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26 Aug 18. India approves $6bn military spend as Asian arms race escalates. New Delhi to upgrade equipment with purchases including 111 naval helicopters. Annual defence spending across Asia has more than doubled — to $450bn — since the start of the century, led by a sharp surge in military spending by China. India’s government has given the go-ahead for the acquisition of $6.5bn in military hardware, including 111 naval helicopters, as New Delhi seeks to upgrade its ageing defence equipment, amid an escalating arms race in Asia. The move comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government struggles to fulfil its promise of a $250bn military modernisation, with the purchase of new equipment slowed by strict bidding conditions and a series of scrapped tenders. Mr Modi’s decision three years ago to cancel an order of 126 Rafale fighter jets — which were to be partially made in India — and instead spend €8bn to buy 36 Rafale jets off the shelf from France has also been contentious, upending what had been a decade-long competitive bidding process. Defence analysts said the purchase of a mere two squadrons — when India needed nearly four times that number — suggested Mr Modi was pursuing an ad hoc, piecemeal acquisition strategy that would hinder military preparedness. Annual defence spending across Asia has more than doubled — to $450bn — since the start of the century, led by a sharp surge in military spending by China, which has allocated more than $200bn for its defence this year. India is on track to spend $62bn on its defence in the current financial year, up from $47bn five years ago. But more than two-thirds of Indian military spending goes towards the salaries of its 1.4m-strong armed forces and the pensions for 2m military retirees, leaving relatively little for equipment and new weapons systems. Over the weekend, India’s defence acquisition committee approved $3bn for the purchase of 111 utility helicopters for the navy, which will be provided under a new programme that allows foreign defence contractors to work with Indian private sector companies to make defence equipment. Previously, production of military hardware in India was restricted to public sector companies with foreign partners but Mr Modi has promised to open the sector to private participation. “This is the first tender being initiated under the strategic partner mode, where an Indian private sector vendor builds the platform in India with technology transfer from a foreign owner,” says Ajai Shukla, a defence analyst. “This unlocks the door for the entry of the private sector in defence production.” Russia’s Kamov is expected to offer its Ka-226 model, which it is producing with India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics, for the naval helicopter tender, vying with companies such as Airbus, the European aerospace group, for the contract. Large Indian companies such as the Mahindra Group, Tata, Anil Ambani’s Reliance, Kalyani and Larsen & Toubro have all been awarded licences for defence production and could partner foreign defence technology companies to produce the helicopters. Mr Shulka said the approvals granted at the weekend were essentially the start of the acquisition process, where the government “accepts that it is necessary to induct this platform into service”. However, he said it was likely to be years before a deal was signed, given India’s painfully slow decision-making process when it came to acquiring military hardware, especially when it involved foreign companies. “The whole procurement lies ahead,” he said on Sunday. “The decision sanctioned yesterday will take at least five years for final decision-making — let alone production. Nobody wants to make a decision on procurement because they are all generalist bureaucrats, terribly afraid of signing on the dotted line.” In addition to the helicopters, the government also approved the acquisition of another $3.5bn worth of equipment, including 150 locally designed and developed advanced artillery guns — seen as a precursor to an order of up to 1,500 artillery guns, as the army replaces its outdated howitzers. India’s Defence Research and Development Organization has developed the new long-range Dhanush howitzer in collaboration with many public and private companies. The Dhanush recently completed testing and the army plans to induct the first batch this year. The government also gave the nod for the procurement of 24 anti-submarine helicopters and 14 vertically launched short-range missile systems. (Source: FT.com)
24 Aug 18. ‘We’re down to the last few villages’: British air campaign in Syria faces new phase. The first pair of warplanes thunder overhead shortly after 7:30 a.m., followed quickly by another. As the tourist city of Limassol, Cyprus, wakes up in the hazy distance, the British Typhoon and Tornado pilots are on their way to deliver what officials hope will be the final blow against a holdout of Islamic State fighters just one hour of flight time away in Syria. This sprawling base at the southern tip of the former U.K. protectorate of Cyprus is the heartbeat of Operation Shader, the British contribution to a U.S.-led international campaign against the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State. The militant group has been heavily decimated, but officials here warn that the remaining fighters are still able to hold pockets of land in Syria. After the coalition air campaign reportedly killed tens of thousands of fighters in the past years, 1,500 or so remain today, though estimates reported earlier this month put that number at 30,000. The extent of their so-called caliphate, a nightmarish regime of terror and torture for those living under its reign, is now reduced to 2 percent of the territory it once held throughout Iraq and Syria.
“We are down to the last few villages,” said Group Capt. Chas Dickens, who heads 903 Expeditionary Air Wing based here.
