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29 Apr 21. Bahrain quietly launches offset policy. Bahrain is the latest country in the Gulf region to launch a defence offset policy. Known as the BDF Economic Programme, the new policy aims to support economic development in the Kingdom via the procurements of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF). The new policy covers defence procurements valued at more than USD7m, with a requirement for 60% of the contract value to be discharged by the supplier. Companies that already have an existing offset agreement with the BDF will also be required to fulfil an offset agreement on any supply contracts valued at under USD7m. The broad aims of the BDF Economic Programme cover the “development of the Defense & Security industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain,” but will also enable projects in other sectors including: aerospace; communications and information communication technology (ICT); infrastructure; food and water security; and sustainability. Dual-use technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, and virtual and augmented reality will also be considered.
Credits for offset projects can be achieved through three methods: investment; contractual engagement; and capability development. Through the investment routes, supplier companies can invest in a Bahrain-located company, with at least one local partner, or create a partnership with a Bahraini firm. Activities can also include joint ventures, non-equity based co-production agreements, or technology co-development. Contractual engagement projects cover import substitution and facilitated export into the contracted company’s supply chain. Capability development projects will include technology transfers, or internships and job placements for Bahraini nationals. Investment and contractual engagement programmes are required to be completed within seven years of contract signature, while capability development programmes need to be completed in three years. (Source: Jane’s)
28 Apr 21. Saudi crown prince says he wants to mend differences with Iran. Mohammed bin Salman changes tone in wake of election of US President Joe Biden. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he wants to build a ‘good and positive relationship’ with Iran. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said Saudi Arabia wants to resolve its differences with rival Iran, a marked shift in tone in the wake of the election of US President Joe Biden. Prince Mohammed said in an interview on Saudi television that Riyadh did not want “the situation with Iran to be difficult” and wanted to build a “good and positive relationship” with the Islamic republic. “We are working now with our partners in the region and the world to find solutions for these problems,” he said. “At the end of the day, Iran is a neighbouring country. All what we ask for is to have a good and distinguished relationship with Iran.” His comments late on Tuesday, come days after the Financial Times revealed that top Saudi and Iranian intelligence officials held secret talks this month in Baghdad in an effort to repair relations between the regional powerhouses. The rivals severed diplomatic ties five years ago. Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s day-to-day leader, has regularly railed against Iran, accusing the republic of stoking conflict in the Middle East and seeking to destabilise Saudi Arabia. In 2018, he likened Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Adolf Hitler. At the time, he was a staunch backer of former president Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the US from the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers and impose crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic. As Riyadh backed Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, the former US president stood by Prince Mohammed after the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents triggered the kingdom’s biggest diplomatic crisis in decades. But Biden has promised to reassess relations with the kingdom and has been critical of human rights abuses in the kingdom, including Khashoggi’s brutal murder. He has also pledged to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and lift sanctions if Tehran falls back into full compliance with the accord. The Biden administration has also intensified diplomatic efforts to end the six-year war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is fighting Houthi rebels aligned to Iran. Prince Mohammed sought to play down any differences with Washington, saying the kingdom was “in agreement with the Biden administration on more than 90 per cent of Saudi-US interests”. “There is no such thing as a completely 100 per cent agreement between two countries, even with the Gulf countries, the closest ones,” he said. “There usually are some kind of differences, which is something you’d find in the same house, where brothers don’t agree 100 per cent on everything.” Since Biden’s election, Prince Mohammed has ended a three-year regional embargo on Qatar and Riyadh has released some activists. Analysts say the moves were at least partly motivated by a desire to improve the crown prince’s standing in Washington. Recommended The Big Read Saudi Arabia: $3.5bn fraud case set to define crown prince’s anti-graft campaign There has been speculation that Riyadh has been keen to reduce tension with Iran since a missile and drone attack in September 2019 temporarily knocked out half of the kingdom’s crude oil output. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, but US and Saudi officials blamed Iran. Riyadh opposes the nuclear deal with Iran, which it fears will embolden Tehran and provide it with funding to back its regional proxies. But Saudi officials have said Saudi Arabia will not seek to hinder the nuclear talks. Saudi Arabia, which considers itself the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, and Iran, the region’s top Shia power, severed diplomatic relations in early 2016. The kingdom’s embassy in Tehran was ransacked after Riyadh executed a senior Shia cleric. Diplomats say Saudi Arabia is also serious about its desire to exit the war in Yemen, where it backs the government that was ousted by the Houthis in 2015. The Houthis have stepped up their attacks on Saudi Arabia this year. Prince Mohammed repeated a Saudi offer of a ceasefire in Yemen as long as the Houthis agreed to a truce and to participate in negotiations. (Source: FT.com)
27 Apr 21. The Middle East’s next superpower. As political, geo-strategic, ethnic and religious conflicts worsen throughout the Middle East, can Turkey become the region’s next superpower?
Through a mix of geographic luck and memories of former grandeur, Turkey has positioned itself at the as a burgeoning middle power between the traditional east and the traditional west. Despite being a member of NATO, over the last year President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has happily cosied up to Russia and proceeded with normalising economic relations with Iran.
This isn’t without deep-seated irony though. Turkey has long backed Syrian rebels to topple Russia and Iranian-aligned President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and even shot down a Russian jet in 2015, worsening in relations between the two countries.
More recently, Turkey has been accused of supporting Azerbaijan against Russia’s ally Armenia, which allegedly wielded Israeli military drones, while the Times of London alleged that Hamas set up a cyber headquarters in Turkey to support terror leaders in the Gaza Strip.
Confused about just whose side Turkey is on? The rest of the world is just as confused.
