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05 Mar 21. Saudi Arabia / Yemen – Asir: Saudi-led coalition downs total of six Houthi drones targeting Khamis Mushait (UPDATE #15). On 5 March, the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) confirmed it had shot down a total of six Yemeni Houthi rebel weaponised drones targeting Khamis Mushait in Asir Province in southwest Saudi Arabia. The Houthis have claimed they carried out an attack using five drones against King Khaled Air Base (OEKM/KMX) in Khamis Mushait, having earlier claimed to have launched three drones targeting King Khaled Air Base and nearby Abha Airport (OEAB/AHB). Flight schedule disruption has occurred at Abha Airport during three separate periods of time lasting up to a number of hours since 0200 UTC on 5 March. No material damage or casualties have been reported; however, the situation remains fluid and subject to rapid change.
Also on 5 March, the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia issued a security alert warning of “destructive missile and drone attacks against a variety of targets”, including airports, throughout Saudi Arabia by “Iran-supported groups”. It highlighted the potential risk to those living and working near military bases and critical civilian infrastructure such as airports, and also said that aircraft at Saudi airports may be at risk of damage due to the escalating conflict with Yemen and attacks by Iraqi militants.
Previously, the SLC reportedly downed 12 Houthi drones and four surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) targeting southwest Saudi Arabia from 26 February through 4 March, including over Asir and Jizan provinces. On 10, 13, 14 and 16 February, the SLC confirmed the shoot-down of Houthi drones targeting Abha Airport. The 10 February attack led to a civilian commercial aircraft parked at the installation being damaged. The Houthis also claimed conducting drone attacks against Abha Airport on 12 and 15 February, as well as 2 March. Of note, confirmed Houthi drone or cruise missile attacks targeting Abha Airport occurred during 2020 on 20 August and in late October, and in 2019 on 12 June, 23 June, 1 July and 28 August.
On 4 March, the Houthis claimed to have conducted a cruise missile strike into Saudi Arabia targeting an Aramco site in Jeddah. Disruption to scheduled operations occurred at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport (OEJN/JED) from 0230-0500 UTC on 4 March. The SLC has yet to make a statement on the specific Houthi claim or the flight disruption at the airport. On 15 February, the Houthis claimed they conducted a weaponised drone attack against Jeddah Airport, which was corroborated by international media outlet reporting as well as publicly available flight-tracking data, though the SLC made no statement on the incident. On 23 November, the SLC confirmed that a Houthi cruise missile strike targeted an Aramco site in Jeddah.
On 27 February, the SLC confirmed that it had shot down a Houthi-launched SSM over Riyadh. On 23 January, the SLC said it shot down an unspecified “aerial target” over the capital Riyadh, reportedly using US-made MIM-104 Patriot conventional surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, blaming the Houthis for the attack. However, the Houthis denied responsibility, and a previously little-known Iranian-backed militant group (IBMG) in Iraq, the Righteous Promise Brigades, said it had carried out the attack using weaponised drones, along with a similar attack against Riyadh on 26 January. This has since been corroborated by international media reporting. During 2020, the SLC reportedly shot down SSMs and/or drones launched from Yemen by the Houthis targeting Riyadh on 28 October, 10 September, 23 June and 27 March.
The SLC has shot down at least 44 Houthi drones and SSMs targeting locations in the southwest provinces of the kingdom so far in 2021, including 41 since the start of February alone. 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 issued on 28 January and a publication issued by the civil aviation authority of the country (NOTAM OEJD W0336/20, W0120/21 & AIP SUP 02/21). 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 02/21). The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) extended its notice on 16 February, warning that due to the ongoing conflict between the SLC and the Houthis, there exists the potential for Houthi “weapons” to affect civil aviation outside of Yemen (NOTAM OMAE A0004/21).
The majority of Houthi 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 16 August 2019, the SLC confirmed that Houthi rebels conducted a 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. On 26 July 2018, the Houthis reportedly conducted a Samad-3 drone attack launched from northwest Yemen against Abu Dhabi International Airport (OMAA/AUH) in the UAE. Saudi Arabia has shot down over 200 Houthi SSMs and drones over its territory since the start of 2018, including thwarting at least 13 attacks over Riyadh, as well as two over Mecca Province and at least two over Yanbu, located deep within the interior of the country.
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 UAE and even 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 2019-2020, the US military deployed additional Patriot conventional SAM systems to locations in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Gulf Region. On 14 September 2019, large-scale attacks targeted two major oil facilities in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia involving 18 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. 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 SLC 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.
SSM and drone attacks against the southwest provinces in Saudi Arabia dropped significantly following peaks in the August-September 2019 timeframe and remained at consistent levels through 2020. However, there has been a sustained increase in such attacks and downings since the start of February. Continued SSM and additional drone launches by the Houthis and associated intercepts via Saudi military conventional SAM engagement, as well as fighter jet air-to-air weapon employment, are likely to occur weekly over both Yemen and the ESCAT area of Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. In addition, monthly 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 the Houthis remain a credible outlier scenario and, while less likely to occur than the activity noted above, cannot be ruled out completely.
In the event of launches into Saudi Arabia, including towards Riyadh and Jeddah, the Saudi authorities are likely to respond by holding all inbound flights or diverting them to other airports, as well as suspending all departures at affected airports. Whilst the amount of time between these closures and the resumption of activity can vary, previous incidents have resulted in the cessation of civilian air traffic for a period of hours. Once the restrictions are lifted, landings are also likely to be restricted for an additional length of time whilst the backlog is cleared and aircraft in holding patterns are permitted to land.
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.
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)
05 Mar 21. South Korea envoy hopes to wrap up talks with U.S. on defence costs. South Korea is seeking to iron out remaining differences and sign a deal with Washington on sharing costs for stationing 28,500 American troops in the country, its chief envoy said on Thursday.
