Sponsored by Exensor
28 May 21. What Do We Know About Hamas’ Drones? Engine components for a Hamas weaponized drone. While Israel has previously dealt with Iranian drones, it seems that Hamas has acquired a similar technology that enables the organization to use explosive-laden drones.
Israel intercepted six weaponized drones through various means. A number of them were intercepted by IAF fighter jets, while one was intercepted by the Iron Dome system in flight. These suicide drones were reportedly carrying around five kilograms (11 pounds) of explosive payload and were intended to avoid the Iron Dome defense system, unlike the regularly intercepted rockets.
These drones resemble the Iranian Ababil military drone but have been claimed as being developed and built locally by Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, and are named “Shehab.” The Iranian HESA Ababil is notoriously affordable, designed mainly as a targeting drone with rudimentary surveillance capabilities and the capability to be used as a loitering munition (“suicide” or “kamikaze” drones).
Some observers have noted that while the engine of the Shehab and the Qasef-series drones share certain similarities, media released by Hamas shows that Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) engine components are used in its drones, and they appear smaller in size. Hamas’ drones also have a visible commercial GPS module for guiding the drones to their target.
As mentioned previously, the Iron Dome Defense system displayed the ability to intercept this type of emerging threat in combat. The Defense Ministry tested a range of complex scenarios (Aerial Threat Assessments) against the system, checking its ability to intercept multiple UAVs. However, compared to the cost of building a weaponized drone, the cost of using Iron Dome to intercept drones is economically disproportionate.
Drones as loitering munitions were hardly used by Hamas until the latest escalation, but there have been recorded instances of COTS drones being used for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). Additionally, recent innovative uses of drones by the Palestinian side include balloons with explosive payloads launched and sent into Israel over the border – a tactic that sees the balloons burst and the payload dropped, potentially bypassing defense infrastructure that might concentrate on high-speed and highly technical components.
On the other hand, there are a number of recorded cases in which the Israel Defense Forces used small drones (sUAS) of their own to conduct surveillance operations, when large military drones do not provide a tactical viewing advantage. Some of these drones have been successfully shot down and captured by Hamas, which publicized them on social media, although the IDF has responded that no important or sensitive data was lost through offensive forensics (the process for identifying information within an adversary’s drone).
Both Hamas and Israel will likely continue to adopt the use of drones as they become cheaper, avoid detection more easily, and unlike a rocket – which leaves a trail of smoke – might not reveal their launch location. (Source: UAS VISION/ Israel Hayom)
25 May 21. Afghanistan Retrograde Nearly One-Quarter Complete. The U.S. plans to be completely out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. U.S. Central Command announced today they estimate the withdrawal is now somewhere between 16% and 25% complete.
Already, the command says, approximately 160 C-17 loads of materiel and equipment have left Afghanistan. Additionally, more than 10,000 pieces of military equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency.
U.S.-controlled installations in Afghanistan must also be returned to the Afghan Defense Ministry, and so far, five installations have been handed back.
After 20 years, the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan because the mission there is complete, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a press briefing today at the Pentagon.
“The president has been very clear that our troops accomplished the mission for which they were sent to Afghanistan,” Kirby said. “That was to prevent the country from being used as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on our homeland, and there hasn’t been another attack on the homeland emanating from Afghanistan since 9/11. So the president believes the mission has been completed.”
Now, Kirby said, there is a new mission: withdrawal from Afghanistan and development of a new relationship with the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
The United States will create a “new bilateral relationship with Afghanistan across the government: diplomatically, economically, politically and certainly from a security perspective,” Kirby said. “Our relationship with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces will continue, but it will continue in a different way.”
The U.S. is not leaving the Centcom region outright, however. There are still threats in the region, and Kirby said the U.S. will be ready to meet those threats by strengthening existing “over-the-horizon” capabilities there and growing new ones.
Kirby said the U.S. already has some over-the-horizon capacity in the region, by virtue of forces already stationed there and long-range capabilities that are outside the region.
“We know we need to think through this more deliberately and more thoughtfully going forward as we get closer to completing the withdrawal, and we’re working on that,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
26 May 21. Former South African president’s trial over arms deal begins. The corruption trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma began Wednesday, more than 25 years after some of his alleged offenses.
