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01 Sep 18. Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity. Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defence Ministry official as saying on Saturday. News of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, following the U.S. pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers. State media also reported the launch earlier this week of war games involving some 150,000 volunteer Basij militia members, who vowed to defend the Islamic state against “foreign threats” including its arch foe, the United States.
Tehran is furious over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord on Iran’s nuclear programme and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country will not yield easily to a renewed U.S. campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. They say the country’s missile programme is solely for defence purposes and is not negotiable as demanded by the United States and European countries.
“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of next-generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defence minister for international affairs, IRNA said.
Speaking to Tehran-based foreign military attaches, Ahadi said international sanctions had not hampered the development of Iran’s arms industry.
“We have the necessary infrastructure and what we need to do is research and development, and at the same time upgrade and update the defence industry while relying on the country’s very high scientific capacities and tens of thousands of graduates in technical fields and engineering,” Ahadi was quoted as saying.
He also defended Iran’s role in conflicts in Iraq and Syria: “If Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq had not stopped Islamic State, today the map of the region would be different and the world would face a terrible challenge.”
Separately, the head of the Defence Ministry’s naval industries said Iran was developing a water jet propulsion system that would be ready by next March and a military commander said the air force planned to adopt Iran’s new Kowsar fighter plane after successful tests, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it. The exercises by the Basij militia, which are led by the elite Revolutionary Guards, come ahead of massive annual rallies planned for later this month to mark the start of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
“The motto of these war games is unity … and to declare that, when it comes to adversity and threats from foreigners, we all join to defend the (Islamic Republic’s) system,” Basij commander Gholam-Hossein Gheibparvar was quoted as saying by IRNA. (Source: Reuters)
01 Sep 18. Iran rejects Reuters report of Tehran moving missiles to Iraq as “false.” Iran on Saturday rejected a Reuters report of Tehran moving missiles to Iraq as “false”, saying it aimed to hurt Iran’s ties with neighbours, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported.
“Such false and ridiculous news have no purpose other than affecting Iran’s foreign relations, especially with its neighbours,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according to IRNA.
Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources have told Reuters that Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there. (Source: Reuters)
30 Aug 18. Japan showcases latest capabilities during ‘Fuji Firepower’ 2018. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) took the opportunity at this year’s ‘Fuji Firepower’ exercise to highlight its latest land and amphibious warfare capabilities and demonstrate its ability to secure the country’s outlying islands with a combined arms display at the East Fuji Maneuver Area (EFMA) near Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, on 26 August. ‘Fuji Firepower’ is the JGSDF’s largest annual live-fire drill and has been conducted annually since 1961. The latest iteration – which was observed by Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera and 24,000 spectators – comprised approximately 2,400 troops, 80 main battle tanks (MBTs) and armoured vehicles, 60 artillery systems, 700 support and logistics vehicles, as well as 20 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
“This exercise enables trainees undergoing instruction at training institutes such as Fuji School, Engineer School, Aviation School, and others to better understand the effects of modern warfare,” a JGSDF spokesperson told Jane’s . “[Additionally], it helps to enhance the public’s understanding of JGSDF operations and deepens trust.”
The JGSDF’s newly formed Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB), which was established on 27 March, also made its debut in the exercise series. The ARDB – which is based in Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and combines ground combat and logistical assets along with aviation and naval support from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) – is an ongoing effort by the service to enhance its ability to defend the Nansei Islands in the southwest, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
Elements of the ARDB conducted a simulated island retaking operation with a range of vehicles and equipment, including the service’s latest BAE Systems AAV7A1 Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (RAM/RS) amphibious assault vehicles – refurbished ex-US Marine Corps platforms that have received several upgrades including an improved engine, drivetrain, and suspension system. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
30 Aug 18. Pentagon Says it Can’t Guarantee a Waiver for India from Russian Military Sanctions. The United States cannot guarantee that it will provide India with a waiver from sanctions if it purchases major weapons from Russia like the S-400 missile system, a top Pentagon official has said. The statement on August 29 by Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, comes after Congress passed legislation this month allowing the Pentagon to waive penalties against countries that purchase arms from Russian defense companies that were placed under U.S. sanctions this year, if those countries are developing a defense relationship with Washington and are transitioning away from relying on Russian arms. India was frequently cited as an example of a country that would benefit from the legislation, and media reports in India and the broader South Asia region have suggested that India would get a waiver. Schriver said there was an “impression that we are going to completely protect the India relationship, insulate India from any fallout from the [sanctions] no matter what they do.”
