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16 Apr 20. Covid-19: South Korea cuts defence budget in response to pandemic. South Korea has announced a cut to its 2020 defence budget in response to Covid-19. The move means the country is one of the first in the world to officially reduce military spending due to the impact of the pandemic. The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) in Seoul said in a statement on 16 April that the 2020 defence budget will be cut by KRW904.7bn (USD738m).
The MOEF said the funds will be part of a KRW7.6trn national ’emergency disaster assistance plan’ to alleviate some of the adverse economic effects of the pandemic. Finances are also sourced from ministries including education, industry, agriculture, and environment, although the cut to the defence budget is the largest.
The MOEF added that defence budget reduction removes KRW192.7bn from operating expenses, with the remaining KRW712bn sourced from military modernisation, which includes procurement and research and development (R&D).
The cut amounts to about 2% of the 2020 defence budget. This was announced in December 2019 at KRW50.15trn, a 7.4% increase over defence spending a year earlier.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) downplayed the 2020 budget reduction, saying that the impact of Covid-19 had already prompted a scale down in military operations and delays in modernisation efforts.
In comments reported by the Yonhap news agency, Kim Il-dong, the director general of the MND’s Military Force Policy Bureau, said, “Regarding new business, the contract schedules – including those for overseas tests and evaluations – have already been postponed due to the coronavirus situation, so we cut the budget taking into consideration such delays.”
According to Kim, the MND will also look to postpone by a year payment for some military equipment including Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft and the Lockheed Martin Aegis Combat System. “No delay in introduction or deployment of any equipment is expected due to the budget cut,” he said, according to Yonhap. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Apr 20. CDIC launches review of targets to better support Aussie defence industry. Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has announced an independent review of the Australian government’s Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) will aim to strengthen support for small and regional businesses to take up opportunities in Australia’s growing defence industry.
Minister Price released the terms of reference for the review, which were part of a suite of measures she has initiated to help small businesses get better service from, and greater access to Defence.
“The CDIC is a key initiative of the 2016 Defence White Paper, which was formed to help grow a competitive, sustainable defence industry base. I have been listening carefully to feedback from defence companies across Australia and I am determined to help a great industry to grow stronger,” Minister Price said.
The CDIC supports Australian businesses entering or working in the defence industry. The CDIC:
- helps businesses navigate the defence market;
- provides specialist advice on improving competitiveness and accessing global markets;
- facilitates connections between businesses and Defence;
- links Australian innovators and researchers to the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technologies Fund; and
- undertakes sector-wide projects to support industry development.
The CDIC is headquartered in Adelaide, with advisers and facilitators across all the states and territories to form a national advisory network. They are supported by AusIndustry’s outreach network, which extends the CDIC’s reach to regional areas.
Minister Price added, “The CDIC is often referred to as the front door for service support for local defence companies. I want to throw those doors wide open and this review aims to help us to achieve that. We’ll be engaging defence companies on ways to boost this help.”
Co-chairs of the CDIC Advisory Board – Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, and Tony Fraser, Deputy Secretary of Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group – will lead the review.
The co-chairs will release a discussion paper seeking views from industry, which will be used to inform the review and its recommendations to government.
The CDIC service is delivered by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources on behalf of Defence and it will be consulted as part of the review. The review and its recommendations will be delivered to the minister mid-year.
The CDIC’s mission is to work with industry and Defence to build a world-class, globally competitive and sustainable Australian industry as a fundamental input to capability. It partners with industry, Defence, and state and territory governments to combine knowledge and networks towards this goal.
The terms of reference for the review are available here.
(Source: Defence Connect)
17 Apr 20. PFAS class action brought against Department of Defence. National plaintiff firm Shine Lawyers has launched a multi-site class action to be filed against the Department of Defence, alleging that more than 40,000 residents across Australia have been exposed to toxic chemicals used on military bases.
National plaintiff firm Shine Lawyers has filed a class action on behalf of residents of Richmond, Wagga Wagga (NSW), Wodonga (Victoria), Darwin (NT), Townsville (Queensland), Edinburgh (SA) and Bullsbrook (WA) who have allegedly been exposed to poisonous chemicals found in fire-fighting foam used by military personnel.
