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The top tweeted terms are the trending industry discussions happening on Twitter by key individuals (influencers) as tracked by the platform.

1. Nuclear – 474 mentions

The relaunch of bilateral dialogue between the US and Russia, the growing possibility of using nuclear weapons in regional and global conflicts, and the cyber risks across the US nuclear enterprise were some of the popular discussions around nuclear in Q3 2021.

IISS News, the official Twitter handle of research institute The International Institute for Strategic Studies, shared an article on Russia and the US restarting the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue on 28 July. The dialogue is expected to form the foundation for future arms control and focus on reducing the risk of a nuclear war. The meeting for the dialogue follows the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in February that focuses on measures to reduce and limit strategic offensive arms.

The two countries will carry out discussions on various topics including nuclear warheads and doctrine, verification of weapons systems and warheads, and space and cyber-warfare capabilities. The dialogue is unlikely to deliver a replacement for the New START treaty before it expires in 2026, but will contribute to risk reduction between the two countries and lay the groundwork for a post-New START framework, the article highlighted.

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Nuclear was also discussed by the Federation of American Scientists, a non-profit policy research and advocacy organisation, in an article detailing a report from the Pentagon on the likelihood of using nuclear weapons in global conflicts. The report details the nuclear strategy of the US, its operations, and assessment of threats from potential adversaries. It highlighted that the US has aimed to reduce the nuclear weapons in its arsenal, whereas its adversaries including Russia, China and North Korea are increasing nuclear weapons despite negotiations and dialogues to reduce the same.

In another tweet, Texas National Security Review, a journal focused on national and international security, shared an article on the cyber risks associated with the US nuclear enterprise. The US has witnessed several cyber-attacks recently, including the SolarWinds breach and the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline. The US is currently undertaking a modernisation of the nuclear enterprise, a key part of which will be addressing cyber risks, the article highlighted. The government will need to manage vulnerabilities of every component of the nuclear enterprise ranging from the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear delivery systems to the nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3), according to the article.

2. Drones – 469 mentions

The need for France to expand its drone fleet, the US Army’s Directed Energy Manoeuvre-Short Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) delivering counter unmanned aerial system (CUAS) to a South Asian country were trending topics of discussion in the third quarter of this year.

Ulrike Franke, senior fellow at think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations, shared an article on how the French armed forces will require thousands of drones by 2025, according to a report from the country’s Senate Defence Committee. The report stated that France will need to expand its drone fleet by procuring inexpensive and expendable drones to bolster its defences.

The use of tactical and small drones on the battlefield has increased to penetrate and neutralise enemy drones, according to the report. France, therefore, needs to procure microdrones or small drones to use as decoys or to remotely detonate ammunition. The report highlighted that France’s plans to acquire 900 drones by 2025 is a step in the right direction.

In another tweet, an online aviation and defence magazine shared an article on how the US Army’s directed energy capabilities are strengthening its defence capabilities against UAS and rockets. The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) recently tested the DE M-SHORAD equipped on the Stryker combat vehicle during a Combat Shoot-Off (CSO) in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The CSO enabled soldiers to operate and familiarise themselves with the DE M-SHORAD system including the operating system, target acquisition, and engagements. The system is expected to bolster the army’s air and missile defence capabilities and reduce lifecycle cost.

Another discussion on drones was shared by a defence magazine on the delivery of the ELI-4030 Drone Guard CUAS systems to a country in South Asia by IAI. The deal is estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars and was delivered through IAI’s subsidiary ELTA Systems. The ELI-4030 features high-resolution 3D X-Band radar, multi-channel jamming, and high resolution electro-optical/infrared systems. The system can detect, identify, and counter drone attacks by simultaneously handling hundreds of targets.

3. Missile – 297 mentions

China’s nuclear missile silo construction growing in 2021, Israel’s ballistic missile programme, and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites helping in detecting hypersonic missiles among the popular discussions around missiles in the previous quarter.

