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12 Dec 19. Russian aircraft carrier on fire – 11 injured, 6 critical, 3 missing. Fire erupted in No.1 Power Compartment of Soviet-Russian aircraft carrier ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV at 1015 Moscow time Dec 12. Air carrier is undergoing repairs in a dry dock in Murmansk, Russia,, fire is thought to be caused by welding works. Three workers are missing, fire spread from initial 20sq meters to some 120 square meters of Energy Block and probably, neighbouring compartments. Diesel fuel is burning, not clear if it’s a spill or fuel is stored in tanks.
Infamous air carrier ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV may claim the title of one of the most haunted by disasters and accidents Navy ships in history. The ship was besieged with accidents literally, from the moment her keel was laid in 1982. About a year ago, when ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV was in dry dock, 2 people died when dock crane collapsed and fell on ship’s deck, dock sank.
ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV claimed dozens of lives throughout her gloomy life. Be the carrier hit with missile or missiles in a live combat, it wouldn’t be much worse, so it seems.
Sister ships aren’t more lucky, either. One sister ship was sold to India, another one was bought by China, while still under construction, in Ukraine. Both encountered serious accidents with lives loss. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/http://maritimebulletin.net/)
11 Dec 19. State Department Reprimanded Pakistan for Misusing F-16s, Document Shows. A top American diplomat sent a written reprimand to the chiefs of the Pakistani air force in August accusing them of misusing U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter jets and jeopardizing their shared security, according to documents obtained by U.S. News. The communication came months after India claimed one such F-16 shot down one of its fighter jets during a days-long skirmish in February over the contested region of Kashmir, which would amount to a fundamental violation by Pakistan of the terms governing the sale of its U.S. fighter jets and a dangerous form of military escalation among nuclear powers.
A source who viewed the August letter, written by Andrea Thompson, then-undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, says it serves as a direct response to U.S. concerns about the F-16 use over Kashmir in February, though the letter itself does not specifically reference the incident.
Addressed to the head of the Pakistani air force, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, the letter began by relaying the State Department’s confirmation that Pakistan had moved the F-16s and accompanying American-made missiles to unapproved forward operating bases in defiance of its agreement with the U.S.
Using diplomatic language, Thompson, who has since left government, warned the Pakistanis that their behavior risked allowing these weapons to fall into the hands of malign actors and “could undermine our shared security platforms and infrastructures.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/US News and World Report
12 Dec 19. Australia, South Korea commit to boosting industrial ties. Australia and South Korea have said they intended to work together to address “policy challenges” as part of an effort to deepen defence industrial ties. In a joint statement issued following meetings between Australia and South Korea’s foreign and defence ministers on 12 December, defence industrial relations was highlighted by the countries as one element of their expanding strategic partnership.
The joint statement said that the Australian and South Korean defence ministers – Linda Reynolds and Jeong Kyeong-doo – agreed to “explore opportunities to co-operate on mutual policy challenges to our defence industries”.
The statement added that the two ministers also decided to “explore the reinvigoration of the annual Joint Defence Industry Co-operation Committee meeting to facilitate such co-operation.” (Source: Jane’s)
11 Dec 19. U.S. Will Withdraw From Syria When Local Forces Can Keep ISIS in Check. U.S. forces in Syria will leave when local forces are capable of keeping ISIS in check on their own, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
“In short, the mission remains the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Esper told the House Armed Services Committee today during a hearing on U.S. policy in Syria and the broader region. U.S. forces in Syria are working in partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces, he noted.
“The SDF has been a great partner in the sense of providing very capable ground forces,” Esper told the panel. “What we provide for them are the enablers — principally, the air support and intelligence, things like that — that help us defeat ISIS as we see ISIS pops up.”
U.S. forces are fighting ISIS from Africa into Afghanistan, Esper said. “The metric we have set out for this in terms of when we could consider redeploying … would be when we feel confident that local security and police forces are capable of handling any type of resurgence … of ISIS,” he added.
Esper told lawmakers the United States already has had success in defeating ISIS, including the destruction of the physical caliphate, the liberation of 7.7 million people who had been living under the caliphate’s rule, and a series of successful operations that resulted in the deaths of ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a top deputy.
“The Department of Defense remains committed to working with our partners to ensure ISIS is unable to mount a resurgence,” the secretary said.
