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07 Sep 23. U.S. Shifting Forces Inside Niger, Pentagon Official Says. U.S. forces based in Niger are shifting from Airport 101 near the capital of Niamey to Airport 201 in Agadez, Pentagon officials announced today.
“There is no threat to American troops and no threat of violence on the ground,” said Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh during a Pentagon news conference. “This is simply a precautionary measure.”
U.S. Africa Command ordered the repositioning of the forces. The U.S. forces in Niger have the mission to help the Nigerien forces combat terrorism and develop military capabilities. All that came to a halt when military officials deposed the freely elected president in July.
“What we’re doing right now is … repositioning some of our personnel and some of our assets from Airbase 101 in Niamey to Airport 201 in Agadez,” Singh said. “That’s just simply precautionary. Our force posture hasn’t changed.”
Agadez is roughly 920 kilometers by road from Niamey.
There are around 1,100 U.S. personnel in Niger who have been sidelined by the military takeover in Niamey. U.S. officials hope the situation in the country can be resolved diplomatically, Singh said.
“We’re hopeful that there can be some diplomatic way to resolve what’s happening,” she said. “We’re certainly not supportive of military takeovers of a democratically elected leader or government.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
07 Sep 23. Growth in Partnerships Signals U.S. Success in Indo-Pacific. The increased appetite among allies and partners to participate in multinational exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific is a key indicator that the United States’ strategy in the region is paying off, said Gen. Charles A. Flynn, commander of U.S. Army Pacific.
Flynn noted yesterday there’s been a significant increase in the desire of regional allies to participate in multinational training events in recent years.
“This thirst and this behavior that they are exhibiting in the region is they appreciate the ability to come together as a multinational force learn from one another, and they are doing it more and more,” Flynn said of U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific. “To me, that is the greatest indicator of the success we are having.”
He added that the exercises are a sign that U.S. allies are “speaking with their actions” in response to China’s aggressive behavior in the region.
“Those actions are … want to participate in more multilateral and multinational exercises,” he said. “And they’re showing up to do that.”
Flynn cited this year’s completion of the largest ever Talisman Sabre, a biennial exercise designed to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening partnerships and interoperability among key allies.
This year, the 10th iteration of the exercise included nearly 30,000 troops from 13 nations. Several Pacific island partners — including Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga — participated for the first time.
He also noted the largest ever iteration of the ongoing Exercise Super Garuda Shield in Indonesia, which has brought together seven participating nations and 12 observing nations.
The exercises are among the more than 40 army-to-army and joint exercises led by the U.S. each year as part of Operation Pathways, a collection of multinational exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific and a key pillar of the United States’ integrated deterrence strategy.
Flynn’s remarks during a roundtable discussion at the Hudson Institute in Washington echo optimism expressed by Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.
“We are delivering on our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and absolutely strengthening deterrence in the region,” the assistant secretary Ratner said at the Defense News Conference in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday.
He noted that U.S. military-to-military relations between the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are stronger than they had ever been.”
“The upshot is that we have been engaging in a number of activities with them that have … led to a more distributed mobile, resilient and lethal force posture in the region,” Ratner said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
08 Sep 23. North Korea unveils first tactical, nuclear-armed submarine. North Korea has launched its first operational “tactical nuclear attack submarine” and assigned it to the fleet that patrols the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, state media said on Friday.
Submarine No. 841 – named Hero Kim Kun Ok after a North Korean historical figure – will be one of the main “underwater offensive means of the naval force” of North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un said at the launch ceremony on Wednesday.
Analysts said the vessel appears to be a modified Soviet-era Romeo-class submarine, which North Korea acquired from China in the 1970s and began producing domestically. Its design, with 10 launch tube hatches, showed it was most likely armed with ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, analysts said.
But such weapons won’t add much value to the North’s more robust land-based nuclear forces, because the aging submarines used as the core of the new design are relatively noisy, slow and have limited range, meaning they may not survive as long during a war, said Vann Van Diepen, a former U.S. government weapons expert who works with the 38 North project in Washington.
“When this thing is field deployed, it’s going to be quite vulnerable to allied anti-submarine warfare,” he said. “So I think from a sort of hard-headed military standpoint this doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
South Korea’s military said that the submarine didn’t appear ready for normal operations, and that there were signs North Korea was attempting to exaggerate its capabilities.
At the launch ceremony, Kim said arming the navy with nuclear weapons was an urgent task and promised more underwater and surface vessels equipped with tactical nuclear weapons for the naval forces, news agency KCNA reported.
“The submarine-launching ceremony heralded the beginning of a new chapter for bolstering up the naval force of the DPRK,” KCNA said, using the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea plans to turn other existing submarines into nuclear armed vessels, and accelerate its push to eventually build nuclear-powered submarines, Kim said.
“Achieving a rapid development of our naval forces … is a priority that cannot be delayed given … the enemies’ recent aggressive moves and military acts,” the North Korean leader said in a speech, apparently referring to the United States and South Korea.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the submarine launch drew condemnation from South Korea and Japan.
“North Korea’s military activity is posing graver and more imminent threat to our country’s security than before,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a briefing.
