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10 May 19. After U.S. Complaint, Canada to Soften Rules for Jet Competition to Allow Lockheed Martin Bid: Source. Canada is softening the rules of its multibn-dollar competition for 88 new fighter jets to allow Lockheed Martin Corp to submit a bid, following a complaint by Washington, a Canadian government source said on Thursday.

The source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation, said Ottawa was acting after the United States told Canada the regulations would exclude Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter, the plane the Canadian air force wants.  The complaint was the latest challenge for a trouble-plagued process that has dragged on for more than a decade.

Canada initially said bidders for the contract – worth between C$15bn and C$19bn ($11.1bn to $14.1bn) – must commit to give Canadian businesses 100 percent of the value of the deal in economic benefits. But that contradicts rules of the consortium that developed the F-35, a group to which Canada belongs. The U.S. military’s F-35 office wrote to Ottawa last December saying it would not bid unless changes were made.

“The U.S. government told us they were unable to offer contractual guarantees of economic benefits,” said the source.

Ottawa is therefore dropping the requirement that firms give a legally binding promise they would spend the value of the fighter contract in Canada. (end of excerpt)

(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: “In a presentation to companies on Thursday, the government said it plans to allow bids missing such a commitment in the fighter-jet competition — they will be just docked points in the assessment,” The Canadian Press reported late Thursday.

“The proposed new process will see the government evaluate bids on a scale, with 60 per cent of the points based on the plane’s capability, 20 per cent on its full lifetime costs and the remaining 20 per cent on industrial benefits to Canada,” it added.

“Bidders can still guarantee that they will re-invest back into Canada if their jet wins the competition and get all 20 points – which is the likely approach for Boeing’s Super Hornet, Eurofighter’s Typhoon and Saab’s Gripen…But those that can’t make such a commitment will be asked to establish ‘industrial targets,’ lay out a plan for achieving those targets and sign a non-binding agreement promising to make all efforts to achieve them,” The Canadian Press said.

So, the Canadian government has backed down, and is changing the rules of its new fighter competition to allow Lockheed Martin to compete with the F-35 – the only aircraft that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that Canada would never buy.

This Canadian about-turn also confirms one of the anomalies of the F-45 Joint Strike Fighter program: partner countries — which have paid a share of the aircraft’s $66.2 billion development – cannot benefit from the offsets that are available to countries that buy the aircraft off-the-shelf, through the Foreign Military Sales program. In other words, Canada has accepted the risk of obtaining no offsets on its largest-ever defense purchase, so writing off a potential economic gain of C$ 15bn to C$19bn.)

09 May 19. U.S., Partner Navies Sail Together in South China Sea. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer joined ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and Republic of Philippine Navy to sail through the South China Sea, May 2-8. Transiting through international waters were USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata (D 63) and tanker INS Shakti (A 57), JMSDF helicopter-carrier JS Izumo (DDH 183) and destroyer JS Murasame (DD 101), and Philippine Navy patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS 17).

“Our team was really excited to take part in this multi-lateral event,” Cmdr. Andrew J. Klug, commanding officer, USS William P. Lawrence, said. “Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in the region are opportunities to build upon our existing, strong relationships, as well as learn from each other.”

The ships conducted formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers and held a leadership exchange aboard JS Izumo.

“The opportunity of a multi-sail with U.S. Navy and regional partners was a great experience. In addition to building mutual understanding and trust, it also served as a way to enhance peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Adm. Hiroshi Egawa, commander, Escort Flotilla 1, said. “The ability to do various exercises among four different navies smoothly demonstrated professionalism and high operational skills.”

Events like this provide opportunities for like-minded navies to train together and promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“Our bond of friendship with our regional partners is as strong as our commitment to maintain peace and stability in the region,” Capt. Jerry Y. Garrido Jr., commanding officer, BRP Andres Bonifacio, said.

U.S. 7th Fleet provides security alongside allies and partners throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet operates roughly 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 Sailors. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/US Navy)

08 May 19. F-35 Anyone? This One Country (Canada Ed.) Needs 88 New Fighter Jets or Its Air Force Is Toast. The aircraft would enter service in 2032, meaning the old Hornets would have to continue flying 12 years longer than the government originally planned. Ottawa briefly considered acquiring 18 F/A-18E/Fs from Boeing in order to bolster the early-model Hornets, but the government canceled the plan during a U.S.-Canada trade dispute in 2017. Canada for the third time in a decade is trying to replace its aging F/A-18A/B Hornet fighter jets. With every year the acquisition effort drags on, the condition of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fast-jet fleet grows direr.

“The politically-charged competition to replace Canada’s aging fleet of fighter jets will rocket forward at the end of May [2019] as the federal government releases a long-anticipated, full-fledged tender call,” Murray Brewster reported for CBC News.

Four companies are vying for the multibillion-dollar contract for as many as 88 fighters that would replace the RCAF’s 1980s-vintage Hornets, which in Canadian service are designated “CF-18.”

