Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Why Russia is unlikely to use nukes in Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine continues one question seems to be coming up repeatedly, will Russia use its nukes? Russia recently aired a video on state TV depicting a simulation of the detonation of nuclear weapons in the UK and Ireland. Although it is never calming to see another country threaten a nuclear attack it is almost certain that this video was aired as propaganda and not because Russia is genuinely planning to nuke the UK. It is highly unlikely that Russia will detonate a nuclear weapon during its war with Ukraine for several reasons.


One of the most obvious reasons is that should Russia detonate a nuclear weapon in Ukraine it may face nuclear repercussions. Although Ukraine itself does not have any nuclear weapons some countries supporting it do. It is also unlikely that Russia will engage in a nuclear attack against any countries supporting Ukraine, like the UK for example, because they do have nuclear weapons and therefor have second strike capabilities. 


If Russia were to detonate a nuclear weapon in this war, no matter where it was detonated, the world would be entering into another period like the cold war. There would be much mistrust between the United States and Russia and the countries would constantly be skeptical of one another. As Russia has proved that it will be the aggressor in countries like Ukraine a new cold war would likely involve countries besides Russia and the United States. Other European countries would be wary of Russia due to proximity and their invasion of Ukraine and would arm themselves in case of attack. This could potentially create a more volatile situation than was seen in the first Cold War.


Another issue that would face Russia if they used a nuclear weapon would be international backlash. Many countries around the world have come to the conclusion that nuclear weapons are too dangerous and costly to use in modern warfare, the use of one could lead to full scale nuclear war. If Russia were to detonate a nuclear weapon while at war with Ukraine it would become an international pariah. Many countries around the world would break relations with Russia and they would be placed under heavier sanctions than they are now. This means the use of a nuclear weapon would be very detrimental to the Russian economy as well as Russian foreign policy. 

Social Media and the war in Ukraine

            As the world moves forward war tactics are continually advancing. One can see this by comparing the wars of today to the world wars. Fighting styles and technologies have changed, leading to changes on battlefields.  In wars today we are seeing social media mentioned more and more often. While social media is not traditionally thought of as an instrument of war, over time it is being seen in war more often. Social media has also instigated wars in the past, the Arab Spring for example, would likely not have been as vast as it was without social media. Now, the world is currently watching the war between Russia and the Ukraine unfold and social media has already been utilized by both sides. So how is social media affecting the war in Ukraine?


            Some have begun to refer to Ukrainian and Russia social media presence as an information war. Both sides are posting glimpses of the war on social media, with the Ukrainians currently having the advantage. Social media has allowed stark and visceral depictions of the war to circulate the world, these social media posts have resonated with people around the world gaining support for Ukraine. Ukraine has been able to use social media to create an image for themselves of morally high and determined people while painting Russia as a ruthless aggressor. While it is true that Russia is the aggressor in this situation their lack of control over their image is hurting their cause. Russia itself is not utilizing social media in the same way that Ukraine is because Moscow is trying to hide the extent of the war. This prevents Russia from being able to portray themselves to the world in a better light. In this way social media has helped Ukraine find support around the world while making Russia look worse than it already did. 


            Aside from portraying an image or garnering support, social media also has other roles in war. Ukraine has used their social media platform to appeal for help around the world and has seen success in recruiting foreigners to help fight this way. Social media has also been used by activists to organize and plan. While none of these methods of social media use are particularly new to war, they do seem to be having a larger and larger impact with each new incident. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

China's Arms Trade Prospects

    Traditionally, China relied heavily on Russia for military imports. However, since 2015 China has significantly increased its advanced weapons capabilities and is now the fourth largest arms exporter behind the U.S., Russia, and France. Although China is growing its military defense considerably, China still relies on imports from some countries. According to SIPRI, in addition to Russia, the next largest sources of weapons imports come from France and Ukraine. In fact, from 2016-2020 China was Ukraine's largest recipient of Ukrainian exports at 36%. In 2020 China was ranked as the sixth largest importer of weapons. 

    With China's rise in military independence has caused it to accelerate much quicker than Russia. This is likely due to China's increased defense budget. In 2020, China spent roughly $252 billion dollars on military capabilities whereas Russia only spent $67 billion. Nonetheless, China has learned from Russia and started arming its neighbors in several Asian countries. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar have been China's primary export recipients for decades. However, China has recently started to also export to many countries in Africa. China has increased the number of countries it exports from 40 countries between 2010-2014 to 53 countries from 2015-2019. 

    Russia's invasion of Ukraine might actually help China's numbers as well. As many countries continue to cease importing from Russia, China's arms sales might see an increase. Russia might not be able to produce military equipment as fast as it used to due to current sanctions against Moscow. The difficulties Russia has been facing in production is likely to result in countries purchasing weapons from other countries, such as China. Aside from the invasion of Ukraine, China is likely to continue to import less and export more in the coming years. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Illegal Arms Trade and Associated Problems

    There is a large market for arms around the world. While the legal market makes up a very significant portion of the arms trade the illegal arms trade market is very active as well. The illegal arms trade market is estimated to generate between 130 million dollars to 255 million dollars annually. Most of these sales come from smaller weapons like guns opposed to large weapons like fighter jets or tanks. In many instances arms trafficking is associated with other illegal activities like drug trafficking. While many people believe arms trafficking is carried out only by organized crime groups this is untrue as many governments have been implicated in undercover illicit trading. 


One newer problem with the illegal arms trade is that it has gone digital, making it harder for law enforcement to find and prosecute those involved. Many dealers of illegal arms have begun to use the dark web for trading in an effort to evade authorities. One of the biggest problems with the arms trade utilizing the dark web is that it makes it significantly more likely to anonymously arms criminals and terrorist organizations. Many weapons being sold on the dark web originate from the United States. Although the U.S. is the home of many dark web weapons it is European countries that generate the most revenue on dark web weapons sales. Many sales made on the dark web are not massive deals like the ones seen in the conventional arms trade. They are not sufficient to fully arm a terrorist group or country. Despite this, they are still dangerous, it is not only guns being sold on the dark web but also explosives and information on how to build bombs.


            Another problem associated with illicit arms sales is the affect they can have in developing areas. Increasing the number of weapons in a region can also lead to higher levels of conflict and violence. This can be very problematic for a developing region or country. As conflict increases investment goes down and development aid is often disrupted. It is also difficult for countries experiencing conflict to work towards and meet their development goals. In this way the illegal arms trade can slow development. 


