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23 Jan 21. Taiwan reports large incursion by Chinese air force. Eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Saturday, and Taiwan’s air force deployed missiles to “monitor” the incursion, the island’s Defence Ministry said.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted almost daily flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea in recent months.
However they have generally consisted of just one or two reconnaissance aircraft.
The presence of so many Chinese combat aircraft on this mission – Taiwan said it was made up of eight nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and four J-16 fighter jets – is unusual.
A map provided by Taiwan’s Defence Ministry showed that the Chinese aircraft, which also included a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew over the same waters where the most recent Chinese missions have been taking place near the Pratas Islands, though still well away from mainland Taiwan.
Taiwan’s air force warned away the Chinese aircraft and deployed missiles to monitor them, the ministry added, using standard wording for how it responds to such activities.
“Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defence missile systems deployed to monitor the activity,” it said in a brief statement.
There was no immediate comment from China. In the past China has said it has been carrying out exercises to defend the country’s sovereignty and security.
Beijing has watched with growing concern increasing U.S. support for democratic Taiwan, especially during Donald Trump’s administration which left office on Wednesday.
Last year during visits by senior U.S. officials to Taipei Chinese aircraft briefly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer.
The flight by the Chinese bombers and fighters on Saturday came just days after Joe Biden assumed the U.S. presidency.
Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the U.S. commitment to Taiwan was “rock-solid” after the island’s de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended Biden’s swearing-in on Wednesday. (Source: Reuters)
22 Jan 21. Israel/Jordan/Syria – Follow-on reporting indicates Syrian anti-aircraft missile launched in response to suspected IDF strikes landed in Jordan. At approximately 0200Z on 22 January, suspected Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strikes hit Assad regime targets linked to Iran in Syria’s Hama Governorate. The Assad regime military reportedly responded to the strikes by activating its conventional surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems capable well above FL260 deployed in the area, though no suspected IDF assets appear to have been damaged as a result. However, follow-on reporting indicates that an anti-aircraft missile of unspecified type/variant launched from an Assad regime military conventional SAM system in western Syria landed in the Jordanian governorate of Ajloun, located to the south of Irbid, and transited the northwest portion of FIR Amman (OJAC). A similar recent incident occurred on 20 July when a Syrian military conventional SAM launched in response to suspected IDF airstrikes impacted in the Jordanian village of Kufr Asad located to the west of Irbid, also transiting the northwest portion of FIR Amman (OJAC). Based on the distance into Jordan where the missile debris was recovered in both incidents above, Russian-made S-200 Vega (SA-5 GAMMON) conventional SAM systems appear to be the most likely weapons type employed by the Syrian military during the launches. The SA-5 has the capability to engage aircraft at altitudes well above FL900 and at ranges out to 300km (190 miles).
The US, UK and Canadian civil aviation authorities have issued notices for airspace areas neighbouring Syria, outlining the risk posed to civil aviation within 200 nautical miles (370km) of FIR Damascus (OSTT) – which includes parts of FIR Amman (OJAC), FIR Beirut (OLBB) & FIR Tel Aviv (LLLL) – due to increased military activity, GPS disruption and errant missile launches (KICZ A0009/18, EGTT V0028/20, CZYZ G0148/20). EASA along with the US, UK, German and French civil aviation authorities have issued strict guidance to operators within the past year, advising all flights be deferred to airports in Syria and within FIR Damascus (OSTT) airspace. NOTAMs may be issued at short notice for FIR Amman (OJAC), FIR Tel Aviv (LLLL) and/or FIR Beirut (OLBB), rerouting civilian aviation flight paths to ensure airspace safety.
