SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Pakistan is secretly racing to develop its own armed drones, frustrated with U.S. refusals to provide the aircraft, but is struggling in its initial tests with a lack of precision munitions and advanced targeting technology.
One of Islamabad's closest allies and Washington's biggest rivals, China, has offered to help by selling Pakistan armed drones it developed. But industry experts say there is still uncertainty about the capabilities of the Chinese aircraft.
The development of unmanned combat aircraft is especially sensitive in Pakistan because of the widespread unpopularity of the hundreds of U.S. drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country's rugged tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government denounces the CIA strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty, though senior civilian and military leaders are known to have supported at least some of the attacks in the past. Pakistani officials also call the strikes unproductive, saying they kill many civilians and fuel anger that helps militants recruit additional fighters — allegations denied by the U.S.
Pakistan has demanded the U.S. provide it with armed drones, claiming it could more effectively carry out attacks against militants. Washington has refused because of the sensitive nature of the technology and doubts that Pakistan would reliably target U.S. enemies. The U.S. has held talks with Pakistan about providing unarmed surveillance drones, but Islamabad already has several types of these aircraft in operation, and the discussions have gone nowhere.
Inaugurating a defense exhibition in the southern city of Karachi last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf indicated Islamabad would look for help from Beijing in response to U.S. intransigence.
"Pakistan can also benefit from China in defense collaboration, offsetting the undeclared technological apartheid," said Ashraf.
Pakistan has also been working to develop armed drones on its own, said Pakistani military officials and civilians involved in the domestic drone industry, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the work.
Pakistan first began weapons tests seven or eight months ago with the Falco, an Italian drone used by the Pakistani air force for surveillance that has been modified to carry rockets, said a civilian with knowledge of the secret program. The military is also conducting similar tests with the country's newest drone, the Shahpur, he said. An unarmed version of the Shahpur was unveiled for the first time at the Karachi exhibition.
The weapons tests have been limited to a handful of aircraft, and no strikes have been carried out in combat, said the civilian.
Pakistan lacks laser-guided missiles like the Hellfire used on U.S. Predator and Reaper drones and the advanced targeting system that goes with it, so the military has been using unguided rockets that are much less accurate.
While Hellfire missiles are said to have pinpoint accuracy, the rockets used by Pakistan have a margin of error of about 30 meters (100 feet) at best, and an unexpected gust of wind could take them 300 meters (1,000 feet) from their intended target, said the civilian. Even if Pakistan possessed Hellfires and the guidance system to use them, the missile's weight and drag would be a challenge for the small drones produced by the country.
Pakistan's largest drone, the Shahpur, has a wingspan of about seven meters (22 feet) and can carry 50 kilograms (110 pounds). The U.S. Predator, which can be equipped with two Hellfire missiles, has a wingspan more than twice that and a payload capacity over four times as great.
Pakistani drones also have much more limited range than those produced in the U.S. because they are operated based on "line of sight" using radio waves, rather than military satellites. The Shahpur has a maximum range of 250 kilometers (150 miles), while the Predator can fly over five times that distance.
The British newspaper The Guardian reported Tuesday that Pakistan was working on an armed drone but did not provide details.
The market for drones has exploded in Pakistan and other countries around the world in recent years, as shown by the array of aircraft on display at the defense exhibition in Karachi. Hoping to tap into a worldwide market worth billions of dollars a year, public and private companies wheeled out over a dozen drones that ranged in size from hand-held models meant to be carried in a backpack to larger aircraft like the Shahpur.
All the Pakistani drones on display were advertised as unarmed and meant for surveillance only. One private company, Integrated Dynamics, even promotes its aircraft under the slogan "Drones for Peace." But several models developed by the Chinese government were marketed as capable of carrying precision missiles and bombs.
The Chinese government has offered to sell Pakistan an armed drone it has produced, the CH-3, which can carry two laser-guided missiles or bombs, industry insiders said.