“I would say that is a bit misleading,” Schriver told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “We would still have very significant concerns if India pursued major new platforms and systems [from Russia].
“I can’t sit here and tell you that they would be exempt, that we would use that waiver. That will be the decision of the president if he is faced with a major new platform and capability that India has acquired from Russia,” he said.
The Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has been a strong proponent of granting India waivers. But Schriver said the Pentagon is concerned about India’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. Russia has said it expects to sign a deal with India later this year on the sale. Schriver said such a transaction would be particularly “troubling” for a lot of reasons.
“Our strong preference…is [for India] to seek alternatives and see if we could be a partner to India in addressing those defense needs,” he said.
The United States has in recent years pushed to forge closer diplomatic and military ties with India, a fellow democracy that it sees as key to countering China’s growing regional ambitions. India has increasingly turned to the United States for arms purchases, but it is still reliant on Russian hardware and expertise to maintain its existing arsenal of weapons purchased from Russia in the past. Senior U.S. officials are expected to go to India next week for high-level talks, agreed upon by U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. Schriver said one focus of the talks will be expanding the scope and complexity of joint U.S.-Indian military exercises. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Radio Free Europe)
29 Aug 18. Israel to charge drone maker executives with fraud, export violations. Israeli prosecutors say they plan to charge executives of an Israeli drone company with fraud and export violations concerning its dealings with a “significant client.” A Justice Ministry statement said Wednesday that after an almost yearlong investigation, the State Attorney’s office summoned top Aeronautics Ltd. officials, including its chief executive, for a hearing pending indictment. Most details of the case remain under a gag order. The company said in a statement that there was no basis for criminal proceedings. Last year, the Defense Ministry suspended some of Aeronautics Ltd.’s export licenses to a client abroad. Israeli media identified the client as Azerbaijan. Reports at the time said the move came following a complaint that an explosives-laden suicide drone landed near a military post in neighboring Armenia during a demonstration. (Source: Defense News)
29 Aug 18. U.S.-India Meeting Seeks to Deepen Cooperation. Next week’s “two-plus-two” meeting of defense and diplomatic leaders in New Delhi will seek to deepen cooperation between India and the United States and bolster programs and policies to maintain the free and independent Indo-Pacific region that has been in place since World War II, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs said today.
Randall G. Schriver spoke with Ashley J. Tellins at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the ground-breaking meeting scheduled Sept. 6 and 7 between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
It is the first such meeting between the nations. The outreach to India – the largest democracy in the world – is the outgrowth of more than 20 years of diplomacy reaching back to the Clinton administration, Schriver said. At its heart is ensuring conditions for a free and independent region.
“We believe countries should have complete sovereign control of their countries, to make decisions from capital free from coercion [and] free from undue pressure. We also mean free, open and reciprocal trade relationships,” he said. “By ‘open,’ we’re talking about open areas for commerce, for navigation, for broad participation in the life of the region commercially and economically.”
Schriver talked about “operationalizing” the areas of convergence between the two nations. Some of these areas will be in defense, some will be economic, and others will be political, he said, noting that the principals will discuss this at the meeting.
China is the elephant in the room. Though U.S. policy is not aimed at any specific nation, Schriver said, “China is demonstrating that they have a different aspiration for the Indo-Pacific region. This manifests in their economic strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, their militarization of the South China Sea, a lot of the coercive approaches to the politics of others.” The Belt and Road Initiative is Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in countries that lie between China and Europe.
The United States would prefer China buy into the current rules-based international system, the assistant secretary said.
At the meeting, officials will examine how and where the United States and India can work together, Schriver said, adding that he sees both countries’ efforts complementing each other in some nations of the region and closer cooperation on the security side.
“We’ve seen exercises – not just bilateral India-U.S. exercises, but multilateral exercises,” he said. “Obviously, you exercise for a reason. You exercise to improve the readiness and training of your own forces, but you think about contingencies, you think about real-world possibilities.”
The substance of the meeting will be discussions about regional and global issues, but there will also be concrete outcomes, Shriver said.
“We’re working on a set of enabling agreements,” he said. “Collectively, what they will allow us to do is have secure communications, protect technology, protect information. Getting those agreements in place will allow security assistance cooperation to go forward, allow us to exercise and train in more meaningful ways. I think we are going to expand the scope of some of our exercises – increase the complexity and elements that will participate.”
