Growing demand, Strategic importance and scarcity of Rare Earth Elements is driving search for alternatives and mitigation strategies

REEs are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust that are essential components of many technologies, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. Rare Earths Elements (REE) are incorporated into many sophisticated technologies with both commercial and defense applications including smartphones and flatscreen televisions to hybrid cars, wind-turbine power systems to communications equipment. These are referred to as “rare” because although relatively abundant in total quantity, they appear in low concentrations in the earth’s crust and extraction and processing is both difficult and costly.

The top rare earth producing countries are China (105,000 tons), Australia (10,000 tons), US(4,100 tons), Russia(2,500 tons), Thailand(1,100 tons) and Malaysia (200 tons). Some estimates are that China now produces about 90- 95% of the world’s rare earth oxides and is the majority producer of the world’s two strongest magnets, samarium cobalt (SmCo) and neodymium iron boron (NeFeB) permanent, rare earth magnet. The 70% of the world’s light rare earths coming from a single mining operation at the Bayan Obo deposit in Inner Mongolia.

China imposes several different types of unfair export restraints on the materials at issue in today’s consultations request, including export duties, export quotas, export pricing requirements as well as related export procedures and requirements.

“Because China is a top global producer for these key inputs, its harmful policies artificially increase prices for the inputs outside of China while lowering prices in China; This price dynamic creates significant advantages for China’s producers when competing against U.S. producers – both in China’s market and in other markets around the world,” found Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The improper export restraints also contribute to creating substantial pressure on U.S. and other non-Chinese downstream producers to move their operations, jobs, and technologies to China.

It has even used this power as an economic weapon, reportedly cutting off rare earth supplies to Japan in September 2010 over a long-standing territorial dispute. After several years of investigation, the WTO concluded in summer 2014 that China was indeed violating its free trade commitments. In response to the ruling, China announced in early 2015 that it would lift the export quotas.

The demand for REEs has grown significantly over recent years, stimulating an emphasis on developing economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected four projects to move on to a second phase of research in their efforts to advance recovery of rare earth elements (REE) from coal and coal byproducts. DOE will invest $17.4 million to develop and test REE recovery systems originally selected and designed under phase 1 of a prior funding opportunity announcement through DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE).

Rare earth elements consist of 17 elements on the periodic table, including 15 elements beginning with atomic number 57 (lanthanum) and extending through number 71 (lutetium), as well as two other elements having similar properties (yttrium and scandium).

Rare earths are divided into two groups: light rare earth elements (LREE) – lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, and samarium, and heavy rare earth elements (HREE) – europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, and yttrium.

From 2016 through 2020 demand for  rare earth elements(REE): neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and lanthanum will grow relatively strongly, but, from 2020 through 2025 the rate of global demand growth for these rare earths will accelerate year-over-year, resulting in major annual demand increases by 2025 that can only be satisfied by the continuous and accelerated development of new mines. REE demand will boom from 2020 onwards as growth rates of top end-use categories including electric vehicles, wind turbines and other hi-tech applications accelerate, according to a new report by Adamas Intelligence.

China produces more than 85% of the global supply of rare earths and the country is also the largest consum. In 2015, China’s consumption was led by magnets (35%), abrasives (18%), and catalysts (15%). As China’s insatiable demand for rare earth elements continues to grow over the coming ten years, China’s domestic production will struggle to keep up in all scenarios examined herein, leading the nation to become a net importer of certain rare earths at the expense of the rest of the world’s supply security. “In fact, by 2025 China’s domestic demand for neodymium oxide for permanent magnets alone is poised to exceed total global production of neodymium oxide by 9,000 tonnes in our base case scenario, highlighting the imminent need for additional sources of supply,” according to report.

The world may face problems of Critical Material supply, but these concerns are not translated into product design activity, even though history suggests that product design could play a role in finding solutions to Critical Materials problems, says Delft researcher David Peck.

How Are Rare Earths Used in Defense Applications?

Rare earth materials play an essential role in several critical weapons components and systems such as precision-guided munitions, electric ship drives, command and control centers, and aircraft, tanks, and missile systems.

It has been estimated that DOD uses less than 5% of domestic consumption of rare earths. Rare earth elements are found in two types of commercially available, permanent magnet materials. They are samarium cobalt (SmCo), and neodymium iron boron (NdFeB).

NdFeB magnets are considered the world’s strongest permanent magnets and are essential to many military weapons systems. SmCo retains its magnetic strength at elevated temperatures and is ideal for military technologies such as precision-guided missiles, smart bombs, and aircraft. The superior strength of NdFeB allows for the use of smaller and lighter magnets in defense weapon systems.

The use of rare earth elements in a variety of defense-related applications:

1. Guidance and control: Electric motors and Actuators e.g. Fin actuators in missile guidance and control systems; smart bombs, UAVs

2. Electric motors: Compact, powerful permanent magnets for Disk drive motors installed in aircraft, tanks, missile systems, and command and control centers

3. Laser targeting and weapons systems: Amplification of energy and resolution for enemy mine detection, interrogators, underwater mines, and countermeasures

4. Communications: Amplification, enhanced resolution of signals in Satellite communications, radar, and sonar on submarines and surface ships; Radiation and Chemical detection

5. Electronic Warfare & Directed Energy weapons : Energy storage/ Density amplification, capacitance e.g.Long range Acoustic Device and Area Denial systems, Jammers, NiMetal Hydride battery

6. Optical equipment and speakers.

Costly to Extract, Complex Manufacturing process

While relatively abundant in the earth, rare earth elements are costly to extract due to their relatively low concentrations per volume of earth extracted, making production viable only at extremely large scales.

The rare earth production process is complex and expensive. The stages of production consist of mining, separating, refining, alloying, and manufacturing rare earths into end-use items and components, as described in the GAO report.

• The first stage is the actual mining, where the ore is taken out of the ground from the mineral deposits.

• The second stage is separating the ore into individual rare earth oxides.

• The third stage is refining the rare earth oxides into metals with different purity levels; oxides can be dried, stored, and shipped for further processing into metals.

• The fourth stage is forming the metals, which can be processed into rare earth alloys.

• The fifth stage is manufacturing the alloys into devices and components, such as permanent magnets.


Mitigation Strategies

US Department of Defense pursues a three-pronged strategy to secure supplies of rare earth elements, which consists of diversification of supply, pursuit of substitutes, and a focus on reclamation of waste as part of a larger U.S. Government recycling effort

 Alternatives to Chinese supply

As a result of the increased demand and tightening restrictions on exports of the metals from China, some countries are stockpiling rare earth resources. Searches for alternative sources in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, Greenland, and the United States are ongoing

Kazakhstan, the world’s top producer of uranium, is now entering the rare earths discussion because both heavy and light rare earths are commonly found in the tailings of uranium mines. In 2012, the country’s state-owned nuclear company Kazatomprom received investment from Japanese corporation Sumitomo to build a processing facility that will eventually produce 1,500 tonnes of rare earth oxides a year.

Currently, REEs are extracted from the two mined minerals  mentioned: bastnasite and monazite. Rare earth manganese nodules have been found beneath the Atlantic Ocean. A Popular Science article reported that “Last summer the UN’s International Seabed Authority issued the first deep sea exploration permits, allowing companies to start actively looking for places to mine nodules and other sources of rare earth elements from the ocean floor.”

US Scientists have figured out a better way to extract rare earth elements from coal waste

It’s important to find new sources and more efficient methods for extracting them. US scientists have developed chemical process known as an ion exchange to separate them from the byproducts of coal production. It involves rinsing the coal with a special solution that releases the REEs bound to it.

“We have known for many decades that rare earth elements are found in coal seams and near other mineral veins,” said one of the team, Sarma Pisupati from Pennsylvania State University. “However, it was costly to extract the materials and there was relatively low demand until recently… We wanted to take a fresh look at the feasibility of extracting REEs from coal because it is so abundant in the US.”

“Essentially, REEs are sticking to the surface of molecules found in coal, and we use a special solution to pluck them out,” said Pisupati. “We experimented with many solvents to find one that is both inexpensive and environmentally friendly.” They found Ammonium sulphate  to be the most effective solvent,  “We were able to very easily extract 0.5 percent of REEs in this preliminary study using a basic ion exchange method in the lab,”

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected four projects


The projects, expected to be completed by 2020, fall under two areas of interest: (1) bench-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal and coal byproducts, including aqueous effluents; and (2) pilot-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal and coal byproduct solids.

The following two bench-scale projects were selected under area of interest 1:

· The University of North Dakota Institute for Energy Studies (Grand Forks, ND) will use North Dakota subbituminous lignite coal and coal-related material as feedstock to test their REE recovery system. In addition to producing REEs, the team plans to recover other material from the lignite feedstock to produce one or more value-added products. $2.75 million

· West Virginia University Research Corporation (Morgantown, WV) will use acid mine drainage solids as a feedstock for recovery of REEs and other useful materials. The solids are from Northern Appalachian and Central Appalachian bituminous coal seams in West Virginia. $2.66 million

Two pilot scale-projects were selected under area of interest 2:

· Physical Sciences, Inc. (Andover, MA) will use coal fly ash physically processed near Trapp, KY. as their feedstock. The fly ash is a byproduct of combusting Central Appalachian bituminous coal in a power plant boiler. The select portion will be shipped to a Pennsylvania location for subsequent processing to produce the final rare earth product. In addition, researchers will evaluate recovery of other useful materials from the fly ash. $6 million

· The University of Kentucky Research Foundation (Lexington, KY) will use two sources of coal preparation (coal washing) byproducts as feedstock for recovery of REEs. The team will also recover dry, fine coal from the feedstock material. The first location for installation and testing of the pilot plant will be at a coal preparation plant in Perry County, KY that processes Central Appalachian bituminous coal. The second location for testing of the pilot plant will be at a coal preparation plant that processes Illinois Basin bituminous coal near Nebo, KY. $6 million

Slovenian scientists in breakthrough on rare earth technology

“A group of scientists from the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) have helped bring about an important breakthrough on technology that will reduce the use of rare earth elements in key components of electric motors,” as reported by STA.

The breakthrough enables a 16-fold reduction in the use of rare earth elements in the production of high-energy magnets. This greatly reduces the costs of such magnets, which are essential components in electric vehicles and turbines.

The breakthrough was made as part of the EU-funded Romeo project, in which IJS scientists spent two years researching ways to reduce dependence on what are often referred to as “technology metals”.

The project was implemented with the help of commercial partners Siemens and Valeo as well as Slovenian automotive parts maker Kolektor, car maker Daimler and magnet producer Vacuumschmelze.

It was co-funded with around EUR 4m in EU money with the main goal of responding to the crisis on the market of rare earth materials caused by Chinese restrictions on exports, which prompted a massive spike in prices in 2009.

Magnetic nanoparticles that could offer alternative to rare Earth magnets synthesized

A team of scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University has synthesized a powerful new magnetic material that could reduce the dependence of the United States and other nations on rare earth elements produced by China.

The new material consists of nanoparticles containing iron, cobalt and carbon atoms with a magnetic domain size of roughly 5 nanometers. It can store information up to 790 kelvins with thermal and time-stable, long-range magnetic order, which could have a potential impact for data storage application. When collected in powders, the material exhibits magnetic properties that rival those of permanent magnets that generally contain rare earth elements.

Permanent magnets, specifically those containing rare earth metals, are an important component used by the electronics, communications and automobile industries, as well as in radars and other applications.

Additionally, the emergence of green technology markets — such as hybrid and electric vehicles, direct drive wind turbine power systems and energy storage systems — have created an increased demand for permanent magnets.

“The discovery opens the pathway to systematically improving the new material to outperform the current permanent magnets,” said Shiv Khanna, Ph.D., a commonwealth professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

New metal alloy could yield green cooling technologies, RIT scientist explores alternatives to rare-earth magnets

A promising new metal alloy system could lead to commercially viable magnetic refrigerants and environmentally friendly cooling technologies, according to Casey Miller, head of RIT’s materials science and engineering program.

The materials use magnetic fields to change a refrigerant’s temperature without the coolant gases associated with global warming. The thermodynamic phenomenon, called “magnetocaloric effect,” makes magnetic refrigeration an environmentally friendly and efficient alternative to current cooling technologies.

The alloy is a substitute for metals made from rare-earth elements, predominantly produced in China and increasingly used in modern magnets .Transition metals typically offer supply chain stability and are cheaper by weight than rare-earths, they said.

“Our work is a great example of President Obama’s Materials Genome Initiative in action,” Miller said. “We created alloys containing four and five different elements whose properties helped our theory collaborators develop a calculation that predicts the magnetic properties of a larger set of compounds that have not yet been synthesized. Now we have identified hundreds of new alloy combinations that could be useful.”
Miller and his colleagues investigated the family of metal compounds known as “high entropy alloys.” This class of emergent materials holds potential for advanced manufacturing and possess hardness and resistance to wear and corrosion, the authors found.


