|What Does Israel’s Missile Strike on Hamas Hackers Mean for Military Cyber Response?
CPO Magazine, May 14, 2019 To date, nation-states have been extremely hesitant about responding to cyber-attacks with physical military force. That’s what makes Israel’s early May attack on Hamas so unusual. While it’s not uncommon for the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to respond to rocket attacks from Gaza with targeted strikes, this is the first time they have done so in response to the hacking. The move has left many wondering how common an armed cyber response will be going forward.The IDF released video showing an air strike on a Hamas-occupied building that the cyber-attacks were being launched from. The IDF did not release any details of the nature of the cyber-attacks, other than describing them as a threat to “the quality of life of Israeli citizens.”Not only is this the first time that Israel has responded to a cyber threat in this way, it is believed to be the first time any military has responded to a digital threat with immediate force.A lethal cyber responseThe armed cyber response occurred in the midst of a spate of violence that saw Hamas launch over 600 rockets into Israel and the IDF retaliate with strikes against military targets. Though military exchanges of this nature are not uncommon in the region, activity has been abnormally high this year.Though the objective of the Hamas hacks remains unknown, the terrorist organization has been caught attempting to hack IDF drones and cameras as part of an ongoing cyber offensive against Israeli forces in recent years. The hackers use the video feeds to precisely locate groups of military personnel and civilians in real-time to launch rocket attacks.While cyber-attacks from terrorist groups and other nation-states have become commonplace in all of the nations around the world, it is extremely rare for a nation to use military force as a cyber response. The United States military has targeted members of ISIS in years past in retaliation for hacking, but never as the attack was in progress.Why countries avoid a military responseThe conception of cyber aggression on a scale that calls for military retaliation is still a very new one, and international law has not yet properly addressed cyber-response to it. It is usually tricky to identify a digital attacker with 100% certainty, especially as an attack is occurring. Identification usually happens over a period of days, weeks or even month following the attack as forensics experts trace the trail.The theory that Hamas was attempting to hack Israeli drones thus is a very reasonable one here; the IDF likely identified them based on similar attack patterns that have been going on for over five years now. Most countries would not be so quick to pull the trigger even with positive identification of the target, however. Current international law makes the line between “criminal action” and “act of war” very unclear when it comes to cyber response. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Israel’s Secret Weapon: Kamikaze Drones (And We Might Have the Video)
The National Interest, Feb. 20, 2019
On January 21, Iranian, Syrian and Israeli forces unleashed a hail of missiles upon each other in what is becoming yet another flare-up of violence along the Syria-Israel border. Afterward, the Israeli Defense Force released a video depicting unidentified munitions eliminating two or three short-range air defense systems—apparently including Russia’s latest short-range system, the Pantsir-S2.
In fact, the recent raids may reveal improvements to Syria’s air defense forces due to ongoing Russian training and weapons transfers. However, they also reveal Israel’s continuing ability to defeat, including through likely use of kamikaze-drones.
The succession of tit-for-tat attacks apparently began with the launch of a Fateh 110 short-range ballistic missile by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, targeting an Israeli ski-resort on Mount Hebron in the Golan Heights. As the solid-fuel rocket blazed towards to the snowy mountain, it was intercepted and destroyed by two missiles from the Israel Iron Dome air defense system, as you can see in this video.
Prior to Russia’s intervention in 2015, intervening IRGC troops played a critical role in rescuing Bashar al-Assad’s faltering regime. In addition to combating Syrian rebels, the IRGC has established an extensive network of bases on Syrian soil to exert military pressure on Israel and furnish assistance to Hezbollah, which is supported by both Syria and Iran.
In response, Israeli warplanes have launched hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria since the start of the civil war, seeking to disrupt arms transfers to Hezbollah and the buildup of Iranian forces. Despite frequently encountering Syrian anti-aircraft fire, only a single Israeli F-16 has been lost, shot down in February 2018 by an S-200 surface-to-air missile. That year alone, the IDF struck targets in Syria with over 2,000 missiles.
Hours after the IRGC’s missile attack, the IDF retaliated with its most extensive attack to date. According to the Israeli periodical Debka, however, they did not target the IRGC battery that launched the attack. A hail of missiles instead descended upon Damascus International Airport and nearby weapon stores.
Syrian air defense troops reportedly fired dozens of missiles in response, primarily medium-range missiles from Buk air defense systems (SA-17), and 57E6 missiles from short-range Pantsir-S1 (SA-22) systems. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Constraining Iran’s Missile Capabilities
Robert Einhorn and Vann. H. Van Diepen
Brookings, Mar. 2019
For decades, the United States has sought to constrain Iran’s missile program, both because it poses a conventional military threat to regional stability and because it can provide a delivery capability for nuclear weapons should Iran acquire them. But despite the efforts of the United States and others to impede Iranian procurement of missile-related materials, equipment, and technology and a succession of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) restrictions imposed largely to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons delivery systems, Iran has managed to acquire the largest and most diverse missile force in the Middle East.
