Defense Challenges Multiply – Part 1


Part I

While we remain focused on Ukraine. defense challenges to the west and western companies multiply. America’s lead in technology has narrowed with China and in some key facets it has evaporated. Over the next few weeks, I will be examining threats and potential threats to both countries and companies from an array of lesser known  radiologic, biologic, chemical, and cyber perils. Many of these threats relate to microchip security and energy demand and supply.

Some of these threats involve both low and tech components.

For example, at a military airshow in 2016, China demonstrated the capacity to

launch multiple precision-guided rockets concealed in standard shipping containers hauled aboard cargo ships. There is no open confirmation that China has widely implemented the system, but the demonstration sounded alarms in Washington, London, and European countries with maritime exposure.

The potential threat remains real. Such systems could overwhelm U.S. defense systems and cripple our ability to strike back after an attack. Like submarines, cargo ships are independently positional and controllable systems that can pose a threat from nearby international waters where the cargo containers are beyond inspection. (See “China is building long-range cruise missiles launched from ship containers.”  News Navy Naval Maritime Defense Industry. April 2019, Available at…)

Without costs of nuclear programs and weapons, these containerized threats can remain subnuclear and thus skirt a strategic nuclear stalemate to yield tremendous tactical advantages.

China has, for example  a YJ-18C  long range cruise missile that could be modified to launch from containers. China also has hypersonic missiles that, given the combination of offshore proximity and their speed, would be difficult to intercept and shoot down. There are also potential weapons that can generate EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) that can cripple unhardened communications and weapon systems for both military and commercial entities.

Israel has demonstrated the capacity to launch its own Lora missiles from containers, and the Lora is similar to Russia’s four-pack of satellite-guided Club-K cruise missiles that Kontsern-Morinformsistema-Agat demonstrated back in 2010. (See, “Deadly new Russian weapon hides in shipping container.” Reuters. April 2010.…).

According, despite current defeats in Ukraine it  remains dangerous to dismiss Russian capacities as well as the ability of rogue  states like North Korea and Iran to acquire and/or develop such weapons systems.

The maritime environment is brutal enough for systems not subject to monitoring and constant maintenance, but these systems require significant computing power operate fully independent tracking and targeting systems. The seriousness of the threat these container-concealed missile systems pose,  in part ,depends on power and their own microchip security (more about this in Part II and Part III of this series) They computers needed to run the systems require significant electricity and generate traceable heat signatures. Accordingly, the. U.S. is currently countering the container threat with the development and deployment of tracking and senor systems that can also detect trace amounts of volatile rocket fuel compounds.

To reduce demands of computing systems, assets are often used to “paint” targets and all sides are moving to space-based measurement and control systems that have access to essential tracking data and satellite imagery. Techniques like virtualization and other means to automatically digitize functions can significantly reduce power and computing demands.

Still, relative to larger defense systems, the development and deployment of smaller, smarter and less expensive weapons systems can conceivably match and impair America’s ability to extend influence with advantages in aircraft carriers, fighters, and missiles.

Continued in Part II




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