14 Apr 22. USAF concludes first iteration of Exercise Agile Tiger. The US Air Force’s (USAF) 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) has concluded the first iteration of Exercise Agile Tiger at the Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri, US.
The four-day exercise involved fighters, bombers, refuelers, and support units, along with 15 active duty, reserve and national guard units from across the US Department of Defense (DoD).
The exercise aimed to enhance the joint warfighting lethality of the forces, using high-fidelity mission planning, debriefing and execution.
Agile Tiger also allowed the participating units to collaborate, communicate and operate together, improving interoperability across the force.
8th Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Centre commander major general Andrew Gebara said: “The operational environment is defined by new challenges and modern capabilities.
“Our agile combat employment efforts provide on-call combat operations around the globe. Agile, back-to-basics training gets us to where we need to be.
“This exercise proves we are able to seamlessly integrate with other weapons systems in the field when called upon. We will remain always ready to compete, deter and win.”
The interoperability training drill used the concept of Agile Combat Employment (ACE) to test operational unpredictability and trained the forces to prepare for future emergencies and challenges.
During the exercise, operators and intelligence airmen replicated real-world scenarios and contested in combat environments on the ground and in the air.
The USAF’s Joint Terminal Attack Controller, A-10C Thunderbolt II and the UH-60 Black Hawk units performed advanced evasion, survival resistance, and escape operations.
Besides, the pilots conducted high-fidelity mission planning in collaboration with each other to craft the best possible attack plan.
As part of the training event, F-35 Lightning II aircraft and B-2 Spirits joined the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and B-1 Lancers to practice long-range stand-off munitions.
Furthermore, the participating air refuelling units operated KC-135 Stratotanker, the KC-46A Pegasus and a KC-10 Extender to fulfil the mission requirements of the aircraft. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
13 Apr 22. EU suspends Mali training. The European Union has suspended some training for Malian forces due to influence of the Russian private military company Wagner Group in the country, its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on 11 April. He said the suspension covered training courses run by both the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) Mali and EUCAP Sahel Mali civilian crisis management mission and applied to both the Armed Forces of Mali (FAMa) and the National Guard, which is a FAMa component. Borrell said that events had forced the EU suspension. “There are not sufficient guarantees from the transitional authorities on the non-interference of the famous Wagner company, which is beginning to become responsible for the sad events that have caused hundreds of deaths in Mali recently.”
That was an apparent reference to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report citing numerous corroborating sources as saying foreign soldiers were involved in killing a large number of unarmed men who were detained in Moura, in central Mali, in late March. (Source: Janes)
13 Apr 22. Draken Europe awarded interim ‘Red Air’ training contract for UK. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has contracted Draken Europe to provide an Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service (IRAATS) for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN).
Announced on 8 April, the IRAATS award will see Aero L-159E Honey Badger aircraft flown against front-line Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning squadrons for three years from 1 July. As noted in the announcement, the L-159Es will be flown by experienced ex-military fast-jet pilots regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, replicating the tactics, techniques, and procedures of potential adversaries. The L-159E takes over this role from the BAE Systems Hawk T1, which was retired from RAF and RN service on 31 March. “The L-159E delivers a capability enhancement over the Hawk through increased endurance, an air-to-air radar, and a radar warning receiver,” the MoD said. This is the first contract for medium to fast air capability placed in the UK, and follows a similar model that Draken International is delivering to the US Air Force. (Source: Janes)
10 Apr 22. Video games and virtual reality prepare soldiers for a new type of warfare. The Ministry of Defence is turning to technology to prepare troops for conflict where no shots may be fired.
In a city in Europe, a patrolling soldier walks past a group of protesters. Rifle hanging low, he keeps his distance. A bomb suddenly explodes at an electrical substation, plunging the neigbourhood into darkness. Some people start to run away, others are curious as to what is going on.
It is this kind of “grey zone” warfare — coercive activities that do not constitute conventional fighting — that many soldiers are facing in the battle between Ukraine and Russia. One wrong move could mean death.
Luckily, this scenario is happening on a computer screen hosting a programme designed to train soldiers.
