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14 Jan 21. Wary of Biden tack on Iran, Israel revisits military options, newspaper says. Israel is revising military options for a possible clash with Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government braces for differences with the incoming U.S. administration on Iranian nuclear policy. U.S. President Donald Trump delighted Netanyahu by quitting the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposing sanctions on it that had been lifted in return for limits on activities that could, potentially, produce nuclear weapons in the future.
Tehran responded by breaching many of those restrictions. President-elect Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal if Tehran – which denies seeking the bomb – returns to strict compliance.
Israel, alarmed by Iranian rhetoric that it is a state that should not exist, is wary of the softer line, even though threats of U.S. military action from Trump did not curtail Iran’s nuclear moves.
A front-page article in Israel’s largest-circulation daily said the military is crafting three options to “undermine Iran’s nuclear efforts or, if need be, counter Iranian aggression, which will soon be presented to the government”.
The paper, Israel Hayom, did not cite any sources. But it went on to quote Defence Minister Benny Gantz as saying: “Israel needs to have a military option on the table.”
Israel has long had plans in place to counter Iran. The article appeared designed to signal that these were now being updated.
During the previous Democratic administration of Barack Obama, which championed diplomacy with Iran, Israel occasionally threatened preventive airstrikes against Iranian nuclear sites.
Some U.S. officials at the time doubted that Israel – whose advanced military includes a reputed nuclear arsenal – could effectively hit Iranian targets that are distant, dispersed and well-defended.
Israeli officials have voiced hope that Biden will maintain Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran, involving tough sanctions, until the Iranian nuclear programme is dismantled.
But one of them, Finance Minister Israel Katz, acknowledged on Army Radio: “There are disputes (with Biden) regarding the perspective on Iran, and of course that will prove challenging.”
Katz sounded encouraged by Biden’s intent to include Iran’s ballistic missile programme in any re-negotiation of the nuclear deal. Biden’s pick for U.S. national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, signalled openness, during a Jan 3 CNN interview, to consulting “regional players” – a possible allusion to Israel.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Ynet TV the Netanyahu government was not yet in formal dialogue with the incoming administration. But asked if Israel was trying through informal channels to sway Biden on Iran, Cohen said: “Yes. There are efforts.” (Source: Reuters)
14 Jan 21. North Korea shows off new submarine-launched missiles after rare party congress. Korea displayed what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at a parade on Thursday night, state media reported, capping more than a week of political meetings with a show of military might.
Clad in a leather coat and fur hat, leader Kim Jong Un smiled and waved as he oversaw the parade in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, photos by state media showed.
The parade featured rows of marching soldiers, as well as a range of military hardware including tanks and rocket launchers.
At the end, a number of what analysts said appeared to be new variants of short-range ballistic missiles and SLBMs rolled into the square on trucks.
“The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missiles, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces,” news agency KCNA reported.
North Korea has test-fired several SLBMs from underwater, and analysts say it is seeking to develop an operational submarine to carry the missiles.
Photos released by state media showed the SLBM was labelled Pukguksong-5, potentially marking an upgrade over the Pukguksong-4 that was unveiled at a larger military parade in October.
“The new missile definitely looks longer,” Michael Duitsman, a researcher at the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), said on Twitter.
Unlike that October parade, Thursday’s event did not showcase North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the United States.
The parade in itself was not intended to be a provocation but was a worrying sign of Pyongyang’s priorities, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“The economy is severely strained from pandemic border closures, policy mismanagement and international sanctions,” he said. “Despite or perhaps because of this, Kim Jong Un feels the need to devote scarce resources to another political-military display.”
On Wednesday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un and a member of the ruling party’s Central Committee, criticised South Korea’s military for saying it had detected signs of a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday.
North Korean officials have been meeting in Pyongyang for the first party congress since 2016. (Source: Reuters)
14 Jan 21. Victorian government confirms investment in Geelong industry hub. The Victorian government has announced its support for Hanwha Defense Australia to build and maintain Australian military vehicles in Geelong, in a move that stands to create hundreds of highly-skilled local jobs.
Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hanwha, a major South Korean global company, to formalise a long-term partnership that will support the establishment of Hanwha’s defence manufacturing operations in Victoria.
Minister Pakula was at Laverton North to see Hanwha’s LAND 400 Phase 3 vehicle, after the Commonwealth selected Hanwha as one of two final tenderers, along with Rheinmetall in Queensland.
A PwC report commissioned by Hanwha estimated that the LAND 400 Phase 3 manufacturing effort would generate $5.7bn in total economic impacts in Victoria.