Through geographic serendipity, Turkey has been able to position itself as a critical partner to both the East and the West, and intends to use that position for all of the benefits that it can reap.
William Gourlay, research associate at Deakin University’s Middle East Studies Forum, writing for ASPI’s The Strategist this week, suggested that the resumption of talks between the EU and Turkey give the world the opportunity to look past Turkey’s recent misgivings – including a litany of human rights abuses.
“US State Department report from 2020 outlines a litany of human rights transgressions and restrictions on political freedoms in Turkey. In deciding to visit Ankara, the EU turned a blind eye to democratic backsliding and human rights violations, effectively letting Erdoğan get away with it,” Gourlay argued.
“The timing of the EU visit was particularly questionable coming only two weeks after Erdoğan’s snap decision to withdraw from a Council of Europe accord that protects women’s rights.”
Though, Gourlay does illustrate that the European Union leaders have approached the situation with caution. However, not all European leaders have cared to revive Europe’s friendship with Turkey as evidenced by the French President Emmanuel Macron’s war of words with President Erdoğan.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Allison Meikem noted that Turkey’s expansionist foreign policy came to a head in 2020.
“Still, in 2020, Erdoğan took the wrecking ball he’d previously slammed into Turkey’s domestic politics and turned it on the region. This year, Turkey’s military was more active around the world than it has been in decades, or perhaps ever. From Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh, the Turkish leader has used armed force to advance Turkey’s objectives. He’s turned natural gas drilling in the Mediterranean into a contact sport,” Meikem argued.
“But Erdoğan’s real impact on geopolitics won’t roll in on a tank; it will come in the form of the 21st century pan-Islamism that he has finessed through soft power. The religious revivalism that is so controversial within Turkey has filled a void in the larger Muslim world — one on display in Erdoğan’s recent war of words with French President Emmanuel Macron.”
Simply, it is clear that Turkey has realised that the flexibility of stepping out from the traditional East and West dichotomy will afford them the flexibility to reassert their neo-Ottoman ambitions. Whether it is the ongoing growth of Turkey-Pakistani relations, to Turkey’s expansion throughout the Caucuses and involvement in civil wars throughout the region – Turkey’s soft power is growing.
Turkey’s ongoing independence provides it with the ideological, religious and geopolitical ability to re-establish their regional control. Will they become the next regional superpower? (Source: Defence Connect)
27 Apr 21. British troops in Mali asked by locals ‘to stay forever’ peacekeeping commander says. British troops are four months into a three-year deployment in the west African country. Soldiers deployed on the UN peacekeeping mission to the west African country say they have, so far, been received well by local people.
Major Jamie Powell, Officer Commanding B Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, was speaking after a 24-day patrol as the British Long Range Reconnaissance Group deployed in Mali on Operation MINUSMA.
“The purpose of the patrol is to understand what is going on in local towns and villages and to understand what problems those villages have, mainly focussed on the security concerns,” he said.
“The most tangible thing for us is when we patrol into a village and the locals are very happy to see us. A lot of people ask us if we can stay in the area forever to continue to provide security.”
“Obviously we don’t want to put anyone’s life at risk and put anyone in danger, but we need to get the information so that we can help provide security in an area.
“MINUSMA is here providing security in support of the Malian defence and security forces [and] deterring terrorist activity.
“One of the greatest strengths of our Task Group is our ability to endure in an area for a period of time, which is what most people want – to see that MINUSMA presence, or FAMa [Malian army] presence for a longer period of time.”
The troops were speaking after Britain’s first six-month deployment of a three-year commitment arrived in the country in December last year.
The UN Mission in Mali is made up of over 14,000 peacekeepers from 56 different countries and works to support peace efforts, protect civilians and promote human rights.
Lieutenant Lassine Camara, head of the FAMa detachment in Ansongo, said: “The collaboration between MINUSMA and FAMa in this sector is at the top, especially in terms of information between us.
“It’s a wonderful collaboration in this sector and we hope that this will continue.”
The UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali is said to be the new frontline in the war against jihadist extremism.
Operation MINUSMA is currently the highest casualty UN peacekeeping operation in the world, with over 200 peacekeepers killed since the mission began in 2013.
As well as the Long Range Reconnaissance Group there are a further 105 British military personnel in Mali.
The majority of these support the French offensive mission called Operation Barkhane, fighting jihadist extremists in the east of the country. This number includes an RAF detachment of two Chinook heavy lift helicopters and 90 personnel.
A further five serve in the MINUSMA headquarters in Bamako, the Malian capital.
Private Poppy Rogers, a Company medic with 2 Royal Anglian, said it had been “a really good experience visiting a number of different villages and meeting loads of the locals.
“Hopefully we’ve had a good impact on them. Hopefully we’ve reassured them and deterred terrorist activity.”
Lieutenant Joshua Kelly, Officer Commanding 6 Platoon, B Company, The Royal Anglian Regiment, said: “ It’s fantastic role that we’ve been fulfilling in Mali. I’d encourage anyone to be a peacekeeper.
“The work we’re doing here and the experiences we’re gaining and the capabilities that we are giving back is definitely a fantastic opportunity for all nations to become part of the UN.”
The Sahel region of north Africa controls access for migrant flows and people traffickers to Europe’s southern flank.
Increasing al Qaeda and Islamic State influence has seen the UN mission grow in importance for European nations.
The Long Range Reconnaissance Group consists of one squadron from the Light Dragoons regiment – about 70 soldiers – operating the Jackal patrol vehicle.
