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21 Aug 20. Australia, South Korea ties under the microscope: Paterson.
Bill Paterson, ASPI senior fellow and former federal government strategic adviser, argues that Australia should work on strengthening ties with South Korea. On the back of a robust bilateral relationship that has flourished since the last throes of war petered out on the peninsula, Paterson makes the argument that doubling down on these ties serves both countries’ interests in the years to come.
Of course, this plays into the Pacific Step-up and recent strategic policy updates – which revolve, in essence, around the idea of playing a more central role in the defence of our region.
In view of these documents, there are few countries better placed than South Korea, which borders on a number of potential belligerents envisioned (but not outwardly discussed) in either. For obvious reasons, South Korea’s strategic outlook is largely focused on threats from the North.
While Seoul remains conscious of broader strategic threats such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction proliferation, there is a tendency to view these issues through a prism of how they impact on the North Korean situation or the South Korea–US alliance.
Australia has a strong interest in these goals – in particular, the stability and security of the Korean Peninsula – as well as broader motives of countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and promoting the retention of the US as a stabilising regional presence.
As Seoul gradually moves towards a more self-reliant defence posture, Defence has argued that it is likely that South Korea will become a more important and influential element of the north-east Asian security community – especially as South Korea moves to acquire an aircraft carrier.
The first of South Korea’s aircraft carriers is an enlarged variant of the currently in service Dokdo Class landing platform dock ships, which are more akin to Australia’s Canberra Class LHDs and the US Navy’s Wasp and America Class LHDs.
Construction of the LPX-II Class is expected to commence in 2021 by Hydundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for launch later in the 2020s – the proposed vessel is expected to be longer and heavier than the Dokdo Class vessels with a displacement of approximately 30,000 tons and capable of accommodating 20 F-35Bs and an unspecified number of helicopters.
Yet Paterson’s arguments run deeper than all this.
Current defence pairing
Since the close of the Korean War, the coalition has been maintained as the United Nations Command, a “shell framework” for continuing involvement led and nurtured by the 28,000-strong United States Forces Korea (USFK).
As Paterson notes, Australia has been one of the most active – if not the most active – participant in this continuing arrangement. “Aside from ‘Five Eyes’ partners,” he writes, “the participation of other members is largely token.”
To this end, he notes that Australia has headed up the Japan-based UNC (Rear) since 2010, and has contributed top-level officers to the USFK on an embedded basis. While accepting that we are clearly one of the country’s closest partners, he questions how exactly this relationship can be further consolidated and developed.
As Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner and a growing source of foreign investment, ties with Korea have been reinforced in December 2014 with the entry into force of a free trade agreement (Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement, or KAFTA) between the two countries – with the strategic partnership between the two nations dating back to Australia’s participation in the United Nations-led force during the Korean War.
These ties were further reinforced in September of last year, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, to outline plans for an expanded period of collaboration on key national security issues, including defence, industry development and energy security, during a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York.
While Paterson notes that diplomatic talk of tightening ties has been forthcoming – if frivolous – there are a number of other areas identified as lacking:
- While Australian troops can exercise on the peninsula under the UNC umbrella, they cannot do so bilaterally. At the time, it appeared that Korea did not want to further antagonise China through a closer defence partnership with a close US ally.
- Australia tends to shop for “big ticket” defence items from American or European suppliers, in lieu of Asian sources. While Korean companies have made competitive bids for major Defence infrastructure overhauls – including Korean shipyard DSME, which was pipped to the post by Navantia in 2005 for the naval fleet replenishment ship contract, as well as the Hanwha Redback prototype currently underway – Australia has yet to sign off on any major works from Korean companies, which may formalise the relationship.
Last month, South Korean defence manufacturer and LAND 400 Phase 3 contender Hanwha Defense said it plans to deliver the prototypes of its ‘Redback’ armoured vehicle to Melbourne as part of its bid for the $10-15bn project to replace Army’s Vietnam-era M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC) force.
