Woody Island

Deepening Tides of War "Nagorno Karabagh Arms Race Where Is It Headed"?

Embed Size (px)

Citation preview

Woody Island

Editor’s Comments This month, I&A contributors step up to the plate to deliver an issue focusing on a wide range of topics. Following last month’s Russia-centric focus, this month’s issue primarily focuses on naval-themed topics. As a notable exception, recurring contributor Masis Ingilizian presents a look at the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s arms race in the new Conflict Analysis content area. In the naval arena, I&A is pleased to welcome two new contributors to the fold. Christopher Biggers and Daniel Videre write on naval themes in the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea. Mr. Biggers also presents a Current Events piece examining the lack of damage to a Libyan airfield thought to be a potential target for NATO airstrikes. Further contributor pieces are in the works for future I&A issues. By bringing in authors knowledgeable in various subject areas, I&A strives to represent the most useful and varied source possible. Sean O’Connor

Table of Contents Current Events

Umm Aitiqah AB (Christopher Biggers) 1 Facility Analysis

The Playing Field (Daniel Videre) 2 Imagery Highlight

Vietnam’s Vostok-E (Sean O’Connor) 8 Tech Notes

Iran’s Nahang SSC (Christopher Biggers) 9 Facility Analysis

Iran: Denial & Deception (Christopher Biggers) 11 Conflict Analysis

Deepening Tides of War (Masis Ingilizian) 15 Links

November 2011 (Sean O’Connor) 17 Source List

Source List 17 What Is It?

November 2011 Rear cover

Subscription & Contact Information -To contact I&A, e-mail the editor at [email protected]. For standard subscription, enter the text “Subscribe PDF” in the subject line. For subscription via a US DoD or government address, enter the text “Subscribe PDF MIL” in the subject line. Content remains the same in both cases, but distribution lists remain segregated to allow quicker resolution to transmission problems. To unsubscribe, enter “Unsubscribe PDF” in the subject line. -Interested contributors are encouraged to contact the editor with “Contributor” in the subject line. -Readers are encouraged to contact the editor with any questions, comments, or stated interests for future articles. Feedback is always welcome and encouraged.

Publishing Information I&A Volume 1, Number 10 (November 2011) Self-published by Sean O’Connor (Editor) Cover image courtesy of Google Earth.

Disclaimer I&A is an open-source publication. As such, I&A only references publicly available material when researching and authoring the features contained herein. All sources referenced appear in a list at the end of each issue, organized by the articles that they were used to create. Refer any questions regarding the source material or the content presented herein to the editor.


Current Events

Umm Aitiqah AB, Libya Christopher Biggers

The latest imagery rollout from Google Earth on 19 October shows Umm Aitiqah Airfield (Mitiga) on 28 August 2011 with no visible damage to the runways and surrounding buildings despite conflicting media reports.

The thirteen MiG-25 (FOXBAT) interceptors remain in their previously reported deployment location also showing no visible damage. After reviewing the imagery available going back to 2002, at least six MiG-25s never changed position, which suggests up to 50 percent of the fleet were probably non-functioning posing a minimal threat.

A few of the other air assets appear to have relocated from this location including a few Mi-8/17 (HIP) and the four previously reported CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

Overall, this location probably posed no threat as unconfirmed reports from multiple sources suggest opposition protesters had taken over the airfield by 25 February after a series of defections. This activity led up to a major victory on 13 March with the defection of one Colonel Ali Atiyya, the reported base commander. Bottom Line

Imagery supports the ground reporting indicating that the opposition likely took control


of this airfield early on in the conflict. The high probability of collateral damage coupled with the above reports may have led NATO and US forces to halt a previously planned bombing of the airfield.

Facility Analysis

The Playing Field Daniel Videre

The recent spike in tensions in Asia that resulted from the altercation of Vietnamese and Filipino oil survey ships and Chinese maritime forces in disputed waters of the South China Sea (SCS) has brought to the public view an existing slow but steady rise in

regional tension that has coincided with the rise in Asian, especially Chinese, prosperity. These tensions have sent periodic tremors throughout the globe and have the nations of the region reevaluating their strategic positions and available options in light of the potential rise of The Peoples Republic of China to super power status in the decades ahead.

For economic reasons, ships sailing between ports follow the straightest lines, geographically and politically, possible. These lines are Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). SLOCs can be the dirt road seldom travelled or highway and super highway of the high seas. The super highways of global sea borne trade pass through the South China Sea,


carrying approximately 50 percent of the global total. The SCS serves as a gateway between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. SLOCs terminate in the various ports of the world and link the nations of the earth together via commerce. As of 2009, the top four container ports in the world reside in the SCS: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Six of the top ten are in China.