Defense News visited RAF Akrotiri at the invitation of Typhoon-maker Eurofighter, which paid for travel and accommodations. Dickens’s arsenal includes Eurofighter Typhoon and Panavia Tornado aircraft, prized for their speed in quickly reaching the battlefield from here. Both jets can carry Paveway IV bombs — the air wing’s main weapon against ISIS — plus surveillance and targeting equipment. Akrotiri’s proximity to ISIS holdouts enables its pilots to strike “targets of opportunity” when they pop up in the open, he said. Reporters visiting the base were shown a video purportedly showing the vehicle of what Dickens called a “high-value target” — military speak for senior enemy commanders — being bombed during an unescorted drive through seemingly uninhabited land. However, bombings are becoming rarer these days. “We’re not dropping daily anymore,” Dickens said. He expects a temporary uptick in the weeks ahead, though, as the focus moves to small patches of ISIS-occupied land in the mid-Euphrates River valley and the area around the Iraqi-Syrian border town of Dashisha.
What little ground threats the British pilots face during their missions come from small-arms fire and shoulder-fired rockets. But such weaponry is no match against the fast and maneuverable jets, which can easily outrun the ranges of these weapons, according to one Typhoon pilot. There is also occasional GPS jamming, said one weapons engineer, who, like most officials briefing reporters, spoke on condition of anonymity due to personal security. It happens irregularly — sometimes twice per day, sometimes with days in between — affecting the satellite-guided targeting of the Paveway bombs. When jammed, the pilots have the option to switch to the bombs’ laser-guidance mechanism. The bigger threat, officials said, is avoiding collisions amid the various factions operating aircraft above the country. “Syria is one of the most complicated air campaigns,” Dickens said. Then there is Russia’s involvement in the war, meant to prop up the reign of Syrian President Bashar Assad. There is a formal deconfliction line along the Euphrates River between the Syrian government and Russia on the western side, and the U.S.-led coalition and its allied Syrian Democratic Forces on the east. A hotline connects the U.S.-led coalition with the Russians. Officials use it when either side wants to pursue ISIS fighters moving across the demarcation line, explained one pilot: “We want to avoid any miscalculation.” Amid the bomb runs and surveillance missions, the fate of the Syrian civil war will depend on far more than air power, officials readily acknowledge. But the complexities of an eventual political settlement are not going to be negotiated here at Akrotiri.
“My mission is defeating Daesh. And by that I mean kill them,” Dickens told Defense News, using an alternative name for the Islamic State group.
The military lingo to describe the mission harkens back to the days following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The war to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein turned into a bloody insurgency, which some have argued is one of the many interconnected puzzle pieces making up the region’s conflict today.
“Find, fix, finish” is one mantra that can be heard here, referring to the U.S. doctrine of directly targeting suspected terrorists on the battlefield. Another is the premise of leaning heavily on indigenous forces to limit one’s own ground engagement while achieving strategic objectives at the same time.
“The pace of the campaign is set by the SDF and their capabilities as they move forward,” Dickens said.
The threat of ISIS mounting an effective counterinsurgency beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria already has begun permeating the U.K. government’s thinking.
“Daesh is facing territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq but the battle against their poisonous ideology and barbarism is not over,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was recently quoted as saying in The Telegraph newspaper. “We must be prepared as the terrorists change their approach, disperse into other countries and prepare for a potential insurgency.”
According to Dickens, that means being prepared to quickly deploy hefty air power from Akrotiri even after a relative lull in ISIS activity on the ground. And it means shifting the focus to “identifying and disrupting” the group’s supply lines as those who remain alive try to regroup.
The quartet of Typhoons and Tornados returns safely to Akrotiri in the early afternoon, touching down against the shimmer of Limassol flashing across the bay. And another set of pilots will soon suit up to fly eastward, ready to deliver the final blows to what Dickens describes as a “particularly despicable group” in its last throes. (Source: Defense News)
23 Aug 18. These 7 Chinese companies each topped $5bn in defense sales — and could rival American firms. With China now the second-largest spender on defense in the world, Chinese companies are logically going to rank among the largest defense firms. But quantifying that number has proven incredibly difficult thanks to the opaque nature of both government spending and the firms themselves. Now, a London-based think tank has concluded that seven Chinese firms would rank among the top 20 defense companies in the world, each breaking $5bn in defense revenues — a proportion that rivals any one nation outside the U.S.
Lucie Beraud-Sudreau and Meia Nouwens, two researchers with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, looked at eight key defense firms from China — the China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC), China Electronics Technology Enterprise (CETC), China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC), China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).
The researchers looked at the largest defense firms and key subsidiaries, excluding a pair of nuclear-focused Chinese companies, classifying each as defense- or civilian-focused. Then they used the differentiation to calculate how much of each company’s total revenues was derived from defense-related sales.
