Sponsored by Exensor
09 Apr 20. Canada lifting a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, opposition wants big deal scrapped. Canada is lifting a freeze on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and has renegotiated a much-criticized $14bn contract to sell General Dynamics Corp armored vehicles to Riyadh, Ottawa said on Thursday. The “significant improvements” to the contract would secure thousands of jobs at the U.S. firm’s Canadian subsidiary, where the vehicles are being made, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said. The announcement marks a retreat by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said in December 2018 he was looking for a way out of the deal. A month earlier the government had frozen new permits pending a review. Some exports though continued under permits which had already been issued. Human rights groups and political opponents, citing the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemen war, had insisted Ottawa scrap a deal agreed by the previous Conservative government in 2014.
Champagne said that under the terms of the renegotiated agreement, Canada could delay or cancel permits without penalty if it discovered Saudi Arabia was not using the vehicles for their stated purpose. Ottawa would also boost its scrutiny of all proposed weapons sales, he added.
“This not a blank check to anyone who wants to export anything to Saudi Arabia,” he told reporters.
Trudeau had said there would be huge penalties for scrapping the deal but gave no details. Champagne said the penalty clause had potentially been worth the entire value of the deal. The opposition New Democrats said Ottawa was “sending armored vehicles to an undemocratic authoritarian regime with a terrible human rights record” and demanded the deal be scrapped.
“We are troubled by the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, particularly with women’s rights,” Champagne said.
The agreement was signed despite a diplomatic dispute between the two nations which erupted in August 2018 after Canada criticized Saudi Arabia over human rights. The General Dynamics plant is based in London, Ontario, an area of relatively high unemployment. The Saudi announcement came the same day Canada reported record job losses amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Reuters)
09 Apr 20. China Coast Guard Sinking of a Vietnam Fishing Vessel. The Department of Defense is greatly concerned by reports of a China Coast Guard vessel’s collision with and sinking of a Vietnam fishing vessel in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The PRC’s behavior stands in contrast to the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms. The United States will continue to support efforts by our allies and partners to ensure freedom of navigation and economic opportunity throughout the entire Indo-Pacific. The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the rules based international order, as it sets the conditions that enable us to address this shared threat in a way that is transparent, focused, and effective. We call on all parties to refrain from actions that would destabilize the region, distract from the global response to the pandemic, or risk needlessly contributing to loss of life and property. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/US Department of Defense)
09 Apr 20. Number of Chinese military aircraft approaching Japanese airspace rose by nearly 6% in FY 2019. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled its fighter aircraft a total of 675 times in fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) in response to Chinese military aircraft approaching the country’s airspace: a 5.8% increase compared with the same period in FY 2018. The figure, which is the second-highest registered in response to Chinese aircraft during a one-year period since 1958, represents 71% of the total number of JASDF scrambles between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, according to data published by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Tokyo on 9 April.
Japanese fighters also responded 268 times to movements by Russian military aircraft, down from 343 times during the same period in FY 2018. The remaining four incidents involved aircraft from other countries.
In total the JASDF scrambled its fighters 947 times in FY 2019 to respond to foreign aircraft approaching the country’s airspace: down from 999 times the previous fiscal year. The figure represents the third-highest number of overall scrambles carried out by the service within a year since such operations began in 1958.
These incidents involved the JASDF’s Northern Air Defense Force (198 scrambles), the Western Air Defense Force (133), the Central Air Defense Force (35), and the Southwestern Composite Air Division (581), the latter of which oversees an area that includes the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
The MoD emphasised that the JASDF scrambled its fighters on 23 March 2020 to intercept People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) Shaanxi Y-9 intelligence-gathering aircraft that were spotted over the East China Sea for the first time. Japanese fighters also responded to other Shaanxi Y-9 aircraft and the Shaanxi Y-8 airborne early warning and control platform crossing the Tsushima Strait, which connects the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the Yellow Sea (West Sea), and the East China Sea. (Source: Jane’s)
09 Apr 20. Pandemic-inspired issues for lawyers in the defence space. Navigating COVID-19 will be tough enough for legal professionals in the defence industry, but the aftermath of the crisis may present new funding challenges as well. The defence industry is generally “pretty robust” in times of economic downturn, muses Piper Alderman national deputy managing partner Tim O’Callaghan.