NUCLEAR ATTACK SUBMARINE
The designation as a “tactical” submarine suggests it does not carry submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) that can reach the U.S. mainland, but rather smaller, short-range SLBMs or submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM) capable of striking South Korea, Japan, or other regional targets, said Choi Il, a retired South Korean submarine captain.
The rear of the submarine’s sail – the tower that juts out of the top of the hull – was expanded and 10 vertical launch tubes, 4 large and 6 small, were installed, likely for SLBMs and SLCMs, he said.
North Korea has test-fired both SLBMs and SLCMs.
It is unclear whether North Korea has fully developed the miniaturised nuclear warheads needed for such missiles. Analysts say that perfecting smaller warheads would most likely be a key goal if the North resumes nuclear testing.
North Korea has about 20 Romeo-class submarines, which are powered by diesel-electric engines and are obsolete by modern standards, with most other countries operating them only as training vessels.
Analysts first spotted signs that at least one new submarine was being built in 2016, and in 2019 state media showed Kim inspecting a previously unreported submarine built under “his special attention” that would operate off the east coast.
State media at the time did not describe the submarine’s weapons systems or say where and when the inspection took place, but analysts said the apparent size of the new vessel indicated it was designed to carry missiles.
North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only the experimental ballistic missile submarine 8.24 Yongung (August 24th Hero) is known to have fired a missile.
The launching ceremony comes as North Korea is set to mark the 75th anniversary of its founding day on Saturday and follows reports that Kim plans to travel to Russia this month to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss weapons supplies to Moscow.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Jakarta, and asked Beijing to do more as a U.N. Security Council member to address North Korea’s nuclear threat. (Source: Reuters)
07 Sep 23. Niger: Talks on French drawdown will bolster junta legitimacy, undermine counterterrorism efforts. On 6 September, the French authorities confirmed there are ongoing discussions with Nigerien officers to reduce France’s military presence in Niger. Discussions likely reflect diminishing French confidence in a change in government leading to the restoration of defence agreements suspended on 3 August. While the French military continues to refuse to negotiate directly with the junta, talking only with select officers, any progress will be spun as a victory for the junta, bolstering local legitimacy and support. The scope of the withdrawal remains unclear, with the French authorities only indicating an intention to withdraw drone and aerial reconnaissance assets. Regardless, the continued suspension of French military operations and the loss of French aerial surveillance and response capabilities will undermine nationwide counterterrorism efforts. Jihadist groups will likely capitalise on the emerging security vacuum to expand their operations and territorial influence. Consequently, an uptick in jihadist activity is highly likely, elevating risks to staff and assets, particularly in Tillabèri region. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Sep 23. Tajikistan: Hard security threats emanating from Afghanistan will likely persist in long term. Tajikistan’s State Committee of National Security (KDAM) reported on 6 September that three members of a terrorist organisation who had entered the country from Afghanistan were killed by the security forces. The individuals were allegedly members of Jamaat Ansarullah, a Tajik Islamist militant movement based in Afghanistan’s north-eastern Badakhshan province, which borders Tajikistan. According to KDAM, the group crossed the Tajik border overnight on 29-30 August into Tajikistan’s Darvoz district with the alleged intention of committing a terrorist act ahead of the country’s Independence Day (9 September). The Tajik authorities claimed they seized a large number of weapons from the three individuals, who were identified as natives of Tajikistan. In late April, the Tajik security forces killed two suspected militants in Vanj, a district near the Afghan border. The porous Tajik-Afghan border will sustain the risk of hard security threats from Afghanistan in the long term, though terrorist attacks against the capital Dushanbe are less likely. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Sep 23. Syria: SDF announcement unlikely to improve short-term security outlook in northern, eastern areas. On 6 September, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the end of military operations in Deir ez-Zor governorate after a week of clashes that left 90 dead, including nine civilians. The clashes highlight latent governance grievances with long-standing complaints about corruption and political disenfranchisement, rather than ethno-religious tensions between the SDF and the local populations in north-eastern Syria. The SDF statement does not exclude the likelihood of additional clashes; a heightened security volatility will persist in the near term, sustaining security and operational risks for staff and assets. A full resolution will likely require greater engagement in political and administrative reforms by the current Kurdish administration. The instability that weakens the SDF and US-led coalition security presence, as well as tensions reducing local intelligence gathering networks, will increase opportunities for Islamic State (IS) to exploit local grievances. The latest developments will sustain the likelihood of confrontations and attacks in other contested areas, including by Turkish-backed outfits in northern Syria. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. DOD Expert Says U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy Is Seeing Successes. The past year has been truly historic in the Indo-Pacific region and the Defense Department looks to continue that progress, said Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.
“We are delivering on our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and absolutely strengthening deterrence in the region,” the assistant secretary said at the Defense News Conference in Arlington, Virginia.
Ratner discussed the progress made in the region, the need for communication between Chinese and U.S. defense leaders, and the need for continued bipartisan support for U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy.
Ratner said the past year has advanced implementation of U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific “in terms of fortifying our foreign defense perimeter.” The region is squarely in the center of Pentagon concerns, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III making eight trips to the region—including his first trip as secretary to Japan, South Korea and India in February 2021.
American initiatives have gained traction in the region because they are built on the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, based on rules that have kept the peace since the end of World War II.