Esper also told the House panel that while the National Defense Strategy prioritizes nations such as Russia and China as top security challenges for the United States, vigilance in countering threats posed by Iran and violent extremist organizations remain a priority.
“The United States strategy in the Middle East seeks to ensure the region is not a safe haven for terrorists, is not dominated by any power hostile to the U.S., and contributes to a stable global energy market,” Esper said.
The secretary laid out six objectives for the U.S. military in the Middle East:
- Using dynamic U.S. military presence with strategic depth to deter and, if necessary, respond to aggression;
- Strengthening the defensive capabilities of regional partners;
- Advancing partnerships and burden-sharing with allies and partners to address shared security concerns;
- Protecting freedom of navigation;
- Denying safe haven to terrorists that threaten the homeland; and
- Mitigating threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.
“As the DOD continues to implement the [National Security Strategy], the stability of the Middle East remains important to our nation’s security,” Esper said. “As such, we will continue to calibrate all of our actions to deter conflict, to avoid unintended escalation, and to enable our partners to defend themselves against regional aggressors. In doing so, we will preserve the hard-won gains of the past and ensure the security of the United States and our vital interests.” (Source: US DoD)
11 Dec 19. Australian government reforms R&D Tax Incentive program. Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews welcomed the introduction of new legislation to better target the Research and Development Tax Incentive (R&DTI) and to ensure its ongoing sustainability.
These reforms respond to the 2016 review of the incentive’s effectiveness, which was chaired by former Treasury Secretary John Fraser, the then chair of Innovation Australia Bill Ferris, and Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel.
The review found that the incentive did not adequately target support towards additional R&D that would not have otherwise been undertaken.
Minister Andrews said, “We are committed to backing R&D investment and the economic opportunities and jobs it generates. At the same time we need to make sure that taxpayers’ money is well targeted by encouraging companies to invest a higher proportion of business expenditure on R&D.”
Since 2013, the R&DTI has provided $13.8bn in support to businesses. The R&DTI remains an important part of the government’s support for innovation. It is crucial that funding provided is fiscally sustainable and encourages businesses to back themselves to be a key driver of new ideas, products, services and jobs.
“The reforms also ensure that companies with an annual turnover below $20m will receive a 13.5 percentage point premium above their tax rate to support their R&D,” Minister Andrews explained.
“These companies will also have their cash refunds capped at $4m per annum (with expenditure towards clinical trials excluded from the cap) – twice the amount recommended by the review.”
The new R&D premium for companies with an annual turnover above $20m has also been simplified from four to three tiers, offering a higher premium for initial R&D investment while rewarding those companies that commit a greater proportion of their business expenditure to R&D.
As previously announced, the reforms will increase the threshold for R&D expenditure eligible for concessional treatment from $100m to $150m. As some of Australia’s biggest investors in R&D are approaching the existing cap, this increase in the expenditure threshold will ensure they continue to be rewarded for their investment.
“The reforms introduced today defer the start date so they will apply for income years commencing on or after 1 July 2019. This provides greater certainty for companies that made investment decisions prior to the announcement of the original measures in the 2018-19 budget,” Minister Andrews said.
These reforms are an important step in supporting private investment in research and development and enables Australian businesses to create more and better paying jobs while remaining globally competitive.
More information on the federal government’s R&D Tax Incentive is available here https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/Research-and-development-tax-incentive/ (Source: Space Connect)
08 Dec 19. South Africa’s Defence Force has become unsustainable and will gradually come to a grinding stop: minister. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has warned that the South African Air Force (SAAF) is facing a cash shortage which may have an impact on its future capabilities.
In a recent parliamentary Q&A session, Mapisa-Nqakula said that engagements between the Department of Defence and National Treasury are taking place to address the general funding challenges facing the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
“Capabilities will gradually come to a grinding stop if both state-owned entities like Denel and the Department of Defence are not adequately resourced to fulfil on their various mandates,” she said.
“The decision to stop flying will be determined by airworthiness and aviation safety considerations. The SAAF has qualified personnel that monitor and certify aircraft airworthiness and safety.”
Mapisa-Nqakula has previously warned that the current plans to get the SANDF back on track are entirely dependent on its funding.
“The prevention of the SANDF capabilities from declining further is entirely dependent on the budget allocation of the Defence Force, which has been decreasing at an alarming rate over the years with a negative impact of the entire capabilities,” she said.
