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16 Mar 23. Africa Command Chief Looks to Help Nations Find African Solutions. Africa is a tremendously diverse continent with many cultures, languages, threats and opportunities that U.S. planners need to consider, said Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, the commander of U.S. Africa Command during an interview.
The nations of the continent do have one big commonality: They prefer to solve African problems with African solutions, the general said.
Langley, who took command last year, has been visiting the nations of the continent and assessing how the United States can help nations achieve their own solutions.
“There are a number of drivers of instability from country to country, especially in developing democracies,” he said. “I do have to start with climate change because it changes the ecosystem and the dynamics across a population or across society. And climate change can stoke conflict.”
Extremist groups — some locally grown, some imported — are metastasizing in ungoverned areas of the continent, the general said. These groups “stoke violence and prey upon the population of ungoverned space.”
The general said the nations of West Africa are at a tipping point. These nations have the will to progress, but not the resources to build the capacity needed to counteract the challenges, “whether it be climate change or about extremist organizations.”
“They’re making choices, and sometimes they’re making wrong choices in, for example, choosing Wagner to come in and establish their security,” he said. The Wagner Group provides mercenary forces that have committed atrocities in Syria and Ukraine. The group is active in countries in Africa using the same tactics that brought international condemnation upon them.
The Wagner Group is in Africa purely for economic gain, Langley said. “They are not in line with international norms, values or the international system,” he said. “And some of these countries are starting to see that because some of their actions are against humanity.”
The United Nations has already called out the group for atrocities, their malign and nefarious activities and egregious actions against the populace, he said.
The presence of the group threatens democracy and progress of developing governments.
Since its founding in 2007, Langley’s command has fully embraced the 3D approach of diplomacy, development and defense. Africom and its State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development partners work seamlessly to “create conditions that would promote stability and security and overall prosperity,” he said.
In some areas and some countries, the development portion of the whole-of-government effort will be in the lead. In others, this belongs to the diplomats. The defense portion is fully in support of this effort.
West Africa is the most populous area of the continent and is a target of extremist groups. These include Boko Haram, Islamic State offshoots and others. “There are a number of countries that are on the cusp of making some decisions, or how to be able to address the threats across West Africa,” Langley said. “We are concerned about Mali, we’re concerned a bit about Burkina Faso, as well.”
Langley wants to see a partnership among the nations of the region as they face these challenges. Africom can help the countries build capability and capacity in the military realm, but progress is needed “so they can build a representative government that can address some of these issues holistically,” he said. “That takes time. That takes continuous investment. We need to be committed for the long term.”
The command works in close consultation with USAID and the State Department to form the overall strategic plans of action, “to ensure that we can be able to coalesce our efforts that assist African countries in their venture towards civilian stabilization,” Langley said.
Part of the capabilities Langley can bring to bear is the Army’s security force assistance brigades. “I wish we had more,” he said. “And we wish we had more state partnership programs as well.”
The latter is a National Guard program that teams countries with State Guard organizations. There are 16 nations on the continent partnered with State Guard organizations. For example, South Africa is partnered with the New York National Guard, Ghana and Benin are paired with North Dakota and so on.
“These countries want to fully institutionalize a civilian run military, but with the capability and capacity to address some of the challenges,” Langley said. “What better example than our citizen soldiers and airmen who are often the first responders when wildfires or hurricanes hit.”
These programs can be examples and suggestions to these nations, but they will put their own marks on any solution, the general said. “We characterize this as … Africans, providing African solutions to the African problems.”
He noted that in a recent trip to the Gulf of Guinea states, “they say the same thing: ‘America, we don’t want your boots on the ground. But we do need your assistance in certain areas to build capacity in our governance,’” he said. “The governance piece is probably the panacea for stabilization. These countries realize that they don’t need the U.S. telling them what to do, they just need a little help in certain areas.”
“That brings up an opportunity for me to just articulate where I see our needs, … and how effective we can be to operate at the speed of relevance in our processes, to bring resources, capabilities and assistance to ensure that these countries have what they need to take the next step,” Langley said.
“I use the metaphor of choice: this is a modest investment, and insurance for security and stability,” the general said. “It’s an investment. I remember when I first came into the military, and I saw a financial advisor. He told me, ‘Hey, just make this investment consistently and you will see in a number of years that compound interest is a beautiful thing.”
Careful but consistent investing in the nations of Africa will pay off for Africans and Americans in the years ahead, he said. (Source: US DoD)
16 Mar 23. Heavily censored Australian Defence Innovation Review released under AUKUS cover. A heavily redacted Defence Innovation Review has been released online after collecting dust during the last year.
The Defence Innovation Review was originally announced as a comprehensive review of Defence innovation, science and technology by the Morrison Government on 13 September 2021.
At that time, former Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever was selected to lead the independent review and establish how more effectively homegrown, innovative capabilities can be delivered to the Australian Defence Force.
The review was expected to provide recommendations regarding improving links between academia and industry, solving Defence capability challenges, simplifying contracts, and effective commercialised strategy for Defence-funded research and innovation.
The final product (which can be viewed here) was released on 14 March (coincidentally the same day as the AUKUS defence agreement) and features entire pages of redacted information including the removal of all key recommendations for Defence, project management tools, reports, and interviews.
The amount of information censored from the final 92-page report is so extensive that only the three, cover, glossary, and terms of reference pages, have been left unscathed.
“The global contest is changing fast (REDACTED). Australia faces an increasingly challenging defence environment, driven by three rapidly evolving, disruptive trends: a more complex and rapidly changing international climate; the changing character warfare; and rapidly emerging new technologies. In addition (REDACTED),” according to the report.
“The recent AUKUS partnership has brought a new focus on innovation capabilities (REDACTED). (REDACTED) innovation which can benefit Defence tends to come from outside of Defence – largely from industry. However, (REDACTED).”
“Australia’s Defence innovation ecosystem has delivered examples of innovation excellence and encourages world-leading innovation. Examples include gimbal-sensor technology for the unmanned aerial system program, and the flagship naval program Autonomous Warrior to demonstrate and trial autonomous vehicle capabilities. Given the rapidly evolving strategic context, (REDACTED).”
It’s a far cry from a public statement released in 2021 from then-Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, who said the review would give the ADF access to world-leading technologies and capabilities.
“We must ensure that we are taking full advantage of Australian innovations to maintain Defence’s capability edge while ensuring innovative businesses are given every chance of commercial success,” former minister Price said.
“We need a Defence organisation that can capitalise on the knowledge and skills of Australian industry and academia to develop mission-focused technology that can solve Defence’s unique capability challenges.
“The innovation is being jointly developed with taxpayers’ funds and Australians need to know we are investing their money wisely.” (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Mar 23. India approves purchase of military equipment worth $8.5bn. India on Thursday approved purchases of missiles, helicopters, artillery guns and electronic warfare systems worth $8.5bn as it sought to add more teeth to its military.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the top government body for capital acquisition approvals for the Indian military, approved the orders worth 705bn rupees ($8.52bn) for all its services, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
All orders would be placed with Indian companies, it said, keeping with a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to boost domestic defence manufacturing.
Flanked by fellow nuclear-armed powers China and Pakistan and running tensions with Chinese troops along its disputed Himalayan frontier, India has been seeking to modernise its mostly Soviet-era military equipment.
The focus on the navy, which accounted for approvals worth 560 billion rupees on Thursday, comes after India expressed concern last year over Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean.
