Terrorism over the years has come of age

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It has become all pervasive including land, air, sea, cyber and psychological space. Till date the urban infrastructure and population had been relatively unaffected by the terrorist attack through air. However, the situation over the years has changed and ever so drastically after the 11 Sep attacks in the US. Coincidentally strike forces have an ally in non state actors and therefore the requirement to modify the AD aspects to deal with such contingencies.

The political leadership of any country forms the foundation for, among other things, its war waging strategy. In case this leadership is compromised, wholly or partially, a domino effect would result, leading to a paralysis of command, thus virtually going straight to heart of this capability. We have seen the effect of the ground attack on the parliament on 13 Dec 01 which was carried out by a handful of terrorist, armed with just rifles and grenades. Imagine, what would be the effect of a successful aerial attack on the Indian parliament, while it is in session! Therefore, defending our leadership and command structure, is of prime importance and has to be accorded the highest priority and extensive resources.

India will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack with states, terrorists, and other disaffected groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction and mass disruption. The World Trade Centre terrorist attack and the Mumbai terrorist attack have propelled the concept of Homeland security to a new level. It is imperative that this matter be addressed at the highest level and maximum importance be accorded to this issue. The increasing use of aerial platforms for terrorist attacks or for holding the state at ransom has become a common phenomenon. The hijacking of IC 814 on the eve of Christmas and the resulting turmoil which the nation and the people went through is still fresh in our memories.

4. It is essential that we understand the concept of homeland security before analysing it. Homeland Security as defined in the US framework "consists of all military activities aimed at preparing for, protecting against, or managing the consequences of terrorist attacks on American soil. It includes all actions to safeguard the populace and its property, critical infrastructure, the government and the military, its installations and deploying forces". [i] The taxonomy of threats and definition of homeland security suggest five key military task areas:

WMD domestic preparedness and civil support.

Continuity of government, i.e, operations to ensure or restore civil authority.

Border and coastal defense, including the prevention of WMD smuggling into the country and management of large scale refugee flows that can create threats to national security as happened in 1971 Indo-Pak conflict.

Continuity of military operations, including force protection, primarily for deploying units, protection of mission- critical facilities and systems, and protection of higher headquarters operations.

National missile defence.

5. The internal security environment of our country need to be stabilized in various parts. The immediate regional environment represented by South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and beyond is in a state of turbulence. India is surrounded by a number of dysfunctional states; Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan all in various stages of somnolence of governance. Rationalization of relations with these states is essential for India's progress and more importantly her security interests.

6. Airpower, a key element of the military tool, has and will continue to play a vital role in this war against terrorism. Airpower offers a flexible, timely strike capability, including a new generation of highly discriminate weapons. It also affords the least politically risky of the military options for striking back at terror, because it does not entail putting troops on the ground or moving significant naval assets in harm's way. Moreover, the high speed of response associated with airpower will become increasingly important as terrorists acquire the capabilities to move swiftly from one theatre to another and to attack with little or no warning. Thus, air power, with strike capabilities afforded by air-launched cruise missiles and other smart munitions, should be considered a natural, leading element in any proactive strategy for countering terror. Beyond direct bombardment, the air power can provide tactical mobility for special forces teams-and give them close support- should they be called upon to strike directly at key terrorist nodes. [ii] 

Problem

Terrorist attacks through air have become a reality and our urban areas are vulnerable to these attacks.

Hypothesis

The air defence of urban areas is not adequate to counter any aerial attack by terrorists.

Justification of the Problem

3. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre is dubbed as the Pearl Harbor of 21st century. The terrorists today have access to cyber space as well possess state of the art equipment to further their intentions. There have been numerous terrorist attacks on Indian soil and the means employed to carry them out have revolutionalised over the past decade. It is imperative we understand the threat scenario and equip ourselves suitably to pre-empt these events. Prevention, protection and minimization of the consequences would be the road map for the future. It is imperative that we analyse the present set up and plug the loopholes at the earliest to prevent any event like 9/11 on our soil.

Scope

4. The scope of this dissertation is to bring out the limitations of AD setup in the current threat scenario and suggest measures to enhance the same in the urban areas.