“The Defence Review 2015 has been developed with a plan to arrest the decline of the SANDF but unfortunately no funding has been received to attend to the declining capabilities of the SANDF.”
Mapisa-Nqakula added that the years-long decline of the SANDF meant that it was becoming increasingly difficult to protect the country.
“The defence has become progressively unsustainable in terms of declining defence allocations and have reached a point where the republic must decide on the kind of Defence Force it wants and can afford,” she said.
In a July briefing, Mapisa-Nqakula said that her department has been forced to continuously adjust its plans downwards in response to the declining budget in recent years. (Source: Facebook/https://businesstech.co.za/)
10 Dec 19. Global arms sales up 4.6% in 2018: SIPRI. The world’s 100 biggest defence manufacturers saw their arms and military services sales increase by 4.6% to $420bn worldwide in 2018. Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed US companies continuing to dominate the market and head the institute’s top 100 ratings.
According to SIPRI, the top ten arms sellers worldwide are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Airbus, Leonardo, Almaz-Antey, and Thales.
SIPRI found that total arms sales for the top 15 defence companies totalled almost £245bn in 2018.
SIPRI said: “For the first time since 2002, the top five spots in the ranking are held exclusively by arms companies based in the United States: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics.
“These five companies alone accounted for $148bn and 35 per cent of total top 100 arms sales in 2018. Total arms sales of US companies in the ranking amounted to $246bn, equivalent to 59%of all arms sales by the top 100. This is an increase of 7.2%compared with 2017.”
SIPRI identified mergers and acquisitions as a key driver in the US defence industry’s continuing dominance of the market.
SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme director Aude Fleurant said: “US companies are preparing for the new arms modernisation programme that was announced in 2017 by President Trump.
Fleurant added: “Large US companies are merging to be able to produce the new generation of weapon systems and therefore be in a better position to win contracts from the US Government.”
SIPRI also found that Russian arms companies were continuing to have stable sales, but Russia’s total share of the top 100 sales fell from 9.7% in 2017 to 8.6% in 2018. Almaz-Antey, the maker of the S-400 missile system, was the only Russian company to make it into the top ten defence sellers.
SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme researcher Alexandra Kuimova said: “Arms sales by Almaz-Antey, the largest arms producer in Russia, continued to grow in 2018.
“This increase was due not only to strong domestic demand but also to continued growth in sales to other countries, particularly of the S-400 air defence system.”
The S-400 has achieved success on the export market, most notably being purchased by Turkey which resulted in the company being ejected from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme.
SIPRI also found that while French arms sales had increases, British and German sales had fallen. SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme researcher Nan Tian said: “Six of the eight UK-based companies listed in the Top 100 reported a reduction in arms sales in 2018.
“This was partly due to delays in the UK’s arms modernisation programme.”
Another SIPRI researcher Diego Lopes da Silva said that French growth was in part due to the success of Dassault Aviation.
Lopes da Silva explained: “The overall growth in arms sales of the six French companies in the SIPRI Top 100 was mainly the result of a 30 per cent increase in sales by combat aircraft producer Dassault Aviation”
The vast majority of the top 100 arms producers were from the US, Europe and Russia filling 80 spots. The listing does not include Chinese companies as SIPRI says there is a lack of consistent data available.
The first SIPRI arms database was released in 1989 and has tracked the growth and sales of the industry since. (Source: army-technology.com)
09 Dec 19. Russia plans to set up Arctic air defence ‘dome’ with S-400 missiles. Russia plans to establish an air defence “dome” across its polar region by arming all of its Northern Fleet’s Arctic divisions with S-400 missile batteries, a Russian naval commander said on Monday.
Russia has been stepping up its military presence in the Arctic, building new infrastructure and overhauling its ports as it vies for dominance in a region with huge untapped mineral wealth amid warmer climate cycles.
Other countries have also scrambled to boost their Arctic presence, stoking fears of intensifying geopolitical rivalry. In May, Washington accused Russia of aggressive behaviour in the polar region and said China’s actions must be watched closely.
Russia in September deployed its S-400 air defence systems to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the far north, and the commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet said on Monday that similar deployments would be made across the region.
“The plan is for all our Arctic divisions to be supplied with such complexes in the coming years and there will effectively be an air defence dome created over the Russian part of the Arctic,” Vice-Admiral Alexei Moiseyev said.
