Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AMRAAM: Deploying & Developing America’s Medium-Range Air-Air Missile

Article from

AIM-120C AMRAAM Launch from F-22

Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade…

Some MRAAM History, and AMRAAM’s Design Approach

Before 1991, the combat record of all air-air missiles was generally poor – and most of the kills scored in combat belonged to short-range heat-seeking missiles. The USA entered Vietnam expecting that 70% of AIM-7 Sparrow missile shots would result in a kill. The real-world total was 8%, even though the USA faced older MiG 17-21 aircraft, rather than the newest Russian fighters.
That trend began to shift somewhat in the 1980s.The Falklands War had no aircraft on either side that could use medium-range air-air missiles, but Israeli F-15s and F-16s used AWACS and poor Syrian tactics to produce an 88-0 kill ratio in 1982. The F-15s’ medium-range AIM-7F Sparrow missiles performed better in terms of fire:kill ratios than they had in past conflicts, but the vast majority of kills were still made with Sidewinder or Python short-range missiles. Further afield, the Iran-Iraq War saw Iran’s F-14 Tomcats demonstrate good performance with their long-range Phoenix missiles, against Iraqi aircraft that often lacked radar warning receivers, and never saw the missiles coming. A reprise of sorts took place in 1991, when exceptional situational awareness and poor Iraqi tactics allowed US aircraft to score around 80% of their Iraqi air-air kills in 1991 with modernized AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range missiles.
The lessons that had led to the AMRAAM program still applied, however, and the conflicts in Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq demonstrated the potential value of longer-range missiles and some of their enabling technologies. That helped AMRAAM retain its support, despite initial development glitches and rising costs. It still aimed to remove the shortcomings that made the AIM-7 a somewhat dangerous weapon for its own side. The key lay in its new approach to guidance.
AIM-120A cutaway . Bigger picture here
In beyond-visual-range engagements, AMRAAM is guided initially by its inertial reference unit and microcomputer, which point it in the right direction based on instructions from the targeting aircraft or platform. A mid-course target location update can be transmitted directly from the launch radar system to correct that if necessary, an approach that may avoid triggering enemy radar warning receivers. In the final phase of tracking, however, the internal active radar seeker becomes completely independent and guides the missile through its own active lock-on. Most sources place its reported range at about 50 km/30 miles.
F/A-18C, fully loaded. Bigger picture here
When coupled with modern radars, AMRAAM’s guidance approach allows a fighter to launch and control many missiles at once, avoiding a dangerous fixation on one target. Its autonomous guidance capability also provides a pilot with critical range-preserving launch and leave capability, improving survivability and helping to avoid “mutual kill” situations. Even more advanced technologies are emerging that go one step further, and allow secure “hand-off” of a fired AMRAAM to another friendly fighter.
All of these abilities, of course, assume an air environment in which it is possible to use IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe), AWACS (Airborne Warning & Control Systems) aircraft, Link 16/MIDS, etc. to safely distinguish enemy aircraft from friendlies. This has been a problem in past conflicts, resulting in rules of engagement that force the use of visual identification before firing. Obviously, that negates many of the tactical advantages of having beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles.

Customers & Performance

AMRAAM is a joint U.S. Air Force and Navy program that achieved initial operational capability in 1991, and is still in brisk production over 20 years later. At least 28 other countries have also bought AMRAAM variants, which can be fitted to F-15s, F-16s, the F/A-18 family, F-22sF-35sEADS Eurofighters, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Germany’s aging F-4 Phantom IIs, the British/German/Italian Panavia consortium’s Tornado aircraft, and Britain’s Harriers can also carry them.
Dassault’s Mirage 2000v5 and later have been advertised at times as having this capability, but confirmation is weak, and the reports may have represented offers to add this capability. Dassault’s 4th generation Rafale aircraft is also listed in some venues as having AMRAAM capability, though Raytheon has never said so, and all Rafales currently operate with MBDA’s MICA missiles instead.
Even so, AMRAAM’s record of sales success has made it the global standard for medium-range AAMs, and the number of beyond visual range kills as a percentage of total air-to-air victories has risen sharply during the “AMRAAM era.”
What does this mean in practice for missile performance?
To date, RAND’s Project Air Force notes that AIM-120 missiles have demonstrated 10 kills in 17 firings, for a 59% kill rate. That’s a significant improvement over the AIM-7’s record, and AIM-120A and AIM-120C missiles split these kills equally. Victims have included an Iraqi MiG-25 and MiG-29, 6 Serbian MiG-29s, a Serbian J-21 Jastreb trainer/light attack jet, and the accidental downing of a US Army UH-60A helicopter. The last of these incidents occurred in 1999.
One caution regarding these figures is that both AMRRAM missiles, and electronics used for electronic countermeasures, have both advanced considerably in the dozen-plus since the missile’s last combat kill. A second set of cautions involves the circumstances of these victories. There are no reports of electronic countermeasures being used by any AMRAAM victim, none of these victims were equipped with beyond visual range weapons of their own, the Iraqi MiGs were fleeing and non-maneuvering, and the Serbian MiGs reportedly had inoperative radars.
These difficulties in assessing true BVRAAM (beyond visual range air-air missile) performance in the modern era are magnified by a corollary fact: None of AMRAAM’s competitors have been able to compile much of a performance record, either. With the end of recurring full-scale Arab wars against Israel, the globe’s top trial venue for full-scale warfare has evaporated, leaving few opportunities to put modern anti-aircraft systems to a real test.