Saab, Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin all are in the running, respectively offering the Gripen, Eurofighter, F/A-18E/F and F-35A. The manufacturers will have until the end of 2019 to submit bids, CBC News reported. But the RCAF hardly can wait.

The RCAF acquired 138 F/A-18A/Bs from McDonnell Douglas starting in 1982. In early 2019, 85 of the original Hornets, all more than 30 years old, comprise Canada’s entire fighter fleet. The Canadian Hornets are unreliable and lack modern systems. In 2010, Canada’s Conservative Party government announced plans to acquire 65 new F-35 stealth fighters by 2020. But the government never fairly compared the F-35 to rival fighter types such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Auditor General of Canada concludedin a 2018 report. “National Defense did not manage the process to replace the CF-18 fleet with due diligence.”

In 2015, Liberal Party candidate Justin Trudeau made the F-35 a major issue in his campaign for prime minister. Trudeau won. And in 2017, Ottawa backed off its proposal to purchase F-35s and, instead, launched a new competition to acquire 88 fighters.

The aircraft would enter service in 2032, meaning the old Hornets would have to continue flying 12 years longer than the government originally planned. Ottawa briefly considered acquiring 18 F/A-18E/Fs from Boeing in order to bolster the early-model Hornets, but the government canceled the plan during a U.S.-Canada trade dispute in 2017.

Canada was left with its original Hornets. In December 2017, the government announced it would spend around $500m buying up to 25 1980s-vintage F/A-18s that Australia was declared surplus as it acquired its own fleet of new F-35s. The RCAF would add some of the Australian Hornets to the operational fleet and use others as sources of spare parts.

But the government has no plan to keep its Hornets combat-ready as they enter their fourth and even fifth decade of service.” We found that the CF-18 had not been significantly upgraded for combat since 2008, in part because [the Department of] National Defense expected a replacement fleet to be in place by 2020,” the government auditors found.

“Without these upgrades, according to the department, the CF-18 will become more vulnerable as advanced combat aircraft and air-defense systems continue to be developed and used by other nations.”

Against this backdrop, Brewster assessed the current fighter contenders, in particular, the Swedish Gripen and the American F-35. “There has been a rigorous political and academic debate about whether Canada should choose a legacy design from the 1990s, such as the Gripen, or the recently-introduced Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter,” Brewster wrote.

“The Swedish air force is about the same size as the Royal Canadian Air Force,” Brewster pointed out, adding that Sweden and Canada also share geographic concerns.

“The Gripen is intended for operations in rugged environments, such as Sweden’s Arctic region,” Brewster wrote. “Canada’s CF-18s occasionally operate from forward bases in the north, but those deployments are infrequent compared with the routine activity of the Swedes.”

As part of its commitment to NATO, Canada also must be prepared for high-tech warfare in Europe. The Gripen lacks the radar-evading stealth features that in theory allow the F-35 to penetrate the most dangerous Russian-made air-defenses.

But Brewster cited a March 2019 Swedish study that claimed Russian defenses are less fearsome than many observers believe.

“Besides uncritically taking Russian data at face value, the three cardinal sins have been: confusing the maximal nominal range of missiles with the effective range of the systems; disregarding the inherent problems of seeing and hitting a moving target at a distance, especially targets below the horizon; and underestimating the potential for countermeasures against [anti-access area-denial]-systems,” Robert Dalsjo, Christopher Berglund and Michael Jonsson explain in their report “Bursting the Bubble.”

The stakes are high. If Canada fails a third time to buy a new fighter, it might find itself in the same unfortunate situation in which Switzerland has found itself.

In April 2019 the Swiss air force is down to just 10 ready fighters with full-time pilots. The crisis is the result of the Swiss public’s decision in a 2014 referendum to reject the air force’s proposal to buy 22 new fighters to begin replacing 40-year-old F-5 Tigers.

The Swiss air force in 2019 plans to remove from service 27 Tigers. The 26 Tigers that remain will perform limited duties.

With the F-5 force shrinking and flying part-time, the Swiss air force increasingly relies on its 30 F/A-18C/Ds. To last that long, the F/A-18s need structural upgrades. The upgrade work has sidelined more than half of the Hornet fleet.

Switzerland like Canada has relaunched its fighter competition. The same companies and designs that are competing in Canada, plus Dassault with the Rafale, are in the running in Switzerland. Intensive flight testing began in April 2019.