Another recently developed source of rare earths is electronic waste and other wastes that have significant rare earth components. New advances in recycling technology have made extraction of rare earths from these materials more feasible, and recycling plants are currently operating in Japan, where there is an estimated 300,000 tons of rare earths stored in unused electronics. In France, the Rhodia group is setting up two factories, in La Rochelle and Saint-Fons, that will produce 200 tons of rare earths a year from used fluorescent lamps, magnets and batteries


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Predicting, eliminating and mitigating the impact of increasing disease outbreaks, such as dengue and zika are national security priorities

From Ebola outbreak in West Africa to the most recently, the rapid spread of Zika has shown that even with all advances in modern medicine we are still not completely safe from pandemics. These  epidemic of infectious diseases  can spread quickly through human populations across a large region several continents, or even worldwide. Since the first reported case in December 2013 in Guinea, the Ebola outbreak quickly spread to bordering Liberia and Sierra Leone ravaging West Africa. In addition to these naturally occurring threats, terrorists and other potential adversaries have a growing palette of biological tools to engineer new biological threats.

Bill and Melinda Gates have also warned in their report “Goalkeepers” report , disease – both infectious and chronic – is the biggest public health threat the world faces in the next decade. “you can be pretty hopeful there’ll be big progress” on chronic disease, we are still unprepared to deal with the infectious variety.

Pandemics put  millions of lives are at risk and their economic consequences  can run into billions. The 1918 pandemic killed approximately 50 million people around the globe, making it one of the deadliest events in human history. Last Ebola outbreak cost more than 11,000 human lives and more than $32 billion in economic ripple effects while Zika has cost the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean an estimated $18 billion.

The increase in frequency and diversity of reported disease outbreaks—such as dengue and Zika—probably will continue through 2018, including the potential for a severe global health emergency that could lead to major economic and societal disruptions, strain governmental and international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support, said annual world threat report by intelligence agencies.  A novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible between humans continues to be a major threat, with pathogens such as H5N1 and H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus having pandemic potential if they were to acquire efficient human-to-human transmissibility.

Pandemics also affect militaries. Warfighters must also operate in regions where diseases like chikungunya and dengue are endemic, and even seemingly mild challenges like seasonal influenza affect force readiness.  The threat of infectious agents on U.S. and global national security can be mitigated if the Department of Defense (DoD) has the capability to rapidly deploy and impart near immediate immunity to military personnel and civilian populations for known and newly  emerging pathogens.

Eliminating pandemic outbreaks and mitigating the impact of a potential high threat biological agent release are national security priorities. As the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense highlighted, U.S. levels of readiness and global coordination are woefully inadequate.

The U.S. military supports U.S. Government responses to public health emergencies such as Ebola, which can cause regional destabilization and spread through global travel, says DARPA. DARPA has issued a new broad agency announcement (“BAA”) seeking proposals to support the creation of an integrated “capability platform” for the delivery of medical countermeasures to prevent a pandemic threat within sixty days of targeting a known or newly emerging pathogen.

Risk of pandemics

The Global Challenges Foundation had released report that found pandemic as one of the 12 global risks that threaten human civilization. “There are grounds for suspecting that such a high impact epidemic will have a greater probability than usually assumed. All the features of an extremely devastating disease already exist in nature: essentially incurable (Ebola), nearly always fatal (rabies), extremely infectious (common cold), and long incubation periods (HIV). If a pathogen were to emerge that somehow combined these features (and influenza has demonstrated antigenic shift, the ability to combine features from different viruses), its death toll would be extreme”, says global challenges report.

The last 30 years have seen a steady increase in the frequency and diversity of disease outbreaks. With unprecedented mobility of people, products, and food, the myriad of disease-causing microorganisms are also increasingly mobile. No nation is immune to this growing global threat that can be posed by an isolated outbreak of an infectious disease in a seemingly remote part of the world, says World bank. Most of these outbreaks are caused by pathogens of animal origin that are transmitted to people, such as Ebola and avian flu.

Scientists estimate that between 1940 and 2004, 335 new infectious diseases appeared in humans. This number includes pathogens that likely entered our species for the first time, such as HIV, and newly evolved strains of familiar organisms, such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. The majority of these diseases—about 60 percent—were caused by zoonotic pathogens, meaning they were transmitted to humans from animals. And of those, about 70 percent were from animals that typically live in the wild.

These include HIV and AIDS, influenzas (including pandemic H1N1, H5N1 and H7N9), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Ebola, Marburg, and Nipah. Several of these have spread extensively in human populations to cause a global epidemic (also known as a pandemic).

Ran Balicer, director of the infectious diseases track in the public health department of Ben Gurion University in Israel, thinks that the most likely candidate for another pandemic is a strain of influenza. “It is always on the horizon, and is a devastating scenario,” he said. “It has a good possibility of manifesting in our lifetime; there have been three major pandemics, and a mild one three years ago – which doesn’t reduce the possibility of a pandemic happening.”

If antibiotic resistance develops, humanity could see the resurgence of bacteria-based pandemics.

Factors that impact severity and probability

Christophe Fraser, a professor of epidemiology at the medical research council center for outbreak analysis at Imperial College, London, described four factors that are crucial in determining how severe an epidemic will be: how easily the disease is transmitted; how feasible it is to develop a vaccine and a treatment; how long before symptoms are visible the patient is infectious; and the severity of the disease – what proportion of people who contract it die.

The” Lancet Global Health: Beyond Ebola: lessons to mitigate future pandemics” says, Increasing anthropogenic environmental changes, coupled with a globalised network of travel and trade, allow zoonotic pathogens to spill over into human beings with increasing frequency, and leave us supremely vulnerable to their international spread.

The impact depends on factors  including how mobility of goods and people, as well as population density, will affect pandemic transmission, how fast medical research can proceed in an emergency and  whether humans can develop novel and effective anti-pandemic solutions.


Expected Impact

Pandemics are one of the risks where there is a possibility for a very large number of direct casualties, depending on the severity of the pathogen. Mass casualties could destabilize the world political and economic systems. If the pathogen is transmissible to farm animals, this could affect the world food supply.

Hence the risk of a civilisation collapse would come from the ripple effect of the fatalities and the policy responses. These would include political and agricultural disruption as well as economic dislocation and damage to the world’s trade network (including the food trade).

The World Bank Group released a report in April 2015 showing that the Ebola epidemic continues to cripple the economies of the three hardest-hit countries—with a projected $2.2 billion in lost GDP for 2015. Estimated economic losses for 2015 across sub-Saharan Africa range from at least $500 million to as high as $6 billion if the epidemic were to spread further through the region. Recent economic work estimates that the annual global cost of moderately severe to severe pandemics is roughly $US 570 billion, or 0.7% of global income.

Ebola isn’t our first wake-up call that pandemics are costly. From 1997-2009, six major outbreaks of highly fatal zoonoses—animal-borne diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as Ebola, SARS, avian and H1N1 flu—caused an estimated $80 billion in economic losses. The human and social costs are incalculable.

Extinction risk is only possible if the aftermath of the epidemic fragments and diminishes human society to the extent that recovery becomes impossible before humanity succumbs to other risks (such as climate change or further pandemics).



While progress has been made since the recent Zika and Ebola crises, a report by the International Working Group on Financing Preparedness, established by the World Bank, finds that most countries are still not adequately prepared for a pandemic. Many countries chronically underinvest in critical public health functions like disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories, and emergency operations centers, which enable the early identification, response, and containment of outbreaks.

This is especially short-sighted given the low cost of preparedness relative to the devastating impact of a pandemic. In low- and middle-income countries that have calculated the cost of financing preparedness the investment required is up to $1 per person per year.

The inadequacies of the health-care systems in the three most-affected countries help to explain how the Ebola outbreak got this far. Spain spends over $3,000 per person at purchasing-power parity on health care; for Sierra Leone, the figure is just under $300. The United States has 245 doctors per 100,000 people; Guinea has ten.

What would mitigation strategies to deal with future pandemic risks?

The” Lancet Global Health: Beyond Ebola: lessons to mitigate future pandemics” says, “Pandemics are no longer simply the domain of public health and clinical medicine, but are a social issue, a development issue, and a global security issue.
Mitigation of future pandemic threats such as Ebola is more cost-effective than the current approach of responding to outbreaks after they have begun to spread rapidly in the human population.

Analyses of emerging disease trends during the past six decades have shown that Ebola fits the dominant pattern. This pattern involves zoonotic spillover from wildlife or livestock driven by changes in land use, crop choices, migration patterns, animal husbandry, trade, transport, and travel.

Global mitigation of future pandemic risk must focus on the largescale behaviors that lead to zoonotic spillovers. This approach means engaging with the sectors that drive disease emergence, including industries involved in land-use change, resource extraction, livestock production, travel, and trade, among others.

The improvements to surveillance and sensing technologies (including indirect detection via web queries or social media) open the possibility of smarter interventions (such as microquarantines) and faster understanding of the pathogen’s transmissibility.

Various countermeasures are available in terms of detection, virus analysis, treatment, and quarantining. Future research, technological and political developments may open up new methods of fighting the pathogen.

The efficiency of global reaction to a new pandemic will be strongly determined by the speed of research on the pathogen during the pandemic. The acceleration of vaccine development for Ebola as part of an outbreak control strategy could also have a crucial role to mitigate future outbreaks.

Ebola’s propensity for nosocomial spread could be curtailed by pre outbreak vaccination of critical care workers in Ebola virus hotspots. Likewise, targeted training in infection control, and efforts to maintain surge capacity between outbreaks, will be crucial for rapid response to the first cases in a future emergence event.

DARPA Seeks to Establish New Platforms for Rapid Development of Medical Countermeasures

Existing capabilities to respond to an outbreak and develop vaccines and therapeutics often take years or even decades to achieve results. The R&D process for identifying the protective antigens can take months for a simple variant of a known infectious agent, such as seasonal influenza, and years to decades for a newly discovered agent. In many cases, even decades of research have not led to the development of licensed vaccines for known infections.

Further, manufacture of traditional vaccine products typically takes an additional six to nine months. Finally, even when effective vaccines are readily available, immunity in humans can take weeks or months to establish.

Recent examples of public health emergencies have demonstrated a national and global inability to develop effective preventive or therapeutic solutions in a relevant timescale when an infectious threat emerges. Reviews of recent outbreaks have repeatedly highlighted this capability gap; the significant delay in deployment of solutions during the West Africa Ebola outbreak is a recent example.

The goal of the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) program is to develop an integrated capability to deliver pandemic prevention countermeasures to humans in <60 days. The P3 program aims to revolutionize outbreak response capabilities to allow rapid discovery, characterization, production, and testing of efficacious medical countermeasures.


Need for Pandemic Emergency Facility

Fraser said that the current outbreak of Ebola has shown that the global systems that are supposed to spot outbreaks of diseases are not good enough, “and more importantly, the action that follows is not fast enough, not coordinated enough, to cut off an epidemic at source. Although existing multilateral agreements (eg, the International Health Regulations) allow for some coordination of national responses to outbreaks and bilateral interventions to build public health capacity in poor countries, more is needed.

The Ebola crisis and other similar crises point to the need for prevention, preparedness, early detection and timely support to help countries deal with infectious disease outbreaks. Financing for a pandemic emergency is essential—to ensure that the right amount of money is available at the right time, minimize the human and economic impacts, and spur better preparedness. The better prepared, the faster and less expensive our response. In a world of scarce resources and fast-moving, unpredictable crises, the traditional approach of mobilizing resources in the wake of an outbreak is slow, inefficient and fragmented.

The World Bank Group (WBG) is working with WHO and other partners, including the private sector, to develop and implement a new Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF). The PEF is a global financing facility that would channel funds swiftly to governments, multilateral agencies, NGOs and others to finance efforts to contain dangerous epidemic outbreaks before they turn into pandemics. Post-pandemic politics will also be important for preventing a civilisation collapse or enabling reconstruction.



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Climate change is the one of the biggest existential threat, important driver of Global Conflicts and degrades military effectiveness

In their annual summary of global threats, the nation’s intelligence agencies warned on that climate change and other environmental trends “are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.” While there may not be indications of an abrupt and cataclysmic event on the immediate horizon, the trends are already visible, they said in a statement presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing where the Trump administration’s top intelligence officials testified.


The newest volume of the National Climate Assessment also said ,”This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.” Globally, surface air temperatures have increased by roughly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 115 years. According to NASA, the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years. The rate at which global sea level is rising in the last decade, is nearly double that of the last century. Climate change is  increasing the frequency and magnitude of many of extreme weather phenomena that occur naturally including Droughts, wildfires, heat waves and intense rainstorms. Flooding in Paris and the Arctic heat wave are just two instances where climate change contributed to extreme weather in 2016—and there are many more examples.


Extreme weather events in a warmer world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages. As rising sea levels, coupled with extended droughts that lead to failed crops and food shortages, hit poorer nations, millions of people are expected to go on the move to regions faring better. Senior military figures from around the world have warned that climate change is expected to cause a major refugee crisis, and that this will represent one of the greatest security threats ever faced. It has already been identified as a factor contributing to the current migrant crisis dominating Europe at the moment.


Climate change is the one of the biggest existential threat faced by entire world and also one of the major driver of current and future global conflicts.  The United Nations’ IPCC, in a landmark report, also warned that growing competition for resources in a world under climate change could lead to conflict. Climate change is an important catalyst for war, terrorism and major migration patterns, Dutch armed forces chief Tom Middendorp has told a conference in The Hague.