Jeong Eun-bo made the comment as he arrived in Washington for the first face-to-face talks on Friday with U.S. envoy Donna Welton since President Joe Biden’s administration took office in January. They held their first video conference last month.
The negotiations had been gridlocked after former U.S. President Donald Trump rejected Seoul’s offer to pay 13% more, for a total of about $1bn a year, and demanded as much as $5bn.
South Korean sources have raised hopes the Biden administration will agree to a deal close to their proposal. Seoul currently pays Washington about $920m a year.
“There are issues that we are trying to resolve as much as possible through this upcoming face-to-face meeting,” Jeong said in televised remarks to reporters in Washington.
Jeong said he was hoping the meeting would be the “last round of negotiations,” but added further discussions might be needed.
“We will be working to strike a deal as early as we can,” he added.
Both sides are “very close” to agreement, the Yonhap news agency said, citing the U.S. State Department. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Seoul has also been pursuing a multi-year deal to head off “operational disturbances” that had arisen as the allies renew it every three five or years, Jeong said.
After the last pact expired at the end of 2019 without a new one, some 4,000 South Koreans working for the U.S. military were placed on unpaid leave, prompting the two countries to scramble for a stopgap agreement to let them return to work.
Jeong’s visit comes as the Biden administration is conducting a review of its North Korea policy and Washington and Seoul are arranging the first trip to South Korea by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Japan’s Kyodo News reported the two Cabinet officials would travel to Japan and South Korea from March 15 to 17, citing unnamed Tokyo officials. Seoul’s presidential office said on Friday that both sides were discussing their visit but that no details had been set. (Source: Reuters)
05 Mar 21. China sets another mild defence budget rise for 2021. China’s 2021 defence spending will rise 6.8% from 2020, up just slightly from last year’s budget increase and broadly tracking the government’s modest growth forecast, as the world’s second-largest economy emerges from the pandemic’s fallout.
Premier Li Keqiang pledged that efforts to strengthen the People’s Liberation Army, which is developing an array of weapons from stealthy fighters to aircraft carriers, would continue apace in the face of what China views as multiple security threats.
The spending figure, set at 1.35trn yuan ($208.47bn) in the national budget released on Friday, is closely watched as a barometer of how aggressively the country will beef up its military.
Last year China said the defence budget would rise just 6.6%, its slowest rate in three decades, as the economy wilted in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the sixth year in a row for a single-digit increase.
Li, in his state-of-the-nation address to the largely rubber-stamp legislature, said this year the government would strengthen the armed forces “through reform, science and technology and the training of capable personnel”.
“We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security and development interests of our country,” Li said in a government translation of his remarks.
“We will improve the layout of the defence-related science, technology and industry, and enhance the defence mobilisation system,” he added, without giving details.
Li set an annual economic growth target of more than 6%, after last year dropping the gross domestic product growth target from the premier’s work report for the first time since 2002 after the pandemic devastated its economy.
China routinely says that spending for defensive purposes is a comparatively low percentage of its GDP and that critics want to “contain” the country and demonize it as a threat to world peace.
The country is nervous about challenges on several fronts, ranging from Taiwan to U.S. missions in the disputed South China Sea near Chinese-occupied islands, an ongoing border dispute with India, and unrest in Hong Kong.
The budget gives only a raw figure for military expenditure, with no breakdown. Many diplomats and foreign experts believe the country under-reports the real number.
China’s reported defence budget in 2021 is about a quarter of U.S. defence spending.
U.S. defence spending amounted to $714bn in fiscal year 2020 and is expected to increase to $733bn in the 2021 fiscal year.
China has long argued that it needs to close the gap with the United States. China, for example, has two aircraft carriers, compared with 11 in active service for the United States. ($1 = 6.4758 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Source: Reuters)
04 Mar 21. Pursuing the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme. Statement by Sonia Farrey, UK Political Coordinator at the UN, at the Security Council briefing on Syria Chemical Weapons.
I thank High Representative Nakamitsu for her briefing today.
I also thank the Director-General of the OPCW for his latest monthly report and for the ongoing work of his team to pursue elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme, despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic.
Mr President, we are here to discuss yet again Syria’s failure, over a seven-year period, to resolve the outstanding issues in its initial chemical weapons declaration. This is a failure to fulfil the requirements of the OPCW Executive Council Decision of 27 September 2013 – all aspects of which the Security Council decided Syria should comply with in resolution 2118.
As the Council is aware, the 19 unresolved issues are of a serious and substantive nature. The Director-General’s report makes clear again this month that one of unresolved issues relates to the identified production and/or weaponsation of chemical nerve agents at a facility previously declared by the Syrian National Authority as never having been used for this purpose. The OPCW Technical Secretariat has asked Syria to declare the “exact types and quantities of chemical agents produced and/or weaponised at the site in question”. There has been no response as yet.
The ongoing threats to international peace and security posed by the unresolved issues are not hypothetical or academic. In its report of 18 February, the UN Commission of Inquiry, whom we heard from in the General Assembly on Tuesday, stated that of 38 documented instances of chemical weapons use since the start of the conflict in Syria, 32 met the Commission’s standard of proof for attribution to Syrian government forces. We already know that since the start of the conflict, the UN and the OPCW have found the Syrian regime to have used chemical weapons on at least seven occasions. It is clear that the Syrian regime has retained the capability and willingness to use chemical weapons. This is not a matter of conjecture, but a matter of fact established by investigations of mandated multilateral authorities that apply internationally recognised standards of proof and are accountable to their membership.
At the other end of the spectrum, those seeking to call into question the objectivity and undermine the integrity of the OPCW, do not appear to observe any standards of proof and do not come to the matter with clean hands. Their interest is that they are undermining the international institutions and other competent authorities that can and have identified them as responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
In this regard, I would like to take the opportunity to remember the one person who sadly died and the several others that were injured following events three years ago today, when two operatives of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, used a Novichok nerve agent on British soil in Salisbury.