AMRAAM: Upgrades & Derivatives

Subsequent modifications have produced improvements in a number of areas, but the AIM-120D is likely to be the first really large jump in AMRAAM capabilities from version to version. It should be noted, however, that incremental upgrades add up over time. An AIM-120C-6, for instance, is a generation beyond an AIM-120A in terms of its overall capabilities.
  • AIM-120B was first delivered in late 1994, had a number of electronics upgrades, from the guidance section to hardware modules and its processor. Its hardware was also reprogrammable, which is not possible with the AIM-120A.
  • AIM-120C missiles featured a change in shape, with smaller fins that would allow 3 missiles to be carried inside the F-22A Raptor’s stealth-maximizing internal weapons bays. A number of incremental updates brought it to AIM-120C-6 status, including guidance section upgrades, smaller control electronics, a slightly larger rocket motor, an improved warhead, and a target detection upgrade. The AIM-120C-7 is just entering production, with an improved seeker head, greater jamming resistance, and slightly longer range. At present, the AIM-120-C7 is also the most advanced AMRAAM approved for export beyond the USA.
  • US-only AIM-120D missiles will feature the C7 improvements, but the D version reportedly adds a very strong set of upgrades. Pentagon documents confirm the use of smaller system components; with an upgraded radar antenna, receiver & signal processor; GPS-aided mid-course navigation; an improved datalink; and new software algorithms. The new hardware and software is rumored to offer improved jamming resistance, better operation in conjunction with modern AESA radars, and an improved high-angle off-boresight “seeker cone,” in order to give the missile a larger no-escape zone. Less-publicized improvements reportedly include a dual-pulse rocket motor, for up to 50% more range and better near-target maneuvering. At present, the US will not export this missile.

    Other AMRAAM-Related Systems

    CLAWS. Bigger picture here    

    Other AMRAAM variants exist. The most interesting AMRAAM modification is NCADE, an R&D program designed to see if AMRAAMs modified with an AIM-9X Sidewinder’s infrared seeker and a 2nd stage rocket booster could be forward-deployed on fighters, and used to shoot down ballistic missiles during their lift-off phase.
    A parallel set of modifications and enhancements have seen AMRAAM missiles pressed into service in a surface-air missile role. Programs like Norway’s NASAMS, the USMC’s CLAWS (ended in 2006), etc. are often referred to by the umbrella term SLAMRAAM, for Surface Launched AMRAAM. SL-AMRAAM contractors include Raytheon, as well as Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace of Norway, and Boeing.
    The US Marines killed CLAWS in 2006, the same year the US Army’s SLAMRAAM passed its System Critical Design Review. The Army eventually teed up SLAMRAAM for cancellation as well, in January 2011, but the USA has a deployed system to protect the Washington DC area, and exports keep it alive and well. Kongsberg has sold its related Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) system to Norway, FinlandThe Netherlands, Spain, and the USA. There are rumors that a SLAMRAAM type system has been deployed in Egypt, and such systems have drawn official buying interest from ChileOman, and the UAE. The key to effective deployment is integrating the system, and its accompanying IFCS control system and AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radars, with a country’s wider air defense command and control systems.
    The 3 surface launchers for AMRAAM at present include the 8-missile “universal launcher” which can be mounted on medium trucks, the 5-missile CLAWS for smaller vehicles, and the 6-missile fixed NASAMS. All 3 launcher types provide 360 degree coverage, with a 70 degree off boresight capability – i.e. a 140 degree target acquisition cone. In June 2007, Raytheon announced more SLAMRAAM upgrades via options to add SL-AMRAAM-ER extended range variants (likely via a rocket booster on the missiles), and an AIM-120 variant with an AIM-9X infrared seeker. The latter would allow a mix-and-match combination of radar/infrared SAM sets, similar to the Spyder, VL-MICA, etc. being fielded by international rivals. On which topic…

