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10 Aug 23. Thailand’s defence navigates growth amid geopolitical challenges. Foreign defence companies eye opportunities in Thailand’s Navy, Air Force, and Army sectors amid policy reforms and strategic alliances. Thailand’s defence market is on the cusp of dynamic expansion, as the nation allocates a robust $4.5bn (Bt158bn) defence budget in 2023, according to insights from GlobalData’s “Thailand Defense Market 2023-2028” report.
Despite regional challenges and internal pressures, the forecast indicates a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% in the coming years, culminating in $6bn by 2028.
Against geopolitical complexities and domestic economic resurgence backdrop, Thailand’s Navy, Air Force, and Army are primed for modernisation, offering promising avenues for foreign defence companies to collaborate and enter the market.
A renewed focus on strengthening its defence capabilities sees Thailand embarking on a strategic growth trajectory, unveiled by GlobalData’s comprehensive report, “Thailand Defense Market 2023-2028.“
Navigating Thailand’s policy reforms: transparency and collaboration
In the realm of defence procurement, policy reforms are driving change. Thailand’s Future Forward Party’s proposal to involve civilian entities and journalists in the procurement process reflects a commitment to transparency and oversight, reducing the potential for irregularities.
Concurrently, the offset policy incentivises foreign investors to collaborate with local firms, enhancing the domestic defence industry’s capabilities and reducing reliance on imports.
Strategic market entry: collaborations and exhibitions
Foreign defence companies eyeing Thailand’s defence market are presented with a range of strategic entry points. Government-to-government transactions, collaborations with domestic players, and participation in defence exhibitions like the Asian Defense and Security Exhibition facilitate engagement with key decision-makers and officials.
The transformation of U-Tapao International Airport into an aerospace hub further highlights the South East Asian countries intent to attract foreign investment and technological expertise.
A multi-dimensional defence strategy: Navy, Air Force, and Army
The Navy, Air Force, and Army are collectively advancing their modernisation efforts, signalling opportunities for foreign defence entities. Acquiring military fixed-wing aircraft, submarines, and artillery systems showcases the nation’s intent to bolster its defence capabilities across land, sea, and air.
Collaborations with established defence partners and expanding domestic capabilities further enhance Thailand’s defence landscape.
Meeting economic and geopolitical challenges
While Thailand’s defence sector offers alluring prospects, challenges persist. The potential for corruption, limited defence budgets, and the threat of substitution are among the obstacles prospective investors must navigate.
However, aligning defence growth with economic development strategies and global engagement initiatives positions Thailand’s defence market as an attractive avenue for foreign collaboration.
Strengthening Thailand’s security and prosperity
As Thailand charts its defence trajectory, its commitment to security is intertwined with its economic aspirations.
Embracing policy reforms, engaging in strategic alliances, and fostering innovation, Thailand’s Navy, Air Force, and Army sectors offer an array of opportunities for foreign defence companies to contribute to a future defined by security, prosperity, and technological advancement.
Thailand’s defence market embodies a confluence of growth drivers, policy reforms, and strategic collaborations. With a resilient budget and a multifaceted approach encompassing its Navy, Air Force, and Army, Thailand is poised to fortify its defence capabilities while inviting foreign companies to play a pivotal role in shaping its security landscape. (Source: naval-technology.com)
10 Aug 23. Japan boosts defence expenditure by 26.5% due to regional security concerns.
Rising tensions prompt Japan to invest heavily in modernising air and naval capabilities.
As regional tensions escalate due to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and China’s assertive actions, Japan takes proactive measures to fortify its defence capabilities.
In response to mounting security challenges posed by its neighbouring countries, Japan has significantly ramped up its defence expenditure by 26.5% in 2023, according to a recent report from GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. With a focus on enhancing air and naval strength, the island nation’s defence modernisation efforts indicate a commitment to regional security.
Strategic defence investments in response to regional instabilities
To address the evolving security landscape in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan’s defence expenditure has surged from $39.5bn in 2022 to an impressive $50bn in 2023. This growth signifies Japan’s dedication to strengthening its defence posture and safeguarding its national interests amidst growing concerns.
GlobalData’s comprehensive report, “Japan Defense Market Size and Trends, Budget Allocation, Regulations, Key Acquisitions, Competitive Landscape and Forecast, 2023-28,” underscores their commitment to bolster its defence capabilities.
The report predicts a steady increase in defence acquisition expenditure, reaching $53.8bn by 2028, with a compounded annual growth rate of 5.9% from 2023-28.