However, myriad contractual matters are currently at play, together with the likelihood of a need for the federal government to recoup costs from its stimulus packages, means lawyers working in defence have a range of challenges ahead, he said.
In conversation with Defence Connect sister publication Lawyers Weekly, Mr O’Callaghan said that a lot of contracts used in the defence industry do not have distinct force majeure provisions, but instead have other provisions that allow similar protections.
“For example, some contracts provide for performance relief and postponement for events that are beyond the reasonable control of the contractor and could not have been reasonably contemplated or allowed for by the contractor,” he explained.
“The operation of these clauses requires the contractor to provide notice to the customer of the event or circumstances in question. Performance relief or postponement can only be granted if the contract cannot be performed in such a way as to meet the performance requirements, taking into account any other relevant circumstances, and the contractor has made reasonable endeavours to limit the effect of any delay or failure to perform.”
This must be done as soon as practicable after the contractor becomes aware of the need for performance relief or postponement, Mr O’Callaghan noted.
He reflected that he expects COVID-19 to be considered to be “one of those unavoidable or unforeseeable events which are beyond the reasonable control of the contractor”, and as such, issues of force majeure can and may arise, he said.
“This is particularly so when governments issue ‘stay at home’ directions, when the work required under the contract can’t be done from home,” he said.
“So as the COVID-19 issue develops, clients may increasingly need assistance from their lawyers about how [to] make sure they are protected from strict delivery clause contracts when lockdowns caused by coronavirus make it impossible to complete the contract.”
However, the hurdles placed in front of lawyers in the defence space may not end there, Mr O’Callaghan added.
“In the past, the defence industry has been pretty robust in an economic downturn. Governments don’t want to worsen the economy further by cutting orders,” he recounted.
“But, when the economic crisis is over, and governments are trying to recoup the money they spent in stimulus packages, they can tend to pull back on defence expenditure as a cost saving measure. So, the defence industry may take a hit in the next year or two after the coronavirus issue is over.”
As such, transparent interactions will be crucial for lawyers in the defence space during such unprecedented times, Mr O’Callaghan surmised, adding that there will be no place for complacency in the near future.
“In my view, the first approach should be to encourage open communication between parties in a defence contract about the effect of coronavirus on contract delivery times. All parties are in a similar position, so, if issues are raised in a timely manner, there should be some willingness to be flexible given these unusual circumstances,” he outlined.
“COVID-19 should not be used as an excuse for non-performance, unless that is genuine. Even then parties will need to make reasonable endeavours to limit the effect of any delay or failure to perform. So, affected parties need to be prepared to innovate if possible. When the issue passes, contractors will need to double their efforts [to] meet deadlines, and get back to standard scheduling as soon as possible.” (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Apr 20. Op-Ed: The Loyal Wingman for Singapore’s air force? The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is in the midst of a far-ranging transformation that constitutes a larger effort by the city-state to transition its military to the next generation, with the teaming of traditional manned and unmanned platforms expected to play a pivotal role, explains Ben Ho.
In fact, the vision of the Singapore Armed Forces a decade and beyond from now, or SAF 2030, is one underpinned by cutting-edge capabilities that are highly network-capable, and recent procurements are exactly that.
In the airpower realm, Singapore announced in January that it will purchase four Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning jets, with an option for another eight. The fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is slated to replace the F-16 Falcons currently in service as the latter will approach obsolescence in the next decade.
Going forward, the RSAF should perhaps explore the feasibility of the “Loyal Wingman” unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) concept that is currently being developed for the Royal Australian Air Force and with the export market in mind.
This is an idea that Peter Layton of the Australia-based Griffith Asia Institute first broached in a 2019 Interpreter article on Singapore’s F-35 decision and is worth exploring in much more depth.