Method of Data Collection

5. The study has been carried out making use of the following,

Books on National Security and Homeland Security

Information on Internet

Periodical and journals

Organisation of Dissertation

6. The study aims at analyzing the threats in the current environment and the Air Defence measures adopted in the Indian cities to counter these threats. The study also brings out the organizational setup adopted by US and Europe to meet these challenges. Finally the study brings out the limitations in the current AD setup for homeland security and suggests a road map for the future. The study is covered under the following heads,

Threat Perception

Analysis of Air Defence setup in Indian cities

Civil Air Defence Model - US and Europe

Limitations of civil AD network

Disadvantages of present AD setup

Suggestions for improving AD of Urban areas

Conclusion

In the recent past there have been numerous terrorist attacks wherein sea and air have been the medium of attack. 26/11 Mumbai attack and 9/11 WTC attack have proved that the emergence of the threat is no longer restricted to land frontiers. Prevention is not a panacea: no matter how well we refine our strategies, we will not succeed in identifying all dangerous people and keeping all lethal materials away from terrorists. However the effort should be made to minimise the consequence of an attack, including thorough prompt and effective response mechanism.

Maritime terrorism encompasses a wide range of potential attack scenarios. While individual scenarios have distinct features, they may be characterized along five common dimensions: perpetrators, objectives, locations, targets, and tactics. These dimensions are useful for understanding both historical instances of maritime terrorism and potential scenarios for future maritime attacks.

Aviation terrorism has become merely one among the number of alternative means available to achieve political objective without recourse to direct military action or military confrontation. The advantage of hijacking aircraft as a weapon for achieving major national objective by non military means is usually small expenditure of money, energy and lives. The first recorded attack against civil aviation occurred on 21 Feb 1931 when a group of Peruvian revolutionaries hijacked a mail aircraft, a Pan American F7 Trimotor aircraft in order to drop propaganda leaflets. [iii] Use of civil airliners for terrorist attacks has added the aerial dimension to the modes of operation. A broader spectrum of possible terrorist uses has been addressed since September 11, 2001. These include UAVs, micro UAVs and even high power microwave weapons.

The first incident of hijacking in India occurred on 30 Jan 1971when an Indian Fokker Friendship F-27 aircraft was hijacked during its flight from Srinagar to Jammu and taken to Lahore in Pakistan. At Lahore the hijackers released all 32 passengers and crew members, but set the aircraft on fire. Since then there have been 16 hijacking attempts (successful and unsuccessful) of which in 14 cases the aircraft was actually hijacked and in two cases the attempt was foiled by the crew members.

Terrorist Attacks Involving Air Element-An Overview

First Air Raid by Balloons. On August 22, 1849, the Austrians, who controlled much of Italy at this time, launched some 200 pilotless balloons against the city of Venice. The balloons were armed with bombs controlled by timed fuses - they are also said to have used fuses electrically activated via signals fed up trailing copper wires. Some of the bombs exploded as planned but the wind changed direction and blew several balloons back over the Austrian lines. This is, by most accounts, the first recorded action of its type. [iv] 

6. 9/11. On 11 Sep 01 four US airliners were hijacked by the terrorists. Of these, two were crashed into the twin towers (World Trade Centre), one in the Pentagon and the fourth into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania resulting in over 3000 deaths. The very fact that US Air Defence network, NORAD and NEAD, were concentrated on detecting and planning for an external threat (from Atlantic or from Pacific side) resulted in them ignoring the internal situation wherein the attacking aircraft went 150km off track without being detected. North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) was established in1958 by Department of Defence (DOD). NORAD deployed a network of radars, fighter aircraft, and surface to-air missiles (SAMs) around the United States. The emergence of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1960s drew attention away from U.S. air defenses. [v] The air and cruise missile threat appeared to decline further with the Soviet Union's demise and growing U.S. superiority over other hostile air forces. Because an air attack on the United States appeared unlikely, DOD relaxed its posture. By September 11, 2001, only 14 Air Force fighters at 7 bases were assigned to protect the continental United States (CONUS) from air attacks. This number has subsequently been increased to over 100.