Japan’s commitment to defence modernisation
Japan’s resolute stance on enhancing its defence capabilities is further evidenced by the government’s allocation of an additional supplementary budget of $6.3bn in 2023. This dedicated fund, exclusively earmarked for defence modernisation programmes, reaffirms their proactive approach to meet regional security challenges head-on.
The increase in defence expenditure has facilitated advancements in Japan’s defence capabilities. A pivotal aspect of this modernisation is the country’s investment in military fixed-wing aircraft, followed closely by naval vessels, missiles, and missile defence systems.
F-35 fighter jets and collaborative initiatives for Japan
One of the standout defence initiatives includes the procurement of F-35 fighter jets. The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) has increased its order from 42 to 147 F-35 fighter jets to bolster its multi-role air capabilities.
This strategic move and collaborative efforts with Italy and the UK to develop a sixth-generation fighter aircraft reinforce Japan’s determination to maintain a robust defence presence.
Rouble, Aerospace & Defence Analyst at GlobalData, emphasises the significance of Japan’s aerial fleet: “Japan’s aerial fleet plays a crucial role in protecting its national security interests and responding quickly to emergencies. The acquisition of additional F-35B fighter jets will strengthen Japan’s deterrence posture and contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Advancements in naval capabilities
Beyond focusing on air defence, Japan has also been committed to upgrading its naval capabilities. This commitment is exemplified by the Defense Buildup Program announced by the Japanese MoD in 2022. The programme aims to replace outdated destroyers and escorts with advanced frigates, such as the Mogami class, and to develop a new type of multi-mission stealth frigates and attack submarines.
Japan’s resolute efforts to modernise its defence capabilities reflect a forward-looking strategy to address complex regional challenges. As tensions continue to rise, Japan’s commitment to enhancing its defence posture and strengthening partnerships with key allies solidifies its role in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (Source: naval-technology.com)
11 Aug 23. Syria: IS attack reflects uptick in activity in northern, eastern regions, increasing security risks. On 10 August, Islamic State (IS) fighters ambushed a military bus in the al-Mayadeen Desert (Deir ez-Zor governorate), killing 23 Syrian soldiers and wounding ten others. The deadly ambush represents an uptick in IS attacks on governmental and non-governmental military targets during the last couple of weeks (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 8 August 2023). The observed increase in IS attacks has concentrated around the Deir ez-Zor and Raqqah governorates, which have been previous IS strongholds. This likely indicates that IS aims to use guerrilla warfare tactics to reclaim lost territory. In addition, Iranian-backed militants have repeatedly attacked US assets in these areas, likely weakening operations targeting IS activities. Security risks for bystanders and military-affiliated personnel (government, non-government and private contractors) will remain elevated in eastern Syria in the coming weeks, particularly around Deir ez-Zor and Raqqah. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Aug 23. Ecuador: Risk of politically motivated attacks will remain elevated ahead of general elections. On 10 August, the government expanded a 60-day state of emergency order, following the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in the capital, Quito (9 August). A previous emergency order had been in place since mid-July, in response to an uptick in violence in prisons. Villavicencio was fatally shot after leaving a political event. Los Lobos, the second-largest criminal group in Ecuador, claimed responsibility for the attack. The assassination occurred amid a surge in homicides and politically motivated violence rarely seen before in Ecuador. Following the new state of emergency order, additional military personnel were deployed across the country. The emergency measures aim to curb violence as Ecuador heads towards general elections on 20 August. However, the risk of further attacks targeting candidates and government officials is likely to remain high. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Aug 23. Niger: New resistance movement underscores opposition to junta, increasing risk of domestic unrest. On 9 August, former Tuareg rebel commander Rhissa Ag Boula announced the formation of the Council of Resistance for the Republic (CRR), a movement that aims to reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. This announcement underscores increasingly vocal domestic opposition to the military government, which took power on 26 July. While there is substantial support for the junta in the capital Niamey, it has struggled to consolidate a broader support base among rural communities and the Tuareg population. The CRR’s formation reflects the increasing likelihood of anti-junta domestic unrest over the coming weeks, particularly in Agadez and Tahoua. Instances of violence and clashes with state security forces are possible, elevating operational risks to staff and assets in affected areas. Boula also indicated the CRR’s support for all international efforts to restore Bazoum, including an intervention by the Economic Community of West African States, which meets today (10 August) in Abuja (Nigeria) to finalise its response to the coup. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Aug 23. Belarus: Expanded sanctions aim to curtail Minsk’s ability to generate revenue. On 9 August, the US imposed new sanctions against eight Belarusian individuals and five entities on the anniversary of the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. The EU, UK and US consider the 2020 election, in which incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed 80% of the vote, fraudulent. The US Treasury Department’s measures target several entities involved in Minsk’s continued repression of civil society, complicity in Russia’s war in Ukraine and the enrichment of Lukashenka. Belavia Belarusian Airlines, the country’s state-owned flag carrier, and Belarusian Steel Works Management Company, one of the five largest state-owned enterprises, were also sanctioned. According to the Treasury Department’s statement, the latter entity produces various steel products for domestic and export markets, generating millions in revenue for Minsk. The measures reflect Washington DC’s efforts to curtail the Belarusian government’s ability to generate revenue, with sanctions likely to be expanded further in the medium-to-long term. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Aug 23. Lebanon: Kahale shootout will sustain heightened sectarian tensions, unrest risks in near term. On 9 August, a shooting incident in the Christian-majority town of Kahale (Aley district) killed a member of the influential Shia group Hizballah and a local resident. Shots were fired after a crowd gathered near an overturned truck owned by the Iran-backed group that was reportedly carrying munitions. Hizballah claimed that the member died during confrontations with other ‘militia elements’ that were attempting to seize the truck, while the local office of the Christian Lebanese Forces accused an ‘armed group’ of firing at civilians. Though tensions have since diminished, residents rallied following the incident, holding banners opposing the ‘Iranian occupation’. Developments are likely to result in an uptick in anti-Hizballah sentiment in the coming days, sustaining the likelihood of additional protest activity, with the funeral of the Kahale resident likely to represent a flashpoint. Confrontations further highlight the latent sectarian tensions between opposing groups amid deepening political polarisation in the country, driving the likelihood of future incidents. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Aug 23. Russia to build up forces in west to counter NATO threat – Shoigu. Russia will build up forces at its western borders following Finland’s accession to the U.S.-led NATO alliance, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the governing board of the ministry on Wednesday. In opening remarks to the Collegium of the Defence Ministry, Shoigu said NATO-member Poland had already announced plans to strengthen its military, and that he expected significant NATO forces and weaponry to be deployed in Finland, whose inclusion has almost doubled the length of Russia’s land border with NATO.
“The collective West is waging a proxy war against Russia,” he said, according to his ministry, pointing to its “unprecedented support” for Ukraine in supplying tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry to help Kyiv repel Russian forces.
Shoigu called the entry of Finland into NATO and the future entry of Sweden “a serious destabilising factor”. The two Nordic states abandoned generations of neutrality that had held throughout the Cold War to seek NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year.
“On Finnish territory, it is likely that additional military contingents and strike weapons of NATO will be deployed, capable of hitting critical targets in the northwest of Russia at a considerable depth,” Shoigu said.
“Today, at the meeting of the Board, we will consider issues related to the creation of the Leningrad and Moscow military districts with the simultaneous strengthening of groupings of troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on our western borders.”
He said Poland had announced its intention to build the most powerful army on the continent, and had become “the main instrument of the anti-Russian policy of the United States of America”.
Shoigu said the number of NATO military units from outside the region stationed in eastern Europe had increased by two-and- a-half times since February last year and that they were now 30,000-strong in total.
“These threats to Russia’s military security require a timely and adequate response. We will discuss the necessary measures to neutralise them at the meeting and make appropriate decisions,” he said
09 Aug 23. Burkina Faso-Togo: Recent security incident underscores heightened risks of cross-border attacks; elevating risks to staff. On 6 August, unidentified militants killed over 20 people and looted 15 transport trucks in an attack on traders in the town of Nohao (Centre East region, Burkina Faso), while they were returning from the border trading town of Cinkansé (Savanes region, Togo), 21 miles (35km) from Nohao. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it was likely carried out by Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM). The incident follows an attack on a military convoy in Sankortchagou in the Savanes region, which killed at least 12 security personnel. Attacks in southeastern Burkina Faso, in close proximity to the borders with Togo, Benin and Ghana, have been increasing in recent years. This trend, exacerbated by the continued deterioration of the security environment in Burkina Faso, will significantly elevate the risk of cross-border attacks, elevating staff exposure to attack and kidnap risks in border regions. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Aug 23. Myanmar: Sanctions, international pressure sustain difficult operating environment for foreign firms. On 9 August, reports emerged that the Singaporean United Overseas Bank (UOB) had notified Burmese banks last week that it would restrict payments between the bank and non-UOB Burmese accounts, also placing restrictions on Visa and Mastercard transactions. These restrictions, among others, will come into force from 1 September. They will significantly impact Singapore’s status as an offshore banking hub for Myanmar’s military and senior junta officials. It will also likely impact foreign investors based in Singapore with investments in Myanmar, with UOB a key offshore bank. The decision is highly likely related to increased pressure on Singapore from Washington DC to restrict the junta’s access to the global financial system, as well as the increased risk associated with sanctions placed on many Myanmar-based entities. It also reflects rising reputational risks; the activist group Justice For Myanmar (JFM) last week launched a social media campaign to pressure Singapore to restrict arms traffickers’ ability to use Singaporean banks to supply the military with weapons. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Aug 23. U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue Joint Statement. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense led the inaugural U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue in Washington, D.C. from August 7-8, 2023, reaffirming their commitment to security cooperation and shared interest in regional stability.