Relying initially on missiles, components, and technology purchased mainly from North Korea and China, but increasingly making advances through indigenous efforts, Iran maintains a force of hundreds of liquid- and solid-propellant short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs and MRBMs), now being augmented by land-attack cruise missiles. Although claiming to limit itself to ballistic missiles with a 2000 km range by order of the supreme leader and not yet launching ballistic missiles above that range, Iran pursues at least four paths that it could use to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States, including the development of space-launch vehicles (SLVs) based on technologies directly applicable to long-range ballistic missiles. While placing a priority on indigenous development, Iran remains dependent on importing key components and materials. It is working on more accurate guidance systems to improve the military utility of its missiles and has fielded road-mobile missile launchers to promote their survivability against attack.
The Iranians see their missile force as an integral and indispensable part of their national defense strategy, fulfilling key strike roles traditionally taken by manned aircraft, but beyond the capabilities of an Iranian air force hobbled by many years of sanctions. The missile program serves key Iranian goals: deterring attacks against Iran, providing warfighting capabilities if deterrence fails or Iran decides to initiate hostilities, supporting military capabilities of regional proxies such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, enhancing national pride and regional influence, and providing a nuclear delivery hedge if Iran decides to acquire nuclear weapons. The use of Iranian ballistic missiles is not just theoretical. Iran has fired ballistic missiles against Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war and against various non-state actor adversaries in neighboring states in recent years. Moreover, Iranian proxies have fired Iranian-supplied missiles and rockets at U.S. regional partners Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Iran’s missile program poses a serious threat to the security interests of the United States and its partners, both in the Middle East and beyond. Key U.S. objectives with respect to that program are to deter attacks and intimidation against the United States and its friends, impede quantitative and qualitative improvement in the regional missile capabilities of Iran and its proxies, maintain military capabilities that can degrade the ability of the missile forces of Iran and its proxies to achieve their objectives, and discourage and delay the development of missile capabilities that can reach beyond the region, including to Western Europe and the U.S. homeland.
President Trump has cited the absence of missile constraints in the Iran nuclear deal— officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—as one of its major flaws and a key reason he decided to withdraw from the agreement. By withdrawing from the JCPOA and re-imposing sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the deal, the administration hopes to place overwhelming pressure on Tehran and compel it to accept a comprehensive “new deal” meeting the 12 highly ambitious requirements outlined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May 2018, including the halt of all uranium enrichment, the end of Iranian support to Middle East terrorist groups, and the withdrawal from Syria of all forces under Iranian command. On the missile issue, the requirement is that “Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missiles.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The New Revolution in Military Affairs
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019
In 1898, a Polish banker and self-taught military expert named Jan Bloch published The Future of War, the culmination of his long obsession with the impact of modern technology on warfare. Bloch foresaw with stunning prescience how smokeless gunpowder, improved rifles, and other emerging technologies would overturn contemporary thinking about the character and conduct of war. (Bloch also got one major thing wrong: he thought the sheer carnage of modern combat would be so horrific that war would “become impossible.”)
What Bloch anticipated has come to be known as a “revolution in military affairs”—the emergence of technologies so disruptive that they overtake existing military concepts and capabilities and necessitate a rethinking of how, with what, and by whom war is waged. Such a revolution is unfolding today. Artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, ubiquitous sensors, advanced manufacturing, and quantum science will transform warfare as radically as the technologies that consumed Bloch. And yet the U.S. government’s thinking about how to employ these new technologies is not keeping pace with their development.
This is especially troubling because Washington has been voicing the same need for change, and failing to deliver it, ever since officials at the U.S. Department of Defense first warned of a coming “military-technical revolution,” in 1992. That purported revolution had its origins in what Soviet military planners termed “the reconnaissance-strike complex” in the 1980s, and since then, it has been called “network-centric warfare” during the 1990s, “transformation” by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in these pages in 2002, and “the third offset strategy” by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work in 2014. But the basic idea has remained the same: emerging technologies will enable new battle networks of sensors and shooters to rapidly accelerate the process of detecting, targeting, and striking threats, what the military calls the “kill chain.”
The idea of a future military revolution became discredited amid nearly two decades of war after 2001 and has been further damaged by reductions in defense spending since 2011. But along the way, the United States has also squandered hundreds of billions of dollars trying to modernize in the wrong ways. Instead of thinking systematically about buying faster, more effective kill chains that could be built now, Washington poured money into newer versions of old military platforms and prayed for technological miracles to come (which often became acquisition debacles when those miracles did not materialize). The result is that U.S. battle networks are not nearly as fast or effective as they have appeared while the United States has been fighting lesser opponents for almost three decades.
Yet if ever there was a time to get serious about the coming revolution in military affairs, it is now. There is an emerging consensus that the United States’ top defense-planning priority should be contending with great powers with advanced militaries, primarily China, and that new technologies, once intriguing but speculative, are now both real and essential to future military advantage. Senior military leaders and defense experts are also starting to agree, albeit belatedly, that when it comes to these threats, the United States is falling dangerously behind. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]