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29 Nov 19. Saudi Arabia – Asir: Houthi rebels claim downing Saudi-led coalition helicopter via surface-to-air missile system. On 29 November, Houthi rebels claimed to have shot-down a Saudi-led coalition military-grade US-made AH-64 Apache helicopter via unspecified air defence system engagement over Asir Province of southwest Saudi Arabia located along the border with Yemen. The Houthis have subsequently released a video and images of the alleged engagement which indicate that an AH-64 went down; however, it remains unclarified at this time at what altitude the reported incident occurred, though it appears to be below FL260. While the video does not clearly show what type/variant of air defence system was employed during the engagement, it does indicate that some form of surface-to-sir missile (SAM) system was launched to complete the alleged downing. The Kingdom has yet to comment of on the alleged AH-64 downing; however, this would represent the first confirmed instance of Houthi rebels downing a manned air asset via SAM system engagement over the southwest provinces of Aisr, Jizan and/or Najran since the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis began in 2015. Of note, the Houthis employed modified Russian-made 2K12 Kub (SA-6 GAINFUL) conventional SAM systems to shoot down US MQ-9 Reaper drones in western Yemen over Dhamar Governorate on 20 August and Hodeidah Governorate on 6 June. The southwest provinces of Asir, Jizan and Najran are located within the Security Control of Air Traffic and Air Navigation Aids (SCATANA) area of Saudi Arabia, which is covered by a notice and a publication issued by the civil aviation authority of the country (NOTAM OEJD W0438/18; AIP SUP AIRAC 05/18 and 07/18). The majority of Houthi rebel surface-to-surface missile (SSM) launches into the Kingdom and associated Saudi-led coalition intercepts – along with drone downings – occur over the southwest provinces in the SCATANA area. EASA, Germany and France have issued notices to operators advising against conducting civil aviation flight activity within the southwest provinces of Saudi Arabia (EASA CZIB 2018-01-R3, NOTAM EDGG B0877/19, France – AIC A 03/19).
Analysis
While Houthi rebel SSM and military-grade weaponised drone launches into Saudi Arabia have dropped significantly since mid-September, the use of a SAM system to allegedly shoot-down a manned air asset highlights the persistent threat to aviation which remains ongoing over the SCATANA area of the Kingdom bordering Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition stated it conducted airstrikes targeting Houthi rebel SA-6 conventional SAM systems near the Yemeni capital Sanaa on 20 January and 18 August 2018. The SA-6 has the capability to engage aircraft at altitudes up to FL450 and at ranges out to 15 miles (24 km). In addition, the Saudi-led coalition released an intelligence dossier on 26 March 2018 claiming that Iran had provided Houthi rebels with Iranian-made Sayyad-2 radar-guided conventional SAM systems. The Sayyad-2 has the capability to engage air targets at altitudes up to FL660 and at ranges out to 50 miles (80 km). The Saudi-led coalition released an intelligence dossier in December 2017 which revealed that Houthi rebels were developing improvised SAM systems using modified Russian-made R-27T (AA-10b ALAMO) and R-73E (AA-11 ARCHER) infrared (IR) guided air-to-air missiles (AAMs) in a ground-based air-defence role. We assess such systems at a minimum would be capable of engaging air targets at altitudes over FL300 and ranges out to at least 12.4 miles (20 km). We assess Houthi rebels used improvised SAM systems with modified IR guided AAMs to down a US MQ-9 drone over Sanaa on 1 October 2017 and to target Saudi-led coalition US-made fighter jets over Yemen on 8 January 2018 along with 21 & 27 March 2018. Credible reporting indicates the Houthis are in possession of anti-aircraft artillery and manportable air defence systems (MANPADS) capable of engaging aerial targets at altitudes below FL260, to include Russian-made Igla-series weapons and Iranian-made Misagh-1/2 variants. We assess territory in Saudi Arabia outside the SCATANA area to be a HIGH risk airspace environment at all altitudes. We assess the SCATANA area of Saudi Arabia and all of Yemeni territory to be EXTREME risk airspace environments at all altitudes.
Advice
Approvals: As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for flight schedules with planned stops at aerodromes in the country or with overflight of the airspace. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to or over the country in the near term are fully aware of the latest security situation.
Military Air Activity: Increased military air operations have the potential to cause airspace congestion and impact the safety of civil aviation flights. Any significant increase in the amount of air operations over the country may impact the availability of airports along with access to the airspace. Aviation operators should monitor airport/airspace-specific airspace-specific notices, bulletins, circulars, advisories, prohibitions and restrictions prior to departure to avoid flight schedule disruption.
Shoot-down Policy: The country has an aggressive air intercept and shoot-down policy which allows air and air defence forces to intercept and disable aerial targets violating airspace regulations. Military air and air defence assets may be employed to down aerial targets under the auspice of the policy. While legal civil aviation flights are unlikely to be directly targeted, there remains a latent but credible risk of misidentification and interception by military air and air defence assets. (Source: Osprey)

