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19 Jul 20. Russia holds military exercises in southwest amid flare-up between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Russia is holding military exercises to test its combat readiness amid clashes between its ally Azerbaijan and Armenian forces, Russia’s defence minister told his Azeri counterpart on Saturday.
The Defence Ministry described the exercises as a routine check of the army’s capacity to ensure security in Russia’s southwestern region and denied any links between the training and the fighting taking place in the Caucasus region, south of Russia.
More than a dozen Armenian and Azeri soldiers have been killed in recent days in clashes between the two former Soviet republics which have long been at odds over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russia, which has a military base in Armenia, has urged the two sides to cease fire and show restraint. The Kremlin has said Moscow is ready to act as a mediator.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Azerbaijan’s Sakir Hasanov discussed the clashes in a phone call on Saturday.
The drills involve around 150,000 troops and 400 aircraft, according to the defence ministry.
The two sides accuse each other of shelling military targets and villages, and Azerbaijan has warned Armenia it could strike the Metzamor nuclear power station if its Mingechavir reservoir or other strategic outlets were hit.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Saturday Azerbaijan posed a threat to his country and global security, saying the threat to attack one of its nuclear power stations amounted to “a threat to commit terrorism”.
Russia considers Armenia to be a strategic partner in the South Caucasus region and supplies it with weapons.
“I categorically deny any link between the activities held by the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the escalation on the Armenian-Azeri border,” deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin said in a separate statement, quoted by Russian news agencies. (Source: Reuters)
20 Jul 20. Future subs discussed at second quarterly Australia-France defence meeting. Progress of the Future Submarine Program was on the agenda, as well as Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, when Defence Minister Linda Reynolds met with French Minister of the Armed Services Florence Parly via videoconference this week.
The news comes as the second scheduled quarterly meeting this year, after the two countries agreed at the Munich Security Conference in February 2020 to meet regularly. The move was largely inspired by the Future Submarine Program, which has seen several high-profile exchanges between members of respective governments.
“Minister Parly and I discussed the impact of COVID-19 and the importance of ongoing close collaboration between our governments, officials and prime contractors to ensure the Future Submarine Program remains on track for its next major milestone, the Systems Functional Review, in January 2021,” said a statement from Minister Price’s office.
The release adds that the two “reaffirmed [their] commitment to the Australia-France strategic defence partnership, and agreed to continue to work together to advance our mutual security interests.”
The first quarterly meeting was conducted in early May, at which the same issues were raised.
However, this time round, Minister Price added that she also briefed her French counterpart on the release of Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.
The defence agreement between Australia and France is also underpinned by more formal ties, like the Provision of Mutual Logistical Support between the ADF and the French Armed Forces, signed in Sydney on 2 May 2018.
The agreement facilitates work together in the specific areas of coalition operations, exercises, and humanitarian relief. (Source: Defence Connect)
15 Jul 20. Russia, Wagner Group Complicating Libyan Ceasefire Efforts. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has clear evidence that Russian employed, state-sponsored Wagner Group laid landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in and around Tripoli, further violating the United Nations arms embargo and endangering the lives of innocent Libyans.
Verified photographic evidence shows indiscriminately placed booby-traps and minefields around the outskirts of Tripoli down to Sirte since mid-June. These weapons are assessed to have been introduced into Libya by the Wagner Group.
“The Russian-state sponsored Wagner Group is demonstrating a total disregard for the safety and security of Libyans,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command. “The Wagner Group’s irresponsible tactics are prolonging conflict and are responsible for the needless suffering and the deaths of innocent civilians. Russia has the power to stop them, just not the will.”
In late May, AFRICOM reported that at least 14 Mig-29s had been flown from Russia to Syria, where their Russian markings were painted over to camouflage their Russian origin. The aircraft were then flown into Libya, a violation of the United Nations arms embargo. AFRICOM assesses that the warplanes were being actively flown in Libyan airspace, further complicating the conflict in Libya and elevating the risk of miscalculation.
Russia’s introduction of landmines, booby traps, attack aircraft, and their continued support of the 2,000-person strong Wagner Group in Libya changes the nature of the current conflict and intensifies the potential risk to non-combatants.
“Our intelligence reflects continued and unhelpful involvement by Russia and the Wagner Group,” said Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence. “Imagery and intelligence assessments show how Russia continues to interfere in Libyan affairs. Wagner Group’s reckless use of landmines and booby-traps are harming innocent civilians.”
Russia’s use of PMCs in Libya is just part of a long history of using these non-state actors as tools of power projection. Russian-sponsored PMCs are active in sixteen countries across Africa. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/United States Africa Command)
16 Jul 20. Arleigh Burke destroyer USS Pinckney conducts FONOP in Caribbean Sea. The US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) has conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Caribbean Sea. It challenged Venezuela’s excessive maritime claim in international waters. Venezuela is accused of exercising unlawful excessive controls over the international waters that extend three miles beyond the 12-mile territorial sea.