Schriver said discussions also will look at the situations in Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. (Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
28 Aug 18. South Korea increases defence spending to support military reforms. South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has proposed a 2019 defence budget of KRW46.7trn (USD42bn) to support its new military reform programme. The MND said in a statement on 28 August that the expenditure would represent a year-on-year (y/y) increase of 8.2% and the highest rate of annual growth in a decade. The increase in the 2019 budget, which will now be sent to the National Assembly for approval, is almost “double the average growth rate of 4.4% [registered] between 2010 and 2017”, according to the MND. Simultaneously, the South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) released additional details of the 2019 budget proposal, including spending plans for the 2018–22 period. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Aug 18. Exercises to Resume on Korean Peninsula, Mattis Says. The United States and South Korea are lifting the suspension of military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said today. Mattis made the announcement at a Pentagon news conference with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following the summit between President Donald J. Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the U.S. and South Korea agreed to suspend several of the largest military exercises “as a good-faith measure,” the secretary said.
Negotiations on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are on-going and within the realm of the State Department, the secretary said. “We will work very closely, as I said, with the secretary of state, and what he needs done we will certainly do to reinforce his effort,” Mattis said. “But at this time, there is no discussion about further suspensions.”
Smaller military exercises in South Korea continued even after the suspension of the larger exercises, the secretary said. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” the secretary said. “So the exercises continue. What it means in practical terms is that we’re making no changes to the exercise program at this time.”
Training Local Security Forces
The chairman addressed operations in Syria against the remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I think you know that there’s one major area in the Middle Euphrates River Valley that still has a significant ISIS presence,” Dunford said. “So in the near-term, working with our Syrian Democratic Forces, we’re working to clear that one remaining area in the Euphrates River Valley.”
The next step in the region is training local security forces necessary to stabilize those areas already been cleared of ISIS, the chairman said. “That is going to take some time to do that,” he said.
Dunford said his will require funding for stabilization efforts and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is engaging with regional nations to contribute to the funds to ensure basic services — water, electricity and economic structures — are established.
“That’s distinct from reconstruction, which is a longer-term endeavor and we won’t be ready to talk about reconstruction until there’s a political solution,” the general said.
Yemen is a concern, especially after reports of civilian casualties in the civil war there, the secretary said. “The reality is that that battlefield is a humanitarian field, and we recognize … the tragedy there,” Mattis said. “That’s why I emphasized that we are working with the U.N. special envoy to try and end this, to drive this to a U.N.-brokered negotiation.”
The United States is doing all it can to “keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to the absolute minimum,” he said. “In Yemen, you know, as a general statement, we stay out of the war ourselves and we are focused on defeating ISIS and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. That’s what we do where we conduct operations.”
Patrols With Turkish Forces
Dunford said that joint patrols with Turkish forces will begin soon in Manbij, Syria. “About two months ago we began to work with the Turks on, more broadly, the security in northern Syria, focused on Manbij,” he said. “There’s two phases. One is independent patrols with coordination and communication between Turkish forces, U.S. and coalition forces. Second phase being combined patrols. We are now conducting the independent patrols with communication between the Turks, and we’re still planning, with the Turks, for combined patrols.”
There is more to combined patrols that just employing personnel from two separate militaries, Dunford said. “In order to do combined patrols, one, we need a command-and-control construct set up; we need joint training to be done in Turkey; and we need an agreement on rules of engagement and other details of combined patrolling, and that’s ongoing,” the chairman said.
Both Turkish and U.S. officials are satisfied to the pace of progress, he said.
Dunford also addressed the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. America, he said, has permanent interests in South Asia — diplomatic interests and security interests. “We’re going to maintain a presence to have influence in that region. … The form of that presence is going to change over time,” the chairman said.
Dunford said the United States had well over 100,000 military personnel in Afghanistan a few years ago. Now there are around 14,000.
“So there will be a permanent diplomatic mission in Afghanistan,” the chairman said. “There’ll be permanent diplomatic presence across South Asia, but I certainly don’t expect that the current forces that we have in Afghanistan represents an enduring large military commitment.” (Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
28 Aug 18. Japan says North Korea still poses dire security threat. Japan said on Tuesday North Korea still posed a dire threat to its security despite a halt to ballistic missile tests and a pledge by leader Kim Jong Un to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.
