Everything about Missiles

What is a missile?

  • A missile is essentially a sophisticated bomb which after being released is governed by the laws of ballistics.
  • The laws of ballistics means only the force of gravity acts upon it.
  • It can be made more accurate and faster by attaching a propulsion system to the bomb and then it is called a rocket.
  • If guided and controlled, a rocket can be made deadlier and that is what a missile is.
  • The missiles can carry tons of nuclear warheads at speeds way higher than fighter planes.

Classification

Missiles are classified variously based on the launching system. Thus, missiles can be:

  • Surface-to-Surface Missile
  • Surface-to-Air Missile
  • Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile
  • Air-to-Air Missile
  • Air-to-Surface Missile
  • Sea-to-Sea Missile
  • Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile

Based on the working principle, missiles can be:

  • Ballistics
  • Cruise

Classified by range and proposed use, missiles can be:

  • Short RMedium RaIntermediate RangeMissile
  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

How is a ballistic missile different from a cruise one?

  • A ballistic missile is used to hit a predetermined target —launched such that it burns most of its fuel to attain the desired velocity in the first phase (also called the boost phase).
  • Such a missile can only be guided during the powered phase of flight.
  • 31 countries have operational ballistic missile systems.
  • India’s Agni and Prithvi are ballistic missile.
  • A cruise missile is a small pilotless craft that carries an explosive warhead.
  • It has wings and an engine, but is built more economically.
  • It is steered by inertial navigation system (INS), that’s also used by airplanes.
  • A cruise missile can be made so accurate that it can be aimed at any specific place like a door or a window.
  • Its flight can be guided for a longer period.
  • BrahMos is a cruise missile system.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

  • Ballistic missiles are categorised according to their range, which is the maximum distance along the surface of the earth from the point of launch to the point of impact of its payload.
  • Until recently, Russia, US, China, the UK, France and Israel were the only countries with operational ICBM technology.
  • With Hwasong-15, North Korea’s joined this club.
  • With over 5,000-km range, India’s Agni-V also qualifies for this club.

Which countries have the longest range of operational ballistic missiles?

Russia, US and China have many missile systems that qualify for the ICBM range.

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Everything about World Malaria Report 2017 by WHO

The global figures

• The report shows that there were 5 million more malaria cases in 2016 than in 2015.

• The estimated global tally of malaria deaths reached 445,000 in 2016 compared to 446,000 the previous year.

• The African Region continues to bear an estimated 90% of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide.

• About 80% of the deaths were accounted for by 15 countries, namely India and 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

India specific findings

• India accounts for 6% of global malaria cases and 7% of the total deaths are caused by it.

• The WHO figures also suggest that India is unlikely to reduce its case burden beyond 40% by 2020.

Limitations

• Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan achieved malaria-free status in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Major impediments in eliminating malaria front in India are:

1.Weak surveillance system: India and Nigeria were able to detect only 8% and 16% of cases respectively by using their detection system.

• These two are major contributors to the global burden of malaria.

2. Resistance to chloroquine: In India, cases of plasmodium vivax were also traced.

• It is the milder cousin of the p. Falciparum.

• This can be due be resistance to chloroquine which is the first line treatment to p. vivax infections.

3. Low funding and resistance: Due to low funding per person at risk and resistance to certain frontline insecticides, India is only expected to achieve a 20%-40% reduction.

Target 2020

• WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria has called for reductions of at least 40% in malaria cases incidence and mortality rates by the year 2020.

Problem in achieving the target

• According to the latest malaria report, the world is not on track to reach these critical milestones.

• A major problem is insufficient funding at both domestic and international levels.

• Around US$ 2.7 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally in 2016.

• This is well below to meet the targets of WHO global malaria strategy.

• This results in major gaps in coverage of insecticide-treated nets, medicines and other life-saving tools.

Controlling malaria

• In most malaria-affected countries, the most common and effective ways to prevent malarial infection are the followings:

1 Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN)

2 Spraying the inside walls of homes with insecticides

3 Artemisinin-based combination therapies are the most effective in controlling malarial cases

A wake-up call

• World is at the crossroads in the response to malaria.

• WHO is hoping that this report will serve as a wake-up call for the global health communities. Meeting the global malaria targets will only be possible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.

• Robust financing for the research and development of new tools is equally critical.