    AMRAAM’s International Competitors

    AA-12 R-77-RVV AE on MiG-29
    R-77/AA-12 on MiG-29
    (click to view full)
    The AMRAAM’s most prominent global competitors, in declining order of prominence, include:
    Russia’s Vympel R-77, also known as the AA-12 Adder and colloquially called the ‘AMRAAMski’. It is a larger missile with a similar guidance approach, and reportedly offers a slightly longer range, varying from 60-90 km (36-54 miles) depending on assessments of its drag coefficient. It looks a bit like the French MICA missiles, but its “screen door” or “potato masher” tail fins are its most distinguishing characteristic. Comparisons of its maneuverability, electronics, and hence its fire:kill effectiveness ratio remain a matter of speculation in public-domain circles, and there are also reports that the R-77 can be launched and ‘handed off’ to another aircraft. This has tactical implications, as discussed by one DID source:
    “The ‘cobra’ maneuver… where the Flanker pitchers [vertically] to over 100 degrees is not a stunt, it is a missile launch maneuver for a over-the-shoulder launch on a passing head-on target by an IMFIL missile, as briefed to me by the Director of TsAGI. German Zagainov.”
    The R-77 can equip modern SU-30 fighters like the SU-30MK2, modernized SU-27s, and some of the most modern MiG-29/35 offerings as well. There are also reports that India has even fitted the missile to its upgraded MiG-21 ‘Bisons,’ leveraging their new Phazotron Kopyo radars and upgraded avionics.
    There are reports that the coming RVV-MD upgrade may extend the missile’s range to 110 km. A R-77M ramjet version has reportedly been developed with 150+ km range, but confirmation of the ramjet program’s success and status remain sketchy. Firmer reports2 now exist re: Russia’s ongoing development of the Novator K-100-1, which is based on the KS-172 missile instead; it will have a reputed range of 200-400 km.
    Meteor Launched
    Meteor BVRAAM
    MBDA’s Meteor, which also includes Saab in the development group and adds Boeing as its American partner. The Meteor stems from Europe’s different fighter design philosophy and acquisition timing. Their 4th generation fighters were introduced in the 1990s, and feature less stealth than the F-22A or F-35. The Eurofighter, Gripen, and Rafale can be fitted with existing missiles like AMRAAM or MICA, but ultimately the Euro vision was that air supremacy against threats like the SU-30/R-77 combination required a long range (100 km/ 60 miles or more) missile – one with extreme maneuverability and ramjet propulsion that gives it Mach 4 powered flight to the very end of its range, rather than the “burn and coast” approach of most missiles. The Meteor is that missile, and it is currently undergoing testing and evaluation; it’s expected in-service around 2011.
    Initial platforms for the Meteor BVRAAMs will include Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen, EADS/BAE Eurofighter, and Dassault’s Rafale. MBDA has announced that it will be modified in future to fit the F-35’s stealth-enhancing weapon bays, and given its characteristics, it also seems like a natural future upgrade for older planes like Tornados and F/A-18s. Forecast International sees MBDA as Raytheon’s biggest overall air-air missile competitor in the coming years.
    MICA-RF-IR on Rafale
    Rafale w. MICA-RF & IR
    (click to view full)
    MBDA’s MICA family. MBDA inherited MICA from the French firm Matra. It uses a guidance philosophy similar to AMRAAM’s, and has very good maneuverability. MBDA posts its range as 60 km. What’s different is that it comes in 2 versions, and is designed for use at all engagement distances. The MICA IR version uses infrared homing, like many short-range AAMs. This allows it to be used at close range, or used to conduct no-warning attacks at longer ranges, using advanced IRST (InfraRed Search and Track) type optronics that have become common on 4+ generation fighters. The MICA RF uses active radar guidance like AMRAAM, and is in service with France, Qatar and Taiwan.
    MBDA’s truck-mounted air defense version is imaginatively named the Vertical Launch MICA, and its ability to carry IR-guided MICA missiles allows effective operation in environments where turning on one’s radar will attract enemy strikes.
    RAFAEL’s Derby. Derby 4 looks a lot like AMRAAM, but it’s actually based on Israel’s own well-developed missile technology. It lists a 50 km effective range like AMRAAM, but this is questionable given its size and commonalities with the shorter-range Python 4; some observers place its range closer to 30 km. Derby 4 has been updated with a new seeker, has lock-on after launch capability for snap employment in short-range aerial engagements, and features its own programmable ECCM (Electronic Counter-Countermeasures) technologies. Apparently, it still lacks an in-flight datalink, and must rely on last-reported position before switching to active mode. Derby has been exported to a few countries, but is not yet in what one might call widespread use. This detailed review may prove useful.
    Derby has a ground-launched air defense system too: the Spyder combines 4 truck-mounted Derby and short-range 5th generation IR/imaging-guided Python 5 missiles, to create a versatile system adapted for use against a wider range of threats. A new Spyder 6×6 truck version was unveiled at Eurosatory 2006 that offered 8 missiles in any mix and puts boosters on all missiles to improve their range and performance. Customers include India’s order for 18 SPYDER systems of 5 vehicles each, and Peru’s buy of 6 systems.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Carrier Signal: China’s Naval Aviation

Article from


In 1998, the former Russian carrier Varyag was bought by a Chinese firm for use as a “tourist attraction.” Nobody believed that, and by 2005, she was in drydock for secret refits. Still, a carrier needs planes. Near the end of October 2006, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper revealed that Russian state-run weapon exporter Rosoboronexport was in negotiations with China to deliver SU-33s, a variant of Sukhoi’s SU-27 Flanker with forward canards, foldings wings, an arrester hook, a reinforced structure, and other modifications that help it deal with carrier operations and landings.
By 2009, Russian media were reporting a breakdown of negotiations, citing low order numbers and past pirating of Russian SU-27/30 designs. China built on that prior piracy to produce its SU-33 look-alike “J-15,” with the reported assistance of an SU-33 prototype bought from the Ukraine. It’s now 2012, and China’s myriad deceptions have served their purpose. They don’t have an active carrier force yet, but they’re very close.

A Carrier for China

The PLA Navy has made contradictory statements regarding its wish to have an operational aircraft carrier, but most expert observers believed they were working on a program to do so. Those beliefs were correct.
China’s Dalian Shipyard refitted the 65,000t ex-Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Varyag (previously Riga), which the “Chong Lot Travel Agency” acquired from the Ukraine in 1998 for $20 million. She was in in extremely poor condition, as one might expect of any ship after a decade or more of serious neglect. Indeed, she spent 16 months under commercial tow circling in the Black Sea, while negotiations proceeded with the nervous Turks to allow her to be towed through the critical Bosporus Strait. The Turks didn’t have anything against China, per se. They were just afraid that the ship’s size and condition would result in a shipping disaster. After a long trip, Varyag arrived in China in 2002, and entered drydock in 2005.
China’s assurances that the Varyag was destined to be a floating hotel were ludicrous on their face, and very soon they were sharply at variance with the ship’s observable paint job. Nobody with a gram of sense ever believed the cover story. The real question was whether the Chinese believed they could bring Varyag up to operational status, or whether they planned to just use the ship as a learning platform, in preparation for their own construction efforts later.
The carrier was commissioned in 2012 as the Liaoning, and there is every indication that China plans to make it fully operational. Weapons have been fitted, including close-in gatling guns and short-range air defense missiles.
Real operation, however, requires planes.
In October 2006, reported that China would spend $100 million to buy 2 Su-33 fighters from Komsomolsk-on-Amur Production Association for ‘trial and evaluations,’ with delivery expected in 2007-08. Reports claimed there was also an agreed option for another 12 Su-33 fighters, with the potential for the deal to grow to 48 SU-33s and $2.5 billion.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this was simply a ploy to rip off Russia’s design. Russia backed out of the sale, and tried to negotiate a much larger up front commitment from China.
Unfortunately for the Russians, the Chinese acquired an SU-33 prototype from the Ukraine, married it to their past experience copying SU-27/30 fighters, and created the “J-15” instead.
China landed a J-15 on the Liaoning in late 2012, opening the way to a true naval aviation force. With 2 more locally-built carriers underway, that force can be expected to grow quickly. American naval observers keep stressing the decade-long amount of time required to train and field an effective carrier force, but China has a wealth of engineering talent, and a large aviation force to draw on. Don’t be surprised if the Chinese beat American predictions by a comfortable margin.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Latest China Fighter jet J-15 landing on aircraft carrier LIAONING ( refurbish Soviet era aircraft carrier).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking the "Devil's neck"