“North Korea’s military activities pose the most serious and pressing threat our nation has faced,” said an annual white paper published by Japan’s Ministry of Defence. The document outlines security concerns about nuclear-armed North Korea, China’s growing military might and territorial ambitions, and Russia’s intent to rebuild its power that paint a picture of Japan surrounded by potential adversaries in East Asia. The latest security assessment also comes after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled a planned fourth trip by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang this week as part of a fresh bid to push North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles following the unprecedented summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore in June. Trump hailed his meeting with Kim as a success and agreed to halt joint military exercises with South Korea. The North Korean leader reiterated an earlier pledge to work towards removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. However, negotiations have since ground to a halt with Washington demanding tangible steps and Pyongyang asking for U.S. concessions first. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said since the Singapore meeting that his country would not change its military stance towards its belligerent neighbour until it saw concrete, irreversible and verifiable steps towards disarmament.
“We need to keep a careful watch on North Korea to see what concrete action it takes to abandon its nuclear weapons and missiles,” the Japanese defence paper said.
It noted that North Korea had conducted three nuclear tests and fired 40 ballistic missiles since the start of 2016, some of which have passed over Japan. North Korea has derided Abe’s government as a “cult” bent on derailing Pyongyang’s diplomatic outreach in recent state media comments. State-run newspapers, which once slammed Trump, have recently switched to praising the U.S. leader. Japan said last month it planned to buy two Aegis Ashore air defence radar tracking stations from the United States to bolster its defence against North Korean missiles. The equipment, which will be deployed along with interceptor missile batteries, could also be turned against any potential threat from China from 2023 onwards.
“As Chinese power grows, its military strength is rapidly burgeoning,” the white paper said.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the China content in the report was “extremely irresponsible”.
China hopes that Japan is not looking for excuses to expand its own military, and should do more to increase mutual trust between the two countries and to protect regional peace and stability, Hua told a daily news briefing. (Source: Reuters)
28 Aug 18. Russia to hold its biggest war games since fall of Soviet Union. Russia will next month hold its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday, a massive military exercise that will also involve the Chinese and Mongolian armies. The exercise, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), will take place in central and eastern Russian military districts and involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all of its airborne units, Shoigu said in a statement. The manoeuvres will take place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, which is concerned about what it says is an unjustified build-up of the NATO military alliance on its western flank. NATO says it has beefed up its forces in eastern Europe to deter potential Russian military action after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine. The war games, which will take place from Sept. 11-15, are likely to worry Japan, which has already complained about a Russian military build-up in the Far East, something Moscow has linked to Tokyo’s roll-out of the Aegis U.S. missile system.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to attend a forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok over the same period, and a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday that Tokyo always paid attention to shifts in Russian-Chinese military cooperation. Shoigu said the war games would be the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981. (Source: Reuters)
27 Aug 18. Rosoboronexport Signs Contracts Worth Over 20.3bn Rubles with Foreign Partners at Army 2018 Forum. Rosoboronexport, part of the Rostec State Corporation, has signed 15 different contract documents with foreign customers of Russian military equipment and weapons at the Army 2018 International Military Technical Forum in Kubinka, Moscow region.
“The sum of the export contracts signed by Rosoboronexport on the margins of the Army forum has exceeded 20.3bn rubles. This relates to modern land forces’ military equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems, close combat weapons and much more. The Company’s portfolio has been replenished with firm orders from Asian and African countries, as well as from member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States,” said Alexander Mikheev, Director General of Rosoboronexport.
Several agreements on cooperation between Rosoboronexport and Russian actors in military-technical cooperation were also signed at the forum. The documents signed at the forum seal the accords reached with foreign partners on export deliveries of final Russian military hardware and its after-sales service, repair and modernization. In total, Rosoboronexport conducted negotiations and consultations with delegations from 45 countries of the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe during the first days of the Army 2018 forum. For them, Rosoboronexport specialists carried out presentations and demonstrations of over 150 pieces of modern Russian weaponry and military equipment exported by the Company. Foreign guests particularly noted the excellent organization of the forum, primarily a comprehensive program of events and live demonstrations of the Russian military hardware’s capabilities.
Despite ongoing anti-Russian propaganda, Rosoboronexport held a series of successful negotiations with delegations from a number of European countries which visited the Army forum.
“Many in the world, including Europe, are fairly outraged by actions of the US, which is trying to prevent other countries from developing military-technical cooperation with Russia. Rosoboronexport is engaged in dialogue with foreign customers at the level of authorities, and the export deals are approved by either presidents or at a high government level in the G2G format. That is, sanctions have the effect of a boomerang: the partners reasonably regard them as interference in the internal affairs of the state.
