Sponsored by Exensor
01 Feb 21. Myanmar’s military seizes power in coup after detaining leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ruling party politicians. Myanmar’s powerful military has taken control of the country in a coup and declared a state of emergency, following the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government leaders in early morning raids Monday.
The country woke up to widespread communications blackouts, closed banks, and soldiers in army fatigues patrolling the streets of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. Residents turning on their television sets could only access the military-owned Myawaddy TV channel, with all other news channels seemingly blocked.
As news filtered through that the country’s democratically-elected leaders had been detained in the capital — hours before the first session of the new parliament was set to open — a news anchor announced on the military-owned channel that power had been handed over to army chief Min Aung Hlaing.
In the address, the military confirmed it had detained the country’s de facto civilian leader Suu Kyi, along with other high ranking National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders, in response to alleged voting irregularities in November’s election.
The coup followed weeks of worsening political tensions in the country over the disputed election and rumors that the military could take over had been swirling for days.
The election was only the second democratic vote since the country emerged from 50 years of isolationist military rule in 2011. Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD claimed an overwhelming victory, taking 83% of the vote, which granted it another five years in government. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won 33 out of a possible 476 seats, far fewer than the party had expected.
Monday’s events have been widely condemned internationally, with the United States calling on Myanmar’s military leaders to “release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people.”
“The United States expresses grave concern and alarm regarding reports that the Burmese military has detained multiple civilian government leaders, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and civil society leaders,” according to a statement from the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The military must reverse these actions immediately.”
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who is now running the country, has been under US sanctions since December 2019. He was designated for serious human rights abuses related to the atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslim community.
Prominent Myanmar historian and author Thant Myint-U said on Twitter Monday that, “The doors just opened to a very different future.”
“I have a sinking feeling that no one will really be able to control what comes next. And remember Myanmar’s a country awash in weapons, with deep divisions across ethnic and religious lines, where millions can barely feed themselves.”
What led to the coup
In its announcement, signed by the newly installed acting President and former military general, Myint Swe, the military alleges that voter fraud took place in the November 8, 2020 elections and said they had detained political leaders for “failing to take actions, not following the request to postpone lower house and upper house parliament sessions.”
Last week, a military spokesperson said it would not rule out a coup if the military’s claims of alleged voter fraud into the November 2020 election were not investigated.
Myanmar’s election commission on Thursday rejected claims of voter fraud, saying any errors — such as duplicated names on voter lists — were not enough to impact the result of the vote.
Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is widely considered a hero of democracy in Myanmar, where she spent 15 years under house arrest as part of a decades-long fight against military rule.
Following her release, Suu Kyi led her party to a landslide victory in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 2015, establishing its first civilian government after decades of isolation and military authoritarianism.
But her international reputation has been tarnished in recent years by allegations of genocide against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya population. Myanmar denies the charges and has long claimed to have been targeting terrorists.
On Monday human rights non-government organization Burma Rights UK said in a post to their Twitter that the news of Suu Kyi’s detention was “devastating.”
“This needs to be met with the strongest international response. The military need to be made to understand that they have made a major miscalculation in thinking they can get away with this,” the group said.
As military leaders seized power, there were significant internet and phone network disruption across the country, which could affect the ability of people to get information or organize any response via social media.
Netblocks, which monitors internet blackouts around the world, said that real-time network data showed a major drop in connectivity in the early hours of Monday morning. Doug Madory, an analyst at Kentik, a network observability company, added on Twitter that there was a “large internet outage” unfolding.
“Continuing disconnections have been monitored with national connectivity falling initially to 75% and subsequently 50% of ordinary levels by 8:00 a.m. local time,” according to Netblocks.
Reuters reported that Myanmar state media MRTV was having technical issues and unable to broadcast, the network said. “Due to current communication difficulties we’d like to respectfully inform you that the regular programs of MRTV and Myanmar Radio cannot be broadcast,” Myanmar Radio and Television said on a post on its Facebook page.
Later in the day, MRTV began broadcasting military propaganda with footage of soldiers waving flags on top of sandbags, helicopters hovering over military personnel and paramedics carrying a stretcher.
Netblocks reported that “technical data show cuts affecting multiple network operators including state-owned Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and international operator Telenor, with preliminary findings indicating a centrally ordered mechanism of disruption targeting cellular and some fixed-line services, progressing over time.”
Banks in Myanmar are also temporarily shut due to widespread internet disruptions, according to a Myanmar Bank Association statement. The Chair and Central Working Committee of the Myanmar Banks Association held an emergency meeting Monday morning and decided that banks should cease operations until the internet connection improves.
The military action has prompted concern and condemnation from the international community.
US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation in Myanmar by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, according to a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” the statement said. “We are monitoring the situation closely.”
Australia on Monday called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders who are being detained by the military.
In a statement from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Marise Payne the Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “The Australian Government is deeply concerned at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar.”
“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms, and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully,” the statement said.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed concern over the situation in Myanmar, saying in a statement that it “underscores that all electoral differences be addressed in accordance with available legal mechanism” and urges “all parties in Myanmar to exercise self-restraint and put forth dialogue in finding solutions to challenges so as not to exacerbate the condition.”
