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28 Feb 20. Royal Marines parachute ‘deep behind enemy lines’ with American forces. Royal Marines have parachuted ‘deep behind enemy lines’ during demanding winter exercises in Sweden with forces from the United States Airforce.
The elite Surveillance Reconnaissance Squadron of 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group were training alongside the Americans in capturing positions from the air from an adversary, giving allied forces a foothold in enemy territory.
This is all part of the Norwegian-led Exercise Cold Response, which 15,000 troops from ten nations are involved in, including more than 2,000 Royal Marines and Royal Navy sailors.
These Arctic exercises are designed to test the ability of allied nations in fighting in one of the most unforgiving regions on earth.
The elite SRS commandos and airmen from the United States Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) boarded an American C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Wing at Bardufoss Air Station in northern Norway.
The crack force were then dropped into Kiruna Airfield in Sweden, where they were tasked with seizing the area from an enemy force.
Following that the Super Hercules returned to Bardufoss to pick up the next wave of commando forces along with kit and equipment to support the mission in Sweden.
After the initial phase of the exercises, the Royal Marines of Plymouth-based 30 Commando and American forces are now undergoing battle preparation in readiness for the next stage of the combined exercise.
It will see the forces travel 150km on skidoo and specialist lightweight cold weather vehicles back to Bardufoss. On the way they will undertake various exercises, taking key positions from ‘enemy’ forces to give the overall Cold Response task forces the tactical advantage.
This training is all designed to demonstrate the capability of SRS as an elite advance force, capable of wreaking havoc and forging the way for much larger forces to enter into a disputed territory. (Source: Royal Navy)
28 Feb 20. Rheinmetall to supply Airbus A400M cargo hold simulator for French Cargo Training Centre near Toulouse. Having successfully passed the on-site acceptance test, the French armed forces’ new cargo hold simulator for the European Airbus A400M transport plane officially entered service on 31 January 2020.
The new simulator is the now most advanced item of equipment at the Cargo Training Centre, which is operated by the French Army at a site near Toulouse. This means that the French Army now has two different systems from Rheinmetall at its disposal for training A400M cargo personnel: the hardware-oriented cargo-load simulator “Cargo Hold Trainer – Enhanced”, and the largely virtual “Load Master Work Station Trainer”.
In 2017 Airbus awarded Rheinmetall a contract to develop, fabricate and supply the training simulator for the A400M Atlas transport plane on behalf of the French Army and French Air Force, the two end customers.
The system just commissioned near Toulouse is the latest generation of the “Cargo Hold Trainer – Enhanced (CHT-E)”, an exact 1:1 replica of the A400M cargo hold, which features the full array of operator interfaces, control stations and original equipment. This makes it ideal for initial, advanced and refresher training courses as well as for mission preparation. Crews can also practise difficult procedures such as airdrop operations in complete safety. All training content is planned, monitored and evaluated at the trainer station, including error simulations activated by the trainer.
Following in the wake of the Airbus International Training Centre (ITC) in Sevilla, the Royal Air Force in Great Britain, the German Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the French military is now the fifth user of the A400M cargo hold simulator, which is produced at Rheinmetall’s plant in Bremen. At the Cargo Training Centre near Toulouse, the simulator will be used to train future French Air Force and French Army crews, employing the latest training concepts.
The Load Master Work Station Trainer (LMWST), also made by Rheinmetall, offers an additional means of training cargo loading crews. This training system, which features a virtual cargo hold, has been successfully used for many years at the ITC in Sevilla as well as at the French national A400M training centre in Orléans and the Royal Air Force National Training Centre in Brize Norton.
27 Feb 20. UK deploys personnel to Norway for Exercise Cold Response. Over 2,000 British personnel have been deployed to Norway to participate in a major Arctic warfare exercise called Cold Response 2020. The personnel will join the Green Berets, while the Royal Marines and the HMS Albion, HMS Sutherland, HMS Echo and RFA Lyme Bay ships and an air group have set sail to participate in the exercise. The RAF CH-47 Chinooks and Army AH64 Apaches will also join the exercise.