“As a result, we are consistently moving away from the US dollar in mutual settlements in favor of national currencies, especially since Rosoboronexport has accumulated a lot of experience of successful cooperation in various foreign economic circumstances,” the head of Rosoboronexport stressed. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Rostec)
28 Aug 18. Drones that Form Part of China’s Military Strategy. China’s PLA, or People’s Liberation Army, is actively trying to make advances in military robotics and unmanned systems. It now has a range of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in use across its army, navy, air force and rocket force – the military’s strategic and tactical missiles unit.
Here are some of them.
The PLA ground force has a number of UAVs that are primarily smaller, more tactical models and are often used for battlefield reconnaissance and targeting artillery fire to improve precision strikes. A significant proportion of these are part of a series produced by the Xian Aisheng Technology Group. The fixed-wing drones have a conventional design with a mid-wing configuration and are used to support the artillery.
BZK-005 or Changying
The navy generally uses smaller, tactical drones but it also has a limited number of sophisticated reconnaissance UAVs, notably this medium-altitude, long-endurance model. Roughly comparable to the US Global Hawk, it has a maximum range of 2,400km and a maximum endurance of 40 hours. It has been operating in the vicinity of the East China Sea since at least 2013 and there were also reports in 2016 that it had been deployed to Woody Island in the South China Sea – both disputed territories.
ASN-209 or Silver Eagle
This medium-altitude, medium-endurance drone has been in use by the navy since at least 2011 for long-distance communications support and electromagnetic confrontation. With a range of 200km and a maximum duration of 10 hours, it could be used to support satellite communications if they were knocked out by the enemy, or for guidance in targeting missiles during combat.
GJ-1 or Gongji
A medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, the Gongji – which means “attack” in Chinese – is a land attack version of the Pterodactyl. It has a range of 4,000km and a maximum endurance of 20 hours. Similar to the US Predator, this drone can carry at least 10 types of precision weapons, including air-to-ground missiles, precision-guided rockets and precision-guided bombs. It has an optical turret, infrared and photoelectric sensors, and laser target pointers, and can guide the targeting of anti-tank missiles as well as provide targeting instructions for other aircraft or ground weapons. It is known for its integrated reconnaissance and strike capabilities, but can also be used for electronic warfare, to guide targeting, or as an anti-radiation missile.
WZ-9 or Soaring Dragon
The air force has been using the Soaring Dragon at several locations since last year. This high-altitude, long-endurance drone has a range of 7,000km and a maximum endurance of 10 hours. Three were spotted in the Western Theatre Command, at the Shigatse airfield in Tibet, in August 2017 – around the time of the border stand-off between China and India at Doklam plateau in the Himalayas. The UAV has also been deployed at the Northern Theatre Command near the North Korean border, at the Yishuntun airbase in Jilin province. These highly strategic locations could indicate the value of the drone for reconnaissance and intelligence operations.
This high-altitude, long-endurance drone has a range of 7,000km and a maximum endurance of 36 hours, and advanced command communications and electronic interference systems. One report suggested its GPS interference pods could be used on devices up to 400km away. It could potentially be used for electronic warfare and long-range reconnaissance, including tracking and monitoring US aircraft carriers.
With improved capabilities in tactical intelligence and reconnaissance, this UAV was delivered to China’s artillery forces around 2013. It can also be used for artillery firing correction and damage assessment, as well as supporting long-range precision firepower capabilities.
Like the army, the rocket force mainly uses drones from the ASN series – largely for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance, target positioning and damage assessment. These drones developed by Xian Aisheng can help determine coordinates or correct targeting for artillery, rocket launchers and missiles at the tactical and operational levels. (Source: UAS VISION/South China Morning Post)
27 Aug 18. Russia, the victim? Opposite NATO’s eastern flank, it’s an expansionist West causing anxiety. The past two years have kept NATO busy. Adding to the challenge presented by Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, U.S. President Donald Trump has spent much energy criticizing the trans-Atlantic military alliance and calling on members to spend more on defense, all the while trivializing the situation with Moscow. But despite Western hand-wringing sparked by Trump’s rhetoric, Russia is not entirely pleased with the state of affairs of the past two years. Accustomed to being the unpredictable element in bilateral relations with Washington, Moscow has yet to square Trump’s pro-Russian rhetoric with his administration’s adversarial footing. This shift in dynamics has caused increased anxiety among policymakers and analysts in Moscow. The hope once felt in Russia for a detente under Trump is fading, and prolonged confrontation is assumed. State media channels, themselves in wartime footing since 2014, routinely warn Russian citizens of war with an intransigent, expansionist West. Adding to those anxieties are NATO’s ongoing efforts to modernize and expand military capabilities in central and eastern Europe.