“This means that the Arctic will be protected from any kind of enemy aerial attack, whether from planes, cruise or ballistic missiles,” Moiseyev said in an interview with the Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel. (Source: Reuters)
10 Dec 19. Indonesia outlines 2020–24 military procurement priorities. Key Points:
- The final phase of the TNI’s Minimum Essential Force (MEF) programme focuses on air force and navy modernisation
- Funding remains a major challenge as foreign loans are required to support major acquisitions
The Indonesian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has outlined the military procurement priorities for the Indonesian National Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia: TNI) as it enters the third and final phase of its long-term modernisation programme.
In presentations to the House of Representatives’ defence commission in November, the MoD tabled plans for a multi-billion-dollar investment in assets including fighter aircraft, transport aircraft, tanks, air defence systems, and surface combatants to support the 2020–24 phase of the TNI’s Minimum Essential Force (MEF) programme. (Source: Jane’s)
10 Dec 19. Trump pressures Tokyo to choose US fighter jet over rival BAE. Japan is looking at UK company to develop an alternative to its F-2 aircraft. A deal to replace Japan’s F-2s would be worth tens of billions of dollars. The Trump administration is pressuring Japan to choose a US defence company to develop jointly a replacement for its F-2 fighter jets as Tokyo considers a British alternative to cut its reliance on American weapons. Pentagon officials have stepped up talks with Japan amid concerns the US could lose out to BAE Systems, the UK defence contractor developing a sixth generation Tempest stealth fighter, according to three people familiar with discussions about the F-3 programme. Tokyo wants to replace its F-2s when they retire from around 2035 and plans to start development next year, in a deal that would be worth tens of billions of dollars. It is considering three options: collaborating with BAE; working with Lockheed Martin, the US maker of the F-22 and F-35 jets; or developing a plane domestically. The US air force is worried that choosing a UK fighter would create interoperability issues. American officials are also concerned that opting for a British jet would anger President Donald Trump, just as Washington and Tokyo are engaged in tough talks about how much each should pay towards maintaining their alliance.
The US stunned Japan in July when it said it would request a fourfold increase to $8bn when the allies renegotiated the “special measures agreement” that determines their contributions. It is not over. The momentum could shift back since there are lots of variables Michael Green, former White House official Eric Sayers, a Japan expert at Beacon Global Strategies, an advisory firm, said Japan would be making its fighter jet decision just as tensions “could be boiling” over cost sharing. “Tokyo should be able to make its own sovereign decision about which option . . . to replace the F-2,” he said. “But President Trump has a record of taking a transactional approach to alliances and the Abe government should not expect he will view the special measures agreement negotiation and this large procurement decision as separate.” Mr Trump has made Japan — and his own military officials — nervous by threatening to withdraw troops unless Tokyo pays more. He has also frequently touted Japanese purchases of US weapons in his meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Taro Kono, the Japanese defence minister, recently told the Financial Times that he was open to collaboration with a European programme such as Tempest, underlining the concerns in Washington. One senior US defence official stressed that Japan should view interoperability as “a significant factor” to consider.
“Because of the importance of the alliance and the current security dynamics in the region, we would obviously prefer the Japanese work with the US on their future fighter programme,” the official said. “There are a few examples of going it alone that have taken too long, cost too much and not done much for interoperability.” Recommended Japanese politics & policy Japan sounds warning on China’s growing military might Michael Green, a former top White House official with close ties to the Abe administration, said the Pentagon’s lobbying was paying dividends after Tempest gained early momentum. “The US government is organising itself around a campaign for an American fighter. And in the Japanese government, some of the big pieces have shifted so that the momentum is shifting towards a capabilities-based decision which would benefit a design based on an already existing US platform,” said Mr Green. “But it is not over. The momentum could shift back since there are lots of variables.” Japan has long dreamt of building a domestic aircraft to match its famous second world war-era Zero fighter. The project to build its own plane gained urgency last year when Mr Abe opted to buy 105 fully-assembled F-35s from the US. One Japanese executive said that had left local industry desperate for a new fighter programme to work on. The US has proposed jointly developing a fighter based on the F-35 and F-22. But it would limit the use of Japanese technology, resulting in a “black box” fighter with no access to the source code required for independent upgrades — something the Japanese air force would like and many lawmakers consider essential to sovereignty. “The most important thing for a future fighter aircraft is capability,” said Itsunori Onodera, a Diet member and two-time defence minister. “Then there is data links, including to US networks. And then it is also necessary to have freedom to upgrade.”