Canada like Switzerland likely can’t afford to fail again to buy new planes. The old Canadian Hornets probably won’t last much longer. “The CF-18 will be disadvantaged against many potential adversaries, and its combat capability will further erode through the 2020s and into the 2030s,” Ottawa’s auditors warned. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)

08 May 19. Iran calls halt to parts of nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani announces Tehran to take action after US withdrawal from pact. The Iran nuclear deal was at risk of collapse after Tehran said it would cease to implement some of its commitments under the 2015 accord in response to the US’s withdrawal and the failure of other signatories to deliver on economic incentives. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, said in a televised address on Wednesday that his country would halt key commitments agreed under the deal, in line with a dispute resolution mechanism included in the accord. Mr Rouhani said the deal was “either a win-win agreement for all or a lose-lose agreement for all”. The move came as America ramped up pressure on the Islamic republic one year after US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, abruptly cancelled a visit to Germany on Tuesday and flew to Baghdad, telling reporters that this was in response to reports that Tehran was “escalating their activity”, although he did not provide any specifics about potential threats. The unscheduled trip followed news that the US was deploying an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.  Mr Rouhani’s statement raises the pressure on the EU, including France, Germany, and the UK — the three European signatories to the deal — who were left scrambling to respond. A German foreign ministry spokesman cautioned Iran against taking any aggressive steps, adding that Berlin remained committed to the deal. A senior EU official said: “Leaders and others will meet in the coming days and it will be an issue under discussion. We are in an assessment phase and the rest is pure speculation.” EU foreign ministers are due in Brussels for a regular meeting on Monday. Leaders will also gather at this week’s bloc summit in Romania, although Theresa May, the UK prime minister, is not due to attend. Rouhani says Iran to end some commitments to nuclear deal Under the nuclear deal, which took several years to negotiate, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the economic benefits of many sanctions being lifted. However, in his statement on Wednesday, Mr Rouhani said Iran would over the next two months stop transferring excess heavy water produced in the uranium enrichment process and no longer swap enriched uranium for mined uranium yellow cake.  He said Iran would resume these commitments if the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China could find a mechanism for Iran to sell oil and handle banking transactions within the next two months. If not, Iran would resort to the next step by which the country would not observe the limitation on uranium enrichment at 3.67 per cent. He said all these steps were notified to the five capitals. Germany, the UK and France have stood by Iran, believing the agreement was an example of successful international diplomacy that had prevented Tehran from pursing a nuclear programme.

France has reluctantly accepted the possibility of new EU sanctions against Iran. “That is one of the things being looked at,” Florence Parly, French defence minister, told BFMTV on Wednesday. “If these commitments are not met, naturally that would raise the question,” she said. Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, flew to Moscow on Wednesday to deliver a letter from Mr Rouhani to President Vladimir Putin. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said after meeting Mr Zarif that the crisis around the deal was the result of “the United States’ irresponsible policy”. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, told reporters that the Kremlin continued to support the deal and would work with European countries to “prolong the document’s lifespan”. Tehran has continued complying with the accord in the year since the US withdrew from it. But the so-called E3 have struggled to counter the impact of sanctions that have driven Iran into a deep recession and emboldened regime hardliners who say that the country never received the promised dividend. Germany, France and the UK launched a special purpose vehicle, Instex, in January in a bid to keep financial and trade channels with Iran open, but it was seen as a largely symbolic move. The IMF forecasts that the Iranian economy will contract by 6 per cent this year.

Mr Rouhani said Iran remained committed to diplomacy but “with a new language and logic”. He also insisted that the Islamic republic would not start any war nor leave the negotiating table. “But we will not bow to bullying [from the US],” he said. Mr Rouhani was a key architect of the nuclear accord and hoped to use the deal to attract much-need investment to the country and tentatively re-engage with the west. But as the US has ratcheted up pressure on the regime, he has come under increasing pressure from opponents who accuse him of being duped by the west into agreeing unfavourable terms.  Mr Trump has described the agreement as being the “worst deal ever” and has accused Iran of funding terrorists and militias that stoke instability and conflict in the region. Iran intervened militarily to support Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war and has strong links to powerful Shia militias in Iraq. Tehran also backs Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant movement, and is accused by the US of smuggling missiles to rebel groups fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.  US officials also want to force Iran to reduce its ballistic missile programme. Tehran rejects the US allegations that it supports terrorism and insists that what it deems to be national security issues are not up for negotiation. (Source: FT)

09 May 19. Russian State Arms Exporter Signs Contracts for $5.2bn In 2019. Since the beginning of 2019 the Russian sole state intermediary agency for exports or imports of defense-related products, Rosoboronexport, has signed contracts amounting to $5.2bn and exported vehicles and weapons abroad for $4.9bn, the company’s press service reported on Tuesday, citing its CEO Alexander Mikheev.

“Just in the first four months of 2019, Rosoboronexport exported Russian weapons and military vehicles amounting to $4.9bn, as well as signed new contracts for $5.2bn,” the press service quotes Mikheev as saying.

According to him, it is the result of the ambitious marketing work of the Russian parties to military and technical cooperation and production companies. “Its key element is public demonstrations of the military vehicles in expos and parades,” the CEO said. For instance, the Victory Day parade at the Red Square will feature modern samples of the military vehicles and weapons, the export versions of which can be found in the Rosoboronexport catalogue. In particular, these are the Buk-M2E and Tor-M2E missile systems, Pantsir-S1 missile system, Iskander-E mobile short-range ballistic missile system, 2S19 Msta-S self-propelled howitzer, Smerch multiple rocket launcher, Tigr-M all-terrain infantry mobility vehicle, Taifun-K and BTR-82A armored vehicles, T-72 type tanks and BMPT armored fighting vehicle.