This is not the first time an anti-aircraft missile launched from a Syrian military conventional SAM system has led to an incident that negatively affected airspace safety and security in a neighbouring country. Previously, anti-aircraft missile debris emanating from Syria was recovered in northwest Jordan in February 2018 and March 2017. Anti-aircraft missile debris emanating from Syria has been recovered in Lebanese territory on at least nine occasions since 2018. Separately, anti-aircraft missile debris from conventional SAM systems launched from Syria has been recovered in southeast Turkish territory on several occasions since 2012, most recently in April 2020 and July 2018. A Turkish Air Force US-made F-4 combat aircraft was shot down by the Syrian military via SA-5 conventional SAM system engagement over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea portion of FIR Ankara (LTAA) during June 2012.
More concerning Syrian military conventional SAM system spillover events have occurred within Cypriot airspace (FIR Nicosia (LCCC)) in recent years. On 30 June 2019, an Assad regime SA-5 anti-aircraft missile launched from northwest Syria unsuccessfully engaged a suspected Israeli military aerial target in flight over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and crash-landed in an uninhabited area of northeast Cyprus. In addition, the Assad regime military accidentally shot down a Russian Air Force Il-20 COOT special mission aircraft over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea within FIR Nicosia (LCCC) on 17 September 2018 via SA-5 conventional SAM system engagement.
Additional suspected IDF airstrikes into Syria against Assad regime military, Iranian-linked or Lebanese Hezbollah group targets are likely to occur on at least a monthly basis for the foreseeable future. Suspected IDF airstrikes have targeted sites linked to Iran and/or Hezbollah in Syria on approximately 100 occasions since 2014 with approximately 50 sets of strikes taking place since the start of 2019 alone. During the vast majority of these events, Assad regime air-defence units employed conventional SAM systems in response. The following conventional SAM systems are routinely employed by the Syrian military for air-defence purposes: Russian-made Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 GREYHOUND), 9K317 Buk-M2E (SA-17 GRIZZLY) and SA-5. The SA-17 is effective up to FL820 and out to 50 km (32 miles) and the SA-22 is capable of engaging targets at altitudes up to FL490 and at ranges out to 20 km (12.4 miles). Russia has supplied the Assad regime with multiple Russian-made S-300PMU2 Favorit (SA-20PMU2 GARGOYLE) conventional SAM systems, which are capable at altitudes well above FL800 and at ranges out to 193km (120 miles). We assess areas of FIR Tel Aviv (LLLL) within 50km (32 miles) of the borders of Lebanon and Syria, as well as the areas of FIR Amman (OJAC) within 50km (32 miles) of the borders with Israel’s North District and Syria to comprise HIGH risk airspace environments at all altitudes. We assess portions of FIR Ankara (LTAA) located within 50km (32 miles) of the border with Syria in the southeast provinces of Turkey to be a HIGH risk airspace operating environment at all altitudes. We also assess the entirety of FIR Beirut (OLBB) to comprise a HIGH risk airspace environment at all altitudes. We assess areas of FIR Nicosia (LCCC) in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea within 100km (62 miles) of the Syrian coast to comprise a HIGH risk airspace environment at all altitudes. We continue to assess Syria to be an EXTREME risk airspace environment at all altitudes.
Approvals: As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for flight schedules with planned stops at aerodromes in the country or with overflight of the airspace. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to or over the country in the near term are fully aware of the latest security situation.
Missile Launches: Unannounced rocket and missile launches that transit airspace used by civilian aircraft pose a latent threat to operations at all altitudes. The country has a history of not issuing adequate notice of activities in its airspace that could affect flight safety. Multiple safety of flight concerns emanate from a situation where a missile malfunctions during the boost, mid-course or terminal phases of flight. Such an event would cause the missile to fly an unplanned trajectory and altitude profile which could expose overflying aircraft to mid-air collision, route diversion and or debris splashdown issues. Leading civil aviation governing bodies have standing notices advising operators of the threat to civil aviation in the airspace due to unannounced military activity, rocket test firings and or missile launches.