            As the digital world gets bigger and bigger it will be interesting to see how the illegal arms trade develops moving forward.

US Arms Sales: Trump vs Biden

    The United States is the leader in global arms exports, responsible for 39% of deliveries from 2017-2021. This raises many questions about who exactly is receiving US weapons and how they are being used. The US certainly does not have a squeaky clean record when it comes to arms deals and has sold weapons to various violent regimes. Enormous arms sales were regularly at the center of attention during the Trump administration due to questionable recipients, but not much has seemed to change with the Biden administration. 

    During his presidency, Trump was very aggressive about promoting arms sales, emphasizing their impacts on US jobs, and consistently advocating to expand global US exports. This includes exports to countries like Saudi Arabia that have extensive records of human rights abuses. Under Trump’s leadership, US arms exports increased 23% between 2015-2019 compared to exports during the Obama Administration in 2010-2014. On several occasions, Trump vetoed attempts to block the sale of weapons to the Middle East, including billions of dollars in drones and F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

    In 2018, the Trump administration developed a revised Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy. The revisions highlighted the economic justifications regarding arms sales and pushed aside important human rights considerations. Additionally, in 2019, Trump “un-signed” the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT has over 100 signatories and is intended to regulate arms transfers to prevent human rights violations. 

    Unfortunately, it seems the Biden administration has failed to live up to its pre-election claims to avoid reckless sales and consider human rights when determining US weapons importers. The administration continues to supply Saudi Arabia with maintenance and spare parts integral in exacerbating the war in Yemen. Additionally, in March 2022, the administration proposed a sale of F-15 combat aircraft to Egypt. Earlier in his presidency, Biden also announced several controversial arms sales with Israel and the Philippines. 

    Despite several claims to place human rights at the center of its foreign policy, the Biden administration has continued to make arms sales with several repressive regimes. The administration still has not updated its arms transfer policy and has yet to rejoin the ATT, forcing many to question if human rights will ever be the main concern of future arms sales. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Russian Arms Trade in Trouble?

The war in Ukraine has shown the world the effectiveness of the Russian war machine and it has been found wanting. There are many things contributing to this lackluster performance including poor strategy and rumors of low morale. On top of these are the failures of the Russian arms industry to manufacture highly effective weapons.

A Reuters article in March cited US intelligence claiming that up to 60% of Russian precision guided munitions are failing. These failures could range from failure to launch to failure to explode on impact. Even if the failure rate is half what the article claimed, that is still an unacceptably high failure rate. Failure of Russian arms to perform in battle will likely have negative effects on Russia's ability to successfully market their weapons on the international stage in the future. 

There are other problems facing the Russian arms industry as well. Another one that relates to the invasion of Ukraine is the burden of sanctions. With many developed countries choosing to place sanctions on the Russian economy, it will be hard for Russia to access many of high-tech goods needed to build modern weapons. A prime example of this is Taiwan choosing to place sanctions on Russia cutting it off from the world largest supplier of high end computing chips. It is extremely unlikely Russia will be able to replace these goods with domestic production placing Russian arms production in great peril.

These two previous problems combine to feed into a third problem, rising competition. China has already begun to rival Russian arms production with products of similar quality and lower price. With doubts about the effectiveness of Russian arms and production troubles likely on the horizon, this trend can be expected to continue, if not increase. Russia's biggest arms customer, India, announced in April it would begin to invest heavily in domestic arms production. This cuts two ways for Russia, the first being it will likely lose a significant portion of its international arms sales. Second, if India is able to create an effective domestic defense industrial base, this will be another large competitor on the international market further harming Russian sales. 

The Russian arms industry is reliant on strong exports to maintain itself and continue innovating. The trends detailed above may put too much stress on the system and could cause huge downstream issues for Russia. Only time will tell, but the Russian arms industry could become another victim of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

India trapped between a rock and a hard spot

 India stuck between a rock and a hard place

            India has long since balanced the relationship between Russia and the United States. India has partnered with Russian military companies to develop joint defense projects, like the T-90 tank and the SU-57, which fell apart. However, both countries successfully produced the BrahMos in a joint venture. India is still working closely with the United States as the US offers deals to boost India’s military to counter China’s aggression. 

            With the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, India has found itself in a difficult position. As stronger sanctions are targeting Russia’s ability to create military equipment, a high-tech export ban will cause a significant issue for India, which heavily depends on Russian military equipment. The Indian Army is the most dependent, with 90% of its equipment originating from Russia, mainly in the form of tanks. The Indian navy is also tricky as it has leased a nuclear submarine and an aircraft carrier from Russia. 

            What are India’s options? India is currently electing to boost their internal military manufacturing. A Defense Ministry official says that India cannot sustain itself as the second-largest military, fourth largest air force, and seventh largest navy on imports. Boosting internal military manufacturing seems like the most logical step to increase the military capability to counter China while also continuing good relations with Russia and the United States. It is estimated that 2.1 trillion rupees or $27.8 billion will be placed in domestic defense manufacturers in the next five years.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Ukraine Urban Warfare advantage

 Urban Warfare blog 


As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, it is essential to understand urban combat. As the first phase of Russia’s invasion concludes and the second begins, I will be looking at why the Ukrainians were successfully able to defend Kyiv and other major cities. To understand urban combat, readers must realize that the defender has the advantage in open terrain combat. Defenders create a 3:1 advantage over attackers. In a well-prepared defended city, defenders can increase their advantage to roughly 10:1 over attackers. 

            Rural warfare like World War I and II and soon to be seen in the second phase of the Russian invasion, allows tanks and artillery to fire on enemy positions and extract heavy losses on both sides. Defenders must create defenses such as trenches making the battlefield look eerily similar to 1918. However, in an urban setting, defenders have vastly more cover and attacking positions options. Buildings, basements, rubble, trash, etc., allow the defender to attack from multiple angles and escape before the enemy can accurately direct fire. Urban areas also make it challenging for attackers to gather intelligence, direct artillery or air support, and maneuver heavy machines like tanks through tight roads. The limited maneuverability of the attacker allows hit and run ambush tactics that can extract heavy losses on the attacker. 

With the urban defender’s advantage, Ukraine was able to repel the Russian advance into their main cities during the first phase of the war. Now that Russia has retreated and started concentrating its forces in the Donbas region, the Ukrainian advantage is decreasing. They will be without multilayered defendable structures while facing heavy artillery and overwhelming amounts of Russian mechanized troops.  