The sudden coup has surprised many observers, who point out that the military already wields significant power.
In 2008, the ruling junta drafted a constitution that allocated 25% of legislative seats to the military as well as control of key ministries such as defense and home affairs, and a veto power on constitutional issues.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, told CNN that the coup is a “real mystery.”
“They wrote the constitution that they just overthrow. It gives them enormous power, economic power, political power,” he said. “So how and why they overturn their own constitution is incredible.”
Last week, the military sought to allay concerns it was about to seize power, saying that it would protect and abide by the constitution, according to Reuters.
Andrews said their action is “extremely damaging” and comes at a time when many in the country are suffering extreme hardships because of the coronaviorus pandemic.
“The people of Myanmar have been through so much. They’ve lived through decades of brutal military rule. They are going through a pandemic. The economy is in tough shape for so many. It’s so incredibly unfair for them to have to go through this right now,” he said. (Source: CNN)
30 Jan 21. Update: air strikes against Daesh. The RAF are continuing to take the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
- Sunday 24 January – Typhoons struck two groups of Daesh terrorists in caves in northern Iraq.
Notwithstanding the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Royal Air Force aircraft have been able to continue regular armed reconnaissance missions to support the enduring work of the Iraqi security forces to prevent any resurgence of the Daesh terrorist movement within their country. On Sunday 24 January, a coalition surveillance aircraft located a number of Daesh fighters based in two caves some ten miles north of Bayji, and two Typhoon FGR4s were tasked to strike them. Our aircraft conducted a careful check of the area around the caves, which were a mile and a half apart, for any signs of civilians who might be at risk, before conducting simultaneous attacks, using two Paveway IV guided bombs against each group. All four of the bombs struck their targets accurately and the strike was assessed to have been a success in eliminating the terrorist threat.
UK Armed Forces continue to provide a significant contribution to the global coalition ensuring the Daesh terrorist group does not become resurgent in Syria and Iraq, with Royal Air Force aircraft flying daily armed reconnaissance patrols. On Tuesday 6 October, a small group of Daesh extremists attacked Iraqi security forces in the desert of Anbar province, west of Baghdad. A coalition air strike provided immediate support to the Iraqi troops, and succeeded in destroying half the attacking Daesh group. An RAF Reaper was then tasked to deal with the remaining terrorists. The crew of the Reaper successfully located them, and at an appropriate moment, with no sign of a strike posing any risks to friendly forces or any civilians, conducted a carefully planned attack with a GBU-12 guided bomb. The Iraqi forces subsequently reported that the threat had been eliminated. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
29 Jan 21. Chinese warplanes simulated attacking US carrier near Taiwan. Revelation underscores Joe Biden’s difficulties in easing tensions with Beijing. Chinese military aircraft simulated missile attacks on a nearby US aircraft carrier during an incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone three days after Joe Biden’s inauguration, according to intelligence from the US and its allies. The People’s Liberation Army sent 11 aircraft into the south-western corner of Taiwan’s air defence zone on January 23, and 15 aircraft into the same area the next day, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry. People familiar with intelligence collected by the US and its allies said the bombers and some of the fighter aircraft involved were conducting an exercise that used a group of US Navy vessels led by the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the same area as a simulated target. Pilots of H-6 bombers could be heard in cockpit conversations confirming orders for the simulated targeting and release of anti-ship missiles against the carrier, the people said. The revelations highlight that the intense military competition between the two superpowers around Taiwan and the South China Sea has not eased, posing a challenge to any attempts the Biden administration might make to improve its relationship with Beijing.
China’s development of missiles capable of targeting US ships and aircraft in the region has helped counter America’s military dominance in Asia and the western Pacific. Although Chinese experts have said that Beijing remains unwilling to risk open conflict with the US, the PLA’s new muscle is forcing the US to adjust its posture and strategy in Asia. The area where Taipei reported the incursions last weekend is located between Pratas, a Taiwan-held atoll in the northern part of the South China Sea, and Taiwan proper, where the Taiwan Strait meets the Bashi Channel, a main passageway between the western Pacific and the South China Sea. “The Su-30 [fighters] can carry Kh-31 anti-ship missiles, and the H-6 bombers and J-16 fighters can both carry YJ anti-ship missiles,” said Su Tzu-yun, an analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a think-tank backed by Taiwan’s defence ministry. “All three aircraft are clearly a display of threat against surface ships.” Recommended Taiwan US warns Beijing over incursion into Taiwanese air defence zone The US Indo-Pacific Command said on January 23 that the US carrier strike group had sailed into the South China Sea that day. According to ship-tracking data, it passed through the Bashi Channel. The Chinese aerial manoeuvres sparked a strong response from the new US administration, which warned Beijing to stop intimidating Taiwan.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan,” the US state department said, before adding that China should remember that Washington’s relationship with Taipei was “rock solid”. Mr Biden sent another message to China reaffirming the US commitment to help Japan defend the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, which calls them the Diaoyu. China experts in Washington expect that Mr Biden will adopt a less chaotic approach than former president Donald Trump in setting policy. In an early sign that relations between Washington and Beijing would remain tense over Taiwan and a range of other issues, Antony Blinken, the new US secretary of state, this week said he agreed with the Trump administration, which had said the Chinese government’s repression of Uighur Muslims in detention camps in Xinjiang province was “genocide”. In his confirmation hearing last week, Mr Blinken said that while he disagreed with how Mr Trump had implemented his policies towards China, he was “right in taking a tougher approach”. According to an announcement by China’s Maritime Safety Administration, the PLA is conducting another exercise in the South China Sea, which is due to wrap up on Saturday. Taiwan’s defence ministry has reported larger than average Chinese air incursions into its air defence zone since that latest exercise started on Wednesday. (Source: FT.com)
28 Jan 21. Two US Destroyers Enter Black Sea; Russia Responds. The deployment of the two US Navy ships, along with a refueling ship, is the largest American presence in the waterway in three years.