“We don’t like the picture we are seeing,” said Vladimir Frolov, an independent political analyst in Moscow.
“NATO is getting serious about its combat capabilities and readiness levels. Trump may trash NATO and his European allies,” Frolov added, “but it is the capabilities that matter, and those have been growing under Trump.”
NATO has long been Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite foreign boogeyman and, as far as political footballs go, this one has been easy and fruitful to kick around at home. Most of Putin’s legitimacy in recent years has been rooted in a well-designed domestic narrative of Fortress Russia under siege from foreign powers — with NATO being the focus of concern. From the perspective of Russian military planners, tasked with devising a national defense for the world’s largest land power, NATO is more than a useful rhetorical scarecrow at home — though this helps secure funding for modernization and new hardware. NATO is one of Russia’s primary potential opponents, and therefore a focus of Russian military thinking. And from that perspective, the situation looks concerning: NATO troops and hardware are being forward deployed to former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe; in June, the alliance unveiled a new initiative — dubbed the “Four 30s” — that will see a significant expansion of NATO’s rapid deployment capabilities; and Germany is considering rearming with an eye on Russia.
“Even the shouting match over the 2 percent spending, not to mention Trump’s lunatic call for 4.5 percent, is a significant concern for Moscow,” Frolov said. “Were Germany to start remilitarizing, approaching the capabilities level of the Cold War, we should be worried. And we would hate to see Poland emerge as the new Germany for U.S. forward basing and positioning.”
NATO has its own reasons for pursuing all of these initiatives: Russia. Many of the alliance’s members, particularly the newer ones on Russia’s borders in eastern Europe, were rattled by Moscow’s brazen annexation of Crimea and have spent the past four years calling for greater collective action to deter possible Russian moves on former Soviet states now in NATO. Russia, in turn and for a variety of reasons — political expediency and military prudence — has seized on NATO’s efforts to bolster its own defense and spun that into rationale for sustained military expenditures amid economic recession. Actors on all sides — Trump, NATO and the Kremlin — hold irreconcilable positions that sometimes feed into misunderstanding, mistrust and military bolstering.
The Kremlin has made confrontation with the West a cornerstone of its domestic legitimacy. Western politicians and pundits have honed in on Moscow with an intensity that makes their Russian counterparts nervous. And Trump cannot realistically deal with Russia in any way the Kremlin would like to see. Under such conditions, the buildup is almost certain to continue. (Source: Defense News)
27 Aug 18. Qatar to expand air base hosting major U.S. military facility. Qatar will expand two air bases including Udeid, which hosts the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, a senior military official said on Monday amid a year-long dispute between the tiny Gulf Arab state and its neighbours. The development will help accommodate new aircrafts and systems introduced to the air force service including French Rafale fighter jets, American F-15 fighter jets and Eurofighter Typhoon jets, Deputy Commander of the Amiri Air Force Major-General (Pilot) Ahmed Ibrahim Al Malki said in comments published by the official state news agency QNA. The other development will take place at Doha Air Base. Malki did not provide details about the projects’ expected cost or timeframe. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies that charge and says the boycott is an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty. Doha has used the wealth it has accumulated as the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas to defy some of the largest and wealthiest Arab countries. It has repeatedly called for dialogue with its neighbours, although it has strengthened its military as relations with them have deteriorated. Last December, Qatar entered into a £5bn contract with British defence group BAE Systems for the purchase of 24 Typhoon combat aircraft and a $6.2bn (£4.8bn) deal with Boeing Co for 36 F-15 aircraft. It also agreed to buy 12 additional Dassault Aviation-made Rafale fighters with an option for 36 more. The Gulf dispute has eluded mediation efforts by the United States, which has military bases in both Qatar and some of the countries lined up against it – including Udeid, from which U.S.-led coalition aircraft stage sorties against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Nonetheless, Qatari forces participated in joint military exercises in Saudi Arabia in April in an apparent sign of some compromise between the adversaries. U.S. President Donald Trump publicly sided with the Saudis and Emiratis early in the crisis but then began pushing for a resolution to restore Gulf unity and maintain a united front against Iran. (Source: Reuters)
26 Aug 18. Battle Stations: Asia’s Arms Race Hots Up. At Canberra airport, a sleek modern building on the edge of Australia’s sleepy capital, evidence of Australia’s military build-up is everywhere. Almost every advertising hoarding is plastered with the name of an international defence company, such as Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and ThyssenKrupp. The promotional blitz has even prompted a “No Airport Arms Ads” campaign to ask the airport to replace them with a “friendlier greeting to the nation’s capital”. The world’s biggest defence contractors have been lured by a government plan to spend A$200bn ($147bn) on military hardware over the next decade — the largest build-up of military capabilities in peacetime in the country’s history. Companies are scrambling to catch the eye of the visiting politicians and generals who oversee procurement decisions. The blitz of defence adverts has prompted a ‘No Airport Arms Ads’ campaign to try to persuade Canberra airport to replace them with a ‘friendlier greeting to the nation’s capital’ They are also hiring thousands of staff and establishing new manufacturing operations to help deliver Canberra’s strategy to create one of the most capable armed forces in Asia Pacific and transform Australia into one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters. It is currently ranked 19.
