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Amid Border Conflict With India; US Invites China To Arms Control Talks With Russia

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Amid India-China border conflict, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy Marshall Billingslea will travel to Austria to discuss “mutually agreed topics related to the future of arms control” with Russian Deputy Foreign Sergei Ryabkov, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

“The United States has extended an open invitation to the People’s Republic of China to join these discussions, and has made clear the need for all three countries to pursue arms control negotiations in good faith,” the State Department said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently called for China to join the US and Russia in talks on a nuclear arms control agreement to replace the 2010 New START accord.  New START, which imposes the last remaining limits on U.S. and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear arms to no more than 1,550 each, expires in February.

China, estimated to have about 300 nuclear weapons, has repeatedly rejected Trump’s proposal. Billingslea had said last week that he had agreed with Ryabkov on a time and place for the negotiations in June.

Earlier, the US has said it would like to hear more from China about its border dispute with India. For the first time in recent years, China’s tensions with India are figuring in US calculus for the region.

Speaking on the India-China border clashes, a senior US government official wondered whether the Chinese incursions into the Indian territory since 2015 were a negotiating tactic or “just a punch in the nose to demonstrate their superiority”.

However, the US has clubbed China’s friction with India along with its other long-standing regional disputes such as the South China Sea and Hong Kong issues to assert that “the actions that we’ve seen out of China have been not really constructive”, according to Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the US State Department David Stilwell.

The US is watching the India-China border dispute “very closely” and finds the current activity at the Galwan valley and Pangong Tso as similar to the activity in the past on border disputes. In this respect, he mentioned Xi Jinping’s India visit in 2015 when the PLA invaded the same contested area “deeper and longer, with more people, than ever before historically. Then we saw the Doklam issue down near Bhutan, where we saw similar concerns”.

“We don’t have a lot of visibility and we don’t have a lot of open dialogue with our Chinese counterparts, and honestly I’d like to see more of that if we can,” he added.

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Middle East

Israeli Air Force Unveils New ‘Special Forces Squadron’, Experts Call It Blue Print For Indian Air Force

Could Israel’s Revolutionary Air Force Unit become the blueprint for future Indian Air Force (IAF) squadrons? Aviation experts suggest it could happen and much like the Israeli Air Force, it would revolutionize the IAF as well.

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Israel’s Air Force has unveiled a revolutionary unit which contains all the special forces of the aerial warfare branch, consolidating them under one command.

The 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing will combine all Israeli Air Force’s special forces under one command. Aviation experts in India believe that the revolutionary squadron from Israel could become a blueprint for future Indian Air Force (IAF) squadrons.

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According to an army press release, the 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing was established to meet operational needs and respond to changing and growing threats in the various arenas. The 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing will include search-and-rescue Unit 669, Shaldag commando unit and outfit that builds airfields behind enemy lines.

The move aims “to increase the operational effectiveness of the units. The wing will function as a complementary and unique component to Israeli Air Force activities through special depth, routine and emergency operations.”

The Israeli Air Force routinely carries out military operations in the Gaza Strip, typically targeting installations of Hamas, as well as carrying out airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, as part of the effort by Israel to ensure Tehran does not expand its military presence in the war-torn country.

The new wing will contain the air force’s Unit 669, the elite search-and-rescue group; the Shaldag commando unit; the Frontal Landing Unit, which builds ad hoc landing strips behind enemy lines; a dedicated intelligence unit for the wing; and a special forces school.

IAF Commanding Officer Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin has hailed the introduction of the 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing and has described it as moving into a new era in the history of Israeli Air Force.  “We are standing on the shoulders of our predecessors, who were courageous and took action, and now we are leading the way.”Today we move forward to a new chapter,” he said.

The introduction of 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing has generated a buzz amongst aviation experts and enthusiast in India who feel that this squadron could be the blueprint for future IAF squadrons.

Surrounded by adversaries Pakistan and China, IAF is looking to increase its squadrons from 28 to 40. An IAF squadron modelled after the 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing would be ideal for India to counter any aggression by Islamabad or Beijing. It would also prepare India for a two-front battle, should that scenario ever become a reality, experts talking to EurAsian Times argue.

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World

Almost Rejected By India, Washington Approves F-15EX Fighter Jet For US Air Force

As EurAsian Times reported earlier, the F-15 EX made a comeback after the US Air Force placed an order for eight which could go up to 72, will join the F/A 18 Super Hornet and the F 21 ( a variant of the F 16) that are already on offer for India.

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The US Air Force (USAF) has given Boeing a go-ahead worth nearly $1.2bn for eight F15EX combat aircraft. The F-15 EX jets are also contenders for the Indian MMRCA contract and competing against French Rafales, Russian SU-35s, American F/A 18 Super Hornets & F-21s besides the Swedish Gripen.  

