Sponsored by Exensor
26 Nov 20. Australian Defence Minister responds to WA government push for Collins Class FCD push. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has reaffirmed the Commonwealth government’s commitment to naval shipbuilding and the development of a leading-edge naval shipbuilding capability in Western Australia, but has stopped short of announcing the location for Full Cycle Docking (FCD) for the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines.
The Minister for Defence Linda Reynoldshas issued a fiercely worded reminder to industry and the media, while also setting a very pointed challenge at the feet of the West Australian government following comments made recently by Premier Mark McGowan and Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia regarding the government’s decision time frame for the Collins Class Full Cycle Docking (FCD) intentions.
“Our submarine capability is one of the most strategically important and complex capabilities in our Defence Force. To preserve our hard won submarine availability that is above international benchmarks, the government is carefully considering the needs of managing the entirety of our submarine program,” Minister Reynolds said.
“A decision on Full Cycle Docking for the Collins Class submarine will be made in the national interest following a deliberative process of government consideration.”
A consistent focal point for the Commonwealth government has been the capacity of the workforce in Western Australia to meet the exacting standards required to keep contemporary combat submarines updated and in the water, with Minister Reynolds detailing: “The considerations include the need to preserve and grow our expert skills sets and knowledge in the Collins Class workforce, the best long term maintenance outcome, achieving steady growth across the enterprise, the continued need to deliver operational outcomes, and above all, what is in the national interest.
“Whatever the decision, it is not a binary outcome. The government’s consideration on submarine sustainment will be made in the context of the entirety of our national naval shipbuilding plan.”
Premier McGowan made comments earlier in November, stating, “Western Australia has always said the decision must be made in the national interest. It would be deeply concerning to think the timing of a federal election would have any influence on when government and industry are notified of the future of this critical project.”
The call for a decision comes as the McGowan government this week reached a significant milestone in progressing its $100m-plus investment to support FCD and other Defence projects at the state’s marine industry hub at the Australian Marine Complex (AMC).
Minister Papalia added at the time, “We have worked hard over the last three-and-a-half years to demonstrate Western Australia’s superior capacity to undertake this work, and there is no doubt WA is the clear choice for locating FCD.”
The state government is now calling for expressions of interest from marine contractors to begin work on the design and construction of a major wharf upgrade – the first of four infrastructure projects valued at $87.6 m and set to create up to 600 jobs.
The wharf extension will create additional berth capacity and allow the accommodation of all RAN vessels.
Minister Reynolds’ response was sharp and directed at the West Australian government, stating, “For many years, I have championed at both state and federal government levels infrastructure investment at Henderson. This advocacy has seen $1.5bn in infrastructure at HMAS Stirling and Henderson committed, and the further investment of more than $300m for a new Maritime Underwater Range from the federal government.
“The Henderson Maritime Precinct, a state government facility, has been transformed into a hub of more than 100 companies servicing Defence’s need. But there is still much work to do to bring it up to world standard, including higher levels of automation, efficiency and flexibility – scalable to meet the future demands of a burgeoning industry, larger and more complex naval vessels, and for our allies and partners.”
The project at the key industrial hub will see the existing AMC Berth 1 lengthened by about 140 metres, together with the extension and upgrade of existing services on the wharf. It will also see the design of a new 200-metre Finger Wharf to create Berths 7 and 8, to increase future capability to service Collins Class and Attack Class submarines, and support larger naval vessels.
In addition to the wharf upgrades, the $87.6m investment includes a new vessel transfer path, three road intersection upgrades and a new shipbuilding hall. These major infrastructure upgrades are in addition to the state government’s recent $18.6m investment in defence industry training, to help build the workforce required to support FCD and other Defence projects.
This significant infrastructure and training investment follows the McGowan government’s work over the last three-and-a-half years to enhance WA’s defence industry and elevate the state’s case for securing FCD and other high-value defence projects.
This has included the establishment of Defence West, independent business cases demonstrating WA’s superior case to secure FCD over South Australia, and the development of the Strategic Infrastructure and Land Use Plan to develop the AMC.
Minister Reynolds added, “Since 2013, the Coalition government has been the catalyst for growth in Western Australia for shipbuilding – enabled by comprehensive strategic planning and carefully funded investment plans.
“The WA government must now deliver on its long discussed, but not yet actioned, master plan and start much needed upgrades at Henderson. With the inclusion of new build programs in the 2020 Force Structure Plan, the WA government needs to build the pathway for industry confidence and investment.” (Source: Defence Connect)
25 Nov 20. S. Korea to Mass Produce Advanced Tactical Ground-Based Missiles by 2025. South Korea decided Wednesday to mass produce a new type of tactical ground-based missiles designed to destroy underground artillery bases in North Korea, officials said.