2nd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Poachers, number around 100 infanteers. They are using the Foxhound vehicle which was specially designed for service in Afghanistan where there was a high threat from roadside bombs. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
28 Apr 21. Beware Beijing’s ‘magic weapons.’ Australia and its allies must not be charmed by the CCP’s “magic narrative”, which threatens to condition nations into accepting Chinese propaganda at the expense of their own national interests, one analyst warns.
In a new analysis, Dr John Lee, a non-resident senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre, shines a light on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s subtle attempts to advance CCP interests by shaping “grand narratives” about the communist republic.
“The genius is that these narratives condition us to accept Chinese policies meekly even if they are against our national interests,” he writes.
According to Dr Lee, this “magic weapon” is underpinned by five basic messages:
- Chinese dominance is the historical norm and is inevitable;
- The objectives of the CCP are permanent and unchanging;
- A CCP-led China is fundamentally undeterrable;
- The party is prepared to pay any price to achieve its core objectives; and
- The US is an increasingly weak and unreliable ally.
Dr Lee warns that by embracing these narratives, Australia and other states risk dulling opposition to CCP policies that undermine their own national interests.
“Striking an uneven bargain becomes seemingly preferable to foolishly balancing against the future inevitable dominant power,” he writes.
The analyst references Beijing’s response to the recent escalation in tensions with Australia.
“The message from Beijing underlying the cascading threats against Australia is that we would do better to make the best of this imminent Sino-centric future — as New Zealand apparently is doing — than fight against it,” he writes.
“To the extent that any cold hand of friendship is offered, Australia and others ought to pocket the guaranteed largesse that comes from submissively accepting Beijing’s conditions or risk ending up with nothing.”
Dr Lee warns that accepting Beijing’s premises places the onus on Australia and its allies to “soften their policies” or “accept blame”.
“These narratives have played out beautifully for Beijing in the South China Sea, where the US is often cast as the provocateur when it is conducting freedom of navigation operations, even those that serve to reaffirm the principles and rights of international law and challenge Beijing’s militarisation of illegal land features,” he continues.
Dr Lee also points to criticisms of the Morrison government’s decision to call for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic or its decision to scrap Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“Calling for an independent investigation into the deadliest and costliest non-kinetic disaster in 100 years to ensure it does not happen again is hardly overreach,” he observes.
“Neither is cancelling an agreement with Victoria that deliberately was used by the CCP to undermine the federal government’s legitimate authority over our external policy and that was used by Beijing to promote the BRI to other countries and provincial governments.
“As far as Beijing is concerned, silence equals acquiescence. But many, having fallen for the magical power of Beijing’s narrative, have normalised and internalised the CCP’s ill intent and compulsion.”
Dr Lee goes on to criticise recent rhetoric around a potential conflict between China and Taiwan, claiming that it is “incorrect and self-defeating” to assume the confrontation is inevitable.
“True, seizing Taiwan is a genuine core objective for the CCP. It would be prepared to pay a heavy price for meeting that objective,” he writes.
“But that is far removed from Xi or the regime being prepared to pay any price. Just as the CCP has based its strategy on identifying and acquiring the means to inflict prohibitive military, economic and political costs on the US and its allies, the latter countries are at the early stages of what it means to do the same to Beijing.”
“Our collective failure to think about and achieve that will loosen restraints on Beijing and increase the incentive for Beijing to use force.”
As such, the analyst called on Australia and its allies to pursue strategies aimed at persuading Beijing to “recalculate and alter its current trajectory”.
Dr Lee concludes, “China and the CCP have weaknesses, vulnerabilities and dependencies that have been carefully and cleverly concealed to perpetuate the preferred narrative.
“We and others are engaged in a tense and fraught period of renegotiating the terms of our relationship with China.
“Getting it right means dealing sensibly with reality as it is, not as the CCP would have the rest of the world believe.” (Source: Defence Connect)
27 Apr 21. France seeks foothold in northeast Syria. France has extended an invitation to the various components of northeast Syria, namely the Kurds, to visit Paris as the latter seeks more influence in the area. The eastern Euphrates area in Syria topped the news headlines at the end of 2020, as Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring against the Kurds shuffled the cards and opened the way to a multilateral rivalry seeking to control the most important area in Syria. The Russians, Turks and Americans have been actively striving to reinforce their military presence in the area, which is around one-third of the Syrian surface area. Most of it is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led international coalition, which are working to cement an understanding with the Russians to prevent new Turkish intervention in the area.
A French envoy visited in early April the northeast of Syria and met with several Kurdish, Arab and Syriac figures, and extended an invitation to the representatives of these components in the SDF-controlled area to visit the Elysee Palace in Paris to discuss the Syrian situation. The visit was followed in mid-April by a similar visit to Qamishli by a French Foreign Ministry delegation. French President Emmanuel Macron had welcomed in April 2019 an SDF delegation and declared offering financial support to cover the humanitarian needs and ensure the stability of the social and economic situation in Syria.
In this context, a member of the Kurdish National Council told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The parties that received the French invitation during the French envoy’s visit to eastern Syria included the Democratic Union Party [PYD] and the Kurdish National Council. This triggered a political brawl between the two biggest Kurdish political groups regarding the members of the delegation that would meet with Macron.”
The source noted, “The PYD is trying to control the delegation, while we are requesting equal representation between both parties. Although the idea of the visit is still under discussion, it has not been approved yet. We are working on developing ties with France through mutual dialogue about different issues of the Syrian situation. We consider France as a friend of the Syrian people with all its components, and it was behind the initiative to resolve the inter-Kurdish disputes two years ago.”
