New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

 How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnelsair conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail tips@curbed.com, and we may include it in a future column.

The UK Nuclear Horn is playing a dangerous nuclear game: Daniel 7

Boris Johnson is playing a dangerous nuclear game

Serhii Plokhy

Britain has joined an uncontrolled arms race in a world more unstable and unpredictable than even during the cold war

Fri 19 Mar 2021 03.00 EDT

Boris Johnson’s decision to increase the cap on British nuclear stockpiles by more than 40%, from 180 to 260 Trident nuclear warheads, might easily be interpreted as a manoeuvre inspired by domestic politics, rooted in the Conservative party’s longstanding love affair with nuclear power and the recent politics of Brexit. But the decision has broader significance. It reflects the rapidly changing international nuclear environment, and will make it significantly worse.

Cap on Trident nuclear warhead stockpile to rise by more than 40%

The world entered a new and dangerous era on 2 August 2019. On that day, the planet’s strongest nuclear powers, the US and Russia, declared their withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The treaty was the last cold war-era arms control agreement remaining in force. We are now officially at the start of an uncontrolled nuclear arms race.

What this meant became clear on 8 August, less than a week after the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement was abandoned. The reactor of a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed Russian cruise missile, codenamed Skyfall, exploded in the Barents Sea, killing five Russian scientists and naval officers and contaminating the atmosphere and waters in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia. The ultimate target of Skyfall, as President Putin demonstrated in a public video a year earlier, is the US.

Today, we are back to a situation that resembles the period preceding the Cuban missile crisis, when there were no mutually binding arms control agreements and various countries, the UK among them, were competing to outspend one another in building nuclear arsenals. In October 1962, only luck and the fear of nuclear confrontation shared by John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev saved the world from nuclear war. The shock of the crisis led the two superpowers to negotiate a number of arms control deals, ranging from the Partial Nuclear Test Ban treaty to arms control and limitation agreements. MAD, or mutually assured destruction, a concept strongly associated in the public imagination with Dr Strangelove’s “Doomsday Machine”, miraculously kept the nuclear powers at bay, maintaining what Churchill called the “balance of terror”.

But attempts to change that balance, such as Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative, which threatened to make the US safer than its Soviet opponent, brought the world back to the brink of nuclear confrontation. We are now learning more about that period. There was a close call in September 1983, when the Soviet early warning missile attack system malfunctioned, sounding a nuclear alarm. It turned out that sunlight passing through high-altitude clouds over North Dakota made the Soviet space-based system malfunction. It is believed that Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, who was on duty that day, all but saved the world from nuclear catastrophe. He happened to know that the early warning system was not reliable and refused to pass on the news about a US “nuclear attack” to his commanders, who believed in the system.

What we are witnessing today has been characterised by some authors as the advent of a “second nuclear age”. But we are in a more dangerous and unpredictable world than we were during the cold war. There has been an unprecedented proliferation of nuclear weapons, with more states capable of building a bomb than at any point since the end of the cold war. Even extremely poor but determined regimes, such as the one that rules North Korea, can threaten a superpower with nuclear war. Two rivals, India and Pakistan, both have nuclear capabilities, and Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology causes grave concern, not only in the undeclared nuclear state of Israel but also in the non-nuclear regional hegemon, Saudi Arabia. Cyberwarfare also makes the current situation more dangerous than that of the early 1960s, as it allows one power to seize control of another’s nuclear arsenal without firing a shot.

While we face new challenges, we lack the fear of nuclear war developed by previous generations of political leaders and societies. Kennedy and Khrushchev considered nuclear war unwinnable. This is now changing with the scrapping of the old arms control treaties, the renewal of the nuclear arms race, and the development of new technologies making possible the execution of extremely accurate nuclear strikes. These factors have lowered the psychological barrier for using nuclear arms and brought back the illusion of the pre-hydrogen bomb age that wars conducted with limited use of nuclear weapons can be fought and won. That in turn feeds the new nuclear arms race, which the US and Russia have already started by abandoning cold war-era limitations.

Hence the true importance of Johnson’s announcement, which opens the door for the UK and other countries to join the race. Even if the government decides not to limit itself to lifting the cap on Trident nuclear warheads and in fact acquires all 80 warheads over a short period of time, the world nuclear balance will hardly change. Despite all the changes around the globe since the end of the cold war, there are still two nuclear superpowers: Russia, with approximately 4,300 warheads, and the US, with an estimated 3,800 warheads. Eighty additional Trident warheads will not make much of a difference, nor will they make the UK safer if it comes to the worst.