The aviation is represented by the Il-76MD-90A(E) strategic airlifter, MiG-29M multi-purpose fighter, Su-30SME multi-functional supermaneuverable fighter jet, Su-32 fighter bomber, Su-35 multipurpose supermaneuverable fighter, Mi-28NE and Ka-52 attack helicopters, as well as Mi-26T2 heavy transport helicopter.

“On May 9, the Red Square parade will also feature military vehicles that have great export potential, such as the Armata tank, Bumerang infantry fighting vehicle and Kurganets-25 infantry fighting vehicle and armored personnel carrier. These vehicles taking part in the parade will demonstrate the highest quality of the Russian defense industry to our overseas partners,” the Rosoboronexport’s press service added.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, in total, 1600 units of military vehicles will take part in the Victory Day parades across Russia. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/TASS)

07 May 19. Canada seeks to address U.S. complaints about bidding process for fighter jets: source. Canada’s government is trying to address complaints about its military procurement process that have prompted threats from Washington to block Ottawa from buying Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35, the Canadian air force’s preferred option for its new fighter jet, a government source said on Tuesday.

U.S. unhappiness about the way Ottawa is handling the race to supply 88 new jets is the latest challenge for a trouble-plagued process that has dragged on for more than a decade, embarrassing Conservative and Liberal governments in Canada.

The affair could be another problem for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of an election in October, on top of allegations of interference in a corporate corruption case.

Canada’s procurement rules say bidders for the jet contract – worth between C$15bn and C$19bn ($11.1 bn-$14.1bn) – must promise to give Canadian businesses billions of dollars in so-called industrial benefits. But this contradicts rules of the consortium that developed the F-35 fighter, a group of which Canada is a member.

The U.S. military’s F-35 office wrote to Ottawa last December to say the plane would not take part in the competition unless Canada dropped the demand for benefits. The letter was obtained by the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier think tank. Still, dropping the demand would likely infuriate the other firms in the race: Boeing Co, Airbus SE and Saab AB – and could prompt them to scrap their bids.

The Canadian government source said the firms involved had raised “a whole bunch” of different questions and concerns about the process.

“This (the U.S. letter) is one of them and there has been a great deal of work going on, which is not yet completed, to address as many of those concerns as possible while keeping the playing field level,” said source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough, in overall charge of the competition, told reporters on Tuesday that “as we design this process for fighter jet procurement, it has to be open, it has to be transparent, it has to be competitive”.

Two defense sources said one option would be to count the money Canada has already invested in the F-35 project as an industrial benefit. Although Ottawa is due to issue a final list of requirements for the jet next month, the sources predicted that would be delayed until after the election.

In response, the Canadian source said “we are still saying quite clearly we are going to get (the requirements) out soon”.

Canada has been trying unsuccessfully for almost a decade to buy replacements for its aging F-18 fighters. The former Conservative administration said in 2010 it would buy 65 F-35s but later scrapped the decision, triggering years of delays. (Source: Reuters)

(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: The Canadian government has painted itself into a corner with its haphazard management of its fighter replacement program.

Despite an election promise to leave the F-35 program, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not pull out so Canadian industry could continue to make parts for the aircraft.

However, as a program member, it cannot require any industrial offsets for the F-35 as it is requesting from the other competitors.

So, now it only has two alternatives: keep the requirement for offsets, which means the F-35 will not compete, or change its rules, and forfeit offsets, thereby losing their value, estimated at 50% of program cost, or about C$5-7bn.)

07 May 19. Images show construction on China’s third and largest aircraft carrier – analysts. Construction of China’s first full-sized aircraft carrier is well under way, according to satellite images obtained and analyzed by a U.S. think tank. The images from April, provided to Reuters by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, reveal considerable recent activity during the last six months on a large vessel at the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai.

China has not formally confirmed it is building a third carrier, despite recent hints in state media, and the timing and extent of its carrier program remain state secrets.

The Pentagon said last week that work had begun, but no images have emerged until now. Both Asian and Western militaries, and regional security analysts, are seeking information on the carrier, which is expected to be China’s first large, modern platform capable of leading a full range of strike group operations.

The effort to build a large, locally designed carrier is seen as a core part of China’s extensive military modernization drive. A series of recent Reuters Special Reports showed how that effort is challenging decades of U.S. strategic superiority in East Asia.

The CSIS images show a bow section that appears to end with a flat 30-metre (98-foot) front and a separate hull section 41 meters wide, with gantry cranes looming overhead.

That suggests a vessel, which China has dubbed Type 002, somewhat smaller than 100,000-tonne U.S. carriers but larger than France’s 42,500-tonne Charles de Gaulle, analysts say.

