Fortnightly Review & Analysis – Defense, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 1 Issue II)

(July 1-15, 2016)

Defence Issues

Army hunts for a new Lethal Assault rifle in place of DRDO's Excalibur

Military wisdom till date worked on the premise that the 5.56 mm rifle should be utilised for conventional war on account of the fact that it injured/incapacitated an enemy soldier. On the other hand for counter-insurgency operations it was felt that, the 7.62mm rifle was a better option as it could be utilised to effectively neutralise terrorists. As a consequence, at present, soldiers are using the 7.62mm AK-47 rifles for counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and the Northeast, while for conventional operations, the Indian Army is equipped with the indigenous 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system). This wisdom has now been given a rethink.

The Indian Army has launched a fresh hunt for a new-generation assault rifle. It has now decided to go in for a 7.62 x 51mm gun with "higher kill probability and stopping power". Even for conventional operations, it requires a rifle that "kills" rather than one which "incapacitates". Due to such a decision, the 5.56x45mm calibre Excalibur rifle offered by the DRDO-Ordinance Factory Board combine is not the preferred option of the Indian Army anymore.

Indian Air Force’s inducts its first Tejas fighters

In July 2016, two Tejas indigenous Light Combat aircraft (LCA) have been inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF)). The aircraft has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), an offshoot of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Tejas is set to replace the aging MiG-21 fighters that will soon be phased out.

The LCA is a single engine, aerodynamically unstable, compound delta-wing aircraft, optimized for manoeuvrability and agility. Designed to meet the tactical requirements of a modern air force, Tejas is capable of air superiority and air defence roles. It incorporates a digital fly-by-wire Flight Control System, a glass cockpit, Multi Function Displays (MFDs), Head up Display (HUD) and an effective Human Machine Interface (HMI) that can effectively carry air to air, air to surface and precision guided and standoff weaponry. The Control laws (CLAW) recover stability and provide good handling qualities to the Pilot enabling him to fly missions without worrying about exceeding parameters beyond a safe limit. Tejas employs up to 40 per cent Carbon Fibre Composite (CFC) materials that make it lighter and stronger.

Two more LCA will join the squadron that is being formed at its current location in Bengaluru in a few months. A full fighter squadron has 16 aircraft and two to four trainers. It will move to its permanent base in Sulur in Tamil Nadu after two years when a complete squadron of aircraft is assembled. The delivery continues to remain a major challenge since HAL at the moment can produce only eight aircraft in a year for which it is ramping up production at its dedicated production lines. The IAF has ordered 40 LCA and may buy another 80 in the upgraded version. LCA was conceived in mid-eighties and was due for induction in mid-nineties to replace the MiG-21 aircraft. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha flew the fighter in Bengaluru recently.

Tejas is currently powered by an imported GE F404 aero engine and will be upgraded subsequently with the GE F414 engine for higher thrust and manoeuvrability. Given that the aero engine accounts for a major chunk of the total cost of an aircraft, continued reliance on foreign vendors has strategic and financial implications for India. DRDO took the arduous task of designing the Kaveri aero engine for LCA which had to be shelved midway due to tardy progress.

Tejas is not the first fighter aircraft built in India. HF-24 Marut aircraft was India’s first indigenous fighter that was inducted in the IAF in 1967. It participated in the 1971 war in support of the land forces but had to be phased out due to thrust deficiency of its aero engine for the desired manoeuvrability.


India:Daesh-connected Activities

In continuation to the arrests made by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) last month in Telangana, a few Indian Muslims with alleged links to Daesh, were arrested again. On 12 July, the NIA arrested the alleged chief of the Hyderabad Daesh module, one Naimathullah Hussaini alias Yasir alias Abu Darda. Reportedly, he was the main member of the conspiracy group and “contributed money to the terrorist fund collected by the members of the group”. During the course of the ongoing investigation, it was revealed that Hussaini was appointed as the “Amir” of the group and held several meetings planning conspiracy in the last three months. Along with him, one Mohammed Ataullah Rehman, who was allegedly involved in radicalising group members, was also arrested.

In a similar case, the Anti-terrorism Squad of Maharashtra arrested a 31-year-old man with alleged links to Daesh. He was believed to have been in contact with someone based in Syria who tried to “influence youth [Indians]” with the help of social media, using different handles and profiles. From this, it could be inferred that online radicalisation and recruitment are effective to a certain extent in India. What is equally worrisome is the presence of supporters of terror ideology in different parts of the country who not only indoctrinate youth but also provide logistical support such as weapons, materials for explosives and financial assistance.