Also being offered to Pakistan is a more advanced drone, the CH-4, which closely resembles a U.S. Reaper and can carry four laser-guided missiles or bombs, according to Li Xiaoli, a representative of the Chinese state-owned company that produces both the CH-3 and CH-4, Aerospace Long-march International Trade Co., Ltd.
Pakistan has yet to purchase any armed Chinese drones because their capabilities have yet to be proven, but is likely to do so in the future, said the civilian with knowledge of the Pakistani military's drone program.
Only a few countries, including the U.S., Britain and Israel, are known to have actually used armed drones in military operations.
"China is a bit of a tough nut to crack as you'd expect," said Huw Williams, a drone expert at Jane's International Defense Review. "They frequently wheel out exciting looking aircraft but are yet to really demonstrate anything earthshattering."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Russia is developing a sea-based missile- and space-defense system, which will be deployed in international waters. The system is expected to become an integral part of the Russian Navy.
The construction of the new sea-based missile-defense system has been entrusted to Almaz-Antey, the arms manufacturer that also produces the S-400 ‘Triumph’ missile defense system.
Anatoly Shlemov, the head of national defense orders for Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, told RIA Novosti that “this task has been definitely set for the [Russian] military-industrial complex.”
Almaz-Antey is not working alone on the planned system, Shelmov said, without specifying additional details about the top-secret project.
At the St. Petersburg Economic Forum earlier this year, President Roman Trotsenko of the United Shipbuilding Corporation announced that the USC would begin construction in 2016 of a series of six nuclear-powered destroyers armed with high-tech missile- and space- defense system.
Trotsenko called the warships “benchmarks of Russian space defense in the World Ocean,” but refused to comment further on the plans.
As it begins introducing the new S-400 system, Almaz-Antey is also finishing its S-500 ‘Prometheus’ system, which features space-defense capabilities. The S-500 is expected to be deployed in 2017, and will most likely arm the destroyers in project.
Previously, Almaz-Antey created the S-300 system for naval use, developing the S-300 Fort F and Fort FM for the Russian Navy.
The S-500 will supposedly able to engage targets in low earth orbit flying at speeds of up to 7 kilometer per second – the highest speed achievable by a ballistic missile at its highest trajectory in space.
The S-500’s capabilities are expected to exceed those of the US Aegis Combat System, but a point-by-point comparison is impossible until the S-500 is completed.
The backbone of the Aegis Combat System – the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) – is a closely guarded secret, though the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense once published information revealing that the SM-3 can intercept targets flying at a speed of 3.7 kilometers per second.
The latest versions of the S-300 can engage targets flying at speeds of up to 2.8 kilometer per second; the S-400 can intercept targets at 4.8 kilometer per second.
A warship equipped with Aegis Combat System has a 190-kilometer range, and can intercept targets in low earth orbit up to 180 kilometers and detect objects at distances of up to 320 kilometers.
The S-400 can hit air targets at distances of up to 400 kilometers, while detecting them from as far away as 600 kilometers.
The Aegis Combat System is currently used by the US, Australian, Japanese, Norwegian, South Korean and Spanish navies.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — The Japanese tree frog is a frog species that thrives in Japan, Korea, and in the northeastern part of China. Unknown to many, the male Japanese tree frog has actually developed the capability to vary its calls so that females can identify the frog from the rest. Male Japanese tree frogs can reportedly desynchronize their calls to avoid confusing their targeted female partners. You can read the rest of the research here.
Now, the scientists over at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia are using the Japanese tree frogs’ unusual calling behavior to develop an algorithm that can assign colors to network nodes on wireless networks. In a move to solve what is known as graph coloring, a problem of assigning colors to nodes in a graph, the scientists are using the desynchronization behavior of the frogs to create a process that can assign different colors to network nodes.
“Since there is no system of central control organizing this desynchronization, the mechanism may be considered as an example of natural self-organization,” explains Christian Blum. “This type of graph colouring is the formalisation of a problem that arises in many areas of the real world, such as the optimisation of modern wireless networks with no predetermined structure using techniques for reducing losses in information packages and energy efficiency improvement.”—www.shafaqna.com/english