Hanwha is also looking to build 30 Self-Propelled Howitzers and 15 armoured resupply vehicles in Geelong, and carry out maintenance and repairs during their years of service for the Australian Army, having been recently announced as the sole tenderer for the Commonwealth’s LAND 8116 tender.
Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula said, “Victoria is the home of Australian manufacturing and we are pleased to be working with Hanwha to maximise opportunities for more high-value jobs to be created in Geelong.”
The MoU will enable the government and Hanwha to explore investment opportunities in defence and non-defence sectors. The partnership will strengthen Victoria’s relationship with South Korean industry, driving collaboration and creating opportunities for expanded bilateral trade and investment.
“The range of companies working in defence industries is staggering, and we’re backing them to grow further,” Minister Pakula added.
Founded in 1952, Hanwha Corporation has grown to become South Korea’s largest defence company and also operates in aerospace, fintech, mining and clean energy.
Hanwha Defense Australia managing director Richard Cho welcomed the Victorian government’s announcement of support, stating, “Hanwha is delighted to enter into this MoU with the Victorian government. We see it as a strong platform from which to develop our mutual interests in a range of technologies and to establish an advanced manufacturing facility here in Victoria.
Victoria’s defence sector contributes $8.4 bn annually to the state’s economy with 6,300 small-to-medium businesses working across military vehicle production, maritime design, aerospace components, digital and cyber security, and munitions.
Victorian Liberal senator David Van welcomed the Victorian government’s announcement but called for more clarity around the specifics, telling Defence Connect, “While I thank the Victorian government signed the MOU with Hanwha yesterday this strategically important project needs a financial commitment from the state government, not more words. As we saw in last month’s budget the Victorian government still has only committed $6m over the next four years to the whole of the defence sector.
“For a sector which, as Minister Pakula highlighted yesterday, contributes $8.4bn to the state’s economy each year, this investment from the state government is peanuts. If the Andrews government continues to ignore this industry it is inevitable that Victorians will lose out on reaping the rewards from the Commonwealths 10-year $270 bn defence capability expenditure plan. LAND 400 Phase 3 is the right opportunity for them to get behind and level the playing field with the other bid in Queensland.”
Victoria is well-positioned to capitalise on the Commonwealth’s forecast investment in new defence capability of $270bn over 10 years.
The Victorian budget 2020-21 allocated $6m to give the state’s defence sector a competitive edge so it can capture a large share of Australia’s biggest ever defence spend. (Source: Defence Connect)
13 Jan 21. Iran launches missile drill amid rising tensions with U.S.. Iran’s military launched a short-range naval missile drill on Wednesday, Iranian state TV reported, at a time of high tension between arch foes Tehran and Washington.
Iran has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, regarding such weapons as an important deterrent and retaliatory force against U.S. and other adversaries in the event of war.
The West sees Iran’s missiles both as a conventional military threat to regional stability and a possible delivery mechanism for nuclear weapons should Tehran develop them.
The Iranian-made warship Makran, which state media described as Iran’s biggest warship with a helicopter pad, and a missile-launching ship called Zereh (armour) were taking part in the two-day exercise in the Gulf of Oman.
Tensions between the United States and Iran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal. The United States restored harsh sanctions to pressure Iran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear programme, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between Iran’s military and U.S. forces in the Gulf, where Tehran holds annual exercises to display the Islamic Republic’s military might to confront “foreign threats”.
Last week, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew amid tensions between Tehran and Seoul over Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions.
In early 2019, Iran heightened tensions in the world’s busiest oil waterway by seizing British-flagged tanker Stena Impero two weeks after a British warship had intercepted an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. (Source: Reuters)
11 Jan 21. North Korea developing nuclear-powered submarine, tactical nuclear missiles, says Kim Jong-un. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has revealed that Pyongyang is at different stages in the development of a range of new military platforms and weapon systems, including a nuclear-powered submarine, tactical nuclear weapons, hypersonic glide vehicles, electronic warfare equipment, and reconnaissance satellites.
On 9 January the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as telling members of the Eighth Congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) that the aim is to modernise the Korean People’s Army (KPA), bolster its deterrence capabilities, and enable it to “fight a war at the highest level”.
Kim said that in the period since the Seventh WPK Congress, which was held in May 2016, research on the design of a nuclear-powered submarine was completed, and is now in “the final stages of examination”, adding that fielding such a platform, which would be capable of firing a “nuclear strategic weapon”, would be “of great importance in raising the [country’s] long-range nuclear strike capability”. In this context Kim said that the country will also push ahead with the development of solid-fuelled propelled, submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), as well as ground-launched ballistic missiles.
The North Korean leader also stated that his country has managed to advance nuclear technology to “such a high degree so as to miniaturise, lighten, and standardise nuclear weapons, and make them [into] tactical ones, and to complete the development of a super-large hydrogen bomb”, according to the KCNA.
