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22 Feb 19. U.S. to keep 10 percent of its fighting forces in Syria, reversing Trump’s planned full withdrawal. About 200 U.S. troops will remain in Syria for the foreseeable future, a reversal of White House plans for a full withdrawal from the war-torn country, afterlawmakers voiced concerns about the security ramifications of a hasty retreat. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that “a small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time.” She provided no further details on the plan.
In December, administration officials announced plans to withdraw the entire, approximately 2,000-troop U.S. fighting force in that country after President Donald Trump declared that their mission in the region — to defeat Islamic State — had been fulfilled.
Military officials have said in recent weeks that the caliphate’s territory, which once engulfed large sections of multiple countries in the Middle East, has now dwindled to a few square miles of fading holdouts.
Still, Pentagon leaders had warned that a precipitous drawdown of American forces there could lead to instability in the region and possibly a resurgence of ISIS. The issue was also one of several points of friction between Trump and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned from his post in December.
Trump has said in recent weeks that U.S. personnel would remain in Iraq to monitor any possible return of insurgent groups in Syria and “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran, because Iran is a real problem.”
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But now about 10 percent of the troops stationed in Syria will remain there as well.
The move drew immediate praise from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had been a vocal critic of a full withdrawal.
“This will ensure ISIS does not return and Iran does not fill the vacuum that would have been left if we completely withdrew,” he said in a statement.
“With this decision, President Trump has decided to follow sound military advice. This decision will ensure that we will not repeat the mistakes of Iraq, in Syria. For a small fraction of the forces we have had in Syria, we can accomplish our national security objectives.”
Military officials have not released any specifics on where the troops will be stationed or what their new mission will entail. Troops had been working in Syria on a training and assistance mission, leaving most of the direct fighting to local allied forces.
Still, the mission has proven dangerous for personnel stationed there. In January, two American service members and two U.S. civilians working with them were killed in an explosion in Manbij. (Source: Defense News)
20 Feb 19. No Scandal In Rafale Deal, Says Dassault CEO; Defends role for Reliance. Asserting there is ‘no scandal’ in the Rafale deal, Dassault Aviation, makers of the fighter jet, Wednesday said it was also in the race for 110 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, for which the government had floated an RFI last year. The RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender for the deal was issued by IAF in April 6 2018, the first mega procurement initiative for fighter jets. This was after the government scrapped the process to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) around six years ago.
“There is no scandal in the Rafale deal. We are going to deliver 36 aircraft. If the Government of India wants more aircraft, we will be pleased to deliver. There is also an RFI for 110 aircraft and we are in the race because we feel Rafale is the best aircraft and we have our footprint here in India. So, we feel confident here in India,” Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier told reporters here.
Asked why Dassault had partnered Reliance despite that company’s lack of experience in making defence equipment, Trappier said: “Yes. But I have the experience. I am transferring this know-how and experience to the Indian team. The Indian team has been appointed by a new company Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DARL). They are good for India and the company. So, where is the problem?”
The deal had raised a political row with Congress relentlessly accusing the Narendra Modi-led government of extending the benefit to industrialist Anil Ambani owned Reliance by firming up an overpriced deal of Rafale jets.
The opposition has been keeping the pot boiling over the deal and made it their electoral campaign for the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
India had signed a deal with France in 2016 for 36 Rafale fighter jets. Asked the reasons for Dassault going ahead with partnering Reliance despite that company’s financial problems, Trappier said, “They have their own matters, but we are working together. Our teams, both Indian and French, are working well. So, I have no worry for the time being.”
Trappier also said they chose Reliance as he wanted to be in charge of the industrial process in the company that manufactures parts of the French aircraft in India.
“I invested my money to have facilities here in India and I found partners,” he added.
On Rahul Gandhi’s charge that Rafale prices were escalated during NDA rule compared to UPA rule, Trappier said both nations made a rebate of about nine per cent compared to the original pricing.
The CAG report saying that the Rafale pricing was 2.8 per cent cheaper during NDA rule compared to UPA’s showed that the pricing was better, Trappier said. Also, the Supreme Court had said that the deal was totally transparent and hence he was ‘very much pleased’ with these two observations. To a query, Trappier said it was sad that politics has taken a front seat in the Rafale deal. Instead, discussions should have been around the importance of having the fighter aircraft for India’s defence needs, he said.
“Rafale has high performance capacity. The air force officials have examined the aircraft. This fighter will be one of the backbones of the defence of this country,” he said. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Press Trust of India)
20 Feb 19. Indian Rafale deal comes under scrutiny. The Comptroller & Auditor General’s (CAG) report on capital acquisitions in the Indian Air Force (IAF) was tabled in parliament on 13 February. It examined 11 contracts signed from 2012-18, including the procurement of 36 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft through an inter-governmental agreement with France.