As part of enhanced counter narcotics operation, USS Pinckney and other US Navy and Coast Guard ships are operating in the Caribbean.
US Southern Command commander Navy admiral Craig Faller said: “We will exercise our lawful right to freely navigate international waters without acquiescing to unlawful claims.
“The guaranteed right of nations to access, transit and navigate international waters is not subject to impositions or restrictions that blatantly violate international law.”
Last month, the US Navy’s USS Nitze (DDG 94) performed a similar operation outside Venezuela’s 12 nautical-mile territorial sea. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
FONOPs across the globe are conducted by the US to preserve the maritime navigation and access rights to all nations.
Another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Ralph Johnson, performed FONOP in the South China Sea following its rejection of Beijing’s maritime claims in the international waters.
The destroyer operated in the Spratly Islands.
The Navy’s Japan-based US 7th Fleet said in a statement: “As long as some countries continue to claim and assert limits on rights that exceed their authority under international law, the US will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of the sea guaranteed to all.
“No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.” (Source: naval-technology.com)
15 Jul 20. Japan highlights F-35 acquisition, military ops amid pandemic in new whitepaper. In its latest whitepaper, Japan has discussed its impending acquisition of F-35B fighter jets and highlighted efforts by regional militaries to expand their influence and activities despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The full document, released July 14 in Japanese, contains a section on the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant of the Lockheed Martin aircraft, noting that with regional countries making “remarkable progress” in air power modernization, the country needed to respond in kind..
The whitepaper highlighted the operational flexibility of the F-35B, noting the jet’s ability to operate without the need for long runways, which would enable the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to significantly expand the number of locations from whence the service can conduct air superiority operations.
The whitepaper noted there are currently 20 airports and air bases throughout Japan that have runways sufficiently long enough to support JASDF air superiority operations. Operating the F-35B would theoretically allow the JASDF to expand that number to 45, which would include some of the runways on Japan’s far-flung southern islands.
Japan has plans to eventually acquire 42 F-35Bs to operate alongside its planned fleet of 105 conventional-takeoff-and-landing F-35As, making it the top customer of the F-35 outside the United States.
The 42 F-35Bs include 18 to be contracted over the next five years, with Japan setting aside approximately $795m in its current defense budget to acquire six. It is also converting the helicopter destroyer Izumo, which has a 245-meter flight deck and was originally designed to carry helicopters primarily for anti-submarine warfare, to operate the F-35B.
The air defense challenge facing the JASDF was also highlighted in April this year, when the Ministry of Defense said the service scrambled its fighters a total of 947 times over the past year to intercept and monitor foreign military aircraft operating in the country’s air defense identification zone. Chinese aircraft accounted for 675 intercepts, and Russian aircraft Russian made up 268. (The remaining four were not identified.)
The whitepaper also noted a continuing pattern of operations conducted by military vessels and aircraft primarily from China and, to a lesser degree, Russia in the waters and airspace surrounding Japan. The government pledged to continue to closely monitor such activities.
It also noted that such activities have continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that a prolonged global pandemic “may exert various impacts on countries’ military capability.”
The government added that another potential effect of the pandemic was the likelihood that it may “expose and intensify strategic competition among countries intending to create international and regional orders more preferable to themselves and to expand their influence.” The whitepaper also accused China of spreading disinformation “amid growing social uncertainties and confusion due to the spread of infection.” (Source: Defense News)
16 Jul 20. Taiwan holds drills to beat back invasion amid China tensions. Taiwan’s air, sea and land forces conducted live-fire exercises simulating the repulsion of an invading force on Thursday, with President Tsai Ing-wen saying it showed their determination to defend the democratic and Chinese-claimed island.
F-16 and domestically made Ching-kuo fighter jets launched strikes and tanks raced across inland scrub, firing shells to destroy targets on the beach. About 8,000 personnel took part in drills, held on a coastal strip near Taichung in central Taiwan.
The drills, dubbed “Han Kuang,” are Taiwan’s main annual exercises. This year’s come as China has stepped up its military activity around the island, including flying fighters and bombers close to what Beijing calls its “sacred territory”.
“The Han Kuang exercises are a major annual event for the armed forces, evaluating the development of combat abilities. Even more, it lets the world see our determination and efforts to defend the country’s territory,” Tsai told the troops.
Tsai, who won re-election by a landslide in January, pledging to stand up to China, has made military modernisation a priority. Taiwan unveiled its largest defence spending increase in more than a decade last year.
“As I have said, national security does not rely on bowing and scraping but on solid national defence. All our officers and soldiers are the core of that,” she added.
Although Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment such as stealth fighters and new ballistic missiles.
China sees Taiwan part of “one China” and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship. Beijing routinely denounces Washington’s support for the island. [nL3N2EL1YU]
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan, saying Tsai is pushing for the island’s formal independence – a red line for Beijing. She says Taiwan is already an independent state called the Republic of China, its official name. (Source: Reuters)
14 Jul 20. Japan Defense Ministry’s White Paper Warns Of Coronavirus Threat, Aggressive Competitors. The coronavirus pandemic made the list of primary security concerns for Japan this year, alongside familiar names like China, Russia and North Korea, according to a Ministry of Defense white paper released Tuesday.