Renavigating South-East Asia

FROM Naypyidaw, the “abode of kings” (in Burmese anyway), a clique of former generals who earned their stripes fighting wars in the country’s interior are now trying to manage the international race for access to Myanmar’s 1,200km-long (750-mile) coastline. The new capital they built for their country, to replace Yangon its main commercial city and port, is farther from the sea than any other in East or South-East Asia that is not landlocked.
One of the side effects of the generals’ decision to swap their uniforms for civilian dress, as they did last year, has been to transform a centuries-old idea: a new shipping lane, to connect East Asia to South Asia. A grand old dream is dying, as newer, more manageable projects spring suddenly into being. What was once a puzzle—how to break a waterway through the South-East Asian landmass—has become instead a rush to circumvent smaller-scale obstacles, like antiquated ports and unpaved wilds, to speed trade around the Asian continent.
There is more at stake than the Burmese hinterland. As it is, there are no major ports anywhere on the Asian landmass between Kolkata in India and Penang in Malaysia. Now that the country is opening to investors from all quarters, there is no shortage of suitors striving to gain access to Myanmar’s coast.
It is pipelines, expected to generate $29 billion in revenue for Myanmar over the next 30 years, which are arguably the most important project along this long stretch of coast that ships can’t cross. These will radically change the route that brings Middle Eastern oil into China. Eventually the equivalent of 10% of China’s current annual oil imports will travel through this vexed corridor. The new construction should relieve China’s anxiety about the strategic vulnerability imposed by its reliance on the Malacca strait; at present, fourth-fifths of its energy imports pass through that narrow channel near Singapore.
Kings, mandarins and engineers had long contemplated ways of cutting straight through the South-East Asian peninsula, to open a passage for ships. A hot favourite for the past 350 years was the notion of digging a canal across the Isthmus of Kra, in southern Thailand, which divides the Bay of Bengal from the Gulf of Siam, and India’s ports from East Asia’s. In 1677 King Narai of Ayutthaya commissioned a famous French engineer to contrive a way to get ships over the land bridge, which—though conspicuously narrow—in parts has an elevation of 75m metres.
That 17th-century Frenchman failed, but the dream stayed on for generations. Modern ships had hoped to save between 28 and 40 hours by using a canal through Kra. In the decades since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy, in 1932, its governments have commissioned more than 20 studies into how to cut through that tantalising isthmus, popularly known as the “the Devil’s Neck”.
There were political problems with the plan however, to go with the enormous engineering challenge. Any channel through Kra would have created a watery, man-made barrier that cut off the ethnic-Malay, Muslim-dominated south of Thailand from the rest of the kingdom. This would have been politically inconvenient during any period, but especially so in recent years, when Thailand’s four southern provinces are racked by an insurgency.
Bigger picture click here
Some of the region’s earliest mapmakers were convinced that a short cut to avoid the “claws of Malacca” must already exist somewhere. An optimistic bunch of them depicted a curious feature on their early maps of Malaya—a trans-peninsular waterway some distance south of the mid-point of the peninsula (visible in this map, to the left, if you reverse north and south). A Portuguese chartmaker, Godinho de Eredia, who served as the officer in charge of exploration and discovery of the peninsula, just barely avoided that delusion. He labelled the best trans-peninsular trade route (which involved dragging cargo overland between the sources of two rivers) as a “drag-way or portage”.
Which brings us back to reality, and the newest plan for a trans-peninsular pathway. Forming what is to be the biggest drag-way of the modern era, some 1,500km north of the one described by Eredia, the two South-East Asian neighbours mean to construct a $1 billion highway connecting Thailand’s Laem Chabang port, via Bangkok, to the yet-to-be-built deep-sea port in Dawei, in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region. Both governments have stepped up efforts to get the Dawei seaport project off the ground. Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, agreed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September that building Dawei will be a priority.
This marks a break with the policy of Ms Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who ordered a national commission to study the feasibility of a maritime channel at Kra shortly after he took office. To dig or not to dig? That is no longer the question. Instead the slightly more modest goal has become to build an overland passage. The drag-way is to become a multi-purpose corridor, for rail, road and pipeline alike. Land prices along the Thai side have surged. In some areas of Kanchanaburi province, they have shot up tenfold. Dawei promises to cut the shipping time between Bangkok and the Indian port of Chennai from six days to three, by circumventing the congested Malacca straits.
So far, so good. But how valuable is the connection in the first place, and to whom? If the India trade were like the China trade, those three days saved might make a lot of sense. But Thailand’s annual trade with India is worth only one twelfth the kingdom’s trade with China. So the commercial case for the $50 billion project is at least debatable, from the Thai point of view.
To what extent a port some 600km south of Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, will help Myanmar trade with India is a separate question (for Myanmar, the development of a deep-sea port and industrial complex at Thilawa, 30km from Yangon and well-situated for its China trade, is much more important). But no matter, for Dawei is—and the Thais will say this openly, when there are no Burmese present—a Thai project. The biggest construction company in Thailand, Italian-Thai, holds the 75-year concession to develop and operate the Dawei project.
Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board claims to think the project will raise Thailand’s annual GDP by an implausible 1.9%. Put differently, the board believes the project to be a tremendous sort of stimulus: according to its estimate, Dawei would shorten the time it takes for their national economy to double in size, from 14 years to just ten.
The better case for Dawei is based on geopolitics. In private, Thailand’s tycoons are wondering whether America’s interest in countering Chinese influence might turn Dawei into a business opportunity for them. Thailand’s military allies, America and Japan, are trailing hopelessly behind China in the race for maritime access and political and economic influence with its immediate neighbours. In October Myanmar was invited to attend a major American- and Thai-led multinational military exercise. The speculation is that a great flow of American dollars might chase any Thai initiative to boost trade and strategic ties to bind the two sides of South-East Asia.
India too, though a latecomer to the battle to open up the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal, has been making quiet progress. It is at work on a deep-water port in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state in Myanmar, 539km from Kolkata. India has touted the Sittwe port as a “trade gateway” for its own landlocked north-eastern states. A combined conduit of dredged riverbed, road and pipeline for Burmese gas is to connect the seaport to a river port at Paletwa in Myanmar’s Chin state. From the Chin hills, goods could flow up to Myeikwa, on the border with the remote Indian state of Mizoram. The project is supposed to be operational by mid-2013.
China has already secured direct access to Myanmar’s coast and the gas-rich Bay of Bengal. An 800km-long gas-and-oil pipeline, with a nice road alongside and an enormous security detail, will come online next year. Those pipelines will run from Kyauk Pyu, theepicentre of Burmese violence against the Rohingya minority and a site earmarked for the development of a massive, Chinese-backed port and economic zone, in the restive Rakhine state, via Mandalay, and through war-torn Kachin state, before entering China’s Yunnan province. In a move to steal a march on India, China last month chipped in $200m to upgrade an airport in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, near a potential deep-water port which could serve the landlocked parts of India, Myanmar and China. In all directions, the race is on.
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Hamas Rocket In Gaza