It is a reminder that we should not lose sight of our responsibility to prevent the proliferation and use of chemical weapons.
Finally, we note that both the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism and the Commission of Inquiry each identified one occasion on which ISIL has also used chemical weapons. That is an equally abhorrent act and a breach of international peace and security. We agree with others that any credible and well-evidenced allegations of the use of chemical weapons by such groups should be investigated, and attribution and accountability pursued as for any user of chemical weapons. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
04 Mar 21. Foreign Secretary Oral statement: Update on Counter Daesh. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab updates the House of Commons on the ongoing campaign to counter Daesh.
Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on our ongoing campaign to counter Daesh.
The safety and security of our citizens is the Government’s highest priority. It is at the core of our work in tackling Daesh, which remains our most significant terrorist threat at home and abroad. This month marks the two-year anniversary of the liberation of Syria and Iraq from Daesh’s barbaric rule. But, as we saw on 21 January in Baghdad, Daesh is still able to carry out deadly attacks.
The Global Coalition against Daesh estimates that there are still around 10,000 Daesh members at large in Syria and Iraq. Many terrorists remain in detention facilities, but others are hidden in civilian populations and camps for Internally Displaced Persons, and support for Daesh still lingers in many communities. At the same time, while Iraq and Syria remain Daesh’s primary focus, it presents a growing global threat. Diminishing Daesh’s ability to operate elsewhere in the world, including Africa and Asia, must be a priority for the international community.
Meanwhile, here at home, the threat we face from Islamist extremism is all too clear. The ongoing inquest into the horrific Manchester Arena attack, which killed 23 people, provides a daily reminder. So we will continue this struggle. The UK will continue to be a leading member of the 83-member Global Coalition, providing military support to tackle the remnants of Daesh, delivering essential aid to liberated communities, and countering Daesh propaganda.
With that in mind, let me set out the steps we are taking.
Mr Speaker, since the start of the UK’s military intervention against Daesh, known as Operation Shader, the UK has trained over 120,000 Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish soldiers and released over 4,000 munitions at enemy targets during the air campaign.
The Global Coalition as a whole has invested more than $4bn to ensure that our partners on the ground and in the region are better trained and better equipped than Daesh. As part of the Coalition efforts to prevent the resurgence of Daesh, the UK has provided support and funding to a range of initiatives across the region. That includes the improvement of detention facilities in North East Syria which house Daesh fighters. Military support to the sovereign government of Iraq is now adapting, in line with the changing security situation and Iraq’s growing military capabilities.
Thanks to UK efforts and those of the Coalition, the Iraqi Security Forces are increasingly able to conduct successful, independent, counter-Daesh operations. They now have the capability to deliver tactical training to their own armed forces. And this has allowed the Coalition to reduce troop numbers, focusing instead on providing specialist operational support and advice to our Iraqi counterparts.
For this purpose, the UK maintains troops deployed to the region supporting Iraqi security forces, including officers working with NATO and Coalition allies. On 18 February, the Secretary of State for Defence joined NATO Ministers in agreeing to incrementally expand NATO Mission Iraq in line with that focus.
The Royal Air Force also continues to conduct routine armed reconnaissance missions to support the Iraqi security forces. And, Mr Speaker, I can report to the House that on Thursday 11 February, a Coalition surveillance aircraft located a number of Daesh fighters. They were occupying two dispersed encampments on the banks of the Tharthar [THER-THAR] River, west of the city Of Bayji [BAY-GEE]. Two UK Typhoon FGR4s conducted a careful check of the surrounding area for civilians, before carrying out simultaneous attacks, using two Paveway IV guided bombs against each group. The bombs hit their targets within the encampments, eliminating the terrorist threat.
Our support in the region continues to be challenged, including by the persistent threat from Iranian-aligned Shia Militia Groups. We have seen a concerning pattern of attacks in recent weeks including an attack on a Coalition airbase in Erbil which tragically killed two civilians, as well as injuring several Coalition staff. We condemn these attacks on Coalition bases and diplomatic premises, and will continue to be resolute and robust in our response. Iran’s proxies must not be allowed to destabilise Iraq and the region. We work very closely with our allies to support the Government of Iraq in protecting Coalition forces and foreign missions. And we are working together to prosecute those responsible for attacks, where the Iraqi people are often the victims.
Mr Speaker, the presence of COVID-19 in Syria and Iraq remains an acute challenge. Healthcare systems in both countries are under acute pressure. The impacts on jobs, livelihoods and communities will last years and we need to be particularly vigilant to make sure that this does not provide the conditions which Daesh can exploit to gain support.
In this sense, the humanitarian response is indistinguishable from our security objectives. The UK remains one of the largest humanitarian donors to the Syria Crisis, having spent over £3.5bn since 2012. Over this period we have distributed 28 million food rations, delivered 20 million medical consultations, and dispensed 14 million vaccines.
In addition to our existing aid commitments in Syria, the UK has provided funding to delivery partners to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This complements our ongoing support to deliver activities which help tackle transmission of the virus, such as healthcare, water, hygiene kits and sanitation support.
In relation to Iraq, clearly the economic challenges are compounded by COVID-19, as well as the fall in oil prices. The resulting crisis threatens Iraq’s stability, and risks creating room for extremism to grow. So we are working to counter this. We have committed £272m in humanitarian support in Iraq since 2014, providing a vital lifeline to millions with shelter, medical care and clean water. To date, UK funding has helped provide: food assistance to over 500,000 people, life-saving healthcare services to over 4.3 million people, and safe drinking water and hygiene facilities to more than 3.5 million people.
We are working with the Government of Iraq and the international community to stabilise and reform the economy. In order to create opportunities for all Iraqis. As friends of Iraq, we stand behind the Government’s reform vision, together with all members of the Global Coalition.