U.S. military-to-military relations with the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations organization have improved, he said. “Our alliances and partnerships with those countries are stronger than they had ever been,” Ratner said. “The upshot is that we have been engaging in a number of activities with them that have … led to a more distributed mobile, resilient and lethal force posture in the region.”
The United States military has also worked diligently with allies and partners “to develop the capabilities they need to defend themselves to be able to contribute more to our alliances,” Ratner said.
These are not simply bilateral relationships. “We have been busy linking these relationships together like never before,” Ratner said. Nations of the region are cooperating with each other in ways impossible to consider just a few short years ago.
China’s behavior in the region is one reason for the increased cooperation among like-minded nations.
For the United States, China is the top challenge. “That has been reflected in our budget, in our approach to force posture, and in the types of concepts we’re developing in our work with allies and partners,” Ratner said. “That’s going to continue.”
That is because China is “the only country with both the will and, increasingly, the capability to overturn the international order and refashion the international order to suit its authoritarian interests in ways that would undermine the interests of the United States,” Ratner said.
The assistant secretary said the need for contacts between defense leaders in China and the United States is crucial. Chinese leaders have rebuffed requests from Defense Secretary Austin.
Ratner said he has had contacts with Chinese counterparts, and Navy Adm. John Aquilino, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of a chiefs of defense meeting in Fiji last month. While he said those contacts are a good step, “I don’t think those are a substitute for leader-level engagement in terms of ministerial level engagement.”
The United States military has had substantive engagements and dialogues with China’s army over the years, and Ratner said he would like to see those contacts resume—with the caveat that they not be hostage to political posturing. He said defense leaders would like to “share concerns that we have about PRC operational behavior in the region.”
There has been a sharp increase in “unsafe intercepts against the United States and its allies and partners in the region,” Ratner said. These include very close approaches and unsafe maneuvers around U.S. and allied aircraft.
“We do need a mechanism to be able to talk about this behavior and communicate from the U.S. side,” he said.
These maneuvers are not going to stop the United States or its allies from operating in the region. “It’s dangerous, and the PLA has got to knock it off,” he said.
Finally, Ratner discussed the bipartisan support for the U.S. strategy in the region. “We are engaging in discussions with our allies and partners that, in part, have a long trajectory on them and will take time to build,” he said. “In every, almost every, one of these relationships—whether it’s South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia and others—we’re moving out now.”
Trilateral meetings of the United States, South Korea and Japan, for example, will happen yearly. New agreements with India, the Philippines and Australia have components that will take years to put in place. These must have support across party lines.
“What I will say is that, in my experience, engaging with Capitol Hill, other Republican leaders, there is strong bipartisan support for our position in the Indo-Pacific and strong bipartisan support for our focus on the PRC as the pacing challenge,” he said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
07 Sep 23. DOD Official Says AUKUS Partnership Strengthens Indo-Pacific Security. The 2022 National Defense Strategy describes China as the most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades, highlights Indo-Pacific security and stability and underscores the importance of new and fast-evolving technologies to meet the shifting global security environment.
AUKUS, the enhanced trilateral security partnership among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States is a critical part of how those goals will be achieved, said Mara Karlin. Performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, she testified today at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
In September 2021, leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced the creation of AUKUS.
Under this partnership, Australia has demonstrated a commitment to purchasing conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines, she said.
“The United States, United Kingdom and Australia have committed to conducting naval nuclear propulsion cooperation in a manner that is fully consistent with our respective legal obligations, and that sets the highest nonproliferation standard. We are moving out swiftly,” Karlin said.
This year, three Australian officers have graduated from U.S. nuclear power school and the USS North Carolina, a Virginia-class attack submarine, conducted the first port visit to Australia, she noted.
The U.S. and Australia are also enhancing cooperation on other critical military capabilities.
“In April, under the auspices of the Artificial Intelligence Working Group, we trilaterally demonstrated the joint deployment of artificial intelligence-enabled assets in a collaborative swarm to detect and track military targets in real time,” Karlin said.
Karlin noted that the trilateral partnership isn’t only about defense. The State and Commerce departments are also integral to the trilateral relationship, as is the support of Congress.
There are several areas which require congressional legislation, she said, including authorization to sell Virginia-class submarines to Australia as an interim capability, training Australia’s submarine workforce and enabling export licensing exemptions.
“We cannot implement AUKUS without your critical support in all of these areas,” she said.
