The air war over Nagorno-Karabakh in autumn 2020 offers three broad takeaways (two material and one nonmaterial) for Singapore’s military planners as they fine-tune the city-state’s Island Air Defense (IAD) system going forward. The three lessons are: (1) an integrated air defense system is critical; (2) the role of electronic warfare should be accentuated; and (3) the human factor is key, and it underpins the other two factors. To be sure, these insights—which should be applicable to any state’s air defense—are hardly groundbreaking, for various other commentators have already made them—but only in relation to major powers such as the United States and medium powers in Western Europe. This analysis therefore adds to the discourse on the lessons of Nagorno-Karabakh 2020 by distilling what is pertinent from the war for Singapore.
Many airmen today have extensive counterinsurgency experience fighting on the ground, calling in airstrikes, and rescuing wounded troops from hostile insurgent strongholds. But there are no incoming aircraft to strafe their positions, or enemy artillery batteries hammering away at their trench lines day and night, or frontal assaults by infantry and armor. Supply is not an issue today, as American troops in the field benefit from secure routes of communication, supply, and support. Thus, few airmen today can comprehend the hardship their predecessors endured between December 1941 and April 1942 on Bataan, a tiny peninsula in the Philippines. Many will recognize the American struggle in the Philippines as the “Death March.” But that is only the aftermath of a desperate. In the end, a joint American–Filipino force was compelled to surrender, and that is the narrative we describe in this article.
India’s quest for attaining superior military technology has materialized in New Delhi’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system from Russia. Adhering to the principles of offensive realism, India is aspiring to accumulate maximum power and establish its hegemony in the region. The Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) obliges the US president to impose sanctions on any state making a significant arms deal with Russia. However, considering India’s strategic partnership with the United States, New Delhi is confident that it can circumvent CAATSA sanctions and secure a waiver. India’s acquisition of this state-of-the-art technology will have a negative impact on the strategic stability of the region, providing a robust false sense of security to the Indian policy makers to execute lethal adventures in the region, with the assurance that India is invulnerable from any retaliatory attack. India’s acquisition of the S-400 will alter the strategic stability momentarily; however, Pakistan has the capability to counter this perceived advantage and rebalance the shift in strategic stability.
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