The move is sure to be read by Moscow as a statement of intent as the United States looks to confront Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, attempts to assassinate political rivals and reformers at home, and continuing acts of violence against Russians in NATO countries, as well as the persistent threats Vladimir Putin’s regime has made against NATO countries.
The USS Porter entered the Black Sea this morning, less than a week after USS Donald Cook and the replenishment oiler USNS Laramie entered the waterway to start running through a series of exercises with NATO allies. Russia reacted promptly, moving a Bastion missile defense system into position in Crimea and making a show by running virtual drills, according to Russian state media.
The two guided missile destroyers are conducting command and control and maritime multi-domain operations with US P-8 surveillance aircraft and NATO AWACS planes, Navy officials say.
Navy spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines added that the deployment to the Black Sea “demonstrates that we stand together with NATO allies and partners to maintain a safe, secure and prosperous European region and global security environment.”
There have been no worrying interactions with Russian ships or aircraft monitoring the deployment, Raines said, despite the fact that Moscow is known to resent such an overt American presence in the Black Sea. In August, two Russian fighter planes conducted an unsafe intercept of a pair of B-52s which were flying in international airspace over the waterway,
The Laramie will allow the ships to stay at sea longer without having to pull into port, something the Navy wants to avoid during the COVID pandemic.
Before Porter arrived, the Cook was already busy working with NATO to integrate their command and control more fully with NATO partners. A first-of-its-kind exercise on Jan. 23 pushed data between the ship, a P-8 surveillance plane and a NATO Air Command E-3A AWACS plane from Germany while it operated over the Black Sea. The Porter is expected to join in more exercises in coming days.
“I was impressed with the crew’s growing familiarity with NATO joint interoperability procedures, readiness to cooperate with friendly units, and excitement to perfect our tactical proficiency by real-world application,” Cmdr. Matthew Curnen, Donald Cook’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “This is exactly what we train for.”
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu praised the decision to send three ships to the waterway, welcomed the deployment, saying “in response to Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its ongoing military build-up in the Black Sea, the Alliance has increased its defensive presence in the region and remains strongly committed to Black Sea security.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
28 Jan 21. Russian parliament OKs New START nuclear treaty extension with US. Russian lawmakers on Wednesday quickly approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control treaty, a fast-track action that comes just days before it’s due to expire.
Both houses of parliament voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years, a day after a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said they agreed to complete the necessary extension procedures in the next few days.
Speaking via video link to the World Economic Forum’s virtual meeting, Putin hailed the decision to extend the treaty as “a step in the right direction,” but warned of rising global rivalries and threats of new conflicts.
The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move and Putin has to sign the relevant bill into law.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers that the extension will be validated by exchanging diplomatic notes once all the procedures are completed.
The upper house speaker, Valentina Matvienko, said after the vote that the decision to extend the pact shows that Russia and the U.S. can reach agreements on major issues despite the tensions between them.
New START expires on Feb. 5. After taking office last week, Biden proposed extending the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.
The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, 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.
Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.
Russia has long proposed prolonging the pact without any conditions or changes, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences.
The negotiations were also marred by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.
After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.
Earlier this month, Russia announced that it would follow the U.S. in pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities, to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.
Before the Biden administration took office, Russia always had offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility that was envisaged by the pact at the time it was signed. But President Donald Trump charged that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage. Trump initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing bluntly dismissed.
The Trump administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.
Arms control advocates hailed the treaty’s extension as a boost to global security and urged Russia and the U.S. to start negotiating follow-up agreements.
Ryabkov said that Russia will count its Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty limits.
The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to bypass missile defense systems. It has been fitted to a few existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the Sarmat, a prospective intercontinental ballistic missile now under development.
Ryabkov said that Russia is ready to sit down for talks on prospective arms cuts, noting that they should also involve non-nuclear precision weapons with strategic range. (Source: Defense News)
28 Jan 21. UK Defence Secretary visits Kenya and Somalia to discuss Al Shabaab. Ben Wallace travelled to the two East African nations to enhance security cooperation in the battle against terror group Al Shabaab and other shared threats.