However, in addition to the Hanwha bid, Paterson notes that a number of ongoing projects from South Korean companies have the potential to “provide impetus to the bilateral defence relationship, offering training and collaboration opportunities, and building understanding in Australia of Korea’s advanced defence industrial capability, and vice versa”.
And while a process to acquire 30 Korean K9 self-propelled howitzers, to be built in Australia by project partners Samsung Techwin (now Hanwha Defense) and Raytheon, was cancelled following cuts in 2012, the project has since been revived.
“Defence exports to, and greater collaboration with, a reliable regional partner may stimulate a Korean rethink,” writes Paterson. “Korean concerns, publicly muted but real, about Washington’s reliability and Beijing’s aggressiveness were acutely felt by Korea when China responded with stiff and damaging sanctions to its agreement to host a US THAAD battery in 2016. These concerns are growing. With North Korea sabre-rattling again, and a parlous relationship with Japan, Koreans will again be feeling increasingly vulnerable.” (Source: Defence Connect)
20 Aug 20. Leaders Extol U.S., Canadian Cooperation in Defense of North America. Top U.S. and Canadian defense leaders applauded the combined efforts of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command in defending the continent as leadership of the two commands changed hands.
Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck succeeded Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy as the commander of NORAD and Northcom during ceremonies at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., today. O’Shaughnessy is retiring from active duty after 34 years of military service.
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper pointed out that the missions of the two organizations include guarding the air and maritime approaches to North America; defending the homeland from threats posed by adversaries, including cyber threats; supporting civil authorities; and responding to natural disasters, including threats from the COVID-19 pandemic.
O’Shaughnessy’s “steadfast commitment to the National Defense Strategy has made our nation safer at a time when our homeland is at risk in ways never before seen,” Esper said.
Among O’Shaughnessy’s achievements, he said, are calling attention to critical technologies that are changing the security environment, identifying gaps in readiness, and overseeing the modernization of the strategic homeland integrated ecosystem for a layered defense. O’Shaughnessy also led the planning and execution of more than $175m in engagement, training, equipment and exercises with Mexico and the Bahamas, the secretary noted.
VanHerck, Esper said, “has a keen understanding of the nature of today’s threats and the importance of greater investments to advance our capabilities and make tangible strides toward decision superiority, which puts us ahead of our adversaries at every single turn. He’s committed to ensuring Northcom and NORAD lead the way in preparing our military across every domain.”
Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said that “the Canada-U.S. partnership is unparalleled in its longevity and impressive levels of integration and cooperation. Canadians have stood shoulder to shoulder with our American friends and our allies throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.”
He noted that NORAD, a binational command, “serves as the foundation for the defense of North America and is a clear symbol of the unbreakable bond between the United States and Canada.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley thanked O’Shaughnessy for his leadership of the “most important command in the United States military that does the most important mission — which is to defend the homeland of North America.”
VanHerck is a man of tremendous competence and incredible character, and he will successfully lead the defense of the U.S. and Canada in its “no-fail mission,” Milley said.
Milley also thanked Sajjan and Canadian Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance for their leadership and commitment to the shared responsibility in the defense of North America.
Vance said ships, airplanes and troops from Canada and the United States are currently engaged in combined exercises in the Arctic area. The defense of North America is a common cause for both nations, he said. (Source: US DoD)
20 Aug 20. Iran announces locally made ballistic and cruise missiles amid U.S. tensions. Iran displayed a surface-to-surface ballistic missile on Thursday that Defence Minister Amir Hatami said had a range of 1,400 kilometres and a new cruise missile, ignoring U.S. demands that Tehran halt its missile programme.
“The surface-to-surface missile, called martyr Qassem Soleimani, has a range of 1,400 km and the cruise missile, called martyr Abu Mahdi, has a range of over 1,000 km,” Hatami said in a televised speech.
Pictures of the missiles were shown on state TV, which it said was “the newest Iranian cruise missile that will further strengthen Iran’s deterrence power”.
Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in January in a U.S. strike on their convoy in Baghdad airport.
“Missiles and particularly cruise missiles are very important for us … the fact that we have increased the range from 300 to 1,000 in less than two years is a great achievement,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“Our military might and missile programmes are defensive.”