Zuma, who was president from 2009 until he was forced out in 2018 amid multiple graft scandals, pleaded not guilty to corruption, racketeering, fraud, tax evasion and money laundering at Pietermaritzburg High Court.
Among the charges, Zuma is accused of taking bribes from French company Thales to ensure that South Africa signed a multibillion-dollar arms deal with the company in 1999. Zuma was deputy president of South Africa from 1999 until 2005 when he was fired from that role amid allegations of corruption.
Thales, also accused in the trial, pleaded not guilty to racketeering and money laundering.
Zuma was first implicated in corruption by prosecutors in 2005, but charges against him have been dropped and reinstated several times over the years amid allegations of political interference. Most recently they were reinstated in 2018.
Some of the charges against the 79-year-old date back to the mid-1990s. Prosecutors allege between 1995 and 2001 that Zuma and Thales were involved in an organized criminal enterprise. They also accuse Zuma of taking bribes from a former financial adviser as far back as 1995 in exchange for using his political power to advance the adviser’s business interests. That corrupt relationship lasted for 10 years, prosecutors said.
Zuma could be jailed for 25 years if convicted.
On Wednesday, Zuma’s lawyer filed papers calling for the removal of the chief prosecutor in the case, claiming he was biased and Zuma’s right to a fair trial was threatened. The judge said he would consider the application.
Zuma is also facing allegations of corruption while he was president at a separate and ongoing state inquiry into widespread government graft. Zuma has been ordered to appear and testify but has refused to do so, leading the judge overseeing the inquiry to ask South Africa’s highest court to jail Zuma for two years for contempt of court. (Source: Defense News)
26 May 21. Mysterious air base being built on volcanic island off Yemen. A mysterious air base is being built on a volcanic island off Yemen that sits in one of the world’s crucial maritime chokepoints for both energy shipments and commercial cargo.
While no country has claimed the Mayun Island air base in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, shipping traffic associated with a prior attempt to build a massive runway across the 5.6-kilometer (3.5 mile)-long island years ago links back to the United Arab Emirates.
Officials in Yemen’s internationally recognized government now say the Emiratis are behind this latest effort as well, even though the UAE announced in 2019 it was withdrawing its troops from a Saudi-led military campaign battling Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
“This does seem to be a longer-term strategic aim to establish a relatively permanent presence,” said Jeremy Binnie, the Mideast editor at the open-source intelligence company Janes who has followed construction on Mayun for years. It’s “possibly not just about the Yemen war and you’ve got to see the shipping situation as fairly key there.”
Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, called the base “a reminder that the UAE is not actually out of Yemen.”
The runway on Mayun Island allows whoever controls it to project power into the strait and easily launch airstrikes into mainland Yemen, convulsed by a yearslong bloody war. It also provides a base for any operations into the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and nearby East Africa.
Satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. obtained by The Associated Press showed dump trucks and graders building a 1.85 kilometer (6,070-foot) runway on the island on April 11. By May 18, that work appeared complete, with three hangars constructed on a tarmac just south of the runway.
A runway of that length can accommodate attack, surveillance and transport aircraft. An earlier effort begun toward the end of 2016 and later abandoned had workers try to build an even-larger runway over 3 kilometers (9,800 feet) long, which would allow for the heaviest bombers.
Military officials with Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which the Saudi-led coalition has backed since 2015, say the UAE is building the runway. The officials, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity as they didn’t have authorization to brief journalists, say Emirati ships transported military weapons, equipment and troops to Mayun Island in recent weeks.
The military officials said recent tension between the UAE and Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi came in part from an Emirati demand for his government to sign a 20-year lease agreement for Mayun. Emirati officials have not acknowledged any disagreement.
The initial, failed construction project came after Emirati and allied forces retook the island from Iranian-backed Houthi militants in 2015. By late 2016, satellite images showed construction underway there.
Tugboats associated with Dubai-based Echo Cargo & Shipping LLC and landing craft and carriers from Abu Dhabi-based Bin Nawi Marine Services LLC helped bring equipment to the island in that first attempt, according to tracking signals recorded by data firm Refinitiv. Satellite photos at the time show they offloaded the gear and vehicles at a temporary beachside port.
