Intelligence Forecast
April 2019

1. ISIS Growth in the Philippines

In recent weeks, the last settlements of ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been destroyed, but this doesn’t mean ISIS is officially defeated. Other areas of the world have been the target of radical Islamic groups, particularly in the Philippines. For the past year, ISIS has had a tremendous impact on the Philippines, carrying out suicide bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings. It is apparent that even though ISIS has been militarily defeated in the Middle East, their ideological growth goes far beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq.

The main ISIS-affiliated group in the Philippines is called Abu Sayyaf, a group of jihadist pirates who are followers of Wahhabi Islam. Although the group has been present in the Philippines since 1991, they seem to have altered over time between a criminal organization and an ideologically based terrorist group. In the summer of 2014, Abu Sayyaf pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Currently, they have smaller numbers than in the past, but it only takes a single individual to create a suicide bomb. Case in point, this last January Abu Sayyaf killed twenty-three people at a cathedral in Basilan using a pair of suicide bombers.

ISIS has made a push for recruitment in the Philippines since 2016 when they were circulating propaganda to Muslim-majority regions of the southern islands. The group targeted Abu Sayyaf individuals, who were already practicing terrorism, by telling them they could still be loyal to the ISIS caliphate even though they were unable to travel to Syria. ISIS believed they could easily start a large cell in the Philippines without garnering much attention. A group of over 1,000 came together to fight for the Islamic caliphate in the Philippines where they were able to capture the city of Marawi in the Mindanao region. Although the Filipino government has retaken control of the region once held by ISIS, the issue of Islamic extremism is far from gone.

It is evident Abu Sayyaf has evolved itself into an Asian branch of ISIS based in the Philippines. The government of the Philippines, unfortunately, lacks concern for what may come in the future. ISIS could possibly reform again to a greater extent in the Philippines under Abu Sayyaf. However, the current Filipino government doesn’t want to admit the occurrences are ideological and based around radical Islam. The director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sydney Jones, stated: “The government (Philippines) didn’t recognize its strength in attracting everyone from university-educated students to Abu Sayyaf kids in the jungle.”

It’s apparent the Filipino government is unable to recognize the future threat, which may require American military presence if necessary. It is clear ISIS will find a new area to expand its ideology, but the role of ISIS in the Philippines seems like a distraction to the events that occurred in Africa and the Middle East. ISIS will likely put more resources in expanding its reach in Africa, which will cause the growth of ISIS in the Philippines to stagnate. Although ISIS is defeated militarily in Syria and Iraq doesn’t mean they are defeated worldwide ideologically. 

2. Pentagon’s Particle Beam

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to test a space-based missile defense system based around the idea of shooting a direct energy particle beam at a moving projectile. This is a large achievement for the United States missile defense and the nuclear utilization target selection community. The project, titled “neutral particle beam,” will be sent into space and tested while in orbit in 2023.

This technology is quite different than previous models of electromagnetic (EM) laser weapons since the neutral particle beam doesn’t use an electrical charge, but instead uses a technique to accelerate particles without an electric charge. The acceleration of particles moves other particles out of its way, thus creating friction resulting in immense heat on the targeted projectile. Lead scientists on the project believe that the speed of the neutral particle beam will come close to the speed of light. Although the actual plans and technique of the neutral particle beam haven’t been revealed, there are several potential concepts.

This opens the door to greater possibilities when it comes to missile defense, as the longevity of such a device in space would be far greater than that of an electrically charged laser device. It is apparent that the United States is dedicated to expanding its role in space when it comes to space-based technology and defense systems. If the tests of the newly released missile defense system prove successful in 2023, the SDI program started by the Reagan administration will be proven possible. A successful missile defense system in space will allow the United States to declare superiority on earth and beyond.

3. Russian Innovative Missile Technology Threatens America

It’s no surprise Russian news and media outlets, along with their government, are speculating the new Russian missiles are the greatest the world has ever seen. In May of 2018, Russia announced they were planning to modernize their tactical and strategic forces, including the nuclear capabilities of ballistic missiles. This is not only a threat to the United States but a direct threat to democracy and the American way of life.

The Russian defense ministry suggests two of their hypersonic weapon systems will be operational by 2020, but other systems, including their latest nuclear-powered cruise missile, may take over a decade until they are battlefield ready.

One of the hypersonic weapon systems that will be ready by 2020 is titled the Avangard. This boost-glide hypersonic weapons system is capable of gliding through the atmosphere without needing to be launched into space. This may not sound like an innovative system, but the glide method allows the missile to remain undetected by U.S. ground-based missile defense systems. The range of Avangard is estimated at 3,700 miles. A disadvantage to the Avangard is that the technology is apparently difficult to control, which leads to inaccurate targeting.

The other Russian weapon system to be ready by 2020 is the Kinzhal short-range ballistic missile. The air-launched missile is capable of speeds of Mach 10 and a range of just over 1,200 miles. Current U.S. battlefield missiles defense systems, like the THAAD and the Patriot air defense system, are likely not going to be able to destroy the Kinzhal due to its high velocity.

The nuclear-powered cruise missile that is estimated to be completed in over a decade is titled the Buresvestnik. The good news for Americans is that this technology has a long way to go before it is operational. The bad news is that this cruise missile, if even possible, would be one of the greatest weapons in human history. The missile theoretically uses a turbojet to launch. Once maximum speed is obtained, the nuclear-powered engine deploys and allows the missile to be launched for over 10,000 miles and even stay in the air for days at a time. Fortunately, Russia is facing major issues in the development stage and is finding difficulty in the science of the project.

The weapons being developed by Russia shouldn’t be taken lightly even if they are having difficulty developing them. The United States is currently developing a system to compete with the Buresvestnik titled the Long Range Stand Off (LRSO). The U.S. is also developing multiple systems based on hypersonic technology to compete with those of Russians. The United States needs to continue the process of developing groundbreaking technology in order to hold primacy in the world and beyond. The future looks as if the Russians will deploy multiple missile systems that will cause current American missile defense systems to be obsolete. In order to continue projecting American power and democracy throughout the world, the United States needs to continue to invest in military and space technology. Without these advancements, the world may once again become multi-polar, which would signify a decline in American dominance.