But by deciding to increase the cap, the UK – the world’s third country to develop its own nuclear capability – is sending the wrong signal: rearm. Instead, the world should be heading to the negotiating table to breathe new life into the arms control talks that all but ceased with the end of the cold war. That is no easy task, as negotiations will now have to go beyond the two nuclear superpowers and include the rest of the nuclear “haves” – first and foremost, China. The UK could play an important role in stopping the new nuclear arms race, instead of restarting it.

Serhii Plokhy is a professor of history at Harvard University and the author of Nuclear Folly: A New History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, published in April 2021

Israel trains for Hamas terrorist infiltrations from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

IDF trains for Hamas terrorist infiltrations from the Gaza Strip

By UDI SHAHAM   MARCH 16, 2021 12:23

As part of the drill, all the Gaza Division’s units practiced going from routine operations to emergency mode.

As the IDF moves toward tightening cooperation between its different forces, the Gaza Regional Division completed a wide-scale drill earlier this week, exercising interoperability during an infiltration from the Gaza Strip.

As part of the drill, all the division’s units practiced going from routine operations to emergency mode.

The threats that the forces were facing were in multiple arenas – on the ground, underground, in the air, at sea, and near-ground (the drone threat).

The forces came from different army wings – infantry, tanks, missile batteries, navy vessels, and air force choppers. In addition, intelligence units played a major role in guiding the other units and alerting them about different threats.

OC Gaza Division Brig.-Col. Nimrod Aloni said after the drill ended that his units managed to “attack, with tight cooperation with the air force, multiple targets in a short time.

“We were operating throughout the entire front, and it enabled us to examine and practice the entire might of the Gaza Division,” he said. “It is the second division drill we had in the past three months, and we keep going forward in this pace — being sharper and becoming more lethal.

The 75th Armored Battalion is now the tanks unit in charge of defending the Gaza border. Its commander, Lt.-Col. Itamar Michaeli, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that his unit – which is deployed from the southern part of the border to the sea – played a major role in the different scenarios that were practiced.

“We worked on different infiltration options: from ones taking place in the area of the barrier, to raids on the communities and the valuable assets located inside [the border],” he said. “We were planning the most complicated scenarios, where the enemy can make the threat more difficult for us: [act] in a higher volume with multiple friction points – places where there will be a mix of civilians, army forces and enemy forces. We practiced inside the communities along the entire border.”

Michaeli noted that despite the intensity of the wide-scale drill, exercising large amounts of various threats is not uncommon for his battalion. “We practice on a regular basis and [also] carry out drills on the company level. In this case, we did it at the division, brigade, and battalion levels.

“If you compare it to basketball practices,” he said,” if we usually practice layups, we now practice a full five-player team match.”

Regarding the interoperability of the forces, Michaeli said that this is a sign of the IDF trend to improve the cooperation of forces operating in different parts of the battlefield.

“There is a major advancement in the way the IDF promotes partnerships,” he said. “There was a significant technological leap that raised the IDF’s power: whether it is in the ability to close fire-circles quickly or in improving the pace that intelligence is flowing between the units. There are many elements here that strengthened the army due to recent improvements and changes.

“Now we can see these changes in the IDF’s tactical ranks – in brigades and battalions – and we saw it in the drill,” the commander said. 

UK changes the nuclear rules: Daniel 7

U.K. Changes Nuclear Strike Rules Over Cyber, Chemical and Bioweapon Attacks

By David Brennan On 3/16/21 at 10:51 AM EDT

The U.K. has said it plans to change nuclear strike rules and expand its nuclear arsenal for the first time in decades following a broad defense review.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson informed parliament of the review on Tuesday, ending three decades of de facto disarmament by the British armed forces. The U.K. will now expand its nuclear arsenal, which is currently the fifth largest in the world.

The 100-page report, titled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age,” is the product of an integrated review of security, defense and foreign policy designed to refocus British policy in the face of perceived threats from Russia, China, and other adversaries.

The review is the foundation for a proposed £10 billion investment in Britain’s armed forces, which drew condemnation from disarmament campaigners.