Mr Onodera said Japanese industry did not have the capability to go it alone and the cost per unit of building exclusively for the domestic market would be prohibitive. He added the similar timeline of the Tempest made collaboration with the UK a “reasonable possibility” but the decision would depend on capability, cost and the potential for upgrades. The decision will be up to Mr Abe, who will have to choose between independent technology and nationalist hopes or the US alliance and his prized relationship with Mr Trump. (Source: FT.com)
09 Dec 19. Defence Minister releases statement on 2019 Defence operations. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has released her first Ministerial Statement on the Defence portfolio just six months into her tenure in the position. As part of the minister’s first statement, Minister Reynolds discussed a range of operational milestones, exercises and the changing dynamics of the region and broader “multi-polar” world Australia is a part of.
Minister Reynolds said, “Today, Defence is in more places, doing more things, at the same time. The ADF deploys integrated capability to support operations globally, regionally and domestically, with some 4,000 ADF service members deployed at any one time.
“Army now participates in 90 international engagements and exercises a year. Navy has on average 20 ships at sea per day, conducting in excess of 200 foreign port visits across 32 foreign nations and participating in up to 30 naval exercises a year. Air Force conducts 53 international exchanges, exercises and dialogues each year.”
The changing dynamics of both the Indo-Pacific and the broader global environment has seen greater operational tempo and Australian presence throughout the region, the Middle East and in a number of new battlespaces, each with unique challenges to Australia’s national interests.
“This year the ADF training team in Iraq reached a milestone in training over 47,000 Iraqi security forces in counter terrorism. In Afghanistan we have around 300 personnel providing security, training Afghan forces and also supporting NATO,” Minister Reynolds articulated.
“We have had record numbers of defence engagements with our regional neighbours – India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan, just to name a few. In the Philippines we have trained over 10,600 members of their armed forces to counter the rising threat of terrorism.
“We still deploy personnel to UN peacekeeping missions and have assisted Fiji and Vietnam with their peacekeeping deployments this year as well as maintaining multinational force observers in the Middle East. This level of activity reflects the government’s commitment to pursue our national interests.
“An additional 18 ADF and civilian positions have been established in our overseas posts since 2016 – bringing the total number of diplomatically accredited positions to 119 worldwide.”
Australia’s Middle East responsibilities
As part of the nation’s ongoing mission in Iraq and the broader Middle East, the ADF has trained Iraqi security forces and deployed combat, refuelling and transport aircraft to support counter-terrorism operations against Daesh, the self-proclaimed Islamic State. To date, around 14,000 ADF personnel have deployed to Operation OKRA, including Air Task Group, since 2014.
Task Group Taji, a joint Australia/New Zealand initiative, has to date trained over 47,000 Iraqi security force personnel to build their capability to defend Iraq against terrorist and violent extremist organisations, including Daesh.
The Reserve forces continue to make a significant contribution, with 40 Reserve members deployed on operations in Iraq with Task Group Taji IX.
The ADF has made significant progress in enhancing the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces to defeat Daesh. The ADF’s local partner, the Iraqi School of Infantry Non-Commissioned Officer II, is ready to deliver most of its training without the assistance of coalition partners.
This progress means Australia has been able to reduce our contribution to the training mission from around 250 to around 120 ADF personnel.
Minister Reynolds said, “The ADF maintains its strong support for maritime security in the Middle East region. Since 1990, 67 Royal Australian Navy ships have worked as part of an international coalition to support counter-piracy, counter-terrorism and Gulf security operations under Operation MANITOU.
“This year alone, Australian ships assigned to Operation MANITOU have intercepted, seized and disposed of drugs with an estimated combined street value in Australia in excess of $1.1bn.”
Returning focus to the Indo-Pacific
Australia’s renewed engagement with the region, namely as part of the ‘Pacific Step-up’, reinforces the nation’s commitment to the region it increasingly relies heavily upon for economic and strategic stability.
“In south-east Asia, the ADF continues its broad and long-standing programs of engagement with our many partners in the region, with a particular focus on collaborative activities, exercises and training, and capacity building,” Minister Reynolds said.