Mr Speaker, Daesh’s ability to plot external operations is being degraded. As a result it is more reliant than ever on its perverse propaganda and warped narrative to maintain its relevance and encourage supporters to conduct terrorist attacks. Daesh maintains a steady drumbeat of violent communications, distributed via encrypted messaging applications. With that in mind, I want to express my appreciation to the British media, who have generally shown both restraint and editorial judgement in reporting on these matters.
Because, Mr Speaker, this is a critical moment. Even though Daesh’s brand is weakened, it remains globally recognised.
It has been adopted by an assortment of violent groups from Mozambique to the Philippines. In December 2020, the UK Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit saw a 7% rise in the volume of terrorist content online, and a worrying rise in the proportion of children and teenagers arrested for terrorism offences. Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police described lockdown and the accessibility of terrorist content online as a “perfect storm”, because terrorists have digital access to those who are most susceptible to extremist narratives. So we are tackling Daesh’s evil propaganda head on. I am proud that the FCDO leads on this work on behalf of the Global Coalition.
The UK has carried out a range of targeted and effective offensive cyber operations. During the fight to liberate Mosul from Daesh control, we used these capabilities to disrupt Daesh’s battlefield communications, sowing confusion in their ranks and helping Coalition forces to surprise and, then, overwhelm them. And in November, we revealed that the National Cyber Force is now bringing together the expertise of GCHQ, MI6, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Ministry of Defence to take the online fight to terrorists, including groups like Daesh.
We are degrading their propaganda network, we are dismantling their lies, and we are building resilience to their violent extremist narrative. This particular battle may be invisible to the public, but it is absolutely essential, and we are prosecuting it with the utmost vigour and determination.
Mr Speaker, we continue to play our full role in combatting Daesh across each one of these fronts, to ensure the safety and security of the UK, Iraq, and our people and interests around the world. As the Prime Minister has said, we will never be complacent in this struggle. We will not let up, until Daesh is consigned to the history books. And I commend this statement to the House. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
04 Mar 21. E3 Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, March 2021.
Delivered on behalf of France, Germany and the United States.
Germany, France and the United Kingdom would like to thank Director-General Grossi for his report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran, contained in GOV/2021/15, and Deputy Director-General Aparo for the Technical Briefing of 25 February.
We fully support and trust the professional, independent and impartial verification conducted by the IAEA regarding Iran’s safeguards obligations. We re-emphasise the importance of the IAEA evaluating all safeguards-relevant information available to it in line with standard practice, and we encourage it to continue doing so. We are deeply concerned about the findings in the DG’s report stating that Iran has still not provided technically credible explanations for the presence of nuclear particles of man-made origin detected by the Agency at the first site mentioned in the report, originally identified in February 2019. According to the IAEA, these particles include man-made forms of natural uranium as well as isotopically altered particles of low enriched uranium and of slightly depleted uranium. Despite repeated intensive interactions between the IAEA and Iran, over a period of roughly 18 months, Iran has still not provided sufficient and plausible explanations. As a result, the IAEA cannot exclude that undeclared nuclear material may have been present at this undeclared location and that such nuclear material may remain unreported by Iran. This is a safeguards concern.
Therefore, we strongly urge Iran to extend full cooperation to the Agency and clarify this issue in a technically credible manner without further delay.
With regard to the second location mentioned in the DG’s report, we note with dissatisfaction that the current location of a metal disc made of natural uranium – which has been the subject of previous reporting by the IAEA – still has to be clarified.
It is of utmost importance that Iran should swiftly respond and facilitate the additional verification activity which the Agency needs to conduct in this respect. We will follow up on this issue and look forward to further updates by the IAEA.
Furthermore, the Agency has stated that it has detected man-made uranium particles at the third and fourth locations mentioned in the report. These findings are the analytical result of environmental samples taken by the Agency during two accesses to undeclared locations conducted in August and September 2020.
We note that the IAEA requested that Iran provide clarifications to the IAEA in January 2021, and call on Iran do so in a comprehensive and timely manner.
In this context of mounting unresolved safeguards questions, it is deeply concerning that Iran has decided to suspend application of the Additional Protocol and transparency measures agreed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), as of 23 February. The implementation of the Additional Protocol in Iran is crucial for the Agency to ascertain the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
Moreover, we have taken note with deep concern of Iran’s stated intention to stop the implementation of Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement. We fully share the position of the DG, expressed in his report, and previously affirmed by the Board and the United Nations Security Council, that the implementation of this code is a legal obligation under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and cannot be modified unilaterally or revoked by Iran.
We strongly urge Iran to implement Modified Code 3.1 and to resume implementation of all transparency measures as envisaged in the JCPoA, including implementation of the Additional Protocol.
We are clear that Iran should refrain from any step impeding the IAEA’s work and provide full cooperation to the Agency with a view to clarifying and resolving all outstanding safeguards issues without further delay. We encourage the Director General to continue reporting to the Board of Governors, as appropriate, and would welcome making this report public.
Thank you, Madam Chair. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
04 Mar 21. Thailand ratifies defence industry MOU with Philippines. Thailand’s government has ratified an agreement with the Philippines to expand defence industrial collaboration. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) – announced in early March – supports Thailand’s proposed export of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to its Southeast Asian neighbour.
The Thai government said in a notice that the MOU provides a formal framework for the two countries to engage in defence trade with each other and to undertake joint research, development, and production projects.
The agreement, which runs for an initial five years, also provides for greater collaboration in military logistics and related activities such as the provision of spare parts.
In early March, the Philippines also signed a similar defence agreement with India. This accord – known as the ‘implementing arrangement concerning the procurement of defence material and equipment’ – was signed between the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) and Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The accord is intended to support India’s potential export to the Philippines of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. (Source: Jane’s)
04 Mar 21. Australia and Naval Group agree on Future Submarine progress funding and local industry content. Tense negotiations between Canberra and French shipbuilder Naval Group over future costs and the percentage of local industry content in Australia’s AUD90bn (USD70bn) Future Submarine Program have concluded with agreements on both issues, Janes has learnt.