The Defence Secretary has signed a refreshed security cooperation agreement following high-level talks with Dr Fred Matiang’i, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for the Interior, and Dr Monica Juma, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Defence, in Nairobi this week.
The deal commits the UK and Kenya to deepening cooperation to combat shared threats such as the terrorist group Al Shabaab, cybercrime and human trafficking, and will promote regional stability. It will see the two nations meet regularly to share information on terror groups, target their backers with financial sanctions and undermine their recruitment efforts.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “Kenya has long been the UK’s defence partner of choice in East Africa. There are over 200 British personnel based here, and the UK Armed Forces are determined to invest further in those bilateral bonds. Both our nations face shared threats, from violent extremism to organised crime. The security agreement we have signed will allow us to deepen our relationship and tackle regional defence issues as partners.”
The signing comes as the Ministry of Defence works towards the publication of the Integrated Review later in the year, which will look to strengthen Britain’s security and intelligence cooperation with key allies, allowing us to work together to identify and respond quickly to future threats.
During his visit to Kenya this week, Mr Wallace visited troops at the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK), a vital hub where UK soldiers prepare for operations around the globe.
The UK currently has around 230 military personnel based permanently in Kenya, most of them at BATUK, with thousands more visiting the country every year to take part in joint exercises. Over the past two years, the British Army and the Kenyan Defence Force have conducted 10 joint training exercises there, involving around 1,500 Kenyan troops and 10,000 British troops.
The UK is committed to security in Kenya, an important economic partner with strong links to the UK. The UK is the largest cumulative investor in the East African nation, with bilateral trade totalling over £1.4bn in 2019. Last month Kenya signed a trade deal with the UK to deepen this relationship.
During his visit to East Africa the Defence Secretary also travelled to Mogadishu, Somalia, where he met President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to helping the government build up its armed forces to combat terror groups like Al Shabaab. The British Army has over 50 personnel based in the country, and recently trained the 500th Somali soldier in basic infantry skills, with plans to train up to another 600 in 2021. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
27 Jan 21. Op-Ed: Apache selection tells a broader tale of Australia’s defence mindset. NSW senator and former Major General of the Australian Army, Jim Molan, weighs in on the government’s recent decision to replace the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter with the Apache Guardian.
The intention to purchase the Apache Guardian helicopter is of course the right decision and I congratulate the Minister and our government. It was a decision that should have been made 20 years ago and the Apache was Army’s (and my) preference at that time.
Again, the decision for the Apache or the then Viper should have been made about 10 years ago when it was totally obvious we were getting no combat capability at anything like an affordable cost from the Tiger, but Army leaders procrastinated. Now to the credit of this government and this minister, at least the decision has been made but we will have to wait until 2025 for a phased introduction.
The decision 20 years ago, from my memory, was made by the National Security Committee of Cabinet on the basis that of the two options at the time, the Apache and the Tiger, the makers of the Tiger claimed cheaper operating costs. We combat operators knew what the battle tested and continuously improving Apache offered then and since, we could see how long experience of operating the Apache would provide more reliable cost estimation than a paper aeroplane, but we ended up with the Tiger.
To the credit of the pilots and the engineers in Army, they finally got the aircraft working after about 15 years, but the cost remains prohibitive. Who would have guessed?
Interestingly, the decision says as much about where we are in terms of national security as it does about a new helicopter.
First, disappointingly, the Apache is still being called an Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. As a helicopter pilot and a combat commander, I only had a vague idea what that term meant when it was used 20 years ago.
Our Tiger was the “lighter” of two Eurocopter versions, the other being designed to fight in Europe. We used the term Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter because we spent decades in serious denial that our military at some stage was going to have to fight head-to-head with a demanding enemy.
That time has now arrived and thank Providence our government and the Minister recognise it, at least in this way. If the Tiger was truly an armed reconnaissance helicopter, we used to ask what was it conducting reconnaissance for? Was there something behind the ARH that could fight and defeat an enemy: a very small number of tanks perhaps, some light or pathetically mechanised infantry, some towed artillery that would have lasted minutes in a serious fight?
For most of that period, we who commanded these capabilities and who knew intimately that the combat cupboard was pretty-well bare, acceded to government preference for the term Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter because they were frightened of using the correct name, which was “Attack Helicopter”.
Governments were scared of stating what the aircraft was brought for and how it could be used, so they hid it with vague names. The Apache is an attack helicopter and we should not be afraid to use that term.
In our current strategic environment where war between the US and China is not just possible because both sides are armed to the teeth, but far more likely than most are prepared to admit, thinking like this from a different era where we could pretend that our helicopters did not kill our enemies but were armed just for reconnaissance, reflects a national weakness we cannot afford.
The Apache is an attack helicopter, it is used throughout the world as a combat helicopter to destroy enemies. I was Chief of Operations of a US force in Iraq that used them, along with tanks, in what was called an insurgency.