Climate change also has great impact on military on one hand it increases the number of conflicts it needs to confront with , the character of conflicts also  require change in its strategy as more disaster management tasks it has to undertake. On the other hand it degrades military effectiveness by degrading the environment it has to operate.


The military has long considered climate change a “threat multiplier,” with assessments dating back to 1990 observing that “nearly all areas of operational effectiveness are threatened by these environmental changes should they occur.” Higher oceans, for example, menace 128 military bases. A 2016 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the largest naval installation in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, will face water levels that are between 4.5 feet and 7 feet higher in this century.

Impact of Climate Change on Military

More than a thousand military installations may be vulnerable to disasters and weather conditions caused by climate change. A new study from the Defense Department finds drought, high winds, flooding and extreme temperatures have caused problems for bases in the past and could pose risks to those bases in the future if climate change continues its effects on the United States.


The study, delivered to Congress in January, states about 22 percent of military sites have experienced droughts in the past. A similar percentage experienced high winds and non-storm surge related flooding. About 10 percent of sites said extreme temperatures were an issue and about 6 percent of sites reported wildfires and flooding due to storms, the report stated.


The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book  argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge president Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue. In 2014, the US Department of Defense published a climate change adaptation road map.


Climate Change leading to Increasing the Risk of War in Africa

In a study published in Science, researchers Tamma Carleton and Solomon Hsiang, both from the University of Berkeley, say that rising temperatures in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980 have raised the risk of conflict by 11%.


“Although climate is clearly not the only factor that affects social and economic outcomes, new quantitative measurements reveal that it is a major factor, often with first order consequences,” they wrote in their study, which reviewed more than 100 other studies on the social and economic impacts of climate change.


Their conclusion is based on statistical analysis of data from a 2009 study that also claimed the risk of armed conflict will rise roughly 54%, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths, by 2030, if future temperature trends bear out.


Earlier researchers Marshall B. Burke and his colleagues from several American universities found from regression analysis of historical data, that there is a relationship between past internal conflict in sub-Saharan Africa and variations in temperature (but not precipitation) and that there are “substantial increases in conflict during warmer years”.


In their paper “the first comprehensive examination of the potential impact of global climate change on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, ” they predicted in numerical terms, a 1% increase in temperature leads to a 4.5% increase in civil war in the same year and a 0.9% increase in the following year. By the year 2030, based on averaged data from the 18 climate models used, this will translate to approximately a 54% increase in armed conflict incidence in the region.


The researchers argue that conflict will derive from economic uncertainties resulting from temperature-related yield declines in societies heavily dependent upon agriculture. This is because research to date has found that “economic welfare is the single factor most consistently associated with conflict incidence”.


Syrian drought contributed to conflict in Syria

Study by Earth scientists at Columbia University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found: “Climate change is implicated in the current Syrian conflict”.


There is evidence that the 2007−2010 drought contributed to the conflict in Syria. It was the worst drought in the instrumental record, causing widespread crop failure and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest


Century-long observed trends in precipitation, temperature, and sea-level pressure, supported by climate model results, strongly suggest that anthropogenic forcing has increased the probability of severe and persistent droughts in this region, and made the occurrence of a 3-year drought as severe as that of 2007−2010 2 to 3 times more likely than by natural variability alone. We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict.

Climate Change may lead to future War in Arctic

The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe. In the past 100 years, average Arctic temperatures have increased at almost twice the global average rate. In 2012, Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent in recorded history, 1.3 million square miles. The reduction in ice extent has led to an increase in human activity, in resource extraction,fishing, and tourism.


As the Global warming is melting the Arctic ice, and opening up new shipping trade routes and real estate, intense resource competition over an estimated $1 trillion untapped reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals has started. Russia is acting quickly to become dominating Geostrategic and Military power in the Arctic. Russia’s new military doctrine signed into effect on December 26, 2014, identified Arctic as one of three geopolitical arenas that Moscow has deemed vital to national security.


US has intensified its intelligence activities in Arctic, through U.S. spy satellites orbiting overhead, Navy sensors deep in the frigid waters. Most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned analysts to work full time on the Arctic. The U.S. intelligence focus is chiefly aimed at Russia’s military buildup in the far north under President Vladimir Putin.


Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft warned that Russia was militarizing the Arctic and accused Moscow of “saber-rattling” by conducting unannounced military drills in the Arctic area involving thousands of troops. Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, expressed similar concerns about aggressive Russian activity in the Arctic, noting that Russian submarine activity was at its highest point in 20 years.


Though the Region is regulated with international rules regarding territorial jurisdiction of the coastal states, Nevertheless, there remains a disputed and undivided geographical area around the North Pole with potentially substantial hydrocarbon sources. Thus, there is potential for interstate conflict in the Arctic area related to unresolved border issues, control of the maritime routes, and demarcation of the resource-rich continental shelves under the Arctic Ocean.

Malthusian Overpopulation theory of War

Annalee Newitz and Joseph Bennington-Castro have compiled the 10 most important theories about why we make war. One of the theory proposed by Thomas Malthus’ was population theories, which suggests simply that war is the inevitable result of an expanding population with scarce resources.


Stanford economist Ran Ambramitzky explains this idea quite simply in a paper. The human population increases at a geometric rate, faster than the food supply. Voluntary “preventative checks” try to keep population growth down, such as when people make rational decisions about the number of kids they are going to have based on their income, etc. When these checks fail, “positive checks,” including war, famine and diseases, reduce the population and balance it with resources. Malthus believed that as long as humanity didn’t come up with decent preventative checks, the positive check of war would ensure that population didn’t outstrip food supply.


This idea overlaps a bit with the “ecological imbalance” theory of war, in which “conflict flash points” are the result of ecological stress from humans exploiting too many resources from the land. When resources run out, conflicts arise.


But not everyone agrees that there is a direct link between climate change and increased conflict, Dr. Vesselin Popovski, Senior Academic Programme Officer and head of the United Nations University Institute of Sustainability and Peace’s Peace and Security Section, argues that there is an indirect link between climate change and conflict.


“There is no doubt that impoverishment and human insecurity may arise as a result of climate change, if preventive measures are not undertaken. However, there is missing evidence that global warming directly increases conflict.”


Popovski cites a prominent study by scholars from the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo that claims that “the causal chains suggested in the literature have so far rarely been substantiated with reliable evidence”


“The causes of conflict are primarily political and economic, not climatic. Warlords — who foster conflict — may exploit draught, flooding, starvation, agricultural or natural disasters in their strategies, like they did in Somalia and Darfur. But what will drive their fight is not the rain, the temperature, or the sea level — they will always fight for the same goals of power, territory, money, revenge, etc.”


Popovski questions the idea that increased resource scarcity always leads to conflict. He suggests that scarcity of water or other critical resources might do the opposite, encourage cooperation, as it has done in the Lake Chad or Nile Basins.


Therefore although it has not been comprehensively established through serious evidence that climate change is cause of present and future conflicts, but everyone agrees it may be one of the most important driver of future conflicts, which in combination with other drivers may lead to conflicts and war unless properly managed.


NASA find compelling evidence for rapid climate change

The 10 of the warmest global temperature years occurred in the past 12 years. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. In 2013, the daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.


Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, along with increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.


Researchers using Attribution science to determine impact of climate change

Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford explains in Scientific American about how attribution science works and why it’s a critical part of helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change. Whenever an extreme event happens, usually people ask, “Did climate change play a role?” We aim to provide scientific evidence to answer that question within the news time frame—so within two weeks of the event occurring.

All extreme events have different forcings [factors that influence Earth’s climate], and one of the forcings can be climate change.  While studying an extreme weather event,  We simulate what is possible given the current forcings, and we figure out the likelihood of this event occurring in today’s climate. Then we determine what would have been possible weather in a world without climate change by simulating that world by removing the anthropogenic warming from the climate models, or by doing statistical modeling on observations of the late 19th and early 20th century.  If the likelihoods of the extreme weather event we’re interested in are different [between these two worlds], then we can say climate change caused this difference. It can be a difference in intensity or frequency.

“The science really only came into existence within the last five years. We first had a technical breakthrough—you need to be able to simulate weather over and over again, and that was technically impossible even in the 1990s. Only in the 2000s did it become an option because of greater computing power.”

According to Otto, this research allows us to get a more comprehensive picture of what climate change actually means, it provides scientific evidence to the public discourse and  also allows us to make better planning decisions.

“The next big challenge is to work on disaster-risk reduction, and on the impacts of extreme events. Because the question people ask is not, “What is the risk of three-day rainfall in Paris?” The question they ask is, “What’s the risk of flooding in Paris?” And that depends not only on the meteorological event, but also on other factors, like the size of the river catchment, the management of the river, and all these aspects of vulnerability and exposure.”

References and Resources also include:



Driverless cars vulnerable to hacking and could be used to carry out suicide attacks

Carmakers from Google to Apple, Tesla to Volkswagen are trying to make drivers obsolete, handing control of the wheel to a computer that can make intelligent decisions about when to turn and how to brake. The leader of the pack is Google revealed a new prototype of its driverless car, which had no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brakes, being 100% autonomous in 2014.

All these driverless cars such a GM’s OnStar, Mercedes S-Class and Google driveless cars  are connected to internet hence just like other critical infrastructure networks they are vulnerable to hacking by remotely manipulating  controls for cruise control, braking, locking/unlocking and  accident/airbag reporting to their malicious ends. Self-driving lorries which are to be trialled on England’s motorways could be vulnerable to cyber-attack, an official report warned. A feasibility study of the Government’s plan said there was a risk of a ‘malicious takeover’ of the convoys, putting road users at risk.

While these driverless cars shall be highly useful for under age, elderly, blind, intoxicated, and handicapped users, however these driverless cars and remote controlled cars can also become terrorist’s best weapon as warned by FBI’s report. These cars can also be hacked by terrorists and used by terrorists to carry out spectacular attacks.

Terror group Islamic State is employing scientists and weapons experts to convert commercial technologies into lethal weapons to carry out sophisticated “spectacular” attacks in Europe. The IS research and development team has produced fully working remote controlled cars to act as mobile bombs. A video explaining required additions and modifications has also been released to train terrorist groups. It has been reported that they have added sophisticated countermeasures to fool security-men including mannequins with self-regulating thermostats and laser eyes to fool infrared cameras.

“This new strategy will eliminate the need for suicide bombers who must sacrifice their lives in order to carry out attacks. In Iraq, for instance, suicide car bombings reach as much as 50 per week, and ISIS is poised to lose thousands of fighters in a matter of months to carry out suicide missions,” writes Chris Loterna of HNGN.


Risks of Autonomous Vehicles

The UK government has given the go-ahead for the first trials of convoys of semi-automated trucks on UK motorways. Up to three wirelessly connected HGVs will travel in convoy, with acceleration, braking and steering controlled by the lead vehicle, a concept named platooning. Each lorry will have a driver in the cab ready to retake control at any time. Proponents say platooning could cut both congestion and the cost of fuel for hauliers, although motoring organisations have voiced concerns about safety, particularly on motorways. The DfT said the technology could have major benefits, with vehicles in the slipstream using less fuel, lowering emissions and improving air quality.

The report, commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT), concludes that the system has the potential to reduce accidents and emissions, while improving traffic flow. But it also outlines 20 risks, including cyber-attack and the potential for drivers in the middle and back vehicles to lose concentration.

Extreme weather conditions could lead to the sensing system keeping the vehicles a set distance apart malfunctioning. Other cars could enter the convoy by mistake, and the lead lorry could suffer a tyre blow-out.

The report said the probability of a ‘malicious takeover of a platoon (cyber-attack)’ was ‘very low’, but its impact would be ‘very high’ and would involve a ‘threat to road user safety, road infrastructure and reputation’ of the convoy system. A DfT spokesperson said: ‘Platooning will not be permitted on British roads unless it is safe for our network. Public safety is, and always will be, our number one priority.


Self-driving Cars can be hacked

Jonathan Petit, Principal Scientist at Security Innovation, a software security company has devised a system to hack car’s Lidar sensor, which could trick it into thinking something is directly ahead of it, thus forcing it to slow down. Or attackers could overwhelm it with so many spurious signals that the car would not move at all for fear of hitting phantom obstacles. Petit describes a simple setup he designed using a low-power laser and a pulse generator, which was used send synchronized pulses back to Lidar. These signals were earlier recorded signals from a commercial IBEO Lux lidar unit.

Other researchers had previously hacked or spoofed vehicle’s GPS devices and wireless tire sensors. These vulnerabilities could be exploited by terrorists; hence carmakers should start thinking seriously about security of driverless cars.

FBI Report

In 2014, a FBI report, hinted at the dangers of fully autonomous cars, such as those being developed by Google and a number of automotive manufacturers, being “more of a potential lethal weapon”, allowing criminals to pack cars full of explosives and send them to a target.

Car bombs, an improvised explosive device (IED) placed inside a car or and then detonated, has been a common weapon of assassination, terrorism or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle, people near the blast site, or to damage buildings or other property.

IEDs have been found to be fairly difficult to deal with, lethal even with good “standoff” distance; difficult to detect unless all cars moving around a city are stopped and inspected, and easily made with designs available on the Internet.

