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25 June 21. Italian forces kicked out of Middle East base over UAE arms embargo, lawmaker says. The United Arab Emirates is evicting Italian aircraft and personnel from a key military base in retaliation for an arms embargo slapped on the UAE by Rome in January, an Italian politician has told Defense News.
Matteo Perego Di Cremnago, an Italian member of parliament and member of the parliamentary defense commission, said Italy had been given until July 2 to leave the Al Minhad air base in the UAE.
“The pull-out has already started and while work is underway by Italy to secure a last-minute cancellation of the eviction, I doubt it will succeed,” he told Defense News.
“When relationships break down in the Gulf it is very hard to resurrect them,” he added.
Former Italian air force chief Gen. Leonardo Tricarico told Defense News that the last Italian aircraft had left the base on Thursday, leaving only residual material to collect.
Tricarico, who is now chairman of the ICSA think tank in Rome, said the eviction was just part of the harsh treatment of Italy doled out by the UAE.
“The UAE has also denied the use of its airspace to Italian military aircraft,” he said.
The Italian ministry of defense did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Al Minhad base in Dubai in the UAE, which hosts aircraft from various nations, has been crucial to Italy since it took space in 2015 there for mounting flights over Iraq and as a stop-off en route to Italian bases in Afghanistan. If confirmed, the eviction may now seriously complicate Italy’s ongoing pull-out from Afghanistan.
Italy has also used Al Minhad as a base for flights in support of multinational operations in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean.
The UAE eviction has been linked to Italy’s decision in January to place an embargo on the sale of munitions and missiles to the UAE and Saudi Arabia due to concerns over the Gulf states’ military campaign in Yemen.
The two countries are part of a coalition that has been fighting Houthi forces in Yemen backed by Iran in a conflict which has left 80 percent of the population needing aid according to the UN.
The Italian embargo was implemented by a coalition government led by former prime minister Giuseppe Conte which was backed by the center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Party.
At the time, Luigi Di Maio, a senior Five Star official and the government’s foreign minister, took credit for the embargo, calling it a “clear message of peace sent by our country,” and adding, “the respect for human rights is a mandatory commitment for us.”
In February, Conte’s government was replaced by a national unity government led by former European Central Bank governor Mario Draghi, who kept on Di Maio as foreign minister.
The embargo sparked an immediate threat of legal action by RWM Italia, an Italy-based unit of Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence, which claimed it would need to sack staff if orders for munitions it was supplying to the Gulf were blocked.
The news that Italy is now being asked to leave Al Minhad drew criticism from Perego Di Cremnago.
“This is the moment the Five Star party in Italy needs to take responsibility for a huge geo-strategic mistake – this eviction is emblematic of a broken relationship with an ally. Italy had invested a lot in the base and hoped to expand its presence there,” he said.
Tricarico said he understood the decision taken by the UAE. “Our relationship with the UAE started to worsen 15 years ago when Italian company Finmeccanica was unable to maintain its word to sell drones to the UAE due to complications over technology rights, and now we have arrived at an arms embargo,” he said.
In January the incoming Biden administration in the US announced it would review a massive $23.37bn arms sale to the UAE including 50 F-35 jets, drones and munitions, which had been announced by the Trump administration. (Source: Defense News)
25 June 21. Update: RAF air strikes against Daesh. The RAF are continuing to take the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
- Tuesday 11 May – Typhoons struck Daesh terrorists engaged in a firefight with Iraqi forces in northern Iraq.
On Tuesday 11 May, Iraqi security forces encountered a group of Daesh terrorists in a strong defensive position some twenty five miles south west of Mosul. Coming under heavy small arms fire from the terrorists, the Iraqi troops requested air support from the global coalition, and a pair of Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s responded promptly. Liaising closely with the Iraqis, our aircraft attacked the Daesh terrorists with two Paveway IV precision guided bombs. The bombs hit the target and eliminated a number of the Daesh extremists. The Iraqi forces were then able to assault the position successfully and overwhelm the few remaining terrorists.
On Sunday 4 April, an RAF Reaper, armed with Hellfire missiles, identified a small group of Daesh terrorists in northern Syria, some fifty miles west of Al Hasakah. Having checked that there were no civilians nearby, the Reaper’s crew attacked the terrorists, striking the target successfully. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 June 21. RAF Puma helicopter detachment returns from Afghanistan. The RAF Puma detachment serving in Afghanistan in support of the NATO Resolute Support Mission since March 2015 has now returned to RAF Benson. The RAF Puma detachment serving in Afghanistan in support of the NATO Resolute Support Mission since March 2015 has now returned to RAF Benson, as part of the withdrawal of NATO forces from the country.