Australia got away with being ashamed or embarrassed about combat capability from a previous era where there was little threat and no real regional enemies. Now, in the most strategically uncertain period for 75 years, when not only may we have to support alliance forces by deploying small combat forces to distant parts of the world as we have been doing for decades, but must also now have a military that is ready to fight a peer or near-peer competitor, such as China.
We need a robust working attack helicopter and we need it now. Let’s start realistically calling these machines what they are, otherwise we might start to believe our own fears, and think that they can only be used for armed reconnaissance.
Change the name to make it honest and we take one very small step towards shaping an attitude to combat and winning that Australia desperately needs.
Second, we seem to have decided to buy 29 aircraft. That might have been the right number for the strategic environment we faced for the last 75 years, but in the last few years, our strategic environment has significantly changed.
Twenty-nine helos enable us to send niche forces with maybe eight Apaches overseas at a time, supported by the US, but they do not enable us to defend this country in the war that is growing in likelihood.
The ADF is the best it has been for many decades in terms of combat capability and much credit for that goes to the Coalition government since 2013, but for future regional wars between our ally the US and China, or in a fight for national survival, the ADF lacks lethality, mass and survivability. We are not strong enough, we are not big enough and we cannot fight for long enough.
Even the $270bn that has been allocated to the ADF over the next 10 years may enable the ADF, in 10 years’ time, to perhaps win a battle or two, but not win a campaign or win a war.
I supported the PM’s brilliant speech on 1 July last year when allocating the $270bn over 10 years to the ADF, but the sentiments in the speech and what we as a government are doing or not doing now, do not align. We should all be thinking of the implications of what the PM said in that speech, and ask ourselves: Are we achieving what he spoke of?
Third, this purchase of a US aircraft shows that those who still go on about Australia having to choose between our main trading partner and our main security partner are not paying attention. We have chosen. In fact, we chose more than 75 years ago.
Fourth, the fact that we are buying the Apaches through foreign military sales (FMS), rather than trying to half make the aircraft in Australia, just as the RAAF buys almost all its aircraft on FMS or at least the ones that work, means that when the Apaches arrive, they will work, they will be upgraded with US forces, and we will have access to spare parts for as long as we can keep our air and sea routes open (which may not be very long so let’s hope we have stocks in this country).
Fifth, the government is to be commended for making a hard and expensive decision, but this purchase again proves that there is no national security strategy at work anywhere behind the scenes. If there was, we would at least have recognised that the ADF has perhaps three future tasks:
- to prepare to send forces capable of serious fighting overseas with our allies to deter or defeat a peer regional potential military such as China;
- to be prepared to defend this nation from collateral attacks on Australia from within a war between the US and China; and
- to be able to expand to a sizable modern military to defend this nation from direct attack if we and our allies are not successful in deterring or defeating regional military aggression.
The purchase of such a small number of aircraft in our strategic environment, without reference to how they might be used and what we are buying them for, proves that we lack even the basis of a national security strategy. It indicates to me that we do not know what war we are preparing for. Still it is far better than nothing.
In the PM’s 1 July speech, he made reference to the years between the wars, the 1920s and 30s. On 25 January 1942, Australia ordered full mobilisation after the Pearl Harbour attack and the predictable failure of the Singapore strategy, another period where we denied the facts of the strategic environment and had no workable national security strategy. This week then is the 79th anniversary of that event. Let’s not forget that Australia has never in its history been prepared for any war it has been involved in. That is a disgrace and must end.
The parallels between the inter-war years for Australia and the last decade are stark. Perhaps we could have gotten away with being unprepared in the past because we have been lucky to have the US as an ally. US power made us prosperous and secure. As Ronald Reagan said: “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the US was too strong.”
But US military capability is severely reduced since 1991, the end of the Cold War, and the growth of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea should deserve a little bit more constructive paranoia than is being shown by Australia at the moment. The first step can only be a National Security Strategy. (Source: Defence Connect)
26 Jan 21. Saudi Arabia – Riyadh: Suspected surface-to-surface missile or drone reportedly shot down by Saudi air defences. On 26 January, a suspected surface-to-surface missile (SSM) or drone was reportedly intercepted over the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. No significant material damage or casualties have been reported. Osprey analysis of publicly available flight tracking data indicates that operations were disrupted at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport (OERK/RUH) during the period that the reported downing over the capital occurred. All inbound flights were held or diverted to other airports from c.1230-1345 local time (0930-1045 UTC), with departures also suspended. Services have since resumed, but delays are occurring.
On 23 January, the Saudi-led coalition reportedly employed a US-made MIM-104 Patriot conventional surface-to-air missile (SAM) system to shoot down a suspected SSM or drone over Riyadh. Similar disruption to operations occurred at King Khalid International Airport. The Patriot has the capability to engage air targets at altitudes up to FL800 and at ranges out to 160km (100 miles). During 2020, the Saudi-led coalition reportedly shot down SSMs and/or drones launched from Yemen by Houthi rebels targeting Riyadh on 28 October, 10 September, 23 June and 27 March; there has been no official attribution for the 26 January incident.