During the defense project promotion committee presided over by Defense Minister Suh Wook, the government approved the plan to produce more than 200 units of the Korean Tactical Surface to Surface Missile (KTSSM) by 2025, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
Under the 450bn won (US$406.14m) project, South Korea successfully developed the new weapon with its own technology, and an additional 320m won was earmarked for its mass production, the DAPA said.
“This project is to destroy long-range artillery pieces hidden in underground tunnels in order to neutralize enemies’ attack at the shortest time possible,” the arms procurement agency said in a statement.
The ballistic missile, with a flight range of around 120 kilometers, is capable of striking multiple targets precisely at the same time, the officials said, adding that it is expected to be put into combat operations around 2022.
North Korea revealed its own novel type of surface-to-surface missile in August 2019, and has test-launched them three times. The missile, fired from a caterpillar-type transporter erector launcher (TEL), bears some outward similarities to the U.S.’ Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), experts said.
During the meeting, the committee also approved the third round of mass production of the country’s main K2 battle tank.
Around 50 units of the home-grown K2 Black Panther will be built by 2023, which requires around 2.83trn won, according to DAPA.
Just as those produced in the previous round, the new units will be equipped with a foreign-made transmission, along with a local engine, after a domestically-made transmission fell short of standards, officials said. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Yonhap news agency)
Nov 20. Australia Must Offset Massive Risk In Naval Shipbuilding Program. There are a lot of moving parts involved in the ramp-up of the government’s naval shipbuilding enterprise. It’s hard for anybody to keep track of them all, particularly as new pieces of information are sporadically disclosed in a range of forums and sources. The inclusion of both the Attack-class submarine and Hunter-class frigate for the first time in the Australian National Audit Office’s 2019–20 major projects report, due out later this month, will help and is certainly a step in the right direction. But a compelling case can be made for an annual report on the entire enterprise, covering not just the component projects but also their enabling elements such as infrastructure, workforce, industrial capability, funding, and so on. There are precedents for annual reports on key elements of Defence’s modernisation efforts, such as the excellent annual report on defence industry and innovation programs.
In the meantime, for those who are interested in what is our now $137bn shipbuilding program (give or take) but don’t have the time or inclination to trawl through transcripts of Senate estimates hearings, submissions to parliamentary inquiries, Defence’s annual reports, or its freedom of information disclosure log, here are some observations on key developments over the past few months. This first part of a two-part series looks at enterprise-level issues. In the next instalment, I’ll look at individual projects.
When $50bn is really $80bn
Under questioning from Labor’s Penny Wong at October’s estimates hearings, it became very clear that the government and Defence continued to publicly use their $50bn out-turned cost figure for the future submarine for over two years after Defence actually estimated it to be around $80 bn out-turned. And both continued to use the $35bn figure for the future frigate for nearly two years after Defence estimated it to be around $45bn.
That means the government’s own estimate for what it repeatedly described as a $89bn shipbuilding program was nearly $130bn (including a non-controversial $4bn or so for the OPVs).
After Defence admitted there was no need to keep using the lower figures for commercial sensitivity reasons, Wong asked what the real reason was. After a prolonged silence, Secretary Greg Moriarty said, ‘When the government chooses to announce particular phases or particular prices is a matter for government.’ Unfortunately, the government has not provided a convincing reason for why it chose to understate the cost of its shipbuilding program by around $40bn. With even the most vocal advocates of the future submarine program lamenting its lack of public support, the government and Defence have to do better if they want Australians to continue to back this endeavour. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
25 Nov 20. Royal Thai Airforce Modernization Plan For The Next Decade. Over the 10-year period (2010 – 2020), the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) allocated budget increases at an average of 4.25 % per year. According to RTAF 20-Year Strategy, the focus of Air Power modernization will be qualitative rather than quantitative, leading to emphasis on capability enhancement of sensors and fire power.
The RTAF White Paper 2020 has set out its procurement priorities for the coming decade, with new transport aircraft, combat search-and-rescue helicopters, and light attack aircraft. The RTAF also plans to add new fighters to replace older aircraft.
One of the service’s key procurement programs is the replacement of its fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. The replacement aircraft will need to be compatible with Thailand’s Link T data link system, which the RTAF is in the process of rolling out.
