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03 Jul 20. Russia is going to deploy a space system that warns of missile attacks by 2024, Sergei Surovikin, the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, told the military’s official newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda on Thursday.
“As part of creating the United Space System, [Russia] is going to deploy the orbital constellation of spacecraft by 2024”, Surovikin said.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the United Space System will play a key role in ensuring the missile attack warning system.
The commander also said that equipping the missile attack warning system with the latest-generation radars would be complete by 2022, noting that this modernisation would be achieved after putting into service modern radar systems near the city of Vorkuta (the Republic of Komi) in 2021 and in Murmansk in 2022.
“Putting these radar stations into service will complete the re-equipment of the missile attack warning system with the latest-generation radars”, Surovikin said.
Surovikin additionally revealed that the country would start deploying two new constellations of military communications and intelligence satellites in 2022 and 2023.
“In 2022, [Russia] is going to start deploying the promising third-stage united satellite communications system of the Russian Armed Forces, while starting in 2023 it will start deploying a high-orbit space intelligence system”, Surovikin said.
Russia will also build new radar systems as part of the missile attack warning system in the Far East and modernise those in other regions, according to the commander.
“The plan of developing the missile attack warning system envisages the modernisation of some radars … operating in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and Irkutsk Region, as well as creating new systems with improved specifications and interference immunity in the Far East Federal District and the Leningrad Region”, he added. (Source: Google/https://sputniknews.com/)
02 Jul 20. India Agrees to Multibillion-Dollar Russian Jet Deal Amid Standoff with China. India has green-lighted the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 others worth $2.4bn at a time of rising border tensions with China. The Defense Ministry on July 2 announced the purchase from Russia of 21 MiG-29s as well as upgrades to 59 existing MiG-29 aircraft. The government also approved the procurement of 12 Russian Su-30 MKI aircraft to be built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The purchase, along with indigenously produced missile systems in line with the government’s “Make in India” initiative, were made “to strengthen the armed forces for the defense of our borders,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The announcement followed a telephone conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Among other things, Modi congratulated Putin for the “successful completion” of a national vote on constitutional amendments that could allow the Russian leader to rule until 2036.
The two leaders also discussed plans for a bilateral summit later this year in India.
New Delhi and Moscow were partners during the Cold War and much of India’s military hardware is of Russian origin.
In 2019, India was the third-largest military spender in the world at $71.1bn, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Modi has sought to boost the domestic defense industry by focusing on indigenous design, production, and development, as well as technology transfer agreements with other countries.
Most of India’s arms imports still come from Russia. The United States and Israel are also major providers of high-tech military hardware.
India’s military buildup comes as its relationship with China has worsened in recent weeks following a clash on June 15 along a disputed stretch of border in the Himalayas in which India lost 20 soldiers. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty)
02 Jul 20. People’s Republic of China Military Exercises in the South China Sea. The Department of Defense is concerned about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) decision to conduct military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on July 1-5.
The designated area where the exercises are due to take place encompass contested waters and territory. Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability. The PRC’s actions will further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea. Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.
The military exercises are the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea. The PRC’s actions stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and 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 Department of Defense will continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that the PRC will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and not undertake military activities that might aggravate disputes in the South China Sea. (Source: US DoD)
03 Jul 20. Strategist concurs, it is time for Australia to defend itself. Acclaimed defence policy expert Paul Dibb, author of the 1986 Dibb report, has applauded the Prime Minister’s $270bn plan to enhance Australia’s defence capability, but is tweaking Dibb’s Cold War-era strategy and applying new technology enough to ensure Australia’s national security?
Since the 1960s, Australia’s defence policy and long-term planning has been based on the fallout following Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict at the behest of our “great and powerful” friend, the US.
Tactical and strategic realities, largely this dependence on a “great power” benefactor, have ensured that Australia and its regional neighbours have enjoyed the stability afforded to them by the strategic umbrella of the UK prior to the Second World War and the US in the aftermath.
A central part of this balance between tactical independence and strategic dependence on a great power benefactor served as the underpinning of the nation’s strategic doctrine and policy since Federation, while the Forward Defence policy sought to establish Australia’s sphere of influence and some form of Australian strategic umbrella in the aftermath of the Second World War.
This approach, combined with platforms and a public memory of the direct Japanese threat to the mainland, empowered Australia to directly engage in regional strategic and security affairs, actively deterring aggression and hostility in Malaya during the Konfrontasi and communist aggression in Korea and Vietnam.
However, the nation’s disastrous involvement in the Vietnam conflict at the behest of the US and the ensuing political backlash, combined with the changing geostrategic environment, signalled a major shift in the direction of the nation’s strategic policy that continues to influence Australia’s doctrine to this day.