He pointed out that after completing development of the “Super-large Multiple Launch Rocket Launcher”, which is designed to launch short-range tactical ballistic missiles, the country’s defence scientists proceeded to develop “tactical nuclear weapons”, including “a new type of tactical missiles”, as well as intermediate-range cruise missiles armed with conventional warheads. (Source: Jane’s)
11 Jan 21. Beijing steps up naval shipbuilding program with eyes on global navy. It may be a new year, but 2021 has kicked off right where 2020 left off, with Beijing redoubling its efforts to establish a truly global blue water navy capable of competing with the US Navy and its allies around the world with focus on power projection, strategic deterrence and control of maritime lines of communication.
For the first time in nearly a century, two great powers stare across the vast expanse of the Pacific, the incumbent heavyweight champion – the US, tired and battle-weary from decades of conflict in the Middle East, burdened by its commitment to global security of the maritime commons, is being circled by the upstart – China, seeking to shake off the last vestiges of the ‘Century of humiliation’ and ascend to its position as a world leader.
Meanwhile, in the Indian Ocean, these two titans continue to jockey for access and primacy over some of the most lucrative sea lines of communication (SLOC) and access to critical markets, strategic resources and of course prestige amid the slowly developing Cold War 2.0 transforming the global and regional balance of power and competition.
Naval power has always played a critical role in the way great powers interact – competitions to design the most powerful warships often characterising the great power competitions of the past.
Drawing on perhaps one of modern history’s most powerful ironies, the naval arms race in the decades leading up to the outbreak of the First World War saw an unprecedented competition between the UK and German Empire, with much of the emphasis placed on Dreadnought battleships echoing a similar, albeit smaller, naval arms race gathering steam between the US and China.
Despite outgoing-President Donald Trump’s commitment to achieving a 355-ship fleet, capable of guaranteeing global maritime security, freedom of navigation and stability in the face of increased peer and near-peer competitors – the US is trailing behind its Chinese counterparts, as the rising superpower continues to expand the size and capability of their fleet.
As part of this, Beijing has launched the growing deployment of force projection capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in particular have prompted increased concern from established regional powers, including Japan, Korea and Australia.
Additionally, smaller regional nations with competing territorial claims and ancient fears of Chinese expansion, namely Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, have all raised growing concerns about China’s militarisation and reclamation programs in the South China Sea.
Beijing has watched and learned closely over the past three decades, focused on not only countering the core maritime capabilities that have served as strategic force multipliers for the US and its allies, but also emulating them, with as Mao would describe “Chinese Characteristics” – first and foremost is the power projection capabilities of aircraft carriers and their supporting strike groups.
The primary driving force behind this pursuit is the Taiwan Strait crisis in the mid-1990s, which saw the US deploy two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait as a potent reminder of its capacity to enforce its will around the world, without peer.
Fast forward 25 years and Beijing under Xi Jinping has long been building its naval capabilities, transitioning from a green water Navy, dominated by Soviet doctrine and Soviet warships and submarines, to an almost exclusively indigenous force, marking a major shift in both the industrial and naval capability for the rising superpower.
As part of this modernisation, Beijing has commissioned a growing number of advanced and increasingly capable destroyers, cruisers, frigates, amphibious warfare ships, both nuclear and conventionally powered attack and missile submarines and of course aircraft carriers to form a battle fleet to rival the US Navy.
Identifying this, the US Congressional Research Service report, titled China Naval Modernization: Implications for US Navy Capabilities, estimates that China will build another 65 warships in the next decade, on top of the 300-plus warships and submarines currently fielded as part of the PLAN, bringing the total warships to 425 vessels.
A global force by 2035 – Setting a monumental challenge for China’s industry, and America’s
While much has been made about America’s reinvigorated push to achieve a 355-ship fleet, driven by the recapitalisation of Cold War-era platforms like the Nimitz, Ticonderoga, older Arleigh Burke, Ohio and Los Angeles Class vessels, it appears that for the first time America’s industrial capacity may be bested.
China’s fleet, on the other hand, is starting from a comparatively modern base, with much of the fleet, both its ‘blue water’ and ‘green water’ vessels, drawing on the rise of the emerging superpower’s industrial capacity.
Seeking to capitalise on this, China’s President Xi Jinping seeks to develop what he describes as a “world-class force”. Explaining this, retired US Navy Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt has shed light on the growing capabilities of the Chinese Navy as the naval arms race between the world’s pre-eminent superpower – the US – and China’s rising position continues to gather pace.