The three Puma helicopters and around 50 personnel from 33 Squadron and 230 Squadron based at Benson Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) that have been serving in Kabul have now returned to the UK. The aircraft were flown from Kabul to RAF Brize Norton on an Antonov AN-225.
Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey said, “The Puma detachment has provided invaluable support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, helping the UK’s wider effort to develop civil society and reduce the threat of terrorism, building the foundations for a peace process. We remain committed to supporting Afghanistan through the next few months and years, both through defence engagement and diplomatic and development support.”
During Operation TORAL, the name given to the UK element of Resolute Support Mission, the Pumas were based at Kabul International Airport. From there, they were able to provide vital airborne transport to UK and NATO forces. This included transporting personnel and equipment around the different urban, mountainous and desert terrains in the Kabul area, as well as supporting the deployment of the NATO Security Quick Reaction Force as needed.
Group Captain Nick Paton, the Puma Force Commander, said, “This is a significant time for the Puma Force as a long running and rewarding operation comes to a close. The commitment and professionalism of the whole team has been exceptional, whether they’ve been deployed or provided support from the UK. I’m extremely proud of everyone and they should look back on all that they have achieved with pride.”
During the deployment, the Pumas flew 12,800 hours, which is the equivalent of over 533 days in the air. The medium support helicopters also transported 126,000 passengers and moved 660,000kgs of freight.
Air Vice-Marshal Nigel Colman, the Commander of the Joint Helicopter Command, said, “The RAF Puma Force have done a superb job in supporting the UK’s mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces since 2015. Their contribution over such a sustained period has been second to none and they can be incredibly proud of the significant part they played.”
The detachment has been serving as part of the NATO-led non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, known as the Resolute Support Mission.
The UK Armed Forces are currently in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan in line with the NATO mission Resolute Support.
The UK has played a critical role in developing the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and alongside our NATO allies we have built and equipped security institutions; trained 5,000 cadets, including over 300 women; and supported a stable election process. The ANDSF are now 350,000 strong and we will continue to provide assistance to them, including financial support, and build Afghan institutions’ counter terrorism capability.
24 June 21. U.S. State Dept OKs possible sale of F-16s, missiles to Philippines. The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets, as well as Sidewinder and Harpoon missiles, to the Philippines in three separate deals with a combined value of more than $2.5bn, the Pentagon said on Thursday. The Philippines is looking for a new multi-role fighter jet and is evaluating the F-16 and the SAAB Abs (SAABb.ST) Gripen. The announcement comes as the United States seeks to renew an agreement with the Philippines governing the U.S. troop presence in the country, which is critical to Washington’s strategy to counter ever-expanding Chinese activity in Asia.
Last week, the Philippines again suspended for another six months a move to scrap the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that had been due to expire in August.
The Pentagon said the Philippines requested to buy 10 F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Co (LMT.N). That package, which includes spares and training, is valued at up to $2.43bn.
Despite the State Department approval, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded. Often during a competition, the department will approve exports before a winner is named.
Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said it appeared to be “a proactive effort by Washington to ensure the United States remains the security partner of choice for Manila.”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has frequently condemned U.S. foreign policy while exploring closer ties with China, told Washington last year he was canceling the VFA amid outrage over a senator and ally being denied a U.S. visa. But he has repeatedly suspended the expiration date.
Gregory Poling, maritime security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said one of Duterte’s complaints has been his perception that the United States does not provide high-quality equipment to the Philippines.
“I’d expect that the U.S. government will be looking for opportunities over the next six months to combat that perception,” he said.
The Pentagon also notified Congress on Thursday of the possible sale of two missile packages to the Philippines.
One was for 12 Harpoon Air Launched Block II Missiles, two training missiles, spares and equipment made by Boeing (BA.N) and valued at up to $120m.
Another was for 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II tactical missiles, 24 training missiles and spare parts made by Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) and valued at up to $42.4m.
The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally and several military agreements are dependent on the VFA, which governs the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines.
Having the ability to rotate in troops is important not only for the defense of the Philippines, but strategically for the United States when it comes to countering China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the region.
“The package is a serious step that will certainly get Beijing’s attention,” said Sayers.