The list of purchases approved included 200 additional BrahMos missiles, 50 utility helicopters and electronic warfare systems for the navy.
BrahMos is a supersonic missile with a range of around 300 km that has been jointly developed by India and Russia. All three Indian military services have been using versions of the missile for over a decade.
The DAC also approved manufacturing of a diesel marine engine, which will be a first for India.
It approved the air force’s proposal for a long range stand-off weapon to be used by the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet.
The army got the nod to buy 307 units of 155mm/52 caliber towed artillery guns, along with high mobility vehicles and gun towing vehicles. ($1 = 82.7720 Indian rupees) (Source: Reuters)
17 Mar 23. India is ready, Japan to take a call on expanding defence cooperation.
Next week, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida will be in Delhi on Monday and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow to firm up “no limits” alliance with Russia. The ball is now in PM Kishida’s court if he wants to deepen defence and cyber security ties with India.
Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will have a full plate in the Capital next Monday with Indo-Pacific, QUAD summit and G7-G20 on the agenda when he meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Japanese view on the Indo-Pacific and on expanding ties with India will be revealed when PM Kishida delivers a lecture on bilateral relations at the Sushma Swaraj Institute on March 20. Japan will host the G-7 summit in Kishida’s constituency Hiroshima on May 19-21, which will be attended by PM Modi with the QUAD summit in Sydney taking place the same month.
New Delhi will be hosting the SCO Summit on July 4 with G-20 Summit scheduled for September this year.
While the Chinese belligerents in the Indo-Pacific with Beijing having military friction with Tokyo over Senkaku Islands and in East Ladakh with India on top of the agenda, PM Modi and PM Kishida will have a discussion on the G-7, QUAD and G-20 summits later this year. Key to these discussions will be how the two leaders are able to harmonize their positions over the Ukraine war as the impact of G-7 and QUAD summit communique will be felt on the G-20 summit being hosted by India in September this year. Japan is with the Anglo-Saxon powers over Ukraine and wants to punish Russia, India on its part wants the war to end without taking an anti-Russia stand. (Source: News Now/https://www.hindustantimes.com/)
15 Mar 23. Yemen: US Gulf visit underscores diplomatic efforts amid the backdrop of Iran-Saudi rapprochement. On 15 March, US special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, began his visit to Saudi Arabia and Oman. The visit signals a continuation of Washington’s efforts to mediate a resolution between warring parties in the Yemen conflict, namely the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The meeting comes amid ongoing negotiations on a prisoner release deal between Yemen’s warring sides, as parties seek to discuss unresolved points of contention including access to Hodeidah port and the allocation of oil export revenue. Lenderking’s visit also highlights US efforts to reinstate its role as a regional peace broker after China mediated the latest rapprochement of Saudi Arabia and Iran (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 13 March 2023). In light of the Iran-Saudi rapprochement, these developments increase the likelihood that conflicting parties will engage in dialogue in the coming weeks. This will also reduce the prospects of cross-border aerial threats targeting Gulf assets in the maritime and energy sectors. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Mar 23. Somalia: Recent attack consistent with al-Shabaab tactics, sustaining heightened bystander risks in cities. On 14 March, al-Shabaab attacked a guesthouse in Bardera (Jubaland state) using a vehicle-borne IED, injuring 11 people and killing five others, including the Governor of the Gedo Province. The blast reportedly damaged surrounding infrastructure, including the nearby Bardera Hospital. The incident is consistent with al-Shabaab’s ongoing campaign to target government and military officials, and demonstrate its local influence in major cities despite government offensives (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 2 February 2023). The recent approval of the Anti-Terrorism Act, empowering Somali security agencies to conduct raids and arrests of terrorism suspects, will increase pressure on al-Shabaab’s support networks in major cities and mitigate risks of attacks in the medium-long term. However, over the coming weeks and months, further attacks will drive heightened risks to bystanders in cities in central and southern districts. Hotels and venues that are used by government and military officials are likely to remain hotspots for attacks. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Mar 23. Australia shouldn’t have signed Aukus deal with ‘gormless Brits’, says ex-PM.
Paul Keating claims that his country’s decision to join UK and US in defence pact could carry ‘deadly consequences’
A former Australian prime minister accused his country of following “gormless Brits” into a landmark nuclear-powered submarine deal that could carry “deadly consequences”.
Paul Keating said that Australia was beginning a “dangerous and unnecessary journey” by joining the UK and US in the Aukus security and defence pact that aims to counter China’s growing military footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.
In San Diego on Monday, the three Western allies announced that Australia would buy up to five US submarines and launch a 30-year plan to build its own fleet of British-designed nuclear-powered subs.
But Mr Keating, who led Australia between 1991 and 1996, argued that China posed no tangible threat, saying that blindly pursuing the US “with the gormless Brits lunging along behind” was a “great mistake” that could draw Australia into future conflicts.
His objections closely echoed those of Beijing, which reacted with predictable anger to the Aukus deal, charging that it “completely ignored the concerns of the international community” and would fuel a regional arms race.
“I don’t think the facts bear that out,” she said, urging Beijing to accept Washington’s overtures to set “guardrails” to keep strategic competition over potential regional flashpoints in check.
The deal has been described as Australia’s biggest-ever military upgrade and was introduced by Joe Biden, the US president, as a joint effort to keep the Indo-Pacific “free and open”.
Ms Wong said that Australia’s intentions were driven by a desire for regional stability and prosperity.
“Australia – as a middle power in the region, as a country of the Indo-Pacific – we seek this capability to contribute to peace. We don’t seek to escalate,” she said.
“China, obviously, has its own national interests and it has chosen to make a set of decisions about its strategic capability. What we are doing is making sure we replace our existing submarine capability with a new capability which we intend to contribute to peace.”
However, she cautioned that “the region has an interest in the great powers managing their competition wisely” to avoid “escalation” and “miscalculation”.
Relations between China and the US have deteriorated sharply in recent years over disputes about trade, Beijing’s territorial claims to the South China Sea and Taiwan, as well as allegations of Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Diplomatic efforts to restore ties and agree on so-called “guardrails” to stop tensions from spiralling out of control were derailed earlier this year when the US shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon.
Ms Wong appealed to China to accept the US offer, saying: “Australia is very supportive of the Biden administration putting guardrails on the table. We would urge China to respond positively.
“What the region wants is for competition to be managed because we recognise that the consequences of escalation for all of us could be catastrophic.”
Territorial disputes over the resource-rich South China Sea, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and border clashes between China and India have all been viewed as potential powder kegs.
Jitters over China’s stance on Taiwan
However, it is the looming prospect of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that has most recently put the Indo-Pacific on edge.
The Chinese Communist Party claims self-governed Taiwan as its own, even though it has never ruled there and Beijing has ramped up its military and political intimidation of the democracy of 23.6 m people, threatening to forcibly seize it.
Ms Wong declined to speculate on Australia’s reaction if China attacked Taiwan.
“What I will say is this: that peace is best preserved by the maintenance of the status quo, that Australia will continue along with others to urge all parties to ensure that there is no unilateral change to the status quo,” she said.
Small and medium-sized Pacific countries did not simply see themselves as “observers of great power competition”, Ms Wong said.
“[We] have agency in an era of strategic competition, and we should shoulder that agency and we should utilise it. That’s what we are doing with this Aukus announcement.” (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
15 Mar 23. What Happens in Ukraine Matters to the World, Austin Says.
“Ukraine matters,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III flatly said during a Pentagon news conference today.
The secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to the media following the 10th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group — a group of nations working to supply Ukraine what it needs to combat Russia’s invasion of the country.
“Ukraine matters. It matters not to just Ukraine or to the United States, it matters to the world,” the secretary said. “This is about the rules based international order. It’s about one country’s ability to wake up one day and change the borders of its neighbor and annex its neighbor’s sovereign territory.”
Countries around the world realize how serious this challenge to the status quo is, and they are working together. “That’s why you’ve seen 50 countries not only come to the … the initial meetings of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, but they continue to come back,” Austin said. “And they continue to work hard to ensure that Ukraine gets everything that it needs to be successful. And that’ll remain our focus going forward.”
The secretary also addressed Russia’s “dangerous and reckless and unprofessional behavior in the international airspace over the Black Sea” yesterday. Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft conducting routine operations in international airspace. A Russian jet struck the unmanned aerial vehicle causing it to crash.
“This hazardous episode is a part of a pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace,” Austin said. “Now I just got off the phone with my Russian counterpart, Minister Shoigu. And as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s important that great powers be models of transparency and communication. And the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows. It is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”
The contact group is a visible affirmation of unity and resolve to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom. “We were joined again today by some 50 nations of goodwill from all around the globe,” the secretary said. “And they all understand that Ukraine’s battle to defend itself from Russian aggression is vital for everyone who values the core principles of sovereignty, self-determination and freedom.”
The group heard from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov about his country’s plans and needs in the face of Russia’s aggression. Ukrainian service members have stood firm against Russia using weapons supplied by the nations of the contact group.
“Russia hopes to grind down Ukraine in a war of attrition, but Ukraine has been supplied by more than 40 countries,” Austin said. “Meanwhile, Russia has had to depend on Iran and North Korea and has had to use equipment dating back to World War II. So, Russia is running out of capability and running out of friends.”
Ukraine has never been a threat to Russia, Chairman Milley said. “Russia launched, and has continued for over a year now, a war of aggression and flagrant violation of international law,” the general said. “This is, and remains, a Russian frontal assault on the rules-based international order that has been in place for 80 years.”
In face of this war of conquest, the contact group remains unified. “NATO is united. The people of Ukraine are unyielding; they are standing steadfast in the face of the Russian onslaught,” he said. “Russia remains isolated, their military stocks are rapidly depleting, the soldiers are demoralized, untrained, unmotivated conscripts and convicts and their leadership is failing them.”
The Battle of Bakhmut continues. “Ukraine has fixed the Russian forces at that city, and they’re exacting very heavy costs on the Wagner group and the Russian regular military,” Milley said. “Ukraine remains strong.
“This is a grinding, attrition warfare that Russia is trying to execute,” the general continued. “Wave after wave of Russian soldiers are thrown into the chaos of war, absent any sort of synchronized coordination and direction. Russia continues to pay severely in terms of lives and military equipment for its continued war of choice.”
Milley said Vladimir Putin cannot win his strategic objectives. “It should be obvious to Putin that these objectives are no longer achievable by continuing this war,” Milley said. “Putin can end this war. He can end it today. And he needs to do so. Free people are not easily conquered, and the Ukrainian people are free, and they will never give up in their fight to stay free.” (Source: US DoD)
14 Mar 23. Myanmar: Internal armed conflict shows no signs of abating; scrutiny on international firms will remain high. On 14 March, the activist group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) released a report alleging that two European engineering firms had received significant payments from Myanmar’s electricity ministry for consulting services related to hydropower projects since the military coup in 2021. JFM criticised the companies for working with the junta administration, which has been accused of widespread human rights violations. Most recently, on 11 March, the junta was accused of killing at least 28 people at a monastery in a village in Shan State. The continued conflict and opposition to the junta’s rule have driven the implementation of international sanctions, and scrutiny from human rights groups on firms with operations in Myanmar. For example, earlier in the month, Amnesty International and Global Witness criticised firms involved in the continued sale of aviation fuel to Myanmar. With the situation highly unlikely to be resolved for the foreseeable future, such scrutiny will likely remain elevated. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Mar 23. DOD Official Says Sub Agreement Will Help Guarantee Free, Open Indo-Pacific. U.S. defense officials believe the Australia-United Kingdom-United States enhanced security partnership will go a long way to guaranteeing stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Mara E. Karlin, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said the agreement spells out the pathway for Australia to acquire a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability. The so-called AUKUS agreement is the latest example of how close the alliance is among the three nations.
“The three nations took 18 months to identify the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire this capability while setting the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard,” she said at a Pentagon news conference today. “This plan will deliver on that commitment and lift all three nations’ submarine industrial bases and undersea capabilities, enhancing deterrence and promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Karlin said.
Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have been firm and dependable allies since 1917, when soldiers of the three nations fought side-by-side in the trenches of France. It is hard to exaggerate how close the alliance is among the nations, she said.
The AUKUS agreement is the next logical step in the partnership among the nations and should help the United States pursue a free, open and secure world and protect U.S. national interests and those of allies and partners, she said. “AUKUS advances this goal by building our military capabilities, and those of two of our very closest allies, enabling closer military planning and cooperation,” she said. “It is a generational opportunity to enhance the national security of all three nations.”
The AUKUS pathway is broken into phases with the first starting immediately. “The United States and the United Kingdom will immediately increase port visits of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia, and then as early as 2027, will begin rotating through Australia under the Submarine Rotational Force West,” Karlin said.
This deployment will ensure Australian service members can continue familiarizing themselves with how these vessels operate, how they are properly maintained, and how to safely operate together. “The increased presence of U.S. submarines will buttress regional stability and support the safe development of Australian stewardship of its own sovereign, conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine enterprise,” she said.
Under the next phase the United States will sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia, with the potential for two more submarines depending on conditions. This will provide Australia with a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability prior to building their own. This will mean there will be “three allied, and highly interoperable fleets operating in the Indo-Pacific,” Karlin said.
The final phase revolves around the SSN-AUKUS — a next generation conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine that will be designed and constructed by Australia and the United Kingdom and incorporate cutting edge American technologies in their propulsion plant, combat control and in weapon systems.
Australian sailors should be sailing nuclear-powered submarines built in their own yards by the early 2040s.
AUKUS will diversify U.S. posture in the Indo-Pacific, offering new locations from which American forces can operate, Karlin said. “AUKUS will strengthen U.S. and allied submarine industrial capacity, which is key to modernizing, innovating and maintaining our military and economic competitive edge today and in the future.”
This close partnership will also help “modernize our information sharing and export control systems, which is necessary for the effective implementation of AUKUS,” she said. (Source: US DoD)
14 Mar 23. ‘Age of American Naval Dominance is over’ Retired US Naval Officer warns. Ahead of the transformative AUKUS announcement, retired US Navy Officer, Jerry Hendrix has issued a concerning warning for the US and its global allies, that “The United States has ceded the oceans to its enemies. We can no longer take freedom of the seas for granted.”
Naval power has always played a critical role in the way great powers interact. The decades leading up to the outbreak of the First World War saw an unprecedented competition between the UK and German Empire, with much of the emphasis placed on Dreadnought battleships echoing a similar, albeit smaller, naval arms race continuing to gather steam between the US and China.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the British Royal Navy was unrivalled in its ability to rule the waves. Maintaining this capability was the “two-power” standard, which sought to ensure that the Royal Navy was at least the size of the next two largest competing navies.