Lymphatic Filariasis

Introduction

• The national health policy had aimed at eliminating filariasis by 2015 but the deadline was extended to 2017 and now has been shifted to 2020.

• But India is likely to miss the target date of stamping out elephantiasis or lymphatic filariasis.

Filariasis

• Filariasis, called hathipaon (elephant foot) locally, can cause limbs, usually the leg, knee downwards, to swell enormously or hydrocele (swelling of the scrotum), causing disfigurement and disability.

• It is caused by various coiled and thread-like parasitic worms.

• These parasites after getting deposited on skin penetrate on their own or through the opening created by mosquito bites to reach the lymphatic system.

• The disease is caused by the nematode worm, either Wuchereria bancrofti or Brugia malayi and transmitted by ubiquitous mosquito species Culex quinquefasciatus and Mansonia  annulifera/M.uniformis respectively.

• The worms produce about 50,000 microfilariae (minute larvae) that enter a person’s blood stream and get passed on when a mosquito bites an infected person.

• The larvae develop into adult worms that can live upto 5-8 years and more in humans. They damage the lymphatic system though no symptoms may show for years.

• It is found that though changes to lymphatic vessels occurred early in the infection, treatment could reverse these in most cases.

Lymphatic filariasis (LF)

• Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), commonly known as elephantiasis is a disfiguring and disabling disease, usually acquired in childhood.

• In the early stages, there are either no symptoms or non-specific symptoms but the lymphatic system is damaged.

• The long term physical consequences are painful swollen limbs (lymphoedema or elephantiasis).

• Hydrocele in males is also common in endemic areas.

• Due to damaged lymphatic system, patients with lymphoedema have frequent attacks of infection causing high fever and severe pain.

National Filaria Control Programme (NFCP)

• After pilot project in Orissa from 1949 to 1954, the National Filaria Control Programme (NFCP) was launched in the country in 1955 with the objective of delimiting the problem, to undertake control measures in endemic areas and to train personnel to man the programme. The main control measures are:

1 Mass DEC administration

2 Antilarval measures in urban areas

3 Indoor residual spray in rural areas.

Strategy to tackle the disease

• Mass drug administration (MDA) in endemic districts ensuring coverage of over 65% population is the global strategy to eliminate the disease.

• Since 2004, the health ministry has been carrying out mass drug administration as part of the Hathipaon Mukt Bharat (Filaria Free India) programme for preventive medication.

• This involves giving at least 65% of the population in endemic districts two drugs:

1 Tablets of diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC)

2 Albendazole once a year for five years

• Children below two years, pregnant women and seriously-ill people are not eligible for these drugs.

• After five years of MDA and 65% coverage, a transmission assessment survey is conducted to see if the district qualifies for stoppage of mass drug administration.

• The new three-drug combination, IDA, involves adding tablets of Ivermectin to the DEC and albendazole tablets and has been shown to reduce microfilariae by 99% with the first dose itself.

• The two-drug regimen (DEC and albendazole) reduces the disease by 60-80% and hence requires five rounds.

• The new drug regimen is expected to help clear the infection faster as IDA would require just two rounds.

Challenges

• India stopped the MDA in 96 of the 256 districts last year. But many of the 96 districts failed a treatment assessment survey by external evaluators.

• The surveillance that identified the 256 endemic districts is now outdated. A fresh survey could push up the number of endemic districts to over 300. This would require an overhaul of programme strategy and consequently, the chances of meeting the 2020 target are slim.

• It’s also a challenge to get people to take as many as four tablets simultaneously, especially when they have no symptoms. Health workers must ensure the person consumes the tablets right then which doesn’t always happen.

• Recently added drug Ivermectin has to be given according to bodyweight, which could mean adding 2-4 tablets to the existing drug regimen depending on the person’s body weight.

• That could be an additional challenge to the programme, the success of which hinges on community compliance (ensuring people take the medicine) and coverage (ensuring medicines reach at least 65% of the population).

• WHO gives India albendazole free of cost but it has to buy 70% of the required DE, 30% is free. Government will now have to find the funds to buy Ivermectin and meet the cost of expanding the programme. Budget approvals for the same are still in the pipeline.

Everything about Brahmos

Brahmos:

• It is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft or land.

• It is a joint venture between the Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation.

• It has derived its name from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.