28 Nov 19. Trump Highlights Afghan Progress During Thanksgiving Visit to Troops in Afghanistan. President Donald J. Trump highlighted the sacrifices and grit of U.S. service members fighting against extremism by visiting Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, for Thanksgiving.

The president also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the U.S. Air Force headquarters on the base. He then spoke to more than a thousand service members at a hangar on the flight line.

“We’ve had tremendous success against ISIS in the past three, four months, likewise with al-Qaida we’re down to a very small number,” Trump said during a short news conference after his meeting with Ghani. “If the Taliban wants to make a deal, we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do, they do; and if they don’t, they don’t.”

He said that U.S. officials are speaking with Taliban officials.

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of Resolute Support Mission, accompanied the president to his meeting with Ghani.

The president asked Milley to discuss the operations against ISIS in Afghanistan. Milley said Afghan and coalition troops have made tremendous progress against ISIS in Nangarhar Province.

“They’ve been hurt bad,” Milley said. “Their numbers have been attrited and dwindled significantly. Organizationally, they have not been destroyed, but they have been severely hurt.

As the president mentioned, there have been ongoing talks with the Taliban, and hopefully those will be successful and hopefully, they will lead to Afghan-to-Afghan dialogue in the not too distant future.”

The president noted that a large number of ISIS fighters and their families have surrendered in the past month. The constant pressure by Afghan and coalition forces was key to that result.

President Ghani thanked Trump for his efforts on behalf of the Afghan people. He thanked American forces for their courage and determination. Ghani noted that more than 2,000 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 50,000 have been wounded.

Trump also addressed more than 1,000 service members at a base hangar. He told the troops they represent the best military in the world. He also praised the professionalism of the forces that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“American warriors hunted him down and executed in a masterful raid, and they punched his ticket to hell,” Trump said. He also said the American-led Defeat-ISIS coalition “defeated 100 percent of the ISIS Caliphate.”

The president said he is looking at plans to draw down the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He said that with new equipment and new tactics U.S. forces in the region actually can do more with fewer forces in the country.

The troops were surprised by the visit by the president. Trump followed traditional military protocol and joined MIlley and Miller in helping to serve the Thanksgiving feast to the troops at the Bagram dining facility.

He also sat and spoke with service members, and he had pictures taken with many of them.

“I could think of no place I would rather be on Thanksgiving, than with you,” Trump told service members at the dining facility. (Source: US DoD)

27 Nov 19. U.S. Forces Reset in Syria, ISIS Struggles to Re-form. U.S. forces are reset and repostured in Eastern Syria and have restarted operations with the Syrian Democratic Forces aimed at defeating ISIS, Army Lt. Gen. Robert White, the commander of Combined Joint Operation Inherent Resolve, said today in Baghdad. At an impromptu news conference outside his headquarters, the general said everything is going well.

U.S. forces withdrew from an area 10 kilometers deep on the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey launched an incursion into the area in early October.

Already a complicated battlespace, the Turkish move made it even more chaotic, introducing Turkish-supported paramilitary groups, Russian forces and Syrian regime forces into the region, White said.