The announcement comes as Washington is pushing to extend a U.N.-imposed arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when President Donald Trump pulled out the United States from the deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
Washington says its aim is to force Tehran to agree a broader deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs its ballistic missile program and ends its regional proxy wars. Iran has rejected talks as long as U.S. sanctions remain in place.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday Trump has directed him to trigger ‘snapback’ – a return of all U.S. sanctions on Iran – at the U.N. Security Council in New York on Thursday, after the council rejected Washington’s bid to extend Tehran’s arms embargo. (Source: Reuters)
20 Aug 20. Israel deal should remove any hurdle to F-35 sale, UAE official says. The United Arab Emirates’ accord to normalise ties with Israel should remove “any hurdle” for the United States to sell the F-35 stealth fighter jet to the Gulf Arab state, a senior Emirati official said on Thursday.
The United States has sold the F-35 to allies, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel, but sales to the Gulf require a deeper review due to U.S. policy for Israel to maintain a military advantage in the Middle East.
“We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them … the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in an online interview with the Atlantic Council.
However, he said the UAE had not made any new requests to the Americans since the deal with Israel.
The Gulf state, one of Washington’s closest Middle Eastern allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp, which Israel has used in combat.
An industry insider has told Reuters the United States is eyeing the sale of F-35s to the UAE in a side agreement to the UAE-Israel deal.
However, any F-35 sale could take years to negotiate and deliver, while Israel’s prime minister has said his country would oppose any sale, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.
Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment and a leader in the U.S. weapons export process, told reporters on Thursday that in general, the United States aims to reach a letter of agreement for new F-35 sales in about 6 months. She referred questions on the UAE deal to the State Department.
A State Department spokesman deferred to Trump’s comments from a news conference on Wednesday in which he said, “They’d like to buy F-35s, we’ll see what happens, it’s under review.”
Poland, the most recent F-35 customer, purchased 32 of the jets in January, but will not receive its first delivery until 2024. Any sale would also need congressional approval.
Washington guarantees that Israel receives more advanced American weapons than Arab states, giving it what is labelled a “Qualitative Military Edge” over its neighbours.
“The UAE expects that its requirements will be accepted and we feel that with the signing of this peace treaty in the coming weeks or months … that any hurdle towards this should no longer be there,” Gargash said. (Source: Reuters)
20 Aug 20. Step up plans to replace JSF now: ASPI policy expert. While the ‘new car smell’ is still fresh in the Royal Australian Air Force’s new F-35s, ASPI senior analyst Malcolm Davis has set the RAAF and decision-makers a serious challenge – get started on planning to replace the F-35s now, before it’s too late.
Throughout history, military operations have favoured those who occupy the high ground. Command of the skies empowers both offensive and defensive operations, while also providing powerful deterrence options as part of the broader implementation of power projection and national security doctrines.
Air dominance reflects the pinnacle of the high ground, where both a qualitative and quantitative edge in doctrine, equipment and personnel support the unrivalled conduct of offensive or defensive air combat operations.
The concept of air dominance proved influential as a tactical and strategic operating concept, with the use of tactical fighters providing air dominance, close air support and strategic bomber escort essential to the Allied triumph in the Second World War.
Designed to establish and maintain air superiority or air dominance, fighter aircraft have evolved from relatively simple wood and canvas airframes during the First World War to the highly manoeuvrable, long-range aircraft that dominated the skies of Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War; the latest two generations of fighters are the pinnacle of these earlier designs.
Indo-Pacific Asia’s fighter fleets are made up of fighter aircraft ranging from third to fifth-generation aircraft, each with unique capabilities and roles within the regional balance of power.
Prior to diving into the concept of the ‘high-low’ fighter mix, it is critical to understand the differences between the generations of aircraft operating in the Indo-Pacific.