Echo Cargo & Shipping declined to comment, while Bin Nawi Marine Services did not respond to a request for comment. Recent shipping data shows no recorded vessels around Mayun, suggesting whoever provided the sealift for the latest construction turned off their boats’ Automatic Identification System tracking devices to avoid being identified.
Construction initially stopped in 2017, likely when engineers realized they couldn’t dig through a portion of the volcanic island’s craggy features to incorporate the site of the island’s old runway. The building restarted in earnest on the new runway site around Feb. 22, satellite photos show, several weeks after President Joe Biden announced he would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led offensive against the Houthis.
The apparent decision by the Emiratis to resume building the air base comes after the UAE dismantled parts of a military base it ran in the East African nation of Eritrea as a staging ground for its Yemen campaign.
While the Horn of Africa “has become a dangerous place” for the Emiratis due to competitors and local war risks, Mayun has a small population and offers a valuable site for monitoring the Red Sea, said Eleonora Ardemagni, an analyst at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies. The region has seen a rise in attacks and incidents.
“The Emiratis have been shifting from a power-projection foreign policy to a power-protection foreign policy,” Ardemagni said. It increases “their capacity to monitor what happens and to prevent possible threats by non-state actors close to Iran.”
The expeditionary Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was said to run a similar operation on a cargo ship long stationed nearby off Yemen before being apparently targeted by an Israeli attack.
Mayun, also known as Perim Island, sits some 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) off the southwestern edge of Yemen. World powers have recognized the island’s strategic location for hundreds of years, especially with the opening of the Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The British kept the island up until their departure from Yemen in 1967. The Soviet Union, allied with South Yemen’s Marxist government, upgraded Mayun’s naval facilities but used them “only infrequently,” according a 1981 CIA analysis. That’s likely due to needing to bring water and supplies onto the island. That will affect the new air base as well as Mayun has no modern port, said Binnie, the Janes analyst.
The base still may interest American forces, however. U.S. troops operated from Yemen’s al-Anad Air Base running a campaign of drone strikes targeting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula until the Houthi advance forced them to withdraw in 2015. The Defense Department later acknowledged on-the-ground American troops supported the Saudi-led coalition around Mukalla in 2016. Special forces raids and drones also have targeted the country. The U.S. military’s Central Command did not respond to a request for comment. The CIA declined to comment. (Source: Defense News)
25 May 21. Australian defence exports fall amid Covid-19 challenges. The value of permits issued to Australian defence exporters declined sharply during the first half of financial year (FY) 2020–21: a trend almost certainly caused by challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently updated data published by the Australian Department of Defence’s (DoD’s) Defence Export Controls (DEC) branch shows that by the end of the first half of 2020–21 – or the end of calendar year 2020 – the estimated value of export permits was AUD1.33bn (USD1bn). This represents a 60% decline on the value of permits recorded by the DEC for the first half of FY 2019–20 when the value was AUD3.37 bn. For the first half of FY 2018–19 the value of export permits was AUD3.70 bn, while in FY 2017–18 it was AUD498.5m. The statistics also show that the number of export permit applications for the first half of FY 2020–21 was 1,811, which is only a slight decline from the same period last year. In the first half of FY 2018–19 the number of permit applications was 1,978. In the full FY 2019–20 period the value of Australia’s defence export permits reached a high of AUD5.26 bn: a 7% year-on-year increase over the value of AUD4.90bn in FY 2018–19. In FY 2017–18 the value of export permits was comparably low at AUD1.59bn. During the first half of FY 2020–21 export permits were issued to end users mainly in North America and Europe. This is consistent with previous years. (Source: Jane’s)
24 May 21. New Zealand’s defence budget returns to growth. New Zealand has announced a strong increase in its defence budget for 2021–22, reflecting the country’s robust economic recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic. Budgetary documents issued by the New Zealand Treasury on 20 May show that the total military expenditure for 2021–22 will be NZD5.18bn (USD3.7bn), a year-on-year increase of nearly 11% over the ‘estimated actual’ defence budget for 2020–21, which was NZD4.68bn. The figure for 2020–21 – announced in May 2020, shortly after New Zealand’s worst Covid-19 outbreak – represented a decline against the previous year of about 7%, with cut funding reappropriated for the country’s Covid-19 recovery fund. New Zealand’s defence budget comprises two appropriations: ‘Vote Defence Force’ and ‘Vote Defence’. In 2021–22, the Vote Defence Force – covering salaries, training costs, and military preparedness – has been allocated NZD4.28 bn, an increase of 8% against the estimated actual for last year of NZD3.96 bn. The ‘Vote Defence’ expenditure – including funding for procurement and refurbishment of defence equipment – is NZD900.5 m, a rise of 25% over the NZD720.5m allocation last year. Contained in the Vote Defence Force allocation is funding for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). In 2021–22 the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) received NZD985.3m, an increase of 3% over the estimated actual figure for 2020–21 of NZD954.4m. The New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) are allocated NZD886 m and NZD500.2m, increases of 2% and 1% respectively. The Vote Defence Force allocation also includes NZD1.16bn for capital expenditure. According to the document, this represents an increase of 36% over the NZD856.4m allocation in 2020–21. (Source: Jane’s)
25 May 21. The B-21 bomber, Australia’s next deterrent. With the B-21’s long range capabilities, and the advancement of unmanned long range Chinese strike technology, should Australia buy the B-21 as a deterrent?