For more information see the Mini-Manual for Urban Defender - John Spencer 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Does the United States spend too much on defense?

            Often in the United States one may hear people complaining about how much the United States spends on the defense budget every year. The amount is high with roughly ten percent of the United States annual budget being spend on defense spending. It is common for people to think defense spending means the money is being spent on upgrading technology that may never be used like ballistic missile submarines, which will hopefully remain in this category, or a space face that the general public believes in unnecessary. But is the national budget really being spent frivolously like the public seems to believe or is the United States just paying the price of security. 


            One of the many arguments that the United States is overspending on the defense budget is that the United States defense budget is the highest in the world. In 2021 the United States defense budget was 705 billion dollars. China came in second behind the United States at around 250 million in 2021. A five hundred million dollar difference between the first and second highest spenders is a significant difference. Despite this one has to keep in mind that other countries are likely not being entirely transparent about their defense spending. Most scholars estimate that China is spending significantly more than they are willing to admit though they are still estimated to be spending less than the United States.


            It also is important for the United States security that they continue to spend enough to ensure they have access to the best and newest technology. While some of this technology may seem unnecessary, like never used ballistic missile submarines, there are several reasons to continue spending on things like this. Should the United States ever need this technology it is there and ready to go, no time is wasted in developing and implementing new things during an emergency. It is also possible that some things that seem unnecessary now may not be in the long run. A space force for example may seem silly now as people think of it like Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy but having a force that can protect United States satellites in space will likely be an integral part of security in the not-so-distant future. 


            It is also easy to forget all the other things the United States defense budget is paying for. There are over two million people employed in the United States military and all of those people get a salary. On top of a salary the defense budget also provides healthcare for all two million of those people. Aside from paying personnel the defense budget goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of facilities and arms. Public opinion on the defense budget is often skewed with the public not having a full understanding of what the United States is paying for and why these things are so important. 

What can the nontransparent Chinese defense budget tell us

Its hard to know exactly what the PLA spends its money on. Though the CCP releases its annual defense budget, it does no release the specifics of that budget. In 2021, they planned to spend $252 billion on defense. Compared with the US budget of $752.9 billion it may seem small, but that is still second highest amount of defense spending in the world. 

To bring the conversation into relative terms, the US spends around 3.7% of its annual GDP on defense and security. China spends around 1.7% of its annual GDP on these. Lucie Beraud-Sudreau, director of the military and arms production program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), says that 1.7% has been "relatively consistent" for the past 26 years. She says based on a 2019 white paper and other Chinese language sources she has studied, China spends about 31% of the military budget on personnel and 41% on equipment and research and development. It is hard to know these numbers exactly due to the lack of transparency in their military budget. We do not know how much of the personnel budget goes to military or their police/security forces. The science and technology spending is even murkier because of the mixing of dual use technologies and public-private venture expenditures. 

What is the purpose of China spending all of this money? According to National Party Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui, it is to safeguard national sovereignty, securing development needs, fulfilling international responsibilities, and meeting the needs of military reforms. These can be roughly translated to some of the top issues for the CCP today including Taiwan and the South China Sea disputes, securing oil for China's manufacturing and energy needs, growing China's presence on international stage as a responsible actor and great power, and the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) desire to adapt to "informationized warfare." 

In regard to these interests, the PLA continues to move away from the traditional "Big-army" mentality and is putting more emphasis on naval operations. The PLA Navy (PLAN) continues to grow in ship count and tonnage. Its transition from a brown water navy to a blue water navy is a key step to securing China's interests. This means improving it's power projection capabilities and maritime joint operations. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) is also improving capabilities with an aim to transition from territorial air defense to more aggressive operations.

While the defense budget may not tell us everything China is spending money on, we can use its general size, proportions, and the comments around it to give us a better sense of what long term plans may include. It will be crucial for US policymakers and military leaders to keep a close on this budget in years to come.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Is U.S Defense Budgeting Too Much or Too Little?

 Many peoples opinions on the defense budget of the U.S are heavily politically influenced, basing their views on a few short statements from the news or a tweet online, heavily oversimplifying a majorly complex system of money management. 

Every branch of security for the U.S is extracted a certain amount of money, and the defense budget covers the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and the Department of Energy's nuclear-weapons-related activities. As technologies and strategies are changing all over the world, the U.S is working to keep up with the changes without marking an unreasonable increase on these resources. 

Picking and choosing which facts to exploit can come in your favor, as there are many facts and evidence to pull out of this complex budget system that can support whether spending is of too much or too little. An example of the defense spending decline is the fact that the spending was around 8% of GDP in the 1970's, and during the Trump industry it is just above 3% of GDP. That point of view clearly confirms a drop in defense spending, until you realize the differences in GDP from the 1970's to now. 

Those in criticism of the spending can broaden those terms and take note that the budget constitutes more than 1/3 of all global military spending. Or that the second highest defense spending country, China, spends two times less than the U.S

When comparing to the nation's economy and growing GDP each year, this spending becomes a modest portion of the governments dividends. While seen as modest, it is still important to look into the specifics of what is being spent on and find out if some things are being funded unnecessarily. An influx of one area that was needed post 9/11 in 2001 could have shifted to a completely different area in 2022. While the budget has made small percentage changes, there is a need for shifts in which area needs what. The increase of want for newer technology, robots, and AI, could shift the budget drastically to the technology side of spending instead of frontline personnel. 

Increased Defense Budget Spending

     In the US, military spending is the second-largest budget item after social security after social security. Overall military spending has continued to increase and the budget for FY22 is no exception. In fact, the defense budget for FY2022 granted $715 billion to the DoD (Department of Defense) for regular military efforts, as well as some newer initiatives. On that list of new initiatives are: Nuclear Modernization at $27.7 billion, Missile Defense at $20.4 billion, and Long Range Fires at $6.6 billion. Additional funding will be distributed to each of the branches for readiness development. The breakdown for each of those is as follows:

  • Air Force- $36.5 billion

  • Navy and USMC- $48.5 billion

  • Army- $27.8 billion 

  • Spec Ops (Special Operations)- $9.4 billion

    Service members are also receiving a 2.7% pay raise and an increase in their housing allowance this fiscal year. Normally, the budget for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) is not included in the DoD funds. However, as of 2022 the funds for (OCO) are included in the DoD budget. In 2022 the federal budget allocated $752.9 trillion to the Department of Defense, which is a 1.6% increase from the total amount allocated 2021. The DoD also used $300 million for military assistance at Ukraine's border and $150 million for border security in the Baltic countries for defense against Russia.