To see bigger picture pls click here

A Potential Cease-Fire and the New Regional Dynamic

Update By Stratfor


The proliferation of players in the current Israeli-Hamas cease-fire negotiations highlight the major shift in the regional strategic environment since the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, calling into question the sustainability of any potential truce.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Israel overnight Nov. 20 and rumors are rapidly spreading of an imminent cease-fire agreement. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has also confidently claimed Nov. 20 that "the war will end today," but statements out of Israel have been far more reserved. The Times of Israel, citing Egyptian intelligence officials, reported that Israel has rejected the cease-fire draft and that there will no news conference announcing a cease-fire tonight. 

The core dilemma remains: If Hamas or any other Palestinian entity can threaten Israel's major population centers with long-range Fajr-5 rockets, what guarantees can Egypt or another third party make to neutralize that supply and prevent further shipments? The fact that another Fajr-5 rocket was fired at Jerusalem on Nov. 20 while thousands of Israeli troops remain forward-deployed in preparation for a ground invasion adds urgency to this question. 

Stratfor has learned that the Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Clinton will be studying with the Israelis entails an agreement by the major Palestinian factions to cease rocket attacks against Israel. In return, Egypt would send monitors to Gaza to enforce the cease-fire -- though no details were provided on whether Egypt would secure or remove the remaining rockets from Gaza and what Egypt would do to prevent replenishments from entering Gaza if the border is reopened. Israel would discontinue its policy of targeted killings and, at a later stage, would allow the opening of the Rafah crossing on a regular basis. Rumors continue to percolate on the terms of the cease-fire proposal, and the above claims could not be verified, but these terms do fit with the likely parameters of the negotiation.

The problem is that Israel does not trust the Muslim Brotherhood-led government to enforce the cease-fire agreement. As a result, the United States is taking a more active role in the negotiation. Egyptian diplomatic sources are claiming that the Palestinian Fajr-5 rocket arsenal is dwindling, but will the United States play a role in verifying the Egyptian figures and removing the rockets from Gaza? What role, if any, will the United States play in monitoring the Sinai-Gaza border for future weapons shipments? That much remains unclear. The role of Egyptian intelligence and military figures from the Mubarak era is critical in these negotiations. Though the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has been in the diplomatic spotlight, there are indications that Egyptian intelligence chief Mohamed Raafat Shehata has been heavily involved in the negotiations with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel behind the scenes. Shehata is reportedly delivering a news conference this evening, at which point a truce may be announced. 

There is also another layer of complexity to factor in. Hamas is not the sole representative of the Palestinians in Cairo. Egyptian mediators have been negotiating with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The latter, which has much closer links to Iran (which likely has an interest in prolonging the conflict), has claimed responsibility for firing several Fajr-5 rockets and is allegedly part of a joint military command with Hamas that is controlling the long-range rocket attacks. 

Stratfor sources in Egypt, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have separately claimed that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is in control of at least some of the Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets and launchers. If this is true, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad is not simply serving as a convenient front for Hamas, then Hamas' commitment to a cease-fire must involve Palestinian Islamic Jihad. To this end, Palestinian Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Mohammed Shallah has been in Cairo for negotiations over a cease-fire and has been dealing with both Hamas and Egypt. An Egyptian source claims that Morsi has held frequent meetings with Shallah in trying to obtain guarantees on a cessation of rocket attacks. For now, it appears those talks are bearing fruit and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are on the same page in moving toward a cease-fire. The questions now are whether Israel feels a ground operation is still necessary and whether it has exhausted the diplomatic negotiations to move ahead.