Lockheed Martin said the F-16 would play a significant role in strengthening Manila’s strategic partnership with Washington and allies, while enabling the Philippines to join other Southeast Asian F-16 operators. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
09 Mar 21. Human Rights Watch alarmed at Australian company developing high-tech weapons system in the United Arab Emirates.
A Canberra-based defence company will help develop a new “chain-driven machine gun” in the United Arab Emirates, sparking concerns from human rights advocates.
- Electro Optic Systems will produce a new weapon for the UAE, which has been accused of war crimes in Yemen
- Human Rights Watch’s Elaine Pearson described the arrangement as “really concerning”
- The Defence Department has declined to say whether the deal complies with Australian treaty obligations
Last month, Electro Optic Systems (EOS) signed an agreement with the UAE’s Tawazun Strategic Development Fund (SDF) to begin work on the high-tech weapon.
The joint venture aims to produce a highly lethal system that has “lighter weight, improved accuracy, lower stoppage, reduced recoil and enhanced logistic support” for the UAE, which has been accused of war crimes in Yemen.
Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch, described the arrangement between an Australian company and a UAE government agency as “really concerning”.
“The UAE has been a very prominent member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen that has committed war crimes with impunity,” she told the ABC.
“No Australian company should be transferring weapons to the UAE.
“Nor should they be engaging in joint ventures with UAE government agencies to manufacture weapons due to their involvement in laws of war violations in Yemen.”
The Australian Department of Defence has declined to say if it has fully assessed whether the EOS deal complies with Australian treaty obligations.
Middle Eastern markets are considered crucial to the federal government’s goal of making Australia a top-10 global defence exporter, a target which has so far proved elusive.
The Department of Defence has declined to say whether it has formally scrutinised the arrangement between EOS and the UAE to see whether it complies with Australian treaty obligations.
“The supply of controlled technology from Australia to a different entity outside of Australia requires a permit unless legislative exemptions apply,” a Defence spokesperson told the ABC.
“Defence does not comment on individual export applications or permits to protect companies’ commercially sensitive information and opportunities.”
Several attempts by the ABC to contact EOS about the new joint venture were unsuccessful, but the company’s chief executive Ben Greene has promoted the deal in the UAE.
“EOS’s global role as a systems integrator and technology leader in remotely operated combat systems will strongly support the development in UAE of enhanced defence technology products optimised for future roles in this global market,” Mr Greene was quoted as saying in February.
23 June 21. Russia said its forces fired warning shots at a British destroyer off the coast of Crimea on Wednesday, but the UK has denied the claims. The Russian defence ministry said the HMS Defender made a 3km incursion into Black Sea waters that Russia claims near the peninsula, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The UK’s Ministry of Defence denied that any shots were fired directly at the vessel. Ben Wallace, UK defence secretary, said HMS Defender carried out a “routine transit” on Wednesday morning from Odessa towards Georgia across the Black Sea. “As is normal for this route, [the destroyer] entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. She exited that corridor safely at 0945 BST. As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity,” Wallace said. The Russian defence ministry said that, after HMS Defender did not respond to a threat from Russian forces to open fire, a coastguard ship fired warning shots at it. Minutes later, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet scrambled a Su-24M attack aircraft that dropped four high-explosive fragmentation bombs in the ship’s path before it exited the waters, according to the ministry. The disputed claims come at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the Nato alliance. Most countries do not recognise Russia’s control of Crimea and the surrounding waters. Nato countries have sent several warships on visits to the area in recent years in shows of support to Ukraine, prompting criticism from Moscow. In 2018, Russia seized three Ukrainian navy vessels attempting to pass the peninsula to Kyiv-controlled territory via the Kerch Strait. HMS Defender, which forms part of the UK’s carrier strike group deployment, is in the Black Sea this week as part of an exercise to enforce Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The head of the Royal Navy met Ukraine’s deputy minister of defence on board the destroyer in Odessa on Tuesday to sign an agreement related to Britain helping to boost Ukraine’s naval capabilities. The co-operation will include training of Ukrainian navy personnel, creation of new naval bases, and the purchase of two Sandown class minehunters. Ukrainian special forces were performing joint exercises practising “the unexpected seizure of enemy ships” on HMS Defender with their US and UK counterparts, Kyiv’s defence ministry said in a statement. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter in response to Moscow’s claims that “Russia’s aggressive and provocative actions in the Black and Azov seas, its occupation & militarisation of Crimea pose a lasting threat to Ukraine and allies”. (Source: FT.com)
24 June 21. Philippine military grounds Black Hawk helicopters after crash kills six. Philippine defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday ordered the grounding of the military’s fleet of Black Hawk helicopters after a crash during training mission in an province north of the capital Manila killed six people.