And, under the heading “Multitasking”, the FBI said that “bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today”. That raised the prospect that suspected criminals would be able to fire weapons at pursuing police cars.

Even the semi-autonomous cars, which free both hands of drivers shall be dangerous, as they shall allow criminals to perform more dangerous missions like shooting at the pursuers, while a car automatically races away from a crime scene.

However, the driverless cars shall also aid in effective crime response by security agencies as they shall be able to follow criminals from undetectable range, perform awkward maneuvers more quickly to confuse them and the automated features would allow them to arrive faster at an emergency scene while better avoiding potential collisions, the report notes.


References and resources also include:

Rising Nuclear and Cyber threats require up gradation of Nuclear Command and Control Capabilities

The potential use of nuclear weapons poses the greatest danger to U.S. security. According to the U.S. National Security Strategy, Recently Nuclear threat is rising again due to nuclear arms race in asia, modernisation of  nuclear arsenal by Major and regional powers, statement by countries like North Korea to use nuclear weapons, ongoing missile and nuclear proliferation risks in the Middle East and acquiring of Nuclear weapons by terrorists.

North Korea has said that says it is ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States and other foes if they pursue “their reckless hostile policy” toward Kim Jong Un’s regime  and that  Pyongyang is improving its nuclear weapons arsenal “in quality and quantity.” “If the U.S. and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the DPRK and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons any time,” the director of the North Korean Atomic Energy Institute said.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic political rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” Rachel Bronson, the president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a statement.

Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups have explored the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons to be used against their enemies. “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah (province) in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region,” the article, attributed to British photojournalist John Cantlie held hostage by Islamic State for over two years, said. Once the Islamic State buys the bomb in Pakistan, according to the article, it would transport it through Libya and Nigeria to the West.

Nuclear Policy has also enhanced the risk as and both Pakistan and Russia incorporating the early use of nuclear weapons into their war-fighting plans. VLADIMIR Putin recently hit out at at America “and its allies” for plotting against Russia to neutralize its nuclear capabilities and insisted he would respond by developing weapons that would “penetrate any missile defence shield”. Mr Putin said: “References to Iran and North Korea nuclear threats are just a cover for the true purpose (of NATO missile defence).

Nuclear threat  is also being  enhanced by cyber warfare. CHERNOBYL nuclear power plant was suspended in June 2017 after being hit by ransomware cyber attack, which caused chaos across Europe. The rising  cyber threat  has put into question the  survivability and reliability of Nuclear Command and Control from cyber attack and other accidents.

US is also considering nuclear response against cyber warfare against its critical infrastructure. According to the New York Times, The Trump administration plans to change its “Nuclear Posture Review” to allow the first use of nuclear weapons, in response to “attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons”. Countries are also contemplating cyber warfare against nuclear threats. It has also been reported  that US has been contemplating a cyber attack,  to disable an adversary’s nuclear capability.



Rising Nuclear threat due to Modernization and Expansion of Nuclear Capability

In response to Nuclear threats, All the Major Powers are upgrading and modernizing, all of the three legs of their strategic triad to provide a strong deterrent against perceived adversary threats.

The Obama administration had planned a three-decade-long plan costing more than $1 trillion, with $350 billion in the first decade alone. These include Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, Next-Generation Bomber LRS-B and the new ballistic missile submarines, the SSBN(X). US president-elect Donald Trump twittered in late December that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”. Later, he declared: “Let it be an arms race,” and asserted that the US would win it.

Russia planned to spend 101 billion rules on nuclear modernization program from 2013 to 2015, partly in response to the development of a global missile-defense system by the Americans. The current Russia NATO confrontation over Crimea, Ukraine or Baltic States is also driving it to spending billions of dollars on modernizing its strategic arsenal. These include Topol-M ICBMs, 5th generation submarines and PAK-DA a subsonic stealthy flying wing aircraft.


Nuclear Command and control safety and security

The rising Nuclear threat is further compounded by survivability and reliability of Nuclear Command and Control from cyber attack and other accidents. Command and control systems are the brains of the Nuclear Weapon Infrastructure which provide states to plan the management, deployment, and potential release of nuclear weapons. They allow military and political leaders to ensure with high confidence that the weapons will detonate when their use is ordered, but that they will not do so by accident or without authorization. PBS American Experience documentary suggests that it’s a miracle that we all survived the Cold War. Not because of the Soviet threat, but because there was a good chance that the USA could’ve blown itself up with one of its own nuclear weapons.

Future nuclear missiles may be siloed but, unlike their predecessors, they’ll exhibit “some level of connectivity to the rest of the warfighting system,” according to Werner J.A. Dahm, the chair of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. “We have a number of nuclear systems that are in need of recapitalization,” said Dahm, referring to LRSO, ICBMs and the B-21 stealth bomber. In the future, he said, “these systems are going to be quite different from the ones that they may replace. In particular, they will be much more like all systems today, network connected. However increased connectivity also pose nuclear threat because of increased vulnerability from cyber attacks from adversaries and terrorists..

“Nuclear weapons systems are designed so that several things would have to go wrong to result in an accidental or unauthorized missile launch or nuclear explosion. For most of the past incidents, only one or two things went wrong, so that in many cases the incident did not in itself pose a serious risk,” says the report of union of concerned scientists, “Close Calls with Nuclear Weapons”. However, these historical incidents show that system failures occur on a routine—even frequent—basis.

Such system failures reduce the number of effective safety measures in the system. System failures also make it more likely that under the time pressure and confusion of a crisis, or under an unexpected confluence of circumstances, safety measures will be eroded to the point that an unintended detonation or launch can occur.

Cyber threat to Nuclear command and Control

Franz-Stefan Gadysays in his article provides three War Games-like scenarios, “First, sophisticated attackers from cyberspace could spoof U.S. or Russian early warning networks into reporting that nuclear missiles have been launched, which would demand immediate retaliatory strikes according to both nations’ nuclear warfare doctrines. Second, online hackers could manipulate communication systems into issuing unauthorized launch orders to missile crews. Third and last, attackers could directly hack into missile command and control systems launching the weapon or dismantling it on site ( a highly unlikely scenario).

“One-half of their [U.S. and Russian] strategic arsenals are continuously maintained on high alert. Hundreds of missiles carrying nearly 1,800 warheads are ready to fly at a moment’s notice,” a policy report compiled by a study group chaired by the retired U.S. general summarized.

The policy report further said, “At the brink of conflict, nuclear command and warning networks around the world may be besieged by electronic intruders whose onslaught degrades the coherence and rationality of nuclear decision-making.”

“De-alerting” nuclear arsenals could help reduce the likelihood of a cyberattack causing an accidental nuclear war between the United States and Russia, retired U.S. Gen. James Cartwright recently stated in an Associated Press interview.

The threat could also be minimized by up gradation of Nuclear command and control networks, making them hackproof to cyber attacks.


Nuclear command and control (NC2)  is the activities, processes, and procedures performed by appropriate military commanders and support personnel that, through the chain of command, allow for senior-level decisions on nuclear weapons employment.   Therefore  there is urgent need for countries to modernize their Nuclear Command and Control Strategies, procedures and processes to make them hack proof as well as improve their quality.


Rockwell Collins enhancing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post

Rockwell Collins is upgrading the low-frequency transmission system of the US. Military’s E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post.
“We’re continuing our strong relationship with Boeing by providing reliable, survivable and endurable communications between the President (of the United States) and our nation’s nuclear forces,” said Troy Brunk, vice president and general manager, Airborne Solutions for Rockwell Collins.

The E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post is designed to be used by the National Command Authority as a survivable command post for control of U.S. forces in all levels of conflict, including nuclear war. It also supports the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency by providing communications following natural disasters


Northrop Grumman up upgrade SATCOM capability for Navy E-6B airborne command post

Northrop Grumman Corp. will build and test advanced SATCOM capability involving the Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL) for the U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury strategic airborne command post and communications relay aircraft under terms of an $12.2 million contract modification. MR-TCDL provides Ku line-of-sight and Ka SATCOM systems for the E6-B. The data link includes two Ku line-of-sight channels and one Ka satellite communications channel. Other equipment includes power conditioning, cooling, electrical, and network distribution.

The E-6B provides command and control of U.S. nuclear forces should ground-based control become inoperable. The plane is based on the four-engine Boeing 707 passenger jetliner.


Russia Upgrades Airborne Command Post

One of Russia’s four Ilyushin Il-80 airborne command posts has been modernized and has passed state acceptance trials.
Both the Il-80 and its larger American equivalent, the Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post, are intended to control armed forces in the event of a nuclear war or of all-out conventional war with massive air strikes. The Il-80 carries senior commanders of the Russian armed forces, along with a team of officers from the general headquarters and a group of technical specialists to service the onboard equipment.

According to the United Instrument-building Corporation, the airplane’s staff can execute control over the Land Forces, Navy, Air-and-Space Force and Strategic Missile Nuclear Force. The Il-80 can also be used during the overseas deployment of troops, or when ground-based control infrastructure is not available.

The Il-80 has a gross weight of 208 metric tons (457,000 pounds) and a maximum unrefueled range of 11,000 km (about 6,000 nm). Outwardly, the Il-80 differs from the baseline passenger jet in having a large satcom dome above the front fuselage; an in-flight refueling probe; and two 9.5-m (3 foot)-long underwing pods each carrying a turbine generator that feeds electrical power to onboard systems. There are only a few fuselage windows and hatches, so as to protect the equipment inside from the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.

The United Instrument-building Corporation further reports that it has already started work on a third-generation airborne command post. This effort is led by its member company NPP Polyet, based in Nizhny Novgorod


The article sources also include:

Emerging Science and Technology to support Disaster Emergency Response

Global natural disasters in 2016 combined to cause economic losses of USD210 billion, an amount 21 percent above the 16-year average of USD174 billion. Notable events during the year included major earthquakes in Japan; Hurricane Matthew in the United States and Caribbean; catastrophic summer flooding in China, Europe, and the United States; several extensive severe weather outbreaks in the United States; major wildfires in Canada and the United States; and drought across parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. The top three perils—flooding, earthquake and severe weather—combined for 70 percent of all economic losses in 2016. While at least 72 percent of catastrophe losses occurred outside of the United States, it still accounted for 56 percent of global insured losses. This highlights the continued protection gap in many areas around the world.


The risk of disasters is accumulating rapidly, with climate change increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events and urbanization exposing greater numbers of people to their impacts. Over the last decade, China, the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia and India constitute together the top 5 countries that are most frequently hit by natural disasters. Each year, natural disasters, compounded by climate change and conflict, cause more than $500 billion in losses.



Disasters like this can cripple any country and erase hard-fought development gains. To prevent such devastation, whether social or economic, an effective framework for recovery must be in place before a disaster strikes, says World Bank. “Put simply, resilience is about people’s capacity to anticipate, prepare for, withstand and recover from a range of shocks and stresses, without compromising their long-term prospects.” “While technology cannot address all barriers to resilience, it is a powerful enabler in strengthening resilience characteristics and empowering communities.”


“Communities and households with access to accurate and timely information, good levels of health care, social support networks and economic opportunities are less susceptible to hazards and faster to recover from shocks and stressors.”


Technology has transformed how the rest of the world views and responds to crises. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, NGOs and humanitarian agencies turned to crowd sourcing information to reach survivors: the mapping platform Ushahidi was used to map SMS requests for help. Since then, Google’s Person Finder has been used to help reconnect families after floods in Pakistan, the 2013 Japan earthquake, and more.



Disaster Management comprises of activities like

Preparedness — activities prior to a disaster. Examples: preparedness plans; emergency exercises/training; warning systems.
Response — activities during a disaster. Examples: public warning systems;
emergency operations; search and rescue.
Recovery — activities following a disaster. Examples: temporary housing; claims
processing and grants; long-term medical
care and counseling.
Mitigation – activities that reduce the effects of disasters. Examples: building codes and zoning; vulnerability analyses; public education.


In 2013, the Red Cross and Red Crescent published its standout report, “World Disasters Report: Focus on Technology and the Future of Humanitarian Action”, in collaboration with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.


As the Red Cross and Red Crescent and its coalition of partners strive to make 1 billion people safer by 2025, emerging technologies will play a particularly important role in amplifying efforts to facilitate community-level knowledge and health, connection, organization, economic opportunities, access to infrastructure and services, and management of natural resources.


Role of technology in disaster management and Response

The dialogue revealed that emerging technology solutions must possess eight of its own criteria to effectively improve and expand a community’s ability to prepare for emergencies, help people respond to increasing risks, and assist their recovery.


Smart phones, social media, sharing economies and other tools are already helping to redesign emergency preparedness and response operations by:

  • Facilitating community participation.
  • Spreading lifesaving messages.
  • Expediting service delivery even where power, connectivity, infrastructure and local training are lacking or limited.


“We also noted the importance of including different forms of technology beyond information and communications technology (ICT), such as robotics, manufacturing, medical and transport technologies.


The emerging technologies of focus ultimately included 3D printers, augmented reality software, biometric scanners, robots, smart cars, smart home sensor networks, unmanned aerial vehicles and wearable devices as well as the increasingly diverse methods to power them and the applications tied to their effective use.”