The plan is also to replace its remaining L-39ZA/ART aircraft, which have been in service since the mid-1990s. The replacement effort will be done in two phases, with eight aircraft sought between 2021 and 2023 and a further four between 2022 and 2024. A budget of $143m has been earmarked for the first phase.
RTAF wants six more combat search-and-rescue platforms to replace the Bell UH-1s and 412s currently in service, bolstering the Airbus H225M fleet that has taken over some of these duties. The whitepaper also flagged more S-70i Black Hawk helicopters as a requirement.
The plans buy new fighter jets to replace older Lockheed Martin F-16s, which have not been upgraded. Twelve F-16A/B air defense fighters followed by a similar number of F-16A/B Block 15s will be replaced in four phases of six new fighters each, which is expected to take place in 2023-2026, 2025-2028, 2028-2031 and 2030-2033. (Source: www.defensenews.com)
26 Nov 20. Foreign Secretary statement following a meeting with the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister. Following a discussion about the conflict in Ethiopia with the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has made the below statement. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “I met today with the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen to discuss the deeply concerning situation in the Tigray region. I made clear that there should be an immediate end to violence by both sides, civilians who remain in the region must be protected, and I expressed particular concern about the impact on civilians of the planned siege of Tigray’s capital, Mekelle.
The government needs to guarantee unhindered humanitarian access and the restoration of basic services in Tigray. All parties to this conflict need to want to find a political solution and accept regional offers of mediation, to avoid a looming humanitarian crisis and the spread of fighting and suffering to other countries in the region.
The UK has been a longstanding supporter of Ethiopia, which has established itself as a beacon of reform in Africa. This conflict is putting all of those reform efforts at risk.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 Nov 20. President Xi details PLA modernisation efforts as part of latest Five Year Plan. Chinese President Xi Jinping has used the latest Five Year Plan (FYP) to not only detail a major shift towards greater economic independence, as the country seeks to limit exposure to foreign supply chains, but also a major period of modernisation for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with two major focuses to be “mechanised and informationised” by 2027.
Like every ascendent economic, political and strategic power, China has used its period of rapid industrialisation and economic expansion to begin establishing its position as an economic, political and strategic power within the broader global context.
Fuelled by a long memory of a “century of humiliation” at the hands of Western imperialism, finally ending with the successful Communist Revolution in 1949, China and its political leaders have dedicated the nation to establishing a new era of Chinese global primacy.
In response, ‘leader for life’ President Xi Jinping has resolutely resolved to assert China’s influence and ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, while also defiantly responding to any external attempts to interfere with the rising superpower’s national interests – a key component to this is responding to the ongoing issue in Hong Kong, potential conflict with Taiwan and the growing capacity of the People’s Liberation Army to influence regional affairs.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have used the 14th Five Year Plan recently announced by President Xi to build on the announcements made during the 70th anniversary, detailed in the China and the World in the New Era speech late last year.
State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, China and the World in the New Era states, “The PRC has witnessed profound changes and achieved a miracle of development unprecedented in human history. In just a few decades, China has completed a course that took developed countries several hundred years. China has now become the world’s second largest economy, taken care of the material needs of its nearly 1.4 billion people, and achieved moderate all-round prosperity.”
This has seen a growing shift within Beijing’s long-term planning practices, with President Xi stepping up the rhetoric and his intentions for the future direction and capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army, which he established in the latest Five Year Plan – detailing these developments is Dean Cheng of the US-based Breaking Defense.
Setting the scene, Cheng explains, “China has laid out the broad goals and objectives for its 14th Five Year Plan (FYP), which will extend from 2021 to 2025, and one of the priorities is ‘elevating the level of national security’.
“While Americans may be inclined to dismiss any budget plan more than a year out, five-year plans are an important part of the planning process for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). When something is incorporated into the FYP this merits a LOT of attention because it reflects broad bureaucratic consensus. No ministry or bureaucracy will submit something for inclusion in the FYP unless it has reached internal agreement. Similarly, they will fight to ensure their goals and objectives are fully funded if challenged.”
Still a ‘developing nation’ with an offer
Both President Xi and the CPC seek to expand the long-standing narrative that China remains the world’s largest developing country – a story that China hopes will continue to provide the world with an opportunity for continuing economic growth and development, despite security concerns.
A key component of this emphasis is a shift from Beijing to sure up its dependence on increasingly contested global supply chains, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing economic tensions between the rising superpower and key raw resource suppliers, including Australia.
Cheng explains this growing anxiety within China’s policy making community and the push to expand growth and national security and resilience at the same time: “Economic, technological, and supply chain security clearly will be priorities. There is concern about preserving societal stability, a key goal of a state that has been beset by persistent and widespread civil disturbances over the last decade.