The tremendous rise in prosperity in the Asian Pacific region in recent decades has been due to this regional and global sea trade, which is the most efficient, and economical means of transporting large volume and heavy weight cargoes, notably oil. Increased national prosperity has resulted in an increased concern for the security of the SLOCs. The uninterrupted flow of shipping is critical to a nation’s prosperity and ultimately survival. In the case of the Peoples Republic of China, now the second largest economy in the world, the need for security is having global ramifications.

As important as SLOC security is for China, it is secondary to the need for a stable, and ever-increasing supply of oil needed to maintain and expand their growing economy. To this end, the Chinese have been reaching out to nations across the globe to supply their needs. Increased oil imports from Russia and Central Asia via pipelines will continue to expand and grow. However, pipelines are expensive, and the areas through which they pass are frequently unstable. Agreements with Central and South America, in addition to several African states, will provide additional oil. The Persian Gulf will continue to supply approximately 70% of China’s needs for the near future. All of this arrives via oil tankers, all of which have to pass choke points controlled by others.

If shipping is the lifeblood of economic

growth, telecommunications is the nerve center that controls the flow. Beneath the SCS is a multitude of submarine telecommunication cables supporting the information super highway. Of note, China requires cable operators to secure permits for the repair of

damaged cables outside of their own 12 mi. territorial limit as recently as 2009.

The density of communication cables in the SCS is only surpassed by the links between the U.S. and Europe (Alcatel-Lucent)

New Oil and Gas

For China, a possible opportunity to reduce its dependence on imported oil and the associated security issues lies beneath the waters of the South China Sea. A 1993/1994 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) cited the sum total of discovered reserves and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the SCS at 28 billion barrels (bbl). Further, the USGS and others indicate that about 60 to 70 percent of the region's hydrocarbon resources are natural gas.

In April 2006, Husky Energy, working

with the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, announced a find of proven natural gas reserves of nearly 4 to 6 Tcf near the Spratly Islands. Some Chinese estimates have the total reserves to be as high as 213 bbl. of oil and 2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas. Although potential gas reserves are high, the national infrastructure in China is not yet equipped for proper exploitation. Such oil and gas potential, however, is also an opportunity for China's neighbors who have energy requirements and destinies of their own to pursue.


Arrayed opposite China along the shores of the South China Sea are the Republic of China (ROC) to the north, the Philippines to the east, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam to the south, and Indonesia, and Vietnam to the west. Much smaller than China, both physically and economically, these countries, except the ROC, have loosely banded together under the umbrella of the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations, ASEAN. Under the banner of “one vision, one identity, one community,” these nations along with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, and Thailand, seek greater leverage in negotiations with China, as one. With respect to the hydrocarbons beneath the sea, however, they are also in conflict with each other.

According to some western experts, claims of extensive oil reserves are not proven and may not exist (middlebury.edu)

Disputed Territories

Within the South China Sea, there are numerous small islands, islets, atolls, and reefs, and rocks, with the majority located in the Paracel and Spratly Island chains. Most of these landforms are partially submerged and unsuitable for habitation. Lengthy legal treatises could be written justifying ownership of these landforms by the various claimants based on old maps, and fishermen’s travels, however the actual level of national interest in the islands, historically, has been a passing

one. Although English names appear here, all of the contested areas possess multiple names, as does the South China Sea itself. What the world will ultimately call these territories likely depends on the eventual determination of ownership.

The primary importance of possessing these islands lies, in part, in the resultant ownership of the adjacent waters, in accordance with international law. The islands provide the individual countries a base from which to search for, and extract, oil from the surrounding waters in addition to fishing rights. Sitting aside the SLOCs the islands provide a measure of security for shipping and a surveillance post with which to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing.

The Paracel Island group is composed of small coral islands, reefs, cays and islets, shoals divided into the Northeast Amphitrite Group and the western Crescent Group. Situated in the northwestern regions of the South China Sea, the Paracel Islands are located 205 km southeast from the Chinese island of Hainan and 247 km east from the city of Da Nang on the central Vietnamese coast.

The Paracel Islands are claimed by

China, Vietnam and Taiwan. In a brief naval skirmish between the PRC and the Vietnamese in 1974, the Vietnamese were expelled. Although the Vietnamese remain steadfast in their claims, the Islands are now firmly in the control of the Chinese. Administration by the Chinese is through Hainan Provence.

Chinese military garrisons are currently located on Woody and Duncan islands. Woody Island contains two man made harbors and a 7,850’ runway that can handle all aircraft in the PLAAF inventory. Connected to Woody Island via a concrete causeway is Rocky Island. With a high point of 14 meters, Rocky Island has been developed into an extensive SIGINT station, able to cover the entire SCS.