Shoot-down Policy: The country has an aggressive air intercept and shoot-down policy which allows air and air defence forces to intercept and disable aerial targets violating airspace regulations. Military air and air defence assets may be employed to down aerial targets under the auspice of the policy. While legal civil aviation flights are unlikely to be directly targeted, there remains a latent but credible risk of misidentification and interception by military air and air defence assets. (Source: Osprey)
22 Jan 21. Syrian air defenses confront “Israeli aggression” in Hama – state media. Syrian air defenses confronted early on Friday “an Israeli aggression” in the governorate of Hama, state media said, after reporting that explosions were heard there.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria in recent years against suspected Iranian military deployments or arms transfers to Tehran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
“At about four o’clock in the morning today, the Israeli enemy launched an aerial aggression with a barrage of missiles coming from the direction of the Lebanese city of Tripoli, aiming at some targets in the vicinity of Hama governorate,” Syrian state media said, citing a military source.
“Our air defenses confronted the enemy’s missiles and downed most of them.”
The Israeli military declined to comment.
In previous statements, Israel has described its Syria strikes as necessary to protect its northern front from Iran. (Source: Reuters)
21 Jan 21. Statement by John Kirby, Chief Pentagon Spokesman, on New START. President Biden’s decision to seek a five-year extension of New START advances the nation’s defense. Russia’s compliance with the treaty has served our national security interests well, and Americans are much safer with New START intact and extended. We cannot afford to lose New START’s intrusive inspection and notification tools. Failing to swiftly extend New START would weaken America’s understanding of Russia’s long-range nuclear forces.
Extending the treaty’s limitations on stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons until 2026 allows time and space for our two nations to explore new verifiable arms control arrangements that could further reduce risks to Americans. And the Department stands ready to support our colleagues in the State Department as they effect this extension and explore those new arrangements.
Just as we engage Russia in ways that advance American interests, we in the Department will remain clear-eyed about the challenges Russia poses and committed to defending the nation against their reckless and adversarial actions. (Source: US DoD)
21 Jan 21. China boosting naval footprint at its southern tip, new satellite images suggest. China has continued to build up its air and naval forces in its southernmost province on the edge of the South China Sea, with deployments of more early-warning and anti-submarine aircraft over the past year and the construction of what appears to be a drydock large enough for aircraft carriers on the island of Hainan.
Satellite photos taken of the airbases at Lingshui and Qionghai on the southeastern and eastern coasts of Hainan on Jan. 12 show that there are eight and six large aircraft on the respective aprons, although the resolution of the photos was insufficient to identify the aircraft types.
Lingshui is currently a base for the KJ-500 airborne early-warning aircraft and other reconnaissance platforms of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with Defense News first revealing the presence of such aircraft at the base in 2017.
A high-resolution photo of the base taken on Dec. 3, 2020, and provided to Defense News by earth imaging company Planet Labs showed five KJ-500 airborne early-warning planes and three other, unidentified aircraft based on the Y-9 type, although it is unclear if the latter were regular airlifters or specialized intelligence gathering aircraft.
Meanwhile, Qionghai is the base of a regiment of KQ-200 long-range, anti-submarine and maritime-patrol aircraft belonging to the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet or SSF. The airport was primarily a civilian facility, although an extension to the apron was started in 2016 while the airport was being built. It eventually became home to the KQ-200s.
The KJ-500 and KQ-200 are derivatives of the Shaanxi Y-9 turboprop airlifter. They were readily identifiable due to their distinctive dorsal radar rotodome and rear fuselage-mounted magnetic anomaly detection boom, respectively.
Satellite imagery first captured seven of the anti-submarine aircraft on the ground in July 2020, although Chinese state media published photos of KQ-200s of the SSF at an unidentified airfield, which Defense News has geolocated to Qionghai, earlier in February last year.
Defense News had earlier reported on the deployment of the first KJ-500s to the SSF at Lingshui in March 2017, followed two months later by noting KQ-200s were also at the base, which has also hosted detachments of BZK-005 unmanned aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
In addition to deploying new aircraft, China has also been upgrading the infrastructure at PLAN facilities in Hainan. An airbase in Hainan’s main city of Sanya is being refurbished with the construction of a new apron, at least eleven new hangars and resurfacing of other taxiways being built in a construction blitz that started in January 2020.