A delegation from the Republic of Iraq, led by Minister of Defense Thabit al-Abbasi, and a U.S. delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander, discussed a range of bilateral defense issues in accordance with the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement and as part of a comprehensive, 360-degree partnership. Minister al-Abbasi met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and U.S. representatives from the Joint Staff, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, U.S. Central Command, State Department, and National Security Council. The Iraqi delegation included the Director of the Counterterrorism Service, the Chief of Defense, the Deputy Commander of the Joint Operations Command – Iraq, and other senior officials. The U.S. and Iraqi delegations reaffirmed their commitment to developing Iraq’s security and defense capabilities and determination to deepen security cooperation across a full range of issues to advance our countries’ shared interest in Iraq’s security and sovereignty, and in the stability of the region.
The Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue reflects the maturing bilateral strategic partnership and builds upon the foundation laid by previous bilateral discussions, including the July 2021 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue and February 2023 U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee. The U.S. and Iraqi delegations welcomed the full implementation of the Strategic Dialogue, confirming that there are no U.S. forces with a combat role in Iraq and that all U.S. military personnel remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq to train, advise, assist, and share intelligence in support of Iraq’s fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.
The two sides reviewed shared challenges and opportunities for cooperation, focusing on the impressive achievements of the Defeat-ISIS campaign; ongoing efforts to prevent the group’s resurgence, affirming the joint cooperation with the Iraqi Security Forces including the Peshmerga and a shared commitment to regional stability. The delegations also reviewed the critical operational support provided through the mission of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) to train, advise, assist, and share intelligence with the Iraqi Security Forces. The delegations discussed the urgent need to repatriate displaced persons and detainees currently in northeast Syria to their countries of origin and to support reintegration efforts in local communities.
The United States and the Republic of Iraq intend to consult on a future process, separate from the JSCD and inclusive of the Coalition, to determine how the Coalition’s military mission will evolve on a timeline according to the following factors: the threat from ISIS, operational and environmental requirements, and ISF capability levels. The Iraqi and U.S. delegations committed to form a higher military commission between the U.S. and Iraq to evaluate the future process described above.
The delegations further discussed efforts to build the institutional capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces through U.S. military assistance and security cooperation programs, including Foreign Military Financing and Foreign Military Sales. The delegations reviewed opportunities to expand the educational opportunities available to Iraq’s military professionals, whether through training programs or educational exchanges. Both sides also consulted on opportunities to expand Iraqi participation in military exercises led by U.S. Central Command.
In support of the sovereignty and security of Iraq, both countries reaffirmed that U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government only to support the Iraqi Security Forces in their fight against ISIS. The Government of Iraq reaffirmed its commitment to protect U.S. and Global Coalition personnel and advisors, convoys, and diplomatic facilities. The delegations noted their intent to hold subsequent Joint Security Cooperation Dialogues and related meetings in the future to discuss the evolving threat from ISIS, current and future operational requirements, and efforts to improve the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces.
The successful completion of this inaugural Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue underscores the two countries’ commitment to continued bilateral military cooperation in all areas, including but not limited to the Iraqi-led enduring defeat of ISIS. (Source: U.S. DoD)
08 Aug 23. U.S., Iraq Examine New Strategic Relationship. U.S. and Iraqi defense leaders discussed an enduring strategic relationship between the two nations during talks at the Pentagon.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Iraqi Defense Minister Thabit Muhammad Al-Abassi for a discussion on U.S.-Iraq joint security cooperation dialogue yesterday.
This U.S.-Iraq bilateral engagement looks beyond the Defeat-ISIS agreement. The U.S. military has troops in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to support Iraqi security forces battling the terror group.