Hasan al-Nifi, an independent political analyst who writes for several local newspapers and lives in Turkey, told Al-Monitor, “The French interest in the northeast of Syria did not appear overnight, but it actually dates back to 2015, since the formation of the SDF, when France was the main supporter of that project. But the Americans at the time managed to keep France out of the equation through their military coordination with the SDF. This coordination culminated in an alliance, when Washington decided that the SDF would be its executive arm in the fight against the Islamic State.”
He said, “Yet France did not steer clear of the SDF but sent 200 soldiers to the Tishreen Dam base south of Manbij, which is controlled by the United States. France tried to justify the presence of its soldiers there and claimed they have scientific and training missions rather than direct combat purposes. France also believed that its presence in that area must be based on solid steps that begin with consolidating the relationship with the popular bases there, which is exactly what France wants through its recent invitation to all components to the Elysee.”
Macron’s invitation to the Kurds to visit Paris reveals France’s intention to compete for presence in the Middle East, after the United States took a step back in some matters. The French moves in northeastern Syria also indicate that Paris is seeking a foothold in the most important area in the country, amid the regional and international rivalry over influence in Syria.
Mostafa Mostafa, a researcher at the NMA Center for Contemporary Research who lives in Azaz in the northwest of Syria, told Al-Monitor, “France was supporting [the option of] toppling the Syrian regime, which it considered an enemy deserving punishment ever since the assassination of late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. But France could not wage single-handedly a military attack to topple the regime. The American stance on it under Barack Obama was disappointing. What’s more, France was not influential in the Syrian conflict because it did not have tools and power among the strong parties operating on the ground — be they armed groups or political or social forces.”
He added, “The recent French step aims at reviving its absent role in a country that is historically known to be one of the French influence areas. Perhaps another reason falls under the Western efforts to pressure Russia, as France is among the countries that are most concerned about Russia’s attempts to reclaim its international status. The return of the Cold War setting and the troubled waters in Europe as a whole will highlight Europeans’ pressing need for American protection.”
Firas Alawi, a France-based Syrian journalist and editor-in-chief of Al-Sharq news, told Al-Monitor, “France wants to bolster its influence in Syria and the only area fit for that geographically and geopolitically is the northeast, because it is on the US’ side in the coalition and the de facto authorities [SDF] there are close to France. Besides the eastern Euphrates area is rich in wealths, and it is promising in the reconstruction phase. France had commercial businesses in the oil-rich areas before the revolution. Since it is against the Syrian regime and Russia, it has no place in Damascus or other regime-controlled areas. And due to its tensions with Turkey, it cannot set foot in northwest Syria.”
He said, “France is trying to capitalize on the return of the US role or the military repositioning of US forces in the Middle East — namely in Iraq and Syria — to replace it. France wants to be a key player in Syria, just like Russia, Iran and Turkey. It does not want to remain on the back burner in Syria. France wants to ensure permanent presence in the region and make up for its dwindling role in Lebanon due to the Iranian influence there. For that reason, it is drawing closer to [Prime Minister Mustafa al-] Kadhimi’s government in Iraq, and it has invited the components of eastern Syria to Paris.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/
26 Apr 21. China ups defence spending in 2020 but ‘economic growth cushions increase.’
- Border tensions, maritime activities and coronavirus controls all put extra strain on PLA purse, sources say
- Pressure from the United States also contributed to greater outlays, observer says.
China again increased spending on its military last year, reflecting a global increase in defence expenditures in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Sweden-based research group.
In a report released on Monday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said China spent an estimated US$252bn on its armed forces in 2020, 1.9 per cent more than it laid out the previous year.
The increase was lower than the 2.6 per cent increase globally but the total was 41 per cent higher than the budget announced by Chinese Ministry of Finance last year.
Defence spending around the world rose to US$1.981trn, with the five biggest spenders – the United States, China, India, Russia and Britain – together accounting for 62 per cent of the global total, the group said.
China tests Taiwan’s radar system with incursion into air defence zone
Military spending by the US grew by 4.4 per cent to a total of US$778bn in 2020, or about 39 per cent of the global total.
However, SIPRI senior researcher Nan Tian said economic growth buffered the increase in China.
“China stands out as the only major spender in the world not to increase its military burden in 2020 despite increasing its military expenditure,” he said.
China’s economy grew by 2.3 per cent in 2020
, the only major economy to have expanded last year. According to SIPRI, 2020 was the 26th year in a row that China had raised its expenditure on its armed forces.
“The ongoing growth in Chinese spending is due in part to the country’s long-term military modernisation and expansion plans, in line with a stated desire to catch up with other leading military powers,” he said.
A Chinese military source said that part of the 2020 spending was for pandemic control, especially in the central city of Wuhan , where the coronavirus was first reported.
“People’s Liberation Army medical specialists and logistic departments across the country were ordered to provide assistance to Wuhan and other areas in Hubei province, meaning military resources were shifted to ad hoc non-traditional military operations,” the source said, adding that some scheduled military training was postponed or cancelled as a result.
The PLA also spent more on China’s border with India, and the East and South China seas, according to Zhou Chenming, a researcher with the Beijing-based Yuan Wang military think tank.
“China needed to increase both weapons and troop deployments to the border with India in the Himalayas, which required extra spending to build roads and new barracks,” Zhou said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet and the pandemic prevention and control equipment and measures all require money, as do the increased naval patrols in the East and South China seas.”
Macau-based Antony Wong Tong agreed but said the PLA had also upped its spending on research of anti-biological weapons and logistical support for military operations.
“The PLA Air Force deployed unprecedented sorties of helicopters and cargo planes for the anti-pandemic campaign last year, while the military’s modernisation also needs more funds,” Wong said.
Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said external factors such as pressure from the US were the main reasons behind Beijing’s continued growth in military spending.
“The US’ interference on Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues, as well as territorial disputes over Diaoyu Islands [known as Senkakus in Japan] between China and Japan, as well as the US Navy’s so-called freedom of navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea have all made China feel insecure,” Song said.
China’s most advanced amphibious assault ship likely to be deployed in disputed South China Sea
China’s most advanced amphibious assault ship likely to be deployed in disputed South China Sea
Alexandra Marksteiner, SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme researcher, said the increases in US spending could be mainly “attributed to heavy investment in research and development, and several long-term projects such as modernising the US nuclear arsenal and large-scale arms procurement”.
“This reflects growing concerns over perceived threats from strategic competitors such as China and Russia, as well as the Trump administration’s drive to bolster what it saw as a depleted US military,” Marksteiner said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.scmp.com/news/china/)
27 Apr 21. Iranian Army Unveils Turbojet Engine, New Radar. The Iranian Army Ground Force has unveiled seven domestically-developed high-tech military achievements, including air defense systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and electronic warfare devices.
The achievements developed by Iranian experts at the Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization of the Army Ground Force were put on display on Sunday during a ceremony in the presence of Deputy Chief of Army for Coordination Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari and Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Force Brigadier General Kioumars Heydari.
The ceremony rolled out a radar warning system capable of detecting and jamming airborne interception radars used in drones, helicopters and fighter jets, in addition to an alarm system for detection of laser-guided weaponry and airborne threats, which can be employed against the enemy’s short-range air defense systems and has the ability to send alerts to UAV ground control stations.
The Ground Force also showcased Ranesh-1 (Propulsion-1) micro turbojet engine, which can be used in various drones, single-seat light aircraft, a wide array of missile systems, and unmanned boats.
The turbojet engine is light enough to generate high speed thrust, runs on different types of fuel, has a high service ceiling compared to piston engines, can carry payloads, and can considerably boost the flight endurance record in a variety of drones.
The other home-grown products included self-protection and drone-mounted TIAM 1400 system for detection of the enemy’s radars and air surveillance.
The system uses different frequency bands to decipher various types of air surveillance radar signals, and intelligently transmits the received signal to the jammer in order to disrupt it.
The ceremony also featured a flight system that is based on artificial intelligence and incorporates drones and a land-based Taha 1400 radar jamming system that can be carried by drones.
Taha 1400 system uses directional antennas to intelligently cover a wide area of operation, and maintains the flight safety of various drones in the enemy’s locale.
The system is smart and light, a low-voltage consumer and can be installed quickly and easily.
Finally, a land-based jamming system used for countering hostile drones and remote-controlled systems was among the new military achievements unveiled on Sunday.
Iranian military experts and technicians have in recent years made great progress in indigenously developing and manufacturing a broad range of equipment, making the armed forces self-sufficient in this regard.
Iranian officials have repeatedly underscored that the Islamic Republic will not hesitate to build up its defense capabilities, emphasizing such abilities are entirely meant for the purpose of defense and will be never subject to negotiations. (Source: UAS VISION/Press TV)
27 Apr 21. Indian Navy to get aircraft carrier Vikrant, missile destroyer Visakhapatnam in 2021. While the Chinese Navy has commissioned three main battleships last Saturday at Sanya in Hainan naval facility in disputed South China Sea, the Cochin shipyard will start final trials of INS Vikrant as precursor of handing over the carrier to the Indian Navy.
Indian Navy is expected to get delivery of 45,000-tonne indigenous INS Vikrant aircraft carrier and 7,500-tonne Visakhapatnam class stealth guided missile destroyer by end-2021 to add to its capability to defend and dominate the Indo-Pacific region.
The indigenous aircraft carrier and INS Visakhapatnam will be formally commissioned into the Navy next year. “Contractual clauses come alive once the warship is handed over to Indian Navy but commissioning takes times as the vessel is to be tested by the Naval personnel for its capability,” said a former Western Navy commander.
While the Chinese Navy has commissioned three main battleships last Saturday at Sanya in Hainan naval facility in disputed South China Sea, the Cochin shipyard will start final trials of INS Vikrant as precursor of handing over the carrier to the Indian Navy. The Mazagon Dockyards will complete trials of INS Visakhapatnam and deliver the stealth destroyer close to the Indian Navy Day.
Powered by General Electric turbines, INS Vikrant will carry two squadrons of MiG-29K fighters and 10 Kamov Ka -31 helicopters. The aircraft carrier strike force will have a range of over 15000 kilometre with Barak surface to air missile to give aerial protection to the vessel. INS Visakhapatnam’s main attack weapon is anti-ship and land attack BrahMos cruise missiles apart from torpedos for anti-submarine warfare.
With the Indian Navy deciding to give preference to nuclear powered conventional submarines in future sea-warfare, the third aircraft carrier also called INS Vishal will now be seen as a replacement for the presently serving INS Vikramaditya.
India’s sole aircraft carrier is currently under maintenance and will be available for operations in the coming months. The decision to project INS Vishal as a replacement for INS Vikramaditya means that the third aircraft carrier plan has not been shelved. Instead, it will go on concurrently so that there is no gap when INS Vikramaditya is decommissioned and mothballed.
In fact, Indian Navy will add more teeth to its capability next year when INS Arighat, India’s second ballistic missile nuclear submarine, will be delivered to the Strategic Forces Command. The vessel is under trials and will be equipped with 3500 km K-4 intermediate range ballistic missiles.