“I make zero apologies for wanting to ensure the nation’s security and to protect our servicemen and women,” says Christopher Pyne, Australia’s defence industry minister. “We live in a more unsettled region than we have in several decades . . . One of the developments in our region in the last few years is the militarisation of islands in the South China Sea by the People’s Republic of China and of course the Korean peninsula has been unstable for decades.”
A decade-long push by Beijing to modernise its military forces and advance its territorial claims in contested waters in Asia is prompting a response from neighbours, which some commentators argue risks spawning a regional “arms race” that increases the threat of conflict. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Financial Times)
27 Aug 18. Sea Trials Pave Way for China’s Aircraft Carrier Battle Group: Analysts. China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier Type 001A embarked on its second sea trial on Sunday, two days after China’s first homegrown 10,000-ton class missile destroyer had its first sea trial. Chinese experts said on Sunday the vessels will likely form an aircraft carrier battle group once they are handed over to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. Assisted by tug boats, the aircraft carrier set out from the Dalian Shipyard in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province on Sunday morning after a display of fireworks, according to videos and photos on Sina Weibo on Sunday.
“The carrier’s second sea trial will focus on dealing with issues that arose during the first,” Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.
While testing the ships’ power systems is the main focus, the second sea trial will involve heavier payloads and other system diagnostics including command, communication and damage management, Song said.
Zhang Ye, a research fellow at the PLA Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times on Sunday that the second sea trial will also focus on running tests of the aircraft carrier’s weaponry and equipment.
“Radars, the navigation system and main weapons will be tested,” Zhang said.
The Type 001A’s first sea trial was from May 13 to 18. It returned on May 23 to the Dalian Shipyard to finish outfitting work. Future sea trials will involve testing fighter jets and helicopters on board the aircraft carrier before being delivered to the PLA Navy, according to Zhang. The delivery may take about a year thanks to the knowledge gained from the launch of the country’s first carrier Liaoning, Song said.
China’s first Type 055 missile destroyer made its maiden voyage on Friday. Photos on Sina Weibo on Friday show the domestically built 10,000-ton missile destroyer leaving the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai for the first time. The two ships are likely to be delivered to the PLA Navy around the same time with the destroyer serving as an escort vessel to the new carrier, significantly increasing the group’s combat capability, Song said.
Multiple roles of Type 055
The missile destroyer is also capable of carrying out missions on its own and will play an important role in missile defense, experts said on Sunday.
“The Type 055 is China’s top-level surface vessel. It will boost the combat ability of the PLA Navy on the high seas,” according to Song.
The missile destroyer will also become an important extension to China’s sea-based anti-missile system, as it can provide strategic depth from the high-sea, Song noted. The destroyer was launched on June 28, 2017 but had not undergone sea trials before Friday. The year between Type 055’s launch and its first sea trial indicates that it must have undergone simulated tests to ensure the success of its sea trial, Song said. More Type 055 vessels are under construction. Chinese experts said the PLA needs to commission at least 10 Type 055 missile destroyers in the future. Type 055 missile destroyers are equipped with more than 100 vertical launch missile cells capable of launching surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, land-attack cruise missiles and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes, according to Chinese and foreign military media reports. Chinese experts expect the electromagnetic railgun, which is in development, to be mounted on Type 055 in the future. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Global Times)
26 Aug 18. China’s Air Force Is Powerful. But There Is One Giant Problem – Engines. The Chinese defense industrial base is infamous for its tendency to “borrow” from foreign designs, particularly in the aerospace industry. Almost the entirety of China’s modern fighter fleet have either borrowed liberally from or directly copied foreign models. The J-10 was reputedly based on the Israeli IAI Lavi and by extension the United States’ General Dynamics F-16; the J-11 is a clone of the Russian Su-27; the JF-17 is a modern development of the Soviet MiG-21; the J-20 bears an uncanny resemblance to the F-22, and finally, the J-31 is widely believed to rely heavily on technology appropriated from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Appropriation saves China time and money on research and development, allowing it to modernize the PLAAF at a fraction of the cost of its competitors. However, the appropriation strategy remains constrained by bottleneck technologies due to lack of testing data and industrial ecology. This problem is starkly illustrated by China’s ongoing difficulty in producing a high-quality indigenous jet engine.