The ministry releases a report on its guiding philosophies, goals and challenges each summer. This year’s document outlines security trends similar to those highlighted in 2019, including China’s “relentless” militarization and coercion in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“Such military trends in North Korea pose grave and imminent threats to Japan’s security,” the document said.
The defense ministry paper advises the government to “keep an eye on” the coronavirus’ spread as it brings “diverse impacts and restrictions to military activities of respective countries.”
The virus reached global pandemic status in March and temporarily sidelined a U.S. aircraft carrier, but it has not crippled military activity by Japan’s chief ally or its competitors, according to the white paper. In Russia, “even amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic within the forces, military activities have remained active,” the report said. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
The Japan Self-Defense Forces contributed significant efforts against the coronavirus, the white paper states. About 2,700 JSDF personnel worked aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that in February quarantined its 3,700 passengers and crew in Yokohama Bay. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Stars And Stripe)
14 Jul 20. US rejects Beijing’s maritime claims in South China Sea. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear the country’s position on China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS). The US has rejected Beijing’s claim to waters beyond a 12nm territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands. It also declared that claims in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank, Luconia Shoals, waters in Brunei’s EEZ, James Shoal, and Natuna Besar are unlawful.
Pompeo said in a statement: “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“Today we are strengthening US policy in a vital, contentious part of that region, the South China Sea.
“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”
The US said that China has failed to provide ‘a lawful, coherent maritime claim’ in the SCS. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Last week, the US Navy’s aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and their carrier strike groups conducted dual carrier operations in the SCS. The operations demonstrated commitment to the US’ regional allies and towards free and open Indo-Pacific.
He added: “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire.
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.” (Source: naval-technology.com)
14 Jul 20. Misaligned Iranian air defence shoots down Ukrainian airliner. The air defence system that shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) on 8 January was misaligned by 107°, according to an initial report into the accident by the Iranian Civil Aviation Authority (CAO).
Released on 11 July, the report did not identify the air defence system, but the CAO has previously stated that it was one of the tracked Tor-M1s operated by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
The report said that the system’s crew failed to realign with north when they relocated in the Tehran area. This human error “initiated a hazard chain” as the crew believed PS752 was approaching from 52° (approximately southwest), not from Imam Khomeini International Airport to the southeast.
The Tor-M1 attempted to inform the Air Defence Coordination Centre (ADCC) of the possible threat within 30 seconds of detecting it. However, “the recorded information indicates” that the ADCC did not receive this notification, the CAO report said.
If it had, the ADCC may have realised the Tor-M1’s alignment error, as it had cleared the Ukrainian flight for takeover four minutes earlier. The CAO report did not explain the reason for this communication failure.
Having received no response from the ADCC, the Tor-M1 independently and incorrectly assessed it to be a threat and fired a missile. The CAO said that this had violated the standing order to hold fire unless authorised to engage by the ADCC. (Source: Jane’s)
14 Jul 20. Iran executes spy for selling missile information to CIA.
- Reza Asgari, a former employee of the defence ministry, was executed last week
- Asgari had received large sums of money from the US spy agency ‘after retirement by selling them the information he had regarding our missiles’
Reza Asgari, an Iranian citizen, was executed last week, Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted as saying by the judiciary’s official website Mizan Online.
He had worked at the defence ministry’s aerospace division for years but retired around four years ago, the spokesman added.
Asgari had received large sums of money from the Central Intelligence Agency “after retirement by selling them the information he had regarding our missiles”.
“He was identified, tried, and sentenced to death,” Esmaili said.
He added that the death sentence passed for Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, another Iranian who was found guilty of espionage last month, was also set to go ahead.
Majd was accused of spying on Iran’s armed forces and helping the US to locate Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed later in an American drone strike in Baghdad. Iran retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq, but US President
Donald Trump opted against responding militarily. While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad left no US soldiers dead, dozens suffered brain trauma.
Iran in February handed down a similar sentence for Amir Rahimpour, another man convicted of spying for the US and conspiring to sell information on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Tehran announced in December it had arrested eight people “linked to the CIA” and involved in nationwide street protests that erupted the previous month over a surprise petrol price hike.
It also said in July 2019 that it had dismantled a CIA spy ring, arrested 17 suspects between March 2018 and March 2019 and sentenced some of them to death. (Source: Google/https://www.scmp.com/)
15 Jul 20. Rule Britannia: Royal Navy commits to Indo-Pacific carrier deployment. There is a new carrier power preparing to flex its muscles in the Indo-Pacific – the Royal Navy is planning the maiden voyage of its newest flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, fulfilling Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vision of a ‘global Britain’ with one target in mind: China.