This naval might guaranteed the British economy’s access to vital raw resources and helped ensure that the “sun never set on the British Empire”.
In the distance, as France struggled to rebuild itself as a true competitor, the newly formed German Empire emerged as an economic, political and naval competitor to Britain. Driven by voracious consumer and economic demand, combined with a new sense of national purpose, Bismarck’s Germany rapidly became a European and global powerhouse in the decades following its formation in 1871.
Recognising the mounting challenge posed by the rising German power, the British Royal Navy launched HMS Dreadnought in 1906, effectively resetting the game and laying down the challenge to Germany and any other nation that sought to challenge the industrial, economic and naval might of the British Empire.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 21st century and the US, following decades of the Cold War, remained the world’s largest and most powerful naval power. Commanding the seas through a vast fleet of technologically advanced surface vessels and submarines, with the mighty supercarrier serving as the epicentre of America’s global maritime hegemony.
However, America’s maritime hegemony is now being challenged by a rising power in China that is introducing a suite of maritime capabilities to rival the dominance of the US Navy, as history appears to be repeating itself in the 21st century.
While the AUKUS announcement will have a transformational impact on the Royal Australian Navy and its capacity to contribute to the Government’s ambitions of “impactful projection” in response to the mounting challenges presented by Beijing across the Indo-Pacific, retired US Navy officer turned academic, Jerry Hendrix has highlighted the impact the relative decline of US naval power will have on the post-war world:
“Very few Americans or, for that matter, very few people on the planet—can remember a time when freedom of the seas was in question. But for most of human history, there was no such guarantee. Pirates, predatory states, and the fleets of great powers did as they pleased.
“The current reality, which dates only to the end of World War II, makes possible the commercial shipping that handles more than 80 percent of all global trade by volume—oil and natural gas, grain and raw ores, manufactured goods of every kind. Because freedom of the seas, in our lifetime, has seemed like a default condition, it is easy to think of it—if we think of it at all—as akin to Earth’s rotation or the force of gravity: as just the way things are, rather than as a man-made construct that needs to be maintained and enforced,” Hendrix states.
What if safety of the seas was no longer assured?
As Hendrix highlights, the post-Second World War order as defined by the unquestioning dominance of the global maritime commons by the United States Navy is coming to an end, this major shift marks the end of an era that much of the developed and developing world have become increasingly dependent upon for their economic stability and prosperity – Australia included.
Hendrix references an important recent example of when the flow of maritime goods was hindered and the subsequent flow on global economic impact of the grounding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal which compounded the global supply chain shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he explains: “In 2021, the grounding of the container ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal, forcing vessels shuttling between Asia and Europe to divert around Africa, delaying their passage and driving up costs. A few months later, largely because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 100 container ships were stacked up outside the California Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, snarling supply chains throughout the country.
“These events were temporary, if expensive. Imagine, though, a more permanent breakdown. A humiliated Russia could declare a large portion of the Arctic Ocean to be its own territorial waters, twisting the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to support its claim. Russia would then allow its allies access to this route while denying it to those who dared to oppose its wishes. Neither the U.S. Navy, which has not built an Arctic-rated surface warship since the 1950s, nor any other NATO nation is currently equipped to resist such a gambit,” Hendrix goes further, raising the important question of the impact of a peer competitor interdicting maritime trade.
Importantly, for much of the past half century, the United States-led world has enjoyed a quantitative edge of adversaries across the maritime domain, whether it was through the advent of nuclear-powered submarines with the launch of USS Nautilus in 1954, the overwhelming power projection capabilities provided by aircraft carriers and the increasing proliferation of advanced guided weapons resulting in an almost unprecedented period of assured maritime dominance, that is all beginning to change.
Where once Australia and its allies enjoyed a qualitative and numerical advantage, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is rapidly gaining ground in terms of both their technological proficiency, capability and overwhelmingly in terms of the numbers capable of being fielded at any given time – this is being further compounded by the increased modernisation and capabilities of the Russian Navy, despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the rising capabilities of smaller, but no less consequential powers that will increasingly have a say on the flow of goods and resources through the maritime commons.
Hendrix highlights the economic impact such competition and aggression toward the maritime sea lines of communication would have for trading nations, Australia in particular, where he states, “If oceanic trade declines, markets would turn inward, perhaps setting off a second Great Depression. Nations would be reduced to living off their own natural resources, or those they could buy—or take—from their immediate neighbors. The world’s oceans, for 70 years assumed to be a global commons, would become a no-man’s-land. This is the state of affairs that, without a moment’s thought, we [the United States] have invited.”
The US has retreated from all ‘instruments of sea power’
Critically for Hendrix, he believes that the United States and by extension, its allies, critically nations like the United Kingdom and Australia have seemingly abandoned what he defines as the ‘instruments of sea power’, that is namely, “America’s commercial shipbuilding industry began losing its share of the global market in the 1960s to countries with lower labor costs, and to those that had rebuilt their industrial capacity after the war.”
Going further, Hendrix highlights the impact of late-Cold War globalisation and the detrimental economic, industrial and national security impacts the policies of the late 1980s had and continue to have into the modern day, where he highlights, “The drop in American shipbuilding accelerated after President Ronald Reagan took office, in 1981. The administration, in a nod to free-market principles, began to shrink government subsidies that had supported the industry. That was a choice; it might have gone the other way. Aircraft manufacturers in the United States, citing national-security concerns, successfully lobbied for continued, and even increased, subsidies for their industry in the decades that followed—and got them.
“It is never to a nation’s advantage to depend on others for crucial links in its supply chain. But that is where we are. In 1977, American shipbuilders produced more than 1 m gross tons of merchant ships. By 2005, that number had fallen to 300,000. Today, most commercial ships built in the United States are constructed for government customers such as the Maritime Administration or for private entities that are required to ship their goods between U.S. ports in U.S.-flagged vessels, under the provisions of the 1920 Jones Act,” Hendrix highlights.
Shifting to the US Navy’s capacity to field and deploy combat power, Hendrix’s point echoes a similar outlook for the US Navy, where he states, ”
The U.S. Navy, too, has been shrinking. After the Second World War, the Navy scrapped many of its ships and sent many more into a ready-reserve “mothball” fleet. For the next two decades, the active naval fleet hovered at about 1,000 ships. But beginning in 1969, the total began to fall. By 1971, the fleet had been reduced to 750 ships. Ten years later, it was down to 521. Reagan, who had campaigned in 1980 on a promise to rebuild the Navy to 600 ships, nearly did so under the able leadership of his secretary of the Navy, John Lehman. During Reagan’s eight years in office, the size of the Navy’s fleet climbed to just over 590 ships.
“Then the Cold War ended. The administrations of Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton slashed troops, ships, aircraft, and shore-based infrastructure. During the Obama administration, the Navy’s battle force bottomed out at 271 ships. Meanwhile, both China and Russia, in different ways, began to develop systems that would challenge the U.S.-led regime of global free trade on the high seas,” Hendrix articulates.
These stark concerns echo the similar concerns of fellow retired US Navy Captain, Sam Tangredi who recently conducted a series of detailed analysis for the US Naval Institute, where he took a closer look at the growing need to reignite the fires of US and allied shipbuilding to not just increase the aggregated combat power of the US and its critical allies, Australia included, but to enhance the economic resilience and competitiveness of these once great industrial powers.