The French offer in 2007 under the previous Manmohan Singh government was 126 aircraft, of which 18 were in ‘flyaway’ condition and the remainder produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). However, the current government changed this in 2016 into a contract for 36 flyaway fighters.
The main bones of contention relate to warranty issues, financial and performance guarantees (totalling about 25% of the 2007 contract value) that are missing from the 2016 contract. The CAG observed that savings accrued to the vendor ‘should have been passed on to the ministry’.
Other major observations include the French government and Dassault not furnishing bank or sovereign guarantees under the 36-aircraft contract. Instead, a ‘letter of comfort’ signed by the French prime minister was provided in lieu of a bank guarantee, bypassing the procedure for payments to be made through an escrow account.
Acceptance of these deviations by the Indian government’s Cabinet Committee on Security attracted strong criticism by the CAG.
India goes to the polls in May, and in the politically charged atmosphere, allegations that Modi’s government favoured Dassault and a certain Indian conglomerate for offsets under the contract have been flying thick and fast. The CAG report provides more ammunition to the opposition.
The issues are manifold. A Defence Procurement Procedure that relies on L1 (lowest bidder) rather than ‘best value’, plus archaic multi-level approval and decision-making processes of the MoD, and customer-specific modifications driving costs upwards have all come under the auditor’s circumspection.
The CAG has not spared the IAF, and it observed in the report’s executive summary that the ‘IAF should improve its process of formulation of ASQRs [air staff qualitative requirements] to ensure that they correctly reflect the user’s functional parameters. Exhaustive ASQRs with detailed technical or design specifications should be avoided, unless they are functionally necessary.’
Capital acquisition in Indian defence is often mired in policy changes, corruption allegations, lobbying and other such devils. The tardy progress of indigenous capacity building is compounding an ever-widening gap between the IAF’s desired force level of 42 fighter squadrons (by 2027) and the present 31 squadrons, mostly vintage machines of Russian origin.
Recent reports that the IAF is in advanced talks with Russia for 21 MiG-29 fighters built from mothballed 1980s airframes do not bring much comfort either.
The Indian Navy is hunting for carrier-borne jets and the IAF is looking for 110 single-engine fighters. The numbers are huge, requirements urgent and there is every indication the Indian government would like to spread the cheer east, west and in house, rather than sign up for a mother-of-all-deals under the watchful eyes of hawkish auditors. For an air force already facing a tenuous situation of depleting fighter assets, the CAG report and its unpleasant wake comes at a bad time. (Source: Shephard)
20 Feb 19. Defence Minister invites investments in aerospace. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has invited investors to capitalize on the ecosystem in aerospace and other sectors in India which offered a big market for Defence manufacturing. In her inaugural remarks at the Aero India 2019, at the Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru, Mrs Sitharaman made a strong pitch for Make in India. She referred to a slew of initiatives taken by the government, including permitting 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in Defence manufacturing.
She said, during the last four years, 150 contracts worth about one lakh 27 thousand 500 crore rupees have been signed with the Indian vendors for procurement of defence equipment for the armed forces.
The Defence Minister said 275 items of ordnance production are denotified for the private industries to take over. She said India today is producing Light Combat Aircraft, Light Combat Helicopter, Advanced Light Helicopter and Boeing parts within the country.
She added that India has exported the advanced light helicopter to Nepal, Maldives and Mauritius and Cheetal helicopter to Afghanistan. She said that Original Equipment manufacturers are keen on setting up manufacturing units in the country. Speaking on the occasion, the Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu informed that Aviation sector has grown by 20 percent in the last four years in the country. Chief Minister of Karnataka H D Kumaraswamy, Chiefs of the three wings of Defence forces and other dignitaries were present. (Source: Google/http://www.newsonair.com)
20 Feb 19. Call for feedback on Australian Naval Shipbuilding Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper. The National Naval Shipbuilding Office has sought expert submissions on the National Naval Shipbuilding Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper ahead of the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise. As part of the government’s $90bn investment in developing a sustainable, continuous and competitive National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise, the government has called on expert feedback and submissions to the Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper.
As the largest capital investment ever undertaken in Australia, the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise represents an entirely new direction in the way Australia underpins its national security interests. The enterprise is about more than building ships, submarines and shipyards – it will establish a long-term sustainable Australian naval shipbuilding and sustainment capability that will generate industry growth and develop secure Australian jobs for the future.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said the government is therefore seeking submissions on the discussion paper, including any pertinent data, to help guide further actions and initiatives to support the development of the naval shipbuilding workforce.
“By providing a submission on the Naval Shipbuilding Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper, businesses and other interested parties will help inform the continuous workforce planning being undertaken in support of the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise,” Minister Pyne explained.