Fighter aircraft, like every facet of military technology, are rapidly evolving. The current global and regional transition from fourth to fifth-generation fighter aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms, is reshaping the role of fighter fleets and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
The growing success of Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Su-57, J-20 and JF-31 – combined with reports of Russia offering the Su-57 for export to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) – is threatening to serve as a repeat of the air combat battles over Vietnam that saw dedicated Soviet-designed and built air superiority fighter aircraft severely challenge US air superiority despite the advances in air-to-air missiles promising the “end of traditional dog fights”.
Further compounding these issues, China’s development of the next-generation J/H-XX, F-111 style tactical bomber is further limiting the responses available to Australia, the US, Japan and other key regional and global allies.
Fighter aircraft are also limited by their limited range and dependence on aerial refuelling and airborne early warning, command and control platforms that are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a proliferation of advanced ground, sea and air-based anti-aircraft missiles, significantly hindering the air combat capability of modern air forces.
Meanwhile, the advent, development and increasing proliferation of unmanned and autonomous aerial combat platforms is adding a further variable into the ever-evolving equation that is contemporary air combat planning, operations and capability development.
Recognising these existing and emerging challenges to Australia’s air combat capability, ASPI senior analyst Malcolm Davis has penned a piece calling for the Royal Australian Air Force to begin planning for the replacement of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to avoid a repeat of costly and dangerous capability gaps.
Dr Davis sets the scene: “Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and accompanying Force Structure Plan outline the next 20 years of development for the Royal Australian Air Force’s strike and air combat capability. Some notional funding streams are provided in the force structure plan that define the priorities for capability development and raise some intriguing questions for future planners to consider.
“At the centre of the plans for the RAAF, of course, are the F-35A fighter jets, which are due to achieve final operational capability by the end of 2023. The Force Structure Plan also allocates funds for ‘additional air combat capability’ between 2025 and 2030. It doesn’t specify what that additional capability will be, though it says that the government ‘is committed to … support of the F/A-18F Super Hornet strike aircraft, and acquiring enhanced air-launched munitions’.”
Adding to this, Dr Davis states, “Defence’s 2016 integrated investment program contemplated acquiring a fourth squadron of F-35s, stating that the Super Hornet fleet has been extended beyond its initial bridging capability timeline and is now planned to be replaced around 2030. Its replacement could include either a fourth operational squadron of Joint Strike Fighters or possibly a yet to be developed unmanned combat aerial vehicle. The decision on the replacement of this air combat capability will be best undertaken post-2020 when technology and emerging threat trends are better understood.”
The ‘manned/unmanned’ interface
Australia’s world-leading development of autonomous and unmanned, ‘teaming’ platforms like Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System or BATS is identified by Dr Davis as one of the key force multipliers within the makeup of Australia’s future air combat capability.
These developments, combined with similar such programs currently underway across the world, but particularly in the US with its SkyBorg program, of which the BATS is a contender, also provides opportunities for the nation and the Air Force to adequately meet the growing range of airpower missions, fill capability gaps and maximise the available platforms and capabilities available to military planners.
Dr Davis also believes such platforms have significant margins for growth and development, stating, “The 2020 plan doesn’t mention a fourth F-35 squadron, but elevates support for what it calls ‘teaming air vehicles’. It anticipates their acquisition between 2025 and 2040, which would fit in with decisions being made on the future of the F/A-18F versus an additional squadron of F-35s.
“Boeing’s loyal wingman drone for its ‘airpower teaming system’, being developed in Australia, could emerge as a good solution to the RAAF’s long-range-strike requirements by the end of this decade. It could be evolved into a more capable platform, with greater range, payload and speed, from its current prototype design. It wouldn’t be the equivalent of acquiring the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, but an evolved loyal wingman would represent something closer to a true long-range-strike platform than simply purchasing another squadron of F-35s, without all the political, financial and strategic challenges associated with the B-21.”
Dr Davis adds, “The 2020 plan also suggests that the RAAF must consider a replacement for the E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft between the late 2020s and 2040. Keeping the Growlers operating alongside the Super Hornets makes good sense.