The U.S. needs to expand defense cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific region even more, she said. “The U.S. network of alliances and partnerships is a strategic advantage that competitors cannot match.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
06 Sep 23. Congo (DRC): Extension of regional force will sustain risk of unrest. On 5 September, the East African Community (EAC) confirmed that it would extend the mandate of its regional deployment to Congo (DRC) until December. The announcement comes amid elevated local opposition to the presence of international forces over allegations they are doing nothing to combat continued violence related to the Rwandan-backed M23 rebel group. On 30 August, the security forces killed 56 people when they opened fire on violent protests against the UN mission (MONUSCO) in Goma (North Kivu province). With MONUSCO scheduled to withdraw by the end of 2023 amid widespread and persistent violence, the DRC will likely increasingly rely on its regional partners, driving further mandate extensions. However, given Rwanda’s membership of the EAC, continued failure to combat M23 will drive local allegations of collusion. As such, further protests and associated clashes in Goma and throughout North Kivu are likely in 2024, sustaining bystander risks for local staff. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. Burkina Faso: Jihadist attack points to limited security force capacity; further attacks are highly likely. On 4 September, jihadist militants killed at least 53 soldiers and military volunteers during a counter-offensive operation in Koumbri (Yatenga province). The attack was almost certainly carried out by Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) or Ansar ul-Islam. Despite announcing a general mobilisation on 13 April, the military government continues to have an extremely limited capacity to provide security nationwide; it is increasingly reliant on volunteer forces. As offensive operations are unlikely to resecure control of Burkina Faso’s northern provinces, further clashes and attacks are highly likely. Continued jihadist activity will sustain elevated operational risks for businesses and NGOs operating throughout northern Burkina Faso, particularly in rural areas; they will also threaten supply chains supporting local urban centres. Continued clashes with jihadists and reports of heavy losses will likely further undermine public confidence in the military government’s ability to combat insecurity, driving domestic unrest risks in the coming weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. ASEAN-Myanmar: Regional bloc’s efforts to facilitate reduction in conflict will likely be ineffective. On 5 September, the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called on the junta in Myanmar to de-escalate the ongoing violence in the country. The statement, issued at a summit in Jakarta (Indonesia), underlined that ASEAN will establish an informal mechanism to address the situation. It also revealed that Myanmar will be replaced by the Philippines for the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2026. Junta officials quickly refuted the statement. While the specific calling out of the junta in the statement is unusual, ASEAN’s prospects for resolving the ongoing crisis will be significantly limited, not least because of internal divisions on how to approach the issue. Despite international pressure, there is minimal evidence to suggest that the junta will ease its violent response to civilian and armed domestic resistance. Internal conflict will likely continue for the foreseeable future, along with human rights violations. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. Armenia-Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh’s security environment will possibly worsen in short term. On 5 September, the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities released footage allegedly showing Azerbaijani forces concentrating military equipment, including artillery, along the contact line. According to the same authorities, Baku is preparing to exacerbate the situation as part of an alleged disinformation campaign focusing on security incidents. On 5 September, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that Armenian forces opened fire on Azerbaijani positions in Kalbajar region; Armenia’s MoD rejected these claims, stating that they are part of Baku’s disinformation campaign. While the claims of a military build-up remain unconfirmed, they nonetheless underscore the highly tense situation along the contact line despite the involvement of international mediators. Notably, the EU called on Baku on 1 September to lift the Lachin Corridor’s blockade, which has contributed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite the increasing involvement of international mediators such as the EU and the US, the risk of limited military confrontations remains elevated along the border regions due to a stalling peace process. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. US DoD and Indian MoD discuss undersea capabilities in first Indus-X meeting. Participants discussed driving innovation and equipping both countries’ armed forces with the capabilities needed to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced its first Indus-X Senior Advisory Group meeting with the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Indus-X serves as a platform in which both governments share ideas for innovation to strengthen their defence acceleration eco-system.
This platform evolved from the strengthened defence ties between the two countries, captured by the ‘Roadmap for US-Indian Defense Industrial Co-operation,’ agreed in June this year.
The US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) Director Doug Beck and Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford co-chaired the meeting alongside Mr. Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary (Defence Industries Promotion) of the Indian MoD.
Participants discussed ongoing initiatives to drive innovation and equip both countries’ armed forces with the capabilities they need to defend a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Both agencies announced topics for the first two joint challenges, focused on undersea communication and maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Aligned with the ‘Roadmap for US-Indian Defense Industrial Co-operation’, the challenges provide for start-ups in both countries to develop technological solutions for shared defence challenges, culminating in financial awards for the most promising technology along with potential procurement opportunities; the DIU and iDEX will open the challenges to start-ups later this month.
The Senior Advisory Group welcomed initiatives by non-governmental stakeholders to implement the Indus-X collaboration agenda.
On August 25, Hacking4Allies and IIT Hyderabad hosted a programme for 50 Indian start-ups to equip them to commercialise, recruit talent, and expand.
On August 29, Pennsylvania State University and IIT Kanpur convened a virtual group of US and Indian academics, government officials, and industry representatives to advance discussions on developing innovation ecosystems in emerging domains like AI, space, and cyber.
The Group also noted efforts by private investors to generate capital for US and Indian defence and dual-use technology start-ups. They also committed to facilitating greater two-way flow of capital to support innovation and integration between their respective private defense sectors.
Undersea capability market data
According to GlobalData intelligence, navies around the globe are increasingly investing in the development and integration of unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to create ‘hybrid’ fleet structures in the interest of enhancing survivability, increasing efficiency, and reducing the long-term costs of naval operations.
GlobalData forecasts expenditures in the global UUV market to rise from $379m in 2023 to $965m by 2033 as the market continues to surpass its previous records.
Demand for military UUVs continues to be driven by the development of autonomous mine countermeasure capabilities and the implementation of hybridised fleet initiatives by several nations including China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US.