It was this domestic political backlash and a changing geo-strategic environment that would see Australia adopt an arguably more isolationist policy, focusing almost entirely on the “Defence of Australia” and what many describe as “self reliance”, which placed less emphasis on the ANZUS alliance.
Many would rightfully argue that following the relative decline and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of American hegemony throughout the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, this was a prudent step as Australia positioned itself as a key benefactor of the American peace, with minor constabulary responsibilities.
This shift towards focusing on the direct defence of the Australian mainland dramatically altered the nation’s approach to intervention in subsequent regional security matters. These included Australia’s intervention in East Timor and later, to a lesser extent, in the Solomon Islands and Fiji during the early to mid-2000s.
Each of these missions were further followed by subsequent humanitarian and disaster relief deployments throughout the region, each stretching the Australian Defence Force’s capacity to juggle multiple concurrent operations.
However, the rise of China as a peer or near-peer competitor, driven by an unprecedented economic miracle and corresponding military build-up and overt pursuit of its territorial ambitions, coupled with the relative decline of the US as a reliable tactical and strategic benefactor, has caught many Indo-Pacific nations off guard.
Despite the intentions of implementing the Defence of Australia strategy, in particular, the focus on establishing and maintaining a warning time, maximised by directing potential threats through the vaunted ‘sea-air gap’ and reducing Australia’s dependence upon the US, it failed to deliver and only entrenched Australia’s dependence upon the US.
Shape, deter, respond
The Dibb review has formed the foundation for subsequent Australian Defence White Papers, Force Structure Plans and acquisition programs since its inception, including the recently announced 2020 Defence Strategy Update and Force Structure Plan, which have subsequently identified three core principles for Australia’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific:
- To shape Australia’s strategic environment;
- Deter actions against Australia’s interests; and
- Respond with credible military force, when required.
On the back of these factors, author of the original Dibb review, celebrated Australian strategic policy expert Paul Dibb, has entered the debate supporting the government’s strategic reorientation, expanding on the three strategic priorities: “The 2020 Defence Strategic Update defines three strategic priorities for the Australian Defence Force. The first priority is to shape Australia’s strategic environment to ensure that we have a stable, secure and sovereign region.
“The Indo-Pacific is where Australia has the greatest influence and it requires intensified commitment, including with major regional powers such as Japan, India and Indonesia.
“The second priority is to deter military activities in the nearer region that are against our interests. The ADF needs stronger deterrent capabilities, including long-range strike, cyber-attack, and area-denial weapons.
“The third priority is to respond with credible military force when required. This requires improving the ADF’s logistics, stockholding, fuel supplies and military bases, and acquiring strike weapons, including possibly hypersonic missiles in the future.”
While the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan correctly identify the key geo-strategic challenges serving to shake the bedrock of the post-Second World War order, what they both fail to do is to directly question and challenge the principles of the force structure established by Dibb, which continue to shape Australia’s force posture.
This failure has a dramatic impact on the capability available to the government should Defence be required to conduct multiple, concurrent high-intensity combat or combined high-intensity combat and humanitarian, disaster relief and/or regional stabilisation operations – this is particularly relevant as both of the recently released documents state that the ADF will only see a personnel growth of 800.
Dibb explains the government’s dramatic shift in policy and doctrine, yet fails to ask that critical question: “Philosophically, this new policy has been chiselled from the steel of geopolitical realism.
“It is a quite remarkable departure from the 2016 defence white paper, which lauded the rules-based order when that order was being challenged — in different ways — by China and the US. Geopolitical realism demands that we have the military capability to defend ourselves and to prevent any predatory power from dominating our military approaches, establishing military bases in our proximate region or directly threatening us.
“That is the central mission of Morrison’s new defence policy: his doctrine is that — if necessary — we can hold an adversary’s forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia. This means we will have the capability to attack not only its military forces but also its infrastructure and logistic supply lines at considerable distance from Australia. It would make no sense to just wait for such an adversary by simply defending the continent.”
Getting the balance right – the manpower v platform equation
While this shift is a step in the right direction, as previously mentioned it fails to directly account for the myriad challenges that may face the ADF and the force structure that has remained largely unchanged since the 1987 Defence White Paper despite these now well documented and articulated challenges.
What this means is that Australia’s defence response to the rapidly deteriorating geo-strategic, economic and political reality is only half-complete, particularly as we seek to limit critical capabilities to an ever dwindling number of platforms that are replaced based on arbitrary assessments of the minimum capability needed to enforce the now defunct Defence of Australia policy.
A perfect example of this is the one-for-one replacement of Australia’s classic Hornet fleet with an equal number of fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters or the replacement of six Adelaide Class guided missile frigates with three Hobart Class air warfare destroyers, which significantly impacts the ADF’s capacity to reliably and safely conduct multiple concurrent operations.