The chemicals have, Shine said, “permeated land and water supplies, food sources, and bloodstreams, with cataclysmic consequences”.
The multi-site class action has been filed to compensate residents for significant drops in property prices, the firm said. According to research – conducted both independently and by Shine – PFAS chemicals “amass and persist in the environment and the PFAS levels in these towns are of serious concern”.
Shine special counsel Joshua Aylward said that the action is being launched for tens of thousands of victims exposed to PFAS “as a result of government negligence”.
“In some instances, property owners have seen the value of their land decrease by more than 50 per cent. We’re fighting to adequately compensate these property owners so they are not stuck living on contaminated land,” he said.
“Every aspect of residents’ lives is impacted by this contamination. These toxins are permeating the environment around them, with high levels found in rivers and creeks, livestock, crops, drinking water, and in people’s blood. Property prices are plummeting as a result of this contamination.”
Exposure to these toxic chemicals, Aylward continued, has been linked to birth defects, some cancers, liver changes, raised cholesterol levels and heart disease among others.
“For Shine Lawyers and the people affected by PFAS, this action is about continuing to hold the government accountable for failing residents and putting their lives at risk,” he proclaimed.
“We will vigorously prosecute this case to protect property owners and to ensure that they cannot be further harmed by this dangerous and toxic chemical.”
The action being brought is an open class action, the firm noted, meaning that residents affected are automatically involved unless they elect to opt out of the action at a later date.
Lead applicant of the class action, Reannan Haswell – who moved to Bullsbrook ten years ago with her partner Beaux Tilley – said that the pair holds serious concerns for the safety of their family and value of their property.
“We moved here in 2010 with our family expecting to set up a better life here and now we’ve lost our hope of that happening in Bullsbrook,” she said.
“Now we’re in a position where we’re afraid to let our children drink or bathe from our water supply, and we’re trapped on property with little or no value as a result of our exposure to PFAS,” Tilley added.
“We can’t grow our property to suit our growing family’s needs. We can’t even renovate, we can’t even put in a pool.”
This latest class action comes after Shine and Dentons reached an in-principal agreement with the Australian government on behalf of the communities in Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine in late February, relating to the contamination of areas surrounding Defence bases. Shine Lawyers represented Oakey and Katherine, while Dentons represented Williamtown during the settlements.
“We’re encouraged by Shine Lawyers’ success in the Oakey/Katherine class action and want to see the government held to account for its role in contaminating our town,” said Tilley. (Source: Defence Connect)
17 Apr 20. Op-Ed: Plan Galileo, reshaping Navy’s sustainment and support. Despite the turmoil and disruption of COVID-19, keeping the individual branches of the ADF ready to meet the requirements expected by government and the Australian public remains a top priority. For the Royal Australian Navy, the synergies and collaboration between defence industry and Defence are critical to implementing Plan Galileo, explains Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm.
In what seems like just a few short weeks, our world has been turned upside down by the spread of COVID-19. Every sector of society has been affected in some way. Yet, while the virus cuts a swathe through the economy, we are witnessing a national effort akin to that during World War II.
Our governments are working together to see the country through this crisis, with every Australian called on to do their bit, even if that simply means skipping the beach and staying in to watch TV.
For others, it means ensuring the industries and businesses that provide a livelihood for Australians and help to defend our national interests are able to make it through to the other side.
Federal and state governments are contributing, pumping billions of dollars into the economy to keep businesses alive. For Navy, that means ensuring we can provide certainty and work for industry; we will need them to continue doing what they do — helping our Navy to fight and win at sea.
While our current enemy may be a virus, other challenges in our region remain and are not going to disappear as a result of COVID-19. That means the Australian Defence Force will need to continue doing the job it is currently doing.
We will need to ensure our ability to patrol the Indo-Pacific region continues uninterrupted. We will need to continue stepping up in the Pacific. Our allies will still need us to stand by our commitments to them. Our naval capability to do this is being reinforced by the Government’s multi-billion-dollar continuous Naval Shipbuilding Plan.
This will give us a shipbuilding capability we have not seen since World War II by increasing the size and complexity of our fleet by up to 50 per cent over the next two decades.
In order to ensure that Australia’s naval capability is working as well as it possibly can, and is able to be deployed when and where it is needed, we have rethought our approach to sustaining our naval vessels.