    U.S. military spending is greater than those of the next 10 largest government expenditures combined and it is likely that the defense budget will continue to grow little by little in the coming years. That is expected to rise significantly in the coming years due to the increase in the housing costs, medical costs, retirement, and maintenance of equipment such as planes. With the defense budget increasing that means funds for research, healthcare, construction, education, and other critical budget areas will decrease. US defense spending will also increase the national debt which as of this year, the US has surpassed $30 trillion dollars in debt. This may not seem like a big deal given that between FY2021 and FY2022, there has only been less than a 2% increase. 

However, we cannot predict what events may happen in the future. For example, the COVID 19 pandemic caused an increase in federal military spending for National Guard assistance nationwide. The war in Ukraine is also causing us to spend more from our defense budget which could either end after the war is over, or continue to rise should tensions escalate further. The addition of the Space Force is also an additional service to account for now, even though it resides under the Air Force budget. Overall, the defense budget doesn't look like it will be decreasing anytime soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Why is transparency in reporting the defense budget and spending important?

The defense budget is an indicator to assess a country's potential military capabilities against others. The defense budget gives much information about the economic status, security intentions, threats, security situation in regions, R&D capacity, and several others of a country for both domestic and international audiences. Knowing close estimates of a country's defense budget and spending will help other countries to estimate the existing and future military capabilities, military-industrial complex capacity, and military projects. Also, help the government effectively budget, prioritize and distribute funds among military arms to strengthen the country's capabilities.


Considering the defense budget and spending importance to domestic and international audiences, transparency in reporting them is essential. The transparent publication of the defense budget helps to frame robust defense policies, procure armaments, avoid corruption, and invest in domestic research & development capabilities required for national security. Typically, countries' reported defense budgets and spending deviate primarily due to secrecy, off-the-books expenditure, corruption, and lack of government oversight. The spectrum ranges from developed democratic countries being more transparent to third world dictatorship countries being the worst performers.


            For example, look at the US and China's top two world's biggest defense spenders and military powers. The US is a developed nation with a democratic system that provides a more transparent defense budget and spending report than China. Transparency helps the government allocate funds effectively to military domains, scrutinize the spending, accountability to citizens, frame robust defense policies, display military strength to the world, and strengthen its trust with citizens. Contrary to the US, China is a developing country with an authoritarian system with limited accountability to its citizens. The SIPRI and CSIS China Power Project identified a significant difference in China's reported defense budget to its actual spending over the last several years. Also, it can report inflated military capabilities to domestic and international audiences with vague defense budgets and spending. It is natural for countries to overrun their defense budgets due to geopolitical and security uncertainties. But in the case of China, the difference runs into tens of billions of dollars, with spending being way higher. The excess expenditure over the reported budgets making very difficult for countries to assess the Chinese actual military capacity, capabilities, the extent of ongoing developments, and R&D works. It creates a sense of insecurity for neighbouring countries and global power. It forces them to inflate their military budgets to outmatch potential Chinese capacity and capabilities, eventually contributing to the potential arms race. Thus, along with effective governance and domestic benefits, transparency in reporting defense budgets and spending is important for countries to avoid unnecessary security dilemmas and potential arms build-up.

Space Force: A Arms race escalator in the Outer Space?

The United States created the “Space Force” as a new independent branch of its armed forces in 2019. Following the US, France launched its Space Command in 2019, the UK in 2021, and Australia in 2022. Other countries are likely to follow a similar path in the coming years. Out of all the four nations, Australia is the nascent space power, and it launched its civilian space agency in 2018 only. The US, UK, France, and Australia respectively announced the intention of establishing Space Command is to protect their assets and interests in outer space from growing threats from adversaries, especially China and Russia.


Outer space has been militarized since the beginning of the space-age in human history. The Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 restricted the export of terrestrial arms races into Outer Space. However, Spacefaring nations, especially the US and Soviet Union/Russia, started using space assets and services for military activities, implying a skewed interpretation of international Outer space treaties. The US, Russia, China, and India developed terrestrial-based Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons to shoot down satellites in the lower earth orbits. Also, the demonstration of ASAT weapons by the four nations created thousands of debris in the earth’s orbits threatening the existence of thousands of satellites. Further, the US, China, and Russia also deployed dual-use capabilities in the orbits that can be used to destroy or deny the adversary of space capabilities for adversary militaries in terrestrial conflicts. 


Outer space is not an isolated space, and it isn't used for military purposes alone. It is a shared space for all humanity without physical boundaries like the high seas. Any large-scale impacts on one’s satellites in earth’s orbits will have profound implications for lives on the planet as space-based services and assets have become critical to the function of the modern world with time. Currently, one cannot imagine daily lives and the world without space-based services. With numerous private and public launching hundreds of satellites with variables sizes, capacities, and capabilities every year, our planets near outer space have become too crowded. Experts estimate outer space becomes unsustainable and inaccessible if the current trend of satellite launches continues and the existing space debris compounded over the years isn’t cleared.

Outer Space has been a contested space for strategic military advantages, civilian services, and economic benefits among major global powers for several years. In recent years, the US has been critical of China and Russia’s exponential rise in space activities and passive-aggressive activities around its and other space assets. The US military urged the government to increase its offensive & defensive capabilities in outer space to protect its interests and assets. On top of the existing space debris, space accessibility, and sustainability issues, the US and its allies, official designation of Outer space as a warfighting domain increased the risk of a potential arms race in outer space. It’s a matter of time before space-faring nations develop and deploy offensive capabilities and modern weapons that aren’t restricted under the existing international space laws to protect and dominate the environment. The half-century-old international space treaties outperformed beyond expectations in restricting the weaponization of outer space, but they are evidently no longer effective in limiting the modern arms race. For the benefit of all humankind, the global community should pressure the space-faring nations to frame new international space treaties and laws to regulate activities in outer space and avoid an arms race. 

2020 Defense budget break down

What is the Defense Budget? 