The S-70i Black Hawk helicopter, one of 16 purchased in 2019 from Poland, crashed on Wednesday evening after taking off from a former U.S. military base in Pampanga province, the air force said in a statement.
Search and rescue teams later found the wreckage of the combat utility helicopter, it said, adding that an investigation had been launched.
Six Black Hawks, including the one that crashed, were delivered in November, while five others were shipped early in June and are under technical inspection. The final batch are due to be delivered later this year.
In July, four soldiers died and another was injured after a “Huey” military helicopter crashed while taking off for a night-time training operation in the northern Philippines.
Much of the equipment used by the military is ageing, including World War Two-era warships and Vietnam War-vintage aircraft, and the government has allotted more than $6bn to upgrade its defence capability between 2018 to 2022. ($1 = 48.85 Philippine pesos) (Source: Reuters)
23 June 21. China condemns latest U.S. warship transit of Taiwan Strait. China condemned the United States on Wednesday as the region’s greatest security “risk creator” after a U.S. warship again sailed through the sensitive waterway that separates Taiwan from China.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Tuesday in accordance with international law.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said their forces monitored the vessel throughout its passage and warned it.
“The U.S. side is intentionally playing the same old tricks and creating trouble and disrupting things in the Taiwan Strait,” it said.
This “fully shows that the United States is the greatest creator of risks for regional security, and we are resolutely opposed to this”.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the ship had sailed in a northerly direction through the strait and the “situation was as normal”.
The same ship transited the strait a month ago, prompting China to accuse the United States of threatening peace and stability.
The latest mission comes around a week after Taiwan said 28 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), the largest reported incursion to date.
That incident followed the Group of Seven leaders issuing a joint statement scolding China for a series of issues and underscoring the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, comments China condemned as “slander”.
The U.S. Navy has been conducting such operations in the Taiwan Strait every month or so.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with democratic Taiwan but is its most important international backer and a major seller of arms.
Military tension between Taiwan and Beijing have spiked over the past year, with Taipei complaining of China repeatedly sending its air force into Taiwan’s air defence zone. (Source: Reuters)
23 June 21. UK signs agreement to support enhancement of Ukrainian naval capabilities. In a trilateral agreement signed onboard HMS Defender, which was in Odesa as part of the Carrier Strike Group deployment, the UK, Ukraine and industry will collaborate to boost Ukraine’s naval capabilities.
Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Tony Radakin were joined by Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Oleksandr Myroniuk, on the Type 45 Destroyer, where the Memorandum of Implementation (MOI) was signed.
Building on the agreement signed on HMS Prince of Wales in October 2020, the two nations and their industrial partners will now push Ukrainian naval capabilities enhancement projects (UNCEP) forward.
These projects will include; the introduction of new capabilities through the delivery of new naval platforms and defensive shipborne armaments, the training of Ukrainian Navy personnel, the creation of new naval bases, and the purchase of two Sandown class mine countermeasure vessels.
Signing the MOI on behalf of the UK, Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said, “The UK and Ukraine have a close defence relationship, and we continue to strengthen this partnership to help deter shared threats. I am delighted that British and Ukrainian industry will work together on these projects, which will provide world-leading capabilities and provide opportunities for both our nations to boost our shipbuilding enterprises.”
Babcock International will lead British and Ukrainian industrial partners to assist the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence in delivering these projects, with funding made available by UK Export Finance (UKEF).
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence said, “Ukraine and the UK are good friends and allies. Today’s Memorandum gives a new impetus to our co-operation in naval industry and will facilitate further development of the Ukrainian Navy. We appreciate the British support and value your experience.”
Contractual work will now begin to implement the following projects:
- Missile sale and integration on new and in-service Ukrainian Navy patrol and airborne platforms, including a training and engineering support package.
- The development and joint production of eight fast missile warships.
- The creation of a new naval base on the Black Sea as the primary fleet base for Ukraine and a new base on the Sea of Azov.
- Babcock will participate in the Ukrainian project to deliver a modern frigate capability.
- A Government to Government sale of two refurbished Sandown class mine countermeasure vessels.