Johnson announced on Tuesday that the cap on Britain’s Trident submarine-launched ballistic nuclear missiles arsenal is to be lifted from 180 to 260 warheads; representing a more than 40 percent increase.

The review also says the U.K. will change its nuclear weapons rules to meet the threat of states inflicting devastating cyber, biological or chemical weapons attacks against its population.

The review says that the U.K. will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state that is party to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Current non-signatories are North Korea, India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan.

But any signatory state that breaches the treaty will not be protected by that assurance, The Times reported.

The review says the U.K. “reserves the right to review this assurance if the future threat of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological capabilities, or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact, makes it necessary.”

An unnamed defense source told The Times that the review takes into account the danger of a “cyber 9/11.” The source added: “You don’t need to drop a nuclear bomb on someone if you can cut off their food supplies. We’ve come a long way since the Second World War—now you can just turn off people’s phones and the internet.”

The U.K. is currently among the nations that have refused to commit to a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons. Then-Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in 2017 the U.K. would not commit to such a stance so that potential enemies would not be able to predict British military operations.

The review particularly notes the threats from Russia, China, and non-state terrorist groups. To address the latter, Johnson said the U.K. will also establish a new Counter-Terrorism Centre and build a new bunker underneath the prime ministerial residence at 10 Downing Street in London.

The review noted the “realistic possibility” of a successful chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack by a terrorist group by 2030, though did not provide any more detail on how the conclusion was reached according to a copy leaked to The Guardian.

The nuclear expansion is “in recognition of the evolving security environment,” which includes cyberspace; “an increasingly contested domain, used by state and non-state actors” where serious damage can be done to British infrastructure and nationals. The report reasserted the plan to create a national cyber force based in the north of the country.

Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others are all concerns for the U.K. in the cyber sphere. The 2017 WannaCry cyber attack, for example, badly affected National Health Service systems.

On China, the review was relatively moderate. “China’s growing international stature is by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today,” it read. The relatively soft language will be a disappointment to China hawks in the U.K. who are pressing Johnson to take a tougher line on Beijing despite possible trade and diplomatic fallout.

“The fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values to ours, presents challenges for the U.K. and our allies,” the report read. “China will contribute more to global growth than any other country in the next decade with benefits to the global economy.”

The report was more scathing of Russia, which has been accused of several chemical weapons attacks in the U.K. in recent decades and a widespread campaign of meddling in British democracy.

The U.K. has been at the forefront of sanctions efforts against Moscow for such covert actions, despite huge amounts of Russian money—reportedly much of it laundered—in the British economy and reported Russian influence within the ruling Conservative Party via wealthy donors.

Russia, the report said, is the most “acute threat to our security.” It added: “Until relations with its government improve, we will actively deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia.”

This file photo shows the British HMS Vigilant nuclear-armed submarine on April 29, 2019 in Faslane, U.K. James Glossop – WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Growing Nuclear disaster in Asia: Revelation 8

Violent extremism, religious intolerance in Pakistan poses devastating consequences for its future

ANITue, 16 March 2021, 5:27 PM

Islamabad [Pakistan], March 17 (ANI): Amid religious intolerance and violent extremism in Pakistan, the anniversaries of two brutal assassinations have cast a light on how democratic ideals have plunged in the country with potentially devastating consequences for its future.

Knox Thames for Foreign Policy writes that this year has witnessed the 10th anniversaries of the assassinations of two men – Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti – have highlighted the most lingering question over Pakistan’s future – Will the country continue its slide away from the democratic ideals of its founding in 1947 toward religious intolerance and extremism?

“A Pakistan riled by sectarian hatreds and cowering in fear of religious extremists cannot modernize–and will continue to fall further behind its South Asian neighbors. And the consequences for both the region and the world could be grave if the nuclear-armed nation becomes even more radicalised,” he says.

Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, and Bhatti, who was the federal minister for minority affairs, had come into the crosshairs of Sunni extremists. The two men had forged an unlikely alliance to speak up for the members of religious minorities. One of them was Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy.

Both men draw the ire of Sunni extremists for publicly advocating for Bibi’s release and reform of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law. In 2011, Taseer was shot multiple times in the back by his own bodyguard, who later on became a hero to many Pakistanis.

Two months later, members of the Pakistani Taliban brazenly ambushed Bhatti’s unarmoured sedan in Islamabad and shot him dead right outside his mother’s home. This incident brought worldwide condemnation, but the killers went free as Pakistani officials feared for their own lives.

