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13 Nov 21. British troops helping Poland to fortify border with Belarus. It comes as Moscow sends paratroopers to conduct drills on the other side of the frontier with Minsk’s soldiers
British troops are helping the Polish army strengthen its border with Belarus in a show of support as Minsk sends waves of migrants towards the country.
It comes as Russia dispatched paratroopers to the Belarusian side of the border for snap drills on Friday, not far from where hundreds of Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis and others have been camping in hopes of crossing into Poland since earlier this week.
In an effort to tackle the crisis, Warsaw has moved 15,000 troops to the frontier, put up a fence topped with barbed wire and approved the construction of a wall.
Poland’s defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said British personnel have now started a “reconnaissance” mission with their Polish peers on the tense frontier. A source confirmed to the Telegraph that they were from the Royal Engineers.
“Our soldiers will co-operate in strengthening the fence of the Polish-Belarusian border,” said Mr Blaszczak on Friday.
The deployment was a sign of allied friendship between the UK and Poland, the British Ministry of Defence said.
“A small team of UK Armed Forces personnel have deployed following agreement with the Polish Government to explore how we can provide engineering support to address the ongoing situation at the Belarus border,” a spokesperson for the ministry added.
The deployment is limited to providing engineering support, according to PA.
Russian paratroopers sent to Belarusian border
Moscow – which has been accused of orchestrating the crisis to destabilise Europe – put on a similar show of support for its ally, Minsk, with joint military drills at the border.
The Russian defence ministry released a slickly produced video that showed paratroopers from both countries leaping from planes and running across open fields before launching rounds of machine-gun fire in the woods. But Moscow later it admitted two of its soldiers died because of parachute failure in strong winds. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
11 Nov 21. UK Navy Chief details options for growing Royal Navy at-sea presence. The UK Royal Navy (RN) has options for increasing its presence at sea by growing platform numbers, ship availability, and forward deployment, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the RN’s First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, told the UK Government-hosted Pacific Future Forum conference, which took place on 20-21 October onboard the UK aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales at HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, UK. Adm Radakin explained that the UK has a two-theatre strategic posture, with a government-led focus on increasing Indo-Pacific presence sitting alongside the primary requirement to maintain emphasis on the Euro-Atlantic region: this posture, he added, is now underpinned by additional financial investment and a revitalised shipbuilding programme.
“That allows us to do a little bit more,” said Adm Radakin. “We can maintain all our responsibilities in the Euro-Atlantic and we could strengthen those capabilities, at the same time as reaching out a bit further to the Far East.”
“If I look at it in the maritime dimension, over the next 10 years or so we will grow from 19 frigates and destroyers to 24 frigates and destroyers, but at the same time the availability of those ships – of modern ships – goes from 60 percent to 80 percent,” Adm Radakin explained. “What that gives the [RN’s] Fleet Commander … is twice the number of sea days for our frigates and destroyers over the next 10 years. Therefore, we can do more whilst maintaining our current responsibilities.”
The strategic-level interest in strengthening Indo-Pacific presence is already being enforced at the operational level. Adm Radakin pointed to the September 2021 forward deployment of two RN River-class Batch 2 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, to the Indo-Pacific. The expanding shipbuilding programme is set to provide more options for building Indo-Pacific forward presence. For example, five new Type 31 Inspiration-class general-purpose frigates are expected to be in service by 2030, replacing the five general-purpose Type 23 frigates. “What that starts to offer our politicians is a choice in the future as to whether you replace those OPVs [in theatre] with your Type 31 frigates or you supplement your OPVs with those Type 31 frigates,” said Adm Radakin. (Source: Armada)
09 Nov 21. General Sir Nick Carter said Afghanistan could become more inclusive if the ‘less repressive’ elements of the Taliban gain the upper hand. The UK’s outgoing chief of the defence staff told MPs on Tuesday that it was too early to judge whether the Nato alliance was defeated in Afghanistan after the rapid Taliban takeover of Kabul in August following the pullout of US forces. General Sir Nick Carter also suggested that if the “less repressive elements” of the Taliban gain control of the country it could become “more inclusive than it might have otherwise.” After the chaotic withdrawal of US troops, by far the largest Nato component in Afghanistan, in August and Taliban takeover, the country has been plunged in to what the UN is calling “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis”, with millions facing starvation.