As devised by Boeing, the Airpower Teaming System, to give the Loyal Wingman’s official name, will act as a very useful complement to the F-35. In this regard, Singapore should consider buying the drone when it becomes available on the market as it would help maintain the RSAF’s cutting edge post-2030.
Simply put, the Loyal Wingman will fly alongside a manned aircraft (one of the first drones to be able to do so) to augment it or act as a decoy to protect the latter from the enemy. Given its internal weapons bay, it will also have kinetic capabilities.
It is worth noting that the initial press release on the Loyal Wingman states that it will be capable of electronic warfare, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
According to a video released by the aerospace giant a few months later, the roles of the Loyal Wingman will be three “Fs”: force multiplier, force protection and force projection. These three roles are encapsulated nicely in a scenario by Malcom Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute:
“Imagine a swarm of Loyal Wingman UCAVs controlled by a four-ship formation of F-35s… The less stealthy UCAVs would be geographically located well away from the stealthy F-35s to avoid betraying their location, but close by in terms of being part of a resilient network.
“The F-35s, in turn, are networked to a Wedgetail [Airborne Early Warning and Control or AEW&C aircraft] to the rear. The UCAVs are the forward sensor in the ‘sensor to shooter’ link, but can also be a forward shooter, against an adversary equipped with long-range airpower, while the F-35s and Wedgetail can stay out of harm’s way.”
In a similar concept of operations, RSAF Loyal Wingmen could network with the service’s F-35s and Gulfstream G550 AEW&C planes.
Indeed, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has posited attaining air dominance “through the co-ordinated employment of fighters, unmanned air vehicles and airborne surveillance aircraft, which are integrated through real-time knowledge-based systems and networks”.
On this note, RSAF chief Major-General Kelvin Khong has stressed the need for the integration of “traditional air combat capabilities with technologies that multiply the effects of airpower”, and the latter describes the Loyal Wingman to a tee.
In the larger scheme of things, MINDEF has spoken of the concept of integrated knowledge-based command and control (IKC2) “tying… air, land and sea capabilities into a synergistic whole”, and this would be “achieved by leveraging on networks of sensors, shooters and communications to provide comprehensive awareness and self-synchronisation on the battlefield”.
With its multiple capabilities, the Loyal Wingman could have a pivotal role to play in actualising IKC2.
Dollars and sense
Specific details about the Loyal Wingman’s performance are currently not available, but it is said to be comparable to the aircraft (like the F-35) it will deploy with.
This suggests that the Loyal Wingman should be quite similar to the JSF in such attributes as speed, range and signature management. If that is the case, it would be wise for Singapore to acquire the Loyal Wingman from the cost-capacity angle.
This is because replacing the entire RSAF F-16 fleet (three squadrons with a total of 60 planes) with an equal number of F-35s would come up to a prodigious amount of defence dollars.
It is telling the RSAF’s F-15SG Strike Eagle jets were procured in 2005 to replace the A-4SU Skyhawks, and it was not on one-for-one basis arguably due to the former’s status as a “boutique” platform; one that is highly capable but costly. In fact, a total of 40 Strike Eagles were eventually procured to replace the Skyhawk force, which was slightly over 60 strong during its peak in the early 2000s.
Considering the high unit cost of the Joint Strike Fighter, it will not be a surprise if less than 60 of it are bought. The current cost of the F-35B is around US$115m while the cheaper F-35A, which is an option for Singapore’s future acquisition plans, is US$90m.
Even if the costs for these two F-35 variants were to go down in the future, we are looking a price tag in the ballpark of a still princely US$70-80m.
One way around this would be to accept having a smaller F-35 force and supplement it with drones like the Loyal Wingman.
The latter should be considerably cheaper than the JSF when it finally comes into active service. Indeed, Canberra has contributed almost US$30m for the development of three prototype Loyal Wingmen.
Even if the deployable version of this platform were to cost more than the US$10m experimental one, we should still expect a few Loyal Wingmen to amount to the price of one F-35.