Recognising these factors, does what the government outlined meet what it has set as the primary missions for the ADF? Namely: “The range of capabilities that Defence will maintain, develop, enhance and acquire under the 2020 Force Structure Plan will provide the government with a flexible range of options to deliver the government’s objectives to shape Australia’s strategic environment; deter actions against Australia’s interests; and respond with credible military force.”
While many pundits will highlight the important and growing capacity of unmanned and autonomous systems as key force multipliers for the future ADF, the simple matter is that basing the force structure and platform recapitalisation upon arbitrary requirements and a now non-existent warning time is incredibly dangerous, particularly if government expects more of the ADF and the existing and planned platforms.
It is critical to identify, articulate and understand that powerful force multiplying assets, autonomous and unmanned systems cannot replace the key crewed platforms and the both hard and soft power implications of deploying these platforms.
So, with the $270bn announced, are the capabilities and the manpower identified enough as Australia seeks to not only navigate, but shape a period of growing geo-political, economic, political and strategic competition? (Source: Defence Connect)
02 Jul 20. Australia releases weapons wish list amid defense spending boost. Australia plans to increase defense spending over the next decade to AU$270bn (U.S. $187bn) in response to what it says is a deteriorating regional environment. The July 1 announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the plan coincides with the launch of the government’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the associated Force Structure Plan, which will raise projected spending from AU$195bn as laid out in the 2016 Defence White Paper.
“The simple truth is this: Even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous and that is more disorderly,” Morrison said during the documents launch at the Australian Defence Force Academy on Wednesday.
“We have not seen the conflation of global, economic and strategic uncertainty now being experienced here in Australia in our region since the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s.”
Morrison also cited trends including military modernization, technological disruption and the risk of state-on-state conflict as further complicating factors in the Indo-Pacific region, which he said has deteriorated more rapidly than forecast by the previous whitepaper from 2016.
“The Indo-Pacific is the epicenter of rising, strategic competition. Our region will not only shape our future; increasingly though, it is the focus of the dominant global contest of our age,” he said. “Tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region, as we have seen recently on the disputed border between India and China, and the South China Sea and the East China Sea.”
The two defense documents forecast the development of closer ties with Australia’s regional partners and with the U.S., but it also warns of the need for enhanced self-reliance, which Morrison said signals the country’s “ability and willingness” to project military power and deter actions against it.
“Relations between China and the U.S. are fractious at best as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy. But it’s important to acknowledge that they are not the only actors of consequence. The rest of the world and Australia are not just bystanders to this,” he said. “Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the countries of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Pacific all have agency, choices to make, parts to play, and of course so does Australia.”
Additional capabilities to those already being acquired include long-range strike weapons, area-denial systems and cyber tools — including the establishment of an offensive cyber capability.
Also included on Australia’s shopping list is the Lockheed Martin AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missile, which would become the country’s next air-launched maritime strike weapon under Project Air 3023 Phase 1. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed Thursday that Australia will acquire an unspecified number of LRASM weapons through a Foreign Military Sales deal with the U.S. Navy.
Training on the weapon is to begin in the U.S. in 2021. The missile will initially be employed by the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighters, with an initial operational capability to follow in 2023. Reynolds said the missile will also be integrated with Australia’s F-35A jets, which are also made by Lockheed.
Australia is also seeking replacement fleets for the Royal Australian Air Force’s Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules, Airbus KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft, Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control planes and EA-18G Growler electronic attack platforms.
The country’s Jindalee Operational Radar Network is also to be expanded to cover Australia’s eastern approaches. The government is also backing the creation of a hypersonic weapons development program.
The documents also call for the Royal Australian Navy to receive two new multipurpose sealift and replenishment vessels and up to eight mine countermeasures and tactical hydrographic vessels, to be based on the Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels now under construction in local shipyards.
The Australian Army is to receive an active protection system for its Hawkei and Bushmaster fleets of protected mobility vehicles; two regiments of self-propelled howitzers, to be built locally; and a replacement for its Abrams M1A1 main battle tanks. (Source: Defense News)
02 Jul 20. Taiwan practices ‘enemy annihilation’ after China steps up activity. Taiwan’s armed forces carried out live fire drills on its west coast on Thursday practising “enemy annihilation on the shore”, ahead of its main annual exercises later this month and as China steps up military activities near the island it claims. Taiwan has complained in recent months of repeated Chinese air force patrols near it, in some cases crossing into Taiwan-controlled airspace. In April, a Chinese naval flotilla led by the country’s first aircraft carrier passed near Taiwan.
China claims the democratic island as its own territory, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by China.
The drills, in a coastal area facing the sensitive Taiwan Strait, simulated fending off an attempted landing by enemy forces, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said.