“But if the Super Hornets are retired by the mid-2030s, that would be an ideal time to explore new approaches to electronic warfare and attack. Once again, the sensible solution would be to take full advantage of unmanned systems wherever possible. One option might be for Australia to team up with the United States to develop a stealthy and highly survivable variant of the loyal wingman, with the US supplying the complex and classified electronic warfare payload onboard.”
International collaboration and towards ‘next-gen air dominance’
The race for ‘sixth-generation’ fighter aircraft to succeed the F-35 and F-22 is well and truly underway, with nations around the world currently in the concept definition, design and early technology demonstration phase of the capability life cycle.
Programs such as America’s Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program, Britain’s Team Tempest, the European FCAS and Japan’s highly publicised F-3 program are powerful reminders that technology and capability don’t stop, rather the development of the next generation of capabilities is constantly in the forefront of other powers’ minds.
For Dr Davis, this should serve as a powerful motivator for Australia’s own strategic planning, long-term development and capability acquisition plans.
He explains this, stating, “Looking further into the future, the plan mentions the period between 2035 and 2040 as the beginning of a process for considering a replacement for the F-35.
“In fact, something would be amiss if the RAAF weren’t discussing the F-35 replacement right now and thinking about how Australia could work with the US, the UK and other allies on fielding new types of air combat platforms much sooner.
“For example, the US is no longer speaking about ‘sixth-generation’ fighters, and recognises the risks of slow, decades-long acquisition cycles for a future fighter. The focus of its next-generation air dominance program is now on a ‘digital century series’ approach of rapid development of small numbers of several types of airframes over short periods, as few as five years.
“It would be a mistake for the RAAF to embark on another 20-year acquisition project to eventually replace the F-35 from the late 2040s, yet that’s exactly what the force structure plan implies. Waiting until 2035 to begin developing a replacement ignores the clear trends that suggest a desire for faster capability acquisition.”
In finalising his remarks, Dr Davis is particularly pointed in his assessment, stating, “The RAAF shouldn’t wait until 2035 to get started on developing these types of capabilities. Its plans to complement, and then replace, the F-35 can be accelerated, and it would make sense to promote collaboration with the US and the UK in this endeavour to boost the RAAF’s air combat capability sooner.” (Source: Defence Connect)
19 Aug 20. India deploys Tejas aircraft on western front amid border tensions. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas on the western front.
According to news agency ANI, the first squadron of the aircraft was moved to the western front from their home base in Sulur, Tamil Nadu.
The deployment comes after China reportedly deployed two J-20 stealth fighter jets at an airbase near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.
However, the Chinese authorities did not confirm the deployment.
Notably, India and China are engaged in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh since May. The standoff led to occasional skirmishes, resulting in casualties on both sides.
A government source told the news agency: “The LCA Tejas was deployed by the Indian Air Force on the western front close to the Pakistan border to take care of any possible action by the adversary there.”
Following the border skirmishes with China, India has ramped up its presence near the border with forward airbases seeing extensive flying operations.
Recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the Tejas aircraft and said that the deal to acquire LCA Mk-1A advanced Tejas jets is likely to be completed soon.
The contract for 83 Tejas Mark 1A variant jets with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is expected to be finalised before the end of this year.
The $5.2bn order will include 73 fighter jets and ten two-seat trainer aircraft.
The Tejas Mark 1A variant jets will incorporate several improvements over the final operational clearance (FOC) configuration currently used by the IAF.
In May, IAF operationalised the second squadron of the Tejas LCA at Sulur airbase. The Number 18 Squadron was code-named Flying Bullets. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
18 Aug 20. Israel opposes any F-35 sale to UAE despite their warming ties. Israel would oppose any U.S. F-35 warplane sales to the United Arab Emirates despite forging relations with the Gulf power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.
The statement followed a report in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the Trump administration planned a “giant” F-35 deal with the UAE as part of the Gulf country’s U.S.-brokered move last week to normalise ties with Israel.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and representatives of the UAE government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Under understandings dating back decades, Washington has refrained from Middle East arms sales that could blunt Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (QME). This has applied to the F-35, denied to Arab states, while Israel has bought and deployed it.