Thames further writes for Foreign Policy that extremism is embedded in Pakistan’s is embedded in the country’s political culture–and the moderate middle that carried the country’s political, social, and economic development since independence is rapidly shrinking.

Even as it took a decade to overturn Bibi’s death sentence, studies have indicated that at least 75 percent of the 200 blasphemy cases in 2020 were against Muslims who allegedly blasphemed Islam.

While the extrajudicial killing spree against Taseer and Bhatti has been an issue of global condemnation, murders of members of minorities and human rights advocates continue to persist in the country. This includes the assassination of blasphemy-case lawyer Rashid Rehman and human rights advocate Khurram Zaki, as well as the mysterious death in Canada of Baluchistan rights activist Karima Baloch.

Furthermore, the forced conversion of Hindu and Christian girls, including by forced marriage to Muslim men, is common in the country and Ahmadi Muslims are regularly charged with the alleged crime of just being Ahmadi, Foreign Policy reported.

This dilapidated situation is also accompanied by repeated arrests of journalists and high regulation of the internet, yet Prime Minister Imran Khan ignores these trends at home while lecturing Europe on anti-Muslim discrimination and turning a blind eye to China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, writes Thames.

“The Trump administration was the first to designate Pakistan a country of particular concern for its severe violations of religious freedom, a move every previous Republican and Democratic administration avoided. It was the right decision, and I led the US State Department’s negotiations for potentially taking Pakistan off that list again,” he said in the Foreign Policy article.

While Pakistani officials claim impotence against the rising tide of violence in the country, Thames argues that military and security services can act when they want, noting that the state rounded up extremists after they called for the death of Supreme Court justices and the overthrow of the government in 2018 for acquitting Bibi.

Human rights need to be incorporated in every engagement with Pakistan on terrorism, regional security, and violent extremism. US President Joe Biden’s administration can employ the Magnitsky Act as well as sanctions related to the designation of Pakistan as a country of particular concern. The European Union can attach human rights conditionalities to trade using its own established mechanisms, while other countries can deny visas to those propagating hate towards minorities, according to Foreign Policy.

“The abhorrent blasphemy law gives strength to extremists who threaten the Pakistani state, the region, and the world. Unchecked, the vicious and vengefully applied law may eventually consume the entire country,” Thames said.

Meanwhile, the global terror financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Thursday retained Pakistan on its “grey list” till June after concluding that Islamabad failed to address its strategically important deficiencies, to fully implement the 27 point action plan that the watchdog had drawn up for Pakistan. (ANI)

India prepares for a nuclear war with Pakistan: Revelation 8

India Quietly Deploys Huge Spy Ship Designed To Track Nuclear Missiles

Sebastien Roblin

Aerospace & Defense

I cover international security, conflict, history and aviation.

Ocean Surveillance Ship VC-11184 (since [+]

India’s Economic Times revealed Tuesday that last October the Indian Navy secretly commissioned a large high-tech surveillance ship formerly only known by the code designation VC-11184.

In addition to maritime surveillance and missile test monitoring missions, the 17,000-ton INS Dhruv allegedly could be used to provide early warning of attacks by ballistic missiles launched from Pakistan and China.

Despite the secrecy cloaking the vessel, general information on the Ocean Surveillance Ship’s capabilities and characteristics has circulated on Indian media and the vessel has been widely photographed at the shipyard in recent years.

Floating out of VC11184 ocean surveillance ship at [+]

HSL/Govt of India (GODL)

VC-11184 was laid down June 2014 under a covered drydock in Visakhapatnam by government-owned Hindustan Shipyards Limited. After some delays, it was delivered in 2018 and completed sea trials the year after. The ship, measuring nearly the length of two football fields long at 175 meters, has a crew complement of 300, and reportedly cost 1.5 million rupees crore ($206 million) in total.

The Dhruv’s huge radar domes includes an X-Band radar, a class of sensor apt for focused, precision scans, and a longer-range S-Band radar (or some sources claim an L-Band) useful for scanning large areas. Both are Active Electronically Scanned Array systems, the most advanced type of radar in use due to their higher resolution, jamming resistance and ability to maintain many tracks simultaneously.