They involved Taiwan’s most modern fighter jet the F-16V, Apache attack helicopters, tanks and artillery, which fired live rounds, the ministry added, showing pictures of plumes of water in the sea where ordinance had hit their targets.
The drills were aimed at improving the military’s effectiveness at “enemy annihilation on the shore” and to “prevail along the coastline” to stop an enemy invasion, it said.
Taiwan later this month holds its main annual Han Kuang military exercise, which was postponed from earlier this year due to the new coronavirus.
Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with U.S.-made weapons, and President Tsai Ing-wen has made boosting the island’s defences a top priority since she first won office in 2016.
However Taiwan faces an increasingly formidable and far larger Chinese military, which has been undergoing its own modernisation programme, adding stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles. (Source: Reuters)
01 Jul 20. Saudi spokesman accuses Iran of arming AQAP. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has supplied weapons to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), according Colonel Turki al-Maliki, the Saudi officer who acts as the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthi) rebels.
Col Maliki was recorded making the claim to Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, as he showed him weapons recovered from the war in Yemen at a press conference in Riyadh on 29 June.
“We can see some of the weapons that were seized by our special forces from the ground in one operation against AQAP in east of Yemen and we have found with the terrorist group some of the Iranian weapons which prove they are also supporting the AQAP,” he said.
It was unclear what weapons he was specifically referring to at the time, although the two men were standing next to what appeared to be two rounds for a 106 mm M40 recoilless rifle.
The rest of the briefing focused on Iranian support for Ansar Allah, during which Col Maliki showed Hook various missiles and unmanned aircraft that were either supplied by Iran or were built with Iranian assistance. (Source: Jane’s)
02 Jul 20. Australian long-range strike capability to help maintain regional security. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds have confirmed a major boost to Australia’s long-range strike capabilities as part of the government’s $270bn investment in future defence capability.
The new investments will be made across the air, maritime and land assets to give the Australian Defence Force more options to protect Australia’s interests and serve as a key component of the government’s plan to deter or respond to aggression in the Indo-Pacific, as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.
Prime Minister Morrison said, “The challenges and changing nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests.
“These new capabilities will provide a strong credible deterrent in our region that will help provide the stability and security we need. We are committed to peace and stability in the region, and an open, inclusive, prosperous and sovereign Indo-Pacific.”
The government’s commitment to this new strategic policy setting is demonstrated with the decision to acquire an advanced maritime strike capability, the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), from the United States Navy (USN), at an estimated cost of around $800m.
Minister Reynolds said, “It is essential that we have the capabilities that can hold forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance, to influence decision-making of those who may seek to threaten our national interests.”
The new missile is a significant upgrade from our current AGM-84 air-launched Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was introduced in the early 1980s, with a range of 124 kilometres. The LRASM has a range in excess of 370 kilometres.
LRASM will initially be used on the F/A-18F Super Hornets and has the flexibility to be integrated onto other Defence aircraft. Training on the weapon system is set to commence in 2021.
LRASM will be another fifth-generation capability added to the Air Force inventory to protect Australia’s maritime region, including our sea lines of communication and helping ensure regional maritime security.
To enhance the strike capability of the ADF across all domains, the government has also put in place plans to invest in:
- Advanced naval strike capabilities, including long-range anti-ship and land strike weapons;
- The acquisition of long-range rocket artillery and missile systems to give the Army an operational strike capability; and
- The development, test and evaluation of high-speed long range strike, including hypersonic weapons.
Over the decade to 2029-30, investment in the acquisition of new capability will grow from $14.4bn (34 per cent of the budget) to $29.2bn (40 per cent of the budget).
The government will also consider further force structure adjustments over the medium to longer term, which could involve the introduction of additional, longer-range weapon systems, which will be critical for the ADF to be able to continue to deliver credible deterrent effects. (Source: Defence Connect)
02 Jul 20. ASEAN summit fails to deliver on South China Sea flashpoint. After the 10-bloc ASEAN summit convened remotely on 26 June, many were hopeful that Vietnam – which chaired the meeting – would use it as a platform to redress PLC expansion in the South China Sea. Unfortunately for those expecting a sea change in the SCS, coronavirus remained top of mind.
In early April, the US Department of State first drew the link between the pandemic and build-up in the South China Sea. In an official statement released to press, a spokesman said that China was using the outbreak as a guise to increase activity in the region.
“We call on the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea,” the US Department of State said in a statement in early April.
Following this, US ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse jnr told Defence Connect that China was pursuing an expansionist policy in the region with “shocking new vigour”.
Pushing back on what he termed “Beijing’s heavy-handed attempts to unlawfully impose its territorial claims on the rest of the (Indo-Pacific) region,” he said that freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) conducted by the USS Barry and USS Bunker Hill in April went some way to counterbalancing this.