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The most-advanced F15 ever built is expected to assist the USAF to meet its capacity requirements and add the combat capability to its aircraft fleet. The F15EX will be able to carry more munitions than the earlier versions and be able to launch hypersonic weapons, up to 22ft in length.

“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing F-15EX program manager. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”

Rafale jets dodge all radars, air defence systems; bombs Turkish facilities in Libya

“F-15EX brings together benefits of digital engineering, open mission systems and agile software development to keep it affordable and upgradable for decades to come,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager. “This means we can rapidly test and field new capabilities on F-15EX keeping our warfighters ahead of threats.”

The US Air Force says that as many as 144 of the type could be ordered to replace older F15 models. Kumar added “We listened to our customer every step of the way when developing this exciting jet. “What we will soon deliver is a modern and robust aircraft that supports our nation’s defence by incorporating the latest systems, sensors and weapons.”

Rafale vs Chengdu J-20: How Will Indian Rafale Jets Compete Against Chinese ‘Stealth’ J-20s?

As EurAsian Times reported earlier, the F-15 EX made a comeback after the US Air Force placed an order for eight which could go up to 72, will join the F/A 18 Super Hornet and the F 21 ( a variant of the F 16) that are already on offer for India.

F-15 EX Jets: Why US’ F-15 EX Aircrafts Could Be A Disaster For The Indian Air Force – Experts

Besides the French jets, American and Russian jets are head to head once again for the lucrative Indian defence tender. The high-end heavyweight aircraft F-15EX represents the modernization of the cold war era jet offered to India under the MMRCA contract under which India plans to jointly manufacture 114 high-end jets that can meet the dual challenge of Pakistan and China.

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Health

Fact Check – Why Russia’s Coronavirus Vaccine Does Not Signal an End to COVID-19 Pandemic?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine developed by Russia has been all over the media. With more than 13 million cases, 575,000 deaths globally, the Russian coronavirus vaccine has been welcomed with open arms.

However, experts at EurAsian Times present a fact-check of the claim and explain why the Russian COVID vaccine does not signal the end of the coronavirus.

News about the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Russia went viral on social media yesterday. Netizens globally welcomed the move and assumed that the world would return to the way it was before the pandemic. However, this will not be anytime soon.

What most media outlets failed to mention in their reports was that only phase-I of the clinical trials had been completed whereas phase-II and phase-III were still pending. Even after the successful completion of all three phases, it takes 12-18 months for the Russian COVID-19 vaccine to be available to the public.

A report by the TASS news agency of Russia on July 10 said the phase I clinical trials would end on July 15, while the second phase would begin on July 13. Only after phase-II is successfully completed, phase-III will be initiated.

Vaccination and immunology experts explain that in phase-I ‘safety and tolerability’ of a vaccine is tested, on a small group of volunteers. Since Russian volunteers from phase-I did not experience any side effects or reported any complaints, the vaccine development process has moved to phase-II.

In Phase-II efficiency and immunogenicity (generation of the immune the response)’ is tested. It is in this state that researchers try to see whether the vaccine is triggering the desired immune response in humans, and what could be the suitable doses to generate this response.

This phase began yesterday after volunteers were administered by the vaccine. This step usually takes months to complete and the success is not guaranteed. The success can only be ascertained after the completion of the trials.

In Phase-III a large number of volunteers, usually numbering several thousand, are enrolled in which researchers try to ascertain whether the immune response triggered by the vaccine is able to fight the virus in real-life situations. This process also takes several months, thus taking 12-18 months in total to prepare a vaccine.

While Russia has reportedly claimed that it would launch the vaccine by mid-August, only after two-phases, the World Health Organization’s protocols say that a vaccine has to go through three phases of studies before being approved for large-scale production.

In fact, no vaccine is approved for large scale production without undergoing the third phase of testing. There is absolutely no guarantee that a vaccine would effective only two phases and it would be ‘naive’ to believe that the end of the pandemic is here.

Race to Develop the Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine in Russia is being developed by the Gamalei National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, in partnership with the Russian Defence Ministry.

The first stage of the vaccine trial at the Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University was launched on June 18 in a group of 18 volunteers who were vaccinated against the virus. The second group involving 20 participants were administered the vaccine on June 23.

There are over 150 candidate vaccines for coronavirus being developed all over the world. Nearly half of these are still in pre-clinical stages, meaning they are being tried on animals or are still in the early stages of development. About 15 vaccines are in phase-I trials and about ten in phase-II trials. Three vaccines are in phase-III trials.

India is also involved in the race to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. All India Institute of Medical Studies (AIIMS) Patna will begin human trials for the ‘Covaxine’ shortly. ‘Covaxine’ will be developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

Medical experts say that even after the completion of Phase-III, the vaccine is unlikely to be available for all at one go. Initially, it is expected to be made available only to people who are at higher risk of getting the infection, like healthcare workers. Just like it is the case with other vaccines, a universal immunisation against Coronavirus can take several years.

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