U.S. service members remain in Eastern Syria to ensure that ISIS doesn’t re-emerge and get money from oil fields in that part of Syria.

White said the command will reduce the number of U.S. forces in the area to around 600. “We are in the process of removing some of the soldiers and service members that were there, [and that will] probably take about another week, based on the austere environment that’s there,” he said. “Most of them will return either to [the continental United States] or down into Kuwait.”

The U.S. and coalition effort is focused on the mission to defeat ISIS, said senior Operation Inherent Resolve officials. The coalition effort is aimed at helping Iraqi and Syrian forces take on the terror group. The physical caliphate that ISIS established has been destroyed, and the mission now is to prevent it from reconstituting itself.

“What we’re seeing from [ISIS] at the moment is a relatively low-level of attacks being conducted against the Iraqi government security forces, etc., in certain … more marginal parts of the country,” the official said. “We’re not seeing a huge groundswell of support for them amongst the population. Nor are we seeing them being able to gather the momentum that they particularly would like to.”

Nor has the group been able to capitalize on the death of their leader Baghdadi, the confused situation in northeast Syria or the protests in Iraq, defense officials have said. Officials believe that the terror group wanted to take advantage of these opportunities, but can’t.  Officials said there are roughly 11,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq, but they are ineffectual. They are finding it difficult to move people and materiel around. They have been forced into marginal areas and cut off from sources of funding and recruiting.

Every time these small cells of terrorists try and pull together a larger group to launch attacks, “they’re either rumbled by somebody, or they don’t have enough material,” the official said.

The group is not entirely toothless and has launched some small-scale attacks. Officials have said the danger comes if the group is allowed to recover, so continuing pressure on ISIS is required to finally eliminate the group.

In Iraq, OIR officials are focusing on the capabilities of security forces — defense and police — need to deal with the ISIS threat. “It is a very different threat from the one that they defeated in the liberation of the northern areas and the west …  a couple of years ago, and they have to approach it differently,” the official said. “It’s almost back to a more standard Iraqi security approach — controlling movement around population areas, policing, the occasional operations to attack these pockets of [ISIS] wherever they are found. In broad terms, I think they’re doing that pretty well.”

There is room for improvement and Iraqi and coalition advisors are working together to improve capabilities like intelligence collection and dissemination, counterinsurgency operations, surveillance systems, the decision-making process and overall command and control.

This is a far cry from what the coalition did in the past. Coalition forces were training and outfitting large numbers of soldiers to take on ISIS in Mosul and its surrounds. The coalition forces does not need to do that now, because the Iraqis can train their own soldiers now. “We can slightly step back providing the advice for that sort of thing and focus on areas that no matter their air force capability, for example,” he said.

The coalition role has changed and will continue to change if conditions continue to improve, and there is a reduced threat from ISIS. “I think you can see and expect to see that trend continuing,” he said. “Because what we don’t want to be doing is having our soldiers here and teaching Iraqi soldiers how to shoot their rifles for forever.”

If the situation continues to improve, “we would expect to see some sort of continued reduction in our presence over time,” the official said. “We want to continue to work with the multilateral institutions who are working here. So NATO has a mission here. The [European Union] has a mission here. They’re all involved in security sector reform. I think what you are likely to see is that clear distinction between our mission — OIR — focusing on that enduring defeat of [ISIS] and the other multilateral organizations doing longer term security sector reform.” (Source: US DoD)

26 Nov 19. Thirteen French troops killed in Sahel war against Islamists. Two helicopters crash in Mali in worst death toll in three decades for French military. France’s Operation Barkhane sees 4,500 troops fighting insurgencies in the southern reaches of the Sahara in west Africa. Thirteen French military personnel died in a crash between two helicopters while combating Islamist militants in Mali, in the deadliest incident for French troops in more than three decades. The crash brings the death toll to a total of 41 since former president François Hollande sent forces to free the Malian city of Timbuktu from Islamist extremists in January 2013. It is the largest number of casualties suffered by the French military in a single day since 19 died in an air-crash in Djibouti in 1986. A suicide bomb attack in Beirut in 1983 killed 58.