“In the talks (on the UAE normalisation deal), Israel did not change its consistent positions against the sale to any country in the Middle East of weapons and defence technologies that could tip the (military) balance,” Netanyahu’s office said.
This opposition includes any proposed F-35 sale, it added.
The Trump administration has signalled that the UAE could clinch unspecified new U.S. arms sales after last Thursday’s normalisation announcement.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, an observer in Netanyahu’s security cabinet, noted that past U.S. administrations had “against our wishes” sold the UAE more advanced F-16 warplanes than Israel possesses as well as F-15 warplanes to Saudi Arabia.
Even were Washington to sell F-35s to the UAE, Steinitz told public radio station Kan that they would be unlikely to pose a danger to Israel as the distance between the countries is more than twice the jet’s range without refuelling.
“I would like to offer us reassurance. Any F-35 that ends up, ultimately, in the United Arab Emirates – not that we would be happy with this, as we always want to be the only ones (with such arms) in the region – threatens Iran far more than it does us,” he said, citing a foe common to Israel and many Gulf Arabs. (Source: Reuters)
18 Aug 20. Far East of Russian Benefits from Contracts. On 12th August 2020, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a visit to the Eastern territories- Khabarovsk Krai and Irkutsk oblast. The latter (alongside the aviation plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur) produce the National Air Force’s (VKS) SUKHOI Su-27/30/35 family, and the Minister’s visit has not been a surprise to these facilities.
Shoigu started his trip with a visit to the Gagarin KnAAZ in Komsomolsk, a plant which is busy fulfilling two large contracts with MoD, including one signed in 2015 for 50 Su-35 multirole fighters, which is to be concluded at the end of 2020 or even ahead of schedule. Earlier this year, KnAAZ handed four Su-35s to the Russian Knights display team. This is the latest derivative of the Su-27 family and is considered the most advanced and combat efficient platform to gain air superiority against any rival. Key features include super-manoeuvrability due the thrust vectoring engines and a huge range of weaponry, including air-to-air and air-to-ground long range missiles. According to Rosoboronexport, the aircraft’s maximum payload is 8000 kg, while the radar can detect air targets with a Radar Cross Section of 3 m² at a distance of 350 km. The plane was combat tested by the VKS in Syria to become fully operational in 2018, although to date the only confirmed foreign customer is China, having received 24 examples of the export version by April 2018.
The second KnAAZ contract is for Russia’s fifth generation fighter and the Minister has been assured that the Su-57 combat aircraft will go in a serial production this year to meet the contract plans for 76 planes to be delivered by 2028. Shoigu has also announced a new contract for 48 Su-35s with KnAAZ worth 70bn roubles (over US$1bn on the current exchange rate) will be concluded by the end of the year and be fulfilled by 2024.
The IAPO in Irkutsk has also received an extra order worth over 100bn roubles for 21 Su-30SM2 multirole fighters and 25 Yak-130 combat-training aircraft. The Su-30SM2 is the latest version of the Su-30 double-seater family which can be used as an air-superiority aircraft alongside a strike capability. It can employ the same payload as the Su-35 with several extras, including a heavy air-to-surface missile developed as part of the Adaptation-Su R&D work. The Izvestia daily newspaper noted that this programme probably refers to the Kh-32 liquid-propellant hypersonic missile, previously being by Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers.
The Yakovlev Yak-130 combat trainer has become a new generation “flying desk” for Russian pilots with over 100 examples employed at the Serov military college in Krasnodar. It has been exported to a number of nations including Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Between the two aircraft production facilities, Shoigu made a visit to the Amurskiy Shipbuilding Plant (ASZ) in Komsomolsk. The shipyard suffered difficult times in 1990s but enjoyed a period of revival in the last few years. Currently the plant is contracted to produce four corvettes of the 20380 project, with two having already been delivered to the Russian Tikhookeanskiy Flot (Pacific Fleet). The third, ALDAN TSYDENZHAPOV, is under mooring trials, while the fourth, REZKIY (Sharp), is under construction at the plant’s dock. The ambitious program for 20380 corvettes construction also employs the Severnaya Shipyard in St.-Petersburg, Shoigu announced that six more corvettes are to be built at ASZ with a new contract to be signed shortly. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
17 Aug 20. Reform efforts in South Korea create ecosystem for defense industry growth. South Korea has over the past decade become a defense industry powerhouse in its own right, and it’s seeking to widen its reach, with progress in international markets in recent years marking the maturity of its defense articles.