Fabrication halls the size of several soccer pitches have been built nearby, and work appears to be continuing on a floodable basin, possibly to float the finished hull into the nearby Yangtze River estuary.

“While details regarding the Type 002 are limited, what is observable at Jiangnan is consistent with what is expected for the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s third aircraft carrier,” said the CSIS’ ChinaPower analysis, published on its website Tuesday.

CSIS analyst Matthew Funaiole told Reuters that images taken late last year were inconclusive, but that now the work under way is clear.

“From what we can see there has been a lot of activity in the last six months or so,” he said. “It would appear that it is the third carrier, and if it is not, it’s hard to envisage what other large vessel it would be.”

The Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military modernization, issued last Friday, noted that the third carrier would probably be larger than the first two and fitted with a catapult launch system to accelerate aircraft during takeoff.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the report said.

Funaiole and other analysts said it was unclear what kind of catapult – traditional steam-powered or a more cutting-edge electromagnetic system – would be used. It also remains unclear whether the Type 002 would be nuclear-powered. China has 10 nuclear-powered submarines, but so far no surface ships with nuclear propulsion; some analysts think China is not ready to make that step.

Singapore-based regional security analyst Ian Storey said a full-sized carrier would make some of China’s neighbors nervous and highlight the importance of their strategic relationship with the United States.

“Once completed, it will outclass any warship from any Asian country, including India and Japan,” said Storey, of the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. “It is yet another indication that China has emerged as Asia’s paramount naval power.”

China’s first two carriers are relatively small, with only up to 25 aircraft, less than half the number aboard U.S. carriers, and have jump ramps built into their bows. That configuration limits not just the types of aircraft that can fly off them, but how much weaponry and fuel they can carry.

Its first carrier, the Liaoning, was a Soviet-era Ukrainian ship bought secondhand in 1998 and re-fitted in China. A still-unnamed second carrier based on that design, launched in 2017, was built locally.

The Liaoning had been seen as more of a training platform for teaching personnel the tricky art of carrier operations. But last month, Chinese state media said the ship “is starting to play a combat role following recent modifications and intensive training exercises.”

The second carrier has been undergoing sea trials from its base in northern Dalian and is not expected to enter service until 2020.

China’s state media have quoted experts as saying China needs at least six carriers. The United States operates 11 carriers.

China’s Ministry of Defence did not respond to a request for comment. (Source: Reuters)

07 May 19. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Williamtown RAAF Base Susceptible to ‘Intergranular Corrosion’, KPMG Report Finds. Australian defence officials have been urged to consider round-the-clock dehumidification systems at an Air Force base near Newcastle to curb the corrosion risk for its fleet of Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Auditing and consulting firm KPMG was tasked with doing a report on the “intergranular corrosion mitigation options” for the 72 F-35A fighter jets, bought by the Australian Defence Force for $17bn.  Concerns over the risk of metal stress and cracking were raised in 2017, the year before the next-generation fighters were due to come to Australia. The FOI report obtained by the ABC said of the three bases where the jets would be based, only Williamtown, near Newcastle, had been identified as having potential problems. The risk is posed by salt and other climatic conditions.

As a result, KPMG recommended the full-time use of mobile dehumidification units, in conjunction with other systems. The projected costs for the infrastructure have been redacted in the KPMG report released through FOI. (Source: (Source: defense-aerospace.com/ABC)

07 May 19. Flight Data Recorder from Japan’s Crashed F-35A Retrieved, But Key Data Still Missing. The Defense Ministry has retrieved part of the flight data recorder from a F-35A stealth fighter that went missing last month, but it was heavily damaged and did not include a storage device to record speed and altitude data, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Tuesday. The discovery on the sea floor, the exact location of which has been withheld for security reasons, is therefore unlikely to help determine the cause of the crash. What looked like some parts of the stealth fighter — which cost more than ¥10bn — were also spotted on the sea floor, about 1,500 meters below the surface. The Defense Ministry plans to salvage them, said a public relations officer with the Air Self-Defense Force in Tokyo. The F-35A stealth fighter went missing on April 9 about 135 kilometers east of Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, during a combat exercise together with other three F-35As. The pilot, Major Akinori Hosomi, has yet to be found. (end of excerpt)

(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: This article mentions, just in passing, that the F-35’s flight recorder “did not include a storage device to record speed and altitude data,” a stunning omission on an aircraft that has been hailed for 20 years as the most sophisticated fighter ever built.  Conveniently for its backers, this means that the causes of the unexplained incident will probably never be ascertained, and therefore will not further degrade the aircraft’s reputation.)  (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Japan Times)

07 May 19. WA budget to boost defence and shipbuilding opportunities. WA Premier Mark McGowan, Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery and Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia have launched the South Metropolitan TAFE (SMT) Naval Base Campus in Henderson, to plan for the future of Western Australia’s growing shipbuilding and defence work industry.

The McGowan Labor government has invested $2.4m in the new campus, which will deliver a multi-skilled workforce to meet the naval shipbuilding industry’s requirements and boost defence work capabilities.