According to informed sources, the overarching Strategic Partnering Agreement underpinning the project will now be amended to include a commitment by Naval Group to spend a minimum of 60% of the contract value in Australia over the life of the programme.
This will formalise an earlier undertaking by French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly that has subsequently been the subject of lengthy negotiations and Australian frustration.
Following reports that Canberra was considering walking away from the contract, under which Naval Group is to design and build 12 Attack-class conventionally powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), breakthroughs were reached during a visit by the company’s global chief executive officer, Pierre Éric Pommellet.
Pommellet left Australia on 28 February after spending two weeks in mandatory Covid-19-related quarantine, and a third in discussions with defence and industry leaders and senior ministers.
The recent in-principle agreement will require Australian content to be agreed for each stage of work, the sources disclosed.
Should this fall below the agreed band in any phase, Naval Group would be liable for penalties. Should the level of Australian work exceed the agreed band, Naval Group would qualify for incentives.
Formal signature awaits legal reviews and sign-off by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who has been on medical leave since 24 February. (Source: Jane’s)
04 Mar 21. Malaysia prepares new defence industry policy. Malaysia is preparing to launch a national defence industry policy to boost efforts towards self-reliance, the country’s defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has stated.
The new ‘National Defence and Security Industry Policy’ is currently being drawn up, he said, to position Malaysia as producer of military platforms, with the aim to reduce reliance on imports and spur the national economy.
However, the minister indicated that the plan is reliant on partnerships with foreign industry, who would be expected to transfer technologies and knowhow.
Ismail said that the new policy would look to support developments similar to those achieved by India and Indonesia, which have both advanced domestic industrial capability by leveraging partnerships with international defence firms.
He added, “We have been co-operating with some countries and now the phase of technology transfer is in progress. When this is completed, we will be able to produce our own military assets.”
The minister was referencing Malaysian military production projects such as the programme to build the AV8 Gempita 8×8 wheeled armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) for the Malaysian Army through a partnership between DRB-HICOM Defence Technologies (Deftech) and Turkish company FNSS Savunma Sistemleri, a joint venture between Nurol Holding of Turkey and British group BAE Systems.
The requirement for a new national defence industry policy was outlined in Malaysia’s Defence White Paper, which was published in December 2019.
The White Paper said the industry policy should be focused on human capital development, technology development, industrial development, self-reliance, and global market penetration. (Source: Jane’s)
03 Mar 21. Any Response to Early Morning Rocket Attack Will Wait on Investigation. Ten rockets were launched at the U.S. and ally-occupied Al Asad military base in Iraq early this morning. One American contractor who was sheltering suffered a “cardiac episode,” and later died as a result, the Pentagon press secretary said. There is an investigation into who is responsible for the attack.
“We cannot attribute responsibility for the rocket attacks at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage on base,” John F. Kirby said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon . “We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate.”
Kirby said he’s not aware that the Iraqis have asked for assistance in investigating the rocket attacks and that any response to the attacks will need to wait until that investigation is complete.
“Let’s let our Iraqi partners investigate this, see what they learn, and then if a response is warranted, I think we have shown clearly … that we won’t shy away from that. But we’re just not there yet.”
On the ground at Al Asad, Kirby said, the department has counted ten “impact points” from rockets that are believed to have been launched from points east of the installation. He also said the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system, or C-RAM, also engaged those rockets, but that there’s no indication now as to how successful the C-RAM’s engagement was against them.
“I suspect as time goes on, we’ll know a little bit more,” he said.
Just last week there were three other rocket attacks in Iraq. One attack in Irbil killed a U.S. contractor and wounded a service member and others, while an attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone caused property damage. An attack at Balad Air Base also wounded personnel there.
The U.S. responded to those attacks Feb. 25, with airstrikes against infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups in Eastern Syria.
“When we conducted this strike last week in Syria,” Kirby said, “we believed that it was measured and proportionate. It was intended to take that compound out and not allow these groups to use it, but also to send a signal about how seriously we take our responsibilities to protect our people.”
It’s the hope of the department, Kirby said, that the strike would have a deterrent effect, rather than escalate the situation.
“Nobody wants to see this escalate into … a tit for tat,” Kirby said. “That is, that’s not in our interest. It’s not in the Iraqi people’s interest.”
Just last year, in January 2020, as many as 16 missiles were launched at Al Asad, with 11 of those missiles striking. Although the Iranian missiles damaged equipment and infrastructure at the installation, training and defensive readiness there paid off in no lives being lost, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said.
(Source: US DoD)
03 Mar 21. DOD Statement on Rocket Attack at Al Asad by Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby. We can confirm that early this morning the air base at Al Asad in Iraq came under rocket attack.
Preliminary indications are that approximately ten rockets were fired from points of origin east of the base.
There are no current reports of U.S. servicemember injuries and all are accounted for. A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.
Iraqi security forces are on scene and investigating. We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage. We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate.
Al Asad’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) missile defensive systems engaged in defense of our forces.
Secretary Austin was briefed by his team and is closely monitoring the situation.
We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the individual who died. (Source: US DoD)
02 Mar 21. Could Australia Walk Away from its French Submarine Deal?
To do so would destroy the Department of Defense’s credibility.
Media reports this week have claimed that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has commissioned a Defence Department review into potential alternatives to the Attack-class submarine. That’s prompted a flurry of speculation about whether the government is walking away from France’s Naval Group as its partner in the future submarine program, despite the sunk costs approaching $2bn, plus several hundred million more in penalty costs.
Would the government do that? It’s hard to imagine. Conservative governments in this country draw their credibility and mandate to rule from their reputation as good economic managers. Admitting that they had mismanaged the largest public sector project in the nation’s history would strike at the heart of that credibility.
Walking away would also destroy Defence’s credibility. Every significant government decision in this space beyond the initial decision to build the submarines in Adelaide has been based on Defence’s advice.