(Source: News Now/https://www.hindustantimes.com/)
26 Apr 21. World military spending rises to almost $2trn in 2020. Total global military expenditure rose to $1981 bn last year, an increase of 2.6 per cent in real terms from 2019, according to new data published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 per cent of global military expenditure, were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom. Military spending by China grew for the 26th consecutive year.
Military expenditure increases in the first year of the pandemic
The 2.6 per cent increase in world military spending came in a year when global gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 4.4 per cent (October 2020 projection by the International Monetary Fund), largely due to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, military spending as a share of GDP—the military burden—reached a global average of 2.4 per cent in 2020, up from 2.2 per cent in 2019. This was the biggest year-on-year rise in the military burden since the global financial and economic crisis in 2009.
Even though military spending rose globally, some countries explicitly reallocated part of their planned military spending to pandemic response, such as Chile and South Korea. Several others, including Brazil and Russia, spent considerably less than their initial military budgets for 2020.
‘We can say with some certainty that the pandemic did not have a significant impact on global military spending in 2020,’ said Dr Diego Lopes da Silva, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘It remains to be seen whether countries will maintain this level of military spending through a second year of the pandemic.’
Strong increase in US military spending continues in 2020
In 2020 US military expenditure reached an estimated $778bn, representing an increase of 4.4 per cent over 2019. As the world’s largest military spender, the USA accounted for 39 per cent of total military expenditure in 2020. This was the third consecutive year of growth in US military spending, following seven years of continuous reductions.
‘The recent increases in US military spending can be primarily attributed to heavy investment in research and development, and several long-term projects such as modernizing the US nuclear arsenal and large-scale arms procurement,’ said Alexandra Marksteiner, a researcher with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘This reflects growing concerns over perceived threats from strategic competitors such as China and Russia, as well as the Trump administration’s drive to bolster what it saw as a depleted US military.’
China’s military expenditure rises for 26th consecutive year
China’s military expenditure, the second highest in the world, is estimated to have totalled $252bn in 2020. This represents an increase of 1.9 per cent over 2019 and 76 per cent over the decade 2011–20. China’s spending has risen for 26 consecutive years, the longest series of uninterrupted increases by any country in the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.
‘China stands out as the only major spender in the world not to increase its military burden in 2020 despite increasing its military expenditure, because of its positive GDP growth last year,’ said Dr Nan Tian, SIPRI Senior Researcher. ‘The ongoing growth in Chinese spending is due in part to the country’s long-term military modernization and expansion plans, in line with a stated desire to catch up with other leading military powers.’
Economic downturn leads to more NATO members passing the spending target
Nearly all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) saw their military burden rise in 2020. As a result, 12 NATO members spent 2 per cent or more of their GDP on their militaries, the Alliance’s guideline spending target, compared with 9 members in 2019. France, for example, the 8th biggest spender globally, passed the 2 per cent threshold for the first time since 2009.
‘Although more NATO members spent more than 2 per cent of GDP on their militaries in 2020, in some cases this probably had more to do with the economic fallout of the pandemic than a deliberate decision to reach the Alliance’s spending target,’ said Lopes da Silva, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
Other notable developments
- Russia’s military expenditure increased by 2.5 per cent in 2020 to reach $61.7bn. This was the second consecutive year of growth. Nevertheless, Russia’s actual military spending in 2020 was 6.6 per cent lower than its initial military budget, a larger shortfall than in previous years.
- With a total of $59.2bn, the UK became the fifth largest spender in 2020. The UK’s military spending was 2.9 per cent higher than in 2019, but 4.2 per cent lower than in 2011. Germany increased its spending by 5.2 per cent to $52.8bn, making it the seventh largest spender in 2020. Germany’s military expenditure was 28 per cent higher than in 2011. Military spending across Europe rose by 4.0 per cent in 2020.
- In addition to China, India ($72.9bn), Japan ($49.1bn), South Korea ($45.7bn) and Australia ($27.5bn) were the largest military spenders in the Asia and Oceania region. All four countries increased their military spending between 2019 and 2020 and over the decade 2011–20.
- Military expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 3.4 per cent in 2020 to reach $18.5bn. The biggest increases in spending were made by Chad (+31 per cent), Mali (+22 per cent), Mauritania (+23 per cent) and Nigeria (+29 per cent), all in the Sahel region, as well as Uganda (+46 per cent).
- Military expenditure in South America fell by 2.1 per cent to $43.5bn in 2020. The decrease was largely due to a 3.1 per cent drop in spending by Brazil, the subregion’s largest military spender.
- The combined military spending of the 11 Middle Eastern countries for which SIPRI has spending figures decreased by 6.5 per cent in 2020, to $143 bn.
- Eight of the nine members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for which SIPRI has figures cut their military spending in 2020. Angola’s spending fell by 12 per cent, Saudi Arabia’s by 10 per cent, and Kuwait’s by 5.9 per cent. Non-OPEC oil exporter Bahrain also cut its spending by 9.8 per cent.
- The countries with the biggest increases in military burden among the top 15 spenders in 2020 were Saudi Arabia (+0.6 percentage points), Russia (+0.5 percentage points), Israel (+0.4 percentage points) and the USA (+0.3 percentage points). (Source: glstrade.com/Sipri)
26 Apr 21. Xi unveils three new warships in warning to Taiwan.
President Xi has presided over a rare public display of China’s growing naval strength by unveiling three new warships — one an amphibious helicopter carrier, hailed as the most advanced vessel in the nation’s fleet — amid growing concern that he is building a force capable of retaking Taiwan.