David Lockwood, CEO Babcock International said, “We are very proud to support Ukraine with their Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme. This marks the beginning of a new international relationship for Babcock, bringing together our new ship capability, our infrastructure and support capability and our new strong relationship with the UK Government. I know that we can bring our collective experience and knowledge together to achieve some really great things. Our strengthened relationship with the UK Government has been instrumental in underpinning this significant agreement which is supported by UK Export finance and we continue to work with them on a number of international opportunities.”
The UK and NATO are committed to Black Sea regional security, stability and prosperity, and to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, which is exemplified by HMS Defender’s visit to the port of Odesa as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group deployment.
During the visit by Ministers a trilateral exercise between the UK, Ukraine and the US took place on board the ship, showcasing our support to maritime capability development and interoperability.
The UK enjoys a strong bilateral relationship with Ukraine and is committed to securing its security. Since 2015, the UK has trained over 21,000 Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel in medical skills, logistics, counter improvised explosive devices (C-IED), leadership, planning and infantry tactics as part of Operation Orbital and the UK-led Maritime Training Initiative. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 June 21. Israeli Defense Minister Orders Forces Ready For Iran Ops. The DC trip is Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi’s first, and is aimed mainly to present the Americans with intelligence Israeli sources say proves that Iran is cheating on the nuclear agreement. The election of Iran’s new hardline president, coupled with Washington’s eagerness to sign a new nuclear deal, have led Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to order some units to accelerate preparations for an armed conflict with Iran, sources in the Defense Minister’s office say.One of the factors that appears to be behind these moves is that after President Ibrahim Raisi takes office on Aug. 3 he will form a new national security board expected to fully obey his orders, Uzi Rabi, a senior expert here on Iran, told BD.
Raisi held his first official press conference since his election during which he stressed that Iran’s foreign relations would not depend on decisions made under the nuclear deal.
Last week the only nuclear power plant in Iran was shut down. Iranian authorities said technical problems forced the operations to be halted in Bushher. The power plant supplies electricity to some of Iran’s critical sites.
Ron Ben Yishay, one of Israel’s senior defense analysts, wrote in the YNET website that the chances that the US and the powers will reach a reasonable compromise with Raisi on Iran’s military nuclear program are slim, as is the case with the ballistic missiles Iran is developing and its regional subversion. Raisi is known as a supporter of the nuclear and missile program.
In a last minute attempt to persuade Washington not to go back to the nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel’s chief of General staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi met today with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the beginning of his four-day visit to Washington.
The DC trip is Kochavi’s first, and is aimed mainly to present the Americans with intelligence Israeli sources say proves that Iran is cheating on the nuclear agreement. The other topic likely to be discussed is the potential threat posed by Hezbollah in Lebanon, one of the Iranian proxies in the region.
The readout of the meeting offered some hint of the topic, but was predictably bland: “The two leaders discussed several issues of mutual concern including the current security environment throughout the Middle East. Gen. Milley reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to its relationship with Israel.”
During the planned four-day visit, Kochavi will meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the head of US Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, and the head of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Gen. Richard Clark.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense met to discuss the implications of Raisi’s election and concluded he may accelerate the trend of Iranian positions on the borders of Syria and Lebanon. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
22 June 21. Stealth jets fight Daesh in first combat missions from HMS Queen Elizabeth. The UK’s Carrier Strike Group has joined the fight against Daesh with F-35 jets carrying out their very first combat missions from HMS Queen Elizabeth. Stealth jets of the renowned 617 Squadron RAF (The Dambusters) carried out operational sorties for the first time from HMS Queen Elizabeth in support of Operation Shader and US Operation Inherent Resolve.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries.
The Carrier Strike Group is a physical embodiment of Global Britain and a show of international military strength that will deter anyone who seeks to undermine global security.”
For the task group, which has spent previous weeks in the Mediterranean working with NATO allies and partners, it marks a change of emphasis. From exercises and international engagements, the Carrier Strike Group is now delivering its full might of naval and air power, putting the “strike” into Carrier Strike Group and contributing to the UK’s fight against Daesh – Operation Shader, which forms part of the Global Collation against Daesh.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, said, “HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first missions against Daesh will be remembered as a significant moment in the 50-year lifespan of this ship. It also marks a new phase of our current deployment. To date we have delivered diplomatic influence on behalf of the UK through a series of exercises and engagements with our partners – now we are ready to deliver the hard punch of maritime-based air power against a shared enemy.”
The involvement of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Air Wing in this campaign also sends a wider message. It demonstrates the speed and agility with which a UK-led Carrier Strike Group can inject fifth generation combat power into any operation, anywhere in the world, thereby offering the British Government, and our allies, true military and political choice.