This is Plan Galileo.
At its heart, Plan Galileo is matching our continuous naval shipbuilding capability with a continuous sustainment capability. It rethinks sustainment by considering it as part of a vessel’s design process. What that means on a practical level is that defence industry contractors will know what Navy’s sustainment needs are before a keel is laid.
That gives them certainty in their investments and skilling. It also allows us to line up work from further out.
In many ways, Plan Galileo is more relevant now than in the world that existed prior to COVID-19. It provides a scalable set of work packages for industry delivered over a long time frame. It also helps our regions, since a core component of the concept is what we have called Regional Maintenance Centres.
These are self-contained sustainment centres at strategic ports comprising Defence, primes and SMEs that will be able to sustain any vessel and then return it to sea. These centres are currently planned for Cairns, Perth, Darwin and Sydney.
While Plan Galileo is a long-term project out to 2025, we are already implementing a number of its elements as a “proof of concept” within our Arafura Class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) program. Defence will test ideas, learn from our mistakes — and our successes — and work these into the overall plan as it is rolled out on a national scale.
Of course, all of this requires early and regular engagement with industry in order to communicate our needs, and for us to understand their capabilities and expectations. Obviously, face-to-face engagement has been postponed for now, but that does not mean our need to engage with industry has ended.
In fact, we need it now more than ever. The current environment is providing a useful stress test of our engagement methods and forcing us to innovate when it comes to communicating with our industry partners. Lessons learned from this will hold us in good stead when we face other, non-viral disruptions.
For example, the Regional Maintenance Centres in Cairns and Perth will need to be in place by 2022 in order to support the first OPV. In order to meet this tight deadline, we are pushing ahead with the scheduled program of works.
Plan Galileo is a long-term commitment to our naval sustainment that matches our commitment to shipbuilding. It will provide certainty and longevity in our regions and better embed Navy as a good corporate citizen, while ensuring our Navy can do the job it is called on it to do.
Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm CSM, is currently serving as Head Maritime Systems, Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, Department of Defence. (Source: Defence Connect)
15 Apr 20. Swarm of Iranian Boats Harassed US Ships in Persian Gulf, Navy Says. Close to a dozen vessels from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy spent an hour making repeated “dangerous and harassing approaches” near American ships operating in international waters on Wednesday, according to Navy officials. The 11 vessels carried out the aggressive moves in the Persian Gulf, Naval Forces Central Command said in a news release. The U.S. ships, including four Navy vessels and two Coast Guard, were conducting joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, the release states.
The Iranian vessels came within 10 yards of the Coast Guard’s Island-class cutter Maui and within 50 yards of the expeditionary mobile base Lewis B. Puller.
“The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” the Navy’s news release states, adding that the dangerous passes increase the risk of miscalculation and collision.
The provocations came about two weeks after the U.S. moved a carrier strike group out of the region. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed the Middle East earlier this month.
It had been operating in the region with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, a rare move for the Navy which hasn’t had multiple strike groups in the region for years. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group remains in the area.
Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have been high. In March, two U.S. troops were killed by a rocket attack in Iraq, believed to have been carried out by Iranian-backed militia groups.
In the Wednesday statement about the unsafe maneuvers, Navy officials said U.S. naval leaders are trained to remain vigilant and professional. But, they added, “our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”
The other U.S. ships involved in the episode were the Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton and coastal patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, along with the Coast Guard cutter Wrangell. The crews have been operating in the region since March.
“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response,” the release stated.
About an hour passed before the vessels responded to bridge-to-bridge radio queries, “then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them,” the release added. (Source: Military.com)
15 Apr 20. France delays delivery of Rafale fighter to India. French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation facing a new reality as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic spreads. Planemaker said that the production of Rafale fighter jets has been temporarily suspended in France due to the coronavirus outbreak, which could impact the delivery schedule of the aircraft to India.
Faced with the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus, Dassault announced on February 27 that it would have to suspend its objectives for the year 2020 due to “uncertainties regarding the scale of the pandemic, its geographical extent, its duration and its economic and social consequences“.
For its part, the Indian ministry of defense is struggling to finalize the date for induction of the first four Rafale jets amid speculations of delayed delivery of fighter jets from France due to coronavirus threat.