The Department of War Studies at King’s College London shared an article on the rapid increase in nuclear missile silo construction in China this year. Open-source satellite imagery has discovered 16 silos in Jilantai in Inner Mongolia, 120 silos in Yumen, and another 110 in Hami near Yumen. China remains silent on the discoveries, while western countries are trying to uncover the reasons behind the sudden massive growth in missile silos. China was estimated to have approximately 16 silos until last year, but the new discoveries put the total missile silos at 250, which is more than the 100 silos of Russia but less than the 400 silos of the US.

The article detailed how the new silos indicate a no arms control policy from China, which could lead the US to use a declaration of mutual vulnerability to persuade China into talks. A mutual vulnerability, however, may be too risky to make public as it could affect the US allies in Asia. It could also place the US and China under a new nuclear pact that will be focused on maintaining mutual vulnerability rather than restraint and reduction of nuclear arms.

IISS News discussed missile in an article on Israel having several missile systems with different ranges including short, medium and, intermediate range. Israel has not acknowledged its ballistic missiles apart from the short-range LORA although reports speculate that it has an intermediate-range missile named Jericho-3. The Jericho-3 is estimated to have a range of between 4,800km and 6,500km with a payload capacity of between 1,000kg and 1,300kg, according to the article shared by the research institute.

The article detailed whether long-range missiles are needed for Israel considering how its adversaries including Iran and some of the Arab states are located within a shorter range. It highlighted that Israel may be preparing for worst-case scenarios of possible threats from nuclear-armed Pakistan or takeover by Islamic extremists. The details of Israel’s ballistic missile capabilities remain speculative as the country refuses to reveal its defence capabilities, the article highlighted.

Missile was also discussed by Tara Copp, a journalist, in an article on how LEO satellites may help in building a defence against hypersonic missiles. Northrop Grumman, the Space Development Agency, and the Missile Defense Agency have jointly developed the Prototype Infrared Payload (PIRPL) comprising a multi-spectral camera to test whether hypersonic missiles can be detected from low earth orbit. The PIRPL was launched aboard the Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) in August. LEO satellites operate at 1,000km from the Earth’s surface, which provides better detection capability compared to geostationary satellites, the article highlighted.

4. Troops – 182 mentions

Tajikistan bolstering its borders as Afghan troops seek refuge and the majority of the UK troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan were some of the major discussions around troops in Q3.

9DASHLINE, a non-partisan online platform focused on Indo-Pacific issues, shared an article on Tajikistan’s government mobilising 20,000 military reservists to strengthen its border with Afghanistan as Afghan security personnel sought refuge in the country from Taliban militants. The Tajikistan government did not anticipate the surge in border crossings by Afghan troops after Taliban began to capture major cities in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign troops. Tajikistan is planning to establish refugee camps for people and troops from Afghanistan, the article highlighted.

Deborah Haynes, security and defence editor at UK-based broadcast media company Sky News, tweeted that majority of the UK troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan. A small number of soldiers from the Special Forces may remain in the country if the UK decides to keep its embassy open, according to the article. The UK started to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan after the US decided to pull its troops from the country by September. The UK launched discussions with international allies on the possibility of future support to Afghanistan, the article noted.

5. Tankers – 110 mentions

Purchase of M1 Abrams tanks by Poland and China offering main battle tanks (MBT) to export markets were some of the popular discussions around tankers in Q3 2021.

A defence procurement and policy news website shared an article about 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks purchased by Poland from the US. The tanks are expected to enable Poland to counter Russian military capabilities including the T-14 Armata tanks. Poland’s military will deploy the tanks in the country’s eastern parts and will serve as the first line of defence. The new tanks are scheduled to be delivered from 2022, the article highlighted.

Another discussion around tankers was on an article shared by a defence magazine about China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) marketing VT4 (previously MBT-3000) MBTs for export markets despite their development and production being halted by other countries. VT4 was one of the first MBTs to enter production for export to the Royal Thai Army (RTA). It has a conventional MBT design and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 52t. The tank is equipped with a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun and a 12.7mm machine gun with grenade launchers. MBT-2000 is another MBT targeted at the export market. It has a GVW of 48t and is equipped with a 125mm smooth bore gun, the article detailed.