Consolidating heavy fabrication, marine fabrication, welding and composite apprenticeship training from the old Henderson and Rockingham campuses, SMT has designed the new facility with training in shipbuilding and defence work in mind.

The WA budget will include a range of initiatives to support the state’s push to become a defence industry powerhouse, including:

  • New state-of-the-art TAFE shipbuilding training facility at Naval Base;
  • Anticipated growth in shipbuilding student numbers in WA; and
  • $3m to continue Office of Defence West’s work.

South Metropolitan TAFE has been working in partnership with defence for more than two decades, delivering a range of qualifications and courses throughout the state and nationally to all arms of the defence industry.

Premier McGowan said, “Extra funding for the Office of Defence West to secure more defence work contracts, the opening of the Naval Base Campus (TAFE facility), and the establishment of the Office of Defence Skilling are all vital steps in delivering the key strategies identified within the WA Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan.”

In close proximity to relevant employers, industry and the Australian Marine Complex, the SMT Naval Base Campus will offer a mix of apprentice training and fee-for-service as well as post trade training.

“South Metropolitan TAFE Naval Base Campus is a state-of-the-art, all-round training facility that will deliver a skilled workforce to meet the naval shipbuilding industry’s requirements both in WA and nationally well into the future,” Premier McGowan added.

Minister Ellery reinforced the Premier’s comments, saying, “The opening of South Metropolitan TAFE Naval Base Campus will increase the availability of trained and skilled shipbuilding workforce state-wide and nationally and also places WA at the forefront of defence industry training.”

The extra funding will further enable the establishment of a Defence Advisory Forum, drawing on the expertise of representatives from Defence and the defence industry, to provide advice to the Premier and the Minister for Defence Issues.

The McGowan government will also commit a further $3m for the Office of Defence West, as part of the 2019-20 state budget, to continue to support the federal Department of Defence to achieve its objectives, and work with local industry to deliver sovereign capability requirements.

Minister Papalia added, “Our proximity to operational areas, and being home to the country’s largest Navy Base, means WA already plays a key role in Australia’s strategic interests. We also have the greatest concentration of defence-related prime contractors and small to medium enterprises of any capital in Australia.”

Housed within the Naval Base Campus is the WA Office of the Naval Shipbuilding College (NSC), which has its headquarters in Adelaide. The co-location of the NSC to WA, one of two major naval defence industry hubs in Australia, will enhance the partnership to meet the needs of shipbuilding and defence industries.

“The state budget $3m funding boost for Defence West will help ensure the office continues to champion the capability, capacity and workers that service and contribute to the national endeavour and global industry,” Minister Papalia added.

The McGowan government launched the Western Australian Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan – a first such plan developed by a WA government, which outlines a strategy to grow WA’s defence industry and become a key sector in the WA economy.

A focus of the strategy has been to establish an Office of Defence Skilling within SMT Naval Base Campus. The purpose of the office is to develop a workforce development strategy covering priority projects across all six capability domains in the Defence Integrated Investment Program.

As part of the McGowan government’s Plan for Jobs, the establishment of Defence West and commitment to appoint a Minister for Defence Issues to champion the West Australian defence industry have been fulfilled.

In the short time that Defence West has been operational, it has been productive in supporting the defence industry including launching the Western Australian Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan, hosting the inaugural Indo-Pacific Defence Conference in Western Australia and hosting and supporting industry at major conferences and exhibitions, including Pacific 2017 and Land Forces 2018. (Source: Defence Connect)

03 May 19. China on faster pace to develop nuclear triad, according to Pentagon, analysts. Thanks to an accelerated development of its Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet, China is closer to creating a nuclear triad force than had been previously believed, according to the Pentagon and defence analysts.

“We’re certainly tracking what they’re doing with ballistic-carrying missile [submarines],” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said on 3 May during a Pentagon briefing on the Defense Department’s 2 May release of its annual report of Chinese military capabilities.

While Shriver said he would stop short at saying China had started to develop a triad, he added, “It looks like they’re headed in that direction – toward having a capable delivery system in three domains, to have a triad.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)

03 May 19. South African military spending: what does the future hold?  From 1988 onwards, military expenditure in South Africa has fluctuated. After a small surge spending throughout the 2000s, South Africa’s Department of Defence is now looking to make further cuts. What are some of the key reasons behind the fluctuations in military spending and what future investments could affect expenditure further?

South African military spending has historically been largely influenced by the 23-year-long Namibian War of Independence between 1966 and 1990. Since 1988, South African military spending in real terms was on the decline until 2001, when it began to rise again until 2015.

From 2015 to 2018, military expenditure has started to fall again. In current prices, South Africa spent R$48.21bn ($3.64bn), or around 1% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

With help from the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, we look at the key events that have shaped South African military spending and the current projects are in development that could affect expenditure in the near future.

South African military spending: Historical trends (1988-2018)

Since the Namibian War of Independence ended, military expenditure in South Africa experienced a sustained period of decline.