In recent weeks, the Saudi-led coalition shot down at least four Houthi rebel drones launched from Yemen towards unspecified areas of Saudi Arabia between 15-22 January. Of note, the US designated the Houthis a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) on 11 January. In addition, Houthi rebels have been blamed by the Yemeni government for the SSM strikes on Aden International Airport (OYAA/ADE) on 30 December.
International media outlet reporting from 13 January indicates that Iran has provided the Houthis with Shahed-136 military-grade weaponised drones with an approximate range of 2,000-2,200km (1,240-1,370 miles). Commercial satellite imagery indicates that the Houthis have deployed the Shahed-136 drones to Al Jawf Governorate in northwest Yemen. Acquisition of Shahed-136 drones from Yemen indicates that Houthi rebels now have the capability to target all of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even Israel. In late December, a senior Israeli defence official claimed that Iran was developing weaponised military-grade drone and missile programmes for its proxy forces in Yemen and Iraq in order to be able to target Israel. Of note, media reporting from early January indicates that Israel has deployed Patriot and Israeli-made Iron Dome conventional SAM systems to the Red Sea city of Eilat due to “threats of attack from Yemen” via weaponised drones such as the Shahed-136.
During 2020, the US military deployed additional Patriot conventional SAM systems to locations in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Gulf Region. Saudi Arabia has Patriot systems deployed in its southwest provinces along the Yemeni border and in main urban centres of the country. At various points since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has deployed Patriot systems within Yemen for strategic air-defence coverage of western areas of Yemeni airspace. The UAE also maintains a Patriot system capability deployed within its borders. Each of these military entities also has combat aircraft capable well above FL260 deployed at operating locations in the Middle East region for air and air-defence purposes.
The southwest provinces of Asir, Jizan and Najran are located within the Emergency Security Control of Air Traffic (ESCAT) area of Saudi Arabia, which is covered by a notice and a publication issued by the civil aviation authority of the country (NOTAM OEJD W0336/20, W0337/20 & AIP SUP 02/20). EASA, Germany and France have issued notices to operators advising against conducting civil aviation flight activity within the southwest provinces of Saudi Arabia (EASA – CZIB-2018-01R6, Germany – AIC 18/20 & France – AIC A 23/20).
The German and UK civil aviation authorities mandate that flights be deferred to airports in Yemen and within the airspace over Yemeni territory, with the exception of ATS routes R401, UL425, UM551 and N315. US aviation operators are prohibited from conducting flights in Yemeni airspace, with the exception of over-water ATS routes M99 & UT702. France currently requests its operators not to enter the entirety of FIR Sanaa (OYSC), and EASA has an active conflict zone information bulletin in place for Yemen.
The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has an active notice warning that due to the ongoing conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, there exists the potential for Houthi “weapons” to affect civil aviation outside of Yemen (NOTAM OMAE A1557/20). The GCAA notice also states that the country has enacted measures to mitigate risks that might result from Houthi rebel weaponised drone activity that may target air operations within UAE airspace (NOTAM OMAE A1557/20).
The majority of Houthi rebel SSM launches into Saudi Arabia and associated intercepts – along with drone attacks/downings – occur over the southwest provinces in the ESCAT area along the border with Yemen, though some attacks have targeted sites deep into the interior of the country. On 23 November, the Saudi-led coalition confirmed that a Houthi cruise-missile strike targeted an Aramco site in Jeddah. On 16 August 2019, the Saudi-led coalition confirmed that Houthi rebels conducted a military-grade weaponised drone attack targeting the Shaybah Oil Field facility in Eastern Province. On 1 August 2019, the Houthis claimed to have launched an SSM at a military site in the eastern city of Dammam. Saudi Arabia has shot down over 150 Houthi-launched SSMs and drones over its territory since the start of 2018, including thwarting at least 12 attacks over Riyadh, as well as two over Mecca Province and at least two over Yanbu, located deep within the interior of the country.
In addition to the above, several key developments related to Iranian support to Houthi rebel missile and drone activity have emerged in recent months:
– On 4 December, Saudi-led, coalition-backed Yemeni forces claimed to have interdicted a cell of Lebanese, Iranian and Iraqi nationals linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) who were allegedly providing operational support to Houthi SSM activity in Sanaa and Marib Governorate. The claims also alleged that Houthi rebels were using Sanaa International Airport (OYSN/SAH) as a training centre for SSM and drone activity, supervised by experts linked to the IRGC-QF.
– On 23 November, the Saudi-led coalition claimed the IRGC-QF was providing continued support to Houthi rebel SSM and drone activities in Yemen.
– International media reporting from 14 October indicated that several high-level Saudi Arabian officials expressed concerns about three dozen Houthi rebel fighters who were being sent back to Yemen having received specialised training from the IRGC-QF on drones and SSMs.
– During late September, a spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces publicly acknowledged the country had sent missiles and drones to Yemen in support of the Houthis.