Speed:

• It travels at the speed of Mach 2.8 to 3.0.

• The missile is first propelled by a solid propellant booster engine that takes it to supersonic speeds.

• After it separates, the missile is accelerated further to around three times the speed of sound (mach 3) in the cruise phase with a liquid ramjet.

Range:

• It has a flight range upto 290 Km.

• Recently, the range variants were upgraded from 290 km to 450 km after India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Fire and Forget:

• It operates on ‘Fire and Forget Principle’, adopting varieties of flights on its way to the target.

• It takes a variety of trajectories while in flight and is equipped with advanced guidance technology.

• Its stealth features also give it a low radar signature.

Air-launched cruise missile (ALCM):

• It is a cruise missile that is launched from a military aircraft.

• Its current versions are typically standoff weapons which are used to attack predetermined land targets with conventional, nuclear or thermonuclear payloads.

SU-30 MKI:

• It is a twin-jet multirole air superiority fighter jet.

• It was developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Indian Air Force.

• It is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter jet.

• It has a maximum speed of 2 Mach with a single in flight range of 3,000 Km.

• It can carry a payload of 8,000 Kg upto a maximum altitude of 17 Km.

• Till date, Brahmos ALCM is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on the Su-30 MKI.

Completes cruise missile triad:

• The land and sea variants of Brahmos are already operational with the Indian Army and the Navy.

• The successful maiden test firing will significantly bolster the IAF’s air combat operations capability from stand-off ranges.

• The armed forces now have a multi-platform, multi-mission cruise missile that can be launched from land, sea and air.

• This completes the tactical cruise missile triad for India which is a world record.

TRAPPIST-1:

TRAPPIST-1:

  • It is an ultra-cool dwarf star about 40 light years away, located in the constellation Aquarius.
  • It is named after the telescope that discovered this system – TRAPPIST (Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescop) in Chile.
  • The planets have sizes and masses comparable to the Earth and Venus.
  • It is an ultra-cool star (unlike our sun). Therefore, liquid water could survive on planets very close to it as well.
  • All 7 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets are very close to each other.
  • Based on their densities, the planets of this system are likely to be rocky.
  • The TRAPPIST-1 star is quite old: between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years. This is up to twice as old as our own solar system, which formed some 4.5 billion years ago.
  • Since it is a low mass star, the temperature and brightness almost remains constant. Therefore, it is expected to live 900 times longer than the current age of the universe – 13.7 billion years.

Dhruv:

Dhruv:

  • Dhruv has been indigenously designed and developed by the HAL, and is powered by the Shakti engine jointly developed with Turbomeca of France.
  • It is a twin engine, multi-role, multi-mission new generation helicopter.
  • It is superior to the other helicopters used by the Army such as Cheetah and Chetak, both of which have single engine.
  • It has been exported to several countries in the region.
  • As a part of military diplomacy, India has offered it to several friendly countries in the neighbourhood and South-East Asia.

Biofilms

Biofilms:

  • A biofilm is an assemblage of microbial cells that is irreversibly associated (not removed by gentle rinsing) with a surface and enclosed in a matrix of primarily polysaccharide material.
  • Van Leeuwenhoek, using his simple microscopes, first observed microorganisms on tooth surfaces and can be credited with the discovery of microbial biofilms.
  • Microorganisms that form biofilms include bacteria, fungi and protists.
  • Noncellular materials such as mineral crystals, corrosion particles, clay or silt particles, or blood components, depending on the environment in which the biofilm has developed, may also be found in the biofilm matrix.

Can form on many types of surfaces:

  • Biofilms may form on a wide variety of surfaces, including living tissues, indwelling medical devices (devices in the body like catheters, heart valves), industrial or potable water system piping, or natural aquatic systems.
  • As they attach to each other and to the surfaces, they are capable to act as barriers to antibiotics.

Biofilms Formation:

  • Biofilm formation begins when free-floating microorganisms such as bacteria come in contact with an appropriate surface and begin to put down roots.
  • This first step of attachment occurs when the microorganisms produce a gooey substance known as an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS).
  • An EPS is a network of sugars, proteins and nucleic acids (such as DNA).
  • It enables the microorganisms in a biofilm to stick together.
  • Attachment is followed by a period of growth.
  • Further layers of microorganisms and EPS build upon the first layers.