So, in the lead-up the delayed 36th ASEAN summit, it was widely expected that countries would look to use it as a forum to air their grievances with China. Particularly Vietnam, which has been perhaps the most vocal of ASEAN nations in its disdain for China’s assertion of the “nine-dash line” and acts as the current ASEAN chair.
Tensions between the south-east Asian country and its neighbour to the north have been at a record high since the early April sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, after collision with a Chinese Coast Guard vessel in claimed territory off the Paracel Islands. Following the ramming and sinking, a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel detained the crew on a nearby island. Two nearby Vietnamese vessels, which sought to rescue their countrymen, were reportedly also apprehended by Chinese authorities. All of them were later released by Chinese authorities, according to reports in the Asia Times.
It came as little surprise that in his opening speech, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, “While the entire world was fighting an epidemic, irresponsible actions that violate international laws and pose threats to security and stability were taking place in some areas, including Vietnam’s.”
Prior to the meeting, Vietnam also pushed aggressively for an in-person meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, given it has effectively contained its outbreak. Though unsuccessful in its bid, diplomats from other ASEAN nations acknowledged that it can be difficult to conduct diplomacy over a Skype connection. “We can’t negotiate this kind of thing virtually, so we can only wait until the situation improves,” said a Indonesian Foreign Ministry official to the Nikkei Asian Review.
Yet as is always the case in the world of naval policy, time is of the essence. With a plan to jointly develop a China-ASEAN code of conduct for navigation and development in the SCS falling by the wayside for now, China is likely to exploit the delay to further consolidate its presence in disputed waters. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has previously suggested a code could be drafted and signed by 2021 – while this is looking far less likely with each passing day, it’s worth bearing in mind the speed at which the country’s industry is able to mobilise and carry out construction works.
As ASEAN countries refocus towards domestic coronavirus woes, so too will their ability to project economic and military muscle externally dwindle. Indonesia, for example, has announced it will slash its defence budget this year by nearly US$588m. Thailand has likewise reduced its defence allocation by $555m, and the Philippines decided to scrap the annual Baltikatan 2020 exercise, which would have seen joint drills carried out with the Australian Navy.
Yet at the same time, it’s clear that China is stepping up its presence in the region, and will continue to do so over the course of at least the next year. While ASEAN leaders flounder on putting together a code of conduct, the PLAN moves to fill the void.
The effects of Chinese naval assertiveness, of course, are more nuanced than naked militarisation in the Paracels and the Spratlys. They spill over into the commercial, creating headaches for their ASEAN neighbours in all manner of ways.
Just prior to the outbreak, reports surfaced that the CCG had escorted Chinese vessels while fishing illegally inside the Indonesian exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in the North Natuna Sea, kicking off a diplomatic spat between President Xi Jinping and his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo. In more recent months, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, a Chinese government research ship, conducted a survey near the the Petronas-operated West Capella, flaring tensions with Kuala Lumpur.
“Concerns were expressed on the land reclamations, recent developments, activities and serious incidents” in the South China Sea, said the ASEAN summit’s chairman on Friday. The statement emphasised “the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to negotiations on the code of conduct”.
As the world moves forward into the “new normal”, this sort of empty rhetoric will no longer cut it. With Beijing’s proclivity to flout international maritime law – case in point being the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the South China Sea case brought by the Philippines – it’s not even clear that a binding SCS Code of Conduct can fix the issue, even if one is achieved over the coming year.
Writing for The Diplomat in 2019, Vietnamese politician Nguyen Minh Quang put it particularly well, speaking to the likelihood of a binding COC ever getting off the ground.
“China won’t join a binding COC,” he says, “that could challenge Beijing’s aim of turning the South China Sea into its own private lake.” (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Jul 20. China’s exercise around the Paracel Islands will reinforce Vietnam’s naval focus. China announced its intension to hold military exercises in the waters off the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands) between 1st July and 5th July via its Maritime Security Administration and advised that no vessel would be allowed to navigate within the coordinates provided. China’s claims of sovereignty and military exercises in the South China sea have been a point of contention with its neighbors for quite some time and these exercises need to be understood in the dynamic contexts present in the area.
Vietnam had recently nominated four conciliators and arbitrators, possibly pursuing a legal option as did the Philippines to settle and reinforce its stand on the Paracels. On the militarily front, Vietnam focus is on naval modernization, pushed again by Chinese dominance and presence in the region. In late May, Vietnam even announced that it had locally made its version of the Russian Kh-35UE anti-ship cruise missile, the VCM-1.
