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India, Japan Developing Hypersonic Missiles To Counter Looming Chinese Threats

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After the US and Russia first began developing hypersonic missiles, China too jumped on the bandwagon and the latest to enter this race are Japan and India. Experts, however, suggest that hypersonic missiles can have a severe impact on the global security with India and Japan also looking to acquire the technology. 

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Hypersonic Weapons Technology

Hypersonic weapons refer to weapons that can travel at a speed faster than Mach 5 or in other words systems that can travel five times the speed of sound. The reasons why hypersonic weapons are considered deadly is because they comprise the capacities of both, the ballistic as well as cruise missile wherein they have the speed of a ballistic missile and the manoeuvrability of a cruise missile.

Hypersonic weapons are specifically designed to counter the modern ballistic missile defence system and to deliver conventional and nuclear payload at high velocities over long ranges.

Hypersonic vehicles typically consist of a Supersonic Combustion Ramjet, or Scramjet propulsion system to enable such high speeds. A Scramjet engine is an engine that uses “air-breathing” technology, which means that the engine collects oxygen from the atmosphere as it is travelling and mixes the oxygen with its hydrogen fuel, creating the combustion needed for hypersonic travel.

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This is different than a traditional ramjet, which is used on space shuttles and satellite launches. The traditional ramjet engine carries liquid oxygen, and hydrogen together, adding a tremendous amount of weight to the vessel.

Most of the added weight comes from the liquid oxygen (the oxidizer), which is nearly 70% of the fuel used in space launches. For a scramjet to work the air travelling into the engine must already be at supersonic speed.

This is so the air is properly condensed to the required density to effectively combust with the hydrogen mix. To reach supersonic speed, the vessel is usually launched with a traditional booster engine, and once it has reached the proper speed and altitude (generally around Mach 5 and 100,000ft) the scramjet is activated.

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Other options currently in development are dual-mode ramjet (DMRJ), which works as a ramjet until the craft reaches proper speed and altitude, and then begins to work as a scramjet. By using the DMRJ, the vessel can operate without a booster, which allows it to operate in a more clandestine manner.

Hypersonic Missiles – US, Russia and China

The United States, Russia and China have been involved in the development of a hypersonic weapons system. The US in 2011 launched successfully an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon that successfully struck a target located at 3700 km away.

US defence major Lockheed Martin, as reported by the EurAsian Times, is developing a hypersonic vehicle called as Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 which is a manoeuvrable rocket launched aircraft that glides through the earth’s atmosphere at Mach 20.

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China also has been developing a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles. DF-ZF is a hypersonic glide vehicle and can reach speeds of up to Mach 10. It is expected to be operational by 2020. The Chinese Military has been developing DF-17 a ballistic missile combined with an HGV. The missile has the capacity to travel at Mach 10 and reach targets between 1100 to 1500 miles.

Russia is the first to deploy HGV known as Avangard which is capable of sharp high-speed manoeuvres in flight and can reach a speed of Mach 20. As a part of a joint venture with India, Russia has also been working on its BrahMos, a Hypersonic Cruise Missile reaching a speed of Mach 7. Another hypersonic cruise missile Russia is building is KH-47M2 Kinzhal that can travel at Mach 10 with a distance of 1200 miles.

Hypersonic Missiles – Japan & India

While the Japanese Government recently outlined a programme for homegrown hypersonic weapons, India recently came close to successfully testing its own Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle whose first test resulted in failure.

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As the EurAsian Times reported last year, India conducted the maiden launch of a new hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle last year but failed to demonstrate the technology. The vehicle was test-launched using the Agni 1 missile platform that was to take it up to a proposed altitude where scramjet technology—the ability to fly at speeds in excess of Mach 6 while using atmospheric oxygen as oxidizer—had to be validated with separation of the platform and a short flight at high altitude.

According to reports, while the missile on which the platform was mounted successfully took off from the range, the test could not be completed to demonstrate the vehicle at hypersonic speed as the Agni 1 did not reach the desired altitude for the test.

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According to a report in Defense News, Japan has sketched its R&D road map for homegrown, hypersonic weapons, establishing that it is seeking rapid growth in hypersonic capabilities. However, the fact that India and Japan have also joined the race for these almost undetectable weapons, the arms race in the world and especially in the Asian region has begun to increasingly heat up.

The EurAsian Times is a leading English language, digital news-site, which specializes in reporting news and editorials on South Asia, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and the Eurasian region. The EurAsian Times has a strong editorial presence in New Delhi, Dubai, Karachi, Moscow, Toronto & London and have expertise in penning editorials on defence, geopolitics and international relations. The article has been penned by Nitin J Ticku.