However, the market for USVs continues to far outpace that of UUVs, with GlobalData anticipating the value of the global USV market to reach $3.16bn in 2033, up from $894m in 2023. (Source: naval-technology.com)
06 Sep 23. Colombia: Jeopardised peace talks following attack in Cauca will likely result in further incidents. On 5 September, explosions and gunfire attributed to the Dagoberto Ramos FARC dissident front wounded two soldiers in Corinto (Cauca department). The front has ties to Estado Mayor Central, which is holding preliminary peace talks with the government. The attack targeted a police station and damaged a commercial building façade, as well as dozens of nearby houses. It occurred amid ongoing demobilisation negotiations and has possibly reduced the likelihood of participants reaching a deal. Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez Gomez emphasised that a ceasefire must outline clear terms and protocols to mitigate conflict risks. Further attacks are likely to be carried out by fringe elements within FARC, risking the derailment of the tenuous negotiation process. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. Gabon: Possibility of political agreement reduces unrest risk from lack of transition timeline. On 4 September, General Brice Oligui Nguema was sworn in as president of the transitional government. During his inauguration speech, General Nguema announced that the transitional government would hold a constitutional referendum and guarantee a return to civilian rule, although he did not outline a specific timeline. General Nguema also announced the annulment of the 26 August election, rejecting the opposition alliance Alternance 23’s request for the military junta to conclude the electoral results. This is likely to drive tensions with the opposition, who very likely see themselves as the rightful successor of President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s government. However, there is a realistic possibility that an agreement between Alternance 23 and General Nguema was reached during their meeting on 3 September. If such an agreement is in place, with opposition ministerial appointments to a transitional government acting as an indicator, this will likely reduce the risk of unrest in the coming weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Sep 23. Bungled Australian Navy Warship Referred to Anti-Corruption Watchdog (excerpt). The [Australian] navy’s troubled $45bn frigate project has been referred to the anti-corruption watchdog after a scathing auditor-general’s report revealed bureaucrats failed to keep key documents on their decisions that handed the contract to British shipbuilders with an untested design.
While not alleging officials acted corruptly or personally benefited, NSW Greens senator David Shoebridge has referred the project to the National Anti-Corruption Commission in a potential test case for its powers to examine integrity around government decision-making.
“The Greens referred this issue to the NACC because it shows that the culture Coalition and Labor governments have fostered in Defence is not serving the interests of the community,” Senator Shoebridge said.
“This isn’t a case of corrupt individuals or bags of cash changing hands, it’s about a public process that has been brought down to produce a predetermined outcome.
“This is what the NACC was designed for, to uncover systemic breaches of public trust, especially when they have become embedded in the system.”
The Hunter-class frigates are facing uncertainty while the Albanese government waits for a review of the navy’s surface fleet of warships to be completed this month, with informed speculation that the number of vessels to be built in Adelaide may be reduced from nine to six.
The project has suffered a series of blowouts, delays and design woes, including increased size and weight, affecting its planned performance, since the Turnbull government selected British giant BAE Systems in 2018.
An auditor-general’s report, released in May, unearthed several issues with the procurement process. This included that BAE’s frigate, which only existed on paper, was shortlisted in 2016 alongside two rivals despite being identified by officials as a high-risk option. (end of excerpt) (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Australian Financial Review)
06 Sep 23. Peru: Fatal clash between military and guerillas underscores security risks in coca production regions. On 4 September, clashes between the military and rebels aligned with the guerilla group ‘Shining Path’ killed at least four soldiers and two rebels in Putis (Huanta province). The event occurred in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro (VRAEM), which is a major cocaine production area. It is also the last remaining outpost of the Shining Path. The group often collaborates with local drug traffickers, providing them with armed protection and support. Ongoing political tensions underscore the challenges Peru faces in confronting entrenched organised crime amid deteriorating socio-economic conditions. As the government is currently unlikely to displace Shining Path from isolated and impoverished rural regions such as Ayacucho (Huamanga province), clashes with security forces are likely to continue. Sustained operations against rebels and traffickers are likely to continue through 2023, driving the risk of organised crime in the VRAEM region. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Sep 23. US Says North Korea Will ‘Pay a Price’ for Any Weapons Supplies to Russia. Arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are actively advancing, a U.S. official said on Tuesday and warned leader Kim Jong Un that his country would pay a price for supplying Russia with weapons to use in Ukraine. Providing weapons to Russia “is not going to reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House.
The Kremlin said earlier on Tuesday it had “nothing to say” about statements by U.S. officials that Kim planned to travel to Russia this month to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss weapons supplies to Moscow.
Kim expects discussions about weapons to continue, Sullivan said, including at leader level and “perhaps even in person.”
“We have continued to squeeze Russia’s defense industrial base,” Sullivan said, and Moscow is now “looking to whatever source they can find” for goods like ammunition. “We will continue to call on North Korea to abide by its public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia that will end up killing Ukrainians,” Sullivan said.
On Monday, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Kim and Putin could be planning to meet, and The New York Times cited unnamed U.S. and allied officials as saying Kim plans to travel to Russia as soon as next week to meet Putin. Asked if he could confirm the talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “No, I can’t. There’s nothing to say.”
As Russia’s isolation over its war in Ukraine has grown, it has seen increasing value in North Korea, according to political analysts. For North Korea’s part, relations with Russia have not always been as warm as they were at the height of the Soviet Union, but now the country is reaping clear benefits from Moscow’s need for friends.