    The United States defense budget, $690 billion in 2020, can be broken into five main categories: operation and maintenance, military personnel, Procurement, research and development, and military construction and family housing. The categories listed are the most significant percentages of the defense budget. 
Operation and Maintenance: 
o In 2020, the DoD spent roughly $283 billion on operation and maintenance. 
o Description: Operation and maintenance is the upkeep and deployment of the United States military force and equipment. Maintenance can also include environmental upkeep and restoration conservation, and pollution prevention. 
Military personnel 
o In 2020, the DoD spent roughly $159 billion on military personnel 
o Military personnel section of the budget pays active-duty soldiers, healthcare plans, pensions, and many other US military benefits that soldiers receive. 
o In 2020, the DoD spent roughly $138 billion on Procurement 
o Procurement, simply put, the military purchases around $138 billion worth of new equipment. 
Research and Development 
o In 2020, the DoD spent roughly $97 billion on Research and Development 
o Research and Development costs are spent on researching new technology and weapon systems for the military. Some may think that 97 billion is low compared to the amount of research, but most research and technology breakthroughs happen in the private market and are then procured by the military. 
Military Construction and Family housing 
o In 2020, the DoD spent roughly $7 billion on construction 
o Construction is simple like Procurement; the US military spends $7 billion on base construction and housing for military personnel’s families. 
    Understanding the military budget is essential to understanding what the Department of Defense is spending money on. The defense budget is highly politicized most of the time, but the spending makes sense. Factoring in the size and amount of benefits military members receive, the military personnel spending is significant. Also, with the size of the military and the constant need for military readiness, the military must spend large amounts of money on maintenance and training. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

A New Space Race?

    Over the past decade the United States has shown much interest in establishing itself as a major power outside of this world through the creation of space force. A space force in the United States will likely not become its own branch such as the army or air force, instead it is likely each branch will have its own section dedicated to cislunar security. There are a few reasons the United States is interested in increasing its influence in space. One of these reasons is for security. As the United States relies on its satellites for many things like communications and intelligence establishing a force that can ensure the protection of these satellites will be important moving forward. This is because the United States is not the only country looking to establish itself outside of our atmosphere. 


            In the first space race the United States faced off against Russia in an effort to achieve superior space flight capabilities. While most people deem the United States to be the winner of the original space race there is no guarantee they will again come out victorious. Times are not the same as they were, and the circumstances have changed. The United States is no longer fighting against Russia for cislunar superiority but China. China currently upholds that its interest in space is purely scientific and not related to security or superiority. Despite this there have been multiple instances of dishonesty from China in the past and many believe the United States needs to be prepared should Chinese interests prove to be false yet again.


Like the players, the goals of this race are different as well. The United States and China are not competing to simply place a man on the moon. The competition is now to establish a superior presence in space. The United States is supposedly working towards this goal by planning and preparing for spy satellites to send into orbit and a lunar surveillance system. China has chosen to go a different route by publicly announcing plans to work towards a permanent base on the moon. A base on the moon would be particularly beneficial to whomever should establish it first. It would allow that country some control over the moon and the space around it, and it would aid in efforts to secure and control vital satellites. 


It should be noted that both the United States and China are likely at least a few decades away from establishing any kind of effective presence in space. Despite this, it is still important for each country to think about how it moves forward. While the situation as it stands now is not as competitive as the space race between the United States and Russian there is still potential for it to become that way. There is a thin line between protection and provocation that each country must toe in its efforts to advance. The United States will have to work to carefully navigate the challenges that come with a Chinese effort to establish cislunar presence. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

A reality check of ‘Hype’rsonic Weapons

 A reality check of ‘Hype’rsonic Weapons


Hypersonic weapons' development and deployment have garnered much international attention in the last few years. Worldwide, media outlets describe hypersonic weapons as unstoppable weapons with existing ballistic missile defense systems. Also, they are projecting them as a new class of weapons with a severe potential to destabilize status quo security dynamics between great powers in the international system. The media outlet's claims are grounded on some of the estimates of militaries and global security experts. 


            The development of hypersonic weapons is an evolution in the development of missile capabilities. Hypersonic weapons are missiles that travel four times and above the speed of sound (Mach 4 = >). Indeed, hypersonic weapons are a new class of weapons, but they are not new or revolutionary. The Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) travel close to Mach 20-24 during their terminal phase (descent) before hitting the target. Also, we have had supersonic cruise missiles (Example: BrahMos) for years that travel between 1<Mach<3. 


Many countries worldwide are working on developing and deploying hypersonic weapons with dedicated operations capabilities in air, land, and sea war domains. So far, Russia is leading the so-called hypersonic arms race, following China and the US. Russia deployed hypersonic weapons (Avangard, Tsirkon, Kinzhal) in air, land, and sea domains. China has one operational hypersonic weapon (DF-17) and tested many. The US is working intensely to catch up with Russia and China, and its weapons are in the testing phase.  


The picture was taken from Cameron L. Tracy and David Wright's work "Modeling the Performance of Hypersonic Boost-Glide Missiles.


Hypersonic weapons are insanely fast and travel in a depressed trajectory, unlike ballistic missiles. However, hypersonic weapons can be tracked through their heat signature using space-based infrared systems, contrary to popular belief. According to Federation of American Scientists simulation data, hypersonic weapons don't offer a significant advantage compared to ballistic missiles over Intercontinental distances as many claims to be. As Tracy and Wright's work suggests, ballistic missiles fired with a depressed trajectory have better delivery time than hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons' advantage is that maneuverability during their terminal or descent phase determines nearly impossible to specify the target. These weapons are deadly in the short and medium ranges due to their low trajectory, making it challenging to track till the last few minutes and short travel time. Few countreis are working towards addressing the hypersonic missile threats by developing new defense systems and counter weapons. Without question, hypersonic weapons capabilities have the potential to destabilize the international security dynamics to a certain extent for some time, but the hype built around them exceeds their capabilities in reality.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Infighting in the US military

Infighting in the US Military

 Interservice rivalry 

The United State Defense Department comprises the Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines, Coast guard, and Space force. Each of the groups must divide the defense budget between themselves each year. Each year leaders of each branch will argue over who gets a budget increase. 

In the past, the defense budget was divided up into the five main divisions of the military. Either through new equipment acquisition or research and development of new technology. When The Trump administration created the Space force, a new hand reached into the cookie jar.  

The Space Force has created recent controversy in the Defense Department in terms of the budget and the specific roles the Space Force will focus on. Some of the parts revolve around protecting US military assets in space, control over missiles, and control over intelligence satellites, communications, and GPS technology currently in space. The problem begins to arise when the Space Force takes responsibilities away from other branches. The Air Force and other DOD agencies control missiles, satellites, and additional space-related objectives that would shift to the Space Force resulting in budget cuts. A similar example would be the Coast Guard competing with the Navy or the Marines competing with the Army. Each of these separate branches is competing for overlapping capabilities. 