Following a resounding electoral victory and the ensuing political certainty established under the leadership of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK has turned its attentions to the rapidly developing multi-polar world order, particularly as the nation untangles itself from the bureaucratic confines of the European Union.
A key focus for Prime Minister Johnson is countering foreign influence, including ‘grey zone’ tactics and political warfare, methods increasingly favoured by totalitarian regimes in Russia and China – with asymmetric threats like violent extremism also figuring strongly in the proposed holistic national security response.
PM Johnson’s proposed response would incorporate the combined efforts of the British Armed Forces, foreign and domestic intelligence services, counter terrorism and law enforcement agencies to respond in an era of great power competition – with the aim of delivering the review by the end of this year.
Enabling the UK to return to the global stage as a true great power, particularly with active economic, political and strategic interests in Australia’s own backyard, the Indo-Pacific has required the most fundamental structural and capability modernisation of the British Armed Forces since the retreat from ‘East of the Suez’ in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
Part of the UK’s strategic realignment towards ‘great power’ status has seen the former global power commit to a range of capability acquisitions and force structure developments, including:
- Recapitalisation and modernisation of the Royal Navy – including the acquisition of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, the Type 26 Global Combat Ships and the planned development and acquisition of the Type 31e frigates to supplement the capability delivered by the Type 45 Daring Class guided missile destroyers and the Astute Class fast attack submarines;
- The restructuring of the British Army to focus power projection and rapid expeditionary capability as part of the Army 2020 plan – this plan is designed to support concurrent deployments in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Indo-Pacific;
- Modernisation of the Royal Air Force to include fifth-generation air combat capabilities in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the E-7A Wedgetail and upgrades for the Eurofighter Typhoon – while supporting increased airlift capabilities and a focus on the future, including the beginning of development on the sixth-generation Tempest air superiority fighter; and
- A modernisation of the British nuclear deterrence force – with the planned construction of the Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarines.
At the forefront of Britain’s resurgence as a global power is the most potent and visible symbol of any great power, force projection platforms like aircraft carriers, in this case the Royal Navy’s newest flagship and first true aircraft carrier in nearly two decades, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves
While still a shadow of its former glory, the Royal Navy is emerging from a period of concentrated modernisation and recapitalisation to become a truly global power player once again.
As part of stepping up its global presence, it has been revealed that HMS Queen Elizabeth, the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth Class of aircraft carriers, is expected to depart for a global maiden voyage, at the centrepiece of a carrier strike group, with a focus on enhancing strategic partnerships, improving interoperability and patrolling the highly contested waters of the Indo-Pacific.
As part of the carrier air wing attached to the Queen Elizabeth, it is expected that two squadrons of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter variant will be included alongside a suite of helicopters – interestingly, it is expected that the two squadrons will be made up of Royal Air Force and US Marine Corps aircraft, particularly in the Indo-Pacific deployment.
The deployment is also expected to see a large Royal Navy task group joining the carrier, including Type 45 guided missile destroyers, alongside Type 23 guided missile frigates and two at-sea replenishment tankers to support the deployment.
This significant deployment is also expected to foreshadow a permanent return by the UK to the Indo-Pacific, with long-term plans to permanently base one of the two Queen Elizabeth Class carriers in the region – this also opens the path for greater capability aggregation with the allies like Australia, Canada, Japan and the US expected to be invited to contribute to the escort and airpower capabilities.
Lucy Fisher of The Times reported a senior White Hall source, explaining, “One carrier will support NATO in the North Atlantic. Where else are you going to put the other? On the main trade routes and to counter the emerging threat of China. It would be an allied task group, a British carrier, but a coalition of the willing. That’s how it’s being looked at.”
This was reinforced by Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, Fleet Commander, Royal Navy who explained that the Royal Navy was “going to be coming back to the Indo-Pacific region”.
“Our ambition is to be absolutely persistent and forward-based there, maybe with a carrier strike group, or maybe not. We’ll see,” VADM Kyd explained.
This commitment builds on statements made by former UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who proposed a return to a global British strategic presence with outposts planned for Indo-Pacific Asia and the Caribbean “within the next couple of years”, marking a major shift in UK defence policy for the first time since the introduction of the ‘east of Suez’ doctrine in the 1960s.
“This is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way, we can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play,” Williamson said.