Moreover, a sizeable Loyal Wingman fleet can also help to negate the likely smaller size of the RSAF’s boutique F-35 fleet, helping the service to exploit Lanchester’s square law for aerial operations. Finally, there will be lower training costs as the platform is unmanned and can be controlled by a human pilot or ground crew.
In sum, it would make a lot of sense for Singapore to get the Loyal Wingman just from the cost-capacity angle. After all, the republic’s economy is maturing and even though defence spending had been stable even during downturns, this cannot be guaranteed going forward.
What is more, the SAF has and will continue to face a manpower crunch, an issue that could be alleviated by new technologies, of which the Loyal Wingman is one.
All in all, the Loyal Wingman is arguably a suitable fit for the future RSAF, however, it is still very early days as the concept itself surfaced only last year.
Though its prototype flight is slated for this year, this remains to be seen given the travails of Boeing during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, the RSAF should – at the very least – do well to monitor its development going forward.
When the Loyal Wingman program becomes more mature, Singapore could perhaps request for a role in it akin to that during the early years of the JSF program.
Being a Security Cooperation Participant (SCP) afforded the city-state “an early opportunity to assess the JSF’s ability to meet the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s longer-term operational requirements for a multi-role fighter”. Singapore’s SCP status also allowed it to track the development of the JSF and assess how it could be integrated with defence needs.
Robust Singapore-Australia ties, especially in the defence realm, should facilitate a similar arrangement for Singapore in Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System program.
Ben Ho is an associate research fellow with the Military Studies Programme at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. He writes primarily on seapower and airpower issues, and his works in these areas have been published in the likes of Joint Force Quarterly, Naval War College Review, Proceedings, East Asia Forum, and The Interpreter. (Source: Defence Connect)
07 Apr 20. COVID-19 will change Australia’s political discourse and so it should. As is prudent in the aftermath of a crisis, political discourse, government response and protocol adapts to better suit the public sentiment and expectations – the COVID-19 outbreak will be no different, as many within both the Australian political class and the public come to terms with the end of the post-Cold War order and its impact on Australia’s public policymaking.
For better or worse, the public perception of Australian politics over the past two decades has been mired by political infighting and assassinations, drawing the ire of the public and allegations of the Canberra bubble being far too concerned with keeping their own jobs and jockeying for favour in the revolving door of political leadership.
One could be forgiven for overlooking the insider games and politicking between 2010 and the rise of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in mid-2018 as the result of three decades of uninterrupted economic, political and strategic stability, however, like all good things, this too comes to an end.
The disastrous bushfires, coupled with rising great power tensions between the US and China and now the global outbreak of the coronavirus – which has left behind a swathe of economic, political and strategic turmoil around the Indo-Pacific, North America and Europe – serves to further shake the public confidence in government and its institutions.
Highlighting the growing shift in public consciousness surrounding the nation’s political discourse, Graeme Dobell, writing for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has penned an interesting piece, titled ‘The politics of pandemic’ , in which he seeks to foretell the impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s political discourse.
Dobell launches his thesis, stating, “Pandemic has smashed into Australia’s capital, remaking the dynamic and direction of politics. Normal politics has ceased. Amazing political consensus has arrived. It won’t last, but it’s still amazing.
“COVID-19 is changing the way Canberra does what it does, shifting lots of big p-words: power, policy and long-held political positions.”
This spells out interesting times ahead for the nation’s political leaders, an increasingly disinfranchised public concerned about the length of social distancing, the seemingly chaotic inter-jurisdictional blame game between states, territories and the Commonwealth and the big ‘R’ word: recession.
“Bad things change nations – wars, economic depressions and pandemics. And the war against the virus will push Australia towards depression. The recession that’s about to hit Australia will drive politics long after we get a vaccine for COVID-19,” Dobell articulates.
So, where does this leave the nation? Well, it’s an interesting question and one that needs more thorough debate, conversation and public input.