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday expressed his “deep sadness” about the deaths during “their difficult struggle against terrorism in the Sahel”. France’s Operation Barkhane, in which 4,500 troops are fighting insurgencies in the southern reaches of the Sahara in west Africa, has struggled lately to contain the Islamist threat. In two earlier incidents this month, 37 people died in an insurgent attack on buses carrying workers to a gold mine in Burkina Faso, and Isis killed more than 50 at a Malian military base. Mr Macron has portrayed the Sahel operation as essential for the security of Europe because it is seeking to prevent the desert area from becoming a refuge for Isis militants and other insurgent groups. Defence minister Florence Parly last week urged EU allies to help more, saying the French-led operation was facing the “very difficult challenge” of asymmetric war in Mali and its neighbours in the Sahel.

The French have received support from US intelligence and logistical and military contributions from the UK, Spain, Estonia and Denmark. François Heisbourg, special adviser at the Fondation pour la Récherche Stratégique, a think-tank, said the French people were generally supportive of the war in the Sahel given the domestic terror threat in France, but like Ms Parly they were likely to demand more contributions from EU neighbours. “This is quite a nasty theatre of war,” he said. “I suspect that this incident will not actually create much of a political problem for the government in terms of the mission against jihadis. But it will sharpen the debate here about what the rest of the Europeans are doing.” The two helicopters, a Tiger and a Cougar, were flying on a moonless night on Monday in support of Barkhane troops fighting “terrorist armed groups” in the Liptako region of southern Mali, according to the French defence ministry. “Engaged on the ground for several days, the commandos were tracking a group of terrorists found a few hours earlier, who were using pick-ups and motorcycles,” when the two helicopters collided, the ministry said on Tuesday. There were no survivors among the crew or soldiers on board.

Gen François Lecointre, defence chief of staff, told a news conference that the main militant group in the area was Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Ms Parly said: “The struggle against terrorism is a struggle without respite, without mercy.” (Source: FT.com)

26 Nov 19. ABECSG begins air support for Operation Inherent Resolve. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) has commenced air operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) as part of CENTCOM counter-terrorism operations in the region. Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW 7) has carried out air support operations and defensive counter-air support operations as part of the activities.

The ABECSG passed through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Arabian Gulf earlier this month. The ABECSG has been operating in the US 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) since May as part of its commitment to the free flow of commerce, regional maritime security and freedom of navigation.

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) is the flagship of ABESG.

USS Abraham Lincoln commanding officer Captain Walt Slaughter said: “The Lincoln team is on station and supporting the combatant commander upon arrival due to the diligence and professionalism of our crew and strike group counterparts.

“As we navigate throughout the theatre, we will exercise our vast capabilities and interoperability with international partners, as a mobile and lethal force.”

The US 5th Fleet AOO, covering approximately 2.5m m², includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The AOO comprises 20 countries and includes three choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb in Yemen.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has been deployed to the US 5th Fleet AOO to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and the three strategic choke points.

The strike group assets include staff, ships and aircraft of CSG 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and CVW 7.

CVW 7 commander Captain William Reed said: “Today’s operations are a testament to how carrier air power can project well beyond the shore. It has tremendous reach.

“The carrier strike group as a whole provides a robust military capability in the region, and CVW 7 remains ready to deliver that capability at any time if called upon.” (Source: naval-technology.com)

25 Nov 19. Canada Boosting Defense Spending, Industry Outreach. Canada is planning to ramp up its defense spending through 2026 and strengthen engagement with industry to address a wide range of threats, said Canada’s minister of national defense Nov. 22.

“We are concerned about the rapidly changing and unpredictable nature of the global security environment,” said Harjit Singh Sajjan. “The pace of change is staggering.”

Canada’s defense policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged,” sets a path forward that will allow the country to meet the challenges it is seeing, he said during remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum. That means “building a Canada that is strong at home, secure in North America and that is engaged in the world.”