Williamson said that this shift would see the UK become a ‘true global player’ following Brexit, stepping into a leadership role in an increasingly troubled world – this echoes the new Prime Minister’s focus on re-establishing and rebuilding Britain’s ‘brand’ as a major global power across the economic, political, diplomatic and strategic domains to support the global rules-based order and the UK’s position in it. (Source: Defence Connect)
14 Jul 20. Libya’s eastern parliament open to Egyptian military intervention. Invitation to Cairo could herald direct confrontation between Egypt and Turkey in war-torn country. Libya’s eastern-based parliament has said it would “welcome” Egyptian military intervention in the country’s civil war to counter what it described as “breaches of Libya’s sovereignty” by Turkey, which supports the UN-recognised administration in Tripoli. The invitation to Cairo from the assembly aligned with renegade General Khalifa Haftar increases the risk of direct clashes between Egypt and Turkey and possibly other regional powers that have been seeking to shape Libya’s future through a proxy war, diplomats and analysts say. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian president, warned last month that he would send his forces into Libya if the Turkey-backed forces aligned with the Government of National Accord crossed a “red line” by trying to capture the strategic port city of Sirte or the desert air base of Juffra. These are both held by Gen Haftar, whom Egypt sees as an ally against extremists. A statement from the Libyan parliament known as the House of Representatives said on Monday night that the “Turkish occupation” represented a threat to Libya and “to neighbouring countries and at their forefront the sister Egypt”. Libya has been split between governments in the east and west since elections in 2014 and the eastern parliament does not recognise the UN-backed administration in Tripoli. “This is very real, he [Sisi] is taking it very seriously,” said an Arab diplomat. “[The Egyptians] are on their toes watching Libya and will not allow Sirte to fall . . . People are very worried about a regional conflict.” I tell you, if the Turks insist on going to war, there will be war, for sure. Senior Arab diplomat The diplomat explained that Egypt did not want “a Muslim Brotherhood powerhouse on its border” — a reference to the Islamist roots of the ruling party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and fears in Cairo and Abu Dhabi that the GNA has links to Islamist groups.
Mr Erdogan has been an outspoken supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood group ousted from power in Egypt by Mr Sisi in a popularly-backed coup in 2013. The Brotherhood, which is judged to be weak in Libya, is among political groups represented by the Tripoli authorities. Turkey intervened in Libya at the request of the GNA and after securing an agreement that could enable Ankara to explore for oil and gas off Libya’s coast. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France have sided with Gen Haftar, an east Libya-based strongman who launched a military campaign in April 2019 to capture Tripoli and topple the GNA. Gen Haftar’s backers have variously supplied arms, Syrian and Russian mercenaries and diplomatic cover for the general’s campaign. While they see him as an ally in their battle against extremists, his opponents in western Libya see the makings of a dictator in the style of Muammer Gaddafi, the leader ousted by Libyans in a revolution in 2011. The GNA forces remain outside Sirte, but Turkish senior officials have suggested that their country would aid an effort to capture the city, a gateway to important oil installations. Mevlut Cavusoglu, the foreign minister, told the Financial Times this week that there would be no ceasefire in Libya until Sirte and Juffra had been taken by the GNA. The UN has said it is “very concerned about the alarming military build-up around the city,” with the GNA advancing to 25km from Sirte. Recommended Middle Eastern politics & society Turkey says no Libya ceasefire unless Gen Haftar retreats “I tell you, if the Turks insist on going to war, there will be war, for sure,” said a senior Arab diplomat. “It’s going to be a hot summer.” Unlike the UAE, which has poured thousands of tonnes of weapons covertly into Libya according to diplomats and UN experts, Turkey has intervened openly on the side of the GNA, providing drones, anti-aircraft batteries and Syrian mercenaries. Ankara’s support has enabled the GNA to turn the tide of the war and push back Gen Haftar’s forces from the outskirts of Tripoli.
Claudia Gazzini, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution think-tank, said it was possible that Turkey-backed forces would try to seize Sirte and Juffra as the GNA believed that their capture would cause the implosion of Gen Haftar’s domestic alliance. She argued, however, that Egypt was unlikely to send ground troops to fight Turkey-supported militias in central Libya, a long way from its borders. “I think Egypt might use its planes. At some point, they could use them openly to strike against GNA or Turkish targets in Sirte. These would be officially-claimed strikes.” (Source: FT.com)
14 Jul 20. Indian Army plans to buy Raven UAV and Spike Firefly. The Indian Army is reportedly proposing to buy RQ-11 Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and Spike Firefly ‘loitering’ ammunition. The Hindustan Times reported that the procurement would include 200 units of RQ-11 UAV.
The unmanned vehicle is designed with the capability to fly 10km at an altitude of 500ft and can cruise at a speed of up to 95km/h.
The forces will use the hand-launched, remote-controlled unmanned vehicle to conduct reconnaissance mission. Israeli Spike Firefly is designed for precision strikes on enemy troops located at a distance of 1km.
The small, light and agile weapon kit system includes three loitering munitions (LMs) and Control Unit (CU) with standard bidirectional data link.