Woody Island, with Rocky Island visible just north of the runway (Google Earth)

The Pratas Islands are located 850 km

southwest of Taipei and 340 km southeast of Hong Kong in the northern part of the South China Sea. The islands are made up of coral atolls and reef flats. Only Pratas Island itself is above sea level, Northern Vereker and Southern Vereker atolls are under water. The islands are occupied and administered by ROC, although the PRC also claims ownership. With a 5,500’ runway, and docking facilities, Pratas Island represents a significant ROC military outpost that can provide early warning for threats from the southwest.

Pratas Island (Google Earth)

Macclesfield Bank is an elongated sunken atoll of underwater reefs and shoals, centered around 16°00′N 114°30′E, east of the Paracel Islands. With an area of 6,448 square km within the outer rim of the reef, it is one of the largest atolls of the world. The Macclesfield Bank has extensive fishery resources and is centrally located in the SCS, putting it in the middle of the SLOCs. The PRC and the Philippines currently dispute the sovereignty of the Macclesfield Bank.

Scarborough Shoal, or Scarborough Reef, is located between the Macclesfield Bank and Luzon, Philippines. Scarborough Shoal is a sunken atoll formation consisting of a narrow reef rim, back reef slopes and a central lagoon that contains a deep basin towards the south. A coral reef is the most common type of reef and appears as blue green in color in Google Earth imagery. The water depth above the coral reefs is between zero and approximately two meters. By contrast, the deepest part of the lagoon is approximately 15 meters deep. A single passage on the southeastern rim, 350 m in width, connects the interior with the open sea. With the exception of several coral rocks, the entire reef is submerged.

Scarborough Shoal (Google Earth)

A single passage on the southeastern

rim, 350 m in width, connects the interior with the open sea. With the exception of several coral rocks, the entire reef is submerged. The sovereignty of Scarborough Shoal is claimed


by the PRC, ROC, and the Philippines. There has been periodic conflict between the PRC and the Philippines in this area. In June of 2009, a Chinese submarine collided with an underwater sonar array towed by the destroyer USS John S. McCain in the area; the U.S., China, and the Philippines all provided conflicting locations for the incident.

The Spratly Islands and their environs, consisting of approximately 100 small islands and reefs totaling less than 5 sq km of land area, are the most contested. Relatively small numbers of military forces from Vietnam, China Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines occupy approximately 45 islands. Brunei has claimed an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the southeastern part of the Spratlys encompassing just one area of small islands above mean high water (on the Louisa Reef). The fishing grounds are rich and fishing boats

are often used as instruments of foreign policy. The map below shows the relative positions of the various countries as of 1996 and is still accurate; however, with each new altercation between nations, all countries inevitably further fortify their various outposts. Much of the area is obscured in Google Earth making a current assessment difficult.

Numerous military skirmishes between the littoral states have occurred in the past three decades. The Vietnamese have fired on Philippine aircraft near Spratly Island. Philippine and Malaysian aircraft nearly engaged each other over Malaysian controlled reefs. Fishing boats are frequently seized by the various countries for various infractions. The most serious skirmish occurred in 1988, when the Chinese sank three Vietnamese ships killing 70 at the South Johnson Reef.


Spratley Island proper, the largest island under Vietnamese control and the administrative center for their other possessions (Google Earth)

South Johnson Reef center, PRC occupied, North Johnson Reef aka Collins Reef to the north (Google Earth)

Looking forward

Perhaps the most deep-rooted driver of possible conflict, and the hardest to quantify or address, is a combination of national pride and history. China is an ancient civilization with a proud legacy; the loss of great power status in the 18th century was neither forgotten nor accepted. The Chinese have memories of a weak and humiliated nation, often bullied by the bigger powers.

The Chinese Communist Party, as with all groups or parties that claim the mantle of national leadership, requires a narrative to justify their rule. With the discrediting of socialist economics, the new narrative is as the protector and guardian of the nation’s progress. The Revolutionary Party has been replaced by the Governing Party. The prospect of having great power status is a powerful message being projected by the CCP, a message genuinely embraced by the Chinese populace. History has shown that populations with past grievances and newly acquired military and political power are a volatile combination.

As relative global economic strength

continues to shift to Asia, so too will the military and political strengths as it has through out history. An interested observer can see that without any fanfare the United States has been gradually shifting military resources east to the Pacific. The Indian Navy is also shifting significant resources from its Western to Eastern naval command facing the Bay of Bengal. A quiet regional arms race is already under way.

Conflict is not inevitable, as all nations

are aware that the commerce that has made them prosperous would be one of the first casualties in any significant military engagement. Memories of savage warfare in the Twentieth Century are enough to make the most ardent nationalist pause. All nations have a vested interest in maintaining the peace but until a new equilibrium is achieved, tensions will remain high.