Tangredi, however, argues that the biggest challenge is convincing policymakers and legislators of just that fact, stating in the US example: “The United States can fund a significant fleet that matches the growth of the PLA Navy — or not. Whether the fleet is 250 or 500 ships is for elected officials and the Navy to decide, but those leaders must identify, acknowledge, and own that risk. There is risk in all choices. But there is particularly higher risk in making choices based on unproven assumptions.
“Based on historical research, claims such as ‘numbers don’t matter’ and ‘our ships are more capable and therefore we need fewer’ have no basis in evidence. Such claims are assumptions that ignore historical evidence, but as Hemingway wrote in A Sun Also Rises, ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so’,” Tangredi adds.
Concerningly for both the United States and Australia, the limited number of hulls, as set by “peace time” circumstances influencing policymaking and doctrine-setting dramatically impacts the capacity of the allies to fight in the Western Pacific, in range of Beijing’s formidable area denial capabilities, particularly when the United States, for example, has a global presence to maintain.
For Australia who will be required to take an increasing leadership role in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and into the Northwest Pacific, more capable hulls in greater number will be required to operate independently as well as part of larger allied task groups, will need to confront, as US combatant commanders will, a “bet on technological — without numerical — superiority in that fight”, as described by Tangredi.
It is clear, that growing the number of “cheap” and “plentiful” platforms will provide additional resilience in the event of high-intensity, peer competitor conflict scenarios, freeing up the high-end platforms to conduct strategically important operations, while enabling these cheaper platforms to provide a plug-and-play capability in a range of scenarios, ranging from long-range, maritime merchant marine escort operations, through to integration into larger allied task groups.
This flexibility provides interesting avenues worth consideration for strengthening Australia’s maritime capabilities, while maximising interoperability with allied partners without compromising key high-end warfighting capabilities outlined in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.
Lessons for Australia’s future strategic planning
There is no doubt that Australia’s position and responsibilities in the Indo-Pacific region will depend on the nation’s ability to sustain itself economically, strategically and politically in the face of rising regional and global competition. Despite the nation’s virtually unrivalled wealth of natural resources, agricultural and industrial potential, there is a lack of a cohesive national security strategy integrating the development of individual, yet complementary public policy strategies to support a more robust Australian role in the region.
While contemporary Australia has been far removed from the harsh realities of conflict, with many generations never enduring the reality of rationing for food, energy, medical supplies or luxury goods, and even fewer within modern Australia understanding the socio-political and economic impact such rationing would have on the now world-leading Australian standard of living.
Enhancing Australia’s capacity to act as an independent power, incorporating great power-style strategic economic, diplomatic and military capability serves as a powerful symbol of Australia’s sovereignty and evolving responsibilities in supporting and enhancing the security and prosperity of Indo-Pacific Asia, this is particularly well explained by Peter Zeihan, who explains: “A deglobalised world doesn’t simply have a different economic geography, it has thousands of different and separate geographies. Economically speaking, the whole was stronger for the inclusion of all its parts. It is where we have gotten our wealth and pace of improvement and speed. Now the parts will be weaker for their separation.”
As events continue to unfold throughout the region and China continues to throw its economic, political and strategic weight around, can Australia afford to remain a secondary power, or does it need to embrace a larger, more independent role in an era of increasing great power competition? (Source: Defence Connect)
14 Mar 23. The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, based on the UK’s world-leading submarine design.
- A new fleet of submarines will be built by the UK and Australia based on the UK’s nuclear-powered submarine design.
- UK’s submarines will be in operation by the late 2030s following massive, trilateral building project which will create thousands of jobs in the UK.
- Next stage of AUKUS submarine project announced by the Prime Minister, Australian Prime Minister Albanese and US President Biden in San Diego.
The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, based on the UK’s world-leading submarine design, the Prime Minister has announced today alongside the leaders of Australia and the United States.
In September 2021 the UK, Australia and the United States of America announced an historic, trilateral endeavour to support Australia to acquire a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine or ‘SSN’ – a partnership known as AUKUS.
Following an 18-month scoping period to establish the optimal pathway to Australia acquiring this capability, a model has been chosen based on the UK’s world-leading design and incorporating cutting-edge US submarine technology.
Australia and the UK will both build new submarines to this design, known as ‘SSN-AUKUS’, with construction of the UK’s submarines taking place principally in Barrow-in-Furness. Australia will work over the next decade to build up its submarine industrial base, and will build its submarines in South Australia with some components manufactured in the UK.
The first UK submarines built to this design will be delivered in the late 2030s to replace the current Astute-Class vessels, and the first Australian submarines will follow in the early 2040s.
The SSN-AUKUS submarines will be the largest, most advanced and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy, combining world-leading sensors, design and weaponry in one vessel.
This massive multilateral undertaking will create thousands of jobs in the UK in the decades ahead, building on more than 60 years of British expertise designing, building and operating nuclear-powered submarines. As the home of British submarine building, most of these jobs will be concentrated in Barrow-in-Furness with further roles created elsewhere along the supply chain, including in Derby.
Choosing an interoperable submarine design will allow the Royal Navy, with its Australian and US counterparts to work together to meet shared threats and deter aggression. This includes in the Indo-Pacific where the refresh of the UK’s Integrated Review, published today, has confirmed the importance of increased engagement in this febrile region. The strategy confirms the Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’ as a permanent pillar of the UK’s international policy.
The UK’s SSN-AUKUS submarines will also help us maintain our commitment to defending the Euro-Atlantic region, adding to the work we do through NATO as the alliance’s largest European contributor.
The Prime Minister said: “The AUKUS partnership, and the submarines we are building in British shipyards, are a tangible demonstration of our commitment to global security. This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. And I am hugely pleased that the plans we have announced today will see pioneering British design expertise protect our people and our allies for generations to come.”
The Prime Minister announced today (Monday) that an additional £5bn will be provided to the MoD over the next two years, which will be spent in a number of areas including modernising the UK’s nuclear enterprise and funding the next phase of the AUKUS submarine programme.
This will be followed by sustained funding over the next decade to support the SSN-AUKUS programme and will build on the £2bn invested last year in our Dreadnought-class submarine programme.
Construction will start on the UK’s SNN-AUKUS submarines towards the end of this decade. Decisions about how many submarines the UK requires will be made in the coming years, based on the strategic threat picture at the time. The UK’s SSN-AUKUS submarines will be built by BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. Once they are operational, the UK’s new SSN-AUKUS submarines will replace our current Astute-Class submarines.
The Defence Secretary said: “This is a significant step forward for our three nations as we work together to contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific and across the world. Supporting thousands of jobs across the UK, with many in the north-west of England, this endeavour will boost prosperity across our country and showcase the prowess of British industry to our allies and partners.”
To deliver the new submarines by the earliest possible date, Royal Australian Navy personnel will be embedded in the Royal Navy and US Navy, and – subject to necessary arrangements – at British and American submarine industrial bases, by the end of this year. This process will accelerate the training of Australian personnel required for them to operate a submarine fleet.
US submarines will also increase port visits to Australia from this year with the UK increasing visits from 2026. British and American SSNs will make longer term deployments to Australia from as early as 2027 to accelerate the development of Australia’s workforce, infrastructure and regulatory system.