The Indian Armed Forces is acquiring these weapon systems after the government permitted the purchase of capabilities under emergency procurements amid the India-China dispute. Financial support of up to $66.23m has been allocated to acquire weapon systems. Meanwhile, India is also expecting the first batch of four Rafale fighters. However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, delivery has been delayed. All the 36 fighter aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by April 2022. Separately, the Indian Navy has ordered for new twin-engine aircraft carrier-based fighter aircraft to be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). (Source: army-technology.com)
14 Jul 20. Beijing imposes sanctions on Lockheed Martin over Taiwan arms sales. Measures announced as relationship between world’s most powerful countries grows frostier. China will impose sanctions on American weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin in retaliation for US approval of a deal to sell Taiwan missile parts, the country’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday. China has long complained about US weapons sales to Taiwan. Zhao Lijian, foreign ministry spokesman, reiterated that point when announcing the measures against the US group: “China firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan.” The US state department approved a sale of more than $600m last week in missile parts to Taiwan for refurbishing Patriot missiles, although that deal has not been carried out yet. Taiwan uses Patriot missiles to defend its military installations against air attacks. The People’s Republic of China claims Taiwan as its territory although it has never ruled it, and threatens to attack if Taipei resists to submit under its control indefinitely. Recommended AnalysisThe Big Read China, Hong Kong and the world: is Xi Jinping overplaying his hand?
Although the US cancelled its defence treaty with Taipei after switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, Washington remains the unofficial guarantor of Taiwan’s security through a pledge anchored in US law to help the country defend itself. Taiwan’s military, which is holding its annual Hankuang live-fire exercise this week simulating Chinese attacks, is mainly equipped with US weapons. The sanctions to be imposed against Lockheed Martin were announced as tension between the world’s two largest economies climbed to its most dangerous level in generations. Washington and Beijing have imposed tit-for-tat sanctions and other measures on each other for several months. They have clashed over the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, the status of Chinese technology group Huawei, alleged human rights abuses in western China and the future of Hong Kong. On Monday, China said it would impose sanctions on US lawmakers, including influential Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Those sanctions were a retaliation to US measures announced by Washington last week over alleged human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province. (Source: FT.com)
14 Jul 20. Australian Government commits to expanding sovereign defence and space capabilities. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews have announced a series of capability investments to enhance Australia’s sovereign defence and space capabilities. The announcements are part of a key boost supporting Australia’s defence and space-based capabilities, announced off the back of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan.
The first announcement will see an $87m investment towards improving facilities at the joint US-Australian Space Surveillance Telescope, Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt in Exmouth, on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia.
During a visit to the facility in Exmouth, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the significant investment would boost the Australian space industry.
“As recently announced in the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, this government is significantly increasing investment in Defence’s space capabilities with $7bn being invested over the next decade. This world-leading, 360-degree telescope enables Defence to better track and identify objects and threats in space including space debris, as well as predict and avoid potential collisions,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister Reynolds added, “Our national security, industry and population rely on satellite communications to connect businesses across the country, and around the world. This government recognises the importance of developing technologies locally to protect our space assets and offering opportunities to export these space capabilities to our allies and international partners.”
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews explained this investment would build on the already impressive space capability that exists in Western Australia.
“Western Australia has knowledge that is in demand right around the world, including NASA, which is interested in the automation and robotic skills that have been developed and honed in our mining industry,” Minister Andrews explained.
Minister for Defence Industry and the local federal member for Durack, Melissa Price, said Defence would provide opportunities to grow the Australian space industry through its Space Domain Awareness project.
“Defence will continue to work alongside Australian industry, including in regional Australia like right here in Exmouth, to develop world-leading technologies. Space is a truly global endeavour, and Australia is now looking to make a strong contribution to space safety and security using home-grown technologies and systems,” Minister Price said.
After capturing its first images of space in April 2020, the telescope will now undergo extensive testing, and is expected to be fully operational in 2022.
The second announcement will see Australia taking the first step towards investing in Australia’s first fully owned and controlled military satellite communication constellation, as part of its $7bn investment in space capabilities over the next 10 years.
Minister Reynolds explained the significant investment demonstrates the Morrison government’s commitment to protecting Australia’s space assets and increasing our self reliance and resilience.
Minister Reynolds explained, “The Australian Defence Satellite Communications System project will be a critical enabler for the future operational capability of Defence, by providing real time operational and logistical information which is essential for the command and control of deployed forces.”
The new future satellite communications capability will supplement, and then replace, the existing Defence satellite communications system, with a focus on supporting operations within the Indo-Pacific region.
The sovereign controlled system will be augmented by contracted commercial satellite communications and industry partners, to assure resilient communications globally for the ADF across a range of space operations.
Minister Andrews added, “Investments like this is in our sovereign capability have a substantial flow-on effect through our supply chains – and that means jobs for Australians.
“That is what is so powerful about space. You’re creating opportunities for a broad range of industries to be involved in the projects, as well as developing technologies and capability that will support the advancement of those very same industries and beyond.”
A request for tender is set to be released in late 2020 for the sovereign controlled satellite communications capability, which aims to engage a single prime contractor to deliver, upgrade and sustain the capability over its life of type.