Information plays a key role in diffusing

tensions by reducing the uncertainty that initially creates it. In this arena, any military conflict is likely to primarily involve ships, aircraft and missiles, not large land armies, for obvious reasons. The infrastructure and resources that make military conflict possible take time to develop and deploy and to a large degree is observable on available overhead imagery. The imagery analyst can play an important role by examining and cataloging the infrastructure and available resources that exist


and making it public. This information is not likely to be unknown to the governments involved; however, it will better inform the citizens of the effected countries who now have an increasing voice in the affairs of their governments. This voice will be critically important to keeping the peace.

Imagery Highlight

Vietnam’s Vostok-E Sean O’Connor

Phu Minh EW Site in Vietnam, located roughly twelve kilometers north of Hanoi, is currently host to one of the newer radar systems in the nation’s inventory. Since October of 2008, imagery indicates that the site hosts a modern Vostok-E radar system.

The Belarusian Vostok-E radar system, along with Russian 55Zh6UE (TALL RACK) radar and S-300PMU-1 (SA-20A GARGOYLE) SAM systems are integral to the modernization of Vietnam’s air defense network. A 55Zh6UE currently resides on the grounds of Can Tho Airport southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, while the battery positions of Vietnam’s two S-300PMU-1 units remain unidentified at this time.

Vostok-E is a solid-state, VHF-band

mobile radar system. Maximum acquisition range is 360 kilometers for a large RCS, cooperative target. Scientific and Production Republican Unitary Enterprise DB Radar manufactures the system in Belarus and markets it abroad.


Tech Notes

Iran’s Nahang SSC Christopher Biggers

Although very little information is known about the Nahang SSC in open source reporting, it appears Google Earth has managed to capture the “whale” docked at Bandar-e-Abbas (BeA) on 9 June and 28 June 2009.

As depicted in the imagery, the Nahang

appeared in the normal deployment location of the Ghadir coastal submarine, docking at the northeast wharf. Normally, the positioning might say something about the role of the Nahang, but since June 2009, GE and other open source imagery providers have not shown the whale’s return.

For those watching BeA, one of the

major identifiers of the Nahang are the diving planes on the sail, which appear very clearly even in low fidelity imagery. The Nahang SSC is the only Iranian-operated submarine with sail-mounted diving planes. In addition, for those creating imagery signature databases, the waterline measurement (LWL) will be of particular interest coming in at approximately 21.55 meters. This measurement may not be entirely accurate due to the low fidelity of the imagery.

The adjacent submarine is also of interest, as it appears to be of the same size as the Nahang but without the easily discernable dive planes. However, the diving plane on the interior submarine, if present, may be covered


by shadow or obscured due to the slant angle of the satellite. Background

Originally announced in 2006, the

reportedly 500-ton Nahang was declared operational when it appeared in Iranian naval exercises during April 2007. While two additional Nahangs were reported to be in manufacture, no evidence until now suggested they were near being operational.

According to an IRINN news report translated by Memri, the design and construction involved 220 researchers and 1.2million hours of scientific and industrial work. In August 2008, the Iranian Defense

Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced the launching of the production line for the new domestically built Qaaem submarine. If the above figures from IRINN are correct, substantial sweat equity has gone into the development of the Nahang, which will probably be translated into substantial manufacturing gains with the reportedly 1000-ton Qaaem. As a result, open sources suggest the Qaaem is capable of carrying naval mines, firing torpedoes as well as subsurface-to-surface-launched missiles. Implication

Considering Iran’s shipbuilding background and the possibility that Iran is upgrading the Kilo SSK at BeA under a


Russian offset agreement, it is very likely Iran has started moving up the value chain in submarine manufacturing. This development, inter alia, appears to be well understood by military planners in the US, as they have recently beefed up the NAVCENT facility in Bahrain, spending $580 million, as well as deploying further P-3 Orions to Shaikh Isa AB in addition to the P-3s based out of Al Udeid in Qatar.

With tightening sanctions, Iran is

increasing innovation at a rate that may suggest further outside help. It certainly would not be surprising if Russia continued to help Iran innovate regardless of recent "resets" with the US. In fact, despite halting the S-300PMU-2 (SA-20B GARGOYLE) transfer with Iran, Russia quietly compromised by agreeing to finish the Bushehr nuclear power plant. It certainly would not be the first time Russia has broken promises with the US to stop arms transfers and services to Iran (see Chernomyrdin-Gore agreement).

Perhaps when the latest Qaaem submarine is unveiled we will see how far Iran has truly come.

Facility Analysis

Denial and Deception at Bandar-e-Abbas Christopher Biggers

When the Iranian Navy bought four diesel-electric Kilo (Type 877EKM) class SSKs from Russia in the 1990s, it did so on the basis to further expand its regional influence as well as support the ambition to develop a blue-water navy.