It is one of a number being tested by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to prepare for eventualities in warfare where no shots may be fired, or where propaganda might be just as much the enemy as a soldier.
According to estimates by NATO, Russia has lost between 7,000 and 15,000 troops during the six-week war, compared to 18,600 Ukrainian counterparts.
With some analysts saying the Kremlin’s losses could rival its defeat in Afghanistan, high death tolls illustrate a lack of military training and discipline.
Now, virtual reality is lending itself to troop training. With the ability to simulate deserts, the arctic, mountainous regions and cities without even leaving the barracks, it is cheaper, more environmentally friendly and holds strategic advantages.
The MoD programme can also model the behaviour of crowds when the weather changes, a building catches fire or the mobile phone grid goes down, and in locations it would be impractical to practice in – learning how to quell a riot in a foreign city and working around its exact layout, for instance.
It is created by Improbable Defence, a London-based team of about 250 that uses the same technology behind video game entertainment to create a similar synthetic environment fed with data on weather, geography and physics to replicate the challenges a soldier might face.
Chief executive Joe Robinson says: “Warfare today exists on a spectrum from activities like information manipulation, social media manipulation, cyber attacks, disinformation activity and election meddling, at one end of the spectrum to full scale war.”
“It’s been very difficult to train in what is often referred to as the grey zone of activity that happens before you end up firing a shot; the military have traditionally been very good at training in what’s called the kinetic context of conventional warfare, but it’s very difficult to train in that grey zone.”
The software can also mimic a battle, including thousands of live participants and millions of cars, buildings and simulated civilians and soldiers, plus the behaviour of their planes, guns and bombs.
It also allows commanders to see what might happen using real data rather than instinct, and run scenarios multiple times using different tactics and conditions.
One of the biggest attractions is cost – the software can use any virtual reality (VR) headset which can cost upwards of a few hundred pounds. Gathering hundreds of soldiers to blow up a bridge is very expensive, particularly compared to donning a headset.
According to research by EY, the training could save the MoD some £1.3bn.
“Training in real environments is expensive. This is a way to train across a much broader range of environments, and much more quickly,” says Prof Jordan Giddings at University College London, who is also a particle physicist working on Improbable Defence’s project.
Robinson hopes it will also help speed up training to the minute. “The old adage is that the military is very good at fighting the last war, as opposed to the current conflict. And what our technology enables is, is a very rapid update of that data and that information.”
Information from the current war in Ukraine can be plugged into the system, for instance, using videos captured by civilians on phones, as well as from media reports and satellite images.
Robinson says this could help everything from understanding new tactics to how to apply anti-tank weapons and use drones. “The amount that we’re learning from a tactics and techniques and procedures perspective, from watching, you know, this awful conflict unfold in front of our eyes is extraordinary.”
Much of the work involves gathering together the kind of data the military may not have realised it could use, he adds: “We are working with some of the top academics in the UK, who have a specific expertise, like, for example, population movement in urban areas. And that’s something that traditionally you wouldn’t get out of the defence industry.”
Improbable is one of many companies developing VR training. Farnborough-headquartered Qinetiq, better known for its robotics research, is also developing a successor to its training programme which trained 16,000 British troops in preparation for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.
BAE Systems has also created a simulation for landing its F-35 jet on an aircraft carrier, mimicking the volatile pockets of air which pilots will have to contend with if they are to make a successful landing.
But there is also much potential to be tapped, adds Prof Jordan. As with video games, such environments can create a whole world with all of its complexity and randomness.
Improbable’s Robinson argues that the software’s potential lies in its ability to become part of a broader simulacrum that everyone from politicians to industry leaders can use to try and solve some of the world’s problems such as climate and energy.
Using artificial intelligence, much like the new breed of autonomous car that is in development, the software can also learn and start to offer decisions itself.
This intelligence can then be integrated into some of the computerised control systems used by drones, jets and modern armoured vehicles to make some of the smaller decisions in a battle.
It can also be used for rehearsals in the field, just before a mission, and can ultimately be married up with the real world as an augmented reality, where soldiers can be carrying a gun with blank ammunition around a field with simulated civilians and challenges, blending virtual and field training.