“South African military spending since 1988 displays a U-shaped curve,” says Dr Nan Tian, a SIPRI researcher with the Arms and Military Expenditure programme.

“Spending fell from about 1988 to 1999 as part of the disarming (termination of South African nuclear weapons) and establishing civilian control of the military post-apartheid. The end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990s was also one of worst economic recessions in South Africa. These factors together led to a decrease in spending.”

In 1999, the South African Department of Defence (DoD) signed the Strategic Defence Acquisition with the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela, then worth R$30bn, for the procurement of military weaponry and equipment such as naval corvettes, helicopters and fighter aircraft.

On South Africa’s behalf, the ANC signed contracts with defence firms in Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, and France, as well as some South African defence companies.

Tian says: “Spending increased between 1999 and 2012, partly because of the major arms deal in 1999 and improvements in the economy. Spending has flattened since 2012 (with some minor decreases) as the country has grapples poor economic conditions and overspending in the general budget.”

2018 figures: continued decline since 2015 peak

According to the SIPRI report, South African Military spending fell in real terms from $3.64bn in 2017 to $3.45bn in 2018, as it has done since peaking at $3.74bn 2015.

In terms of GDP, however, South Africa’s proportionate spending has remained fairly consistent since 2010, remaining at 1.1% of GDP until 2017. This is a considerable fall from the 1988 high of 4.6% or even the 1994 peak of 2.8%.

During the opening speech of the Defence and Military Veterans Budget Vote in May 2018, Minister for Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said: “South Africa is a peaceful country that lives in harmony with its neighbours. However, the unpredictability of the strategic environment, together with emerging conflict trends on the African continent, requires us to maintain a credible military force as a deterrent.

“Some of the countries in the SADC [Southern African Development Community] are injecting financial resources to build their military capacity through acquisition programmes. Conversely, South Africa is on a path of reduced defence expenditure.”

Future of South African military spending

What could shape military spending in the near future?

Tian says: “The SA cabinet has been looking to further cut the military spending. It looks to decrease the number of people working in government service which includes national defence force.

“The country is also looking to reduce in areas such as Special Defence Account and various goods and service items such as computer services, contractors and travel and subsistence. Overall, there is expectation that spending will decrease in the near future.”

Despite the likely continuation of defence budget cuts, there are still some potential investments to be made in the South African military.

For example, the DoD’s Defence Technology Enterprise Development programme, managed by South African defence procurement agency Armscor and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, plans to create a minimum of 20 new black-owned defence small and medium-sized enterprises by 2023, according to Engineering News.

Furthermore, South Africa’s Navy is planning to buy more ships and patrol vessels under Operation Phakisa, and the Air Force is looking to upgrade its Rooivalk attack helicopter, potentially replacing it with the Rooivalk Mark 2. Whether these projects will require additional funding or can be absorbed despite the perceived budget cuts remains to be seen. (Source: army-technology.com)

06 May 19. South Korea responds to growing regional tensions with focus on power projection. With renewed threat from North Korea and the rising challenges of an assertive China, South Korea has initiated a range of naval, air and land acquisition programs that will support the Republic of Korea’s transition towards developing a robust, deployable, conventional power projection and deterrence focused force.

Since the end of the Korean conflict, the two Korea’s have maintained an often tenuous peace – defined by the promise of mutually assured destruction should hostilities bubble over. While the US, Russia and China have sought to maintain the armistice for fear of conflict between the superpowers, the increasingly unpredictable North Korean regime combined with the competing economic, political and strategic interests driven by China has served to prompt a major strategic rethink in South Korea.

South Korea’s response has been driven by two distinctly different factors, namely North Korea’s continued pursuit of reliable nuclear delivery systems and the conventional manpower and firepower of the North Korean Army; and rising power projection capabilities and willingness of China to assert its influence over a number of contested territories and sensitive sea-lines of communication in the the South and East China Seas.

In response, Korea has embarked on a series of acquisition and modernisation programs targeting each of the branches of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces playing a critical role in the nation’s response to its increasingly challenging geo-political environment.

Transitioning toward a blue water navy

Developing a blue water navy has been a major focus of Korea’s response to the mounting capabilities of North Korea and China’s continued assertiveness in the South and East China Seas – central to this Maritime Task Flotilla Seven, established in 2010, which incorporates a range of amphibious warfare ships, namely the Dokdo Class, large surface combatants including the Seejong the Great and Chungmugong Classes, advanced domestically-designed and built frigates and corvettes and a growing fleet of advanced submarines, including conventional submarines to be capable of submarine launched ballistic missiles.

The centrepiece of Korea’s transition towards a blue water capable navy is the Dokdo Class vessels, which are slightly smaller than the Royal Australian Navy’s Canberra Class amphibious warfare ships – however, unlike HMA Ships Canberra and Adelaide,  Korea is actively pursuing the acquisition and introduction of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters to provide an integrated fleet air defence and maritime strike capabilities.