– On 14 September 2019, large-scale attacks targeted two major oil facilities in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia involving 18 military-grade weaponised drones and seven cruise missiles. Despite the Houthi claim of responsibility for these strikes, they did not emanate from Yemen, and the US claims the missiles and drones were launched by Iranian military forces from southwest Iran. Continued SSM and additional drone launches by Houthi rebels and associated intercepts via Saudi military conventional SAM engagement, as well as fighter jet air-to-air weapon employment, are likely to occur several times monthly over both Yemen and the ESCAT area of Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. In addition, quarterly SSM or drone attacks and associated intercepts near Riyadh or over main urban centres located deep within the Saudi interior are probable until a resolution between the factions in the Yemen conflict is reached. Attacks against targets in Israel or the UAE from Yemen by Houthi rebels remain a credible outlier scenario and, while less likely to occur than the activity noted above, cannot be ruled out completely.
We assess territory in Saudi Arabia outside the ESCAT area to be a HIGH risk airspace environment at all altitudes. We assess Yemen and the ESCAT area of Saudi Arabia to be EXTREME risk airspace environments at all altitudes. We assess the UAE to be a MODERATE risk airspace operating environment at all altitudes. We continue to assess Gaza, along with areas inside Israel situated within 50km (32 miles) of Gaza and the Egyptian border, to comprise a HIGH risk airspace environment below FL260 and MODERATE risk airspace environment above FL260.
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)
26 Jan 21. Korean defense industry set to enjoy robust 2021. South Korean defense companies enjoyed a solid performance last year despite complications from the pandemic and are expected to continue their momentum this year, according to market tracker FnGuide on Tuesday.
Last year, five major local defense firms — Hanwha Aerospace, LIG Nex1, Korea Aerospace Industries, Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Systems — were estimated to have logged sales similar or slightly lower than those of a year prior, as the coronavirus prevented them from landing new contracts and participating in international defense expos.
Things started to improve near the end of last year, with LIG Nex1 winning contracts worth 370bn won ($33.5m) alone last month, accounting for almost 25 percent of all contracts it signed last year.
Hanwha Defense is in a race to win a $4.6bn project in Australia. Last month, the company shipped a prototype of its new armored vehicle Redback to the country for a performance test. Hanwha is one of the two candidates on the shortlist for Australia‘s Land 400 Phase 3 project to introduce around 400 new tracked armored vehicles worth $4.6bn. The other contender is Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence Electronics.
Korea Aerospace Industries is reportedly in talks with the US Air Force to lease eight units of its T-50 advanced jet trainer aircraft. Hyundai Rotem working in Poland and Norway to win next-generation armored vehicle deals.
“Defense industry’s growth will be propelled by exports through new contracts from countries including Egypt, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” said Kim Dong-kyun, an analyst at DB Financial Investment.
26 Jan 21. Taiwan air force flexes muscles after latest Chinese incursion. Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet’s battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island’s air defence zone over the weekend.
Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea.
The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China’s air force.
In a hardened shelter, flight crew from the First Tactical Fighter Wing rushed to ready two IDFs as an alarm bell rang out, aiming to get them off the ground within five minutes of an emergency call, armed with U.S.-made Sidewinders and domestically-developed Wan Chien air-to-ground cruise missiles.
Colonel Lee Ching-shi told Reuters their jets usually go up armed with guns, Sidewinders and Taiwan-made Sky Sword missiles when reacting to Chinese jets and they can respond “at any time”.
“We are ready,” he said during a government-organised visit to the base. “We will not give up one inch of our territory.”
Four IDFs carried out tactical formation landing and rolling take off drills, roaring away from the runway.
China has provided no public explanation for what its aircraft were doing at the weekend. Washington responded by calling on China to cease pressuring Taiwan and reaffirming its commitment to the democratic island.
Taiwan’s air force is well trained, but has far fewer combat aircraft than China and has strained under the pressure of almost constantly having to scramble in recent months, responding to stepped up Chinese activity near the island.
“All the wings are under quite a lot of pressure, but as long as the air force is here, we will react according to related battle readiness rules,” said pilot Wang Chih-chan. (Source: Reuters)
25 Jan 21. China says U.S. military in South China Sea not good for peace. The United States often sends ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to “flex its muscles” and this is not good for peace, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after a U.S. aircraft carrier group sailed into the disputed waterway. The strategic South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade flows each year, has long been a focus of contention between Beijing and Washington, with China particularly angered by U.S. military activity there.
The U.S. carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and accompanied by three warships, entered the waterway on Saturday to promote “freedom of the seas”, the U.S. military said, just days after Joe Biden became U.S. president.
“The United States frequently sends aircraft and vessels into the South China Sea to flex its muscles,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, told reporters, responding to the U.S. mission.
“This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region.”
China has repeatedly complained about U.S. Navy ships getting close to islands it occupies in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.
The carrier group entered the South China Sea at the same time as Chinese-claimed Taiwan reported incursions by Chinese air force jets into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone, prompting concern from Washington.
China has not commented on what its air force was doing, and Zhao referred questions to the defence ministry.
He reiterated China’s position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and that the United States should abide by the “one China” principle.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a radar base in the north of the island on Monday, and praised its ability to track Chinese forces, her office said.