As far the author knows no performance data has been made public for the radars, nor even their designations, though the long-range radar is allegedly based on the L-band Multi-Object Tracking Radar used by the Indian Space Research Organization. The sensors are apparently so powerful that the ship mounts three auxiliary power generators to supplement the electricity generated by its two combined diesel engines, bringing total power output to 14 MW.

The Dhruv also reportedly incorporates a command, control and communications (C3) systems, as well as electronic support measure antennas (ESMs) allowing it to spy on electromagnetic emissions generated by other country’s ships and aircraft—a capability known as electronic intelligence, or ELINT.

Other reported equipment includes acoustic sensors (including hydrophones), and a landing pad and hangar facilities on the vessel’s stern which can support a single Chetak or Dhruv utility helicopter.

Multiple reports claim that the vessel will host personnel from India’s National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) that will report directly to India’s National Security Advisor. That supports the notion that vessel could play a role in helping detect strategic attacks on India.

Eyes at Sea to Aid India’s Missile Shield?

The Dhruv is described as capable of performing a number of missions. For one, it will likely serve as a missile test range instrumentation ship. That means it sensors would be used to collect data from tests of India’s land-based and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which New Delhi continues to develop for greater range to threaten more of Chinese territory.

India tested its medium range Submarine Launched [+]

Corbis via Getty Images

Furthermore, several reports stress a maritime domain awareness role for the vessel, indicating it radars and ELINT capability would be used to monitor the movements of ships and aircraft in the water surrounding the Indian subcontinent—an important mission as China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy increases its presence in the Indian Ocean.

A source quoted by the Hindustan Times claims the vessel’s systems would serve as a “force multiplier” for the Indian Navy, assisting in planning “subsurface [submarine], surface, and aerial” offensive operations.

WESTERN INDIAN OCEAN, Aug. 25, 2017 — A Chinese [+]

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Nonetheless, the vessel’s possible application to the missile defense role has received the most attention.

New Delhi has spent several decades assembling the components of a ballistic missile defense apparatus to protect against the formidable long-range missile arsenals of China and Pakistan—both conventional and nuclear-armed. Though India’s “missile shield” currently will protect only a few major cities (currently New Delhi and Mumbai, though others may follow), it remains a capability possessed by only a handful of other countries.

Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile test on 6 [+]

Indian MoD (GODL)

Currently India’s BMD system relies on satellite-based sensors to detect the flash of a missile launch combined with huge Swordfish surveillance radars to acquire tracking data which can be used to cue two layers of interceptor missiles—the high-altitude, long-range Prithvi Air Defense missile and the lower-altitude, shorter-range Advanced Air Defense missile.

By providing an additional long-range radar system scanning from a different vantage than India’s land and space-based sensors, the Dhruv could theoretically both extend the missile defense system by providing earlier warning and targeting data, as well as “thicken it” by transmitting additional targeting data improving the accuracy of interceptor missiles launched to shoot down incoming strikes.

The U.S.’s own national missile defense system relies on a gigantic Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1) to improve sensor coverage in the Pacific and provide high-quality targeting data needed for interception of incoming missiles.

The Sea-based, X-band Radar (SBX 1) departs Pearl [+]

Getty Images

Despite that potential, it’s far from clear to what extent the Indian Navy may use Dhruv’s missile tracking capabilities operationally, instead of just for testing purposes and surveillance of its neighbor’s missile tests.

One issue is that the Dhruv, like any other ship, cannot remain at sea indefinitely and must periodically return to shore to resupply and refuel and undergo upgrades and overhauls. Continuous early warning coverage therefore would require one or two more Ocean Surveillance Ships to rotate onto station. That said, a second, smaller (118 meters long) surveillance vessel possibly specialized in tracking cruise missiles was earlier reported under construction at the Cochin shipyard.

The Dhruv’s survivability in a conflict context is also an issue, as it is not known to carry any weapons. Remaining on the move (sources variously reports its maximum speed to lie between 21 and 26 knots) could protect the vessel somewhat, but the Dhruv’s powerful sensors might act as beacon, making its movements easier to track. That implies if deployed operationally, the Indian Navy might need to assign escorts to provide anti-air and anti-submarine defense.

It thus remains to be seen whether India’s huge but mysterious surveillance ship assumes operational roles in a maritime surveillance and/or missile defense capacity, or in practice sticks to specialized tasks as a missile test range instrumentation ship.