This year’s Defense News Top 100 list of the biggest defense companies in the world features four South Korean businesses. They are Hanwha (ranked 32rd), Korea Aerospace Industries (55th), LIG Nex1 (68th) and Hyundai Rotem Company (95th), all of which made last year’s list.
The strong performance of South Korean defense companies comes in the wake of a series of reforms over the past decade, with the latest designed to consolidate industrial gains and create momentum for growth.
The defense industry reforms are part of President Moon Jae-in’s Defense Reform 2.0 program announced in 2018 — a complement to efforts seeking to create a slimmer, yet more efficient South Korean military that is less reliant on foreign defense technology.
The push for further self-reliance is most prominent in Korea Aerospace Industries’ KF-X program. KAI is developing a next-generation fighter for the South Korean Air Force. Although an American GE F414 turbofan will power the aircraft, its avionics will primarily be indigenous. These include the active electronically scanned array radar under development by Hanwha and the country’s Agency for Defense Development, with support and some components supplied by Israel’s Elbit Systems.
Defense Reform 2.0 also puts emphasis on defense industry investment, and it comes as little surprise that the domstic market still takes up the biggest share of the pie where sales are concerned, backed up by the steady growth in defense spending: South Korea’s defense budget grew 20 percent from 2009 to 2017, reaching $43bn.
The reform program also places an increased priority on defense exports. The country is already successful in this area, with research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank showing the country was the 11th biggest arms supplier in the world in 2017, with sales totaling $5.5bn.
In a further indication of how much South Korea’s industry has grown, SIPRI also noted in a 2018 report that the country’s defense exports grew 94 percent in the 10 years prior, a growth figure only bettered by Turkey for the same period.
This growth has been underpinned by two of the highest-profile South Korean defense exports in the past decade: the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle family of trainer and light combat aircraft, and the Hanwha K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer.
The T-50 was earmarked by the Air Force as its mainstay advanced trainer and light combat aircraft. Despite losing a number of trainer competitions, including in Poland, Singapore and the United States, the Golden Eagle has since scored a number of notable contracts for export.
Compared to its rivals in the trainer market, such as the Leonardo M-346 and the Boeing T-7, the main draw of the T-50 family is its combat capability in the form of the TA-50 and FA-50 equipped with sophisticated combat capabilities in the form of radars and precision weapons employment capability. This makes the aircraft attractive to nations unable to afford a high-end trainer with a light attack capability, and the list of the type’s customers bears this out, with Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines and Thailand operating the type in their respective air forces. The Philippine Air Force used its FA-50PH fleet to attack Islamic State militants in the southern part of the country in 2018.
Meanwhile, Hanwha’s K9 Thunder has carved a niche for itself in the global market for self-propelled howitzers. The 52-caliber, 155mm system has been selected by a number of NATO nations, beating out the similar Panzerhaubitze 2000 by Germany’s Rheinmetall in Estonia, Finland and Norway. Turkey is building the K9 under license as the T-155 Firtina.
The system has also been selected for license production by India and Poland, and had previously been selected by Australia in the early part of the 2010s only to be canceled following budget issues caused by the global financial crisis.
Hanwha is also one of two companies left in the running to supply the Australian Army with a new infantry fighting vehicle. The AS21 Redback, which is based on the K21 vehicle operated by the South Korean Army, is to take part in an evaluation program against the Rheinmetall KF41 Lynx to supply 450 vehicles to replace M113 armored personnel carriers.
The evaluation will see three of each vehicle delivered to Australia for testing, with the first two Redbacks due to reach Australia at the end of August, having left South Korea by ship late last month.