The carrier, named Hainan, is designed as an offensive platform from which to launch an amphibious or airborne assault and can transport up to 1,200 troops as well as dozens of helicopters and jump jets. The second vessel, the Dalian, is a guided-missile cruiser with stealth technology; the third is an upgraded Type 094A nuclear-powered submarine, the Changzheng-18, believed to be capable of carrying 12 JL-2 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The ceremony, in a military port in the southern city of Sanya, coincided with a warning from Wang Yi, the foreign minister, that the US would have to accept China’s rise if it wanted to co-exist peacefully. “Democracy is not Coca-Cola, with the US producing the syrup and the whole world has one single taste,” he said.
Xi’s presence at the commissioning ceremony on Friday follows months of growing tensions in the disputed South China Sea and around the self-governing island of Taiwan, which Beijing is vowing to take back by force if necessary. This is the first time that China has openly commissioned a nuclear-powered submarine.
“This shows a fundamental change in our defence technology,” the party-run newspaper Global Times said. It pointed out that no other country had commissioned three types of warships simultaneously. “But it happened in China,” it added. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military commentator, told the newspaper that the vessels would play “important roles in solving questions in places like the island of Taiwan and the South China Sea”.
Beijing has solidified its territorial claims in the South China Sea by building a chain of fortified islands and has breached Taiwanese air space with increasing regularity as a reminder of its intentions. It considers both issues as vital to the national interest.
The triple commissioning ceremony is evidence of Xi’s determination to develop a world-class navy. The Dalian, a Type 055 destroyer, is armed with anti-ship missiles, mid-range anti-air missiles and possibly also China’s new anti-submarine missiles. The US says the vessel is large enough to be designated as a cruiser.
The Chinese navy has 79 submarines, more than any other country, although it has fewer nuclear-powered submarines than the US. In an unusual display on Friday, state television showed at least three Type 094 submarines in the water.
Peter Dutton, Australia’s defence minister, said yesterday that conflicts with China over Taiwan “should not be discounted”. He added: “People need to be realistic about the activity. There is militarisation of bases across the region. Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity and there is an animosity between Taiwan and China.
“We want to make sure we continue to be a good neighbour in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies and nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else.”
Relations with Beijing have soured in recent months, leading to a trade war that escalated yesterday with news of a ban on importing Australian grapes. Most are grown in the state of Victoria, where a deal for Chinese investment to fund infrastructure projects as part of Xi’s “belt and road” financing programme was scrapped by the Australian government last week.
In Japan the military is weighing up its possible response in the event of a military conflict between the US and China over Taiwan, according to the Kyodo News agency. The US has a military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa that would play a significant role in any American defence of the island nation, whose armed forces are easily outmatched by those on the mainland.
China has insisted that its rise is peaceful, but it makes no secret of its ambitions to compete with the US militarily. It accuses Washington of causing regional instability by sending warships to the South China Sea and by conducting frequent reconnaissance missions near the Chinese coastline. It has said often that it is willing to use force to seize Taiwan to reunite it with the mainland. To do that, however, it knows that it must be prepared to fend off possible military intervention by the US, which is working with its allies in the region to protect Taiwan.
Wang Yi told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank via video that Washington held the key to harmonious relations. He said that the US needed to accept the peaceful rise of China and the differences between the countries’ social systems, history, culture and development, and to acknowledge the right of Chinese people to have a better life.
“China has no intent to compete with the US,” Wang said. “What China focuses on is overtaking itself and improving itself. If there is only one model, one civilisation on the Earth, the world will lose its vitality.”
Separately, the China National Space Administration and Roscosmos, its Russian counterpart, have confirmed plans to co-operate on developing a moon base known as the International Lunar Research Station. Mou Yu, one of China’s leading space scientists, said they were developing a new heavy-lift rocket. According to Global Times, it will be capable of carrying a 100-tonne payload to the moon. Source: The Times)
24 Apr 21. China’s most advanced amphibious assault ship expected to be deployed in disputed South China Sea.
- The newly commissioned Type 075 vessel, named the Hainan, can carry dozens of helicopters and hundreds of troops
- Its offensive capabilities are likely to cause concern among neighbouring countries which have conflicting claims in the region
China has commissioned its first type 075 amphibious assault ship, which is expected to be deployed in the disputed South China Sea.
Military observers said the ship, named the Hainan, may also be deployed in missions around Taiwan but was likely to cause particular concern among countries that have ongoing maritime disputes with China due to its offensive capabilities.
State media reported that the vessel was commissioned on Friday at a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping at a naval base in Sanya in Hainan province, along with the Dalian Type 055 destroyer and the Long March-18, a nuclear submarine that could launch the JL-1 and JL-2 gig wave ballistic missiles.
The Type 075 is able to carry an estimated 30 helicopters and hundreds of troops. It is China’s largest amphibious assault ship with an estimated displacement of about 40,000 tonnes.
Although the Z-8J and Z-20J armoured helicopters that it will carry are not yet ready for use, Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs commentator and former PLA instructor, said the ship can carry various types of helicopters, including airborne early warning helicopters.
Size of China’s navy may be closing gap on US fleet but what can the PLA do with just one overseas naval base?
“The ship is deployed to the South Sea Fleet under the Southern Theatre Command. It does not mean it will only be responsible for the South China Sea. It will also be used for missions around Taiwan and other cross-theatre command tasks,” he said. “But presumably it will mainly be for the South China Sea”.
Observers said the type 075 could play a more important strategic role in the South China Sea, where China has a number of competing territorial claims with Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The United States has accused China of militarising the disputed waters, and has responded by sending warships and planes to the region to conduct what it describes as freedom of navigation operations.
Beijing has said these operations have violated its territorial sovereignty and increased the risk of conflict.