“We’re all Keynesians now”
Dobell is clear in articulating the impact of the shift in public policymaking, largely in response to the Commonwealth’s $200bn stimulus package, which has very thinly veiled Keynesian overtones.
“The length and depth of the recession will be what matters politically. To get a short, shallow recession, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has abruptly killed the Liberal political mantra: ‘budget deficit, bad; budget surplus, good’,” he states.
“Like toilet paper and hand sanitiser disappearing from supermarket shelves, the much-anticipated surplus is whisked away by the emergency that demands constant washing of hands. We’re all Keynesians now.
“In three frantic weeks, the government has announced spending measures worth $200bn. To support financial markets, the Reserve Bank and the Office of Financial Management will throw in a further $105bn. Combined, those measures are equivalent to about 16 per cent of GDP.”
Unlike the interventions championed by the Rudd-Gillard government in response to the GFC, however, the Morrison intervention seems more as a place holder for true economic reform and a return to true economic diversity, something the COVID-19 outbreak has prompted growing public support for in light of increasingly tenuous access to global supply chains.
In particular, this stimulus fails to address any number of major structural issues that hinder the resilience of both the Australian public and the national economy during times of individual or concurrent stressor factors.
A particular, ‘value-adding’ area is the Infrastructure Australia and World Bank-backed $200bn infrastructure shortfall, which successive governments have struggled to get their hands around that could be used to provide long-term economic growth. Additionally, this $200bn shortfall is only for infrastructure required “today”.
What this fails to account for is the increased pressures of population growth, climate change, growing demands for baseload power, water security and the like; taking those individual factors into account would exponentially explode that $200bn shortfall.
Now, keeping individual and business cash flow turning over and supporting families are critical components to minimising the impact of the coming recession, however, growing political unease and increased distrust regarding the Australian political class adds further conundrums worth both consideration and public conversation.
Recession? Depression? Either way, it’s a bad time to be a pollie
Dobell correctly identifies that both the public frustrations at government response and the inter-jurisdictional squabbling doesn’t protect the nation or their individual interests, nor does it pay their bills, feed their families and provide the services they require and expect.
For Morrison, Dobell believes this will be a major challenge at the next federal election, scheduled to take place between August 2021 and May 2022 – this is a particularly poignant issue following the unexpected victory of the Morrison government in May 2019.
“Morrison won his ‘miracle’ election on 18 May 2019. That means he’ll be seeking his next miraculous performance at a half-Senate and House of Representatives poll that must be held between 7 August 2021 and 21 May 2022,” Dobell states.
“The Morrison government won’t face the people next year. Wager that Australia’s next federal election will be held on that last possible day, 21 May 2022, allowing time for three more budgets.
“The first will be the 2020 budget now pushed from May to October. The second budget, in 2021, would normally happen in May, but recession uncertainty might push it to later in the year. The third, in 2022, will repeat the budget-and-election formula that worked so well for Morrison last year: bring down an ‘early’ budget in April to launch the campaign for a May poll.
“In two years, Morrison will be bringing down the budget before pivoting immediately to an election campaign. He has just 24 months to deal with pandemic and recession, then start the rebuild. Make or break.”
However, Dobell misses the key point; the Australian people, like many of their contemporaries throughout the developed world, have seen the vulnerability of their nations and just how isolated they can become within a ‘globalised’ world at a time when governments of both authoritarian and democratic persuasions struggle to respond.
In doing so, Dobell fails to see the opportunity for the government or the opposition to chart a way forward and fulfil the Australian public’s demands for greater national independence, security and resilience at a moment when the rest of the world is scurrying to secure themselves.
However, Dobell does highlight the growing potential and promise the disruption caused by both the bushfires and COVID-19 presents both the Australian public and policy makers, stating, “For now, Morrison says, there are no red teams or blue teams. Australia comes together to confront a powerful enemy.
“When red and blue politics resume, the terrain will be much altered. Old arguments will have less force. New thoughts will take hold. Amazing times.” (Source: Defence Connect)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company