contender for pinning a hole in F-35s ‘invisibility’ myth are Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which are considered by far the world’s most advanced air defense systems, boasting the ability to successfully intercept any stealth technology currently available in the world.

As reported earlier by the Eurasian Times, Tod Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe explained – “You cannot operate an F-35 in the vicinity of an S-400. They won’t talk to each other, and what the two military devices will aim to do, certainly the S-400s against the F-35s, is to exploit the F-35’s capabilities.”

Ever since the deployment of Russia’s S-400 Triumph (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) within Russian borders in 2007, it has garnered an impression of being one of the most lethal air defense systems in the world and purchase orders from China, Turkey and India only added to its reputation.

Source: Eurasian Times “US’ F-35s Jets Not Really Stealth As German, Russian Firms Expose Its Loopholes”

Note: This is Eurasian Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Report: China Has Second-Largest Fleet of Satellites


Jack Beyrer – AUGUST 24, 2020 3:40 PM

China now operates the second-largest fleet of satellites in orbit, The Wire China reported Sunday.

A database maintained by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows China owns 363 of the 2,667 recorded satellites in orbit, a number only surpassed by the United States. Russia sports 169 satellites of its own with the world’s third-largest satellite fleet.

The preponderance of Chinese satellites are owned by the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese government, while private satellites are often accessible to Chinese authorities through civil-military fusion and state-owned enterprises. Nearly all Chinese satellites, therefore, potentially pose a national security threat to the United States.

In recent months, Beijing and Moscow have increased cooperation in space and Arctic operations while building up arsenals of missiles and satellite weaponry that threaten American space operations.

Even further, China has upgraded its space capacities with an eye toward Mars, while U.S. efforts to deescalate tensions with the Kremlin in space have so far brought little success.

China’s propensity to flex its muscles directly creates risk for emerging American technologies, says Dean Cheng, Heritage Foundation senior fellow and member of the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group.

“China has demonstrated that it will strive to circumvent or twist other nations’ laws in order to access key technologies, including space technologies,” Cheng said. “The case of Global IP, an American company which had arranged to purchase a Boeing satellite, is a prime example.”

Though the current White House has gone to significant lengths to counter growing competition in space, experts such as Cheng still believe much more can be done.

“Far from rewarding such bad behavior as failing to control its reentering space vehicles and failing to inform potential victims, it is essential to make clear that such failures have consequences,” Cheng said.

“Allowing the Chinese to blithely claim that they have a reentering spacecraft under control, only to admit years later that they do not, is unlikely to promote responsible behavior or adherence to norms,” Cheng added. “Similarly, Chinese efforts to subvert arms export regulations and intellectual property laws need to be rebutted firmly, rather than efforts to expand business ‘cooperation.’”

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Report: China Has Second-Largest Fleet of Satellites”

Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Kremlin renews push for Modi-Xi-Putin trilateral


Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian and Chinese Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 10

Moscow is again pushing for a three-way summit meeting that will involve Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping besides Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had stated on July 23 that the proposal to hold a Russia-India-China (RIC) summit on the sidelines of the G-20 summit was discussed last month during the “virtual” meeting of the three foreign ministers, their first after the Galwan Valley clash of July 15.

India has so far not reacted to the proposal. Had tensions not cropped up at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a RIC summit during a G-20 heads of government (HoGs) meeting would not have been out-of-ordinary because the previous two G-20 meets had also seen RIC summits that were unremarkable footnotes from the diplomatic point of view.

Lavrov said the July RIC Foreign Ministers’ meet had also touched on expanding the format to include trilaterals among Defence Ministers.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has kept its cards close to the chest in the matter. It had chosen not to respond to Lavrov’s initial call to hold a RIC summit. It publicly acquiesced to a RIC Foriegn Ministers’ meet as the event served as an ice-breaker after the Galwan Valley clash.