The base is likely to continue its current role of hosting helicopters, light transport and unmanned aircraft, with its mile-long runway too short to safely operate larger aircraft without significant lengthening. Any attempt at such an undertaking would however be complicated by the urban sprawl surrounding the base one three sides and the ocean on the other.
Meanwhile, construction of what is believed to be a new dry dock large enough for an aircraft carrier is continuing apace. A high-resolution satellite photo taken on Dec. 3 and provided to Defense News by Planet Labs shows the facility being built will have a large graving dock approximately 1,150 feet long and a smaller one measuring about 700 feet.
Construction of the new facility began in 2016, and if confirmed to be a naval dry dock, will be long enough to support China’s aircraft carriers as well as destroyer and cruiser fleets.
The new facility is being built at the PLAN’s massive Yulin naval complex east of Sanya, which already boasts berthing facilities for the entire range of PLAN vessels, including its aircraft carriers, conventional and nuclear-powered submarines.
The PLAN has already deployed both of its commissioned aircraft carriers to Yulin, along with the first ship of the new Type 075 landing helicopter dock, which is currently undergoing sea trials and has not been officially commissioned into the PLAN.
The Type 075 was captured on satellite photos taken over Yulin in November and late December 2020 and published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This is in addition to the second Type 055 cruiser to be commissioned in to the PLAN being noted at Hainan at about the same time, with claims that this ship will be assigned to the SSF.
The extended deployment of the Type 075, together with the expansion of the helicopter base at Sanya, suggests that the PLAN is set to continue assigning the majority its newest and most capable amphibious ships to the SSF.
The additional aircraft deployed to Lingshui and Qionghai will strengthen China’s air and maritime domain awareness of the waters and airspace over the South China Sea and the disputed islands and features that dot the waters. At the same time, the construction of additional airfield infrastructure and possible dry dock facilities large enough to support a carrier could enable a carrier to be based and maintained on Hainan.
Taken together, these steps will considerably beef up the SSF’s capabilities in the region, and will serve to reinforce China’s already massive power imbalance against the other claimants to the disputed islands and features in the South China Sea.
China is claiming ownership of the entire Spratly and Paracel island groups that lie within these waters. Beijing has reclaimed land around several of the reefs and features it occupies and built military facilities, including airbases, structures and harbors, on these artificial islands. (Source: Defense News)
20 Jan 21. China to field more nuclear weapons that can target the United States, says report. China’s missile force is expanding, with the number of nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) potentially increasing to “well over 200” within the next five years, according to a report by the US Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). Published on 11 January 2021, NASIC’s ‘2020 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat’ report says that China, which “continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development programme in the world”, has been adding the 11,000+ km-range, single warhead DF-31A (US Department of Defense designation CSS-10 Mod 2) and the 12,000+ km-range DF-5B (CSS-4 Mod 3) to the inventory of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), with the silo-based DF-5B being China’s first ICBM with multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). Moreover, NASIC changed its designation for the DF-41 MIRV-capable, road-mobile ICBM from CSS-X-20 to CSS-20, indicating that it considers development of the weapon has been completed. The DF-41 was first displayed at a military parade held at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 1 October 2019.NASIC provided no range estimate for the three-stage, solid-fuelled missile but the DF-41 is believed to have a comparable range to the older liquid-fuelled DF-5B ICBM. The DF-41’s mobility, however, makes it less vulnerable to elimination in a first strike than the silo-based DF-5 missile. (Source: Jane’s)
20 Jan 21. UAE signs deal with U.S. to buy 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 drones: sources. Reuters reported yesterday that the United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with the United States to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones, people familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday. Although the UAE and the United States were working to ink a deal before President Joseph Biden took office on Wednesday, the new president has said he will re-examine the agreements.