The participants in summit organized by Red Cross and Red Crescent in January 2015 at Nyenrode Business University outside Amsterdam, Netherlands, agreed upon four emerging technology use cases:

  • Wearable devices for providing early warning, supporting search and rescue, and reconnecting families
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles for temporarily restoring communications networks and delivering critical relief items, such as medicines, post disaster
  • Smart home sensor networks for sensing and reporting fires in informal settlements/slums
  • Biometric scanners in ATM-like kiosks for restoring lost documentation to prove identity, access assistance and reconnect families.


Wearable Devices

Community members and experts all recognized the value of wearable technology transmitting location information, which could be used by first responders to find people and accelerate family reunification after an incident. They also envisioned wearable technologies assisting with medical triage and diagnosis; this use could also help prevent disease transmission if healthcare professionals can access the patient’s information remotely.


Participants noted that both glasses and trackers currently require smartphones and Internet access, which limits their disaster use


New device brings military tech to heart health

Local doctors are making use of military technology to help heart failure patients. The Sensible Medical Vest was developed from technology created in Israel which uses radar to find and help rescue people buried in rubble and debris.


In as little as 90-seconds, the device detects how much fluid is in the lungs and if a patient has too much fluid in their lungs that could indicate heart failure.


“It allows us to make medical decisions about whether they need more diuretics which are water pills to help get fluid off or whether we need to adjust other medications to help keep them clinically out of heart failure,” said Dr. Scott Feitell, director of heart failure at Rochester General Hospital. More than 6 million people suffer from heart failure in the U.S. which accounts for about 25% of readmission’s at hospitals.


3D printers

The most interesting use cases for 3D printers, according to dialogue participants, included the production of medical supplies, disaster-resistant structures and building materials; replacement of important items such as heirlooms, cosmetic and functional modifications to their homes; and making spare parts to maintain the other emerging technologies.


In addition to speed and economic impacts, participants noted several other issues that may prevent 3D printer adoption unless resolved in the next generation of products. Today’s machines are difficult to operate outdoors, especially when exposed to water, dust and winds, and they require regular maintenance and significant power. Participants also questioned the waste generated by the printers as well as their potential toxicity. These barriers must be resolved before their benefits can be fully realized by communities in disaster-prone, urban settings.



Augmented Reality Software

Augmented reality software adds a layer of computer-generated data, which cannot be seen or heard with human senses, into reality through smart glasses and other Internet-connected devices.


The experts noted how mobile devices equipped with augmented reality software could be held in the user’s line of sight (similar to taking a picture) and display computer-generated billboards and bubbles on the screen that correspond with people’s homes and businesses, indicating those who are offering food, water, first aid and other services. This, they said, can be particularly helpful if the user is unfamiliar with the area, cannot see around the corner or is surrounded by high-rise buildings. This emerging technology could also help community members locate available resources post disaster and pinpoint people buried by a landslide or earthquake, saving lives and increasing the speed of recovery.


The software would need to be updated regularly and provide near real-time information (generated by users) about fixed and mobile services as they become available and expire.


Biometric Scanners

Biometric scanners are authentication devices using distinctive, measurable human characteristics and traits such as fingerprints, facial contours, DNA, palm prints, iris or retina patterns, and voice patterns, to identify individuals through a verification process


Participants agreed biometric scanners would be useful tools to manage relief distributions and cash grants, find and reconnect separated families, and restore lost documentation. Community members appreciated that biometrics could help them fight false criminal accusations and prove their identity more immediately than DNA testing.


That said, community members also noted some drawbacks to the technology, including potential abuses of power, privacy breaches and fraud.



Responding to epidemics also puts healthcare workers at significant risk of infection. Robots, with video screens to display the faces and voices of human healthcare workers, can provide diagnostic support, treatment and monitoring of medical patients.


They can also assist nurses and doctors in removing their personal protective equipment, in burying the deceased, and in comforting people who are suffering from stress and trauma. While people are in quarantine, robots may also deliver medicines, basic necessities and video communications from loved ones.


The most common use cases for robots to assist with strengthening urban resilience, according to the dialogue participants, included supporting telepresence, psychosocial counseling, medical treatment, search and rescue, and clean-up assistance.

However barriers—ranging from perception and trust to technical abilities—will need to be addressed by developers before the average consumers will embrace them as helpful resources.


Smart Cars

Smart cars are generally understood to be autonomous and semi-autonomous human transportation vehicles, but they can also include routine enhancements that make the vehicles safer and more connected.


Smart cars hold interesting potential for strengthening urban resilience, in that they can also operate on sustainable fuel sources leading to positive environmental implications, expedite safe evacuations before and after emergencies, and receive messages and alerts based on risks in its surroundings. Dialogue participants also noted their ability to float in flooding disasters.


Participants noted that after a disaster, when the landscape changes dramatically, updated maps would need to be available immediately to effectively utilize smart cars for a response.


Smart Home Sensor Networks

Community members were significantly more excited by the idea of a home or office building with sensors for fire, earthquake, gas leaks and even pollution, as opposed to the more convenience or entertainment-related use cases. They also preferred the use cases that involved disaster-resistant technologies, such as computer-controlled wind and water barriers that would protect a home’s interior from damage.


They also desired the smart homes to automatically take time-sensitive action, such as turning off the gas or bracing the roof for high winds.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles


In recent years, several humanitarian organizations and governments have used UAVs in disaster management, most notably for assessing vulnerabilities before an emergency and damage after the disaster.


Both community members and experts involved in the dialogue agreed on their value as quick delivery agents for high-value supplies, such as medicines, and the sky as a temporary supply route in early response activities, as UAVs could traverse terrain that might be impassable otherwise. They also appreciated their potential to supply lighting, power and connectively from the air until more permanent solutions on the ground can be restored post-disaster.




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Threat of swarm of drones delivering weaponized explosives becomes real, DARPA seeks swarm protection technologies

The militant organizations have started employing drones to further their terrorism. The small drones such as a quadcopter or model airplane are readily available and they are increasingly used by terrorists to retrofit them, giving the aircraft the ability to deliver weaponized explosives or hazardous materials. In their hands, drones could, fly IEDs through the air to a target, or disperse a biological or chemical agent while its pilot remains safely distanced from contamination. The lethality of these drones can be further enhanced by operating them in Swarms.

The Russian Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones – the first time such a coordinated assault has been reported in a military action. According to the Ministry of Defence, Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility “successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)” last Friday night.

Rather than being quadcopters, the most popular design for commercial drones, the craft involved in these attacks resembled hobbyists’ model aircraft. They had three-metre wingspans, were built crudely of wood and plastic, and were powered by lawnmower engines. Each carried ten home-made shrapnel grenades under its wings.

“As evening fell, the Russia air defence forces detected 13 unidentified small-size air targets at a significant distance approaching the Russian military bases,” the Ministry said in a statement. “Ten assault drones were approaching the Khmeimim air base, and another three – the CSS point in Tartus.” Six of the assault force drones were intercepted by Russian electronic warfare units, with three of the UAVs being brought to land outside the base, while the remaining three exploded on contact with the ground. Another seven drones were “eliminated” by Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missiles fired by the Russians, with the bases reporting no casualties or damage, the statement explains.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.,  have released an industry solicitation for the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program. The potential $63 million project seeks ways to defend against not only today’s radio-controlled and GPS-guided weaponized UAVs, but also against future UAVs that navigate by visual means in large groups to gather intelligence and coordinate attacks against one or more high-value moving targets.

“The rapid evolution of small unmanned air systems (sUAS) technologies is fueling the exponential growth of the commercial drone sector, creating new asymmetric threats for warfighters. sUASs’ size and low cost enable novel concepts of employment that present challenges to current defense systems. These emerging irregular systems and concepts of operations in diverse environments require technology advancements to quickly detect, identify, track, and neutralize sUASs while mitigating collateral damage and providing flexibility to operations in multiple mission environments,” says  DARPA.

Rapid advancement of Swarm technology

UAV Swarms is emerging enabling technology that can find, fix, and communicate precise target location of ground, sea, and air targets; they can serve as weapons platforms to attack air defense systems from multiple axes; or they can pass missile targeting data to any platform carrying a counter air missile.

Advanced Robotic Systems Engineering Laboratory (ARSENL), a team of students at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, successfully launched a swarm of 50 drones, all of them being controlled by a single operator. The long-term goal is to have the swarms determine how to act on their own, and ARSENL reportedly intends to test this by eventually having a 50 vs. 50 drone swarm dogfight.

Swarm of drones are also being considered by military for future A2/AD environment. Future wars will be fought with swarms of expendable, disaggregated, intelligent systems rather than the big, expensive weapon platforms the U.S. has relied on for fifty years, said William Roper, the lead of the Pentagon’s semi-secret Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), adding that he believes the Air Force will have a greater challenge adjusting to this new reality than the other services. The end goal, in Roper’s mind, is to limit the danger to individual operators. Rather than send in a wave of manned planes for the first day of combat, the SCO head said, send in wave after wave of cheap, disposable systems that come with no risk of losing a U.S. service member.

The U.S. Army has for the first time tested swarms of consumer drones during a major military training exercise and determined the low-cost technology is at a stage where it could be used offensively. By deploying swarm of consumer drones they become more viable as a weapon. They could easily overwhelm a small defensive position because they would represent too many targets moving too fast to successfully repel.

During the exercise, which is used by the Army to help evaluate new technology, the drones were deployed as a swarm to simulate a threat. In one exercise, for example, a swarm of drones with cameras on board was deployed in support of opposing forces in an attempt to discover the defensive positions of friendly soldiers.

Later, the Army expanded the trials to discover whether it might be able to make use of the same technology. The Army tested flooding a chunk of airspace with a drone swarm to generate a disruptive radar signature.
“It has been proved that consumer [drones] can be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, distraction tactics and, in the future, the ability to drop small munitions,” said Barry Hatchett with the Army’s Program Executive Office


Counter-Drone technologies

Their low operational altitude along with small size, small RCS and small IR signature of the UAV makes it a difficult target for most of the common air defense systems such as antiaircraft guns and shoulder-fired IR missiles.

Many drone detection and neutralization technologies are being developed from shoulder-mounted launcher system to physically capture it, silent cyber weapon that floors a drone instantly, anti drone cannons, Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) like jamming of command and control links and GPS spoofing, counter drone Directed Energy Weapons both laser based and electromagnetic weapons.

Most counter-UAS systems under development are focused on today’s threat, which relies on radio frequency (RF)-based remote control or global position system (GPS)-based navigation. However, the next evolution of sUAS will not require GPS nor active communications to accomplish their missions. These vehicles will be capable of navigating by visual means or other methods, performing synchronized actions that allow large groups to coordinate an attack against one or more moving targets and be used as intelligence assets or as weapons carrying platforms. An effective counter-UAS system must be able to defend against today’s and tomorrow’s threats in a range of operating environments and adapt to evolving sUAS technologies and tactics.


DARPA’s Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program

The Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program is an advanced technology prototype development program that will develop and demonstrate an integrated prototype system capable of defeating a raid of self-guided, small Unmanned Aircraft Systems attacking a high value asset on the move.  This program will consider sUAS to be fixed or rotary wing air vehicles of less than approximately 200 pounds.

A sensing technology must be able to detect “numerous” small UAS at a distance of 1 km (0.62 mile) or greater and fit on a tactical ground vehicle such as a Humvee as well as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Defender-class 25-foot boat, Darpa said. A neutralization system must disable or destroy numerous, self-guided UAS at a distance of 1 km or greater. Darpa describes self-guided UAS as rotary- or fixed-wing drones that do not rely on radio frequency control or GPS navigation for their operation.

To meet these challenges, the MFP program must develop and integrate affordable technologies into a prototype system that has the capability to complete an engagement sequence within a compressed timeline while mitigating collateral damage..

System affordability and adaptability to host platforms (ground and maritime) will be major system design drivers and allow for the deployment of an effective deterrent and defensive capability to protect the full range of potential DoD, Homeland, and private sector assets.

Given the rapid proliferation of the potential threat, DARPA seeks to develop a complete defensive system with a focus on mobility, affordability, and automation that can be fielded as soon as possible.

DARPA proposes a top-level system architecture that decomposes the CUAS engagement sequence into three steps – Sense, Decide, and Act – and envisions a “Neutralization Web” that flexibly ties the subsystems and algorithms implementing these steps into complete protection chains adapted to the operational environment.

An MFP system could include distributed and elevated sensors and effectors networked to form a fused air surveillance picture, be controlled for fast decisive action, and provide several low-risk UAV-neutralization options.

To demonstrate the system, DARPA experts will use the U.S. Army Maneuver Aviation and Fires Integration Application (MAFIA) as the backbone operating system to enable a system plug-and-play environment, and DARPA will consider only system prototypes that incorporate a MAFIA architecture. It is a Government-owned, Service-oriented architecture that supports multiple operating systems and provides services, libraries, common applications and a software development kit for performer integration

The MFP program will consist of three phases, each culminating in an open-air demonstration against continuously more sophisticated threats and challenging scenarios.