It’s an imperfect metric, to be sure, but similar to estimations used in the Defense News Top 100 list for companies that do not disclose their defense revenues.
Compared to a 2016 list of defense companies maintained by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Chinese firms would rank as high as fifth overall and as low as 22nd. Compared to the 2016 numbers maintained and compiled by Defense News, the Chinese firms would rank similarly, with some light variation by a spot or two.
Although CSGC, with about $22 bn in defense revenue, is the largest Chinese firm, AVIC is perhaps the more interesting to focus on, as it’s symbolic of overall growth and the challenges facing Chinese firms, despite some eye-popping numbers.
Between 2010 and 2017, AVIC’s total revenue increased by a shocking 93 percent, from 105 bn Chinese yuan renminbi (U.S. $31bn) to 349bn Chinese yuan renminbi (U.S. $59.7bn), according to IISS research.
Thirty-seven and a half percent of that revenue now stems from defense programs. But while AVIC has a massive, loyal customer base in the Chinese military, it is lacking in true innovation.
China’s “national research and development has been supplemented to a significant degree by an aggressive overt and covert trawl of Western technology — including through foreign company acquisitions and, it has been alleged repeatedly, through systematic hacking,” the researchers wrote, with areas such as aircraft engines representing an area where Western firms are still well-ahead.
“Given the rate of arms production for the People’s Liberation Army and the fact that Chinese arms exports are on the rise, one could consider that these SOEs [state-owned enterprises] will rise up in these rankings as a result,” Nouwens told Defense News.
However, she cautioned there is still a ways to go before these firms can challenge the largest Western companies, such as BAE Systems, Boeing or Lockheed Martin, the single-largest defense firm on the globe.
“I think they still have a bit of a road ahead of them to get to the level of large, Western primes. It would be a mistake to assume that these rankings have been achieved in the last five years, or even decade. The defense SOE sector has undergone numerous changes over the past decades,” she said. “That being said, their rankings are impressive precisely because they are so high at this point in time.”
That said, one factor could change that, the same way it impacts all major defense companies: the potential of mergers and acquisitions. Nouwens said there have been rumors of possible mergers of Chinese firms, including one around CSIC and CSSC to combine into a single shipbuilder.
If those two companies are combined, their defense totals would put them easily into the top 10 overall.
The full details of the IISS research project will be unveiled in a future academic report. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
23 Aug 18. China picks $16bn worth of aviation projects for private investment. China said on Thursday it would encourage private investment in 28 airport, drone and maintenance projects worth a total of 110bn yuan (£12.43bn), as part of its efforts to make the sector more globally competitive. Eleven of those projects already have private investors, such as the Ezhou cargo airport in Hubei province that Chinese courier S.F. Holding (002352.SZ) is investing in, the Civil Aviation Administration on China said in a joint statement with the National Development and Reform Commission on Thursday. The remaining 17, which include a flight training school, drone delivery projects and some support services for Beijing’s new airport, are seeking private funding, the statement added. The regulators plan to open up more projects to private investment and will release details in due course, it added. Beijing had said in January that it would ease investment access to its aviation industry while retaining its grip over key airlines and airports in sensitive regions. China is the world’s fastest growing aviation market and is forecast to surpass the United States as the biggest from 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association. (Source: Reuters)
22 Aug 18. Afghanistan Peace Process Shows Promise, Resolute Support Commander Says. The peace process in Afghanistan has shown progress since the first cease-fire in 17 years took place in June, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan told Pentagon reporters today. Speaking from Afghanistan via teleconference Army Gen. John W. Nicholson called the response to the cease-fire overwhelming. “For the first time in 17 years, the Afghan people, the Afghan security forces and the Taliban all celebrated Eid al-Fitr together in peace,” he said, referring to the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast. The first cease-fire unleashed the Afghan people’s desire for peace and an end to violence on a national and unprecedented scale, the general added. “And numerous groups across Afghanistan — the People’s Peace Movement, religious [scholars], civil society, youth activists, women’s groups — are all calling for peace,” he said.
Nicholson emphasized that any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
“This must be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process, with Afghans talking to Afghans. And the U.S. is prepared to support, facilitate and participate in these discussions,” Nicholson told reporters.
Officials also have seen a clear progression in the Taliban’s public statements, including a Feb. 14 letter letter to the American people and the group’s recent message marking the Eid al-Adha religious holiday, in which Taliban Emir Hibatullah Akhundzada acknowledged for the first time that negotiations will ensure an end to the war, the general said.
There is an unprecedented opportunity for peace right now, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is working to take advantage of it,” Nicholson said. “He offered a second cease-fire on Aug. 19,” he added, “and while this first cease-fire was in response to the [body of religious scholars’] call for peace, this second call represents the entirety of Afghan society.”
The general told reporters that Ghani said the cease-fire potentially could last till Nov. 20, the birthday of the prophet Mohammad.