“Through the global coalition to defeat ISIS, we have liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers of territory, and more than 4.5 million Iraqis have now been freed from the tyranny of ISIS,” Austin said during the Pentagon meeting. “Today, U.S. and coalition forces continue to advise, assist and enable the Iraqi security forces in the Iraqi lead fight against ISIS at the invitation of the Government of Iraq. The United States stands with the people of Iraq as you build your secure and sovereign and economically vibrant nation.”
The secretary said the relationship is changing as Iraqi forces grow more capable and confident. “The joint security cooperation dialogue reflects our maturing strategic partnership building on the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue in July 2021 when the U.S. forces with a combat role, ended their mission,” he said.
This meeting looks beyond the defeat of the Islamic State and is an outgrowth of a visit Austin made to Baghdad in March. “We are interested in an enduring defense relationship within a strategic partnership,” said Dana Stroul, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, during an interview last week.
Many officials are calling this an agreement on establishing a “360-degree relationship” — meaning it would be a whole-of-government strategic partnership for years.
The U.S. side of the discussion is chaired by Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. She is joined by other defense officials and officials from the State Department, the Joint Staff, U.S. Central Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the National Security Council.
The Defeat-ISIS effort will continue in Iraq and Syria, officials said. The Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue is looking at ways to normalize the bilateral relationship between Iraq and the United States militaries. This includes exercises, military training, exchange programs for officers and NCOs. “All of these are things that we are seeking to build the architecture for an enduring defense partnership with Iraq,” Stroul said.
The military relationship between the countries is good and functions well. Leaders in both countries would like to see the relationship expand in other areas — the economy, cooperation on climate change, diplomatically and more, said Alina Romanowski, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani “has been very open to this and has been very interested in working in areas that line up with his vision and his objectives to bring stability, sovereignty and security to Iraq,” the ambassador said. “It’s also an opportunity in some ways to continue to support … the reintegration and the engagement of Iraq in the region.”
The dialogue will also look at the Defeat-ISIS mission and the state of the Iraqi Security Forces. While the ISIS caliphate was defeated in 2019, “their ideology remains unconstrained and is still a threat as they seek to rebuild some capacity and capability to conduct attacks and to regain or reemerge as a significant threat to the population in Iraq and Syria,” said Army Maj. Gen. Matt McFarlane, the commander of Combined Joint Operation Inherent Resolve.
He noted that Iraqi forces lead and there is significant progress. There has been a 64% reduction in ISIS attacks in Iraq this year. The general estimated there were about 1,000 ISIS adherents in Iraq and another 1,000 in Syria.
“We also see our partners conducting wide-area security operations, keeping pressure on the ISIS network,” McFarlane said. “Our continue to dismantle the ISIS network and the leadership network that’s out there,” he said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
08 Aug 23. Belarus: Military exercises will exacerbate tensions with NATO neighbours; escalation highly unlikely. Belarus began military exercises on 7 August near its border with Lithuania and Poland. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defence (MoD), the drills will take place at the Gozhsky training ground and areas in Grodno oblast. The MoD stated the exercises are based on experiences from the ‘special military operation’ – what Russia calls its war in Ukraine – and involves the use of drones, as well as the close interaction of tank and motorised rifle units with units of other branches of the armed forces. Amid the military activity, on 7 August, Poland’s Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik accused Belarus and Russia of orchestrating another influx of irregular migration into the EU via the Polish border in an attempt to destabilise the region. However, Wąsik said the situation was not as severe as it was in 2021. The drills will likely further drive tensions with neighbouring Lithuania and Poland, though the risk of a military escalation remains a highly remote prospect. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Aug 23. Russia: Future elections will most likely go ahead amid ongoing crackdown on dissents. On 6 August, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that President Vladimir Putin would certainly win the 2024 presidential election. According to Peskov, given the high certainty of Putin’s re-election, there is theoretically no need to hold the presidential elections in 2024. While martial law conditions could realistically provide an excuse to cancel the elections, the 2024 vote will most likely take place to reaffirm the legitimacy and stability of the government. However, the more immediate electoral test will be regional polls in September. Ahead of these elections, the arrest of the prominent war blogger Igor Strelkov (real name Girkin) for extremism on 21 July and the additional prison sentence handed to opposition figure Alexei Navalny on 4 August underscore Moscow’s efforts to crack down on dissent, especially after the Wagner Group mutiny. As such, domestic stability will be a key factor determining whether the presidential election will proceed as planned. It is more likely the 2024 vote will go ahead, given the possible strong backlash its cancellation would otherwise generate. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Aug 23. Syria: IS attacks reflect sustained security risks around Raqqah. On 7 August, Islamic State (IS) militants attacked checkpoint positions of Syrian government forces in Madan (Raqqah governorate), killing 16 soldiers. The incident follows another IS attack targeting an oil tanker convoy in the area last week (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 2 August 2023). The incidents occurred against the backdrop of IS announcement on 3 August, officially confirming the death of its leader in April, and the appointment of a new leader, Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Quraishi. IS attacks targeting military positions in the Syrian desert and around Raqqah are not uncommon and remain in line with observed targeting. Heightened Syrian security presence in the area in the coming weeks will elevate risks for further attacks. This will also sustain increased risks for bystanders, military professionals and staff (foreign or national) working at strategic sites, such as oil fields. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Aug 23. U.S. Forces Arrive to Support Deterrence Efforts at Strait of Hormuz. Sailors and Marines with the Navy’s Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in the Middle East yesterday as part of a pre-announced deployment to support deterrence efforts in the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere, said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
“As we have been for a very long time, we’re coordinating with our partners in the region when it comes to U.S. military presence because, again, it’s not just the U.S. military that’s out there patrolling commercial shipping lanes. We’re working as part of a broader coalition … on that effort,” Ryder said told reporters.
