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A Useful Guide To Iranian Ballistic Missiles

January 15, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

On January 8 the Islamic Republic proved it can strike US military sites at will using its ballistic missiles. There might not have been any casualties from the attacks on Ain Al-Asad/Al Assad airbase and uninhabited spots outside Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan but the damage left an impression; charred buildings and large craters were a testament to the missiles’ effectiveness. Other than being forewarned several hours before the attacks, the lack of countermeasures to protect US forces stationed in Iraq is surprising. In Al-Asad, where as many as 10 missiles landed, 1,500 soldiers waited out the barrage in concrete shelters leftover from the Iran-Iraq War that ended 31 years ago.

Whether Tehran and Washington, DC escalate or not the threat posed by the former’s ballistic missiles is so severe they demand to be understood in depth. Here’s a quick guide to [almost] all of them.

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China And Indonesia Are Feuding Over Territorial Waters

January 13, 2020

Via Indonesian media.

The largest member of ASEAN has joined the multiple claimants wrangling over the South China Sea. When President Joko Widodo made a highly publicized visit to a naval base in the Riau Islands on January 8, a Wednesday, his trip coincided with an ongoing show of force by the armed forces or TNI. Widodo’s appearance came after weeks of illegal activities by a Chinese flotilla that entered the North Natuna Sea in mid-December. Since then the local authorities struggled to defuse the situation. Indonesian officials remained cautious when discussing the issue with the press despite months of evidence that Chinese fishermen were poaching in national waters.

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China And Iran Are Preparing A Grand Alliance

January 11, 2020

Via Iranian media.

Buried under the past month of alarming news involving Iran and the US is a subtle diplomatic push that may have lasting consequences for an entire continent. Towards the end of 2019 the Islamic Republic’s highest ranking officer and armed forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammed Bagheri (sometimes spelled “Baqeri”), wrapped low-key visits to China. It was during his last trip, a three-day affair in the first week of December, that Bagheri revealed a “25-year strategic plan” was being put into place.

Few details about Bagheri’s meetings were reported and the substance of the “plan” is just as mysterious. But scrutinizing the two country’s ties–one an ascendant superpower and the other a rogue state–reveals some clues where the relationship is heading.

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2019: The Year In War

January 5, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

In keeping with other trendy websites and their retrospective posts for the year that was here’s 21st Century Asian Arms Race’s own The Year In War. The value of this annual report is hindsight and insight for examining the role war plays in shaping societies. It’s a consequential task now that the world’s long peace has come to an end and what used to be known as “American Hegemony” is fading. Here are the three great crises leaving serious cracks on the global order explained in broad strokes.

Foremost is a cold war, best understood as a clash of high tech economies, now underway between the United States and China. Its origins can date to the early attempt at a “Pacific Pivot” by the Obama administration in 2011 although the trade dispute that commenced in 2018 may have launched it in earnest. The new cold war has multiple adversaries; a resurgent Russian Federation with its overpowered military and lesser challenges from Iran, North Korea, and terrorist groups who are thriving in the world’s unsolved conflicts.

A secondary reason for the present disorder are so-called frozen conflicts. Nearly all of those leftover from the mid-20th century are unsolved: China and Taiwan; India and Pakistan; Israel and Palestine; North Korea and South Korea. New ones started this decade too, whether it’s the tangled contest for the waters of the South China Sea or the bitter stalemate in Ukraine’s eastern territory. Forceful and vibrant diplomacy appears to be absent on the cusp of the 2020s.

A third and final reason is the inability to revive failed states and establish a lasting peace. Afghanistan and Somalia continue to be plagued by terrorism. The whole of Central America is wracked by criminal violence. Libya and Venezuela are two recent examples of countries that are nowhere near recovering from their downfall. Regions such as Central Africa and Western Sahara are showing no signs of stabilizing soon even when global powers are intervening.

At this point in time people can take some comfort in the quality of their lives but this has no influence on the terrible things brewing on a global scale.

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This Portable Chinese Rocket Threatens The US Military

January 4, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

On December 27 the K-1 airbase used by Operation Inherent Resolve forces located northwest of Kirkuk–Iraq’s disputed oil-rich city–came under intense rocket attack. The source of the rockets was later found; the perpetrators modified a small truck to fire 30 rockets without being detected. Unused munitions discovered near the truck had markings that showed they were manufactured in Iran. These ubiquitous 107 mm rockets were favored artillery weapons during the long war against ISIS from 2014 until 2017. As far back as the Saddam-era the Iraqi army kept significant stores of the same munitions except these were imported from China. The same rockets are found in the Syrian Civil War albeit sourced from different suppliers.