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Indonesia Condemns Israel Annexation Plan In The West Bank

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Indonesia is the latest country to condemn the planned West Bank annexation by Israel. Indonesia joins Jordan, the Arab League, the European Union and the United Kingdom in opposing the US-backed annexation proposal. 

As the West Bank annexation by Tel Aviv nears, Indonesia is the latest country to condemn the planned action. The announcement from Jakarta comes after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced earlier this week that Israel would not miss the ‘historic opportunity’ to annex the West Bank.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke about the US-backed plan by Israel and reaffirmed its support for Palestine. “Indonesia is one of the strongest supporters of Palestine. We are very concerned about Israel’s West Bank plan,” Retno said on Thursday.

The 57-year-old diplomat from Semarang also confirmed that she spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and asked for US assistance to stop the plan. “I told Secretary Pompeo that Indonesia’s position remains unchanged on the Palestine issue. Our hope is for the US leadership to stop Israel’s plan to annex more parts of the West Bank,” Retno said.

In addition to the chat with Pompeo, Retno also forwarded the issue at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Teleconference on Wednesday, arguing that international law compliance is needed to stop the plan.

“Compliance to international humanitarian law is desperately needed now as annexation and Covid-19 might soon strike the Palestinians all at once.’”The world and the council have to restore Palestinian rights to its territory according to the 1967 borders. We must not let further annexation to happen,” she added.

Indonesia has been vocal in its response to the West Bank annexation and stands by the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute. The government has also written to the UNSC Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union, countries of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to maintain peace in Palestine and support the two-state solution.

“Annexation will not only threaten peace and stability in the region but also undermine all efforts to reach a lasting political solution on the Palestinian issue, which is the two-state solution,” Retno said.

The West Bank is not officially recognised as Israeli territory since the international community deems the settlement a violation of international law. 500,000 Jews have settled in West Bank since 1967 and currently, the area is home to 2,000,000 Palestinians.

The West Bank annexation has the support of the Trump administration. The Middle-East Peace Plan was announced earlier this year by the U.S. and Israel, without the involvement of the Palestinians. Since then, the plan has been rejected by Palestine, Jordan, the European Union, the United Kindom and the Arab League.

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Chinese Military Commission Leaves Door Open For ‘Forceful Takeover’ Of Taiwan

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While the Chinese Military Commission leaves the door open to a military takeover of Taiwan, experts suggest that the use military to annex Taiwan is highly unlikely due to mounting divide between the US and China. 

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China has never failed to assert the “One China Policy”, that strictly insists that both Taiwan and mainland China are inseparable parts of a single “China”. However, Taiwan has historically never bowed down to Beijing’s pressure of unification, such that the dark and bloody prospect of China using military action looms over the Taiwanese sky.

Military Action by Beijing

Experts claim that China may actually be exploiting the pandemic to advance its interests in the whole world including strengthening its core claims on Taiwan and Hong Kong, since, in the present times the US is handicapped due to the pandemic.

Recently, on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department and member of the Central Military Commission said that “if the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions.”

As EurAsian Times had previously reported about an incident when the Chinese regime sent fighter jets and surveillance aircraft well inside the halfway mark of the Taiwan Strait that separates Taiwan from China on March 16, this year.

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It is also reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and Navy (PLAN) have conducted almost 10 transits and military exercises near Taiwan since the beginning of this year, forcefully penetrating Taiwan’s airspace.

In the last few days, Li Zhanshu, the third-most-senior leader of China’s ruling Communist Party and head of China’s parliament had commented – “we warn Taiwan’s pro-independence and separatist forces sternly, the path of Taiwan independence leads to a dead-end; any challenge to this law will be severely punished”.

Meanwhile, other experts like China’s National People’s Congress deputy and a leading academician – Li Yihu has expressed that the use of armed forces to take over Taiwan will remain as the last resort by Beijing.

Amidst the growing tensions between US and China, Li Yihu, who heads the Institute of Taiwan Studies with Peking University, believes that Taiwan is a “potential tipping point” for China-US relations and that “the US will further look to the strategic value of the Taiwan issue in containing China, and will play the Taiwan card frequently over a long period of time, just as in the current situation.”

US’s Presence in Taiwan

Former US President Jimmy Carter in 1979 had ended ties with Taiwan to develop economic ties with booming China, simultaneously pledging to equip Taiwan with weapons to defend itself against rivals.