The technology “really isn’t just for training anymore” says David Taylor at Qinetiq. It can also be used to visualise data and test designs of new military hardware.
For now, a giant integrated system mimicking the whole world is some way off. A nearer challenge is making the simulation as close as possible to real life, to the point where empathy and compassion can be felt in order to make good decisions.
“They’re all components in that environment, you’ve got to make it look and feel as real as possible,” says Robinson. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
08 Apr 22. Kenya opens new pilot training centre. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned a new Aviation Centre of Excellence (ACE) at Laikipia Air Base on 7 April.
“This academy shows that our focus is not on hardware alone,” Kenyatta said during the event. “Any modern and progressive military must lay emphasis on quality training, which is a critical force multiplier for mission attainment.”
He added that the ACE will be used by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and other government agencies, as well as offering training to civilian companies such as Kenya Airways, and other East African countries. ACE commandant Colonel Mohamud Farah described the new facility as a successor to the flying school the Kenya Air Force (KAF) set up in 1964. (Source: Janes)
08 Apr 22. Royal Navy’s Arctic spear sharpened as huge Norway exercise ends. The Royal Navy is more committed to defending the Arctic, its spear sharper than ever after completing the largest military exercise in the High North in 30 years.
Upwards of 3,000 sailors and Royal Marines were deployed deep inside the Arctic Circle – ashore, at sea and in the skies of Norway – demonstrating their commitment, and their nation’s, to safeguarding Europe’s ‘northern flank’ against any aggressor.
They joined more than 27,000 personnel from over two dozen NATO and partner allies, plus warships, armour, and air power for Cold Response 2022, the largest military exercise hosted in Norway since the Cold War.
Britain’s biggest warship HMS Prince of Wales led the naval armada, demonstrating her ability to act as NATO command ship – a role she will hold for the rest of 2022.
This was the first time one of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers has been so far north, with more than 1,000 sailors gaining their first experience of operating in the polar region – pushing the boundaries of what the 65,000-tonne flagships can do and where they can operate, as crew developed new ways of working and coping with temperatures as low as -30 Celsius.
HMS Prince of Wales commanding officer, Captain Steve Higham, said: “As we continue to operate in and around the Arctic with our allies and partners, the sailors on HMS Prince of Wales are continuing to learn the skills, and build the experience that allow the Royal Navy to push the boundaries of UK carrier operations in the cold, harsh environment.”
His ship’s role in the exercise saw her work side-by-side with a breadth of British and Allied air power from F-35B Lightning stealth fighters to the Americans’ unique Osprey MV22 tiltrotors and gigantic Sea Stallion helicopters.
Indeed, the fortnight-long exercise – on top of several months of preparatory training both in the UK and Arctic – allowed the Royal Navy to demonstrate some of its unique capabilities, from launching commando raids from submarines to operating a fifth-generation aircraft carrier in sub-zero conditions for the first time.
The Royal Marines practised and honed new raiding tactics for stealth missions on the treacherous Norwegian coastline – thanks not least to the support they received from the host nation – alongside conducting more regular attacks and manoeuvres, drawing on more than half a century of expertise as the UK’s experts in Arctic warfare.
Divers from HMS Grimsby plunged into the icy fjords to neutralise mines and pave the way for task forces to sail through safely.
Royal Navy maritime Wildcat helicopters – normally found over the ocean, not land – joined more usual elements of Commando Helicopter Force high over Norway and proved to be a revelation.
Normally used to hunting suspicious ships, the Wildcat used its Seaspray radar over land for the first time, picking out targets for their colleagues, flying alongside the Royal Marines’ regular battlefield ‘eyes in the sky’, 847 Naval Air Squadron who provided intelligence and firepower to green berets on the ground, sometimes assisted by the US Marine Corps’ Cobra gunships.
“Spreading knowledge and sharing our experiences makes both organisations stronger,” said Lieutenant Dave Lewis, a pilot with 847 Naval Air Squadron’s B Flight.
His squadron’s engineers ensured the helicopters were available for sorties 98.5 per cent of the time – an astonishing serviceability record given the remorseless environment.