Implications of the interservice rivalry can be positive or negative. Competition can push each branch toward healthy competition to produce and maintain cutting-edge equipment with as little overspending as possible. Keeping specific roles for each department will allow them to focus on their aspects and become less likely to spread. Negatively the rivalry between services can bleed over to fundamental mistrust and lack of cohesion, hurting the overall effectiveness of the military force.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Private Military Contractors Actions Need Global Community Scrutiny

The use of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) in conflict zones worldwide increased significantly in the past two decades. Some estimates suggest that the global market for mercenaries and PMCs is around $100 billion and is set to rise in the future. Most private military companies are from the US, UK, and Russia. The use of private military companies attracted global attention during the Iraq war and Russia's use of little green man during the Crimea annexation in 2014. In recent years, their services sort extensively by many African nations. Some of the well-known private military companies are Wagner group (Russia), Academy (Previously Blackwater, USA), Define Internacional (Peru), Aegis Defense Services (UK), etc.,


            Countries are increasingly seeking private military companies' services to reach their military objectives in conflicts zones in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan. Using private military companies gives leverage for countries to avoid the democratic institutions' scrutiny of states' actions, the international backlash against operations in other sovereign nations, deny states involvement, and cut down the military expenses in the long run. Some African countries with low-skilled and equipped militaries are hiring private military companies to fight insurgency and, in some cases, overthrow the governments. Private Military Companies' services are not limited to fighting; they support intelligence gathering, training security forces, providing logistical support to militaries in conflict zones, aiding security for UN development work, and others.


            PMCs and Mercenaries are mostly former elite military personnel with years or decades of battlefield experience. The difference is that mercenaries are individuals open for hiring by any entity seeking their services, and PMCs work for a registered company that acts as intermediaries between PMCs and the entities seeking their services. Mercenaries were deemed illegal under the 1989 "International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries." But Private Military Companies are legal and operate under the state laws where they are registered. 


Most Private Military Companies' are operating in a legal grey area. In the last two decades, there have been several instances where PMCs were involved in killing innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. There were no explicit laws framed in private military companies registered countries to address the battlefield crimes conducted by PMCs in foreign countries. So far, the US, UK, and Russia, with most PMCs, were not interested in addressing the issue. The lack of repercussions for PMCs' extrajudicial killings would set a dangerous precedent for the future. With PMCs' increasing role in conflict zones worldwide, it is high time for the international community, especially PMCs registered countries, to support the UN code of conduct and operating framework for private military companies. Without a globally agreed framework for PMCs, the global community falls short of addressing scenarios such as what will happen when countries designate PMCs and companies as terrorist organizations; who is accountable for PMCs' war crimes; who will pay reparations to PMCs victims; the role of PMCs registered countries, etc.,

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Do We Need PMF's?

     Private military firms have been around for as long as history can date back. The idea of mercenaries were pretty much the only means of fighting back in the medieval and renaissance eras. The lack of a robust state infrastructure forced empires like Rome and Carthage to find a means of protection and security, paying soldiers solely to fight whether they are members of that specific empire or not. Coming out of the renaissance age, more structured states started to develop and the need for mercenaries rapidly declined. Even so, there are companies of this sort in today's society providing more means than just military executions. 

    The main motivating factor for these individuals involved in PMF's is profit, rather than political or social gain. When means of a conventional, state authorized army are unable to successfully protect or defend that state, other means such as PMF's come in as an added device at disposal. In today's modern society, there are different varieties for PMF services and different companies across the world. 

    A provider PMF is the most commonly known service, the direct military capability. A state or non state actor can hire a firm, give them the objective, and that company will carry out the task whether that be taking over land or killing a certain number of people. Next is the consultant PMF's, these companies are still very involved but not solely focused on the execution of other people. The main focus is the training and advice of local military forces hired by governments not located in the same area. The third option is support. This focuses on logistics and capabilities to carry out a task by other military means. These types of firms obtain the largest market amongst the three and can supply traditional armed forces with things such as food, ammo, and communication means from all over the world. So, are any of these means really necessary in today's world?

    The world's political climate today has shown that nothing goes without notice of the public eye. Looking at past occurrences such as the vietnam war demonstrates how difficult it may be for office holders to send their troops into a war. These PMF's come into play as a backdoor option, no congress approval or nationwide backing is necessary to hire a private firm to achieve military objectives. Because of state and international laws, it is increasingly difficult for a conventional army to achieve an objective without many legal obstacles. PMF's are radically more capable of quickly and successfully achieving an objective than host militaries. 

    The cost of employing and paying an entire host military becomes much more expensive in the long run than it does when paying a PMF upfront. Each soldier must go through extensive, costly training before even being deployed into a war, then afterwards is compensated with health benefits, retirement funds, and other long term pensions. PMF's are already trained with experience and paid upfront with no required long term pensions after the job is done

    While soldiers are stationed all over the world, necessary means such as food, water, shelter, and avid communication is required to keep those bases functioning and properly running. Support PMF's such as MPRI solely focuses on providing all of these capabilities. The U.S Army uses these firms even today while soldiers are stationed internationally, and without them the bases would run out of resources and unable to function. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Private Military Firms: A Necessary Good or An Unavoidable Evil?


    The concept of a nation utilizing private military firms (PMFs) is nothing new. Mercenaries doing the job of a nation’s soldiers date to the years of Ancient Rome and Carthage. My initial impression of PMFs is that they are corrupt businesses that do the work the military does not want to dirty its own hands with for a massive price. The ever-expanding defense budget can lead to the conclusion that they have enough money and personnel to carry out all their responsibilities without the need for contractors. This, of course, is not the reality of how the Pentagon and the defense industry works. 
    A US government report from March 2010 sheds light on the upsides of using private security contractors. This report was written during a post-9/11 surge in the reliance on PMFs. Criticism was frequent that PMFs in Iraq and Afghanistan were damaging the US’s image and our finances because companies like Blackwater make billions off such missions. Eager to dispel such criticisms, the government claimed that the State Department alone saves roughly $900 million a year using PMFs to protect US diplomats in Iraq rather than hiring US government employees. This data comes from the non-partisan Government accountability office. 
    The massive savings when using PMFs are that there are no government benefits like pensions, vacation time, or overtime guaranteed.  Frequently PMFs employ foreign nationals to carry out their missions at the request of the US government. Of the nearly 2000 contractors charged with guarding the US embassy in Bagdad in 2008, 89 percent were foreign nationals. If the State Department decided to hire the embassy’s security directly, the cost would increase significantly due to the desire not to employ third-country nationals or mercenaries. The Blackwater provided guards cost as much as $1,222 per day despite this. 
    One of the significant downsides of hiring PMFs is the lack of oversight by the Pentagon or Congress. Anytime taxpayer money is spent, in a perfect, the people would have a right to know that those making the decisions are accountable to their elected representatives. This demand is not met with PMFs by a long shot, but these companies are so embedded in the US military that reversing course now is not going to happen.  The savings of using PMFs will always outweigh the lack of oversight. 