Like much the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit South Korea hard, though the worst appears to be over for the country. The local defense industry was forced to adjust financially and operationally, and it remains unclear how revenue will be hit by the events of 2020.
The pandemic has claimed at least one sale for the South Korean defense industry, with Argentina, which had appeared set to be the next customer for the T-50 family, deciding in April to put off the acquisition indefinitely. The South American country is yet to sign a contract, despite choosing the aircraft for purchase in July 2019.
However, the South Korean government is not waiting for foreign action. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo has unveiled plans for the country to spend more on locally produced defense articles, partly as a move to help curtail the effects of the pandemic.
Jeong said during a mid-June meeting with industry CEOs that his ministry plans to adjust spending plans to continue its drive to spend more on indigenous products, and move delivery timelines to reflect the reality of schedule delays while also waiving penalties for late payments.
He also plans to expand an existing strategy aimed at establishing “defense industry innovation clusters”; this move adds to the first one established in April with an initial government investment. As a result, more funding will be made available to industry and research institutes, and will be used to support regional collaboration in defense-related research and development as well as manufacturing. (Source: Defense News)
14 Aug 20. Years Of Intel Contacts Laid Foundation For UAE-Israel Deal. Mossad officials, retired Israeli officers, and cybersecurity experts were frequent visitors to the tiny Gulf state long before yesterday’s agreement to open official diplomatic ties.
Yesterday’s public announcement of a landmark between Israel and the United Arab Emirates comes after years of low-key collaboration, especially against what both nations see as a common adversary: Iran.
There are already signs that UAE’s decision to establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel could inspire several other Gulf states to follow suit, part of a rising backlash among Iran’s neighbors against the Shia theocracy’s aggressive stance. UAE forces have fought Iran’s Houthi allies in war-torn Yemen.
But the UAE is particularly significant because it controls most of the southern shore of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital channel for oil tankers which Iran – controlling the north shore – has repeatedly threatened to close. There are even reports in the international press of Israeli submarines operating in the area, allegedly armed with “special weapons” ready to retaliate if Iran launches its ballistic missiles at Israel.
“Look at the map and you will understand the huge importance of the agreement,” one expert told Breaking Defense.
No wonder, then, that Iran was swift to denounce the deal. An official statement said that the Islamic Republic of Iran condemned the UAE’s “shameful attempt” to normalize its relations with “the fake, illegal and inhumane Zionist regime” and warned against Israeli involvement in the Gulf. The Tasnim news agency, which is closely linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, emphasized that the Israeli delegations headed to the UAE to finalize the agreement will include the head of Mossad.
In fact, top officials of the Israeli intelligence agency have been frequent visitors to the UAE in recent years. There’s also been an influx of Israeli expertise in cybersecurity and big data analysis, both in the form of Israeli companies operating in UAE and UAE companies hiring individual Israelis. While official military-to-military ties are limited to occasional sharing of intelligence, there’s a growing group of Israeli military and security personnel who have taken jobs in the UAE after retirement or while on sabbatical.
One much-debated example is how UAE private security firm DarkMatter has systematically recruited former members of the Israeli Defense Force’s elite team of hackers, Unit 8200. Human rights activists have criticized such Israeli experts for assisting the UAE’s surveillance of anti-government groups, some of which are linked to Iran.
The new deal could now open the door for Israeli defense contractors to work with UAE as well. While direct arms sales to UAE are still not on the table, at least for now, new regulations on US aid dollars have driven many Israeli armsmakers to create subsidiaries in the US, which could act as a channel for cooperation.
“My assessment is that direct sales of Israeli made military equipment are something that will be evaluated in the future,” said Prof. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center and a senior researcher at the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University. “But at the same time,” he told Breaking Defense, “I see cooperation agreements where Israel will bring its expertise, and the UAE the funding, to develop certain homeland-security related systems.”
Rabi said that Iran is the biggest threat to the Emirates: “While on the surface there are very tight economic ties, Iran is a major enemy of the UAE and now will be even more aggressive.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
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