Gone are the days when Egyptian intelligence could mediate a truce between Israel and Hamas alone. The shifting dynamics over the past year -- from the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Hamas' decision to publicly distance itself from Iran and position itself in the Muslim Brotherhood orbit while receiving Iranian weapons transfers, to Iran's attempts to maintain leverage in the Levant through groups such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- seem to be greatly complicating an already trying negotiation effort. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Gaza Conflict Reverberates in the West Bank and Jordan

By Stratfor Global Intelligence Update


A Palestinian who was wounded Nov. 17 during protests in the West Bank against Israel's ongoing operations in the Gaza Strip has died from his injuries, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency reported Nov. 19. The West Bank has been calm in recent years, but significant protests have been taking place across the eastern Palestinian territory -- which is ruled by Hamas' secular rival, Fatah -- in response to Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense. The protester's death could widen that unrest. 

These developments have implications in Jordan, where the regime of King Abdullah II is also struggling with political unrest. The duration of the Israeli-Gaza conflict will determine the extent of the brewing unrest in the West Bank and the toll it has on Jordan.


Map - Jordan
The ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel has generated a significant amount of sympathy for Hamas in the West Bank. In some parts of the territory, anti-Israeli youth protesters have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces patrols. The protests, while at a low level for now, complicate matters for the administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

While the Arab Spring created conditions that increased the power of Hamas, it also added to the woes of Fatah, which has been deteriorating for some time. The group suffers from an aging leadership, internal splits, corruption charges amid poor economic conditions in the West Bank and a failure to make progress toward Palestinian statehood in negotiations. Thus, it is no surprise that Fatah, despite its deep animosity toward Hamas, has come out in support of its rival and in solidarity against Israel. Fatah likely chose not to interfere with the West Bank protests to avoid aggravating matters, but it cannot allow the protests to spiral out of control. 

Fatah is hoping that Hamas and Israel reach a truce as soon as possible. Indeed, the West Bank group is likely using its channels with the United States and Israel toward this end. Clearly, Fatah does not want protests in the West Bank to go from supporting Hamas and Gaza to turning against mismanagement in the West Bank. At the same time, this could be a reason why Hamas, which seeks a resurgence in the West Bank, would want to prolong the conflict somewhat. 

The stirring of turmoil in the West Bank is very worrisome for Jordan, which neighbors the Palestinian territory and is home to a large population of Palestinian heritage that harbors anti-Israeli sentiments. The ruling Hashemites do not want to see the Gaza issue spill over Jordan's borders and accentuate their own problems. 

Jordan's Problems

The effects of the Arab Spring have not really manifested themselves in Jordan, but the kingdom has not been stable either. Since the outbreak of the regional unrest in early 2011, King Abdullah II has replaced three prime ministers in response to low-level but steady protests. The dilemma that the Hashemites face is that unrest has spread into the ranks of the tribal forces (aka East Bankers), who until recently have served as the bedrock of the monarchy's stability. At the same time, in urban areas, the country's largest political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has departed from its traditional role as the loyal opposition and begun demanding that the palace share power with parliament. 

Meanwhile, the economic situation in the country has deteriorated to the extent that the government was forced to cut fuel subsidies earlier this month. The public backlash to the rising energy costs has intensified the protests. In the early months of the Arab Spring, there were isolated cases of tribal youths chanting slogans against the Jordanian king and queen. Such instances of public criticism -- some even calling for the king to step down -- appear to be growing.

Still, neither the rural-based tribal principals nor the urban-centered Brotherhood appear to be interested in trying to topple the monarchy. Indeed, both have made it clear that they do not wish to see unrest turn into anarchy. But the problem is that neither institution seems to have a monopoly over the protests; youth groups and other non-brand entities are driving some of the agitation. 

The Brotherhood, which has long called for the kingdom to cut ties with Israel, has once again raised this demand. Such calls have not gained traction in the past. But in the post-Arab Spring atmosphere -- and now with the conflict in Gaza -- the demand could become a tool for the Brotherhood to extract even greater concessions from the palace. Already, the king has been on the defensive, asking the Brotherhood to end its boycott of the political system and participate in upcoming parliamentary polls. Moreover, after restoring ties with Hamas earlier this year, the king has sought the mediation of Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal toward this end. 

It is too early to tell what domestic political gains the Brotherhood could obtain by leveraging the fighting in Gaza. But the king's persistently defensive approach could lead to apprehension within his camp about whether he has what it takes to steer the country out of its downward spiral. Any fissures within the ranks of the Hashemite state will lead only to greater instability. Over the longer term, instability in Jordan breeds the same in the West Bank, where the ruling Palestinian National Authority has been unable to resolve its own political problems. 

Israel and Gaza: Then and Now

Analysis by Stratfor

Four years ago on Nov. 4, while Americans were going to the polls to elect a new president, Israeli infantry, tanks and bulldozers entered the Gaza Strip to dismantle an extensive tunnel network used by Hamas to smuggle in weapons. An already tenuous truce mediated by the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak had been broken. Hamas responded with a barrage of mortar and rocket fire lasting several weeks, and on Dec. 27, 2008, Israel began Operation Cast Lead. The military campaign began with seven days of heavy air strikes on Gaza, followed by a 15-day ground incursion. By the end of the campaign, nearly 1,000 poorly guided shorter-range rockets and mortar shells hit southern Israel, reaching as far as Beersheba and Yavne. Several senior Hamas commanders and hundreds of militants were killed in the fighting. Israel Defense Forces figures showed that 10 IDF soldiers died (four from friendly fire), three Israeli civilians died from Palestinian rocket fire and 1,166 Palestinians were killed -- 709 of them combatants. 

The strategic environment during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead was vastly different from the one Israel faces in today's Operation Pillar of Defense. To understand the evolution in regional dynamics, we must return to 2006, the year that would set the conditions for both military campaigns.