Meanwhile, the report of 21 youths from Kerala who have gone missing is of unfolding concern. Although it is yet to be ascertained whether a few of them have already joined the outfit or not, Daesh-connected activities in different parts of India are on the rise. As a result, stringent measures should be taken to prevent further departure of such people to ISIS controlled areas. This will need considerable cooperation from the Muslim community internally as well as international support.

International Terrorism

Bastille Day Attack in Nice, France

Seven months after Paris was brought to knees by Daesh fighters, the country came under an unusual attack on 14 July but this time in the city of Nice. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France drove a 20-ton cargo truck drove into a large crowd celebrating Bastille Day in this popular tourist destination. The attacker not only mowed down the revellers but also fired at the civilians and security personnel before he was killed by the police. He took the lives of 84 people and injured more than 200 civilians. Reportedly he neither had links with any terror outfit nor was he known to the intelligence agencies before this crime. It is a typical case of a lone actor who took up the path of terror for reasons which are yet to be ascertained. However, Daesh claimed him to be one of their “soldiers”. This incident is a grim reminder that terrorism is taking different form and is no longer the case of coordinated group of people setting out to attack. Moreover, investigation also discovered that he was self-radicalised so rapidly that the change in his behaviour or suspicious activities could not be detected earlier. As aptly mentioned by one, “This is a new type of attack… We are now confronted with individuals that are sensitive to the message of ISIS and are committed to extremely violent actions without necessarily being trained by them". An attack of this nature underscores the problem of home-grown militancy in France. The challenge ahead is how to prevent such attacks which are being carried out by unusual people, and this should be a warning bell for every country which is witnessing a rising phenomenon of domestic extremism and radicalisation.

Bomb Blast in Iraq

The security situation in Iraq did not see any improvement despite the recapture of a few crucial territories by the Iraqi security forces in the last couple of months. Daesh continued to carry out attacks in and around the capital city of Baghdad killing hundreds of people. In one of the carnages, a suicide bomber with explosive-laden truck ripped through a busy commercial centre in the capital on 2 July. More than 200 people, including approximately 25 children and 20 women were killed. The incident happened right after the people broke their Ramadan fast. This can be considered as part of the “Ramadan Strategy” which this terror outfit has been planning since the last many months. Daesh leaderships in Syria and Iraq had called on their fighters and supporters to carry out as many attacks as they could, not only in West Asian but also in different parts of the world. This particular attack happened right after Bangladesh, Turkey, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon also witnessed powerful attacks, either by Daesh-inspired people or directly by the outfit.

The inability to prevent such brazen attacks reflects poorly on the level of preparedness of the Iraqi central government, particularly at this stage when Daesh is not giving up its fight against all forms of resistance. Given the loss of territories, the outfit is likely to shift towards insurgency and will continue to step up its attacks wherever and whenever possible. As commented by a strategic analyst, “ISIS is going to become a more 'traditional' terror group, boasting of its international reach to attract recruits and bolster morale as it loses ground in Iraq and Syria.” Finally, to assist the local forces in combating Daesh militias, the United States Administration decided to send more troops comprising military logistic personnel, engineers and force protection units, in the coming months to Iraq.

Terror Wave Continues in Bangladesh

Following the July 1 terrorist attack in a Dhaka restaurant in 20 people, including an Indian lost their lives, another brazen attack was attempted on July 7, 2016 when a group of seven militants, attacked a police checkpoint at Sholakia near the Eid congregation venue where more than 200,000 people had assembled for the Eid prayer. Two policemen were killed and at least 12 others were injured in the exchange of fire between the terrorists and the security forces. One suspected attacker was also killed in a blast. Panic gripped the ground. Four of the attackers who bombed the checkpoint were caught after a gun battle. Had these attackers reached the congregation ground, hundreds of people could have been killed.

While there has been continuing debate on whether it was the handiwork of Daesh or local outfits, the massacre indicated the evolving nature of terrorism in the country. It is no longer the case where major terror organisations are trying unrelentingly to unleash onslaughts, let alone in Bangladesh, but also how radicalised people within any country, with access to weapons systems and financial help, could attack the civilians. As a matter of fact, Daesh, in one of the editions of its English publication Dabiq, mentioned categorically about its objective to carry out attacks in Bangladesh. These incidents are also a message of a likely competition between different terror outfits operating inside the country, including home grown terror outfits. Tellingly, the problem of radicalisation amongst the youths from all strata of the society is also exposed by these events as also the role of social media in self-radicalisation and that of radicalised ideologues in brainwashing vulnerable youths.

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