“ADF maritime patrol aircraft and naval frigates have continued to conduct transits of the region in keeping with long-established deployment patterns. In the Philippines, surveillance aircraft, naval frigates and specialist advisers have provided assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their counter-terrorism operations.
“Our counter-terrorism cooperation program with the Philippines commenced in October 2017, with support from each of the three services. In the last two years, our personnel have been involved in training over 10,600 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
In north Asia, Defence continued to contribute to international efforts to enforce UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea’s proliferation-related activities.
Since May 2018, the ADF has contributed Maritime Patrol Aircraft and surface vessels to help prevent North Korean efforts to evade UN Security Council sanctions. Intelligence collected by the ADF has been used to illuminate the networks involved in sanctions evasion activities, and to support diplomatic representations to the flag states of vessels suspected of illicit activities.
Defence is contributing to whole-of-government efforts to further deepen Australia’s engagement in the south Pacific – the Pacific Step-up.
Defence-related activities being progressed as part of the Pacific Step-Up include infrastructure projects, an increased ADF presence in the region, and deepening people-to-people links with our Pacific neighbours.
Current areas of focus for Defence include:
- significant infrastructure projects in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu;
- an increased Navy presence in the region, with options to be considered for a dedicated vessel to support increased ADF engagement with our partners in the Pacific;
- a dedicated ADF team to provide training in priority areas for Pacific island military and security forces;
- medical diagnostic training to partnered security forces;
- a regular program of senior leadership dialogues;
- reinforcing security alumni networks; and
- expanding ADF sporting engagements with Pacific island security organisations.
Defence is working closely with other Australian government agencies and partners in the Pacific to identify further opportunities to deepen its engagement in the region as strategic circumstances may require.
“The ADF has also contributed personnel to support United Nations Command led operations. In July 2019, Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer assumed the role of Deputy Commander United Nations Command, only the second foreign officer to be appointed to the position,” Minister Reynolds explained.
“In May 2019, Defence established Operation LINESMEN and deployed a small contingent to the Republic of Korea to assist United Nations Command with Armistice compliance monitoring in the Demilitarised Zone.”
In each of the last three years, the ADF has embarked on large-scale task group deployments through the Indo-Pacific Endeavour exercise across the Indo-Pacific.
This year between March and May, the ADF deployed a joint task force of around 1,000 Navy, Army and Air Force personnel into the Indo-Pacific region, focusing on south and south-east Asia.
Such deployments are highly supported and demonstrate Australia’s enduring commitment to strengthening our relationships with our regional partners.
Enhancing Australia’s international partnerships
Minister Reynolds has remained a strong advocate of expanding and building the nation’s critical international partnerships in the nation’s immediate region and globally.
“We derive significant strategic and soft power benefits from our broad network of Defence-related bilateral and multilateral arrangements, in particular the long-established relationships that we enjoy with our partners in south-east Asia and the south Pacific,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Last month, I also visited Japan for bilateral defence discussions with my counterpart, the Minister of Defense of Japan, Mr Taro Kono. As a result of these discussions, Australia and Japan committed to accelerate defence co-operation in the coming years, including in the fields of military exercises, personnel exchanges, space and cyber policy, defence science and technology.
“Minister Kono and I also reiterated our determination to enhance defence and security co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region, both bilaterally and in co-operation with other key partners.”
Building on this, Minister Reynolds expanded on the importance of the Australia-US alliance and the role it plays in underwriting the nation’s strategic position in a changing world.
“At the core of Australia’s international partnerships is our alliance with the United States. We have deepened the Australia-US Alliance with the US Force Posture Initiatives, including the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin,” she added.
“We are committed to working with the United States to bolster our alliance architecture, with a particular focus on how we can work together to strengthen our collaboration with other partners in the Indo-Pacific.
“The United States has played a key role in contributing to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. We believe that deep, broad-based and enduring engagement by the United States in the region will be critical in the decades ahead.” (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Dec 19. The Guns of August: UK Professor predicts the US-China flash point of the 2020s. In the lead up to the First World War, game theory dictated that all parties would act rationally – they didn’t. In an echo of history, Patrick Porter, a professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, has penned an interesting prediction for the 2020s and a clash between the US and China.
At the height of the Cold War, historian Barbara Tuchman penned an insightful prelude to the outbreak of the First World War – The Guns of August catalogued the relationships between the Entente and Central Powers, which would eventually lead to the Great War and the role of alliances and game theory in one of history’s greatest miscalculations.