Moscow-Pyongyang defense cooperation
A North Korean Defense Ministry official in November said Pyongyang has “never had ‘arms dealings’ with Russia” and has “no plan to do so in the future.”
Moscow and Pyongyang have promised to boost defense cooperation.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who visited Pyongyang in July to attend weapons displays that included North Korea’s banned ballistic missiles, said on Monday the two countries are discussing the possibility of joint military exercises.
“Just as you can tell a person by their friends, you can tell a country by the company it keeps,” said Keir Giles, senior consulting fellow with Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia program. “In Russia’s case, that company now consists largely of fellow rogue states.”
The trip would be Kim’s first visit abroad in more than four years, and the first since the coronavirus pandemic.
While he made more trips abroad than his father as leader, Kim’s travel is often shrouded in secrecy and heavy security. Unlike his father, who was said to be averse to flying, Kim has flown his personal Russian-made jet for some of his trips. But U.S. officials told The New York Times that he may take an armored train across the land border that North Korea shares with Russia.
Kim is likely to want to emphasize a sense of Russian backing, and may seek deals on arms sales, aid and sending laborers to Russia, said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Kookmin University.
The United States in August imposed sanctions on three entities it accused of being tied to arms deals between North Korea and Russia.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006 and had been testing various missiles over recent years.
Russia has joined China in opposing new sanctions on North Korea, blocking a U.S.-led push and publicly splitting the U.N. Security Council for the first time since it started punishing Pyongyang in 2006.
(Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Voice of America News)
05 Sep 23. Leonardo: Strategic Agreements with Slovak Defence Industry. In a ceremony held during the last weekend at 2023 edition of Slovak International Air Fest (SIAF), at the presence of the Minister of Defence of the Slovak Republic, Martin Sklenár, the State Secretary of Defence, Marian Majer and Ambassador of Italy to the Slovak Republic, H.E. Catherine Flumiani, Leonardo signed some strategic agreements with Slovak defence industries, LOTN and Virtual Reality Media (VRM) in Trencin and Slavia Production System in Detva, consolidating the perspectives to generate a wide industrial return both for the Slovak Defence and civil industry.
“Leonardo pursues worldwide the local cooperation adopting a business model aimed to foster adequate synergy with local industries on long term partnership and value chain development and is able to prospect Slovakia the most advanced and effective solution in terms of response to their defense needs,” said Corrado Falco, Senior Vice President International Business Development at Leonardo.
Leonardo is very proud to have shown at SIAF the M-345 Tactical Trainer simulator, one of the excellence in terms of training and simulation technologies. The Integrated Training system as well as the other products and services offered by Leonardo leverage on the proven know-how which has been matured delivering, supporting and designing the most advanced military aircraft such as the Eurofighter and the JSF, while working already on next generation systems.”
This technological osmosis is a plus that few companies may offer in Europe and a crucial discriminant in the long-term considering the modern scenario. Leonardo might represent a partner of choice for the Slovak Defence assuring the full coverage of current and future potential national requirements.
The quality and effectiveness of military pilots is as much as important as to rely on the most performing and advanced defence aircraft. With Slovakia’s generational jump to a new fleet of fighter aircraft, the M-345 integrated training systems and services provided by Leonardo are the best solution to assure highly trained pilots for the Air Force.
Leonardo’s business approach is well driven by local content maximization to pave the way for collaborations with the Slovak Industry. With the Falco EVO programme, Leonardo has adopted a well-established commercial approach, based on partnering with customers and end-users to deliver full life-cycle solutions through extended cooperation with national industries in customer countries.
Leonardo can boast a significant international heritage in the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) design, manufacturing and operations, thanks to more than 70 years’ experience in developing and manufacturing a wide range of uncrewed platforms including aerial targets, mini-UAVs, Heavy Tactical and MALE systems.
The M-345 is a latest generation, fully digitally designed trainer aircraft conceived for basic through to advanced training of military pilots, equipped with modern avionics and characterized by operating costs comparable to those of a high-powered turboprop trainer. Derived by the proven experience in the M-346 programme, the avionics of the M-345 include a state-of-the-art man-machine interface, while the Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) permits reproduction of highly complex tactical scenarios during training flights.
The aircraft is the central element of an Integrated Training System that can leverage on the advanced “Live, Virtual, and Constructive (LVC)” technology, designed to allow students to interact, through the simulator, with pilots in flight within the same training mission. This enables the simulated environment and real aircraft to merge. The instructor on the ground can add other constructive elements, reproducing ‘friends’ and/or ‘enemies’ in a simulated operational scenario. This makes for highly effective pilot training, saving flight hours that would otherwise have to be flown onboard operational conversion aircraft, with a consequent increase in costs.
Today, the M-346 is the backbone of the Italian Air Force-Leonardo “International Flight Training School (IFTS)” chosen by Japan, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Austria, Canada and UK to train their pilots for the advanced/lead-in-fighter (LIFT) phase. The recently announced agreement between Leonardo and Airbus, centered on the M-346, confirmed this system as the benchmark for the market and a continuously evolving program towards the most advanced technologies for decades to come.