Merlin Mk4 helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron ferried Royal Marines, equipment and supplies around, often in unforgiving conditions, and often side-by-side with American, German and Norwegian personnel.
“Exercise Cold Response 22 has been an outstanding demonstration of not only our integration with NATO partners, but also the seamless ability of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary units to work together,” said Lt Cdr Tom Nason, 845 NAS Detachment commander.
As the exercise reached its climax, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited personnel on the ground and HMS Prince of Wales to thank them for their efforts – declare UK’s long-term commitment to security in the region and regular deployment of Royal Navy and Royal Marines assets to the High North to underscore that commitment. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
11 Apr 22. Indian Navy’s first MH-60R aircrew batch concludes training. The Indian Navy procured 24 MH 60R anti-submarine helicopters via US FMS route. The Indian Navy’s first batch of pilots and sensor operators have successfully completed training on the MH-60R multi-role helicopter (MRH). The training was conducted for a period of ten months. Aircrew received the training from the US Navy’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 (HSM-41) at Naval Air Station in North Island, San Diego. During the training period, the Indian Navy’s aircrew performed day and night deck landing qualifications aboard a US Navy destroyer. It also included conversion drills and several advanced qualifications on the MH 60R helicopter. According to the Indian Navy, the MH-60R multi-role helicopters, also known as Romeo, can perform several missions including anti-ship strike, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), specialised maritime operations and search and rescue operations.
The trained batch of pilots and sensor operators will be responsible for inducting the anti-submarine hunter helicopters Romeo into the Indian Navy.
Built by Lockheed Martian, the MRH will also boost the Indian Navy’s capability to conduct a range of operations in all weather conditions in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Indian Navy Spokesperson tweeted: “They would be responsible for inducting the versatile ‘Romeo’ into Indian Navy – arrival in India commencing mid-2022. Induction of this advanced all-weather maritime multi-mission Helo would provide a fillip to Indian Navy’s operations in the IOR.”
Earlier in 2019, the US Navy approved a foreign military sale (FMS) of 24 MH-60R helicopters for the Indian Navy under a government-to-government deal. Under the deal, the US Navy delivered the first batch of two MH-60R MRH to the Indian Navy in July last year. (Source: naval-technology.com)
11 Apr 22. US and Philippines conclude Balikatan 2022 annual bilateral exercise. The exercise aimed to enhance interoperability, skills, trust and cooperation between the two forces. The US military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have concluded the 37th iteration of the annual bilateral exercise, Balikatan 2022. Around 9,000 members the Philippine Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, special operations forces and the US military took part in the exercise.
Additionally, nearly 40 Australian Defence Force personnel took part in this year’s training.
Balikatan, which means shoulder-to-shoulder, aims to strengthen the shared commitment of the two nations towards the Mutual Defence Treaty.
Led by the Philippines, the two-week exercise saw the participants conduct training from the northern coast of Luzon to Palawan between 28 March and 8 April.
The exercise witnessed a series of maritime and field training events, including amphibious operations, live-fire training, air defence operations, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
Under the International Observers Programme, the AFP also invited observers to promote defence cooperation with key allies and partners.
Over 50 aircraft, four ships, ten amphibious vessels and four HIMARS rocket launchers were deployed for the training.
Four US Patriot missile systems were also employed during the exercise to carry out amphibious missions for the first time.
In addition, the US Navy’s Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea-base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) also participated in the exercise to support various landings and amphibious operations.
Both US vessels conducted coastal defence operations, maritime security drills, rotary wing aircraft operations and visit, board, search, and seizure exercises.
Participating forces also conducted several civic assistance and humanitarian aid events, and exchanged lifesaving medical skills.
AFP exercise director major general Charlton Sean Gaerlan said: “The experience gained from exercise Balikatan complemented our security cooperation endeavours and helped enhance existing mutual security efforts.
“Although there were limitations brought about by the pandemic, it is highly commendable that the exercise pushed through and generated a favourable outcome.”
Around 9,000 personnel participated in the exercise Balikatan 2022 off the coast of the Philippines. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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