Game theory states that all state-based actors within the international relations context will behave in a rational manner, serving the best interests of their respective nations – meaning war should be unlikely, if not inconceivable, particularly between trading partners – something we know isn’t true.
While much of the debate in recent months has focused on the growing similarities of the world’s currently changing geo-strategic, economic and political paradigm and the years immediately preceding the First and Second World War – despite the rising competition between the US and China having similar echoes, it is vastly different.
The key factor making any potential conflagration between the US and China is not the tried and true method of roping in allies or the concept of potentially devastating ‘total war’ between two superpowers, it is nuclear weapons.
2029 – the year of flash point Taiwan
Serving as an echo of this premise, the combination of alliance networks, interdependent economies and the horrors of total war, professor of international security Patrick Porter at the University of Birmingham recently penned an insightful, yet equally concerning article titled ‘Looking back: WWIII remembered’ .
Porter’s ‘role play’ articulates the high-level conversations – and the attempts by both sides to ‘rationally’ predict the next-steps by both sides of the Pacific following an increasingly assertive China’s attempts to forcibly annex the “breakaway province” of Taiwan through the implementation of a comprehensive blockade to starve the island’s population into capitulation.
“It began with a struggle in Asia as China pursued its ‘dream’ of greatness. Its economy kept growing. It built up its military forces. It threw around its weight — coercing neighbours, crushing protesters and minorities, bribing politicians, stealing intellectual property, seizing contested reefs and atolls,” Porter states.
“It declared its overlordship of the ‘three seas’ — South, East and Yellow. Unsure where it was headed, countries hedged between the old superpower and the new.”
In contrast, Porter focuses on the relative decline, war-wary and increasingly divided US and, more broadly, its web of Indo-Pacific allies including Japan, South Korea and Australia, each of whom have interests in maintaining the post-Second World War economic, political and strategic order led by what many globally and increasingly domestically consider a declining US:
“America, the weary titan, grew scared of China’s rise and the defection of allies. It buckled under the costs of debt, guns and butter, and increased domestic strife. It tried to turn the tide,” Porter articulates, setting the scene.
“It started decoupling its economy. It progressively enlarged its naval, air and cyber forces, increasing American garrisons across Asia, launching ever-larger ‘freedom of navigation’ operations. It declared a ‘league of democracies’ against the world’s dictatorships. In the contest for opinion, Washington claimed ‘moral leadership’ with a ‘no first use’ nuclear policy.”
Porter’s core premise for Australia to take particular note of is the growing limitation of the US and its power to intervene on behalf of allies, despite best intentions, after all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Australia’s strategic independence
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the growing consensus is becoming not a matter of if, but when will Australia decide to reclaim the initiative regarding it’s own strategic independence – balancing the alliances and friendships that have served us well since the Second World War, while expanding our sovereign capacity.
For the first time since the introduction of the Defence of Australia doctrine, growing consensus is developing among Australia’s strategic community in response to the growing power of China, that Australia needs to rethink its approach to politics, diplomacy and defence on the matter.
This has been perfectly encapsulated by ASPI senior analyst Dr Malcolm Davis, who told Defence Connect:
“We need to burden share to a much greater degree than before, and accept that we can no longer base our defence planning on the assumption that in a major military crisis or a period leading up to a future war, the US will automatically be there for us.
“In fact, if we want to avoid that major military crisis, we have to do more than adopt a purely defensive/denial posture, and be postured well forward to counterbalance a rising China or to be able to assist the US and other key allies, notably Japan, to respond to challenges. We can’t be free-riders.”
Further supporting the growing need for strategic independence is Air Marshal (Ret’d) Leo Davies and Air Marshal (Ret’d) Geoff Brown both joining the public debate recently, with Davies telling journalist Catherine McGregor:
“Our existing naval and air assets may not be able to defend the country’s sea lines of communication — the primary maritime routes used by military and trade vessels — or fight a hostile foreign power.”
Additionally, Dr Andrew Davies of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has called for Australia’s policy makers to recognise the limitations of the US in an increasingly contested, multi-polar world, echoing the sentiments of Kevin Rudd.
Dr Davies articulated this in a recent piece for ASPI, saying, “The assumption of continued US primacy that permeated DWP 2016 looked heroic at the time. It seems almost foolishly misplaced now.”