Falco EVO is the Leonardo unmanned solution for tactical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). Its integrated architecture and sensors ensure networked capability, complete tactical situational awareness and interoperability with any other operational environment. The Falco family also includes ASTORE, the weaponized system based on Falco EVO proven platform.
Falco EVO represents a valuable excellence through its main core features and is currently satisfactorily operated by several international customers, conducting flight operations in very different and harsh environments.
A powerful and scalable mission system completes Falco EVO solution, capable of correlating information from different sensors and disseminating in the tactical scenario, in support of strategic analyses and operational decisions according to the fast timing of crisis scenarios (Information Superiority).
Leonardo is today a leading global player developing multi-domain capabilities in the Aerospace, Defence and Security sector. With 51,000 employees worldwide, it operates in the fields of Helicopters, Electronics, Aircraft, Cyber & Security and Space, and is a key partner in major international programmes including Eurofighter, GCAP and Eurodrone. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/)
06 Sep 23. Russian Wagner Group declared terrorists. A draft proscription order is being laid in Parliament today, making it illegal to support Wagner Group and punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has today (6 September) laid before Parliament a draft order to proscribe Wagner Group under the Terrorism Act 2000. Wagner Group is a proxy military force of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which operates across the globe.
Once agreed, the order will come into force on 13 September, making it a criminal offence to belong to, encourage support for, assist or use the logo of that group. Certain proscription offences can be punishable by up to 14 years in prison, which can be handed down alongside or in place of a fine.
Wagner’s assets can also be categorised as terrorist property and seized.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
Wagner is a violent and destructive organisation which has acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas. While Putin’s regime decides what to do with the monster it created, Wagner’s continuing destabilising activities only continue to serve the Kremlin’s political goals.
They are terrorists, plain and simple – and this proscription order makes that clear in UK law. Wagner has been involved in looting, torture and barbarous murders. Its operations in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa are a threat to global security.
That is why we are proscribing this terrorist organisation and continuing to aid Ukraine wherever we can in its fight against Russia.
Wagner Group is a Russian private military company which has acted as a proxy military force on behalf of the Russian state. Founded in 2014, Wagner has operated in a series of countries including most notably Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya, Mozambique and Mali.
Wagner has operated in the pursuit of Russia’s foreign policy objectives and the objectives of host governments who have contracted Wagner’s services.
The UK has consistently called out the violent and destructive actions of Wagner Group, and included the group in a first wave of sanctions against Russia in early 2022, and more recently sanctioned an additional 13 individuals and businesses linked to the actions of the group in July 2023.
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said: “Proscription names Wagner Group for what they truly are: terrorists. This is a murderous organisation which is responsible for committing atrocities across the world.”
Proscribing Wagner sends a clear message that the UK will not tolerate Russia’s proxies and their barbaric actions in Ukraine, and condemns Wagner’s campaign of corruption and bloodshed on the African continent, which has been repeatedly linked to human rights violations.
Proscribing the group comes after the Home Secretary’s careful consideration of:
- the nature and scale of organisation’s activities
- the threat they pose to British nationals overseas
- the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism
Despite recent events, including the group’s attempted coup against Moscow and the alleged death of its leadership, the threat from Wagner Group continues to endure.
Designating the Wagner Group for proscription is also a response to requests made by Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy who has called for the group to be treated as a terrorist organisation. The UK will maintain its unwavering support for Ukraine and continue to condemn Russian aggression.
The order will be debated in Parliament this week and once passed, Wagner Group will become the 79th organisation to be proscribed in the UK.
Other groups who have been proscribed by the British government include al-Qaeda, ISIS and Hizballah. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
05 Sep 23. INDUS-X Senior Advisory Group Holds Kick-Off Meeting. Department of Defense Spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin Meiners provided the following statement:
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) held the first virtual meeting of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) Senior Advisory Group today.
Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) Director Doug Beck and Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford co-chaired the meeting alongside Mr. Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary (Defence Industries Promotion) of the Indian MoD. Participants discussed ongoing initiatives to drive innovation and equip both countries’ armed forces with the capabilities they need to defend a free and open Indo-Pacific.
DIU and iDEX announced topics for the first two joint challenges, focused on undersea communication and maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Aligned with the Roadmap for U.S.-India Defense Industrial Cooperation, the challenges provide for start-ups in both countries to develop technological solutions for shared defense challenges, culminating in financial awards for the most promising technology along with potential procurement opportunities. DIU and iDEX will open the challenges to start-ups later this month.