McDevitt explains, “He [President Xi] wants the naval modernisation associated with becoming world class ‘to be largely completed by 2035’, just 15 years away. China has yet to publish its intended navy force structure objective, which remains a state secret.
“To speculate on what the PLAN will look like in 15 years, a good starting point is to assess what it has done in the past 15 years. In this short decade and a half, China launched and/or commissioned 131 blue-water capable ships and built approximately 144 other warships destined for operations only in China’s near seas, for a grand total of approximately 275 new warships.
“During several of these years China’s most modern ship yards were not yet in full production, so it is not unreasonable to forecast that over the next 15 years it could commission or launch 140 more blue-water ships to grow its far-seas capacity and to replace some of today’s blue water ships that were commissioned between 2005 and 2010. In sum, I predict the PLAN’s blue water capable ships in 2035 will number around 270 warships.”
Building on this, the South China Morning Post has identified the growing industrial might now supporting the modernisation and expansion of the PLAN, which details the growing network of advanced and increasingly capable naval shipyards scattered throughout the superpower.
Minnie Chan, writing for the SCMP, has detailed this growing industrial capacity, reporting the advancing progress on Beijing’s aircraft carrier program, with the nation well advanced on the construction of its fourth aircraft carrier. Chan quotes an anonymous source stating, “The navy bought and prepared all the special steel for the fourth ship [Type 002] last year, with work on some vessel components being started.”
This comes as Chan states, “On Monday, Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard, which is building the Type 002, began a three-year base expansion project, according to a report published on social media by the shipbuilder’s mother company, China State Shipbuilding Corporation.
“The 18bn yuan (US$2.8bn) complex, covering an area of more than 240 hectares (595 acres), will include shipbuilding research and design, indoor and outdoor dockyards, ship hull combination workshops, outfitting plants and outfitting quays, as well as other modern shipbuilding facilities with intelligent and automatic systems.” (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Jan 21. UAE’s F-35 contracts expected to be signed before end of Trump administration. A contract for the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the United Arab Emirates is likely to be inked before the end of the Trump administration, according to a top U.S. State Department official.
“Everything is on that trajectory” for a signed contract before Jan. 20, R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters on a Friday call.
Members of Congress previously raised concerns that the deal is being rushed so it can be on contract before the Biden administration takes over. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, told reporters in late October that the deal is “something we would look at very, very carefully.” But changing the deal becomes harder once a contract is signed.
“As you can imagine, there’s not one contract, so they’re going to be happening at different timelines … there are going to be different contract signatures, different productions and different deliveries,” Cooper explained. “Why? You’re talking about different prime corporate elements, or different members of the defense industrial base, and also the conditions that are associated with a particular platform or system.
“But yes, I mean, everything’s in the trajectory for conclusion. And as we’ve already discussed, the sales of course have been well put together by the interagency and have cleared our Congress as well.”
The UAE deal comes with an estimated $23.37bn price tag, which includes up to 50 F-35A fighters worth $10.4bn, 18 MQ-9B drones worth $2.97bn, and $10bn worth of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. (Those dollar totals are estimates and may shift during final negotiations.)
The sale has proven politically fraught in Congress. Democratic lawmakers expressed opposition to the potential sale, saying it ignores risks to sensitive military technology posed by the UAE’s ties to Russia and China. Some also raised concerns about the threat to Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.
However, a December attempt in the Senate to block the arms sales failed, largely along party lines. The first vote concerned the drones and munitions, failing 46-50, while the second concerned the F-35s and fell 47-49. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
11 Jan 21. US Africa Command started the new year with a number of air strikes on members of the al-Shabaab terrorist group at locations within Somalia. On New Year’s Day, two airstrikes targeted al-Shabaab compounds in the region around Qunyo Barrow, Somalia. Assessments show that several suspected terrorists were killed or wounded and that al-Shabaab buildings and compounds were either destroyed or damaged.
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (al-Shabaab) is a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group based in East Africa. it is suspected of having links with Al Qaeda and Boko Haram. it is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks, one of the most infamous is the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya, September 2013, where at least 71 people died.
A further airstrike was conducted on 7 January aimed at al-Shabaab leaders with reports that five suspected terrorists were killed, including the leaders who had been targeted.
“This strike targeted known al-Shabaab leaders who facilitated finance, weapons, fighters, and explosives. One is suspected of being involved in a previous attack against US and Somali forces,” said US Air Force Major General Dagvin Anderson, Joint Task Force – Quartz commander.
Joint Task Force – Quartz was supported in the operation by Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets from the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, based on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) sailing in the Indian Ocean.
“Our strikes help keep these terrorists off balance to help our partners then address deeper problems such as governance and development,” stated Gen Anderson. (Source: Armada)
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