As part of the agreement, to fulfil Australia’s need for a nuclear-powered submarine until the SSN-AUKUS is operational, the US intends to sell Australia a number of Virginia-Class submarines in the 2030s.
The approach we have taken on the AUKUS programme has included extensive engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with all countries committed to developing an approach which protects classified information and strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.
13 Mar 23. Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on AUKUS Optimal Pathway Announcement. Today, I was honored to join President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Albanese, and U.K. Prime Minister Sunak as they announced the AUKUS Optimal Pathway, a commitments-based, phased plan for Australia to acquire conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines. This is the next step forward in the transformational partnership among our three great democracies.
In September 2021, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom laid out an ambitious vision for our countries that will strengthen our combined military capabilities, boost our defense industrial capacity, enhance our ability to deter aggression, and promote our shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific. AUKUS is a shared, long-term investment that will allow us to build defense advantages that endure for decades to come.
One of the most important parts of this partnership is increasing each of our countries’ submarine capabilities. Under the first phase of the Optimal Pathway, the United States and the United Kingdom will immediately increase port visits of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia and then, as early as 2027, will begin rotating through Australia under Submarine Rotational Force-West. In the next phase, the United States intends to sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the 2030s, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed. Finally, Australia and the United Kingdom will develop and deploy SSN-AUKUS, a new conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine that incorporates critical U.S. technologies. Each phase of the Optimal Pathway will set the highest nuclear nonproliferation standards.
We’re also working to strengthen our countries’ industrial bases; to eliminate barriers to information-sharing and technological cooperation; and to develop and deliver advanced capabilities in such areas as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and maritime domain awareness. All these investments will allow us to work more closely with our valued and highly capable allies to deter aggression in the Indo-Pacific—a region whose future is crucial for U.S. national security and the rules-based international order that makes us all safer.
I would like to thank the many public servants in all three proud democracies whose hard work has made this historic announcement possible. I look forward to working with my team and with our Australian and British counterparts to continue to move toward our shared vision of a stable, secure Indo-Pacific and an open world of rules and rights.
(Source: US DoD)
13 Mar 23. China cautions Australia against AUKUS submarine cooperation. The People’s Republic of China has cautioned Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom of “Cold War mentality” and “nuclear proliferation risks” in relation to the AUKUS agreement.
Unconfirmed speculation indicates an AUKUS announcement could be made by US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego on 13 March.
That announcement could include supply of UK or US nuclear submarines and technology to Australia.
PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning made comments cautioning against pursuing nuclear submarine cooperation, during a regular press conference on 9 March this year.
“China has made clear its strong position on nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK, and Australia on multiple occasions,” she said.
“This trilateral cooperation constitutes serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines the international non-proliferation system, exacerbates arms race, and hurts peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.
“It has been widely questioned and opposed by regional countries and the wider international community.
“We urge the US, the UK, and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, honour international obligations in good faith, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability.”
Australian Government reveals AUKUS Submarine workforce and industry strategy. (Source: Defence Connect)
14 Mar 23. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles and Defence Industry Minister, Pat Conroy have revealed the Government’s plan to develop the Australian workforce and industrial base to help deliver the nation’s future nuclear-powered submarines. The wait is finally over, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President, Joe Biden revealing the fruits of the trilateral AUKUS partnership with Australia’s optimal pathway to fielding a world-leading nuclear powered submarine fleet, to be known as the SSN-AUKUS at least for the time being.
The Australian Government recognises the central role a local industrial base and world leading workforce will play in shaping the cost effective and on schedule delivery of these future platforms, announcing they developing a comprehensive AUKUS Submarine Workforce and Industry Strategy to support delivery of advanced conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines to the Australian Defence Force.
The AUKUS submarine program has been described as “the most transformative industrial endeavour in Australian history” – exceeding in scale, complexity and economic significance the creation of an Australian automotive manufacturing sector and the construction of the Snowy Scheme in the post-war decades.
Australia’s industrial base will be just the second in history to be granted access to highly sensitive US nuclear propulsion capability and afforded the ability to access, handle, build and sustain this sensitive technology.
Australians have already commenced training and working on UK and US nuclear-powered submarines and in UK and US facilities. The Government expects that between 2027 to 2032, an additional 500 direct jobs are expected to be created to sustain the Submarine Rotational Force-West US and UK presence in Western Australia.
This will mean Australia has a trained and experienced sovereign workforce for the arrival of Australia’s Virginia class submarines from as soon as the early 2030s- at its peak up to an estimated 4,000 Australian workers will be employed to design and build the infrastructure for the new submarine construction yard in South Australia.
The Australian Government explained that a further 4,000 to 5,500 direct jobs will be created to build the nuclear-powered submarines in South Australia when the program reaches its peak in 20 to 30 years, almost double the workforce the former Government forecast for the Attack class program.
As part of developing the AUKUS Submarine Workforce and Industry Strategy, the Government expects the strategy will detail how Australia will:
- Attract, recruit, develop, qualify and retain a highly-skilled trades, technical, scientific and engineering workforce;
- Invest in new infrastructure for sustaining and building nuclear-powered submarines in Australia; and
- Support and build the capabilities of Australia’s world-leading defence industry.
Key elements of the Strategy the Government is planning include:
The new fleet of submarines will require extensive new sustainment infrastructure in Western Australia at HMAS Stirling including wharf upgrades, warehousing and sustainment facilities.
These facilities will be supported by new submarine construction infrastructure in South Australia at the Osborne shipbuilding precinct, including site identification and design, land transfer discussions, civil works and prototype facilities and national engineering and technology facilities as part of the whole-of-nation strategy to develop the world leading workforce required to support the delivery, operation and sustainment of the nation’s nuclear powered submarine fleet.
The Government’s strategy will place a heavy emphasis on building the workforce necessary, the Government’s strategy will conduct detailed workforce planning to include identifying the Australian submarine industrial workforce through forecasting workforce demand and supply, identifying priority skills areas, identifying education and training requirements and finalising a workforce strategy.
The Commonwealth will also work with the South Australian Government on a dedicated Skills and Training Academy to deliver tailored education, training and skilling for Australia’s submarine and naval shipbuilding workforce including:
- Career training programs to bring new people into the workforce, such as apprentices, undergraduates and graduate apprentices;
- Lifting the skills of the existing naval shipbuilding workforce; and
- Transition programs to bring in people from adjacent industries in the defence, manufacturing and technology sectors.
This work will be expanded to include work force training and development in Western Australia, to develop a skills and training program, leveraging existing relationships with WA vocational and tertiary institutions – this will also include opportunities for early opportunities to embed industrial, Australian Defence Force and Australian Public Service personnel in UK and US facilities and shipyards to build the necessary skills and experience on active submarine construction lines.
Finally, the workforce development strategy will also include a suite of new education and training courses including:
- Expanding the Sovereign Shipbuilding Talent Pool (SSTP), commencing with an initial cohort of 74 apprentices, undergraduates and graduates in coming months;
- Developing nation-wide education and skilling plans with the university and vocational education sectors; and
- Supporting an existing cohort of over 50 Australians to commence new specialised courses in the UK and US and new tertiary courses for nuclear engineering at the University of New South Wales and nuclear science at the Australian National University.