The Week Magazine reported that though Defense Minister Rajnath Singh last week claimed that the first four Rafale jets would land in India in the last week of May, the Air Force headquarters is yet to get confirmation from the French officials. Indian government on Wednesday suspended all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations till April 15.
In addition, the lockdown restrictions are expected to continue in France at least till the end of April due to severity of the outbreak.
In October 2019, on a visit to France for the second India-France ministerial-level annual defence dialogue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first Rafale jet built for the IAF at the Dassault Aviation’s facility in Merignac. The jets were scheduled to arrive in India by May 2020.
The Indian Air Force has awarded the contract for the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in 2016. (Source: Google/https://defence-blog.com/)
14 Apr 20. Africom’s Partnership Endures During COVID-19 Pandemic. As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States, through U.S. Africa Command, is doing its part to help African partner nations combat this new enemy. In 2019, four African partner nations — Ghana, Senegal, Uganda and Rwanda — were provided with the training and equipment to efficiently and effectively set up, take down and operate a United Nations-standard level 2 hospital through the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership program.
The program, funded by the State Department, helps African nations enhance peacekeeping and security capabilities. Of these four partner nations, three are now deploying their level 2 hospitals as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are proud to stand by our partners as we battle this deadly virus in Africa and around the globe,” Air Force Lt. Gen. James Vechery, Africom’s deputy commander, said. “As we work shoulder to shoulder, it is exciting to see our African partners putting the capabilities we’ve developed over the past few years to such great use during this global pandemic.”
It is our hope that the support we provide to our partners enables them to lessen human suffering and strengthen their nations, their people and the global community.”
Air Force Col. Krystal Murphy, Africom’s deputy command surgeon
The hospitals are one example of Africom efforts to assist African partners to enhance their medical capabilities and pandemic response. Programs such as tactical combat casualty care training, medical readiness exercises and conferences focused on pandemic response efforts all demonstrate the long-term investment by the command.
Ghana, Senegal and Uganda independently decided to deploy their hospitals in support of their national response, said Air Force Maj. Mohamed Diallo, Africom international health specialist. Senegal and Uganda are using the hospitals as overflow facilities for existing hospitals. “We are going to start treating people,” Lt. Col. Henry Obbo, Uganda Land Forces spokesman, said. “It’s just put here… in case the means of health might require additional facilities.”
Ghana, which has nearly 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, is using the facility to treat those affected by the virus.
“Now more than ever, the United States is pleased to work together with the government, armed forces and people of Ghana,” U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie Sullivan said. “This mobile hospital will directly serve those most in need. Together, we will emerge from this stronger and more united.”
Sullivan echoed Ghanaian President Akufo Addo’s call for all Ghanaians and residents of Ghana to stay home as much as possible, as it’s one of the most effective ways to combat the pandemic and “flatten the curve.”
Each hospital package includes 14 shelters with a total of 7,427 square feet of shelter space, consisting of an intensive care unit, a radiology unit and 20 beds.
“While these hospitals were originally designed to support Senegalese soldiers on the battlefield, the Senegalese military has now deployed one of these hospitals and personnel to the city of Touba to assist in the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said U.S. Ambassador to
Combined with the support from other U.S. agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, these contributions have greatly strengthened Senegal’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 threat and demonstrate the strength of the strong 60-year U.S.-Senegalese partnership, the ambassador added.
The effort highlights a whole-of-government approach aimed at ensuring African partners are educated, resourced and supported to contain the spread of the virus, Africom officials said.
“This program, and the medical capabilities it brings to the COVID-19 fight on the African continent, is a prime example of the unique, continuing commitment that U.S. Africa Command pledges to our Africa partners throughout Africa,” Air Force Col. Krystal Murphy, Africom’s deputy command surgeon, said. “It is our hope that the support we provide to our partners enables them to lessen human suffering and strengthen their nations, their people and the global community.” (Source: US DoD)
15 Apr 20. Covid-19: Netherlands and UK deploy ships to Caribbean. The multipurpose ship HNLMS Karel Doorman (A-833) departed from Den Helder port on 13 April en route to the Caribbean to help Holland’s overseas territories deal with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ship will join another in the region, the British Navy’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus (A-135), which left Devonport on 2 April, with a similar mission for British territories.