Among Iran’s continuing goals: develop diplomatic and economic ties with the Muslim majority countries of Africa while extending and enhancing the operational capabilities of many of its naval craft. The former objective got off to a good start in 2010 and the latter has seen only minor incremental improvements.

According to various Jane’s reports, Iran has been increasing the performance of its small submarine fleet during monthly tests and subsequent refits. However, due to a deceptive messaging strategy Iran employs with its military equipment, little has been actually verified.

For that reason, inter alia, Iran recently sent a Kilo along with its 14th Fleet to the Red Sea in July 2011 to further project a sense of power and position within the region.

However, that projection may shortly be backed up by certain offensive capabilities as various defense analysts over the past few years have suggested that Iran may be fitting the Kilo SSKs with the 3M54 Klub (SS-N-27 SIZZLER) multirole cruise missile. Such a capacity would enable Iranian Kilo SSKs to target surface ships, other submarines, and land targets within a 200km radius.

With that in mind, a review of satellite imagery shows Iran starting a possible Denial and Deception (D&D) operation to counter surveillance at Bandar-e-Abbas beginning at some point between 22 March 2005 and mid-2007, effectively inhibiting satellite evaluation of ongoing activities. The operation comes shortly after a Russian media report confirmed a project to upgrade the Kilo (SSK) submarine by Rosoboronexport.

Although unlikely, this activity may suggest that Iran has transported the Kilo SSKs to Russia to undergo refitting for the Klub weapon system. Alternatively, if refitting activity is occurring at Bandar-e-Abbas, it may suggest Iran has further enhanced its own capacity and understanding of the Kilo SSK through a previously unreported offset agreement with Rosoboronexport. Whatever the case, the US appears to be concerned about Iran’s submarine capability as it deployed additional P-3 Orion ASW platforms to Shaikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain in early 2010, supplementing P-3s based out of Al Udeid in Qatar.


Additional naval maintenance activities have also been obscured from sight with Iran erecting further coverings over an adjacent marine railway where the Ghadir class SSCs are fitted-out and maintained for operation.

Multispectral Imagery from 22 March 2005 shows three Kilo SSKs at Bandar-e-Abbas at their normal deployment location. This is the last open source imagery currently available that confirm three Kilos (SSK) together at Bandar-e-Abbas; the fourth Kilo is thought to remain in covered storage.

By 10 February 2008, multispectral imagery from Digital Globe shows the erection of a covering for the northeast dry dock location with a possible Kilo SSK inside. The submarine is thought to be at this location due to the possible air conditioning-humidity control

hoses extending from the platform adjacent to the dry dock.

However, the air conditioning-humidity control hoses may not be a perfect indicator for Kilo SSK presence as past imagery show air conditioning-humidity control equipment placed on the hull of the submarine. In addition, this may cause discrepancies in optical imagery confirmation as Iran could deploy the air conditioning-humidity equipment as a dummy-decoy when an actual Kilo SSK could be out on patrol.

Imagery from 10 February also show a second Kilo SSK remaining at the original deployment location and one possible Ghadir class submarine laying in open storage on the adjacent slip way probably undergoing maintenance. Unfortunately, the low fidelity of


the imagery obscures a more thorough analysis.

Covering erected over the 10 Feb 2008 Ghadir SSC location (Google Earth)

Multispectral imagery from 9 June 2009 acquired from Geo Eye shows the erection of a

covering over the adjacent marine railway as well as a probable Ghadir SSC on the end-launch slipway. A Kilo SSK also joined the floating dry dock while a second Kilo remains at the normal deployment location. A third Kilo SSK is probably located at the Northeast dry dock location as suggested by the possible air conditioning-humidity control hoses.

Kilo SSC in drydock, June 2009 (Google Earth)


Between 28 June 2009 and 7 January 2010, a second Kilo SSK probably arrived at the floating dry dock location for routine blasting and coating maintenance as suggested by the differences in the discoloration of the waterline on the hull. Denial and Deception: Quick and Dirty

D&D, as observed with Iran, aims to disguise basic intentions, strategies, and capabilities in order to confuse an opponent or force him to react in ways he would not otherwise. The target audience is usually state-level decision makers and military planners who influence overall policy and tactics. Therefore, in order to mitigate the risks associated with D&D operations, competitor states invest substantial resources in intelligence collection technologies (IMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, etc.), enforcing arms control treaties and sanctions, increased personnel for analysis, and human assets on the ground in the target country. US Background

In the past, the US has worried less about denial and deception as was shown in the first Gulf War when the US bombed decoy SCUD missiles and tanks, in the Kosovo war bombing dummy-decoy MiG aircraft and bridges, and more recently in the second Gulf War when the US discovered Iraq constructing buildings within buildings for signature suppression.