Setting the Stage

2006 began with Hamas winning a sweeping electoral victory over its ideological rival, Fatah. Representing the secular and more pragmatic strand of Palestinian politics, Fatah had already been languishing in Gaza under the weight of its own corruption and its lackluster performance in seemingly fruitless negotiations with Israel. The political rise of Hamas led to months of civil war between the two Palestinian factions, and on June 14, Hamas forcibly took control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah. Just 11 days later, Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalt and killed two others, prompting a new round of hostilities with Israel. 

In what appeared to be a coordinated move, Hezbollah on July 12 launched its own raid on Israel's northern front and kidnapped two additional soldiers, kicking off the month-long Second Lebanon War. As Israel discovered, Hezbollah was well-prepared for the conflict, relying on an extensive tunneling system to preserve its launching crews and weaponry. Hezbollah made use of anti-tank guided missiles, improvised explosive devices that caught Israel Defense Forces by surprise and blunted the ground offensive, and medium-range rockets capable of reaching Haifa. Hezbollah incurred a heavy toll for the fight, with much of the infrastructure in southern Lebanon devastated and roughly 1,300 Lebanese civilian casualties threatening to erode its popular support. Casualty numbers aside, Hezbollah emerged from the 2006 conflict with a symbolic victory. Since 1973, no other Arab army, much less a militant organization, had been able to fight as effectively to challenge Israel's military superiority. Israel's inability to claim victory translated as a Hezbollah victory. That perception reverberated throughout the region. It cast doubts on Israel's ability to respond to much bigger strategic threats, considering it could be so confounded by a non-state militant actor close to home. 

At that time, Hamas was contending with numerous challenges; its coup in Gaza had earned the group severe political and economic isolation, and the group's appeals to open Gaza's border, and for neighbors to recognize Hamas as a legitimate political actor, went mostly unheeded. However, Hamas did take careful note of Hezbollah's example. Here was a militant organization that had burnished its resistance credentials against Israel, could maintain strong popular support among its constituents and had made its way into Lebanon's political mainstream. 

Hezbollah benefited from a strong patron in Iran. Hamas, on the other hand, enjoyed no such support. Mubarak's Egypt, Bashar al Assad's Syria, Jordan under the Hashemites and the Gulf monarchies under the influence of the House of Saud all shared a deep interest in keeping Hamas boxed in. Although publically these countries showed support for the Palestinians and condemned Israel, they tended to view Palestinian refugees and more radical groups such as Hamas as a threat to the stability of their regimes. 
While Hamas began questioning the benefits of its political experiment, Iran saw an opportunity to foster a militant proxy. Tehran saw an increasingly strained relationship between Saudi Arabia and Hamas, and it took advantage to increase funding and weapons supplies to the group. Forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, along with Hezbollah, worked with Hamas to expand the group's weapons arsenal and build elaborate tunnels under the Gaza Strip to facilitate its operations. Israel soon began to notice and took action toward the end of 2008. 

Operation Cast Lead 

Hamas was operating in a difficult strategic environment during Operation Cast Lead. Hezbollah had the benefit of using the rural terrain south of the Litani River to launch rockets against Israel during the Second Lebanon War, thereby sparing Lebanon's most densely populated cities from retaliatory attacks. Hamas, on the other hand, must work in a tightly constricted geographic space and therefore uses the Palestinian population as cover for its rocket launches. The threat of losing popular support is therefore much higher for Hamas in Gaza than it is for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. At the same time, operating in a built-up urban environment also poses a considerable challenge for the Israeli military. 

During Operation Cast Lead, Cairo did little to hide its true feelings toward Hamas. Though Egypt played a critical role in the cease-fire negotiations, it was prepared to incur the domestic political cost of cracking down on the Rafah border crossing to prevent refugees from flowing into Sinai and to prevent Hamas from replenishing its weapons supply. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, then in the opposition, took advantage of the situation to publicly rally against the Mubarak regime, but its protests did little to change the situation. Hamas was boxed in by Egypt and Israel. 

The rest of the region largely avoided direct involvement. Turkey was focused on internal affairs, and Saudi Arabia remained largely aloof. Jordan's Hashemite rulers could afford to continue quietly cooperating with Israel without facing backlash. The United States, emerging from an election, was focused on shaping an exit strategy from Iraq. Many of Hamas' traditional wealthy Gulf donors grew wary of attracting the focus of Western security and intelligence agencies as fund transfers from the Gulf came under closer scrutiny. 

Iran was the exception. While the Arab regimes ostracized Hamas, Iran worked to sustain the group in its fight. Tehran's reasoning was clear and related to Iran's emergence as a regional power. Iraq had already fallen into Iran's sphere of influence (though the United States was not yet prepared to admit it), Hezbollah was rebuilding in southern Lebanon, and Iranian influence continued to spread in western Afghanistan. Building up a stronger militant proxy network in the Palestinian territories was the logical next step in Tehran's effort to keep a check on Israeli threats to strike the Iranian nuclear program. 

In early January 2009, in the midst of Operation Cast Lead, Israel learned that Iran was allegedly planning to deliver 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, including anti-tank guided missiles and Iranian-made Fajr-3 rockets with a 40-kilometer (25-mile) range and 45-kilogram (99-pound) warhead. The Iranian shipment arrived at Port Sudan, and the Israeli air force then bombed a large convoy of 23 trucks traveling across Egypt's southern border up into Sinai. Though Israel interdicted this weapons shipment -- likely with Egyptian complicity -- Iran did not give up its attempts to supply Hamas with advanced weaponry. The long-range Fajr rocket attacks targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the current conflict are a testament to Iran's continued effort.