Potential opportunities for Australian industry involvement include software development, systems integration, facilities construction, system operators, sustainment, and participation in the supply chain through manufacture and supply of sub-systems and components. (Source: Defence Connect)
11 Jul 20. Russia and US jostle for arms sales to India after tensions with China over border.
- India is a top buyer of foreign weapons on the international market and Russia has been its main supplier since the Soviet era
- The June 15 clash between China and India in the contested Galwan Valley lends an urgency to New Delhi’s arms programme
The Indian government last week rushed to approve a proposal to acquire 33 new Russian warplanes for US$2.4bn and upgrade 59 more, in addition to an earlier US$5.43 bn deal for S-400 air defence missile systems, after the deadly skirmish with Chinese troops last month on their disputed border.
“Many believe that India must not put all its eggs in one basket, rather continue to follow the middle path by pushing for engagement with both Russia as well as the United States,” said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a distinguished fellow and head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.
India is a top buyer in the international arms market, with billions of dollars of imports every year. In the past 10 years, it has spent more money on foreign weapons than any other country in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Russia has been the main supplier to India since the Soviet era. Since 2000, it has sold about US$35bn worth of weapons, accounting for more than two-thirds of India’s arms procurement of US$51bn.
Most of India’s strategic weapons – from its only active aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya with its ship-borne MiG-29 and Ka-31 aircraft, to its only nuclear attack submarine in service, the Chakra II, to its T-90 and T-72 main battle tanks – are from Russia. Additionally, Russia licensed Indian firm HAL to build the Su-30 MKI, the main fighter for the Indian Air Force, and contributed to India’s only nuclear-capable supersonic cruise missile – the BrahMos.
In comparison, arms deals with the US have totalled just US$3.9bn over the past 20 years but America has been rapidly catching up since 2010 to rise to number two vendor to India, surpassing Israel and France.
India has equipped its military with Boeing C-17 and C-130J airlifters. Earlier this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to
US President Donald Trump to buy US$3bn worth of US equipment, including helicopters, as the two converged on a course to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region, and gradually formed much closer military ties with a series of strategic military pacts.
Then the tension between India and China suddenly escalated, culminating in a clash on June 15, in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the contested Galwan Valley between Indian-administered Ladakh and Chinese administered Aksai Chin. The continued stand-off added urgency to India’s arms shopping.
“Russians profit from a Sino-India clash. I don’t think the Americans would be so happy to see that,” said Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military analyst. “The Trump administration has been trying very hard to grab a bigger share in this market of billions every year, which they wouldn’t want to miss.”
“I don’t think the US will actually implement the sanction at the end of the day. That was part of the effort to pressure India to choose American arms over Russian,” said Song Zhongping, a military commentator in Hong Kong. “And Russia will not sit by. They will also take action to keep India on.”
Other efforts include discussions earlier this year in which the US offered to develop for India a “super F-16”, and even transfer the production line to India as preferred by the Modi government, as well as other air defence missile alternatives to the S-400.
The US has delivered Apache and Chinook helicopters now deployed in Ladakh.
Song said India’s buying spree could increase its strength against the Chinese army but only to a limited extent.
“India could buy some advanced weapons but cannot buy real combat capability. A modern military is an organic system,” he said.(Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.scmp.com/)
10 Jul 20. The importance of early engagement with Australian firms. As Australia’s defence industry prepares to kick into high gear as the mega projects enter the next phase, early engagement and collaboration with the domestic supply chain and defence industry leaders can provide long-term benefits, explains AIDN chief executive Brent Clark.
There has been substantial media and discussion around Australian companies becoming part of the supply chain for the large number of Defence programs.
The Prime Minister recently announced expenditure of $270bn, a number so large it overwhelms the public.
Maths tells us that if we only achieve 50 per cent Australian content, in effect that means $135bn of Australian taxpayer money is heading overseas, a 10 per cent increase of Australian content means an additional $27bn remains in Australia.
AIDN requires Australian companies to be designed into the supply chain from the beginning of these programs. Do this and meaningful work packages can be contracted, IP exchanged and Australian companies can undertake the required investment to be in a position to compete in a fair and equitable manner in order to become suppliers into these massive programs.
If they are not designed into the supply chain from the outset, then the stark reality is that they will not be included at some mythical point down the track.
The task of integrating Australian companies into supply chains becomes far more problematic when the supply chain for the initial batches of equipment is established.
The Australian companies would still need to be qualified to provide supplies, there will be a cost to undertake this activity, and that will impact schedule and overall program price.
This places Australian companies at a tremendous disadvantage to ‘break into’ the incumbent supplier base. It also potentially allows for more foreign owned companies to establish 100 per cent owned subsidiaries to be created in the Australian market, effectively forcing the current domestic-owned companies out of their home market.
If we are in the process of qualifying overseas companies for the initial platforms, this means that there currently is an activity involving qualification, proving supply chains, transfer of IP and all the other requirements to become certified into the supply chain. Why is there no opportunity to qualify Australian firms into this supply chain? Why is there some need to qualify overseas suppliers first and at a later point qualify Australian-owned companies?
AIDN rightfully asks the question of BAE Systems, to name but one of the foreign owned multinational companies that have been awarded lucrative defence contracts, exactly how many Australian companies are they in the process of qualifying to supply tier 1 and tier 2 level supplies?