Sailors and Marines arrived in the region aboard the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship, and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall.
Last month, the Iranian navy attempted to illegally seize two merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.
According to a news report from U.S. Central Command, on July 5, U.S. forces already in Centcom’s area of responsibility participated in preventing two commercial tanker ships from being seized by the Iranian military in international waters near the coast of Oman.
One of those ships, the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss, was approached by an Iranian naval vessel, but the naval vessel departed after the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived.
Later the same day, the Bahamian-flagged oil tanker Richmond Voyager was also approached by an Iranian naval vessel. That Iranian naval vessel got within one mile of the tanker and fired on it using small arms and crew-served weapons. As happened with the TRF Moss, the Iranian vessel left when the USS McFaul arrived on the scene.
According to Centcom, Iran has attacked or seized about 20 merchant vessels since 2021.
Ryder said the increased U.S. presence in the Middle East is meant to help partners there keep open important shipping lanes such as at the Strait of Hormuz, which is a choke point between the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. It also contributes further to a long-standing goal of preserving security and stability in the region.
“That’s why we’ve deployed these additional assets, to give us additional options, to speed up timelines and, again, broadly, to ensure stability,” Ryder said.
According to a news release from U.S. Central Command, an amphibious assault ship, such as the USS Bataan, can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. That could include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets, in addition to several amphibious landing craft. A dock landing ship, such as the USS Carter Hall, also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles, and amphibious landing craft. (Source: U.S. DoD)
07 Aug 23. New Zealand’s future force design seeks simple systems. The release of New Zealand’s Defence Policy Review places a lower priority on advanced systems and technology.
The New Zealand government published its Defence Policy Review on 4 August, with papers including the defence policy strategy statement, a future force design report, and its first ever national security strategy paper.
“We are investing to modernise our capabilities across land, sea and air, and are strengthening our relationships with friends and partners in the Pacific and beyond,” said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Minister for National Security and Intelligence Andrew Little in a statement accompanying the release.
In terms of procurement, the Defence Policy Strategy Statement 2023 emphasises the need to take on technologies earlier in their life-cycle, and in line with the activities of partners, with Defence not seeking to “be at the leading edge”.
Furthermore, the document spells out the New Zealand government’s desire for the Defence Forces to seek lower complexity systems, that can are simple to operate, repair and maintain, favouring ‘off-the-shelf’ systems to bespoke military solutions: “Some systems will be proprietary, but generally simpler systems will be sought.”
This is in contrast to the behaviour of New Zealand nearest neighbour, Australia. Australia’s defence equipment has recently transformed, marked by an emphasis on enhancing indigenous capabilities and modernisation. GlobalData’s recent analysis highlights the nation’s proactive approach to maintaining a technologically advanced fleet, boosting domestic defence industries, and fostering self-reliance for a secure future.
New Zealand prioritises capacity to operate in multiple different locations at the same time
New Zealand’s Defence Policy Review details the government’s current and future defence priorities. Heightened priority is placed on concurrency, so that the Defence Forces can be active in multiple locations simultaneously, and on resilience to allow New Zealand’s defence capability to be maintained when networks are disrupted.