“DARPA is interested in identifying novel, flexible, and mobile layered defense systems and component technologies to address this increasingly important issue as well as conventional threats,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager. “We’re looking for scalable, modular, and affordable approaches that could be fielded within the next three to four years and could rapidly evolve with threat and tactical advancements.”


DARPA selects three teams for Phase 1 of Mobile Force Protection programme

Led by Dynetics, Saab Defense and Security USA and SRC, the teams were awarded Phase I agreements for MFP to develop a technology that is capable of detecting, identifying, tracking and neutralising  adversary sUASs including fixed or rotary-wing aircraft.

DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) programme manager Jean-Charles Ledé said: “Each team will now work to integrate novel ideas for advanced sensors and neutralisation approaches into a common framework emphasising safety for civilian bystanders, ease of operation, and low size, weight, power, and cost.

Our goal is a technology demonstration system that could fit onto currently deployed tactical ground vehicles and maritime vessels – getting advanced and upgradeable capabilities quickly to the warfighters who need them.”

The US Army’s maneuver aviation and fires integration application (MAFIA) service-oriented architecture has been chosen as the common framework for the data-fusion engine, decision-aid algorithms, and user interface for the teams’ command and control (C2) software.

MAFIA, which is already being used in several Defense Department (DoD) programmes, is said to support multiple operating systems and provide services, libraries, common applications, and a software development kit for performer integration. The MFP’s plug-and-play, technology demonstration system is anticipated to have the ability to integrate new sensors and emerging technologies.

“The three teams we’ve assembled have innovative ideas for a versatile, layered defense system that could protect convoys on the move from multiple small unmanned aircraft systems in real time,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, a program manager in Darpa’s Tactical Technology Office. “Each team will now work to integrate novel ideas for advanced sensors and neutralization approaches into a common framework emphasizing safety for civilian bystanders, ease of operation and low size, weight, power and cost.”


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DARPA’s Safe Gene editing program aims to prevent Global Bioerror and Biothreat

CRISPR allows removing a single (defective) gene from a genome and replacing it with another one, to prevent genetic diseases.  CRISPR “has transformed labs around the world,” says Jing-Ruey Joanna Yeh, a chemical biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cardiovascular Research Center, in Charlestown, who contributed to the development of the technology. “Because this system is so simple and efficient, any lab can do it.” Editing with CRISPR is like placing a cursor between two letters in a word processing document and hitting “delete” or clicking “paste.” And the tool can cost less than US $50 to assemble.


Recently, China announced it was genetically engineering hyper-muscular SUPER-DOGS. The dogs, which are test tube bred in a lab, have twice the muscle mass of their natural counterparts and are considerably stronger and faster. An army of super-humans has been a staple of science fiction and superhero comics for decades – but the super-dog technology brings it closer to reality. The beagle puppy, one of 27, was genetically engineered by ‘deleting’ a gene called myostatin, giving it double the muscle mass of a normal beagle.


The advance genetic editing technology has been touted as a breakthrough which could herald the dawn of ‘superbreeds’, which could be stronger, faster, better at running and hunting. The Chinese official line is that the dogs could potentially be deployed to frontline service to assist police officers. Dr Lai Liangxue, researcher at Guangzhou institute of biological medicine and health, said: “This is a breakthrough, marking China as only the second country in the world to independently master dog-somatic clone technology, after South Korea.”


US DOD is also applying gene editing technology for military applications. During the second biennial Department of Defense Lab Day May 18, 2017, One AFRL exhibit, highlighted research into how geneticists and medical researchers edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence in order to remove a virus or disease caused by harmful chemical, biological or environmental agents a warfighter may have contact with.


Yet without careful precautions, a gene drive released into the wild could spread or change in unexpected ways. Accidently, a lethal gene engineered into a pest species, say, might jump (or, as biologists put it, “horizontally transfer”) into another species that’s a crucial part of an ecosystem.

Kevin Esvelt, head of the Sculpting Evolution lab at MIT Media Lab, which is applying for Safe Genes funding in collaboration with eight other research groups, predicts that eventually, perhaps around 15 years from now, an accident will allow a drive with potential to spread globally to escape laboratory controls. “It’s not going to be bioterror,” he says, “it’s going to be ‘bioerror.’”


This summer, the Daily Star  warned that the terrorist group ISIS is using gene drives to make “supercharged killer mosquitoes.” Experts regard that as unlikely. But the idea that gene drives pose a biosecurity threat is anything but. Because the technology to create a gene drive is widely accessible and inexpensive, biologist Kevin Esvelt of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University warned the scientific panel at an earlier meeting, “We have never dealt with anything like this before,” as reported by Sharon Begley Senior Writer, Science and Discovery.


The possibilities for “weaponizing” gene drives range from suppressing pollinators, which could destroy an entire country’s agriculture system, to giving innocuous insects the ability to carry diseases such as dengue, said MIT political scientist Kenneth Oye, who briefed the bioweapons office. Gene drive is particularly worrisome because “it’s not just one or two labs that are capable of doing the work,” Oye said — and the “capable” could include do-it-yourself “garage biologists.”


The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a combined $65 million over four years to seven research teams toward projects designed to make gene editing technologies safer, more targeted and potentially even reversible. The DARPA’s Safe Genes program aims to deliver novel biological capabilities to facilitate the safe and expedient pursuit of advanced genome editing applications, while also providing the tools and methodologies to mitigate the risk of unintentional consequences or intentional misuse of these technologies.



Setting a Safe Course for Gene Editing Research: DARPA

Gene editing technologies have captured increasing attention from healthcare professionals, policymakers, and community leaders in recent years for their potential to selectively disable cancerous cells in the body, control populations of disease-spreading mosquitos, and defend native flora and fauna against invasive species, among other uses. The potential national security applications and implications of these technologies are equally profound, including protection of troops against infectious disease, mitigation of threats posed by irresponsible or nefarious use of biological technologies, and enhanced development of new resources derived from synthetic biology, such as novel chemicals, materials, and coatings with useful, unique properties, says DARPA.


Achieving such ambitious goals, however, will require more complete knowledge about how gene editors, and derivative technologies including gene drives, function at various physical and temporal scales under different environmental conditions, across multiple generations of an organism. In parallel, demonstrating the ability to precisely control gene edits, turning them on and off under certain conditions or even reversing their effects entirely, will be paramount to translation of these tools to practical applications. By establishing empirical foundations and removing lingering unknowns through laboratory-based demonstrations, the Safe Genes teams will work to substantially minimize the risks inherent in such powerful tools.


A new DARPA program could help unlock the potential of advanced gene editing technologies by developing a set of tools to address potential risks of this rapidly advancing field. The Safe Genes program envisions addressing key safety gaps by using those tools to restrict or reverse the propagation of engineered genetic constructs.


“Gene editing holds incredible promise to advance the biological sciences, but right now responsible actors are constrained by the number of unknowns and a lack of controls,” said Renee Wegrzyn, DARPA program manager. “DARPA wants to develop controls for gene editing and derivative technologies to support responsible research and defend against irresponsible actors who might intentionally or accidentally release modified organisms.”


Safe Genes was inspired in part by recent advances in the field of “gene drives,” which can alter the genetic character of a population of organisms by ensuring that certain edited genetic traits are passed down to almost every individual in subsequent generations. Scientists have studied self-perpetuating gene drives for decades, but the 2012 development of the genetic tool CRISPR-Cas9, which facilitates extremely precise genetic edits, radically increased the potential value of—and in some quarters the demand for—experimental gene drives.


Traditional biosafety and biosecurity measures including physical biocontainment, research moratoria, self-governance, and regulation are not designed for technologies that are, in fact, explicitly intended for environmental release and are widely available to users who operate outside of conventional institutions. The goal of Safe Genes is to build in biosafety for new biotechnologies at their inception, provide a range of options to respond to synthetic genetic threats, and create an understanding of what is possible, probable, and vulnerable with regard to emergent gene editing technologies. “DARPA is pursuing a suite of versatile tools that can be applied independently or in combination to support bio-innovation or combat bio-threats,” Wegrzyn said.


From a national security perspective, Safe Genes addresses the inherent risks that arise from the rapid democratization of gene editing tools. The steep drop in the costs of genomic sequencing and gene editing toolkits, along with the increasing accessibility of this technology, translates into greater opportunity to experiment with genetic modifications. This convergence of low cost and high availability means that applications for gene editing—both positive and negative—could arise from people or states operating outside of the traditional scientific community.


DARPA Awards $65M to Improve Gene-Editing Safety, Accuracy

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a combined $65 million over four years to seven research teams toward projects designed to improve the safety and accuracy of gene editing.


The funding is being awarded under DARPA’s Safe Genes program, designed to gain fundamental understanding of how gene-editing technologies function; devise means to safely, responsibly, and predictably harness them for beneficial ends; and address potential health and security concerns related to their accidental or intentional misuse.


Efforts funded under the Safe Genes program fall into two broad categories: gene drive and genetic remediation technologies, and in vivo therapeutic applications of gene editors in mammals. Much of the research will look at ways to inhibit gene drive systems. The obvious concern with gene drive techniques is that it’s impossible to know the full ramifications of releasing a genetic modification into the environment until it is actually happening.


DARPA said the seven teams chosen for the funding will be pursuing one or more of three technical objectives:

  • Develop genetic constructs—biomolecular “instructions”—that provide spatial, temporal, and reversible control of genome editors in living systems;
  • Devise new drug-based countermeasures that provide prophylactic and treatment options to limit genome editing in organisms and protect genome integrity in populations of organisms; and
  • Create a capability to eliminate unwanted engineered genes from systems and restore them to genetic baseline states.


  1. A team led by Dr. Amit Choudhary (Broad Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital-Renal Division/Harvard Medical School) is developing means to switch on and off genome editing in bacteria, mammals, and insects, including control of gene drives in a mosquito vector for malaria, Anopheles stephensi. The team seeks to build a general platform for the rapid and cost-effective identification of chemicals that will block contemporary and next-generation genome editors. Such chemicals could propel the development of therapeutic applications of genome editors by limiting off-target effects or protect against future biological threats. The team will also construct synthetic genome editors for precision genome engineering.


  1. A Harvard Medical School team led by Dr. George Church seeks to develop systems to safeguard genomes by detecting, preventing, and ultimately reversing mutations that may arise from exposure to radiation. This work will involve creation of novel computational and molecular tools to enable the development of precise editors that can distinguish between highly similar genetic sequences. The team also plans to screen the effectiveness of natural and synthetic drugs to inhibit gene editing activity.


  1. A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) team led by Dr. Keith Joung aims to develop novel, highly sensitive methods to control and measure on-target genome editing activity—and limit and measure off-target activity—and apply these methods to regulate the activity of mosquito gene drive systems over multiple generations. State-of-the-art technologies for measuring on- and off-target activity require specialized expertise; the MGH team hopes to enable orders of magnitude higher sensitivity than what is available with existing methods and make this process routine and scalable. The team will also develop novel strategies to achieve control over genome editors, including drug-regulated versions of these molecules. The team will take advantage of contained facilities that simulate natural environments to study how drive systems perform in mosquitos under conditions approximating the real world.


  1. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team led by Dr. Kevin Esvelt has been selected to pursue modular “daisy drive” platforms with the potential to safely, efficiently, and reversibly edit local sub-populations of organisms within a geographic region of interest. Daisy drive systems are self-exhausting because they sequentially lose genetic elements until the drive system stops spreading. In one proposed variant, natural selection is anticipated to favor the edited or original version depending on which is in the majority, keeping genetic alterations confined to a specified region and potentially allowing targeted populations of organisms to be restored to wild-type genetics. MIT plans to conduct the majority of its work in nematodes, a simple type of worm that reproduces rapidly, enabling high-throughput testing of different drive configurations and predictive models over multiple generations. The team then aims to adapt this system in the laboratory for up to three key mosquito species relevant to human and animal health, gradually improving performance in mosquitos through an iterative cycle of model, test, and refine.


  1. A North Carolina State University (NCSU) team led by Dr. John Godwin aims to develop and test a mammalian gene drive system in rodents. The team’s genetic technique targets population-specific genetic variants found only in particular invasive communities of animals. If successful, the work will expand the tools available to manage invasive species that threaten biodiversity and human food security, and that serve as potential reservoirs of infectious diseases affecting native animal and human populations. The team also plans to develop mathematical models of how drives would function in mice, and then perform testing in contained, simulated natural environments to gauge the robustness, spatial limitation, and reversibility of the drives.


  1. A University of California, Berkeley team led by Dr. Jennifer Doudna will investigate the development of novel, safe gene editing tools for use as antiviral agents in animal models, targeting the Zika and Ebola viruses. The team will also aim to identify anti-CRISPR proteins capable of inhibiting unwanted genome-editing activity, while developing novel strategies for delivery of genome editors and inhibitors.


  1. A University of California, Riverside team led by Dr. Omar Akbari seeks to develop robust and reversible gene drive systems for control of Aedes aegypti mosquito populations, to be tested in contained, simulated natural environments. Preliminary testing will be conducted in high-throughput, rapidly reproducing populations of yeast as a model system. As part of this effort, the team will establish new temporal and environmental, context-dependent molecular strategies programmed to limit gene editor activity, create multiple capabilities to eliminate unwanted gene drives from populations through passive or active reversal, and establish mathematical models to inform design of gene drive systems and establish criteria for remediation strategies. In support of these goals, the team will sample the diversity of wild populations of Ae. aegypti.