The Senior Advisory Group welcomed initiatives by non-governmental stakeholders to implement the INDUS-X collaboration agenda. On August 25, Hacking4Allies and IIT Hyderabad hosted a program for 50 Indian start-ups to equip them to commercialize, recruit talent, and expand. And on August 29, Pennsylvania State University and IIT Kanpur convened a virtual group of U.S. and Indian academics, government officials, and industry representatives to advance discussions on developing innovation ecosystems in emerging domains like AI, space, and cyber. The Group also noted efforts by private investors to generate capital for U.S. and Indian defense and dual-use technology start-ups, and committed to facilitating greater two-way flow of capital to support innovation and integration between their respective private defense sectors. (Source: US DoD)
04 Sep 23. Colombia: Government, FARC dissidents will likely aim for ceasefire ahead of peace talks. On 3 September, the government and a FARC dissident group, Estado Mayor Central (EMC), suspended exploratory talks working toward a ceasefire in Suarez (Cauca department). The sides agreed to meet again on 17 September to assess progress on a truce and to set a date to launch formal peace negotiations. A ceasefire was previously enacted in January-May 2022, though it broke down amid persistent clashes. EMC will likely seek to involve the incarcerated FARC leader Simon Trinidad in negotiations. Significant uncertainty remains over the prospect and viability of a long-term ceasefire. Nonetheless, the ongoing negotiations will possibly bear a sustained agreement, enabling the re-integration of dissidents in the long term. The risk of organised crime will persist in the medium term, particularly along the border with Venezuela. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Sep 23. US to deploy comprehensive air and missile defences for Guam. The US government has detailed plans for a comprehensive air and missile defence system to be deployed at its airbases in Guam.
In a recently released notice of intent document, the US Missile Defense Agency announced intentions for an Enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defense system for the defence of Guam.
That system would include island-wide, persistent, 360-degree coverage of missile defence radars, sensors, missile launchers and missile interceptors, alongside the development of associated support facilities, infrastructure and management of airspace.
The proposed installations would be intended to defend the entirety of Guam against advanced cruise, ballistic and hypersonic missile attacks from regional adversaries.
“The 360-degree capability would be achieved by distributing or placing missile defence components, including a command and control centre, radars, sensors, missile launchers, missile interceptors, and support facilities, at multiple locations around the island,” according to an MDA statement published online.
“These integrated components would defend against simultaneous air and missile attacks against Guam. The system is expected to start deployment in 2027.
“Mission support facilities would be constructed in support of the system components, and would include power plants, fuel storage facilities, and operations facilities.
“Life support facilities may include family housing, fire stations, gas stations or child youth services.” (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Sep 23. USAF Plans to Bring Some Mothballed Indo-Pacific Bases Back to Life (excerpt). The Air Force plans to increase the number of bases it can operate from in the Indo-Pacific so that it can disperse forces in wartime, according to a general responsible for logistics and force protection. Air Force bases in the region “will grow in increments that are visible through time, across probably [10 to 15 years] as we work through that,” Brig. Gen. Michael Zuhlsdorf, deputy director of resource integration for engineering, logistics and force protection, said Tuesday during a webinar hosted by the Mitchell Institute, a nonpartisan aerospace research organization in Arlington, Va.
Zuhlsdorf didn’t respond directly to a reporter’s question about how many additional bases the force could operate from.
“The overall number is continuing to change based on the resourcing that we have … there’s a number of different airfields that we’re working through, and based on the resourcing, that number will shift,” he said.
World War II-era airfields throughout the Pacific provide available real estate, Zuhlsdorf said.
“We’re going to capitalize in investing in that and bringing some of those … bases to life,” he said. “We’re going to bring to life some mothballed bases that are out there.”
The Air Force will team with allies and partners such as Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the Philippines and Japan in the effort, the general said.
“The bottom line with this resilient basing … we need to make sure that we set the theater so that our airman, soldiers, sailors, Marines … the guardians that will be out front … are taken care of and have the tools they need to succeed in that kind of an environment, frankly an environment that we haven’t been challenged with for quite a long time,” he said. (end of excerpt)
(Click here for the full story, on the Stars and Stripes website: https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2023-08-31/air-force-pacific-base-expansion-11222031.html)
(Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Stars and Stripes)
01 Sep 23. South African Air Force, Lesotho Defence Force strengthen ties. Members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) are in South Africa under a cooperation agreement aimed at furthering air arm training.
Ad Astra intern Nondumiso Ndhlela reported that the LDF delegation arrived at South African Air Force Headquarters on 28 August, and will be in South Africa until 1 September.
“The purpose of the visit from the Lesotho Defence Force was to follow up on a cooperation agreement which was signed by the SA National Defence Force, authorising the Kingdom of Lesotho Defence Force Air Wing to take part in the military training programmes,” Ndhlela explained.
SAAF and LDF officials were scheduled to discuss the hosting of LDF Air Wing members in South Africa for courses, and the introduction of joint exercises between the two organisations.
Some members of the Lesotho delegation previously underwent an Officer Forming Course in South Africa and said they were proud products of the SA Air Force.
LDF Colonel Tsukudu said, “we are gladly looking forward to exchanging knowledge on how we are going to maintain and improve our cooperation as well as solutions on development of aviation. It has been a while since we had our intakes with the SA Air Force, which was in 2009. We are delighted to be here to kickstart our cooperation.”
The LDF Air Wing relies on outside sources for pilot training as it has no capacity of its own. The SAAF has trained numerous pilots from its landlocked neighbour, while others have received training at commercial flying schools.
The LDF has a small Air Wing, whose most modern aircraft are three Airbus Helicopters H125s. Several C212s and a single GA-8 Airvan fixed wing aircraft are also believed to be in service, along with several Bell 412s, and a couple of BO 105s.
The LDF is mainly tasked with border control and managing internal security issues, such as cattle rustling, as well as search and rescue. It is contributing a company-sized infantry force to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), with the Air Wing providing a C212 for light transport duties. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
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