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The War Between Iran And The USA Started In Iraq

January 3, 2020


The last weekend of 2019 saw Iraq pushed to war as Iran’s proxies attacked US forces stationed in the country. The resulting death of an American citizen, a contractor stationed in the K-1 airbase, and injuries sustained by four soldiers provoked a lethal response by CENTCOM. On December 30 air strikes on five locations–three in Iraq and two in Syria–by F-15E’s left 25 members of Kataib Hezbollah dead. By December 31 crowds of men carrying yellow flags entered the Green Zone then rushed the US embassy and set its guard house on fire. While there was no loss of life during the incident 100 marines were flown in from Kuwait and 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne were assigned to Iraq by January 1.

The US Embassy in the Green Zone is now guarded by marines and its perimeter secured by Iraqi special forces. The crowds dispersed and subsequent US actions have left the world on edge for another crisis in the Middle East.

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Indian Rocket Artillery Can Be Devastating Too

January 1, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

On December 19 the Pinaka Mark II underwent test launches in the Odisha coast to prove the range of its new guidance system. The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) revealed its 30 year old work-in-progress is now capable of hitting targets 75 kilometers away, doubling the original Pinaka Mark I’s range with unguided munitions. Although the Pinaka Mark II has yet to enter service its track record of launches earns it a place among the world’s advanced medium-range rocket artillery weapons such as the US-made HIMARS and the Israeli-made Extra.

The Pinaka Mark II’s success joins an unmistakable trend across Asia where militaries are pushing the limits of conventional battlefield rockets.

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US Military Strength Is Disappearing Little By Little

December 31, 2019

Via Wikimedia Commons.

A series of minor disasters throughout the year have driven home a single, awful truth: the US military is becoming impotent. Little by little, the coercive effect of overwhelming high tech intervention is no longer making a difference in many trouble spots. The ongoing power struggle in Libya is illustrative; a self-declared national leader and former CIA asset, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, has been trying to conquer the western half of the country for the past several months. Haftar enjoys material support from US allies (Egypt and the UAE) and enemies alike with Russia unconcerned about hiding its patronage.

In its current disorder Libya is a vortex of arms trafficking and a robust slave trade driving migrants to Europe and elsewhere. The US, by the way, has spent decades stabilizing North Africa yet the Trump administration has no credible plan for Libya despite the apparent risks it poses to the region. This scatter-brained Trumpian approach is in action elsewhere.

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This Iranian Sniper Rifle Has Never Been Seen Before

December 30, 2019

Via Iranian media.

Earlier this month Iran’s military leaders visited another exhibition in Tehran for promoting new locally made weapons. Considering the dates when it took place–between December 2 and 3–this was a different occasion from the annual IPAS show that’s geared more towards foreign OEM vendors. Images later published in Iranian media revealed the hardware presented at the event is meant for the ground forces. There’s now public evidence that an extended range Kornet missile is manufactured in Iran and armament options are being tailored for a local brand of pickup trucks.

Yet the existence of a mysterious sniper rifle went unnoticed even when Iran’s highest ranking soldier was impressed by it.

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The New Chinese Aircraft Carrier Is Very Bad News

December 29, 2019

Via Chinese state media.

The PLAN capped a busy year a week before Christmas when President Xi Jinping attended the commissioning of the Shandong (Hull 17) aircraft carrier at a Hainan port 32 months after the ship was launched on April 26, 2017. After the publicity blitz on December 17 Shandong departed for a training exercise; it sailed near Taiwan as a veiled threat toward the island nation. The Shandong is the first aircraft carrier made in China and the Chinese navy’s second conventionally powered aircraft carrier with a ski jump after the Liaoning (Hull 16) entered service in 2012.

Construction of the Shandong began in 2013 and work is ongoing in Dalian on an even larger vessel with an electromagnetic catapult on its deck like the US navy’s Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.

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Highlights Of OEWatch For December 2019

December 20, 2019

Each month the US Army’s think tank the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) publishes its open source OEWatch magazine as a free download on the APAN Community Network. OEWatch’s year-ender runs 76 pages and the seriousness of Chinese and Russian competition versus US power is very apparent among the sections. Editorial duties are shared among Tom Wilhelm, Karen Kaya, and designer Thomas Tolare with broad input by a large pool of contributing writers.

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The Indian Army Is Searching For A Wheeled APC

December 17, 2019

The Indian Army has retired its fleet of OT-64 Skot wheeled APCs. Photo is for representation only. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Indian Army‘s newest Request for Information (RFI) is inviting vendors to submit proposals for 198 8×8 wheeled APCs by February 17 next year. The vehicles are meant for a reconnaissance and support role in Punjab and Rajasthan, two states along the border with Pakistan where a conventional war may take place at some point. The 20-page RFI does list technical parameters that leave Russia and the US out in the cold; the BTR-82A and the Stryker both fail to match the army’s needs.

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