7. LTTE Aerial Attack. Fourteen personnel of the Sri Lanka military and 20 cadres of the LTTE were killed and four aircraft of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) destroyed in a pre-dawn ground and aerial attack by the Tamil Tigers on 22 Oct 2007 on the Anuradhapura air base in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

8. On Feb. 18, 2010, Joseph Andrew Stack [vi] flew his single-engine airplane into a seven-story office building in northwest Austin, Texas. The building housed an office of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), along with several other tenants. According to a statement he posted to the Internet before taking off on his suicide flight, Stack intentionally targeted the IRS due to a long history of problems he had had with the agency.

Modus Operandi for Aerial Attacks

9. Aerial attack has become a lucrative option for the terrorists primarily because of its ability to circumvent the defences. The various means available to the terrorist for carrying out such attacks are,

Civil airliner

Private plane or helicopter

UAVs

Micro UAVs

Aeromodels

UAVs and Terrorism

10. UAVs today are available in open market and their size makes them easily concealable. Certain advantages that may make UAVs seem attractive to terrorists are: [vii] 

Possibility to attack targets that are difficult to reach by land (cars loaded with explosives or suicide terrorists)

Possibility of carrying out a wide-scale (area) attack, aimed at inflicting a maximum death rate on a population (particularly, through the use of chemical or biological weapons in cities)

Covertness of attack preparation and flexibility in choice of a UAV launch site

Possibility of achieving a long range and acceptable accuracy with relatively inexpensive and increasingly available technology

Poor effectiveness of existing air defenses against targets such as low-flying UAVs

Relative cost effectiveness of UAVs compared with ballistic missiles and manned airplanes

Possibility of achieving a strong psychological effect by scaring people and putting pressure on politicians

Targets for Aerial Terrorist Attack

11. The reach and flexibility of air power offers the terrorist a platform to attack diverse targets by circumventing various defense mechanisms employed to protect it. The various targets for such attacks are,

National Structures

National Symbols. National monuments like the Gateway of India, India Gate etc may be the targets of such attacks. These may not cause mass casualty but the psychological effect it leaves behind could be detrimental to the population. Further, the global image deterioration that our nation would undergo would compromise our position in the global fraternity.

Religious Structures. India is a diverse country where religious sentiments are a very sensitive issue. A successful attack on religious structures may cause religious unrest which may lead to communal riots.

Economic Targets. India is a growing economy and this fact is highly detested in the terrorist community. Liberalisation had resulted in massive influx of FDI which has made India an emerging economic giant. 26 Sep 08 Mumbai attack had shown what impact an attack on economic target can have on civil psyche.

Political and Judicial Structures. Political structures like the Parliament house and judicial structures like the Supreme Court form a very lucrative target for the terrorist attacks primarily due to the fact that the very root of democracy would be shaken and the country would be made to feel helpless against terrorist attacks. The proximity of some of these structures in the flying routes poses a serious threat to them. Appendix P brings out the proximity of Parliament house to the approach path of Indira Gandhi International airport.

Critical Infrastructure

Defence Infrastructure. Defence installations form a lucrative infrastructure for such attacks. These may include atomic centres like BARC, research and development centres like the DRDO, space centres like SHAR, and other such installations. A successful attack against these would degrade our capability and would have a detrimental psychological impact on the central government. Media management in such an eventuality would be essential to minimise psychological impact on the civil population.

Dams and Power Projects. Aerial attack against these is likely however a ground assault on such installations is a greater probability.

Stock Exchanges. Attack on BSE, DSE and NSE apart from mass casualty would virtually shut down the economy. After the Mumbai terror attack the BSE closed down for a day. Hence, it is not difficult to perceive the consequences of a successful attack against such infrastructure.

Prominent banks like the Reserve Bank of India would form the nodal target towards which the terrorist can direct their attacks. These would cripple the economic machinery of the country.

Critical Infrastructure Sectors [viii] 

Agriculture

Food

Water

Public Health

Emergency Services

Government

Information and Telecommunications

Energy

Transportation

Banking and Finance

Chemical Industry

Postal and Shipping

Mass Annihilation. The events of 9/11 are still fresh in our memories. Before 9/11, crews (and even law enforcement officers traveling while armed)

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