While Russia’s intention is to keep alive its project of a trilateral of Eurasian powers, China has backed its proposals for such arrangement in order to minimise the damage to its economic interests in India after the LAC clash.

Speaking to the media last week, MEA official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had spoken of a “full calendar” of events with Russia, including several multilateral meetings.

These include the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meetings in which both Russia and China are also present.

India has already borrowed nearly $3 billion from China-led banks to combat the Covid pandemic.

The middle path

  • Russia was the first country India turned to after the Galwan Valley clash for additional military platforms

  • But Russia believes India and China have enough mechanisms to sort out their differences bilaterally

Source: Tribune India “Kremlin renews push for Modi-Xi-Putin trilateral”

Note: This is Tribunal India’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Cutting Off the American Dollar, Russia and China Move Toward a ‘Financial Alliance’


Getty Images

Jack Beyrer – AUGUST 6, 2020 2:20 PM

Russia and China are moving toward a “financial alliance” by decreasing their use of the U.S. dollar, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Thursday.

In 2020’s first quarter, the share of transactions using the U.S. dollar between the two countries dropped below 50 percent for the first time, while the euro and each country’s own national currencies combined to comprise more than half of transactions—a historic high.

This change marks a massive drop off from the peak of dollar usage in their bilateral relationship. In 2015, the two nations used the American dollar in approximately 90 percent of their transactions.

Moscow and Beijing’s growing partnership helps the countries dodge American rulemaking in the international financial system. As transactions using the U.S. dollar are ultimately cleared through American banks, Washington has the ability to track and freeze international transactions.

One expert claimed that Russia and China’s developing financial ties mark a “breakthrough moment” toward a de facto alliance between the two authoritarian regimes.

“The collaboration between Russia and China in the financial sphere tells us that they are finally finding the parameters for a new alliance with each other,” Alexey Maslov, director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. “The alliance is moving more in the banking and financial direction, and that is what can guarantee independence for both countries.”

Recently, Russia and China have also taken steps to strengthen their military and security partnerships. The two countries have coordinated operations in the Arctic to counter U.S. influence in the region, and have also touted a possible partnership in space. Meanwhile, both nations have vested national interests in defending the Assad regime in Syria, Iran, and Maduro’s communist government in Venezuela.

“Indeed, the Xi-Putin partnership is arguably the most dangerous relationship on the planet today,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies expert Tom Joscelyn wrote in July.

“Xi and Putin share a deep-seated animosity for what was once thought of as the American-led world order. They see it as a threat to their countries’ efforts to achieve great power status and, just as importantly, their authoritarian ambitions,” he added

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Cutting Off the American Dollar, Russia and China Move Toward a ‘Financial Alliance’”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Iranian move frustrates India’s regional ambitions


Tehran has removed India from the Chabahar Port railway deal (this reblogger’s note: the deal is said to counter China-Pakistan Economic Corridore), at the same time as China is pouring billions into Iran

By GHAZANFAR ALI GAREWAL

JULY 16, 2020

A handout photo made available by the Iranian Army Office on December 27, 2019, shows an Iranian seaman holding up Iranian and Chinese national flags during a ceremony at Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman during Iran-Russia-China joint naval drills. Photo: Iranian Army Office / AFP

Politics is always a tricky business. It becomes almost impossible, sometimes, to tell which way the winds will blow. International politics is even trickier. (this reblogger’s note: It is easy to predict this development due to India’s recent immigration move against Muslin)

On the regional canvas, recent developments in Tehran-New Delhi ties proved this political axiom right. The development is related to the much-hyped Indo-Iranian Chabahar Port. Iran has removed India from the railway project for the port.

The deal was signed in 2016. Back then, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed baskets of agreements with Iran. However, even then, it was not the multitude of agreements but their delivery on the ground that was at issue.

Interestingly, the US has exempted the Chabahar project from its sanctions against Iran, and India was expected to capitalize on this. However, four years after the agreement, it turns out to be India’s funding delays that compelled Tehran to take this turn.