Defence recommended the submarines’ very demanding set of operational requirements on factors such as range and endurance. Defence recommended the three contenders for the competitive evaluation process, and Defence picked the French as the eventual winner. Defence requested and got the $89bn budget for the Attack class. Defence rearranged its investment program and delayed other projects to free up cash for the submarines.
It’s hard to see Defence now recommending a different course of action, and for the government to adopt a different course against its recommendation would be a massive vote of no confidence.
Then there’s the hit that would come to relations with France and to Australia’s international credibility as a partner. We’ve already done that once to a strategic partner in the submarine saga in choosing the French after raising the hopes of the Japanese that they would win the contract.
You don’t decide to change course in a $90bn program without good reason. So, what would prompt the government to do it? Many commentators have expressed a vast range of concerns about the program and the constant questioning is a public relations ulcer for the government. But the government itself and Defence have been resolute in their support for it.
At Senate estimates hearings, Defence has consistently insisted everything is on track—for example, stating that the cost estimate has been steady at $50bn (in constant dollars) for five years and the design is progressing well. It has conceded a few months’ delay here and there to some design milestones but suggested it could make that time up. To suddenly walk away would mean that narrative was not true—another hit to credibility.
That’s unless the government has suddenly learned something truly new and significant about the viability of the enterprise.
Then there’s the issue of what the government would walk away to. There’s no immediate stand-out candidate for a Plan B. Any developmental submarine that sets new records for size is going to come with risks and take a long time to deliver, plus the French have a five-year head start. Potentially, if the government and Defence downsized their capability aspirations, that could open up the field somewhat—potentially to the Sweden’s Saab Kockums and its ‘Son of Collins’ design.
It was always been mystifying that the Swedes were not invited to participate in the original competitive evaluation process. A number of voices have suggested the government should fund them to develop their design in parallel with Naval Group, generating competition and providing the government with some choice. That could send a strong message to the French firm.
On the other hand, if the point is to make France prioritise the Attack-class program, particularly as its own future ballistic missile submarine program commences, then telling them that we might not go with them after all could send mixed messages; we want them to commit but we won’t do so ourselves.
Much of the discussion around the future submarine has related to the level of local industry content. Ironically, the government originally said it had no intention of imposing a hard target for local content—until it came under irresistible pressure from industry and the opposition to accept a guarantee of 60% that Naval Group itself had offered. Now there is some suggestion the government should walk away because Naval Group might not get there, at least in the early stages of the program.
But this is letting the industry tail wag the capability dog. If the government is convinced it’s getting the right capability at an acceptable price delivered when it needs it, then walking away over a few percentage points of industry share, well before the design is complete, is short-sighted.
And that’s where the discussion needs to focus—on the capability. Are we getting the capability we need when we need it, and is it value for money? Many minds are already made up, such as those who believe we should be getting nuclear-powered submarines, or those who believe other approaches offer more capability for less money and/or risk—whether they involve smaller submarines, autonomous systems, long-range strike missiles and aircraft, or combinations of them all.
The government isn’t in that camp. But it does need to know what triggers would mean it wasn’t getting what it needed. For example, at what point do delays mean that a Collins life-of-type-extension can’t fill the gap? Or what technological developments that put the survivability and therefore utility of conventional manned submarines in doubt would make it reconsider the current path?
To define those triggers and know when they have been tripped, the government needs independent advice. It’s not clear that the government is getting it. From its Senate estimates testimony, it appears the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board takes a narrow focus, looking at the program from a project-management perspective. Broader questions about whether it provides the right capability or value for money are outside its remit.
Morrison has reportedly asked senior naval officers to review something relating to submarines (although it’s not clear what exactly). But again, this is not an independent review. Those who developed the original advice to government are not the best placed to evaluate it.
Certainly, the government is right to be concerned about Defence’s capability program. Despite concluding in last year’s defence strategic update that we can’t rely on having 10 years of warning time before a conflict, much of the program is still more than 10 years from delivery—including the future submarine. But walking away from the Attack class won’t necessarily fix that problem.
Getting submarines right is important, but we also need to cure ourselves of the fetish that has grown up around them. They’re a valuable capability, but not the only one we need. Defence needs a range of complementary assets to cover the risks and shortfalls associated with each one.
To do this it has to more aggressively develop and acquire emergent technologies—regardless of the path we take with submarines. The recent announcement of a cooperative program with the US in the development and production of hypersonic strike missiles is certainly a step in the right direction. The rapid acquisition of large unmanned underwater vessels would be another.
Whatever kernel of truth is sitting behind the recent media reports, it’s good to see the prime minister getting energised about defence capability. Defence is a monopoly provider of security services to the government and therefore the Australian people. The government is planning on spending $575bn in taxpayer dollars for those services over the next decade, so it needs to be a smart, questioning and demanding customer on our behalf. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
01 Mar 21. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Conducts Flight Operations in US Sixth Fleet. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is conducting flight operations in U.S. Sixth Fleet to support maritime security operations in international waters alongside our allies and partners.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is conducting flight operations in U.S. Sixth Fleet to support maritime security operations in international waters alongside our allies and partners.
These flight operations demonstrate the United States’ continued military support to its allies, friends and partners and a commitment to free and open seas for all nations.
“The Sailors of the IKE Carrier Strike Group are excited to represent our enduring commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the region,” said Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, commander, Carrier Strike Group Two. “Conducting flight operations is an important part of maintaining readiness and also sends a clear signal of our capability, capacity, and if required lethality.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is a multiplatform team of ships, aircraft and more than 5,000 Sailors, capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions around the globe.
Deploying ships and aircraft of the strike group, commanded by Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, include flagship USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69); Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Monterey (CG 61); Destroyer Squadron 22 ships include Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Mahan (DDG 72), USS Porter (DDG 78), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
Squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, embarked on Eisenhower include the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32, “Gunslingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, “Wildcats” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, “Rampagers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83; “Dusty Dogs” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7; “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74; “Screwtops” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 123; “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130, and a detachment from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 “Rawhides.”