CSG21, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, is the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation and this is its first operational deployment, which is joint between the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
In an era of persistent competition, the Carrier is already proving its worth. As the recent Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper underlined, our adversaries pose a growing threat to the international order and the values that underpin our security and prosperity.
There are 18 UK and US F35B jets on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is the largest number to ever sail the seas. The aircraft are next generation multi-role combat aircraft equipped with advanced sensors, mission systems and stealth technology.
Captain James Blackmore, Commander of the Carrier Air Wing, said:
The Lightning Force is once again in action against Daesh, this time flying from an aircraft carrier at sea, which marks the Royal Navy’s return to maritime strike operations for the first time since the Libya campaign a decade ago.
With its fifth generation capabilities, including outstanding situational awareness, the F-35B is the ideal aircraft to deliver precision strikes, which is exactly the kind of mission that 617 Squadron has been training for day-after-day, night-after-night, for these past few months.
This is also notable as the first combat mission flown by US aircraft from a foreign carrier since HMS Victorious in the South Pacific in 1943. The level of integration between Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and US Marine Corps is truly seamless, and testament to how close we’ve become since we first embarked together last October. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 June 21. U.S. Officials Continually Assess Status of Afghan Retrograde. U.S. leaders continually assess the progress of the retrograde from Afghanistan and the state of operations in the country and adjust accordingly, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has said the retrograde from Afghanistan is on pace. But, it is a dynamic situation in the nation.
The Taliban have attacked Afghan government bases and units. Kirby said that Austin and military leaders in the Pentagon, at U.S. Central Command and in Afghanistan, “are constantly looking at the pace we’re going at, and the capabilities we have, and the capabilities that we’re going to need throughout to complete the withdrawal,” Kirby said. “So as we said, from the very beginning; while there is a schedule, we are mindful that that schedule could fluctuate and change, as conditions change.”
Kirby said there are only two aspects of the Afghanistan retrograde that will not change: The first is the U.S. military will withdraw all U.S. forces from the country, and the second is the withdrawal will be finished by the September deadline set by President Joe Biden.
Other aspects of the Afghan situation are still being studied, Kirby said. Commanders at many levels are wrestling with what over-the-horizon counterinsurgency and over-the-horizon logistics will look like. The U.S. military can already provide the over-the-horizon support that the Afghan government will need, Kirby said, those capabilities already exist. Leaders are looking for better ways to perform the missions.
“[People] tend to forget that we already do have over-the-horizon capability when it comes to the counterterrorism threat in Afghanistan,” he said. “Is it robust enough? Is it sustainable for the long term? Well, that’s what we’re looking at.”
Austin has extended the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower in the region. He has deployed a bomber task force to the area. “Nobody is discounting how difficult this is,” Kirby said. “But as the secretary said, difficult does not mean impossible, and we have the ability right now to reach any scrap of Earth that we believe we need to, should the risk warrant it.”
Planners continue to look at ways to provide contractual support to Afghan forces once the retrograde is completed. “There’s a range of options that we’re looking at for how to continue to provide contractual support … specifically the Afghan Air Forces,” Kirby said. “We’re very actively working our way through that right now. We’re looking at a range of options.” (Source: US DoD)
21 June 21. UK Foreign Secretary visits South East Asia to boost trade and defence links. Foreign Secretary arrives in Vietnam ahead of the UK launching accession talks to join trans-Pacific trading bloc. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, arrived in Hanoi today (Monday 21 June) ahead of a three-day visit with high-level meetings in Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore focussing on trade, defence and security.
Tomorrow the UK will formally launch accession negotiations with CPTPP nations (Tuesday 22 June), helping Britain further engage with some of the world’s biggest economies. CPTPP members currently have a combined GDP of £9trn, a value which is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years.
This is Dominic Raab’s fifth visit to South East Asia since becoming Foreign Secretary, demonstrating the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, as set out in the UK’s Integrated Review.
The visit also comes at a time of growing defence and security cooperation with the region, as the UK’s Carrier Strike Group led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, makes its maiden visit to the region.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said, “The UK is committed to strengthening our friendship across the Indo-Pacific. We are demonstrating this through our commitment to join CPTPP, partner with ASEAN and invest more energy, time and effort in our bilateral relations in the region.”
While in Vietnam, the Foreign Secretary will deliver opening remarks at the 5th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on the UK’s ambitions for its Indo-Pacific tilt to an audience of representatives from more than 50 countries. He will meet Vietnamese leaders, including President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh and Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son to discuss the implementation of the UK-Vietnam Strategic Partnership Agreement, in addition to subjects such as global health security, climate change and combatting serious organised crime.