Vietnam’s need to focus on naval modernization is obvious, according to GlobalData’s report The Vietnamese Defense Market – Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2025, 49% of military imports to Vietnam accounted for naval vessels. Key trends, in the same report, would show that surveillance is the focus for Vietnam for the years to come, and for good reason. These military exercises by China is only going to reinforce the threat perceptions that Vietnam possess on increased surveillance and maritime patrols.
The two countries do have amicable relations elsewhere, helped by the familiarity between party ideologies, but the pleasantries do stop when it comes to the sovereignty and boundaries of the countries. Yet, for China, the potential dissent against these exercises isn’t going to be an isolated event from one party. It is facing increasing pressure globally, not just limited to disputes of the South China sea. There’s been increasing tension with Australia, India and Taiwan (not to mention the US), and it’s response to all of them have tended to be to reassert its point and stick to it. Given this, China may find itself asserting its economic might across the region and with debtor countries to ensure that neighbors are in favor Chinese economic interests. (Source: army-technology.com)
01 Jul 20. Semi-Annual Report: Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. Today the Department of Defense provided to the Congress the semiannual report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” covering events during the period of December 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020.
The report was submitted in accordance with requirements from the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, as well as subsequent amendments.
The United States’ vital national interest in Afghanistan is to ensure the territory is never again used as a safe haven from which terrorists can attack the United States, our Allies, or interests abroad. The primary goal of the South Asia Strategy is a durable and inclusive political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan. The February 29, 2020, signing of the conditions-based U.S.-Taliban Agreement and release of the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration represent a significant milestone in U.S. efforts to achieve that objective.
During the initial portion of the reporting period, USFOR-A adjusted its operational approach to intensify pressure on the Taliban to reduce violence and create the conditions that led to the signing of the U.S-Taliban Agreement. Since the February 2020 Reduction in Violence (RIV) period, U.S. operations have continued to focus on CT operations against ISIS-K, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, while operations targeting the Taliban have been in defense of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
A distinct line of effort was added to the campaign plan to enhance ANDSF effectiveness, responsiveness, and overall protection of key Government of Afghanistan infrastructure. Afghan partners established the Combined Situational Awareness Room and supporting Regional Targeting Teams as a cross security pillar network to prioritize, resource, and enable ANDSF operations based on a collective understanding of the security environment. These new developments have positively impacted the ANDSF’s capability to deny the Taliban and ISIS-K the ability to accomplish their objectives. For the foreseeable future, however, all ANDSF components will continue to rely on contracted logistic support and on the United States for the vast majority of the funding needed to sustain combat operations.
On March 1, 2020, following the U.S.–Taliban Agreement in Doha, Resolute Support began reducing forces in accordance with the agreement. Resolute Support reduced their force level to approximately 12,000 personnel while U.S. personnel began their reduction to approximately 8,600 personnel. Advising efforts shifted from persistent to periodic during this period, consistent with Resolute Support’s operational campaign design that emphasizes “point of need” advising. The report also addresses how the mission has adapted to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The United States remains committed to helping Afghans create a secure and stable Afghanistan by supporting inclusive efforts to achieve peace. The best path to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement among Afghans. The U.S. national security goal is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe-haven for terrorists to threaten the security of the United States homeland, our allies, and interests overseas. (Source: US DoD)
01 Jul 20. ‘Be prepared’: Australian PM issues warning, outlines future defence spending. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have outlined a major step change in the nation’s defence capability, force structure and posture renewing the nation’s focus on the Indo-Pacific.
It has been awaited with bated breath, but it is finally here, the new Force Structure Plan and Defence Strategy Update has been released, marking a major step-change in the nation’s approach to the Indo-Pacific.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have moved to outline a shift away from Australia’s broader global focus, to reorientate and emphasise the nation’s defence and national security focus on Australia’s primary area of responsibility, the Indo-Pacific.
The Prime Minister opened by stating, “This investment goes beyond the government’s long-term commitment to 2 per cent of GDP on defence spending, we need to prepare for a post-COVID world, that is poorer and more dangerous.
“Tensions over territorial claims across the Indo-Pacific are rising, regional militarisation and the risk of miscalculation are escalating, relations between the United States and China are fractuous at best and it is important to acknowledge that they’re not the only actors of consequence and it is important to identify that they alone will not guide the Indo-Pacific.”
The Strategic Update sets out the challenges in Australia’s strategic environment and their implications for Defence planning. It provides a new strategic policy framework to ensure Australia is able – and is understood as willing – to deploy military power to shape our environment, deter actions against our interests and, when required, respond with military force.
While the drivers of change identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper persist, they have accelerated faster than anticipated. Australia now faces an environment of increasing strategic competition; the introduction of more capable military systems enabled by technological change; and the increasingly aggressive use of diverse grey-zone tactics to coerce states under the threshold for a conventional military response.