Industrial base:Having the necessary industrial base in country will prove equally critical to operating and sustaining, not just Australia’s own fleet of nuclear powered submarines, but also supporting those of the US and Royal Navy’s respectively, accordingly, the the Government’s strategy will:
- Developing opportunities for Australian industry to carry out maintenance for US Virginia class and UK Astute class submarines during their rotational presence in Western Australia;
- Opportunities to embed Australian industry in the UK and US nuclear-powered submarine construction and sustainment programs and supply chains with our partners, including Australian industry supplying Australian-manufactured materials and components to the UK and US submarine programs; and
- Establishing mechanisms for Australian industry to register interest in participating in the Australian, UK and US nuclear-powered submarine programs.
The Government states, “The AUKUS Submarine Workforce and Industry Strategy will be finalised and implemented in consultation with our trilateral partners and state and territory governments, industry and unions.” (Source: Defence Connect)
14 Mar 23. Australian government calls feedback on Defence legislation reforms. With the Australian government’s response to the Defence Strategic Review and several AUKUS-related announcements due over the next few weeks, the Australian Government has called for public feedback on proposed fundamental reforms to Defence legislation.
Submissions close on 21 April, 2023.
The Defence Act 1903, and related legislation, will be amended to better position the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as an agile, integrated, warfighting enterprise. The proposed reforms to the legal framework will address the full range of modern military capabilities and operational domains, including cyber and space.
“The effectiveness of existing laws is impacted by strategic competition and uncertainty, the changing character of warfare, new and emerging technologies, domestic regulation and globalisation,” said Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite.
“The revised Defence legislation will support the full range of military activities and capabilities required to defend Australia and its national interests, while also providing for seamless interoperability with our defence partners.”
The reforms will help to enable and reinforce future capability in the ADF to protect the Australian community and Australia’s national interests.
Individuals and organisations now have the opportunity to provide comment and make a submission.
The Australian Government is committed to reforming defence legislation to ensure the ADF can meet the challenges of a rapidly changing strategic environment and the realities of modern competition and conflict.
Further information on how to make a submission is available on the Department of Defence website at https://www.defence.gov.au/about/reviews-inquiries/reforming-defence-legislation (Source: Rumour Control)
14 Mar 23. Australia and India strengthen defence and technology ties.
The first AUSMIN/AUKMIN-style meeting of Australian and Indian Foreign and Defence Ministers will be held later this year, it has been announced by the two countries’ Prime Ministers. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a three-day State Visit to India where he met his opposite number, Shri Narendra Modi, prime Minister of India.
Both Prime Ministers held the 1st Annual Australia-India Summit in New Delhi on 10 March 2023, addressing a diverse range of areas, including political and strategic, defence and security, trade and investment, education and research, agriculture and water, cyber and space, mining and critical minerals, climate change and renewable energy, and mobility of people.
The Prime Ministers welcomed sustained progress under the defence and security pillar of the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Recognising the increasingly uncertain global security environment, they underlined their unwavering commitment to strengthening the India-Australia defence and security partnership to address shared challenges, and work towards an open, inclusive, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
The Prime Ministers said the 2+2 Defence and Foreign Ministerial Dialogue and the meeting of the Defence Ministers would enhance mutual understanding and coordination of engagements between the two countries. They welcomed the arrangements between the two countries for enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness in the Indian Ocean region, increased defence information sharing and consolidation of mutual access that continue to deepen operational defence cooperation.
Recalling the India-Australia Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-enabled Critical Technology Cooperation and Plan of Action signed by the two countries’ Foreign Ministers on 4 June 2020, both sides appreciated the progress achieved in deepening the bilateral cyber cooperation. The Prime Ministers also agreed that India and Australia may continue to explore conduct of aircraft deployments from each other’s territories to build operational familiarity and enhance maritime domain awareness.
They also highlighted the significance of defence industry, research and material cooperation between the two countries and acknowledged the progress achieved under the Joint Working Group to enhance cooperation in these areas. The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the visit of an Australian delegation to Indian defence corridors in 2022 and underscored the need for boosting connections between Indian and Australian defence industrial bases.
The Prime Ministers strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and emphasised the need for strengthened international cooperation to combat terrorism in a comprehensive and sustained manner, and to combat all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, whatever their motivation may be. (Source: Rumour Control)
14 Mar 23. Learning from Ukraine, Taiwan shows off its drones as key to ‘asymmetric warfare.’ Taiwan showcased new models of its domestically produced military drones on Tuesday, saying they are key to its “asymmetric warfare” capacity to make its forces more agile if they have to face a far larger Chinese military.
China, which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, has ramped up military activity near the democratically governed island to force it to accept Chinese sovereignty despite Taiwan’s objections.
The war in Ukraine has lent new urgency to Taiwan military’s efforts to bolster defence including a push to develop drones.
In a rare display of its drone capabilities, the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), showed off its latest models, including the Albatross II surveillance drone, and combat drones that operate with global positioning system satellites.
NCSIST head Art Chang said the war in Ukraine had focused attention on drones, and his institution had teamed up with Taiwan companies to build a “national team” to develop military drones.
Taiwan’s military has announced a partnership with companies aimed at producing 3,000 drones next year. Chi Li-Pin, director of Aeronautical Systems Research Division for NCSIST, said the armed forces should increase their adoption of drones in their strategies. (Source: Reuters)
13 Mar 23. Quality and availability of SANDF equipment hurting morale. The quality and availability of equipment in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is a concern to its members and is bringing morale down. This is according to the results of a survey by the Defence Inspectorate Division of the Department of Defence. Major General Willbrod Musa Mazibuko, Inspector General, provided the results of the 2021/22 financial year morale survey to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on 9 March.
He explained that the DoD distributed over 8 700 questionnaires to Regular Force, Reserve Force and Public Service Act Personnel, and 6 047 were answered satisfactorily. Both members who were not deployed and those who had returned from deployment were surveyed.
Overall, morale in the SANDF is neutral, with some positive and some negative areas. “Logistics – availability of equipment” and “logistics – quality of equipment” were the only indicators where morale was clearly negative.
SANDF members have in recent years experienced issues such as poor rations while deployed in Mozambique, combat boots which deteriorate rapidly in tropical climates like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and expired ration packs. Troops deployed in KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021 following civil unrest complained that they either were not fed or were only given one meal a day, and some soldiers deployed in the DRC had to stay behind during their leave period because they would have otherwise had to pay out of their own pocket to return to South Africa.
The co-chairpersons of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, Cyril Xaba, and Mamagase Nchabeleng, in a statement said the committee is concerned that the morale index highlighted two negative ratings on availability of equipment and quality of equipment. “The availability of capabilities and defence platforms represents a key pillar on functionality of the SANDF and the fact that these two critical components are lacking, is an issue of serious concern for the committee.”
The committee also said it was “apprehensive that the overall morale index registered a neutral rating especially because a positive rating is desired. Furthermore, the committee was of the view that the results don’t correlate with the interactions the committee has had with members of the SANDF. The committee called for the SANDF to present the questionnaire used to ascertain where the disparities might have arisen.”
The survey results found that morale was generally neutral or positive when it came to management and leadership, while human resource management was positive as was training. SANDF members thought that the image of the DoD as an employer was positive.
Most categories were rated neutral, such as communication and performance assessment, career management, policies and financial administration, medical services, the physical environment, satisfaction with opportunities for recreation, team spirit, and motivation/attitude to work.
Kobus Marais, opposition Democratic Alliance party shadow defence minister, said the survey results indicate “problems. We do not have a happy defence force. If there was a happy defence force there should have been a lot more positives.”