The problem of technology mismatch, at its root, is that the thief lacks trade secrets and human capital associated with the manufacturing and assembly of a system. At the very least, this absence can make the replication of foreign systems a costly and time-consuming process, as the thief needs to develop manufacturing procedures from scratch. At worst, it can lead to seriously substandard components that reduce the capabilities and reliability of a system. Chinese efforts to reverse engineer certain Russian jet engines during the 1990s and 2000s invariably produced engines with extremely short lifespans, and without the power of their Russian counterparts . Even today, jet engines remain an obstacle for PLAAF fighter modernization, with its early 5th generation prototypes notably underpowered. Further complicating the problem, Russia is wary of supplying engines more powerful than the AL-31 used to power its Su-27s. However, China has several avenues to work around this.
The most obvious option is simply to build a better indigenous engine. In 2016, China’s 13th Five-year Plan for the National Development of Strategic Emerging Industries emphasized the importance of improving the performance of indigenous jet-engine designs and the further development of the aerospace industry. It appears that there has been at least some success, as the latest J-20 prototypes are powered by upgraded WS-10 engines that are supposedly stealthier and more powerful than the AL-31. However, the lack of public information regarding China’s indigenous engine programs makes their true quality difficult to ascertain. Early models of the WS-10 used to power Chinese Flankers proved dramatically inferior to the AL-31. While the privately owned Chengdu Aerospace Superalloy Technology Company (CASTC) has recently made great advances in turbofan technology, allowing for hotter, more efficient engines, the fruits of its breakthrough have yet to reach frontline PLAAF units.
If the private sector proves key to breaking through various technological bottlenecks in elements of aerospace design, then political ramifications may follow. Presently, state-owned aviation manufacturers are politically ascendant, with some state-owned enterprise leaders even granted governorships. If privately owned firms like CASTC produce superior results, they may rise in political influence, the more established and politically connected state firms could consume them, or they could form comprehensive public-private partnerships with state-owned firms while retaining a degree of autonomy. Whatever the case, the implications could be profound for the Chinese defense industrial base and national innovation system.
A simpler method is to buy foreign fighters that have advanced engines, as was the case with the PLAAF’s purchase of Su-35s from Russia . The Su-35’s AL-41F1S, alternatively known as the ALS-117S, is an exceptionally powerful thrust-vectoring engine which represents a quantum leap over the AL-31. While China originally expressed interest in the ALS-117 as a stand-alone product, Russia’s refusal to export the engine alone necessitated the purchase of the Su-35. Russia insists that extensive IP protections safeguard the ALS-117 from Chinese reverse engineering. However, given China’s questionable record of respecting intellectual property, it is plausible that they will attempt to reverse-engineer parts of the ALS-117 anyway, although this is harder than it sounds. Russian sources claim it is nearly impossible to reach the “heart” of the engine without breaking it. Furthermore, China’s previous difficulties with the WS-10, despite ready access to the AL-31, show that access to foreign engine designs does not immediately translate into the ability to produce engines of similar quality. Furthermore, disrespecting Russian IP protections it had agreed to honor might restrict China’s access to advanced Russian systems in the future. Finally, if the Russians are correct that it is effectively impossible to access the ALS-117’s core without breaking it completely, attempts at reverse-engineering it would rob the PLAAF of advanced combat aircraft that would quite obviously be useless without engines. Thus, while the PRC may derive short-term advantage from reverse engineering the ALS-117, it risks killing the goose that laid the golden egg. However, the grim prognosis for the future of the Russian arms industry may force it to look the other way, as losing access to the Chinese market would be a body blow. Russia’s leverage is also shrinking; as China’s technological and industrial base improves, the importance of Russian imports continues to decrease. Beijing may feel confident enough in the disparate power differential to call Moscow’s bluff. Yet doing so risks derailing the positive relationship in which the two countries have invested considerable diplomatic capital. (Source: News Now/nationalinterest.org)
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