Prime Minister Morrison identified the central pillar of the new Defence Strategy Update and Force Structure Plan, stating, “The first objective is to shape Australia’s geo-strategic environment, that is Australia shaping the Indo-Pacific to ensure it is free of coercion and hegemony.”
While the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not yet clear, it has deeply altered the economic trajectory of the region and the world with implications for Australia’s prosperity and security.
The implementation of the 2016 Defence White Paper has seen substantial progress in building a more potent, capable and agile Australian Defence Force. Because of this, Defence is much better positioned to defend Australia and its interests.
However, important adjustments to defence policy are set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to respond to the rapid changes in the strategic environment.
The Strategic Update replaces the Strategic Defence Framework set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper with three new strategic objectives:
- To shape Australia’s strategic environment;
- To deter actions against Australia’s interests; and
- To respond with credible military force, when required.
The Prime Minister said, “These capabilities must be able to hold threats to Australia at a greater distance – everything we’re about doing is supporting and protecting Australia’s sovereignty and resilience.
“We are again providing long-term budget certainty, enabling defence and defence industry to focus on delivering the capability.
“Australia will invest in longer-range strike, area denial and cyber capabilities, areas of traditional strength for Australia to counter emerging threats.”
The Department of Defence states: “The 2020 Force Structure Plan details the government’s intentions for new and adjusted Australian Defence Force capability investments to implement the new strategic objectives.
“The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan will ensure that Defence can respond to new challenges as they emerge. This delivers on the government’s commitment to protect Australia and its interests.”
The Prime Minister said, “The defence of Australia is a team effort, it goes beyond those in uniform, it’s the responsibility of all.” (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Jul 20. Government defence spending to boost naval shipbuilding capability. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have announced $75bn investment over the next decade into the Royal Australian Navy as part of the Commonwealth’s record $270bn defence investment. This significant investment builds on the government’s 2017 Naval Shipbuilding Plan, and will enhance Australia’s warfighting capabilities across its operations.
Following today’s announcement of additional acquisition and upgrade plans in the 2020 Force Structure Plan, the Naval Shipbuilding Plan now encompasses over 70 vessels to be built here in Australia, with more opportunities in the future.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds explained that as the future geo-strategic environment evolves, so must Defence’s plans to grow, update and evolve its naval force.
“For our Navy, the five cornerstones of contemporary naval power – strategic deterrence, sea control, decisive lethality, projection of power ashore and naval presence – remain central to our force design,” Minister Reynolds said. (Source: Defence Connect)
30 Jun 20. Helicopter, submarine deliveries to Singapore delayed because of Covid-19. Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) is expecting the delivery of the first of four Invincible (Type 218SG)-class submarines for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) as well as the handover of the first Airbus Helicopters H225M medium-lift and CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to be delayed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters via video conference ahead of Singapore Armed Forces Day on 1 July, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said initial deliveries of the CH-47F and H225M rotorcraft, which were originally scheduled for the end of 2020, are now expected to take place in 2021.
Similarly, “for our Invincible-class submarine, our previous timeline was 2021. There will be some slippage; this will now be in 2022”, said Ng, pointing out that the pandemic has affected manpower and supply chains globally. That said, the minister stated that the acquisition process for Lockheed Martin F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) remains on track, with the RSAF expecting to take delivery of four of these aircraft around 2026. The Singaporean government has requested an initial batch of four F-35Bs with the option to acquire an additional eight. For the RSN, the replacement of six Victory-class missile corvettes with an equal number of Multi-Role Combat Vessels (MRCVs) is also on schedule, with delivery of the new vessels expected by 2030. (Source: Jane’s)
29 Jun 20. Statement by Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs on Intelligence That Russian GRU Operatives Were Engaged in Malign Activity Against the U.S. and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan.
DOD Statement attributable to Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman: “The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports. Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan — and around the world — most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Jun 20. Iran prosecutor says human error led to shooting down of Ukrainian airliner. The shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran in January was due to human error and not an order from senior military authorities, the military prosecutor for Tehran province, Gholam Abbas Torki, said on Monday, Tasnim news agency reported.
There was no indication that the downing of the airliner, which killed all 176 people aboard, was due to a cyber attack on Iran’s missile or air defence systems, Torki said, adding that three people were under arrest related to the accident.
The airliner was shot down shortly after takeoff in Tehran, when Iran’s air defences were on high alert, hours after Iran had fired missiles at a U.S. base in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of an Iranian commander. Iran has already described the shooting down of the plans as a tragic mistake.
The operator of the air defence system should have received orders from his superiors before firing two missiles at the airliner, Torki said.
“Twenty six seconds passed between the first and second firing but unfortunately during this time the operator also did not get permission for the second firing from the network,” Torki said.
The black boxes of the airliner have been physically damaged and reading them is technically complicated, Torki said.