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/blackwater-saves-taxpayers-money/story?id=10076105

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Wagner Group and Ukraine

    The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company that is sometimes referred to as a “proxy organization” of the government. The mercenaries have been involved in activities described as “working to suppress pro-democracy protests, spreading disinformation, mining for gold and diamonds, and engaging in paramilitary activity.” They have played an important role in spreading Russian influence across the globe. 

    The group was active in Ukraine during Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. They have also played a role in Syria fighting in support of the Assad regime, Libya, and Sudan. Additionally, they have been present in regions throughout Africa. Earlier this year, the mercenaries arrived in Mali to combat violent extremists after French forces withdrew. 

    As private military companies are illegal in Russia, the government has denied ties to the group, despite obvious connections. Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s Chef”, is said to financially support the Wagner Group. Dmitry Utkin, the founder of the Wagner Group, was a former lieutenant colonel in the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Members of the group also train at camps shared by Russian Special Forces and have been documented on Russian transport aircraft. 

    It is no surprise that the Wagner Group is playing a role in the current war in Ukraine. The UK government announced sanctions on the group and said the mercenaries are being used to assassinate Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky. 

    Before the invasion, they were deployed to enhance separatist forces. European and US officials said the mercenaries would be used in false flag operations, acting as Ukrainian forces attacking civilians. 

    Reports have now surfaced that the Wagner Group has increased its presence in Ukraine. In February, there were an estimated 300 members which has now increased to around 1,000. These additional mercenaries have been relocating from Libya and Syria, as well as their artillery, air defenses, and radar. Russian military aircraft have reportedly been used to support the move. Some leaders from the group are also expected to arrive in Donetsk and Luhansk. The new influx in personnel are said to support the fight against Ukraine’s forces in the Donbas region. 

    It seems Wagner Group mercenaries are now taking on a larger role in the conflict. Although the total numbers of mercenaries in Ukraine remains low, the slow increase threatens the strong resistance of Ukrainian forces. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Lethal Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

 Lethal Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War 

    Many countries around the world are rapidly developing their artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. There are many applications for AI technology, but the most enticing use seems to be for defense. But what role will AI technology really play in future conflicts? 

    AI can be useful in identifying enemy weapons systems, pin-pointing high-value targets using facial recognition, translating texts for intelligence collection, and various other information operations. These actions are valuable as they reduce workload and improve productivity. However, many fear what the future of this technology will look like on the battlefield as many global superpowers may have a more sinister use in mind. 

The future of AI might look like what people call “killer robots” or lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). These weapons could have the ability to eliminate targets without human decision-making. Some believe the benefits to this outweigh potential downfalls. Obvious reasons in support of the use of LAWS would be the lower human and political costs. Removing soldiers from the battlefield seems too enticing to resist. 

Others have argued the risks are not worth the rewards. LAWS can upset international law and security. Removing human decision-making can also remove accountability. What happens if the technology makes a mistake? Additionally, if not controlled, LAWS could end up in the wrong hands (if there are even right hands for this  technology). What if terrorist organizations develop their own LAWS?

But LAWS may be entering the battlefield sooner rather than later. The US, Russia, China, Turkey and several others have already began experimenting with and testing AI technology and LAWS. As Russia has already demonstrated its use of controversial weapons during the war in Ukraine, such as the cluster bomb, some fear LAWS are just the next step. A National Security Council Report from 2021 stated the Turkish Kargu-2 drone was used in Libya to autonomously hunt down and destroy targets, a reminder that the future is closer than we think. 

The need to control AI technology on the battlefield is becoming more urgent. Recent attempts toward regulation have been made, such as AI guidelines issued by the Department of Defense and the EU’s AI Act, but it may already be too late. A world that previously seemed beyond our reach, only present in otherworldly sci-fi novels and movies, may soon resemble the modern battlefield.  

Friday, March 25, 2022

Making hay with TB-2s

One of the most surprising developments in the Russian-Ukraine war is the effective ways Ukraine has been able to use Turkish made TB-2 drones. These TB-2 drones have been described as the Toyota Corolla of UAVs. According to the metaphor, it may not be able to everything the fancy sports car can do, but it can do 80% of that, which for a price tag of just under $2 million is pretty good. 

Many experts are shocked at the impact these drones are making. They are medium altitude, slow flying aircraft which should make them easy to shoot down for the advanced air defense systems in the Russian arsenal. The terrain is open and provides good radar coverage, so the drones shouldn't be difficult for the Russians to detect. One possible reason the drones aren't getting shot down could be the cost of the surface-to-air missile (SAM) required to shoot them down outweighs the benefit. Another reason could be the Ukrainian army has found opportune moments to use them, striking Russian convoys perhaps when defenses are lower than normal. We cannot be sure of the exact reasons at this time, but it is something to watch as the war continues. Some experts are predicting that effective use of the TB-2 will decline as Russia establishes stronger air defense capabilities, but until then they will be vital tools in slowing or blocking the Russian advance. 

In addition, the Ukrainians have found another interesting way to use the TB-2s. They are sharing the videos of successful TB-2 strikes, which has several effects in the information warfare domain. The use of these drones serves as proof that the Russians have not established air dominance. This fact and the video proof their army striking valuable Russian targets keeps Ukrainian morale high. These videos are often widely shared on websites like Twitter, providing short clips which make the Ukrainian look effective. All of these factors combine for an international effect: this keeps many citizens of NATO countries hopeful for Ukrainian success which keeps public support for providing aid to Ukraine high. This aid is crucial for Ukraine to continue resisting Russian advances and conduct counter offensives of their own. 