The shipbuilding program serves as the basis for the modernisation of Australia’s naval capabilities. Marking a complex, national endeavour requiring consistent, long-term planning, decision making and commitment to the sustained development of the naval shipbuilding industry, and the critical infrastructure and workforce essential to the viability and success of the $90bn plan.
Minister Pyne added, “In order to meet the future demands of the Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise, we must ensure we have the right people, at the right time, with the right skills.”
The Naval Shipbuilding Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper sets out some of the key considerations impacting naval shipbuilding strategic workforce planning:
- Workforce requirements;
- Workforce supply and challenges; and
- Responses to workforce challenges.
The goal of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan is to ensure that the regeneration of the Royal Australian Navy over the coming decades will ensure both a cost-effective solution for the government and provide Navy the assured capability to fight and win. The National Naval Shipbuilding Office has been established to implement the Naval Shipbuilding Plan.
Supporting this plan, the government will invest:
- More than $1bn in modern shipyard infrastructure – including innovative and secure shipbuilding infrastructure centred on Osborne, South Australia;
- Up to $62m for workforce growth and skilling initiatives to support the delivery of Navy’s new surface and submarine platforms – including workforce growth and development; and
- Maximising Australian industry content supporting the development of Australia’s defence industrial base.
The Discussion Paper is available here, with comments and submissions open until COB Friday, 29 March 2019. (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Feb 19. UK is committed to strengthening UK-India defence ties. The UK Pavilion, organised by ADS UK Ltd and the UK Department for International Trade’s Defence and Security Organisation will host around 20 UK companies. The UK will attend Aero India in force again this year, reflecting the importance of the UK-India defence relationship. Industry and government representatives will be present to promote some of the world’s most innovative defence and aviation technologies and strengthen relationships with Indian partners. The UK delegation will include:
- Air Marshal Stuart Evans Royal Air Force, Deputy Air Commander, Allied Air Command
- Fleur Thomas, Director Export Policy, UK Ministry of Defence
- Air Vice Marshal Nigel Maddox, Senior Military Adviser to Department for International Trade’s Defence and Security Organisation
- Sir Dominic Asquith KCMG, British High Commissioner to India
Speaking about UK objectives for the show, Sir Dominic said:
The UK is proud to have a defence partnership with India that benefits both our countries immensely. In the last year, we have worked together in multiple areas: our services have strengthened naval and marine links through Exercises Indradhanush and Konkan; and the visit of the Indian Navy to the Queen Elizabeth – the most advanced aircraft carrier of its class in the world – gave us the opportunity to explore potential joint work on naval capabilities.
We want this strong relationship to continue. Future defence technologies are increasingly going to be delivered by collaborative programmes, in which India has the potential to take its place. Last year at Farnborough Air Show, the UK launched its Future Combat Air Strategy, which committed £1.9 biilion of Government funding to develop next-generation combat air technologies, including via international partnerships. This week, we look forward to exploring with India the potential for future collaboration, through which we could jointly build knowledge, security and prosperity.
UK companies present at the show include:
- Aerospace Wales
- BAE Systems
- Cobham plc
- Collins Aerospace
- Cranfield University
- Gardner Aerospace
- MBDA UK
- Sherborne Sensors
- Strongfield Technologies Ltd
- Techtest Ltd (HR Smith Group)
- Thales UK
The UK is the top destination in Europe for inward investment and second globally only to the US. (Source: Google/U.K. MoD)
18 Feb 19. Iran presses Europe to defy US and stay in nuke pact. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has urged European leaders to reject pressure from the United States to leave a nuclear accord designed to keep Tehran from making atomic weapons.
His comments at the Munich Security Conference here come one day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence used the same stage to urge Europe to walk away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The Trump administration last year reinstated sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the accord, thereby nixing the U.S. commitment to it.
Europeans, however, have attempted to keep the Obama-era deal alive, setting up a special trade mechanism last month designed to fulfill the pact’s requirement of normalized economic relations with Iran.
“The U.S. is now laboring to force others to violate that resolution,” Zarif said, adding that European efforts to save the JCPOA weren’t showing “much success.”
“Europe needs to be ready to get wet if it wants to swim against the tide of U.S. unilateralism,” Zarif said. He portrayed the latest transatlantic disagreement as part of an trend by Washington to subdue its European partners. Next up, he argued, could be a demand by the Trump administration to stop dealing with China.
Europeans have shared U.S. concerns about the failure of the Iran nuclear deal to limit Tehran’s missile arsenal. In addition, governments here believe that Iran is responsible for assassinations on European soil, a claim that Tehran has rejected.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated for remaining in the JCPOA in a speech here on Saturday. “Are we helping our common cause, which is curbing the harmful or difficult influence of Iran, by canceling the only remaining agreement, or are we better off keeping the small anchor that we still have to perhaps build up pressure in other areas?” (Source: Defense News)
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