Australia must consider the option of onboarding long range bombing capabilities into our military arsenal to serve as a deterrent to any state actors who threaten Australia’s sovereignty.
This is the opinion of Marcus Hellyer in ASPI’s The Strategist this week, who argues that long range bombing capabilities can serve as a stop gap before Australia’s next generation of submarines are onboarded into the military.
“These include long-range strike capabilities to impose greater cost on potential great-power adversaries at greater range from Australia,” Hellyer argues.
Hellyer outlines that Australia’s current fleet of F-35A jets do not currently meet the requirements for strike missions in the event of a potential conventional war in the Indo-Pacific, as they are only capable of operating in a 1,000-kilometre radius – shorter than the striking distance of modern Chinese missile systems.
Meanwhile, the Australia’s current fleet of submarines (numbering only six) also don’t possess sufficient missile carrying capacity to serve as a deterrent.
On the other hand, Australia has historically operated long distance strike capabilities as a key component in the nation’s defence arsenal.
“It’s strange that bombers don’t get much attention as a military option for Australia, considering we have a long history operating them. We flew bombers out of northern Australia during World War II against the Japanese to telling effect, and it was only a decade ago that the F-111, long a mainstay of Australia’s deterrent capability, was retired,” Hellyer argued.
Australia should thus consider onboarding a squadron of B-21 bombers, with the aircraft expected to be operational and used by the US military by the late 2020s, according to Hellyer.
“Remarkably for a developmental project, the B-21 seems to be roughly on schedule and on budget by leveraging the technologies used in earlier stealth aircraft projects. It’s using two F-35 engines, for example, but it will have three or four times the range of the F-35. That will allow it to reach far out into the Indo-Pacific, greatly complicating the planning of any adversary operating against us or our friends. It also means it can be based deep inside Australia, far from threats, and still not need to rely on tanker support,” Hellyer continues.
“If Australia had a squadron of 12 B-21s, it could dispatch a flight of three aircraft carrying around 30 long-range anti-ship missiles in the morning and follow it up with another in the afternoon. Unlike submarines, bombers can do it all again the next day. If the mission was to strike ground targets, they could each carry 50 guided bombs.”
Such long distance bombers are necessary to keep our adversaries at an arms distance and are able to inflict early and costly damage to our opposition.
The requirement for long range capabilities may have been exaggerated this week following a report from the South China Morning Post that the Chinese have developed a drone with similar capabilities to the B-21.
“A Chinese drone maker says it has manufactured a prototype unmanned stealth aircraft that it claims could rival the B-21 Raider being developed for the US Air Force,” Kristin Huang wrote in the South China Morning Post.
The new unmanned stealth bomber and reconnaissance drone which is under construction by Zhongtian Feilong Intelligent Technology is reported to have a 7,000-kilometre combat range.
Even though the B-21 is expected to have a longer attack range, Zhongtian Feilong outlined that its newly tested drone is cheaper and thus an credible threat.