The UAE, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal when it agreed to normalize relations with Israel last August.
The U.S. State Department and the UAE Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
One of the people said the agreement was signed about an hour before Biden was sworn into office. The document gave the United Arab Emirates the chance to accept the negotiated schedule and configuration of the jets while also making the purchase request official.
The UAE has had the paperwork for more than a week, the people said. The UAE and the United States had once hoped to have a deal in place in December, but the timing of jet deliveries, their cost, the technology packages and training associated with the deal extended negotiations, the people said.
The jets are a major component of a $23bn sale of high-tech armaments from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp to the UAE announced this fall.
The UAE government also signed a separate agreement to buy up to 18 drones, the second-largest sale of U.S. drones to a single country, the people said.
The final in-country delivery date for the F-35 jets could not immediately be confirmed, but the initial proposal sent to UAE said 2027, the people said. (Source: Reuters)
16 Jan 21. Iran – Semnan: Five additional ballistic missile launches during ‘Great Prophet 15’ exercise, 22 total on 15-16 January. On 16 January, Iran reportedly launched 5 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) as part of the ‘Great Prophet 15’ military exercise from a test facility in Semnan Province in the northeast of the country. The MRBMs launched included Emad, Ghadr and Sejjill variants. Each of the MRBMs likely travelled over 1,000km (620 miles) and four reportedly impacted in a desert area of Sistan-Balochistan Province of southeast Iran. One of the MRBMs reportedly travelled approximately 1,800km (1,118 miles) and impacted in the northwest Indian Ocean. On 15 January, Iran reportedly launched 17 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) as part of the ‘Great Prophet 15’ military exercise from Semnan Province. Twelve of the SRBMs, likely Dezful or Zolfaghar variants, travelled approximately 700-1,000km (435-620 miles) and impacted in a desert area of Sistan-Balochistan Province of southeast Iran. In addition, five of the SRBMs, likely Fateh-110 or Fateh-313 variants, travelled approximately 300km (185 miles) and impacted in the Dasht-e Kavir Desert south of Semnan.
In clarification of our previous reporting, within Semnan Province there is a H24 (24-hour) “Danger Area” (OID118) restriction up to FL500, four additional all altitude H24 “Danger Areas” (OID41, OID51, OID90, OID95) and two low altitude “Danger Areas” (OID114, OID117). However, these H24 “Danger Areas” for airspace closures in Semnan Province do not appropriately cover the trajectories/impacts of the missile launches above, regarding dates/times, altitudes affected and/or geographic portions of FIR Tehran (OIIX) in the Dasht-e Kavir Desert, Sistan-Balochistan and/or the Indian Ocean (Iran AIP ENR 5.1.3 / WEF 03 DEC 2020). Separately, two NOTAMs are currently in force for FIR Tehran (OIIX) for “Danger Areas” OID84 and OID129 within Semnan Province; however, the associated airspace closures only covered up to FL130 for OID84 and FL160 for OID129, as per the Iranian AIP ENR 5.1.3 / WEF 03 DEC 2020 (NOTAMs OIIX A3997/20, A4152/20). The NOTAMs activating OID84 and OID129 likely related to Iranian military drone activity that was also part of the ‘Great Prophet 15’ exercise in Semnan Province, and not to the ballistic missile launches.
The US has specifically stated that it views space launches as a violation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which requires Iran to refrain from “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology”. Though Iran claims space launches incorporating long-range rocket technology are for peaceful purposes only and not a violation of UNSCR 2231, the US believes the activity is a cover for testing ballistic missile components. On 22 April, Iran claimed to have conducted a successful launch of a satellite into space via domestically produced rocket. Iran previously conducted failed tests of space-launch rocket vehicles via domestically produced rockets from Semnan Province on 9 February 2020 and in 2019 on 27 August, 6 February & 15 January, as well as a successful launch on 27 July 2017, without issuing appropriate NOTAMs prior to the events.