“Part of our challenge and commitment under Safe Genes is to make sense of the ethical implications of gene-editing technologies, understanding people’s concerns, and directing our research to proactively address them so that stakeholders are equipped with data to inform future choices,” Renee Wegrzyn, Ph.D., manager of the Safe Genes program, said in a statement.


“As with all powerful capabilities, society can and should weigh the risks and merits of responsibly using such tools. We believe that further research and development can inform that conversation by helping people to understand and shape what is possible, probable, and vulnerable with these technologies.”


References and resources also include:

Psychological warfare essential element of Russia’s Gerasimov doctrine to China’s three Warfares to DARPA’s mind control

Psychological warfare involves the planned use of propaganda and other psychological operations to influence the opinions, emotions, motives, reasoning,  attitudes, and behavior of opposition groups. Psychological warfare consists of attempts to make your enemy lose confidence, give up hope, or feel afraid, so that you can win. It is used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the originator’s objectives, and are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag tactics. Psychological operations target foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals.



According to U.S. military analysts, attacking the enemy’s mind is an important element of the People’s Republic of China’s military strategy. This type of warfare is rooted in the Chinese Stratagems outlined by Sun Tzu in The Art of War and Thirty-Six Stratagems.


It is also used to destroy the morale of enemies through tactics that aim to depress troops’ psychological states. Civilians of foreign territories can also be targeted by technology and media so as to cause an effect in the government of their country. Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PSYOP), have been known by many other names or terms, including MISO, Psy Ops, Political Warfare, “Hearts and Minds”, and propaganda.


Recently Social media has become important medium to conduct psychological warfare for terrorists to Nation states. In 2016, Russia was accused of using thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect.  Russian   influence operations on the  social media have been reported to alter the course of events in the U.S. by manipulating public opinion.


Facebook – which testified in front of Congress alongside Google and Twitter – admitted in October that the Russia-backed content reached as many as 126 million Americans on the social network during the 2016 presidential election. In October, Twitter released to the US Congress a list of 2,752 accounts it believes were created by Russian actors in an attempt to sway the election. The release of emails, and the use of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts — were designed to undermine trust in institutions through manipulation, distortion, and disruption.  In October Collins asked Facebook to investigate its own records for evidence that Russia-linked accounts were used to interfere in the EU referendum, and later asked Twitter to do similar.


Facebook has now  launched a new tool to allow users to see if they’ve liked or followed Russian propaganda accounts.The social network says its  tool will  allow  users to see whether they interacted with a Facebook page or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a state-backed organisation based in St Petersburg that carries out online misinformation operations.

Psychological warfare

US DOD categorize, PSYWAR as a type of information operation (IO), previously referred to as command and control warfare (C2W). IO consists of five core capabilities that are used in concert and with any related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or takeover an enemy’s decision making process. They include: psychological operations (PsyOp), military deception (MILDEC), operations security (OPSEC), and electronic warfare (EW), and computer network operations (CNO). IO is basically a way of interfering with the various systems that a person uses to make decisions.


DOD defines PSYOP as planned operations to convey selected information to targeted foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and
individuals. For example, during the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), broadcast messages were sent from Air Force EC-130E aircraft, and from Navy ships operating in the Persian Gulf, along with a barrage of e-mail, faxes, and cell phone calls to
numerous Iraqi leaders encouraging them to abandon support for Saddam Hussein.


At the same time, the civilian Al Jazeera news network, based in Qatar, beams its messages to well over 35 million viewers in the Middle East, and is considered by many to be a “market competitor” for U.S. PSYOP. Terrorist groups can also use the Internet to quickly place their own messages before an international audience.


Some observers have stated that the U.S. will continue to lose ground in the global media wars until it develops a coordinated strategic communications strategy to counter competitive civilian news media, such as Al Jazeera. Partly in response to this observation, DOD now emphases that PSYOP must be improved and focused against potential adversary decision making, sometimes well in advance of times of conflict. Products created for PSYOP must be based on in-depth knowledge of the audience’s decision-making processes. Using this knowledge, the PSYOPS products then must be produced rapidly, and disseminated directly to targeted audiences throughout the area of operations.


Neocortical warfare is RAND’s version of PsyOp that controls the behavior of the enemy without physically harming them. RAND describes the neocortical system as consciousness, perception, and will. Neocortical warfare regulates the enemy’s neocortical system by interfering with their continuous cycle of observation, orientation, decision, and action. It presents the enemy with perceptions, sensory, and cognitive data designed to result in a narrow set of conclusions, and ultimately actions.


The success of Psychological warfare is due to peculiarities of our minds. Of the many forms of faulty thinking that have been identified, confirmation bias is among the best catalogued; the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Another study found that  “Once formed,” the impressions are remarkably perseverant.” Stanford researchers have found that even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted.


China’s three Warfares strategy

In 2003, the Central Military Commission (CMC) approved the guiding conceptual umbrella for information operations for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – the “Three Warfares” (san zhong zhanfa). The concept is based on three mutually reinforcing strategies: (1) the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; (2) overt and covert media manipulation; and (3) legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defense policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad.


At the operational level, the “Three Warfares” became the responsibility for the PLA’s General Political Department’s Liaison Department (GPD/LD), which conducts diverse political, financial, military, and intelligence operations.


Traditionally, the primary target for China’s information and political warfare campaigns has been Taiwan, with the GPD-LD activities and operations attempting to exploit political, cultural, and social frictions inside Taiwan, undermining trust between varying political-military authorities, delegitimizing Taiwan’s international position, and gradually subverting Taiwan’s public perceptions to “reunite” Taiwan on Beijing’s terms. In the process, the GPD-LD has directed, managed, or guided a number of political, military, academic, media, and intelligence assets that have either overtly or covertly served as agents of influence.


In 2016, this concept was at work after the UNCLOS tribunal ruled against China in a comprehensive verdict dismissing China’s claims in the South China Sea. Despite the fact that the Philippines achieved a major international victory against the depredations of a more powerful but more aggressive neighbour, China, with its application of the Three Warfares, was able to successfully co-opt Rodrigo Duterte (Phillipines President) to its side.


The most recent incident was comprehensive  psychological warfare  campaign unleashed by China in recent India-China Doklam crisis. Beijing tried to exploit the political divisions  to sow dissensions in India by calling Sushma Swaraj a “liar”, reaching out to Modi’s opponents, including Rahul Gandhi, and attacking his “Hindu nationalism.” .  The aim was to use Indians to put pressure on the Indian government and get them to withdraw, largely by doubting India’s own assertions.


The  daily threats to teach India a lesson, intimidating India with escalation with aggressive warnings, carrying out military exercises and issuing dire warnings about great loss in war, reminding  India of the earlier defeat of 1962  and how weak it is, warning that China would rescind its decision on Sikkim or “free” Sikkim from Indian oppression; or that it could interfere in J&K” — all intended to “undermine India’s ability to conduct combat operations through psychological operations aimed at deterring, shocking and demoralizing enemy military personnel.”

 Russia’s Gerasimov doctrine

US media  has discovered  “Gerasimov Doctrine” – based on a 2013 essay where the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Valery Gerasimov, mentioned different types of modern warfare, which could be loosely termed as “hybrid war.”


In roughly 2,000 words, Mr. Gerasimov outlines a new theory of modern warfare, which turns hackers, media, social networks, and businessmen into weapons of war — and keys to victory. “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown,” Mr. Gerasimov writes, “and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness. … All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character.”


Russian military according to experts practice a repertoire of lethal tricks known as maskirovka, or masking or operations of deceit and disguise. The idea behind maskirovka is to keep the enemy guessing, never admitting your true intentions, always denying your activities and using all means political and military to maintain an edge of surprise for your soldiers. The doctrine, military analysts say, is in this sense “multilevel.” It draws no distinction between disguising a soldier as a bush or a tree with green and patterned clothing, a lie of a sort, and highlevel political disinformation and cunning evasions.


However, RT  calling it a Hoax writes , “The FT attempts to backup its argument with mentions of Crimea, allegations of US election hacking and information war. Using these as examples of a sudden Russian discovery of non-linear methods. Yet, the author is not self-aware enough to realize that the US has been using composite techniques like sanctions and revolutions, whether color or otherwise, to achieve strategic goals for decades. “Economic penalties or the removal of legitimate governments are clearly forms of “hybrid war” which pre-date Gerasimov, Makarov, and Putin himself. ”

Use of Social media for psychological warfare

Social media has enabled the use of disinformation on a wide scale. Analysts have found evidence of doctored or misleading photographs spread by social media in the Syrian Civil War and 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, possibly with state involvement.


The 15-member UN Security council body expressed its grave concern at the increase of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS or Da’esh), Al-Qaida and other groups to over 25,000. BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the 70 per cent increase in foreign terrorist combatants between the middle of 2014 and March 2015 meant more fighters on the front lines in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.


One of the reasons of large increase in foreign fighters is their successful use of social media to recruit, radicalise and raise funds. Terrorist groups increasingly using social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to further their goals and spread their message, because of its convenience, affordability and broad reach of social media.


DARPA Is Using Mind Control Techniques to Manipulate Social Media

DARPA launched its SMISC program in 2011 to examine ways social networks could be used for propaganda under Military Information Support Operations (MISO), formerly known as psychological operations.


“With the spread of blogs, social networking sites and media-sharing technology, and the rapid propagation of ideas enabled by these advances, the conditions under which the nation’s military forces conduct operations are changing nearly as fast as the speed of thought. DARPA has an interest in addressing this new dynamic and understanding how social network communication affects events on the ground as part of its mission of preventing strategic surprise.”


The general goal of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base. Through the program, DARPA seeks to develop tools to help identify misinformation or deception campaigns and counter them with truthful information, reducing adversaries’ ability to manipulate events.


To accomplish this, SMISC will focus research on linguistic cues, patterns of information flow and detection of sentiment or opinion in information generated and spread through social media. Researchers will also attempt to track ideas and concepts to analyze patterns and cultural narratives. If successful, they should be able to model emergent communities and analyze narratives and their participants, as well as characterize generation of automated content, such as by bots, in social media and crowd sourcing.


SMISC researchers will create a closed and controlled environment where large amounts of data are collected, with experiments performed in support of development and testing. One example of such an environment might be a closed social media network of 2,000 to 5,000 people who have agreed to conduct social media-based activities in this network and agree to participate in required data collection and experiments. This network might be formed within a single organization, or span several. Another example might be a role-player game where use of social media is central to that game and where players have again agreed to participate in data collection and experiments.


Some of the research projects funded by the SMISC program included studies that analyzed the Twitter followings of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber among others; investigations into the spread of Internet memes; a study by the Georgia Tech Research Institute into automatically identifying deceptive content in social media with linguistic cues; and “Modeling User Attitude toward Controversial Topics in Online Social Media”—an IBM Research study that tapped into Twitter feeds to track responses to topics like “fracking” for natural gas.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency psychological warfare tool: “Sonic Projector”

“The Air Force has experimented with microwaves that create sounds in people’s head (which they’ve called a possible psychological warfare tool), and American Technologies can “beam” sounds to specific targets with their patented HyperSound,” wrote Sharon Weinberger and “yes, I’ve heard/seen them demonstrate the speakers, and they are shockingly effective”.


DARPA had earlier launched their Sonic Projector” program: The goal of the Sonic Projector program is to provide Special Forces with a method of surreptitious audio communication at distances over 1 km. Sonic Projector technology is based on the non-linear interaction of sound in air translating an ultrasonic signal into audible sound. The Sonic Projector will be designed to be a man-deployable system, using high power acoustic transducer technology and signal processing algorithms which result in no, or unintelligible, sound everywhere but at the intended target. The Sonic Projector system could be used to conceal communications for special operations forces and hostage rescue missions, and to disrupt enemy activities.


Changing Characteristics of Psychological warfare past to present

Psychological warfare is ancient as warfare itself. Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongolian Empire in the 13th century AD believed that defeating the will of the enemy before having to attack and reaching a consented settlement was preferable to actually fighting. The Mongol generals demanded submission to the Khan, and threatened the initially captured villages with complete destruction if they refused to surrender. If they had to fight to take the settlement, the Mongol generals fulfilled their threats and massacred the survivors. Tales of the encroaching horde spread to the next villages and created an aura of insecurity that undermined the possibility of future resistance.


The Khan also employed tactics that made his numbers seem greater than they actually were. During night operations he ordered each soldier to light three torches at dusk to give the illusion of an overwhelming army and deceive and intimidate enemy scouts. He also sometimes had objects tied to the tails of his horses, so that riding on open and dry fields raised a cloud of dust that gave the enemy the impression of great numbers. His soldiers used arrows specially notched to whistle as they flew through the air, creating a terrifying noise. Another tactic favoured by the Mongols was catapulting severed human heads over city walls to frighten the inhabitants and spread disease in the besieged city’s closed confines.


Military employs many methods for psychological warfare such as: Demoralization by distributing pamphlets that encourage desertion or supply instructions on how to surrender, Shock and awe military strategy such as that used in the Iraq War by the United States to psychologically maim, and break the will of the Iraqi Army to fight.