The other claimants have also criticised Beijing’s activities, and have also complained about coastguard vessels and fishing boats entering the disputed waters.
Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said the deployment of the PLA’s most advanced amphibious assault ship to the Southern Theatre Command was designed to send a message to China’s neighbours.
“The ship can perform offensive functions – such as capture of terrestrial features in the disputed Spratlys, and in a Taiwan invasion scenario; or it can also be used for providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in times of peace,” he said.
Koh said China’s neighbours may feel the need to respond to the “widening asymmetry” in the military balance of power by upgrading their own armed forces and seeking support from external powers.
“As far as the region is concerned, given uncertainty over China’s strategic intentions and its proclivity to use military coercion, this vessel will more generally be seen with wariness by regional countries especially those which have territorial and sovereignty disputes with China”. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.scmp.com/news/china)
26 Apr 21. Angolan defense budget increase set to benefit Russian and Chinese firms, says GlobalData.
- Angola’s defense and security expenditure is expected to be valued at $8.5bn cumulatively over the 2022 to 2026 period
- Between 2022 and 2026, GlobalData projects Angola’s defense and security expenditure will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2% from $0.9bn in 2021 to $1.9bn by 2026
- Between 2015 and 2019, Russia was Angola’s primary arms partner, representing 68.3% of imports – according to GlobalData’s “Angola Defense Market – Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2026” report. Yet, China is making inroads
Following years of decline driven by economic recession, the Angolan defense budget is now set to increase in the coming half-decade from $0.9bn in 2021 to $1.9bn in 2026, registering a healthy CAGR of 3.2% and keeping Angola as one of the largest defense spenders in Africa. This will amount to a cumulative defense and security expenditure across the next five years of $8.5bn primarily fuelled by the country’s modernization of its outdated defense systems and the financing of military hardware procurement programs, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Harry Boneham, Associate Aerospace, Defense and Security Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Increases in border security, the vulnerability of essential infrastructures, and regional geopolitics are acting as catalysts to the growth of security expenditure in Angola. Additionally, the country’s 1,600km coastline remains susceptible to attacks from pirates. Modernization of the Angolan Armed Forces is needed urgently, alongside the procurement of foreign military equipment.
“Given the nascent state of the domestic Angolan defense industry, it is likely that the reliance of foreign weapons – which has persisted since independence in 1975 and through the decades-long civil war – will continue into the near future.”
Historically, Angola procured the majority of its defense equipment from the Soviet Union, which included aircraft, armored vehicles and light artillery. In the period between 2015 and 2019, 68.3% of Angolan arms imports were of Russian origin, and Angola has relied on Russia to supply major platforms such as the Su-30MKI multi-role fighter aircraft. This relationship is built upon the legacy of the USSR’s support for the ultimately victorious MPLA in the Angolan Civil War. However, the growing influence on China in Africa is challenging this dynamic.
Boneham continues: “The People’s Republic of China has steadily been expanding its arms relationship presence in Africa in recent years, and Angola is no exception having recently supplied the country 12 K-8 trainer jets. While the Chinese defense industry continues to grapple with the challenges of indigenously developing top-level capabilities, it is more than capable of producing affordable platforms that satisfy the demands of African customers while not exceeding budgetary restrictions.”
26 Apr 21. UK carrier strike group will sail to India on its maiden deployment. The UK’s Carrier Strike Group 2021, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, will sail to India in the autumn on its maiden operational deployment. As a representation of the ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’ in the UK’s foreign policy, the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier – the largest ship ever built by the Royal Navy – will sail to India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the wider region. The Carrier will visit West Coast Ports where it will engage in a series of events to maximise bilateral relations benefitting both countries’ trade and political alliances. The ship will conduct a series of joint exercises with Indian Military Forces in the Indian Ocean, expanding our interoperability and enhancing our capabilities to defend against shared threats and protect our democratic values.
Throughout the deployment, the UK will support freedom of passage through vital global trading routes and demonstrate commitment to a recognised international system of norms and behaviours that benefit all countries. It will also help to establish a maritime partnership with India to support our mutual security objectives in the Indian Ocean.
The UK Government’s landmark review of foreign, defence, development and security policy, published last month, committed the UK to becoming the European country with the broadest, most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific in support of trade, shared security and values.
UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace MP, said, “The UK and India are natural defence partners, particularly in world class research, development and training. The Carrier Strike Group’s collaboration with India will build the foundations for this relationship to flourish even further. The deployment is a symbol of Global Britain in action, and powerfully demonstrates our commitment to India, the Indo-Pacific region, and confronting threats to international order.”
Last December, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab travelled to meet Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar in New Delhi to make progress towards agreeing a landmark UK-India roadmap for greater joint cooperation, including on defence and security, trade, health and climate change.
Later this year, the UK has invited Prime Minister Modi to attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall, UK, in recognition of India’s role as the world’s largest democracy and as a vital partner to the UK in tackling global challenges like climate change and coronavirus.
The Carrier Strike Group will travel over 26,000 nautical miles from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea, and from the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea.
The Strike Group will also comprise Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, and tanker and storage ships Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.
On the flight deck there will be eight F-35B Lightning II fast jets, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine and airborne early warning helicopters, and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters.
The UK and India have a bi-annual exercise programme across all the services where Indian and British forces undertake joint exercises: Exercise Ajeya Warrior for the Army, Exercise Konkan for the Navy, and Exercise Indra Dhanush for the Air Force.
The UK has the world’s fifth largest defence budget – highest in Europe and second highest in NATO. It is also the second largest defence exporter in the world. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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