“For example, there is continued emphasis on urbanisation, while reducing the divide between urban and rural development. This suggests the Chinese leadership sees the growing disparities between the countryside and the cities as a major source of concern.
“Since these gaps also emphasise the imbalance between coastal provinces (which have generally benefited from the policies of ‘Reform and Opening’ pursued since the days of Deng Xiaoping) and inland ones, any effort to improve rural populations will also likely see benefits accrue to inland provinces.”
At the core of these developments is the ever present tactical and strategic anxiety that has shaped the national security policy and doctrine of the People’s Republic of China since its formation, particularly driven by concerns regarding the nation’s neighbours, namely Japan, South Korea and, intermittently, Russia, as well as the ever present concerns about its great strategic rival: the US.
Modernising and digitising the PLA to replicate and in same cases rival the technological and information edge enjoyed by the US and its allies remains at the core of this push, to ensure that the traditional advantages across the tactical and strategic domains long enjoyed by potential adversaries are as limited as possible.
Reshaping the PLA
As part of this push, President Xi detailed renewed attempts to overhaul and reshape the PLA as part of the Five Year Plan, which Cheng describes, saying, “The Chinese have been modernising the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for more than two decades.
“For a long time, the PLA has been described as ‘half-mechanised, half-informationised’. While some units of the PLA employ data links, network-centric sensor-to-shooter system-of-systems, and field a variety of UAVs, electronic warfare platforms, and advanced combat capabilities, other units are still in the midst of simply shifting from towed artillery to self-propelled guns, improving their main battle tanks and becoming fully motorised.
“For the next FYP, the goal is to accelerate military modernisation, so the PLA will be fully mechanised and informationised by 2027. The PLA was founded in 1927, so the 2027 target date is in part an effort to capitalize on the centennial of its founding. Nonetheless, to accelerate informationisation will require either a major reduction in forces, a major budget increase or a shift in the standard of what constitutes ‘informationised’ units.”
While China’s China’s National Defense in the New Era white paper was quick to identify what it defines as a purely “defensive national defence policy” – reality is often different to what is articulated – even when clearly defined commitments to use force to “reunify” China are present.
This articulated focus on developing and enhancing the “defensive nature” of the Chinese military strategy, force structure modernisation and capability acquisition program seemingly contradicts developments in the Indo-Pacific, the South China Sea in particular and the clearly apparent Chinese ambitions and designs of regional dominance.
To this end, China identifies a “military strategic guideline for a new era” that directly adheres to the principles of: defence, self-defence and post-strike response; and adopts what China defines as “active defence”, which is responsible for the modernisation, recapitalisation and expansion of China’s military capabilities ranging from advanced cyber and space capabilities, to conventional power projection capabilities including ground and air combat forces, naval power projection units like aircraft carriers and supporting strike groups, and a modernisation of China’s nuclear deterrence force.
This modernisation and recapitalisation has also expanded to China’s development of tactical and strategic levelling capabilities, namely the active development and militarisation of reclaimed islands in the South China Sea and the development of advanced, integrated anti-access/area denial defence networks throughout the region – both of which are designed to counter and hinder the tactical and strategic mobility of US and allied forces in the western Pacific.
Further influencing China’s military modernisation, recapitalisation and expansion of capabilities is what the rising superpower defines as “international strategic competition” – driven largely by a resurgence in the US and its direct approach to dealing with China across the economic, political, diplomatic and, increasingly, strategic domains throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Building on this, China also focuses its attention on the US’ regional allies, namely Japan, Korea and Australia, as part of a gaggle of seemingly ‘petulant children’ negligently modernising and expanding their own respective military capabilities in response to childish concerns about China’s own military capabilities:
“The US is strengthening its Asia-Pacific military alliances and reinforcing military deployment and intervention, adding complexity to regional security. The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Republic of Korea (ROK) by the US has severely undermined the regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries.
“In an attempt to circumvent the post-war mechanism, Japan has adjusted its military and security policies and increased input accordingly, thus becoming more outward-looking in its military endeavours. Australia continues to strengthen its military alliance with the US and its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific, seeking a bigger role in security affairs.”
This direct focus on both the US and its regional partners has been identified by many in the Australian media as a direct threat, particularly when viewed within the context of China’s expanded commitment to reunite Taiwan with force and its continued assertive positioning in the South China Sea.
Cheng expands on this, stating, “At the same time, this additional effort will simply be continuing a process underway since the 12th (2011-2015) and current 13th (2016-2020) FYPs. During the past decade, the PLA modernised much of its equipment; today, it has the world’s largest navy and air force.