Other methods are Projecting repetitive and annoying sounds and music for long periods at high volume towards groups under siege like during Operation Nifty Package, propaganda radio stations, such as Lord Haw-Haw in World War II on the “Germany calling” station, The CIA has extensively used propaganda broadcasts against the Cuban government through TV Marti, based in Miami, Florida. However, the Cuban government has been successful at jamming the signal of TV Marti.


Renaming cities and other places when captured, such as the renaming of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City after Vietnamese victory in the Vietnam War, False flag events, Use of loudspeaker systems to communicate with enemy soldiers, Terrorism and The threat of chemical weapons.


More recently, it has been used by totalitarian regimes such as Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and militaristic Japan. It was used during WWII by both the US and Germany. It was used by US forces in Panama and Cuba, where pirated TV broadcasts were transmitted, as well as Guatemala, Iran, the first Gulf War, Vietnam, and other places.


“One of the most famous example was Colin Powell’s speech in the UN in 2003 where he presented false information about the so called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which again lead to the disastrous war on Iraq. Norway’s war on Libya, which the whole Parliament supported, and which destroyed that country, was, as is well known, built on lies that Moammar al Gadaf was about to kill his own people,” writes Pål Steigan.

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Growing laser threats to airline pilots and soldiers require new protection technologies

“Lasers are a source of collimated, monochromatic, coherent light that can travel long distances with very little loss of intensity. This coherent property is what allows a laser to maintain a narrow, high-powered beam over long distances. This is also the cause of lasers being able to do damage to sensors, facilities, and personnel at a long range.


The military and security agencies  are using Handheld Lasers  to temporarily blind terrorists and at check points for crowd control. Lasers have been used en masse against riot police in demonstrations in regions as diverse as Canada, the U.S., Ireland, Thailand, Greece, Egypt, and Italy, among others.    In Seattle, WA, protesters at a WTO summit directed pointers in the field of vision of crowd-control police. In Cairo in 2013, dozens of green lasers were seen striking Egyptian military helicopters circling over Tahrir Square during large-scale gatherings, as well as directed against governmental buildings, police, and, at times, opposing protestors.


Until recently, the expense of lasers had limited their use to professional shows, but lower prices on handheld laser pointers have made this type of device widely available. They have also become easier to buy on the internet. However, these laser pointers have been cause of many aircraft accidents. According to the US-based Federal Aviation Authority, more than 2000 laser incidents were recorded in the US alone during the first four months of 2017, while in 2015 more than 10,000 laser incidents were reported to the FAA, and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and Transport Canada.



Laser attacks targeting pilots and air crews are a major concern across the world with most attacks reported to take place during take-off and landing. They are typically caused by cheap, high-powered hand held devices that are readily available on the internet. Results of these attacks include distraction, obscuring of instruments and dials, a high probability for short-lived “flash” blindness and even permanent eye damage.


Therefore research is increasingly looking for laser protection technologies. Last year, the aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced that it was joining with Lamda Guard, a Canadian company, to test a metamaterial-based coating for cockpit windows to protect pilots in commercial aircraft from being blinded by laser pointers.

Effects of Laser attacks on Pilots

The FBI has  warned released public information films to warn about the effects of laser pointers, explaining how beams can blind pilots at night, with their effects intensified as light is dispersed by the cockpit windows. A laser illumination incident begins quite suddenly as the flight deck is filled with a bright light. The glare makes it difficult to concentrate on the flight instruments and can remove the crew’s visual references with the runway environment, making pilots unsure of their position relative to the runway and the ground. Green lasers, which have become increasingly more affordable, have been reported in more than 90 percent of the documented laser incidents,” says Boeing.

“Even weaker lasers could have serious consequences if pilots were distracted by the beams when landing planes: “It’s a critical point in flight, you have to have complete concentration. When it comes into the flight deck, it bounces around the walls of the cockpit,” said British Airline Pilots’ Association’s (Balpa) general secretary, Jim McAuslan.

Half of all pilots targeted in past year involved laser used in weaponry, says pilots’ association. Since 2004, more than 3,200 laser incidents have been reported within the United States, along with hundreds more internationally. Incidents are occurring not only in the United States but internationally as well. Reports of laser incidents have come from Australia, Canada, England, Germany, and Ireland. According to figures compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the number of reports of laser incidents in the UK has remained relatively constant at about four to five a day on average over the last four years.


Growing threat of  powerful Military lasers

The Chinese military has begun equipping its soldiers with handheld laser guns, in direct contravention of international treaties banning the use of blinding laser weapons. The official PLA Daily December 9th 2015 edition announced that Chinese soldiers are now in possession of laser guns. The PY132A laser gun, revealed during the Chinese Police Expo in December, is designed to blind enemy sensors and cameras and intended for use against enemy vehicles and drones. International conventions like the 1998 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons ban the use of lasers and blinding weapons used against people.

Military forces worldwide are increasingly using lasers for many purposes including, range finding, anti-missile systems, target designation, ranging of guided munitions and the neutralizing of enemy weapon systems. Laser directed energy weapons are being developed to neutralize rockets, UAVs and missiles.

More powerful laser beams, those that are commonly found on laser-guided munitions and long-range designators, require extreme protection against ocular injury. Other lasers require less protection due to their relatively low power. Depending on the specific laser threat, laser light absorption may range from 99.99% to 99.999% to provide the required protection, thus avoiding ocular injury.

Military Lasers can also causes damage to optical components like mirrors, fibers, nonlinear crystal materials, prisms, optical filters, optical modulators and saturable absorbers, photodetectors and SESAMs.

Therefore military forces involved in multinational operations are increasingly looking for technologies both for protection of eye as well as optical components from lasers used by both friendly and foe. Keeping pace with rapidly advancing and eminently available laser technology requires a sophisticated and pragmatic countervailing response.


Laser Protection Technologies

With the continuous development of military equipment including lasers, researchers are constantly seeking to improve laser eye protection technologies.

Laser lenses protect the eyes by blocking laser light either through an absorptive dye or reflective coating. The amount of laser light that is blocked at a specific wavelength is referred to as the lens’ Optical Density (OD). High OD numbers provide an order of magnitude higher protection.

Technologies of the future include tunable laser protection to counteract the threat of tunable lasers (lasers which can change their operational wavelength) and to protect against multiple laser threats simultaneously.

Also being explored are optical switches and limiters that activate only in the presence of specific laser wavelengths. This allows the protection to stay completely clear until laser protection is needed and allows for excellent visible light transmission.

Protective glasses.

A variety of safety glasses are available that can protect the wearer from green laser energy; however, airlines should consider the drawbacks that are associated with them. Filtering light reduces the total amount of light entering the eye, which can adversely affect normal viewing, especially at night when most laser incidents occur.

People working in hazardous environments and industries in India will soon have cost-effective goggles that can protect their eyes and improve efficiency. Bengaluru-based Hind High Vacuum (HHV) has developed a technology for high power laser safety goggles made of coated glass. There are just handful of companies with this technological capability globally, said Prasanth Sakhamuri, Managing Director.

By using these goggles, people involved in handling high precision laser equipment in research and production of hazardous material and workplaces can protect their eyes from harmful exposure.

Laser Safety Goggles are available in three varieties based on the power of laser: low-power lasers need acrylic goggles, medium-power lasers need goggles made of treated glass and operating a high-power laser needs a goggle made of coated glass.


Dyes and dielectric coatings for laser protection

A laser protective dye is a pigment that is added to the lens material during the injection molding process. This dye neutralizes laser threats by absorbing laser light before it can reach the eye. Laser protective dyes are widely used due to their relative low cost and ability to retain high ballistic properties. While effective, there is a drawback: lenses that protect against multiple wavelengths require the use of two or more dyes which significantly reduces the light transmission of the lens. This makes it darker and therefore less suitable for low light applications.

The dielectric coatings are made of a fine stack of layers with different reflective properties. Currently, laser protective dielectric coatings are limited in their use due to their very high cost – a lens with dielectric coatings is roughly 10 to 20 times more expensive than a lens made using laser protective dye. Dielectric coatings are also easily scratched and generally require additional anti-abrasion protection.


BAE protection system

Utilising a novel technology, BAE Systems has developed a system to block laser attacks against aircraft and their crews. Engineers at the defense and aerospace giant have developed a low-cost, lightweight system that can block dangerous laser light to protect pilots from hostile attacks.

Utilizing a novel film, the technique is selective in the way it prevents laser transmission, meaning a high level of natural light through can still pass though the canopy with minimal color distortion. As a result, pilots are protected from dangerous laser incidents with no deterioration in vision.

Dr Leslie Laycock, an executive scientist at BAE Systems commented, “A series of successful trials undertaken in a laboratory environment have proven that our method is effective against a wide variety of laser wavelengths. We have been able to achieve a visible light transmission in excess of 70%.

“Our system allows the majority of the light through the protective film, without the need for pilots to wear heavily tinted industrial goggles. This allows pilots to more effectively see instruments and their surroundings, whilst simultaneously blocking the dangerous laser light.”

As technology advances, the wavelength of proliferated lasers may change. Due to the adaptability of this technology, pilots will always be protected as the film can simply be upgraded and selectively tuned to combat new laser threats. The next phase of development will see experimentation and commercialisation within the public sector.


Boeing patents a laser detection system to protect aircraft and pilots from hand held lasers

Military pilots are not only at risk of temporary blindness due to hand-held lasers, but are also subject to being “designated” by laser targeting. Generally in connection with military aircraft, laser detection devices register laser radiation from laser rangefinders or laser designators and by a warning signal to make clear to the designated aircraft, i.e., pilot, that laser illumination has occurred or is continuing. Reliable detection and identification of laser radiation may be critical to mission success and accurate information related to the type of laser may provide for appropriate countermeasures.

“The present invention is a laser detection and warning system may include a detector configured to be mounted to an aircraft, the detector including an optical subsystem, a detector subsystem, and a processor subsystem to determine characteristics of incoming laser radiation and transmit a laser warning output signal, wherein the laser warning output signal includes wavelength characteristics of the laser radiation and corresponding protective eyewear type.

Soldier protection systems

Australian Army has introduced an enhanced ballistic laser ocular protection system (BLOPS) as part of the new soldier combat ensemble that provides ballistic, environmental and laser protection to soldiers. However they provide protection against limited spectrum of common lasers (laser lenses).

Protection against Multi wavelength Lasers

U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), has developed a new optical system to protect soldiers using magnified direct-view optics, such as gunner’s primary sights on battle tanks, against eye-damaging Multi wavelength lasers.

The filters which are used to block single wavelength lasers are ineffective against wavelength-diverse lasers, unless they block the entire visible spectrum. The new technology incorporates laser-protection cells at the focal planes, where a laser threat’s energy is focused, that absorb and disperse the laser energy, weakening the light and distributing it over a larger area of the retina to minimize eyesight damage.

The system was tested against a multiple wavelength laser system developed by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate (SLAD) which simulated “a worst-case, visible laser threat” in terms of its energy, pulse width, beam size and divergence.”

Optex Systems to deliver laser-protected periscopes to US Army

US-based optical sighting systems manufacturer Optex Systems has secured a contract to supply new periscopes for the US Army. Under the terms of the $841,000 deal, the company will supply an undisclosed number of periscopes to be installed aboard the army’s Abrams tanks.

The periscopes will feature glass and plastic laser protection for soldiers’ eyes. “We take pride in providing great optics solutions for our soldiers who are utilising and maintaining the current Abrams fleet.”

Laser damage to eye

The visible and invisible wavelengths in a laser beam present a unique hazard to the human eye and can cause instantaneously vision disruption, distraction, disorientation, and even eye damage. The threat posed by lasers is often hidden – those in the invisible spectrum cannot be detected by the human eye and without proper protection the eyes can be severely damaged. How a laser affects the eye depends on the wavelength of the laser, the power level, and the duration of the exposure.

The human eye sensitivity peaks in the green range and perceives green 30 times brighter than red. When comparing a green and a red laser of equal power output, the green one will appear much brighter than the red. The eye’s natural defense for bright visible light is the blink response, which can take effect within a quarter of a second.

Nonvisible light can be in the wavelength range of ultraviolet (200 to 380 nanometers), near infrared (750 to 1,400 nanometers), or mid to far infrared (1,400 nanometers to 1 millimeter). Nonvisible lasers also enter the optical system and affect the eye, but they are not visible and present a different challenge: the blink response only works with visible light, so there is no natural protection for the eye when outside the visible spectrum.

Laser Light can have very high optical intensities, because it is usually delivered in the form of a laser beam with small transverse dimensions, and in addition it is often generated in the form of short or even ultrashort laser pulses.

Exposure to a strong laser light source can result in flash blindness and afterimages. In flash blindness, exposure to a very bright light source can deprive pilots of vision for a period of time ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. This can be followed by afterimages, such as the yellow and purple dots seen after a flash photo. Again, these afterimages will disappear in time.

In the most serious exposures to lasers, the lens of the eye concentrates the light energy on the retina and can actually burn the retinal tissue. The human eye can compensate for small area retinal burns by looking around them, but large area retinal burns can mean permanent loss of vision for the affected area.



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