Calls for a more ‘mature approach’ to the Australia-China relationship
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has drawn both praise in condemnation in recent weeks calling for the nation to take on what he calls a “mature approach” to the China-Australia relationship with a focus on tipping the bilateral relationship and Australia’s capacity to influence the direction in Australia’s favour.
“Australia needs a more mature approach to managing the complexity of the relationship than having politicians out-competing one another on who can sound the most hairy-chested on China,” Rudd explained.
Rudd’s focus on this ‘mature conversation’ includes growing Australia’s population to serve as both an increase in the economic potential of the nation and as a strategic deterrent to potential future aggression by an increasingly assertive and often recalcitrant Chinese regime with its own economic, political and strategic ambitions for the Indo-Pacific.
This is best summarised by what Rudd describes as “a big and sustainable Australia of the type I advocated while I was in office”.
“Only a country with a population of 50 million later this century would begin to have the capacity to fund the military, security and intelligence assets necessary to defend our territorial integrity and political sovereignty long term. This is not politically correct. But it’s yet another uncomfortable truth,” he added.
While the population point is an important component of Rudd’s thesis, his focus on a mature debate also calls for the nation to shake it’s economic dependence on China, looking more broadly to other potential partners in the region, Europe and Africa as a means of limiting the potential for foreign influence.
“We have become too China-dependent. We need to diversify further to Japan, India, Indonesia, Europe and Africa – the next continent with a rising middle class with more than a billion consumers. We must equally diversify our economy itself,” Rudd explained.
Rudd encapsulates and distills the premise of each of the aforementioned experts, saying, “Australia must also look to mid-century when we may increasingly have to stand to our own two feet, with or without the support of a major external ally. (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Dec 19. Satellite images show North Korea tried out rocket engine in ‘very important’ test – experts. Satellite imagery captured before and after North Korea conducted what it called a “very important” test at its missile launch site suggested it had tested a rocket engine, experts said on Monday.
It was the latest of a series of weapons tests and statements from Pyongyang, as its year-end deadline for Washington to soften its stance in denuclearisation talks draws near.
State news agency KCNA said on Sunday the North had carried out the test at its Sohae satellite launching station, a rocket-testing ground that U.S. and South Korean officials once said Pyongyang had promised to shut down.
KCNA said the test results would help the North’s strategic position, without elaborating on what was tried out, but the site has previously been used to send rockets and satellites into space.
Commercial satellite images taken on Saturday by Planet Labs showed vehicles and equipment likely to be used in a rocket engine experiment, while those captured on Sunday morning had signs of a conducted test, analyst Jeffrey Lewis said.
“Vehicles and objects appear on Dec. 7 to conduct the test,” said Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.
“They are mostly gone on Dec. 8, but the ground appears to have been disturbed by the exhaust from the test.”
Asked on Monday if it had been an engine test, a spokeswoman of Seoul’s defence ministry declined to confirm the suggestion, saying site monitoring and detailed analysis were underway with U.S. intelligence authorities.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned he may take a “new path” if the United States fails to address his demands.
He did not say what the path would be, but observers have said it might include the launch of a space satellite, which would help North Korea demonstrate progress in its rocket capabilities without returning to overt military provocations, such as firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Some South Korean experts said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow it to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.
“They may well have tried to see the thrust and duration of a solid-propellant rocket engine for ICBMs,” a diplomatic source in Seoul told Reuters.
“That’s effectively what they can do on the ground at this point without firing anything into the air.”
Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, also said North Korea could have tested a solid fuel engine as it has been striving to shift from liquid fuel.
North Korea appears to have used Soviet-era liquid propellants in all its ICBM or satellite launches in recent years, while developing solid fuel missiles to be fired from a submarine, officials and analysts say.
In March 2016, state media said Kim oversaw a “successful” test of a high-power solid-fuel rocket engine “designed and manufactured in the Korean style”.
Kim also said the North’s rocket industry had “firmly transitioned” to solid fuel from liquid propellants, while inspecting a newly developed missile based on a submarine-launched ballistic missile in February 2017.
“It could be solid fuel or they might have developed a new engine,” said Jeong Han-beom, director of the Graduate School of National Security at Korea National Defense University.
“In any case, it’s meant to improve their capabilities for ICBMs, which need to be tested several times, while sending a message to Washington that we might go back to those old days of military confrontation if negotiations fail.” (Source: Reuters)
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