While ships and aircraft from the IKE Strike Group conducted flight operation near the Canary Islands, Laboon and Mahan concluded a port visit for resupply at Naval Station Rota, Spain.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.(Source: ASD Network)
01 Mar 21. Report: Iran used commercial satellite images to monitor US forces before attack. Iran used commercial satellite images to monitor Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq as it prepared to launch more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces, 60 Minutes reported.
That detail came more than a year after the night of the attack on Jan. 7, 2020. Iran said the barrage was “fierce revenge” for the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed by the U.S. in a drone strike days earlier. The missile attack damaged the base, equipment and a helicopter, and 110 people had to be treated for traumatic brain injuries. But no one was killed, thanks in part to early intelligence that an attack was imminent and a critical early warning from the Space Force’s missile warning satellite operators.
The 60 Minutes report revealed new details about the timing of the evacuation, and how Iran tried to use commercially available satellite imagery to monitor the base.
The report said that Iran purchased satellite images of the base on the day of the attack, and U.S. Central Command was aware of it. According to CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, USCENTCOM Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie timed the evacuation of al-Asad Air Base around Iran’s purchase of satellite imagery of the base.
“If you go too early, you risk the problem that the enemy will see what you have done and adjust his plans,” McKenzie told the reporter.
McKenzie waited until Iran had purchased its last satellite image of the day before evacuating the base, ensuring that Iran was acting on out-of-date images, he said in the interview.
“They would have seen airplanes on the ground and people working,” said McKenzie. “I think they expected to destroy a number of U.S. aircraft and to kill a number of U.S. service members.”
USCENTCOM did not immediately respond to questions from C4ISRNET.
It is not clear which satellite imagery provider Iran purchased the images from.
The U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense buy commercial satellite imagery for a number of different uses. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency purchases unclassified commercial images to share with other government organizations, while the National Reconnaissance Office is using study contracts to determine what commercial imagery it will purchase for the intelligence community. The military is also showing increased interest in the growing commercial satellite imagery market, signing agreements with various companies for images and real-time analytics. In September, the U.S. Army experimented with using commercial imagery for beyond-line-of-sight targeting. It’s also not clear how the U.S. military knew Iran was purchasing the images, or how it knew when images of al-Asad Air Base were purchased. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
02 Mar 21. Boeing to base U.S. Air Force prototype on Australian pilotless combat jet. Boeing Co will use a pilotless, fighter-like jet developed in Australia as the basis for its U.S. Air Force Skyborg prototype, an executive at the plane maker said on Tuesday.
The “Loyal Wingman”, the first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years, made its first flight on Saturday under the supervision of a Boeing test pilot monitoring it from a ground control station in South Australia.
Boeing’s Loyal Wingman is 38 feet long (11.6 metres), has a 2,000 nautical mile (3,704 km) range and a nose that can be outfitted with various payloads. The plane can also carry weapons and act as a shield to help protect more expensive manned fighter jets.
The U.S. Air Force in December awarded multi-million dollar contracts to Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions to produce unmanned aerial prototypes that can team with crewed jets.
“The airpower teaming system is the basis for our Skyborg bid,” Boeing airpower teaming programme director Shane Arnott told reporters. “Obviously the U.S. market is a big market. That is a focus for us, achieving some sort of contract or programme of record in the United States.”
Defence contractors are investing increasingly in autonomous technology as militaries around the world look for cheaper and safer ways to maximise their resources.
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, is home to Boeing’s largest footprint outside the United States and has vast airspace with relatively low traffic for flight testing.
The Australian government said on Tuesday it would invest a further A$115m ($89m) to acquire three more Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to develop tactics for using the jets with crewed planes, on top of its initial investment of A$40m.
“Our aim with Boeing is to understand how we can get these aircraft to team with our existing aircraft to be a force multiplier in the future,” RAAF Air-Vice Marshal and head of air force capability Cath Roberts said.
Britain in January signed a GBP 30m ($42m) contract with the Belfast unit of Spirit AeroSystems for a similar type of pilotless aircraft to have a trial flight in the next three years.
During the test flight in Australia, the Loyal Wingman took off under its own power before flying a pre-determined route at different speeds and altitudes to verify its functionality and demonstrate the performance of the design.
Arnott said that three Loyal Wingman aircraft would be used for teaming flights this year and that the Australian government’s order would take the number available to six.
Boeing has said up to 16 Loyal Wingman jets could be teamed with a crewed aircraft for missions. ($1 = 1.2900 Australian dollars) ($1 = 0.7200 pounds) (Source: Reuters)
01 Mar 21. Indo-Pacific Commander Delivers $27bn Plan to Congress. The report, delivered to Capitol Hill on Monday, sketches out the ask for the 2022 budget and in the years out to 2027, envisioning a long-range plan that Indo-Pacom commander Adm. Phil Davidson first introduced last year.
As the Biden administration weighs how to manage China, Indo-Pacific Command has crafted a $27.3bn plan to buy new missile defense systems, place radar and missile defense systems on the ground, launch satellites and build state-of-the-art training ranges across the region.
The report, delivered today to Capitol Hill, sketches out the budget for the 2022 budget and in the years out to 2027, envisioning a long-range plan that Indo-Pacom head Adm. Phil Davidson first introduced last year. A copy of the Executive Summary was obtained by Breaking Defense.
The plan for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative includes $4.6bn in 2022, which the document points out is “two-thirds the amount spent on the European Defense Initiative in FY20 ($5.9B).”
The document tells lawmakers that the US “requires highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the First Island Chain, featuring increased quantities of ground-based weapons. These networks must be operationally decentralized and geographically distributed along the western Pacific archipelagos using Service agnostic infrastructure.”
Davidson plans to formally roll out the report at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institure on Thursday, at a time when the Biden administration is putting together it’s 2022 budget. The final DoD topline is expected to come in around $740bn, roughly the same as the 2021 and 2020 budgets, meaning hard choices will have to be made within the Pentagon about where to allocate resources.