The Current Geopolitical Environment 

Hamas and Israel now find themselves in a greatly altered geopolitical climate. On every one of its borders, Israel faces a growing set of vulnerabilities that would have been hard to envision at the time of Operation Cast Lead. 

The most important shift has taken place in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood carefully used the momentum provided by the Arab Spring to shed its opposition status and take political control of the state. Hamas, which grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, then faced an important decision. With an ideological ally in Cairo, Egypt no longer presents as high a hurdle to Hamas' political ambitions. Indeed, Hamas could even try to use its ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to achieve political legitimacy. When unrest spread into Syria and began to threaten Iran's position in the Levant, Hamas made a strategic decision to move away from the Iran-Syria axis, now on the decline, and to latch itself onto the new apparent regional trend: the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist affiliates across the Arab world. 

This rise of the Muslim Brotherhood spread from Egypt to Syria to Jordan, presenting Israel with a new set of challenges on its borders. Egypt's dire economic situation, the political unrest in its cities, and the Muslim Brotherhood's uneasy relationship with the military and security apparatus led to a rapid deterioration in security in Sinai. Moreover, a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo on friendly terms with Hamas could not be trusted to crack down on the Gaza border and interdict major weapons shipments. A political machine such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which derives its power from the street, will be far more sensitive to pro-Palestinian sentiment than will a police state that can rule through intimidation. 

In Syria, Israel has lost a predictable adversary to its north. The balkanization of the Levant is giving rise to an array of Islamist forces, and Israel can no longer rely on the regime in Damascus to keep Hezbollah in check for its own interests. In trying to sustain its position in Syria and Lebanon, Iran has increased the number of its operatives in the region, bringing Tehran that much closer to Israel as both continue to posture over a potential strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. 

To Israel's east, across the Jordan River valley, pressure is also growing on the Hashemite kingdom. An emboldened Muslim Brotherhood has been joined by disillusioned tribes from the East Bank in openly calling for the downfall of the king. High energy costs are severely blunting the kingdom's ability to contain these protests through subsidies, and the growing crisis in Gaza threatens to spread instability in the West Bank and invigorate Palestinians across the river in Jordan. 

Beyond its immediate periphery, Israel is struggling to find parties interested in its cause. The Europeans remain hostile to anything they deem to be excessive Israeli retaliation against the Palestinians. Furthermore, they are far too consumed by the fragmentation of the European Union to get involved with what is happening in the southern Levant. 

The United States remains diplomatically involved in trying to reach a cease-fire, but as it has made clear throughout the Syrian crisis, Washington does not intend to get dragged into every conflagration in the Middle East. Instead, the United States is far more interested in having regional players like Egypt and Turkey manage the burden. The United States can pressure Egypt by threatening to withhold financial and military aid. In the case of Turkey, there appears to be little that Ankara can do to mediate the conflict. Turkish-Israeli relations have been severely strained since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. Moreover, although the Turkish government is trying to edge its way into the cease-fire negotiations to demonstrate its leadership prowess to the region, Ankara is as wary of appearing too close to a radical Islamist group like Hamas as it is of appearing in the Islamic world as too conciliatory to Israel. 

Saudi Arabia was already uncomfortable with backing more radical Palestinian strands, but Riyadh now faces a more critical threat -- the regional rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamist political activism poses a direct threat to the foundation of the monarchy, which has steadfastly kept the religious establishment out of the political domain. Saudi Arabia has little interest in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood encouraging Hamas' political rise, and Riyadh will thus become even more alienated from the Palestinian theater. Meanwhile Gulf state Qatar, which has much less to lose, is proffering large amounts of financial aid in a bid to increase its influence in the Palestinian territories. 

Iran, meanwhile, is working feverishly to stem the decline of its regional influence. At the time of Operation Cast Lead, Iran was steadily expanding its sphere of influence, from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. A subsequent U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf and an intensifying U.S.-led economic warfare campaign slowed Iran down, but it was the decline of the al Assad regime that put Iran on the defensive. An emboldened Sunni opposition in Syria, backed by the West, Turkey and the Arab Gulf states, could spill into Lebanon to threaten Hezbollah's position and eventually threaten Iran's position in Iraq. With each faction looking to protect itself, Iran can no longer rely as heavily on militant proxies in the Levant, especially Palestinian groups that see an alignment with Iran as a liability in the face of a Sunni rebellion. But Iran is also not without options in trying to maintain a Palestinian lever against Israel. 

Hamas would not be able to strike Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with long-range rockets had it not been for Iran, which supplied these rockets through Sudan and trained Palestinian operatives on how to assemble them in Gaza. Even if Hamas uses up its arsenal of Fajr-5s in the current conflict and takes a heavy beating in the process, Iran has succeeded in creating a major regional distraction to tie down Israel and draw attention away from the Syrian rebellion. Iran supplied Hezbollah with Zelzal rockets capable of reaching Haifa during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Hamas was limited to shorter-range Qassam and Grad rockets in Operation Cast Lead but now has Iranian-made Fajr-5s to target Israel's most cherished cities. 

Hamas is now carrying the mantle of resistance from Hezbollah in hopes of achieving a symbolic victory that does not end up devastating the group in Gaza. Israel's only hope to deny Hamas that victory is to eliminate Hamas' arsenal of these rockets, all the while knowing that Iran will likely continue to rely on Egypt's leniency on the border to smuggle more parts and weaponry into Gaza in the future. The Hamas rocket dilemma is just one example of the types of problems Israel will face in the coming years. The more vulnerable Israel becomes, the more prone it will be to pre-emptive action against its neighbors as it tries to pick the time and place of battle. In this complex strategic environment, Operation Pillar of Defense may be one of many similar military campaigns as Israel struggles to adjust to this new geopolitical reality.