To that end, Canada’s Liberal Party — which is led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently won a close election — has pledged to grow defense spending by 70 percent, from about $19bn in 2016 to $32bn in 2026, Sajjan said.

“This money, which is carved out of Canada’s fiscal framework, illustrates our commitment to supporting the women and men of the Canadian armed forces, buying new equipment and updating our infrastructure,” he said.

The country is investing in new defense programs to protect its homeland, he noted. For example, in Halifax a new fleet of Arctic and offshore patrol ships are being built. The government will also soon receive 16 new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft, Sajjan said.

Canada is seeking new, innovative technologies to meet its security and defense needs, he said. One program, the Innovation for Defense Excellence and Security, or IDEaS, is meant to connect the military with Canadian companies and innovators to solve some of its biggest challenges.

“We’re investing $1.6bn in this program to bring forward the best ideas to help better support our women and men in uniform,” he said. “It does not matter if you’re working from home, in a university lab, or a small company or a large corporation. Canada needs to hear from our best and brightest and to reach out.”

It is also reaching out to academia institutions through a program known as Mobilizing Insights in Defense and Security Program, or MINDS.

“MINDS is different from IDEaS in that our focus is on global security policy and generating knowledge in the public-policy realm,” Sajjan said. “We’re working closely with experts in the defense and security community … as a way to access relevant [and] timely defense experience that brings together a diversity of viewpoints.”

As it faces emerging threats around the world, Sajjan noted that Canada is stronger when it works together with its allies such as the United States.

“Canadians know that we can’t be an island of stability in an ocean of turmoil,” he said. “Eventually negative ripples will reach our shores, and it is why Canada will always work with our friends and neighbors.”

Ottawa’s “closest friend” is the United States, he said. It is bolstering that relationship with training exercises and aerospace and maritime defense initiatives through North American Aerospace Defense Command, sanctions enforcement and combating illegal traffic on the high seas, he said. “Canada and the U.S. do a lot together,” he said. “Simply put, we can address more threats and achieve greater security in North America together than by doing it alone.”

Another important relationship is the one Canada has with NATO, he added.

“Threats from non-state actors, challenges in the space and cyber domains and the ever-evolving information environment — all of these underscores the importance of our transatlantic security lines and its deterrence effect.”

Canada is committed to multilateralism and international cooperation, he said. It leading three NATO efforts globally, he noted. They include: countering Russian military aggression by deploying to Europe its largest military force since the end of Cold War; being present in Latvia providing additional security for the Baltic States; and working in the Middle East commanding NATO’s training mission in Iraq and building more effective defense and security institutions there, Sajjan said. (Source: glstrade.com/NDIA)

26 Nov 19. Myanmar military seizes Chinese-made MANPADS in operation against insurgents. Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw) has announced the seizure of a large cache of mostly Chinese-made weaponry, including an FN-6 man-portable air defence system (MANPADS), during ongoing operations against insurgents in northeastern Shan State.

The seizure of the cache in a camp belonging to the ethnic Palaung Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) occurred following a reportedly brief clash on 22 November in Namsang Township, according to the military’s True News public relations wing. The seized weaponry also included several mostly Chinese-manufactured assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Comment

The incident marks the first time that a MANPADS has been confirmed in the inventory of an insurgent faction in active hostilities with the Tatmadaw, although to date there have been no reports of a MANPADSs having been used in combat. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

25 Nov 19. Libya – Tripoli: LNA claims air defences mistakenly downed US military drone on 21 November (UPDATE #1). International media outlet reporting from 25 November indicates that the Libyan National Army (LNA) has claimed that its air defences mistakenly shot down the US military drone over Tripoli that US Africa Command confirmed was “lost” over the capital on 21 November. It remains unclarified at this time what type of US military drone was downed, at what altitude the incident occurred or what type of air-defence system was employed to complete the engagement. In a separate recent incident, reporting from various sources on 20 November indicates that the LNA also mistakenly shot down an Italian Air Force US-made MQ-9A Reaper drone, allegedly via Russian-made Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 GREYGOUND) conventional surface-to-air missile (SAM) system engagement over Tarhuna, located to the southeast of Tripoli.