Appearing before MPs on the House of Commons defence committee, Carter, who steps down as the UK’s top military official at the end of November, said: “I think it is too early to say that defeat has occurred. Victory here needs to be measured in the results and not some great military extravaganza.” He added: “Taliban 2.0 is different. There are a lot of people in Taliban 2.0 who would like to govern in a more modern way, but they are divided among themselves, as political entities so often are. “If the less repressive elements end up gaining control then I think there is no reason to suppose that Afghanistan over the next five years might not turn out into a country that is more inclusive than it might have otherwise.” He defended western intelligence failings that underestimated the strength of the Taliban as it seized control within weeks, blaming a rapid shift in the allegiances of local warlords. “What was going on in the provincial capitals — Herat, Lashkar Gah, Kandahar — was that millions of dollars were changing hands”, he said. “What happened there was that allegiance changed over a period of a week. It is very hard to monitor that.” Britain’s most senior military leader defended “bullish” claims he made previously that the Afghan government would hold on to power following the removal of Western troops, saying more pessimistic assessment at the time would have undermined the country’s then president Ashraf Ghani. “The plan was to try to get the Afghan government to hang in and hold it together,” he said. “I am one of the voices they listen to, more so probably than any other foreigner other than the odd American.”
Challenged on why he had warned against referring to the Taliban as “the enemy” at the time of the evacuation of troops, Carter said it was to protect those British forces still on the ground. He admitted there needed to be a “fundamental cultural shift” following a meeting between defence secretary Ben Wallace and military top brass on Monday to discuss bullying, harassment and sexual assault within the armed forces. “Part of the reason that we encourage a laddish culture is that ultimately our soldiers have to go close and personal with the enemy. What you have got to try and do is to square both these outputs,” he added. Carter also called for the problems threatening the future of the £5.5bn Ajax armoured vehicle programme to be “properly attended to”. Noise and excessive vibration inside the armoured vehicles during trials have prompted concerns of lasting hearing damage to their crews. The department is waiting for the results of independent trials before deciding whether to proceed with the programme. Five soldiers whose hearing was affected during the trials have been medically discharged from the army. (Source: FT.com)
08 Nov 21. Storm Warning Comes from UK in Form of Project Tempest. The UK-led Future Air Combat System (FCAS) has entered a “concept and assessment phase” with a contract worth approximately £250m ($340m) to lead contractor BAE Systems. The effort is also called Project Tempest— the name of a new and stealthy fighter aircraft that forms the centerpiece of the system. But at a series of presentations at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) show in London recently, officials described the wider ambitions and content of the FCAS.
“We’re taking a revolutionary approach, looking at a game-changing mix of swarming drones and uncrewed aircraft, as well as a next-generated piloted platform,” said Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, chief of the UK air staff. “Tempest is not just hardware,” he continued. “It is about the weapons, the sensors, its battlespace connectivity, and how information is moved around its network. Tempest will exploit our world-class industrial base, pairing our brightest minds with digital ways of working.”
The digital approach was a constant theme of the presentations. The main partners—so far, they are Leonardo, MBDA, Rolls-Royce, and Saab—will be linked to each other and to the wider supply chain by the latest open systems information and networking technology. They will share design and development models. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a big part. “We must become digital natives. We are learning from Saab’s experience of digitalization on the Gripen E and the T-7,” said Michael Christie, the FCAS director at BAE Systems. The T-7 is the new jet pilot trainer for the US Air Force that Saab has designed with Boeing.
“We will behave as a single program,” Christie continued. He alluded to the unwieldy, protracted, and workshare-driven Eurofighter Typhoon program. “FCAS has a half-the-cost, half-the-time mantra. A 10-year development to operations cycle is a massive improvement.” Team Tempest plans to propose the capability and timescale to the sponsoring governments in late 2024, in time for entry into service around 2035. Christie also noted that although the team would have to keep down the unit cost of Tempest, it would prove a challenge to do so because there would not be “hundreds” ordered.
STEALTH ASPECTS REMAIN HUSH-HUSH
The Tempest airframe mock-up appeared with great fanfare at the Farnborough Airshow in 2018, and BAE Systems has continued the publicity drive since then. However, not much detail has emerged about stealth aspects of the evolving design. Peter Nilsson, vice-president for future programs at Saab, said that it would have to fly into “denied airspace” against a high-tech adversary and counter a wide electromagnetic threat. “There are survivability challenges that I can’t talk about,” said Air Commodore Jez Holmes, head of the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO). He noted that there would likely be some tradeoff of performance for stealth.