On 15 January, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) extended the validity of its Conflict Zone Information Bulletin (CZIB) for Iranian airspace at altitudes below FL250 through 16 July 2021 (CZIB-2020-01R1). The US has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) valid through 31 October 2022 for FIR Tehran (OIIX), which prohibits US civilian flights within Iranian airspace (US SFAR 117, NOTAM KICZ A0050/20). Canada has issued a NOTAM mandating that operators registered in their countries defer all flights over FIR Tehran (OIIX) and flights to airports in Iran (CZYZ G0009/20). France has issued a circular covering Iranian airspace, requesting French operators not to conduct flights west of 54 degrees east longitude in FIR Tehran (OIIX) and maintain altitudes above FL320 during any overflight of Iran east of 54 degrees east longitude until further notice (AIC France A 23/20). The UK has issued a NOTAM regarding the presence of risk to aviation below 25,000 feet AGL (EGTT V0028/20). Germany maintains an active AIC highlighting a potential risk over FIR Tehran (OIIX) from anti-aviation weaponry in Iran (Germany – AIC 18/20).
Iranian ballistic and cruise missile activity remains an ongoing hazard to civilian aviation within FIR Tehran (OIIX). During a 10-11 May naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman, the Iranian Navy Jamaran Moudge Class Frigate was reported to have negligently launched a Noor (C-802) anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM), which struck an Iranian Navy Konarak General Purpose Auxiliary vessel. At least 40 Iranian Navy personnel casualties occurred due to the negligent launch and the Konarak was reportedly sunk as a result of the ASCM strike. The negligent launch of an ASCM and additional recent test firings within the Gulf of Oman by the Iranian Navy during naval exercises not covered by NOTAMs is highly concerning, as the airspace in the vicinity of this area includes a number of high-traffic ATS routes used by civil aviation operators in/near southern FIR Tehran (OIIX).
Similar unsafe activity occurred in southwest FIR Tehran (OIIX) on 14 September 2019, when the Iranian military forces conducted attacks targeting two major oil facilities in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, involving 18 military-grade weaponised drones and seven land attack cruise missiles (LACMs) launched from southwest Iran, and transiting over southern Iraq and Kuwait. Based on a typical flight profile, the Iranian military LACMs & ASCMs launched during the incidents over southwest Iran and the Gulf of Oman likely reached peak altitudes of FL050 and are not assessed to have posed a direct risk to aircraft at typical cruising altitudes of above FL300.
Osprey analysis indicates that Iran has conducted over 80 missile launches of several classes/types/variants and operational missile strikes since the start of 2017, many without appropriate NOTAMs in place for FIR Tehran (OIIX) covering the dates/times, altitudes and/or geographic areas affected. A selection of key events are listed below:
– On 14 January, Iran announced its armed forces had conducted land- and vessel-based ASCM test firings in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.
– On 11 September, Iran announced its armed forces had conducted ASCM and submarine-launched cruise missile test firings in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz as part of the “Zulfiqar 99” military exercise.
– On 28 July, Iran initiated its ‘Great Prophet 14’ military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz & Persian Gulf. The exercise included live-fire test launches of ASCMs and SRBMs.
– On 18 June, Iran initiated a naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman that included live-fire test launches of ASCMs.
– International media outlet reporting indicates Iran conducted a test launch of a Shahab-3 MRBM in the overnight time-frame of 24-25 July 2019. While it remains unclear where within the country the MRBM launch occurred, previous Iranian ballistic missile activity has taken place in Semnan and Kermanshah provinces.
– Iran previously conducted a Qaim-1 SRBM launch from an underground facility at an unspecified location in early June 2019. (Source: Osprey)
15 Jan 21. Changing Middle East Situation Means Changes for Israel. In a sign of the changing political environment in the Middle East, the United States military will move Israel from the U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility to that of the U.S. Central Command, DOD officials announced today.
The move is part of unified command plan changes.