While the Dokdo’s serve as the flagship in Korea’s ‘Rapid Response Fleet’ structure, Korea has recently announced plans for three additional 7,600-tonne block two Seejong the Great Class Aegis guided missile destroyers worth a total of US$3.3bn, to be completed by 2028 – these vessels are expected to serve part of Korea’s broader integrated air and missile defence capabilities with a secondary focus on anti-surface and land attack capabilities.

Further supporting the acquisition and modernisation of the Korean surface fleet, the Korean government has seen the Korean Navy also broaden the design and capabilities of the nation’s destroyer fleet with the planned introduction of six evolved KDX-IIA Aegis powered destroyers, supported by a fleet of advanced guided missile frigates.

Korea’s fleet of advanced submarines, namely locally produced variants of the German-designed Type 214 submarines, provide an effective asset escort, anti-merchant hunter-killer and conventional deterrence capability – however the growing nuclear capability of North Korea has prompted the South to begin the development of the four advanced Dosan Ahn Changho Class submarines, which are designed to serve a role similar to the larger ballistic missile submarines of the larger superpowers.

These large, conventional submarines as part of the US$2.9bn KSS-III program are expected to have a range of about 10,000 nautical miles, combine endurance, relatively-high speed for a conventional submarine and an integrated land-attack capability through locally developed cruise and ballistic missiles to serve as a credible conventional deterrent to North Korea’s conventional and nuclear forces.

F-35 and the fifth-gen air force

Korea, like Australia, the US and other key regional allies, has embraced the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the future of its air combat capability signalling a transformation in the nation’s air power. Korea’s air power modernisation has largely been driven not by the capability of North Korea, rather it has been driven by the increasing integrated air and missile defence capabilities of China and, to a lesser extent, Japan.

While Korea was a committed partner in the F-35 program with an initial order for 40 F-35A variants signed in 2014, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) recently completed research for the acquisition of 20 additional F-35s pending a request for proposal worth about US$3bn, which will be supplemented by a modernised Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) to be paired with Boeing P-8 Poseidon and Airbus-designed and manufactured KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

Additionally, Korea has committed to developing a domestic fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the KAI KF-X, in partnership with both Indonesia and Turkey – the fifth-generation aircraft is designed to replace its ageing fleet of F-16 Flacon, F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft with aircraft designed to have a stealth profile beyond that of the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon and less than the F-35.

The KF-X will provide a ‘low’ end air combat capability to the ‘high’ end air combat capability of the F-35, serving to support the broader transition towards developing a fifth-generation air force. Further supporting this transition is Korea’s continued operation of the Boeing 737 Peace Eye (a Korean variant of the RAAF’s E-7A Wedgetail), with plans for acquire a fleet of electronic attack aircraft similar to the EA-18G Growler aircraft or the G550 based electronic attack aircraft.

Similar platforms equates to a similar force structure?

Korea’s focus on establishing itself as a regional power capable of intervening in regional affairs serves as a model for Australian force structure planners – the comparable economic, political and demographic size of Australia and South Korea combined with the similarity in the platforms and systems operated by both nations serve as a building block for both interoperability and similar force structure models.

As an island nation, Australia is defined by its relationship with the ocean. Maritime power projection and sea control play a pivotal role in securing Australia’s economic and strategic security as a result of the intrinsic connection between the nation and Indo-Pacific Asia’s strategic sea-lines-of-communication in the 21st century.

Increasingly, multi-domain air power plays an important role in the efficacy of naval forces and serves as a key component in both the force structure and capability development plans for both South Korea and Australia –these similarities support not only closer relationships between the two nations that share unique geo-political and strategic similarities but also provide the opportunity to develop robust force structures to respond to the rapidly evolving regional strategic environment. (Source: Defence Connect)

06 May 19. US to deploy aircraft carrier to send message to Iran. Move follows end to sanction waivers on Iran oil. The US will deploy an aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the US Central Command region to send “a clear message to the Iranian regime” that any attack on US interests will be met with “unrelenting force”, national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday. Mr Bolton said that while the US was not “seeking war” with Iran, it was “fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces”.  Although it is unclear where the carrier will be sent specifically, US Central Command is responsible for the country’s military operations in Egypt, the Middle East and central Asia.  The move comes as the US significantly escalates pressure on Tehran. In recent weeks Washington has made a bid to reduce Iran’s oil exports “to zero” by ending all sanctions waivers for countries importing crude. The US has also recently branded Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organisation, the first time it formally labelled part of another country’s government as terrorists. Mr Bolton said the move by the US to deploy its USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and bombers was a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”. The National Security Council did not respond to requests for further detail. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and moved to reimpose sanctions. In April, the IMF reported that US sanctions against Iran have triggered a collapse in economic growth, pushing the Islamic republic into a deep recession and lifting inflation towards 40 per cent. The fund linked its forecast of a 6 per cent contraction in Iran this year with Mr Trump’s efforts to tighten an economic squeeze on the country. (Source: FT.com)


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