“However, the cease-fire will only occur if the Taliban reciprocate, and only for as long as the Taliban participate in the cease-fire,” Nicholson said. “And so far, we have not heard if the Taliban will accept or reject the cease-fire, and we’re prepared for either case. And like the first cease-fire, this only applies to the Taliban. Our other counterterrorism operations will continue.”
Fighting and Talking
Therefore, he noted, forces are fighting and talking. “The Taliban are fighting … to increase their leverage in the negotiation and to maintain their cohesion,” the general said. “Now, militarily speaking, they made two attempts this year to seize provincial capitals. They both have failed. In 2016, you remember, there were eight attempts to seize provincial capitals.”
Such attacks in cities bring great hardship on the Afghan people, Nicholson said, adding that the Taliban repeatedly claim not to cause civilian casualties, but “their actions show otherwise.”
The general, who is retiring soon, acknowledged the courage of the Afghan security forces and the Afghan people who fight terrorism every day. “[They] do this on our behalf for the entire world,” he said. “It’s been an honor to serve alongside them for six years, and I thank them for their hospitality.” (Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
20 Aug 18. Iran unveils a new fighter jet. Iran unveiled a new fighter jet on Tuesday, state media reported, as tensions rise between Tehran and regional rivals over conflicts in the Middle East. The fighter jet called Kowsar was fully domestic made, capable of carrying various weapons, and will be used for short aerial support missions, Tasnim news agency said. State television showed live pictures of a ceremony in Tehran in which the fighter jet flew in the presence of President Hassan Rouhani, a day before the country’s National Defense Industry Day. Iran has sent weapons and thousands of soldiers to Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s seven-year-long civil war. However, due to the lack of a powerful air force Iran asked Russia to provide air power. Iran’s air force has been limited to perhaps a few dozen strike aircraft using either Russian or ageing U.S. models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iran unveiled in 2013 what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some experts expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time. Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons. (Source: Reuters)
20 Aug 18. Operation Roundup Continues to Target ISIS Remnants. Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partners continue to pursue the lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in designated parts of Syria and Iraq, task force officials reported today. Operation Roundup, which began May 1 to accelerate the defeat of ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and Iraq-Syria border region, has continued to gain ground and remove terrorists from the battlefield through offensive operations coupled with precision coalition strike support, officials said. Between Aug. 13-19, coalition military forces conducted 15 strikes, consisting of 25 engagements, in Iraq and Syria.
Strikes in Syria
There were no reported strikes conducted in Syria yesterday.
On Aug. 18 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying two ISIS supply routes.
On Aug. 17 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying an ISIS logistics hub.
On Aug. 16 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying an ISIS vehicle.
On Aug. 15 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted two strikes, destroying two ISIS supply routes.
On Aug. 14 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted three strikes, destroying two ISIS command-and-control centers, an ISIS command-and-control support facility and an ISIS supply route.
On Aug. 13 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted three strikes consisting of three engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS vehicle and two ISIS lines of communication.
Strikes in Iraq
There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq yesterday.
On Aug. 18 near Rutbah, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets.
— Near Rutbah, a strike destroyed an ISIS vehicle.
— Near Samarra, a strike destroyed two ISIS-held buildings and an ISIS supply cache.
On Aug. 17 near the Hamrin Mountains, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of six engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS-held building and an ISIS vehicle.
There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq Aug. 14-16.
On Aug. 13 near the Atshana Mountains, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets.
On Aug. 12, coalition military forces conducted three strikes consisting of four engagements in Iraq and Syria that were not reported in the previous release:
— In Syria near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying two ISIS lines of communication.
— In Iraq near the Hamrin Mountains, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying an ISIS supply route.
— In Iraq near Tuz, coalition military forces conducted a strike, destroying five ISIS-held buildings.
Part of Operation Inherent Resolve
These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.
The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and ground-based tactical artillery, officials noted.
A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.
For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.
The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. (Source: US DoD)
17 Aug 18. Japan’s Defense Ministry to Request Record ¥5.3trn Budget for Fiscal 2019. The Defense Ministry is considering making a record request of over ¥5.3trn for the fiscal 2019 budget, informed sources said. The amount will be over ¥100bn bigger than its initial budget for fiscal 2018 because of the plan to buy into Aegis Ashore, a land-based missile defense system built by the U.S., the sources said Friday. The ministry plans to deploy Aegis Ashore batteries in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures amid uncertainties over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and China’s military buildup. But Aegis Ashore will be costly. The two sophisticated radars involved are expected to cost a combined ¥267.9bn. The ministry’s initial budget for fiscal 2018, which began in April, came to a record ¥5.19trn, up for the sixth year straight. (Source: (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Japan Times)
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