When the Reagan administration set up Centcom in 1983, officials left Israel as part of Eucom. Arab nations, except Egypt, did not recognize the Jewish state. U.S. military coordination in the region — including multilateral exercises and operations — would have been complicated.
But as a result, Israel — though surrounded by nations that were in Centcom’s area of operations — worked through the Eucom’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
Eucom and Centcom, of course, consulted often.
The need for this set-up has changed. Jordan joined Egypt in recognizing Israel in 1994, and those were the only two Arab countries that recognized Israel until last year when the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan recognized Israel and opened full, diplomatic relations with the nation.
“The easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East,” DOD officials said in a written release. “Israel is a leading strategic partner for the United States, and this will open up additional opportunities for cooperation with our U.S. Central Command partners while maintaining strong cooperation between Israel and our European allies.” (Source: US DoD)
15 Jan 21. Admiral Says U.S. Aims to Expand Competitive Space in Latin America. Two key concepts of the National Defense Strategy are partnerships and expanding the competitive space in all domains — and that’s what the Defense Department is doing in the U.S. Southern Command and globally, said Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller.
Faller, commander of Southcom, said yesterday that those efforts include training and education with partner nations, security cooperation, fighting transnational criminal organizations, stopping illegal fishing, exercises, personnel exchanges, planning and intelligence sharing and having a military presence there to assist and reassure.
It’s in everyone’s interest in this hemisphere to have partners with strong military capabilities, Faller told virtual attendees of the Surface Navy Association Annual National Symposium.
He said one example is Colombia, which has a cutting-edge military force. Colombians are also producing quality vessels in their shipyards and selling them to other nations in South America and the Far East. Brazil, as well, has invested in a capable navy.
Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and other nations, including NATO allies, have taken part in the annual UNITAS exercises, he said.
Ecuador led UNITAS in 2020, despite COVID-19 and budget challenges that had caused the country to be absent from the global scene for over a decade.
“Our ability to target threats doubled,” Faller said. “And our partner capacity went from about 48% to 60%. So, we’ve got to take care of today’s threats to expand the competitive space.”
Humanitarian missions are also an important aspect of strengthening partnerships, he said.
In November, a Category 4 and 5 hurricane slammed into Central America, and the DOD along with the Coast Guard assisted in saving more than 1,000 lives.
Additionally, the two Navy hospital ships routinely make port calls in Southcom, he added. They’re treating many patients and spreading goodwill.
Faller said partnerships are important for everyone in this hemisphere.
China remains a significant threat to this hemisphere and is seeking deep-water ports in El Salvador, Jamaica and elsewhere, and the Chinese are trying to exert control over the Panama Canal. They’re also trying to gain access to inland waterways in Brazil and neighboring countries through tugboat and dredging contracts, he said.
Chinese fishing fleets are harvesting illegal catches in many areas of Southcom, he added.
The Chinese are also trying to sell their 5G network equipment, which is also a threat to security, he said.
Besides China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Nicaragua are trying to destabilize democracies in the area and are spreading disinformation and engaging in criminal activities, he said.
Therefore, it’s in the interest of partners in this hemisphere to remain united and to work together to maintain peace and prosperity for all, he said, noting that, after Asia, Latin America is the United States’ largest trading partner. (Source: US DoD)
15 Jan 21. India’s friction with U.S. rises over planned purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems. The United States has told India it is unlikely to get a waiver on its planned acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems, raising the risk of sanctions similar to those imposed on Turkey for buying that equipment, people aware of the matter said.
The Trump administration has been telling the Indians to drop the $5.5bn deal for five missile systems and avoid a diplomatic crisis, saying New Delhi did not have a wide waiver from a 2017 U.S. law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware.
That position is unlikely to change under the Biden administration that takes over next week and that has promised an even tougher U.S. approach towards Russia, the people aware of the discussions told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
India says it needs the long-range surface-to-air missiles to counter the threat from China. India and China have been locked in a face-off on the disputed Himalayan border since April, the most serious in decades.