Much of this disregard was intellectually reinforced when military planners and Beltway policy-makers shifted from Total Quality Control to Revolution in Military Affairs thinking in the early to mid-1990s. However, after the latest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that style of thinking is over.

As viewed in the diplomatic cables featured by Wikileaks, the extent the US is willing to go to keep a competitive advantage out of Iranian and other competitor country hands is impressive. However, in some cases, as with arms suppliers like China, regional

events (e.g. arms sales to Taiwan) directly inhibit the US in achieving its goals.

Other proliferators, like Armenia, North Korea or Belarus, fall largely into a gray area where the US has very few foreign policy tools to influence action. However, many of these countries rely on other actors and may indirectly be affected through back-door channels. Future Implication

Although impending events are always difficult to predict, the US has a firm footing in surrounding Middle Eastern countries. As a result, Iran still faces a number of limitations despite the increasing uncertainty around potential Kilo capabilities.

Diplomatically, the US has established tools like the Proliferation Security Initiative, which focuses on maritime interdiction of WMD and dual-use technology deliveries. Partner countries include all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and countries that border the SLOC on the way to Iran. The interdiction principles signed by most partner countries have streamlined support for joint operations as well as boarding procedures subsequently increasing the opportunity of maritime interdiction putting greater pressure on Iranian procurement.

Militarily, the US will have bases in Iraq for years to come and will continue to maintain a presence in the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, if the US feels its interests threatened in the Strait, it may tip the balance back in its favor by deploying additional assets to the region or bolstering the capabilities of partner states, specifically the GCC countries.

In essence, what this amounts to is good old fashion deterrence policy based upon a Cold War containment strategy. However, time will tell if it remains to be an effective approach to modern day Middle Eastern politics as Iran has other levers of power it may


pull in times of distress further complicating US and partner country interests in the region.

Conflict Analysis

Deepening Tides of War Masis Ingilizian

The search for accurate statistics on military hardware will always be ambitious. In particular, smaller nations will attempt to either increase their inventories or in other cases decrease their allotment of hardware for statistical reasons. Differing policies will affect the outcome of each nation’s direct statistics on hardware acquisition. In the case of Armenia and Azerbaijan, their arms race has significantly intensified over the last year. This intensification is not necessarily attributed directly to the acquisition of military hardware; it is the indirect intensification of geopolitical gaming of the military hardware. In other words, it is the demonstration of military hardware to the public. This intensification not only garners deeper nationalism, it dictates the tides of war.

The aggregation of demonstration of military hardware can be traced back to the beginning of the arms race that began between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mid-1990, immediately after the cease-fire in 1994. Military hardware was purchased in massive amounts on both sides with reform programs to fulfill the demands of a battle ready army. According to sources one million dollars’ worth of military hardware was delivered to Armenia in 1996, it is in this deal that Armenia’s SCUD SRBMs were apparently purchased. Azerbaijan beefed up their military spending year on year. Armenia’s military hardware was kept secret until recent events that drastically changed Armenia’s passive policy in terms of military hardware demonstration.

Azerbaijan’s policy has been, in general

open to demonstration of military hardware, there purchase usually coincides with some type of demonstration. During this period both nations continued there build-up of arms. This all changed in 2010, when Russia renewed its

leasing agreement with Armenia for the military base in Gyumri for another 40 years. This was obviously in retaliation to the failing of the three way negotiations between Russia, Armenia and Turkey in which Russia was hoping for a strategic geopolitical outcome with Turkey from the opening of the borders between Armenia and Turkey. In retaliation to the re-leasing of the Gyumri base, Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a military pact immediately after the signing of the releasing of the Gyumri base. This was a first for the two nations and ultimately sparked the latest round of military demonstration.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have an ethnic brotherhood, with closely related languages. The nations have always been allied through history though this military pact was a first for its kind between the two nations and illustrate the tides of alliances building up in the region. This was the beginning of the latest tit for tat in hardware acquisition and demonstration. In response to the military pact between Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia publicly admitted to its sophistication of air defense systems protecting the skies of Yerevan. Its live fire exercises on Armenian national TV of the S-300PT (SA-10A GRUMBLE) systems was not a coincidence and played a significant role in what was to become a steady pace towards a continued arms race.

The rhetoric from Azerbaijan has significantly decreased in the last two months and the geopolitical move for this policy is not known. Although rhetoric continues, overall it has subsided compared to that of the late 2000. Azerbaijan’s warmonger rhetoric could also serve for Armenia’s change in pace regarding it military hardware demonstration. Following its rhetoric from the mid 90s, it is interesting to note that it has kept the world in suspense and demonstrated Azerbaijan’s reluctance in resuming hostilities.