“From last year until now, our radar station has detected nearly 2,000 communist aircraft and more than 400 communist ships, allowing us to quickly monitor and drive them away, and fully guard the sea and airspace,” she told officers.
Taiwan’s defence ministry added that just a single Chinese aircraft flew into its defence zone on Monday, an anti-submarine Y-8 aircraft.
Biden’s new administration says the U.S. commitment to Taiwan is “rock-solid”.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is the democratic island’s most important international backer and main arms supplier, to China’s anger. (Source: Reuters)
25 Jan 21. China passes law authorising China Coast Guard’s use of firepower against foreign vessels. Amid heightened tensions over maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS) Beijing has passed a law authorising the China Coast Guard’s (CCG’s) use of firepower – under certain circumstances – against foreign vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction”.
According to the new ‘Maritime Police Law of the People’s Republic of China’, which was adopted on 22 January by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the CCG is now authorised to take “all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organisations and individuals at sea, or are facing an imminent danger of illegal infringement”.
The new law also authorises the CCG to demolish “buildings, structures, and various fixed or floating devices” from foreign organisations and individuals located “in the sea areas and islands under our jurisdiction”, if they have been built or set up without Beijing’s permission.
Beijing regards its jurisdiction to encompass the area of the SCS within its ‘nine-dash line’, as well as waters in the East China Sea around the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
China claims most of the SCS on the grounds that it is asserting ‘historic rights’ to maritime resources in the area. This has prompted territorial disputes with neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, which stake competing claims. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Jan 21. Israel reveals progress, challenges as it implements new war-fighting concept. The Israel Defense Forces are moving to sync capabilities and modify units as part of its new multiyear plan that envision a multidimensional battlefield, an IDF official said in a background briefing with Defense News.
Israel’s new concept is meant to prepare the country for these transformations so it is ahead of its peers in terms of fielding technology. As part of this approach, Israel conducted its first multilayered integrated air defense drill in December 2020, and local defense companies, such as Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, are incorporating more artificial intelligence and automatic target recognition capabilities into their platforms.
When Israel talks about multidimensional maneuvers on the battlefield, the official said, it looks at how other armed services, like the U.S. Marine Corps, use a vast array of platforms and assets, moving beyond the idea of infantry, armor, naval and air forces as separate services. This is the most significant change currently taking place with the IDF, the official explained, and with as conscript-based military, the country finds it challenging to maintain that type of interdisciplinary approach.
Israel’s military is not only made up of conscripts but also a large reserve force, and the IDF is seeking to train those personnel the same way it does new recruits using the new doctrine and the latest technology. The official said the focus is now on the individual soldier, modifying the war fighter’s training and use of technology.
This is not about training troops on how to better conquer a certain hill, the official added, but rather looking at how restraints and demands have changed on the battlefield as well as how recruits have changed in terms of their technological experience. One specific restraint is time because soldiers serve as conscripts for only several years.
Because of the time constraint, Israel uses simulators and new technology to achieve better outcomes in war games and apply those findings for the next real conflict. The IDF has put many of its brigades through new simulators in the last year, and uses “Human Performance Optimization” to develop training through understanding neuroplasticity — the method of using tools to understand how the brain works, IDF officials explained during the briefing.
While Israel has state-of-the-art platforms in its new Sa’ar 6 warship and F-35 jets, platforms needed by ground forces for the future fight are yet to arrive, and land warfare challenges are distinct, the official explained. At the infantry level, the official said, the military needs to adapt to the skills of its young recruits.
In other words, while the infantry soldier still goes to battle with a rifle, today’s war fighter joins the army with experience in smartphones and other technology with which predecessors were unfamiliar. The IDF’s goal is to take the same rifleman and make that individual the platform itself, enabling the war fighter to directly use the latest technology.
Another challenge facing the IDF is the casualty count, like that seen in wars during the 1960s and 1970s, according to the briefing. That means the IDF wants a decisive victory but without the kinds of losses of the 1967 war, which saw Israel lose about 800 soldiers.
Israel knows its enemies understand this challenge and that current adversaries don’t face Israel head to head in a conventional conflict. Instead, militants sometimes use underground compounds and fight among civilians, seeking to strike at Israel’s weakest links.
One solution is Israel’s use of technology to find and expose enemies. This also means the individual soldier fighting small insurgent units must know his or her rifle is not the only weapon available — there is also instant access to air assets, ships and more. The idea is that the war fighter has all these capabilities within reach, so when that individual makes a decision of what and how to use, that technology is available with the click of a finger.
But minimizing civilian casualties is also a concern for the military. The IDF is faced with finding enemy forces in dense civilian areas. In response, the military is seeking munitions with improved precision.
Implementing these new concepts on the battlefield also means more drones and the use of computerized tablets, for instance. The official also said Israel is specifically focused on AI to enable technology to think and calculate different options that soldiers can exploit during multidimensional maneuvers, as well as rockets that can more precisely identify targets midflight using AI and electro-optics. (Source: Defense News)
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 Homeland 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