New Delhi has also affirmed its right to choose its defence supplies, potentially setting up an early point of friction with the new U.S. administration.
“India and the U.S. have a comprehensive global strategic partnership. India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia,” foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said about the proposed S-400 purchase.
“India has always pursued an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisitions and supplies which are guided by our national security interests.”
The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey last month for its acquisition of the Russian air defence systems under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)
A U.S. embassy spokesperson in Delhi said the United States was aware of reports of India’s planned purchase of the S-400s, but noted there had been no deliveries yet.
“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the CAATSA. CAATSA does not have any blanket or country-specific waiver provision.”
“We have not made any waiver determinations with respect to Indian transactions with Russia,” the spokesperson told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from Russian officials. Moscow has previously said that the sanctions imposed on Turkey were illegitimate and showed arrogance toward international law.
INITIAL PAYMENT IN 2019
India made an initial payment of $800m in 2019 toward the Russian deal and the first set of missile batteries are expected towards the end of this year.
Russia has traditionally been India’s main weapons supplier but in recent decades the Indian government has turned to the United States and Israel for new planes and drones.
U.S. officials believe there is still time for Delhi to reconsider, and that the punitive measures would only kick in if the deal with the Russians was “consummated.”
Washington has told New Delhi that if India acquires the S-400 it would affect how its systems interact with U.S. military equipment that India now has and would jeopardise future arms transfers such as high-end fighter planes and armed drones, according to the people aware of the matter.
“There is a narrow chance India can avoid sanctions, presuming the S-400 purchase is completed. At the moment, it’s a good bet that sanctions will be applied against India,” Richard Rossow, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said.
But the outcome could depend on how India-U.S. defence cooperation progresses, he said, adding that India had been working with Washington on security in Asia more than ever before and this could be a mitigating factor. (Source: Reuters)
15 Jan 21. Russia follows US to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty. Russia said Friday it will withdraw from an international treaty allowing observation flights over military facilities following the U.S. exit from the pact.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty last year “significantly upended the balance of interests of signatory states,” adding that Moscow’s proposals to keep the treaty alive after the U.S. exit have been cold-shouldered by Washington’s allies.
The ministry said Russia is now launching the relevant procedural moves to withdraw from the pact “due to the lack of progress in removing the obstacles for the treaty’s functioning in the new conditions.” The Russian parliament, which ratified the treaty in 2001, will now have to vote to leave it.
The treaty was intended to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing the accord’s more than three dozen signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared Washington’s intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty in May, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for the United States to remain a party. The U.S. completed its withdrawal from the pact in November.
Russia denied breaching the treaty, which came into force in 2002. The European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider and called on Russia to stay in the pact and lift flight restrictions, notably over its westernmost Kaliningrad region, which lies between NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.
Russia has argued that the limits on flights over Kaliningrad, which hosts sizable military forces, are permissible under the treaty’s terms, noting that the U.S. has imposed more sweeping restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.
As a condition for staying in the pact after the U.S. pullout, Moscow sought guarantees from NATO allies that they wouldn’t transfer the data collected during their observation flights over Russia to the United States, but was unsuccessful.
Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, said in televised remarks Friday that Russia could review its decision to withdraw if the U.S. decides to return to the pact, but acknowledged that the prospect looks “utopian.”
Moscow has warned that the U.S. withdrawal will erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations, particularly amid Russia-West tensions after the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
The demise of the Open Skies Treaty follows the U.S. and Russian withdrawal in 2019 from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles), weapons seen as particularly destabilizing because of the shorter time they take to reach targets compared with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The only U.S.-Russian arms control pact still standing is the New START nuclear agreement that expires in three weeks. Moscow and Washington have discussed the possibility of its extension, but so far have failed to overcome their differences.
New START was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. Arms control advocates have warned that its expiration would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, in a blow to global stability. (Source: Defense News)
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