In recent military photos, Armenia has showed its SCUD ballistic missiles, a first for Armenia who until now has kept these weapons a secret from the 1996 delivery. This exhibition of Armenia’s most lethal weapons


was in retaliation to Azerbaijan’s latest purchase of the S-300PMU-2 (SA-20B GARGOYLE), which was immediately demonstrated in a military parade. This recent purchase effectively negates incoming SCUD missiles as a danger to Baku’s oil fields. The question is, are these two nations slowly moving towards the tides of war?

The latest tit for tat all comes from a failed negotiation at the Kazan meetings between the two nations which where the last hope for a settlement for the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Azerbaijan’s estimated GDP is $54 billion and Armenia’s is $9 million according to the World Economic Forum. Current statistics on military spending shows Azerbaijan at around 1 billion and Armenia at 300 million; the disparity is huge. Until now, Armenia has concentrated spending its money on fortifying its lowlands with trenches and providing soldiers with proper basic requirements for barracks and day-to-day living. Azerbaijan’s military spending concentrates on massive amounts of military hardware, in particular modern UAVs that they have been showing off tremendously over the last few years, troop movers, numerous amounts of artillery and the latest purchase of the S300PMU-2 worth up to 300 million.

Open sources confirm a huge disparity in military acquisition and these are best confirmed with military photos and military parades from both nations. In terms of tank forces Azerbaijan has 300-400 tanks and Armenia has 160 although this figure does not include the tanks from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh’s tanks can be roughly estimated at 300 as well, so in terms of amour both seem equally matched. Armenia can have a slight advantage if 20 T-80s are considered a superior tank. Azerbaijan has mentioned negotiations of T-84 tanks from Ukraine and this can again tip the balance. The figures continue in armored personal carriers, light tanks and armored infantry fighting vehicles in which Azerbaijan has outnumbered Armenia.

Azerbaijan’s military advantage is not only the sheer size of its army, it is the acquisition of artillery and modern MLRSs. They have purchased the Smerch MLRS from Russia, one of the most powerful in its class, which can devastate the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. MLRS purchased from Israel also add to the inventory. In terms of artillery, Azerbaijan has acquired approximately 180 D-30 and 34 D-20; Armenia on the other hand has 90 D-20 and 34 D-30, a sizable gap.

Azerbaijan’s air force also has the

opportunity to inflict damage to Nagorno-Karabakh due to the enclave’s current legacy SAM systems in place. Although Azerbaijan’s air force lacks air to ground avionics or any true potential guided munitions, its UAV acquisition can be a decoy for the single target capability of legacy systems. Their vast fleet of Mig-29s (FULCRUM), up to 30 according to some sources, along with 8 Su-24MRs (FENCER-E) and 30 Su-25s (FROGFOOT) is enough for a heightened war if necessary. The UAVs can also provide real time information for ground troops, which in modern air warfare can be a major advantage.

Armenia proved some resistance with

their air defense systems in the enclave with their takedown of an Azeri Hermes 450 UAV. UAV service ceiling heights are approx 5km and their slow speed makes them an easy target though it proves Armenia's situational awareness. Armenia's air force consist of 15 Su-25s for ground attack and with Azerbaijan's robust overlapping air defense on the border of Nagorno-Karabakh, their effort will be minimal deeper into hostile territory.

Armenia’s latest military parade provided valuable information in terms of military inventory. It also provided the world an insight into Armenia’s growing confidence in recent years. Alongside the S-300PS (SA-10B GRUMBLE), adding additional 6-target capability for Yerevan as well as the mobility to deploy to Nagorno-Karabakh, it also demonstrated the never seen before Tochka (SS-21 SCARAB) SRBMs. Azerbaijan's military parade with its continued rhetoric is a


stark reminder of Azerbaijan's attitude to a renewed conflict. The parade went all out in UAV, MLRSs, artillery and aerobatic shows.

What advantage does Armenia have? With no resources to provide the major powers, no pipelines or pipeline routes, no geopolitical advantage, Armenia on paper has nothing in terms of geopolitical power or weapons. Armenia's air defense will be robust in any limited attack from any air force though the issue at hand is Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh's only offer to resistance is its fortified trench system at the moment and its confidence from the victory in the 90s.

The first and second Chechen war

demonstrated the will of a people and that a smaller nation can cause considerable losses to opposing forces, in which Chechens cut down Russian forces. The Armenians did so too in the Nagorno-Karabakh in the 90s against all odds. For Azerbaijan, their superiority is sheer size and a well-organized and coordinated attack can yield results though occupation will be another matter. Azerbaijan's loss in the 90s is part of the national psyche and a rematch is something they yearn for.