The SA-22 is capable of engaging targets at altitudes up to FL490 and at ranges out to 12.4 miles (20 km). United Arab Emirates (UAE) provision of SA-22s to the LNA dates back to June in areas near Jufra (Fezzan Region) and Gharyan (Tripolitania Region). On 23 November, the LNA declared a “No-Fly Zone” over the capital and its suburbs via the issuance of a set of airspace restrictions covering a large portion of Tripolitania Region within north-west FIR Tripoli (HLLL). The LNA stated that “any suspicious target that threatens the safety of the people will be fired upon, whether such a target is on land, in the sea or air” and that “it is necessary to warn the aviation authority and all airlines using this area”. EASA along with the US, UK and French civil aviation authorities continue to prohibit civilian operators from carrying out all forms of flight operations to or over Libya (EASA CZIB-2017-02R5, UK NOTAM EGTT V0018/19, US NOTAM KICZ A0026/19, AIC France A 03/19). However, while a restriction issued by Germany for Libyan airspace prohibits their registered civilian operators from conducting flights over northwest Libya within a specific geographic area, the NOTAM allows German aviation entities to continue to conduct overflight of the remainder of FIR Tripoli (HLLL) at altitudes above FL260 (EDGG B0872/19).

Analysis

Since April, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) aligned LNA has been embroiled in armed conflict with the Tripoli-based UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) along with its aligned militias within a wide area of western and central Libya, with the majority of the fighting occurring in Tripolitania Region. During this time-frame, over 40 surface-to-air fire attacks targeting military-grade air assets in-flight over Libya have occurred, with the majority taking place in the Tripolitania Region. Commercial satellite imagery from late October also confirms that the UAE has deployed US-made HAWK conventional SAM systems to its military installations in Al-Khadim (Cyrenaica Region) and Jufra. The HAWK is capable of engaging aerial targets at altitudes up to FL650 and at ranges out to 30 miles (48 km). We also assess a limited inventory of older Soviet-era Russian-made SAM systems operated by the LNA and GNA-aligned militia forces pose a significant threat to aircraft operating well above FL260 over or near the Libyan cities of Benghazi (Cyrenaica) and Misratah (Tripolitania), respectively. Both the LNA and militia forces aligned with the GNA in Misratah have combat aircraft within their inventories capable of conducting air-to-air engagements at altitudes above FL260. GNA-aligned militias, LNA forces and specific violent non-state actor groups in Libya are assessed to be in possession of man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS) capable below FL260. Unsafe military air and air-defence activity, which has been a daily occurrence since April, is likely to occur routinely in the airspace over the country through the remainder of 2019 in areas near the coastal cities of Tripoli and Misratah or the Sirte Oil Basin. In the absence of a codified ceasefire or reconciliation pact agreed upon by the key factions in Libya, or the unilateral handover of high-altitude air and air-defence weapons by the factions to UN control, we assess the country to be an EXTREME risk airspace environment at all altitudes.

Risk area recommendation: Defer all flights subject to an operation specific risk assessment

Advice

Approvals: As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for flight schedules with planned stops at aerodromes in the country or with overflight of the airspace. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to or over the country in the near term are fully aware of the latest security situation.

Military Air Activity: Increased military air operations have the potential to cause airspace congestion and impact the safety of civil aviation flights. Any significant increase in the amount of air operations over the country may impact the availability of airports along with access to the airspace. Aviation operators should monitor airport/airspace-specific airspace-specific notices, bulletins, circulars, advisories, prohibitions and restrictions prior to departure to avoid flight schedule disruption.