As mentioned above, we cannot be sure how much longer the Ukrainians will be able to make effective use of their TB-2s, but as the old saying goes "make hay while you can make hay." Right now, the Ukrainians are certainly "making hay" with their TB-2s. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Why Ukraine gave up inherited nuclear weapons?


The ongoing Russian war against Ukraine rekindled the debate about Ukraine’s nuclear arsenals it inherited post-Soviet Union collapse. Pundits and policy experts debated whether Ukraine’s decision to give up its nuclear weapons is bad, and holding onto them could have protected it from Russian aggression. Ukraine’s decision to give up its nuclear weapons is driven by a combination of several factors that are superficially discussed in the debates. 

Newly formed Ukraine state inherited 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 1240 strategic nuclear weapons, around 3000 tactical nuclear weapons and several dozen nuclear-capable strategic bombers loaded with missiles. The fleet of nuclear weapons and delivery capabilities that existed in the territorial boundaries of Ukraine made it the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal country. Contrary to majority perception, Ukraine never had operational control over the nuclear arsenal exited in its territory. They are controlled by Moscow and protected by the Soviet rocket forces. Also, Ukraine’s intention of obtaining operational control over nuclear weapons was threatened by Russia with military action. Gradually, over the course of several years, Ukraine transferred all nuclear weapons in the country to Russia for dismantling. All the ICBMs, launch sites, and silos were destroyed with the support of millions of dollars received through the US’s Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. The United States had a deep concern about nuclear weapons security in newly emerged Independent Soviet Countries. It persuaded newly formed countries to give up nuclear weapons in return for economic assistance to rebuild the country. Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan received security assurances (no use of military or economic coercion) from the Russian Federation, the US and the UK under the Budapest Memorandum signed in 1994 for returning their nuclear weapons.

    Going by the arguments of many, Ukraine holding onto nuclear weapons would outweigh the benefits it would receive by giving it up in 1991 for the following reasons. Ukraine's inherited nuclear infrastructure, talent pool and weapons require constant maintenance, and it costs millions of dollars which it can not afford. Russian Federation emerged as inheritor of the Soviet Union showed a willingness to use coercion to recover nuclear weapons from newly emerged states. Further, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan strongly needed western nations' economic and political support to build the country and attain international recognization. The decisions taken by the Ukraine government in 1991 were based on the political, economic, and social situations of that time. No one has foreseen the war with Russia or the geopolitical dynamics that led to the current state of affairs in 1991 to alter their decision. Instead of scrutinising the merits of the past decisions, the international community should persuade Russia and Ukraine to find a diplomatic resolution to end the war. Also, should step up efforts to strengthen the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Debate About Drones and Presidential Power

    In the past twenty years, technological advances in robotics have entirely changed the way battles are fought. Drones, in particular, have been utilized by the US military in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East since 9/11. The use of drones has many perceived benefits, including avoiding US casualties, lower costs, tactical effectiveness, and fewer complications related to using a country’s airspace. Due to these benefits, Presidents of both parties and with different foreign policy goals have used drones to carry out significant military operations.
    Despite the positive points related to drones, frequent criticisms are leveled at the US military’s use of them. In May 2021, the Biden administration reluctantly released redacted documents regarding the rules for using lethal force against terror suspects abroad set during the Trump presidency. The documents clarify that the Trump administration had weakened the loose policy guidelines set by his predecessor President Obama. The new rules set aside any meaningful oversight by Congress or the judiciary of the use of lethal force, including through drones. 
    President Joe Biden’s first year in office may point to a change in drone policy compared to his three predecessors. Biden did not authorize a single drone strike in his first six months. This ceasefire was ended in July 2021 with a series of strikes in Somalia against al-Shabab. A month later, the drone strike in Afghanistan caused ten civilian casualties, seven of them children. The outcome of this strike prompted severe criticism, particularly from congressional democrats, who called for systematic reforms centered on human rights and international law.
    Despite the unfortunate consequences of the administration’s drone strike last summer, there is a debate occurring on drone policies. The use of drones has been minimized, officials say as the review takes place. The future of drone warfare is uncertain since there is a clear split in the President’s party on how best to proceed. The tactic of the Obama administration was to rely heavily on drones, which during his term killed 3,797 people, including 324 civilians. On the other hand, many others believe that there should be greater oversight on executive authority in these decisions and respect for human rights. However, the one certain thing is that the debate about drones will go on for many years to come. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The Future of Robotics

     The rising technological advancements of robotic military use and artificial intelligence has peaked interest in popular hollywood movies, but what does the future of robotics really hold for the world? Robots are currently used in all aspects of the military, including ground vehicles, air drones, undersea attack drones, and much more remote operated technology. The majority of these robotics uses are for reconnaissance and smaller missioned bombings. 

    Every new advancement to the world has positives and negatives, but it seems the positives are heavily outweighing when it comes to the use of drones in military missions. This includes a decrease of casualties amongst soldiers because of the decline in on-foot missions. These robots are ultimately less expensive to make than it is to train and deploy soldiers as well as the positive of the robot not actually having a family back home waiting for them. These robots have the capability to loiter, reduce size of weapons, create a smaller cross-section, and have the ability to fly around for 20+ hours--whereas manned aircrafts require periods of rest. 

    Legal implications of robots have been applied in efforts to control correct and responsible operation. These include understanding what directing a robot to kill automatically implies, and whether they should continue to only be operated through human instruction. The law of robotics states; don't hurt humans, do what you're told, and don't hurt yourself. The intention is to prevent a "robot rebellion", or letting the advancements of technology and AI get out of human control. Combining autonomy with the power to kill becomes very dangerous and requires strict regulations on how to move forward with this military method. 

    Army developers continue to explain these robotics are working just as well if not better than expected in combat because of its ability to integrate a wide range of weapons and advance computer systems capable of processing information incredibly fast. The military is quickly becoming a multi-domain, working with manned-unmanned artificial intelligence robotics that are able to use algorithms to connect unique human cognition in efforts to more quickly receive and process data. 

    Companies are quickly developing more impressive technology to contribute to military robotics. One in particular known as REDOWL (Robotic Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers) has the ability to use lasers and sound detection to shoot down snipers or enemy targets with an instant detection system. In previous tests, this robot has proved 94% accurate and still undergoing improvements today. The future of robotics and AI is here and only increasing, but how far humans will let it go is still up for debate.