To help the wider national security community adjust to the new defence environment, the government has released its National Security Strategy. The National Security and Intelligence Priorities for 2023 have been revised in line with the Strategy.
The Future Forces Design Principles aim to connect the Department of Defense’s new strategy with potential funding mechanisms for implementing that strategy, and it will form the basis for a revised Defence Capability Plan.
The papers have a number of objectives, that include setting out the government’s ambition for putting money into a strong military and a comprehensive national security system and garnering social licence for security initiatives to be expanded and maintained through an open dialogue with the public.
The papers do not elaborate on specific plans for investment, and discussion of the current order of battle for New Zealand’s armed forces is absent, but within the Future Forces Design Principles 2023, the government describes a sliding set of priorities for a range of areas that New Zealand’s Defence Forces should attain. (Source: army-technology.com)
08 Aug 23. India bars makers of military drones from using Chinese parts. India in recent months has barred domestic manufacturers of military drones from using components made in China over concerns about security vulnerabilities, according to four defence and industry officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.
The measure comes amid tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours and as New Delhi pursues a military modernisation that envisages greater use of unmanned quadcopters, long-endurance systems and other autonomous platforms.
But as the nascent Indian industry looks to meet the military’s needs, the defence and industry figures said India’s security leaders were worried that intelligence-gathering could be compromised by Chinese-made parts in drones’ communication functions, cameras, radio transmission and operating software.
Three of these people and some of the six other government and industry figures interviewed by Reuters spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk to the media or because of the topic’s sensitivity. India’s defence ministry did not respond to Reuters questions.
India’s approach, reported by Reuters for the first time, complements phased import restrictions on surveillance drones since 2020 and is being implemented through military tenders, documents show.
At two meetings in February and March to discuss drone tenders, Indian military officials told potential bidders that equipment or subcomponents from “countries sharing land borders with India will not be acceptable for security reasons”, according to minutes reviewed by Reuters. The minutes did not identify the military officials.
One tender document said such subsystems had “security loopholes” that compromised critical military data, and called for vendors to disclose components’ origin.
A senior defence official told Reuters the reference to neighbouring countries was a euphemism for China, adding that Indian industry had become dependent on the world’s second-largest economy despite concern about cyberattacks.
Beijing has denied involvement in cyberattacks. China’s commerce ministry, which last week announced export controls on some drones and drone-related equipment, did not respond to questions about India’s measures.
The U.S. Congress in 2019 banned the Pentagon from buying or using drones and components made in China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to build India’s drone capability to thwart perceived threats, including from China, whose forces have clashed with Indian soldiers along their disputed border in recent years.
India has set aside 1.6trn rupees ($19.77bn) for military modernisation in 2023-24, of which 75% is reserved for domestic industry.
But the ban on Chinese parts has raised the cost of making military drones locally by forcing manufacturers to source components elsewhere, government and industry experts said.
Sameer Joshi, founder of Bengaluru-based NewSpace Research and Technologies, a supplier of small drones for India’s military, said 70% of goods in the supply chain were made in China.
“So if I talk to, let’s say, a Polish guy, he still has his components which are coming via China,” he said.
Switching to a non-Chinese pipeline pushed up costs dramatically, Joshi said, adding that some manufacturers were still importing material from China but would “white-label it, and kind of keep the costs within that frame”.
India relies on foreign manufacturers for both parts and entire systems as it lacks the know-how to make certain types of drones.
A government-funded program to produce an indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance unmanned system is delayed by at least half a decade, said Y. Dilip, director of the state-run Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE).
The platform, called Tapas, has met most requirements but needs further work to fulfil the military’s goal of a drone that can reach an operational altitude of 30,000 feet and remain airborne for 24 hours, Dilip said.
“Primarily we were constrained by the engines,” he said, with neither those built domestically nor international models available to India up to the job.
Apart from Tapas, which is expected to begin military trials this month, ADE is working on a stealth unmanned platform and a High Altitude Long Endurance platform, but both are years away.
To fill these gaps, India announced in June that it would buy 31 MQ-9 drones from the U.S. for over $3bn.
R.K. Narang, a drone expert at the government’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, said “there has to be coherent national strategy to fill the technology gaps” to deliver commercially viable products.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pledged in February that one-quarter of this year’s the 232.6bn rupees ($2.83bn) budget for defence research and development would be for private industry.
Still, Narang said there was little investment in research and development by India’s big private-sector companies. Joshi said venture capitalists eschewed military projects because of long lead times and the risk that orders may not eventuate.