Dominic Raab will then travel to Cambodia to meet Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn to set out our ambition for the UK bid for ‘ASEAN Dialogue Partnership’ status ahead of Cambodia taking up the chair of ASEAN. This status would give the UK the closest form of relationship with ASEAN. This will be the first Foreign Secretary visit to Cambodia since the British Embassy was reopened 30 years ago.
The visit will finish in Singapore, with a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss geo-political security and climate change, as well as the international response to Covid. The Foreign Secretary will also meet Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and address British and Singaporean business leaders from across Asia Pacific, highlighting the economic and strategic benefits of CPTPP and the UK’s wider trade and foreign policy priorities for the region. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 June 21. Belarus Sanctions: Joint statement by Canada, the EU, UK, and US. Joint Statement by Canada, the European Union, United Kingdom, and United States Department of State on Belarus sanctions.
We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenka regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law.
Today, we have taken coordinated sanctions action in response to the May 23rd forced landing of a commercial Ryanair flight between two EU member states and the politically motivated arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega, as well as to the continuing attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments.
We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people. We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community. We are further united in our call for the Lukashenka regime to cooperate fully with international investigations into the events of May 23rd; immediately release all political prisoners; implement all the recommendations of the independent expert mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism; and, enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 June 21. Foreign Secretary announces further sanctions on companies linked to Myanmar’s military regime. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has announced new sanctions against the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, Myanmar Pearl Enterprise and the State Administration Council.
- Measures announced will restrict the military junta’s ability to profit from timber and pearl, key sources of revenue for the regime.
- UK will maintain suspension on trade promotion in Myanmar and strengthen advice to British businesses following review of Myanmar trade.
In the UK’s sixth tranche of Myanmar sanctions, measures announced today will target the Myanmar regime’s economic interest with new designations against the State Administration Council (SAC), the junta’s ruling body, who continue to undermine democracy and brutally suppress Myanmar’s civilians. These sanctions send a clear message to the junta the UK will not allow financial support that props up the military regime following the coup earlier this year
Additional measures will now be imposed on the Myanmar Timber Enterprise and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, two state owned entities in Myanmar’s extractive sector. These asset freezes will be enforced with immediate effect, and target the junta’s ability to profit from pearl and timber, two high-value natural commodities that generate millions in revenue for the military regime.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “Alongside our allies, we are placing sanctions on companies linked to Myanmar’s military junta, targeting the finances of this illegitimate regime. The military has continued its subversion of democracy and brutal killing of civilians. We will continue to hold the Junta to account and sanction those responsible, until democracy is restored.”
Today the Foreign Secretary has also announced the conclusion of the UK’s Myanmar Trade Review. In a Written Ministerial Statement in Parliament, he confirmed that the UK will maintain its suspension on Trade Promotion in Myanmar first imposed following the coup earlier this year.
The UK will also strengthen our Overseas Business Risk guidance to reiterate the message that UK businesses must undertake enhanced supply chain due diligence and should not enter into trading relationships that benefit the Myanmar military.
The Myanmar Trade Review emphasised that UK businesses continue to have an important role to play in Myanmar in job creation and poverty alleviation, but should operate responsibly in order to avoid inadvertently supporting the military regime.