The railway project was set to lay a strategic transit route from Chabahar to Zahedan in Afghanistan, and on to Turkmenistan. Here is the regional context as well as the hidden tale of Indo-Chinese rivalry.

Indian frenzy surges

The opposition Indian National Congress party has severely criticized Modi’s dilly-dallying on this project. Rahul Gandhi, president of the party, tweeted: “India’s global strategy is in tatters. We are losing power and respect everywhere and GOI [government of India] has no idea what to do.”

Another Congress leader, Abhishek Singhvi, hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stating, “This is the diplomacy of the Modi government that won laurels even without getting the work done, China worked quietly but gave them a better deal. Big loss for India. But you can’t ask questions.”

Indian media, too, have joined the voices of the opposition party. The Hindu newspaper termed this development a lost opportunity for the country. The newspaper wrote, “The impression that India wavered due to US pressure, especially after India canceled oil imports from Iran, also questions New Delhi’s commitment to strategic autonomy.”

One of India’s popular yet controversial news-media anchors called it a “betrayal” by the Iranian side since it is a “Muslim” country. Indeed, anti-Muslim sentiments run high in some chunks of the Indian media.

New Delhi loses out in regional politics

The backlash is not without justification. The current India-China border standoff in the Galwan Valley has not gone down well in the strategic quarters in India. In the midst of this tension, Nepal initiated a new map row leading to border disputes with New Delhi. As if these diplomatic and strategic setbacks were not enough, “the rising and shining India” received another diplomatic blow: Iran’s decision to remove India from the railway project.

If China was not in the picture, this development wouldn’t have been as much of a big deal. In the backdrop of simmering Beijing-New Delhi tensions, China has finalized a 25-year strategic partnership with Iran.

The bilateral agreement is estimated to be worth around US$400 billion. In contrast to this, India has invested $500 million in the Chabahar project. So it is no surprise that Iran has tilted in China’s favor. Obviously, it is Beijing’s tried and tested politics of “geo-economics” that is winning on the regional chessboard.

With a multibillion-dollar deal from China, it is possible that the Indo-Iranian bilateral project will lose relevance going forward. With this deal, Iran seems to have opened its doors for Beijing. Chinese investment will pour in while giving Tehran a boost for its ports, railways, telecommunication, infrastructure, and banking sector. In return, Iranian oil will come in handy for Chinese industry.

Along with this Beijing-Tehran economic bonhomie, defense and political collaboration is not a far-fetched possibility. Intelligence sharing, military-to-military collaboration, and army and naval exercises would all ring alarm bells in New Delhi. If implemented, the China-Iran quarter-century deal could swing the geopolitical and geo-economic balance in Beijing’s and its partners’ favor.

Pakistan, being a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has been working toward building a China-Pakistan-Iran nexus for some time. On multiple occasions, Iran has also expressed its interest in joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Trying to get the best of both worlds, Tehran first sealed a deal with New Delhi while keeping the doors open for collaboration with Beijing and Islamabad. Now that tensions have soared between Beijing and New Delhi, Tehran has struck the iron while it is hot.

In terms of regional connectivity projects, New Delhi seems to be in a faltering position. Chabahar Port was set to be a pivotal link in a regional connectivity project, the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC). This corridor runs counter to Beijing’s BRI.

Initiated mainly by Russia and India, INSTC connects Central Asian states, passes through Afghanistan, and ends at Iran’s Chabahar. With Iran falling into China’s hands, can India materialize the regional connectivity projects that are parallel to Beijing’s? This question becomes even more prickly when the Russia-China politico-economic partnership is factored in.

There is no doubt that, by opening multiple fronts with almost all of its neighbors, India will face more challenges to its regional and global strategies. The wise option is to cooperate. It is the need of the time that New Delhi must pay attention to.

Source: Asia Times “Iranian move frustrates India’s regional ambitions”

Note: This is Asia Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.