At the top of the admiral’s acquisition priority list is a $1.6bn Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Guam, something he has long said is his No. 1 priority.
Next is a $197m “Tactical Multi-Mission Over-the-Horizon Radar” to be placed in Palau to detect and track air and surface targets. The Pentagon has forged a closer relationship with the small island nation in the Philippine Sea, which provides a strategic location coveted by Pentagon planners as the US looks to expand its footprint in the region.
The document also includes $2.3bn to build and launch “a constellation of space-based radars with rapid revisit rates to maintain situational awareness of adversary activities” which could feed into Aegis Ashore and the Palau systems. Davidson is also looking for $206m for “specialized manned aircraft to provide discrete, multi-source intelligence collection requirements” across the region, along with $3.3bn for “highly survivable, precision-strike fires” that can support troops on the ground, ships at sea and aircraft from distances greater than 500km.
Davidson previewed some of the report today at an AFCEA conference in Hawaii. “We must convince Beijing that the costs to achieve its objectives by military force are simply too high,” he said, while calling for major investments in multi-domain training ranges spread across the region where the US and allies could train together, and integrate operations.
The indications so far are that the Biden administration will take a tough stance with Beijing, with the military playing a major role in the strategy.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told senators last month, “China is the top priority,” and pledged to publish a new National Defense Strategy in 2022, updating the 2018 version. That report, produced by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is considered a landmark in American strategy and re-oriented Washington’s focus on a rising China.
“There is no doubt” China poses the “most significant challenge of any nation state to the United States,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. “We have to start by approaching China from a position of strength, not weakness.”
The report breaks down the priorities Joint Force Lethality; Force Design and Posture; Strengthen Allies and Partners; Exercises, Experimentation, and Innovation; and Logistics and Security Enablers.
The 2021 NDAA included $6.9bn for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative over two years, with just $2.2bn of that coming in 2021, placing the onus on the Biden administration to not only continue the effort, but grow it.
That would be a downpayment on the longer-range plans through 2027 and beyond to build out infrastructure and reallocate where US troops – particularly Marines – are stationed around the region. The goal is to disperse troops across multiple locations on multiple islands, providing the Chinese military with a range of hard to find targets, ensuring any one strike wouldn’t only impact a small part of the force.
“The U.S. and our allies must develop locations that provide expeditionary airfields for dispersal and ports for distributed fleet operations,” the report says. “Ground forces armed with long-range weapons in the First Island Chain allow USINDOPACOM to create temporary windows of localized air and maritime superiority, enabling maneuver. Additionally, amphibious forces create and exploit temporal and geographic uncertainty to impose costs and conduct forcible entry operations.”
These basing realignments and temporary facilities would run about $2bn in 2021, and $6.6bn between 2023 and 2027 according to the estimates.
During his speech on Monday, Davidson also stressed the need for the US to partner with allies in the Indo-Pacific region, and include them in efforts to push information and intelligence between armed forces.
“We are developing an integrated architecture to horizontally expand data sharing among like-minded nations through the use of information fusion centers in South Asia and South East Asia, as well as in Oceania,” he said. “These fusion centers will combine and analyze sensor data from aircraft ships and maritime picture between the US, our allies and our partners to improve our collective surveillance of potential illegal fishing trafficking activities and transnational threats.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
01 Mar 21. Defense Department Announces $125m for Ukraine. The Department of Defense announces a new $125m package for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that includes training, equipment, and advisory efforts to help Ukraine’s forces preserve the country’s territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO.
This action reaffirms the U.S. commitment to providing defensive lethal weapons to enable Ukraine to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression.
The USAI package includes two additional armed Mark IV patrol boats to enhance Ukraine’s capacity to patrol and defend its territorial waters. To date, the U.S. has committed a total of eight Mark IV patrol boats. The package also includes capabilities to enhance the lethality, command and control, and situational awareness of Ukraine’s forces through the provision of additional counter-artillery radars and tactical equipment; continued support for a satellite imagery and analysis capability; and equipment to support military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures.
The remaining $150m in fiscal year 2021 USAI funds appropriated by Congress will be provided when the Defense Department, in coordination with the Department of State, certifies that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on key defense reforms this year, as required by the National Defense Authorization Act.
The Department encourages Ukraine to continue to enact reforms that strengthen civilian control of the military, promote increased transparency and accountability in defense industry and procurement, and modernize its defense sector in other key areas in line with NATO principles and standards.
The United States has committed more than $2bn in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014 and remains committed to assisting Ukraine with the implementation of these reforms to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations in support of a secure, prosperous, democratic, and free Ukraine.
(Source: US DoD)
26 Feb 21. US destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducts routine Taiwan Strait transit. The US Indo-Pacific Command (US INDOPACOM) has announced the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur’s (DDG-54) transit through the Taiwan Strait. The US Indo-Pacific Command (US INDOPACOM) has announced the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur’s (DDG-54) transit through the Taiwan Strait.
The destroyer conducted the routine Taiwan Strait transit on 24 February in accordance with international law.
The transit demonstrates the commitment of the US military towards a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’.
According to INDOPACOM, the US military will continue ‘to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows’.
USS Curtis Wilbur is assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, which is the US Navy’s largest forward deployed DESRON and the US 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.
The passage follows a routine Taiwan Strait transit conducted by USS John S McCain (DDG 56) on 4 February. After the transit, the destroyer preformed a freedom of navigation operation in the Paracel Islands vicinity.
The US naval ships regularly conduct the Taiwan strait transit.
In December last year, the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) successfully conducted transit through the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile, the routine passage was strongly opposed by China.
In a statement, China’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command spokesman said the Chinese military deployed naval units and aircraft to track the vessel.
The spokesman said that the US warship sail ‘undermined regional peace and stability’. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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