France’s BEA crash investigation agency said on Friday it would download the black boxes from the airliner at Iran’s request, easing a stand-off over where they should be read. (Source: Reuters)
29 Jun 20. Op-Ed: Australian Grand Strategy, China and security. As conversation about Australia’s public policy response to Beijing’s increasing antagonism towards the nation continues to evolve, Dr Peter Layton, visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, has responded to senator Jim Molan’s critique of Dr Layton’s ‘Grand Strategy’ concept.
Senator Jim Molan recently critiqued my post that suggested Australia’s grand strategic thinking on China should be framed around three factors: economic interdependence, Chinese technological aspirations and increasing unpredictability. Jim’s main thrust was that these design criteria do not adequately consider security.
Jim has an important point. He’s highlighted that a major issue in our national debate on China is whether Australia should build its grand strategy around economic or military power.
Grand strategies involve applying diverse forms of power, often expressed in shorthand as DIME: diplomacy, information, military, economic. In my post the grand strategy core is economics with the D, I and M in support.
Jim implies having the core military with D, I and E in support might be more prudent. However, an economic focus could give broader and harder geostrategic options that at first apparent.
The Australia/China economic interdependence is complementary. We send China iron ore and coal while China sends us people (tourists and students). With our minerals China is building a bigger military than Australia will ever be able to.
On the other hand, if those tourists and students take home a belief that democracies have a better way of life that undermines China’s Communist Party.
This simple example highlights the Party has an inherent weakness that going heavy on economics can exploit. China needs to trade with the world to maintain improving living standards and thus societal acquiescence to Party rule.
In having to be deeply involved with the wider world, China becomes vulnerable to economic coercion, trade disturbances, supply chain disruptions and influence operations. If China became autarkic, that is self-sufficient, the ability of others to impact Party policies would greatly diminish – and these ‘others’ includes military strategists.
Some place great store in winning imagined wars against China through blockade, with an example TX Hammes’ Offshore Control Strategy. This is all reminiscent of World War Two when US submarines – some sailing out of Australia – almost completely cut Japan’s merchant shipping routes, but this was important only because Japan needed those routes to bring food and supplies.
Geographically, China is not Japan and is instead like the Soviet Union: a continental power impervious to blockades unless it chooses to be. From a military perspective, acting to keep China a deep and engaged part of global supply chains means also keeping a greater range of strategic options then otherwise.
In that regard, companies exporting Australian iron ore could lend a hand. In being low priced, their product is highly sought after by China. China’s ports hold very large stockpiles of iron ore thereby making China much less sensitive to any supply disruption related to geostrategic concerns.
Rio Tinto, Australia’s largest iron ore exporter, has recently set up “portside trading” stockpiles, further insulating China from supply disruptions and so less vulnerable to the kinds of external pressure China exerts on others. From an Australian geostrategic perspective, gradually moving China to a just-in-time mineral supply situation would be most advantageous while not impacting commercial activities.
Turning more directly to the military instrument of national power and how it might support an economic-heavy grand strategy, there are two obvious areas.
First, using interdependence as a way to influence China would be much more successful if other countries support the general approach and the specific issues in a future circumstance. Australia is enhancing its relationships with a range of regional middle powers that could potentially be very useful with managing China.
The ADF can help here through deeply engaging appropriate middle power defence forces and building robust linkages and durable connections. Such military-to-military engagements signal that the nations concerned have a serious relationship that is long-term and based on shared interest and values.
Second, China has a hankering for grey zone operations that try to coerce others while remaining under the threshold for armed conflict. China’s air and sea operations against Japan in the East China Sea and against ASEAN in the South China Sea are exemplars.
More recently China has employed these tactics against India in disputed land border regions. This later action highlights that grey zone operations are not necessarily casualty free as dozens were killed by Chinese forces.
Such hostile activities are hard to address as they blend peace and war, not see these as different situations as traditional strategic thinking does. Unusually, China wishes to sustain diverse interdependence with others while waging grey zone operations against them. As my post noted: “China is apparently attracted to being simultaneously friendly and adversarial.” China’s split personality is problematic but needs factoring into grand strategies.
The ADF has started thinking about how to counter grey zone operations but there’s more to be done. In this, the ADF may be starting from a hard place as some of its new equipment isn’t being bought for this purpose. The most obvious examples are the big new ‘ship-killing’ submarines, which may be not overly well-suited for either grey zone operations or deeply engaging regional middle powers. Submarines rely on staying hidden not on providing a highly visible, reassuring presence.
Jim is correct that grand strategies often include security, but security is a word with broad connotations. A grand strategy with an economics core is not necessarily a weak or a passive one. It is whether it might be effective that is the big issue.
Peter Layton is a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and author of Grand Strategy. (Source: Defence Connect)
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