Today’s new sanctions announcement, alongside the similar announcement from the European Union on Myanmar Timber Enterprise, follows the recent G7 communiqué which called on partners and business to exercise due diligence in their trade and investment in Myanmar. Under the UK’s presidency the G7 continues to call for an end to the coup and the immediate adoption of the ASEAN five-point consensus. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 June 21. Western powers reignite Beijing’s anger after G7 and Nato warnings. China flexes its muscles in Taiwan and Hong Kong in retaliation for Biden-led ‘united front’ China’s air force made its largest incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone following western condemnation of its activities. For more than six weeks, Taiwanese military officers wondered where the Chinese fighter jets had gone. During May, only four entered the island’s air defence identification zone. In the first half of this month, there were incursions on only four days and a stretch of nine days without any activity at all. This compared to a previous pattern of as many as 20 incursions a month. But on June 15, a day after US president Joe Biden and other Nato leaders issued a statement condemning China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour”, 20 People’s Liberation Army fighter jets, four nuclear-capable bombers and four additional military aircraft entered Taiwan’s ADIZ. It was the largest number of planes ever dispatched by the PLA into the zone, with some of them also skirting around the southern tip and east coast of the island before turning back. One senior Taiwanese government official said Beijing could not restrain itself after the Nato communiqué — and a G7 summit statement issued just days earlier — criticised Beijing’s activities in the Taiwan Strait and its crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. “Beijing wanted to prove wrong those in the west whom they accuse of hyping a China threat theory,” the official said, referring to the reduced military activity in May and early June. “But of course they could not keep it up. Once Taiwan gets a little support, they have to react.” Chinese analysts said Beijing had no choice but to show its resolve after the Biden administration accelerated its efforts to build a “united front” against China at the G7 and Nato summits — something President Xi Jinping’s administration had long feared but that never materialised when Donald Trump was US president. “The G7 and Nato have been distorted into anti-China platforms,” said Victor Gao, a former Chinese diplomat now at the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-backed think-tank. “There are increasingly large forces in China that believe if the US wants to single out China as its fundamental enemy, then let the US have an enemy.” Beijing also responded to the G7’s criticism of its policies in Hong Kong with a show of force in the territory, where it recently snuffed out the only public commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on Chinese soil. In the early hours of Thursday, police arrested senior staff at the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper for alleged “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”. A senior officer with the Hong Kong police force’s national security division later said the arrests were related in part to more than 30 articles published in the newspaper. Police blow out candles lit by activists in Hong Kong on June 4 to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre Beijing’s actions around Taiwan and in Hong Kong were matched by scathing rhetoric. Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesperson and one of China’s most outspoken diplomats, said the G7 communiqué “exposed the bad intentions of the US and a few other countries to create antagonism and widen differences with China”. “The US is sick,” Zhao added. “The G7 should take its pulse and prescribe medicine for it.” Such comments appeared to contradict recent instructions from Xi, who said last month that official propaganda should “set the right tone, be open and confident but also modest, humble and strive to create a credible, loveable and respectable image of China”. Xi, however, also noted that China was involved in a “public opinion struggle” internationally. “Powerful anti-China forces in western society want to attack and discredit China,” Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to Paris, said last week in a state media interview. “We must fight back to safeguard our own interests. Our sovereign security and development interests are inviolable.”
“There is a real concern in Beijing that a united front is forming [and] includes many elements that China does not wish to see such as Taiwan, maritime security and human rights,” she said. “That’s why we are seeing some unusually harsh responses from Beijing on G7 and Nato.” Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing who advises the State Council on foreign policy issues, said: “Germany, France and other EU countries are hesitant to confront China as [openly as] the US . . . but they are now closer to the US when it comes to dealing with China.” Some Chinese officials and analysts argue that while Beijing will continue to respond forcefully when criticised over Taiwan, Hong Kong or other “core interests”, this does not preclude co-operation with the US on other issues such as climate change or global tax reform. Fu Ying, a former Chinese ambassador to the UK, said at a recent seminar that the Biden administration wanted to “prevent China from moving forward to replace the US”. But, she added, “we hope [technological and economic] competition can be managed to ensure it is on a positive track, pushing each other to seek joint development and improvement”. Beijing “should stand firm on matters of principle but not be too distracted by anti-China hostility”, Gao said. “In the long term, China will have a larger economy than the US — no one can change that. Time is on China’s side.” (Source: FT.com)
23 Jun 21. China launches ‘deregulation trial’ for private sector defence contractors. China has introduced further reforms to encourage private sector companies’ involvement in the research, development, and production of military equipment.
The move is aligned with requirements outlined in China’s 14th Five Year Plan (2021–25), which aims to deepen military-civil fusion (MCF) in supporting the development of advanced military capabilities.
The new measures – framed by a trial launched by the country’s defence procurement agency – are aimed at easing the administrative burden on private sector firms, and stimulating greater competition in China’s defence technology industrial base (DTIB).
The so-called ‘Administrative measures for the registration of military-elected civilian equipment contractors’ were launched recently by the Central Military Commission’s Equipment Development Department (EDD).
According to the EDD, the measures that will initially be enacted through a trial are intended to enable “high-quality independent innovation” in the development of materiel, and to support “the private sector economy’s access into the field of military equipment manufacturing”. It added that the trial marks a “solid step forward in the reform of the military-equipment market access system”.
The trial is based on a system of deregulation for companies that operate primarily in civilian technology sectors. If the trial proves successful, the system is expected to be rolled out on a wider basis. (Source: Jane’s)
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