Xaba said that visits to the SANDF saw people complaining about rank stagnation, pilots not being able to fly enough hours to keep their licenses current, and general complaints about the unavailability of equipment. He said of the morale score, “we would want something slightly above neutral at least.”
Mazibuko acknowledged that equipment is a challenge and that the SANDF needs modern technology to deal with the issues of today. “With limited resources it is quite challenging to procure new equipment. The maintenance of equipment talks to funds as well.”
Marais estimated that the SANDF is underfunded by R15 bbn a year but there’s little chance of extra money going to the military due to the poor performance of the economy. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
13 Mar 23. North Korea: Rising retaliatory military provocations fuels renewed cycle of tension escalation. North Korea test-fired two ‘strategic cruise missiles’ from a submarine in the Sea of Japan, according to its official news agency on 13 March. The latest missile launch is a direct response to South Korea-US joint military drills, named Freedom Shield, which began on 13 March. Pyongyang has dialled up threatening rhetoric in recent days, expressing its strong opposition to the large annual springtime military exercises (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 10 March 2023). With Freedom Shield scheduled to run for 11 days, further provocation from North Korea, most likely in the form of missile launches, artillery firing and other military activity is highly likely, driving a renewed cycle of tension escalation around the Korean Peninsula. An uptick in military actions will present a security risk to regional commercial shipping and aviation, especially given that Pyongyang often conducts missile launches with little or no prior notice. (Source: Sibylline)
13 Mar 23. Xi Jinping has pledged to strengthen China’s security and build the military into a “great wall of steel” to defend the country’s interests as relations with the west reach the lowest point in decades. The Chinese president’s speech on Monday to the nearly 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress came at the close of the country’s annual rubber-stamp parliamentary session, during which Xi secured an unprecedented third term as president and appointed a close ally as his number two. After thanking delegates for his unanimous re-election last week, Xi said he would “build the military into a great wall of steel that effectively safeguards national sovereignty, security and our development interests”. He also pledged to better marry “development and security”, stating that “safety is the foundation of development, and stability is the prerequisite for prosperity”. Xi’s focus on security comes as relations with the US have hit their lowest point in decades. China’s new foreign minister warned during the congress that Washington’s efforts to contain Beijing’s interests could drive the rival superpowers towards “conflict and confrontation”. Tensions over Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist party has never ruled but has threatened to subjugate by force, have also continued to rise. Xi said on Monday he would work to resolve the “Taiwan issue”, but said he “resolutely opposed external interference and Taiwan independence separatist activities”. Newly appointed premier Li Qiang, Beijing’s number two, struck a more conciliatory tone in his first press conference, saying China and the US were closely intertwined economically to the benefit of both sides. “Some have been trumpeting the idea of decoupling with China . . . but I wonder how many people can truly benefit from this hype,” Li said on Monday. “Encirclement and suppression are in no one’s interest.” Li also sought to reassure China’s business community, which was hit hard by Covid-19 lockdowns last year, as well as defuse concerns about the administration backtracking to a state-led economy. “Governments at all levels should make friends with entrepreneurs, build a friendly business environment and care about private entrepreneurs,” he said. The premier admitted that with business still finding its footing, even hitting the country’s 5 per cent economic growth target for the year would “not be an easy task” and “require redoubled efforts”. “Emphasis will be placed on ensuring stable growth, stable prices and stable jobs,” Li said. Recommended Chinese politics & policy What does Xi Jinping’s tighter regulatory grip on China mean for business? The roughly week-long meetings in Beijing close on Monday after Xi pushed through extensive reforms to the country’s financial regulatory system. But facing mounting geopolitical friction and an unresolved property crisis at home, Xi defied some expectations and opted for continuity among his top financial regulators. He retained central bank governor Yi Gang and kept the finance and commerce ministers unchanged. He also bolstered the science and technology ministry to drive research advancements and compete with the west in pursuit of “self-reliance and strength in science and technology”, he said. “With the founding of the Communist Party of China . . . and after a century of struggle, our national humiliation has been erased, and the Chinese people have become the masters of their own destiny,” Xi told delegates. “The Chinese nation’s great revival is on an irreversible path.” (Source: FT.com)
10 Mar 23. North Korea: Rhetorical escalation over ‘real war’ preparations unlikely to deter US, South Korea. On 10 March, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un ordered the military to bolster its deterrence by intensifying war realism during exercises to deter and, if needed, undertake a ‘real war’. The remarks represent Pyongyang’s latest rhetorical escalation (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 7 March 2023), coming days ahead of the US-South Korea ‘Freedom Shield’ military exercises (13-23 March). North Korea also launched a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) towards the Yellow Sea on 9 March. Pyongyang’s provocation is unlikely to lead to behavioural or military posture changes by the US or South Korea. On the contrary, the two governments will most likely seek closer defence/security co-operation, sustaining the risk of tit-for-tat military provocation. Most businesses will not be directly affected by the elevated tensions, except for possible minor disruption to civil aviation and shipping from Pyongyang’s frequent missile launches. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Mar 23. China: Xi Jinping’s third term as ‘core leader’ faces myriad of geopolitical, socio-economic challenges. On 10 March, over 2,950 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) – China’s unicameral legislature – unanimously approved Xi Jinping’s unprecedented third term as president. The approval was a foregone conclusion as Xi had already secured a convention-defying term renewal for the party leadership posts, which carry far more power than the state presidency in China’s political system. Xi’s close aides and loyalists look set to fulfil top positions in the State Council as the NPC will confirm the line-up of China’s decennial government reshuffle during the final days of its annual plenary session. The presidency appointment further cements Xi’s ‘core leader’ position for at least the next five years, at a time when China is facing significant domestic and external challenges. China’s business environment will likely be shaped by an emphasis on national security and self-reliance, as well as structural issues with the economy such as a rapidly ageing population. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Mar 23. DRC: Long-running conflict with M23 rebels will undermine efforts to curtail ADF attacks. On 9 March, the military stated that the IS-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 36 civilians in Mukondi village (North Kivu province) during a raid in the Bshu area a day earlier. While the bulk of Congolese military operations in recent months have focused on combatting the M23 rebel group, the incident underlines the lasting and significant presence of the ADF. Although regional forces have deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in part specifically to combat the ADF, operational freedom across North Kivu has been disrupted by the movements and battle lines of the M23. While a ceasefire has been reached with the M23, this is unlikely to hold, with numerous reported violations in the days since it came into effect on 7 March. Continued conflict with the M23 will enable further ADF attacks, driving population displacement and significantly threatening NGOs and journalists working with rural communities across North Kivu. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Mar 23. Pakistan: Large disruption likely in Lahore on 19 March as PTI plans large-scale rally. In a rally on 13 March, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) head Imran Khan announced a mass rally on 19 March at 1400hrs (local time) at Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore (Punjab). It t is highly likely that PTI workers from elsewhere will travel to Lahore to join the rally, while PTI supporters abroad may also stage small protests outside embassies. Similarly, it is likely that the government will attempt to prevent the event by imposing restrictions on gathering citing security concerns. Khan was shot during a rally last November resulting in injuries to his leg. Prevention of the rally can spark protests by PTI supporters outside government buildings in Punjab. Heavy police presence and road closures will cause significant transport disruptions in Lahore. Furthermore, while the militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said they would not target political rallies, the risk of attacks from other terrorist and right-wing extremist groups remains a possibility. (Source: Sibylline)
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