Analysts feel that Armenia might possibly give away a few territories in a renewed conflict to shorten the war and keep Azerbaijan satisfied with their victory, as no re-settlement will ever take place for Azerbaijan as long as Armenian's villagers live in Nagorno-Karabakh. This can be a major issue for the peace process even if Armenia agrees to hand over territory in any peace deal. The major game played by Russia was the selling of the S300PMU-2, totally negating Armenia's SCUD missiles. Does Russia want to protect the oil fields? Are they providing Azerbaijan permission to start a war?

Many questions need to be asked in

order to understand this situation and to understand the possibilities of renewed conflict. This intensity has only been felt recently as deepening tides of war have hit the surface of both nations.


November 2011 Sean O’Connor

This month, I&A examines two open-source intelligence websites commonly featuring overhead imagery analysis.

The Strategic Security Blog, authored by

the Federation of American Scientists, focuses primarily on issues relating to nuclear force developments around the world. While topics such as Chinese or Russian force developments receive due attention, the site does not solely target foreign nuclear powers. Various features related to American nuclear force structure and developments appear, alongside investigations of arms control treaties and their effect on the nuclear power balance.

The Strategic Security Blog can be

accessed at the following url: http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/ Christopher Biggers’ Open Source GEOINT website examines various military developments through the eyes of an imagery analyst. Mr. Biggers draws heavily on the analysis of open-source imagery, fusing the information obtained with other open-source material to present well-written and credible analysis pieces. While the site currently focuses on locations in Iran and other current-events oriented areas such as Libya, an examination of older content indicates that the author is versed in other regions as well. Open Source GEOINT can be accessed at the following url: http://osgeoint.blogspot.com

Source List

November 2011

Overhead imagery courtesy of Google Earth; exceptions are explicitly noted in image


captions or as image annotations. All annotations and overlays depicted on such imagery are the work of the respective article’s author unless explicitly noted below. Current Events Imagery annotation by Sean O’Connor. The Playing Field GlobalSecurity. Online source. Guoxing, Ji. “SLOC Security in the Asia Pacific.” Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Honolulu, Hawaii. Online source. “Oil & Natural Gas.” U.S. Energy Information Agency. Online source. Rosenberg, David. “Maps and Images.” The South China Sea. Online source. Vietnam’s Vostok-E Site locations sourced from the Worldwide SAM Site Overview KML file available at IMINT & Analysis. “Radars and EW Equipment of DB Radar Trademark.” Обозрение армии и флота. No. 5, 2007. Iran’s Nahang SSC Imagery annotation by Sean O’Connor. “Biography of Iranian Defence Minister Brig-Gen Mostafa Mohammad Najjar.” RedOrbit. 7 November 2005. Online source. Broder, John M. “Despite a Secret Pact by Gore in '95, Russian Arms Sales to Iran Go On.” New York Times. 13 October 2000. Online source. “Iran begins new submarine production.” PressTV. 25 August 2008. Online source.

Weir, Fred. “Why Russia is cutting off major arms sales to Iran.” Christian Science Monitor. 23 September 2010. Online source. Denial and Deception at Bandar-e-Abbas Imagery annotation by Sean O’Connor. Originally prepared for the Open Source GEOINT website; additional imagery is available at the following link: http://osgeoint.blogspot.com/2011/10/iran-denial-and-deception-at-bandar-e.html Deepening Tides of War Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012. World Economic Forum. Online source. Khachatrian, Haroutiun. “Kazan Meeting fails to Resolve Nagorno-Karabakh.” CACI Analyst. 6 July 2011. Online source. “Russia and Azerbaijan: An Obstacle to the U.S. in the Caucasus?” STRATFOR. Online source. Shougarian, Rouben. “Yielding More to Gain the Essential: The Factor of Timing in the Context of the Russian-Armenian Treaty of 1997.” Tufts University. Reading List Titles covered sourced directly from the author’s personal library.

What Is It? – November 2011 The ability to identify objects, locations, and activity in overhead imagery is an acquired skill, and like many acquired skills, it can degrade with time. Readers are encouraged to apply their analytical abilities and attempt to determine the answer to the question “what is it?” The answer to the current “What Is It” will appear in this space next month, along with a detailed explanation of the analysis used to arrive at the proper answer.

What Is It? – October 2011 Last month’s What Is It? depicted the RS-24 launch complex at Plesetsk in Russia. Overtly, the facility on its own does not appear to resemble a nuclear missile launch complex. One feature, however, is a critical indicator to the facility’s purpose. The building in the upper left corner of the image is very similar to TEL garages found at Russian mobile ICBM bases. In this case, rather than a simple garage, the building is best described as a high-bay garage, the right side being considerably higher than the left as indicated by the shadowing present. The roof of the higher portion is nearly identical to that of ICBM TEL garages elsewhere, providing the ability to erect and fire a mobile ICBM from inside the structure.