Karel Doorman will spend a total of three months supporting civilian authorities by treating non-Covid-19 patients, the Dutch navy explained in a 9 April statement. The vessel is transporting food supplies and can also help the local coastguard carry out maritime patrol operations, serve as a floating base, and help maintain public order. (Source: Jane’s)
14 Apr 20. Russia says it’s ready for hypersonic missile talks with U.S. Russia is ready to discuss hypersonic missiles and other arms control issues with the United States as part of wider discussions about strategic stability, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. Cold War-era arms control agreements have been in jeopardy as Russia’s relations with the West have soured in recent years.
In August 2019, the United States pulled out of a landmark strategic arms accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), citing Russian non-compliance.
Both countries are developing hypersonic missiles to expand their defence capabilities, with Russian President Vladimir Putin overseeing a test in Crimea in early January.
Such missiles, which fly several times the speed of sound and can be steered in flight, are harder to stop than other generations of weapons. Some experts fear their deployment could trigger a new nuclear arms race.
Lavrov said he wanted to speak to U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again after receiving a call from him a couple of days ago during which he said Pompeo touched on resuming talks on arms control and strategic stability.
“We welcome such interest from our American partners because we have encouraged them to address these problems more actively for a long time,” Lavrov said.
“We are open to talks about new promising developments, including hypersonic weapons in the context of, and I emphasise this especially, taking into account all aspects and factors that influence strategic stability, without exception.”
Moscow has taken steps to mend ties with the West since the coronavirus outbreak.
Russia has flown medical supplies and equipment to the United States and Italy to help them fight the epidemic. Lavrov said Moscow was prepared to fly over more supplies should Washington request them. (Source: Reuters)
11 Apr 20. Chinese PLA Holds ‘Regular’ Drills Near Taiwan in Preparation for Military Struggle: Experts. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly held military drills featuring warplanes near the island of Taiwan on Friday, and such drills, having taken place at least four times since the traditional Spring Festival holiday in January, have become regular and are now a part of military struggle preparations against the island, mainland experts said on Friday.
Multiple PLA warplanes, including the H-6 bombers, KJ-500 early warning aircraft and J-11 fighter jets, conducted a far-sea long-range drill above southwestern waters near the island of Taiwan on Friday, Taiwan media reported on Friday, citing the island’s defense authority.
The PLA warplanes entered the Western Pacific Ocean through the Bashi Channel, then returned to base along the same route they came from, reports from the island said.
Song Zhongping, a mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Friday that the drills were a part of preparations for the potential military struggle against the island of Taiwan, and such drills have become regular and routine.
After the traditional Spring Festival holiday in late January, the PLA conducted a combat-readiness patrol mission featuring warships and warplanes on February 9, joint exercises on February 10, and “rare” warplane nighttime exercises on March 16, all near the island of Taiwan, despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Song said he expects the PLA to gradually hold larger and more frequent drills, and for the drills to become more targeted and have more deterrence, such as decapitation strikes against secessionist forces and area denial operations against foreign intervention.
The exercises need to let Taiwan secessionists know that the support of foreign forces is useless and also let foreign forces understand that the PLA possesses the ability and determination to solve the Taiwan question, Song said.
The drills on Friday also came after the US recently signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act into law, which allows the US to reduce, expand or terminate economic and diplomatic engagements with nations that take actions to undermine Taiwan, and help Taiwan island gain participation in international organizations, either as a member or an observer, and provide weapons to the island.
Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said following the signing of the US act on March 26 that China’s national reunification and rejuvenation will not be stopped by any force.
14 Apr 20. China may expand military activities in the Western Pacific, says Japanese MoD think tank. China may expand its military activities across the entire western Pacific Ocean, breaking out of the so-called Second Island Chain, the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) said in a report published on 10 April.
“Until now China has employed an incremental policy to break out of the First Island Chain and make its way into the Second Island Chain, but it will be able to have a strategy to target Guam from behind, depending on how it will develop relations with Pacific island nations from now on,” stated the think tank in its East Asian Strategic Review 2020 report. (Source: Jane’s)
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