However, this year in March the current US President – Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act (TAIPEI Act) which intends to strengthen Taiwan’s alliances around the world amidst the growing Chinese pressure.

“The TAIPEI Act sends a clear message that the United States stands with Taiwan’s free-market democracy. I look forward to finding additional ways to support the positive role Taiwan plays in international affairs,” said US Senator, Cory Gardner after Trump signed the act.

Just a few weeks ago, the US had stood up firmly for Taiwan’s presence in the World Health Assembly (WHA). Eventually turned out to be unsuccessful but the US had launched massive twitter campaigns and voiced out its strong stance for Taiwan’s independence.

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Taiwanese on Taiwan

Taiwan’s second term President Tsai Ing-wen, a pro-independence leader is nauseatingly disagreeable to China’s Xi Jinping as she had brazenly rejected China’s “one country, two systems”.

“We will not accept Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle,” Tsai has said while encouraging “dialogue with China” in early May.

In the context of China using military force, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has said that “Taiwan’s people will never choose dictatorship nor bow to violence”. “Force and unilateral decisions are not the way to resolve problems,” he said.

Analysis By Vipasha Kaushal

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India-China Border Dispute: Indian Defence Minister, Experts Explain Chinese Border Incursions

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Amid rising tensions between India and China over the border dispute, the most pertinent question right now is if this is going to be a repeat of 1962 India-China war? Experts explain the border standoff and the way forward.

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According to latest news reports, India and China are talking to each other at military and diplomatic levels to settle the border dispute, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said. His statement is the first from a topmost minister on the border dispute with China.

Rajnath Singh told an Indian news channel that both nations had made it clear that they wanted to resolve the problem. Singh also emphasised that there was no need for the US to meditate since the two countries already had a mechanism to resolve border disputes and it had been set in motion.

According to Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon, who is a former military adviser in the National Security Council Secretariat, 1962-type wars now linger only in military imagination and tend to get confined largely to the dustbin of history.

“In reality, due to the shadow of nuclear weapons, the remote possibility of such ‘big fights’ tenant the deterrence space that keeps militaries armed with the state-of-the-art weapons system,” he said.

As earlier reported by the EurAsian Times, Chinese soldiers intensified control measures in the Galwan valley of Aksai Chin, a region controlled by China and claimed by India. The recent border conflicts involved the two sides clashing in an ‘arm-less’ scuffle at the Naku La pass in North Sikkim, injuring soldiers from both the sides.

The Chinese military helicopters were later seen flying close to the LAC. India also dispatched its troops along the volatile border after reports of China pitching tents and stationing soldiers near river Galwan, which was the flashpoint between Indi and China in 1962.

The confrontation in Galwan River valley, Pangong Tso, and Naku La in north Sikkim are sought to be justified as a defensive move by China due to India’s alleged aggressive acts.

As per the 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), “When necessary, the two sides shall jointly check and determine the segments of the (LAC) where they have different views as to its alignment”. However, the LAC is still disputed and thus the tensions around it keep flaring up.

In 2017, during the Doklam dispute, even though the disputed territory was between China and Bhutan, India was a party to the dispute because of the tri-junction area and friendly relations with its ally, Bhutan.

“The dispute resolution through an agreement that was restricted only to the stand-off site has emboldened China to occupy the rest of the disputed Doklam plateau with military assets, including the creation of permanent roads and military structures,” wrote Menon.

He blames the Modi government to call it a “victory” over the Doklam region however China managed to construct permanent roads and military structures around Doklam plateau except for the particular disputed region where the status quo is maintained.

This time China has been calling India the “aggressor” and is justifying its military fortifications as a defence against India’s aggression. “It is apparent that China has taken territorial interests in Ladakh, and did so with the claim that it was necessary because India was the aggressor here. Their modus operandi is now familiar. Territorial conquest short of war is evident,” observed Menon.

The ongoing war of words between the US and China over mishandling of the coronavirus and now the imposition of a new security law on Hong Kong has led to China being threatened about the US’s influence on India.

“Although a handful of Indian media outlets and social organizations echo the Trump administration’s views, the Indian government should keep a sober head to not be used as cannon ash by the US,” said Long Xingchun, who is a senior research fellow of Academy of Regional and Global Governance, Beijing Foreign Studies Universityin a Global Times article.

Menon concludes by saying that China has crossed India’s Lakshman Rekha (border) because Beijing’s “moves are synonymous to military occupation, though its scale is limited”. “China is trying to influence India’s decision-making in the context of the US-China geopolitical competition. It’s assumption springs from its experience in Doklam that India can be pressured,” he added.

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