The senior defence official said India would need to accept higher costs to boost domestic manufacturing.
“If today I buy equipment from China but I say I want to make it in India, the cost will go up 50%,” he said. “We as a nation need to be ready to help the ecosystem build here.” ($1 = 82.2775 Indian rupees) (Source: Reuters)
07 Aug 23. Niger: Persistent risk of armed conflict will disrupt regional travel through the coming weeks. On 7 August, the military government closed Nigerien airspace after the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) deadline to reinstate deposed President Mohamoud Bazoum expired, citing the increased threat of military intervention (see Sibylline Alert – 31 July 2023). Prospects for such action were reduced on 5 August when Nigeria’s senate did not endorse military action, requesting further political and diplomatic measures are taken. ECOWAS is expected to make an announcement on the next steps, possibly including a deadline extension to conduct negotiations. However, there remains a realistic possibility that ECOWAS will proceed with its threatened military action, with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu meeting with Nigeria’s northern governors, whose endorsement could shift the senate’s position. This will sustain the risk of armed conflict in Niger, driving elevated security measures within Nigerien territory at least through the coming days, significantly disrupting air transit across the region. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Aug 23. Senegal: Measure to decrease opposition tensions unlikely to reduce domestic unrest in short term. On 5 August, the Senegalese parliament passed a bill that allows anyone who has been convicted but then received a pardon or an amnesty to run for office. The decision will allow key opposition politicians, Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, barred from contesting the 2019 presidential election, to run in February 2024. The decision is likely designed to reduce currently elevated tensions following the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, and offer a route to future presidential candidacy provided a pardon or amnesty is negotiated. However, the arrest of Sonko’s lawyer on charges including terrorism and claims that Sonko has been hospitalised due to his hunger strike will sustain elevated tensions and drive further unrest in the coming weeks. Further deterioration in Sonko’s health will likely act as a flashpoint for additional protests in the capital Dakar, with clashes elevating threats to bystanders and disrupting citywide movement. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Aug 23. Philippines-China: Intersection incident underlines heightened tensions in South China Sea. On 5 August, a Chinese coast guard vessel allegedly used water cannons to block two Philippine supply ships from travelling to a military outpost at the Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. The incident is the latest stand-off between the two countries, with the Philippine-controlled Second Thomas Shoal and the nearby Chinese-administered Mischief Reef being major flashpoints. Beijing claims that the Philippine supply and coast guard ships ‘illegally trespassed’ into waters around the atoll. Amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea, fishing, hydrographic surveys and hydrocarbon operations in or near disputed waters will be at greater risk of interruption or harassment by maritime law enforcement vessels. Such risk is likely to be lower for commercial shipping through this critical trade route. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Aug 23. Pakistan: Arrest of PTI leader underscores elevated risk of political instability. On 5 August, the leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Imran Khan, was arrested at his house in Lahore (Punjab province), after a district court ruled on the Toshakhana case. Khan was sentenced to three years in prison for having illegally used his premiership from 2018 to 2022 to sell state gifts. Khan was previously arrested on 9 May sparking violent unrest nationwide. He was later released following a Supreme Court order. In a prerecorded message shared with his supporters, Khan has urged activists to take to the streets. However, so far, the response has been muted, with small gatherings in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and no reports of major road closures or traffic disruption. Any decision to deny Khan the appeal process will likely serve as a flashpoint for renewed protests. The security environment is likely to remain elevated, with increased law enforcement presence in major cities in the coming days. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Aug 23. Israel-Palestinian Territories: Israeli settler violence will sustain the likelihood of Palestinian attacks; sustained security risks. Overnight on 6 August, Israeli security forces arrested five Palestinians in Burqa (West Bank), after violent clashes erupted on 4 August which led to the fatal shooting of a Palestinian teenager by an Israeli settler. Separately, on 5 August, a member of the Jenin Battalion killed an Israeli patrolman in a small-arms attack in downtown Tel Aviv. Following the incidents, members of Israel’s coalition government denounced statements by the head of Israel’s Shin Bet warning that terrorist acts by Jewish Israelis are fuelling Palestinian attacks. The continued backing of Israeli settlers by the current right-religious government will embolden groups, including right-wing extremists, further sustaining the likelihood of attacks and riot-like violence targeting Palestinian communities in the near term. In turn, retaliatory attacks by Palestinian militant groups and/or sole perpetrators will also remain highly likely. Developments will sustain security and operational risks, particularly within the West Bank near settlements, in Jewish ultra-Orthodox urban centres, as well as large commercial centres such as Tel Aviv.
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