Shoot-down Policy: The country has an aggressive air intercept and shoot-down policy which allows air and air defence forces to intercept and disable aerial targets violating airspace regulations. Military air and air defence assets may be employed to down aerial targets under the auspice of the policy. While legal civil aviation flights are unlikely to be directly targeted, there remains a latent but credible risk of misidentification and interception by military air and air defence assets. (Source: Osprey)

23 Nov 19. Taiwan Legislature Passes F-16V Special Budget. Lawmakers yesterday approved a special budget of NT$247.2bn (US$8.1bn) for the procurement of 66 F-16V jets from the US. Lawmakers reached a consensus on the final amount during cross-caucus talks, trimming NT$10m from the logistical fees budget. According to the Special Act on the Procurement of Updated Fighter Jets, passed in September, the procurement package covers the acquisition of the jets and their equipment, as well as the acquisition, maintenance, development and manufacture of ancillary systems. The fund would be drawn from loans and surplus revenue from the previous fiscal year, it says. If the expenditure exceeds the approved budget due to currency fluctuations, an item should be proposed in the general budget to cover the shortfall, it says.

Several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers signed up to speak after the passage of the special budget. The procurement plan for new US fighter jets was the first since 1992, after the nation’s two bids in 2000 and 2008 were rejected by Washington, DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying said.

The choice of the F-16V over the F-35B, which the nation initially expressed an interest in buying, was necessary, as even if Taipei gained Washington’s consent, it would have to wait more than 10 years before it could start receiving the planes, which would create a loophole in the nation’s air defense, Tsai said.

The nation’s fleet of F-16s are more than 20 years old, which poses a security risk for air force pilots, he said, adding that procurement of the new jets resolves this issue.

The F-16Vs would be equipped with active electronically scanned array radars, allowing pilots to detect the locations of People’s Liberation Army planes at an early stage, thereby significantly boosting their air advantage, he said.

DPP Legislator Karen Yu said the approval of the budget was a “historic moment.”

The nation is acquiring the F-16Vs for US$121m per unit, which is the lowest among all the countries that have secured a deal to purchase the jet, she said.

The new fleet of F-16Vs would replace the old fleet of F-5 jets and be deployed at the Chihhang Air Base in Taitung County, which occupies an important strategic position that serves as a passageway to the Miyako Strait and the Bashi Channel, a portal to Guam, she said.

Saying that national security is a nonpartisan issue, she thanked ruling and opposition lawmakers for supporting the budget.

The legislature only spent 46 working days to approve the Special Act on the Procurement of Updated Fighter Jets and the special budget, which was comparable to “the speed of light” in terms of the time it would normally take lawmakers to pass a bill, DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling said.

Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa this month said that the nation would receive two F-16Vs for testing in 2023 and would have received all 66 planes by 2026. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Taipei Times)

22 Nov 19. US Defense Officials Quash Rumors of Potential F-35 Sales to the UAE. Pentagon and State Department officials threw cold water on any notions of U.S. ally the United Arab Emirates (UAE) potentially getting the Lockheed Martin F-35 this week at the Dubai Air Show, as America’s flagship fifth-generation fighter jet made its first appearance at the Middle Eastern expo.

Talk of the Gulf state’s candidacy for the joint strike fighter — the most expensive military program in history — began two years ago when it was reported that President Donald Trump was considering a longtime request by Abu Dhabi to take initial steps toward future procurement of the F-35. And at the last Dubai Air Show in 2017, U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson publicly confirmed rumors that such discussions with the UAE were underway.

But speaking to reporters in Dubai on Monday, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper signaled that was no longer the case.

“No, no,” Cooper told CNBC when asked whether those talks were happening. “The question (of) are there any considerations or conversations about the F-35 — the short answer is no.”

“The long answer,” he said, “is we have been working with them and continue to work with them on upgrading, expanding their F-16 capability and upgrading and expanding their F-16 posture, so that is where we are.” The UAE’s Air Force is home to a fleet of 80 F-16 Desert Falcons, a multi-role fighter aircraft.

The assistant secretary would not elaborate on whether the Emiratis still wanted the jet, but UAE military officials have previously expressed their desire for the fifth generation, or stealth, technology. Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters the same week that “There have not been any classified briefings (with the UAE on the F-35). There will not be any discussions this week.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/CNBC)

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