This question can also be asked of Naval Group, Rheinmetall, Lürssen, indeed all of the Defence Prime Contractors could be asked this question.
Reviewing the contracts associated with some of the larger programs, Naval Group reportedly has no actual percentage of Australian industry included, BAE Systems reportedly has 54 per cent as a contracted requirement, Rheinmetall has best endeavours as does Lürssen.
If we specifically look at the Hunter Class frigates example, assuming that the acquisition contract is $45bn, then nearly $21bn is heading overseas.
More concerning is that the prime contractor for this program could achieve 60 per cent of AIC without actually doing any work in Australia during the acquisition phase, assuming that they can achieve 90 per cent AIC during the sustainment phase. This is highly likely given Defence claims a figure of 92 per cent AIC for the sustainment of the Collins Class fleet.
AIDN proves this statement based on the maths:
The Prime Minister announced a budget of $45.6bn for acquisition recently, applying the rule of thumb that sustainment is roughly twice the amount as acquisition, hence $91.2bn, then the total cost of the program is $136.8bn.
Assuming a 90 per cent AIC result for the $91.2bn of sustainment then this translates to $82.08bn, i.e. $82.08bn is spent locally thus achieving 60 per cent AIC over the full life of the program.
Obviously, the Hunter program will contract some percentage of AIC during the acquisition phase, but as demonstrated from the above concept it is possible to backend load the AIC through sustainment, allowing more of the acquisition work using their existing overseas supply chain.
It is difficult to believe this is what the Australian government hoped to achieve when it stated it wanted to create a sovereign Australian industry to ensure as a nation, we have a higher level of self-reliance. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the absolute need for Australia to achieve the highest possible levels of self-reliance.
At least BAE Systems has a contracted amount of AIC content (i.e. 54 per cent), we can take some comfort that they have to achieve an Australian spend of at least $24.6bn during acquisition, assuming that the AIC percentage is specified for the acquisition phase and not the total program life.
AIDN cannot identify what the other prime contractors will deliver in the AIC space, nor does it appear that Defence has a contractual clause to hold them to. The vagaries of ‘contractor best endeavours’ or ‘maximise’ do little to ensure that actual work packages are achieved in-country.
AIDN will continually advocate and highlight these issues with government and Defence. We must ensure that the prime contractors are doing what they said they would during the bid phase of these programs. We have this obligation to our SME community; this critical issue must be made right. The sovereignty of our nation depends upon it. (Source: Defence Connect)
10 Jul 20. Japan may still build Aegis Ashore despite reports of cancellation, source says. Japan may still build Aegis Ashore missile defense systems to defend against attacks by North Korea and other regional rivals, including China, a source told Reuters just weeks after reports that the proposal had been killed.
Japan’s defense minister, Taro Kono, last month cancelled plans to build two Aegis Ashore sites, citing cost and concerns that falling booster stages from the interceptor missiles could drop on local residents.
Japan, however, has not cancelled the $1bn contract for the defense system’s radars, built by Lockheed Martin, and is mulling a technical assessment from the U.S. government that makes recommendations on using other sites that would eliminate the safety issues, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the process.
“Japan wants to preserve its contracts and reutilize equipment,” said the source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Options include installing missile launchers on sea platforms or in remote coastal locations to eliminate the risk from falling boosters, the source said. Japan also has warships equipped with ballistic missile interceptors.
Any decision to stick with Aegis Ashore could upset both Beijing and Moscow, which have pushed for an end to the deployment. With at least three times the range of older Aegis radars on Japanese warships, the land-based systems can look deep into China and Russia.
In its 2019 defense white paper, Japan for the first time listed China as its main security threat, pointing to burgeoning defense spending, increased military manoeuvres and a growing arsenal of modern weapons, including ballistic missiles. The document also noted a resurgence in Russian activity in the waters and skies around Japan.
Aegis Ashore could be built at two of 28 existing air defense radar stations dotting Japan’s coast, according to Gen Nakatani, a former defense minister, who along with other former defense chiefs is in a group reconsidering defense policy in the wake of Kono’s surprise decision.
“There is no reason why we couldn’t put the radar, the combat system and missile launcher in separate locations. That is something we can consider,” he said in an interview.
Nakatani said he welcomed Kono’s decision to cancel Aegis Ashore because it was an opportunity to build an integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) system to tackle broader threats.
Japan picked Aegis Ashore in 2017 after Pyongyang fired 40 missiles over two years, some over Japan, and tested three nuclear bombs, the last of which had an explosive yield of 160 kilotonnes, eight times as powerful as the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
Subsequent North Korean missile advances, however, meant that Japan would have to pay more to upgrade Aegis when it switched on in 2025 so it could counter other threats, such as missiles on depressed trajectories that remain inside the atmosphere.
Japan’s National Security Council is considering new defense proposals, including the possibility of acquiring a strike capability to attack enemy missiles launchers, before reaching a conclusion by the end of September. (Source: Reuters)
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