As discussed in Defence Connect in the 2020 article ‘CSBA CEO calls for serious US consideration of Aussie B-21 collaboration’, it is likely that the US military establishment would view an Australian acquisition of the B-21 as burden sharing on the US, as Australia would be better equipped to protect its interests in the Indo-Pacific.
Writing for DefenseNews last year, chief executive of the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) Thomas Mahnken discussed how the sale of these arms to Australia would be an advantage to both nations.
“We need to learn from the past in developing the next generation of weapons. For example, in recent months, Australian defence analysts have discussed the attractiveness of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber for Australia’s defence needs,” Mahnken wrote.
“Export of the B-21 to a close ally such as Australia, should Canberra so desire, should be given serious consideration.”
An Australian long range bombing capability would not only serve as a deterrent to any potential adversaries, but may prove a technological necessity in the event that new long range bombing and ISR drones encroach on Australian shores to inflict costly damage on an adversary’s homeland. (Source: Defence Connect)
24 May 21. Indonesia looks to enhance enforcement of offsets. Indonesia has pledged to enhance the enforcement of defence-industrial co-operation guidelines, with the aim to strengthen local manufacturing and boost the country’s economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Jakarta said that the requirement is also aligned with President Joko Widodo’s stated intention to ensure that the country’s “defence budget supports investment” in Indonesia. Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto said in a meeting of the MoD’s Defence Industry Policy Committee (KKIP) on 21 May that the MoD is committed to ensuring that the country’s defence budget “is properly managed so that it can help improve the national economy”. This focus, he said, is aligned with Widodo’s “investment” requirement.
Subianto also stated that the management of the defence budget also includes the management and enforcement of industrial co-operation that supports defence procurements from foreign suppliers.
“We have to find out how to implement countertrade, local content, offsets, transfers of technology, and defence investment in every procurement of defence and security equipment from abroad,” said Subianto in comments published by the MoD’s public relations bureau.
According to the MoD, Subianto emphasised to the KKIP the requirement for defence-industrial co-operation “recommendations and evaluations in all purchases of defence equipment”. This, he said, is to “ensure that Indonesia benefits from all aspects of every purchase of defence equipment from abroad”.
In addition, the MoD said that it hopes to support further development of the national defence industry through the implementation of a new “long-term strategic plan”. This plan, the MoD indicated, would be closely linked to requirements to support defence-industrial co-operation in all procurements of foreign defence equipment. (Source: Jane’s)
24 May 21. Australia unveils 2021-22 defence budget. The defence budget will also support development of Australian guided weapons. Here a HIFiRE 5b rocket launches successfully at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia.
The Australian defence budget for 2021-22 will be $44.6bn, according to the Commonwealth Portfolio Budget Statement.
The Budget builds on the unique 10 year funding model announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2020.
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said this provides Defence and Australian defence industry with the continued planning certainty required to support ongoing critical Defence capability and create Australian jobs.
“In 2020, the Australian Government delivered on its commitment to grow the Defence budget to two per cent of GDP. The 10-year funding model in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan builds on this by providing Defence with a total funding of $575bn over the decade to 2029-30. This includes $270bn investment in the capability and potency of our Defence force,” Minister Dutton said.
“The 2021-22 Budget continues to see sustained strong investment in Australia’s national security, building Defence capability and creating jobs, boosting Australia’s cyber resilience and supporting Australia’s sovereign defence industry.”
The DST Group budget for 2021-22 is $537.9m, remaining roughly steady in successive years at $537.8, $533.7, and $562.7m.
“Australia is facing unprecedented levels of threat both at home and abroad, so it is now more important than ever that we build what we need at home to defend the nation,” said Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price.
In March, the Prime Minister, Minister Dutton and Minister Price announced the acceleration of a $1bn Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise, to boost skilled jobs and help secure Australia’s sovereign defence capabilities. Developing a sovereign guided weapons capability will enhance Australia’s self-reliance and build global supply chain resilience.
The Government will also fund the implementation of a government-wide Cyber Hubs pilot as part of the first step towards centralising the management and operations of secure Cyber Hubs across the Australian Government.
For the Defence Portfolio Budget Statement 2021-22: https://www.defence.gov.au/budget/ (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company