Conrad Banks, chief engineer for future programs at Rolls-Royce, described the “Integrated Power System” that his company was developing for Tempest, which would combine the gas turbines with aircraft electrical systems. The IPS would serve as a “flying power station” that would provide 10 times more power to sensors and systems compared with the Typhoon, and also enable the use of directed energy. The design would provide for the ingestion of over 100 kg of air per second; combustion chambers operating at 2,000 deg C; and feature vapor cycles, distortion-tolerant fans, and advanced heat exchangers. Rolls-Royce used simulation tools to predict thermal flows and hotspots. AI would help calculate, for instance, how much power goes to charging batteries versus providing a power surge margin. Although the project would still require hardware testing, there would be no need to build eight full-scale development engines as in the case of the Typhoon. “We’re targeting a 50 percent reduction in development time,” Banks added.
Lukas Chamberlain, project chief engineer at Leonardo, said that the success of the project would require new thinking about size, weight, and power for the sensors. The company would leverage and repackage commercial technology such as 5G networking in designing them. “We are simulating threats by using emulators,” he added. Leonardo announced that it would use a modified Boeing 757 to flight-test futuristic sensors, communications, and “non-kinetic effects” for FCAS. British MRO 2Excel is modifying the airplane. Air Commodore Holmes welcomed the plan. “Sensors often work perfectly on the bench and in the labs.,” he said. “The performance is more challenging when placing them in combat-like, cluttered environments.”
UK autonomous systems developer Intrepid Mind Robotics shares the platform with the main partners. The British SME is part of the team for Project Mosquito, to design and build and demonstrate a small, jet-powered unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). The aircraft could deploy autonomously, or in formation, including as so-called ‘loyal wingmen’ to a manned combat aircraft. The other team members on the £30 million ($40 million), three-year contract are Northrop Grumman UK, Spirit Aerosystems, the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), and the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). The project previously went by the name Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA).
Intrepid Mind Robotics managing director Adam Smith said that the modular design of the Mosquito airframe allowed for five different wing shapes to be interchanged with a fuselage in 10 minutes. Different payloads could also be easily added or removed. Developers are employing multicore processors, using techniques from the gaming industry. An official from Spirit Aerosystems said that “we’ve done 18 months design in nine months.” Air Marshal Wigston said that the project had progressed so well that the demonstrator would fly by the end of 2023, perhaps earlier.
Wigston also reported progress with Project Alvina, a scheme to deploy small drones in swarms. The RAF has already formed an experimental squadron to test how they could be deployed to confuse and overwhelm enemy air defenses. In a recent test, more than 20 of them flew together. “Our future fleet of drones will be agile in design and rapid in manufacture,” said Wigston. “The operational swarms are likely to be a mix of drones of different sizes, range, and endurance, each carrying a variety of bespoke payloads including electronic attack and more.”
The UK seeks more international partners for FCAS. France, Germany, and Spain cannot be candidates because they are developing their own FCAS (see below). Japan remains a possibility. It is developing the F-X, its own new combat aircraft. But Air Commodore Jonny Moreton, the RAF’s future combat director, said that the F-X was being designed to counter the same threats as Tempest, and its timetable was similar. Negotiations were underway, and some “minor” collaboration on electronic warfare and radar already has taken place, he added. Moreton also noted that the Tempest program was being structured to allow participating countries to make their own modifications.
THE OTHER FCAS
To the dismay of those who advocate more pan-European defense collaboration, rival sixth-generation combat air programs have emerged. France, Germany, and Spain are working on their own Future Combat Air System (FCAS). It looks quite similar to Project Tempest, with a stealthy New Generation Fighter (NGF) that includes a new engine. Like its UK-led counterpart, the “Euro-FCAS” also includes new sensors and communications, including combat cloud and “remote carriers” in the form of drones and UCAVs.
The main contactors consist of Airbus Defence and Space (Germany and Spain), and Dassault (France). MTU (Germany), Safran (France), and ITP (Spain) comprise the engine team. Indra, MBDA, Thales, and some SMEs also participate. Various designs for both the fighter and the remote carriers have been researched in Phase 1A of the project, which started in 2020 and cost €300m ($345m). They will undergo evaluation over the next three years in Phase 1B of the project at a cost of €3.5bn. Schedules call for a prototype of the fighter to fly in 2027, although the partners don’t foresee entry into service until 2040. (Source: News Now/https://www.ainonline.com/)
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