“Crucially, it has significantly evolved its doctrine, adopting concepts such as ‘integrated [or unified] joint operations’ and ‘civil-military fusion’. It has also undergone a radical reorganisation (announced on December 31, 2015), with new services such as the PLA Strategic Support Force and the establishment of new ‘war zones’ or ‘theatre commands’ to replace the old military regions.
“All of these steps marked the initial phase of PLA modernisation. The next seven years will likely see adjustments as the PLA assesses the success of these modernisation efforts, undertakes course corrections, and otherwise prepares the PLA to enter its next century of development.
Adding to this, Cheng states, “China’s efforts at improving its own security are neither simply military, nor occurring at a breakneck pace as new requirements outstrip resources. As Beijing has demonstrated over the past decade, it is undertaking modernisation at a measured pace, securing resources (through programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative) while not antagonising too many other states.
“Only in the past year-and-a-half, with the advent of ‘Wolf Warriors’, as well as more peremptorily dealing with partners and aid recipient nations, has China’s reputation lost some of its lustre.”
Questions for Australia
Despite Australia’s enduring commitment to the Australia-US alliance, serious questions remain for Australia in the new world order of President-elect Joe Biden’s America, as a number of allies have been targeted by the maverick President Trump for relying on the US for their security against larger state-based actors, which has seen the President actively pressuring key allies, particularly NATO allies, to renegotiate the deals.
Australia cannot simply rely on the US, or Japan, or the UK, or France to guarantee the economic, political and strategic interests of the nation. China is already actively undermining the regional order through its provocative actions in the South China Sea and its rapid military build-up.
To assume that Australia will remain immune to any hostilities that break out in the region is naive at best and criminally negligent at worst.
As a nation, Australia cannot turn a blind eye to its own geopolitical, economic and strategic backyard, both at a traditional and asymmetric level, lest we see a repeat of Imperial Japan or the Iranian Revolution arrive on our doorstep. It is clear from history that appeasement does not work, so it is time to avoid repeating the mistakes of our past and be fully prepared to meet any challenge. (Source: Defence Connect)
24 Nov 20. Philippines receives USD18m worth of defence equipment from US. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took delivery of USD18m worth of defence equipment from the United States in a ceremony held on 23 November in Manila.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement that the equipment was officially handed over during an event attended by Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsín Jr and US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, among others.
The move was part of a commitment made by US President Donald Trump to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in April in support of Manila’s counter-terrorism efforts, it added.
The DFA said the defence items included precision-guided munitions but provided no further details. However, the state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported that the package included 100 Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) 2A anti-armour guided missiles; 12 Improved Target Acquisition Systems (ITASs); and 24 Mark 82 bombs and associated guidance kits to convert them into smart bombs.
The PNA, which noted that the equipment was donated by Washington, quoted AFP spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo as saying that “smart munitions with such capability and precision will aid immensely the AFP in ridding the country of terrorist menaces”. (Source: Jane’s)
24 Nov 20. Taiwan to protect sovereignty with new submarines amid China tensions. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island’s sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China.
Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has been for years working to revamp its submarine force, some of which date back to World War Two, and is no match for China’s fleet, which includes vessels capable of launching nuclear weapons.
At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a “historic milestone” for Taiwan’s defensive capabilities after overcoming “various challenges and doubts”.
“The construction demonstrates Taiwan’s strong will to the world to protect its sovereignty,” she told the event, which was also attended by the de facto U.S. ambassador in Taiwan, Brent Christensen.
“Submarines are important equipment for the development of Taiwan’s navy’s asymmetric warfare capabilities and to deter enemy ships from encircling Taiwan.”
The U.S. government in 2018 gave the green light for U.S. manufacturers to participate in the programme, a move widely seen as helping Taiwan secure major components, though it is unclear which U.S. companies are involved.
State-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan said it would deliver the first of the eight planned submarines in 2025, giving a major boost to Tsai’s military modernisation and self-sufficiency plan.
Company chairman Cheng Wen-lung said they had faced major challenges, including difficulty procuring parts as well as “external forces hindering the development of this programme”.
Taiwan’s armed forces are mostly equipped by the United States, but Tsai has made development of an advanced home-grown defence industry a priority.
In June, Tsai oversaw the first public test flight of a new locally designed and made advanced jet trainer.
Chinese forces have ramped up their military activities near Taiwan, on occasion flying fighter jets across the unofficial buffer median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait. (Source: Reuters)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company