Out of the 2,000 deployed UK personnel, 1,250 are from the Lead Commando Group. The rest will support the Naval task group led by HMS Albion and the Joint Helicopter Command air group.
HMS Sutherland will take over anti-submarine warfare duties. It will conduct a variety of operations, including gunnery and boarding operations, maintaining the vessels’ readiness.
Commanding officer lieutenant of 45 Commando colonel Innes Catton said: “During Exercise Cold Response, we will be working alongside our Nato allies to give our adversaries hell from the sea.
“On Cold Response, commandos will continue to confront the challenges posed by ever-evolving threats and work on developing small-team tactics as part of our Future Commando Force evolution.”
The Norway-led Exercise Cold Response is designed to boost the abilities of soldiers to operate together in extreme cold weather conditions.
The exercise will also see the participation of 14,000 personnel from multiple countries.
Participating countries include the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Norway.
The main field exercise will take place from 12 to 18 March, while training preparations will begin from tomorrow. Multinational troops will stage a simulated high-intensity combat scenario during the exercise.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The shifting landscape and increased strategic competition of the Arctic region will create future threats. But our forces will be ready to respond wherever they emerge.” (Source: naval-technology.com)
27 Feb 20. ROK-US Alliance postpones drills as coronavirus Covid-19 spreads. The Republic of Korea (ROK)-US Alliance has announced its decision with regard to the postponement of the joint military drills after the ROK Government declared the highest alert level ‘severe’ on the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak, which is spreading outside China.
US Forces Korea (USFK) said that the decision to postpone until further notice comes as containment efforts for the Wuhan virus and as the safety of the ROK and US service members were prioritised.
The postponement is aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19, as the number of infections outside China surpassed those appearing in the country for the first time, Reuters reported.
The announcement comes after USFK initially denied media reports regarding its postponement of the combined military training.
The US State Department issued a new travel warning for South Korea after a USFK soldier has been officially confirmed positive with coronavirus Covid-19. He was the first US service member to contract the virus.
South Korea has reported 334 new cases of Covid-19 and no new deaths. The total cases now stand at 1,595 and 12 deaths, as of the end of early 27 February. USFK said in a statement: “ROK JCS and USFK’s commitment to the ROK-US alliance remains ironclad and unbreakable, and the decision to postpone the combined training was not taken lightly.
“ROK-US alliance assesses the decision to postpone the training will adhere to and support South Korea’s containment and mitigation plan for Covid-19.”
ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Park Hanki initially raised the decision to postpone the training between South Korea and the US.
Based on the severity of the present virus situation within South Korea, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea Commander General Robert Abrams agreed to postpone. (Source: naval-technology.com)
27 Feb 20. IAF and RAF begin fifth Exercise Indradhanush. The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) have joined forces to commence the fifth edition of Exercise Indradhanush. EX Indradhanush – V 2020 is being conducted at Air Force Station Hindan, India, and will conclude on 29 February.
The theme of this year’s joint exercise is ‘Base Defence and Force Protection’. It highlights the recent terror threats to military establishments.
Indradhanush will allow the IAF and RAF to strategise and share information, as well as learn from each other’s operational experience.
Through this exercise, the two airforces can plan scenarios and train on tactics to counter terror threats and protect their installations.
Additionally, the forces will share their training philosophies and best practices along with contemporary technologies.
The RAF team will include 36 specialised combatants of the RAF Regiment, whereas the IAF team will comprise 42 combatants of the GARUD Force.
Specialised weapons, equipment and vehicles will be used to train and validate joint employability. During the exercise, special missions such as base defence, airfield seizure and anti-terror operations in built-up urban zones will be conducted. The exercise will also involve the use of airborne sensors, C-130J para drops, and tactical insertions by Mi-17 V5 helicopters. To enhance the two forces’ mutual understanding, a few sports, social and cultural events will also be conducted. Exercise Indradhanush was last conducted in 2018 in the UK. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
25 Feb 20. US Army wants $364m for Defender Pacific in FY21. The U.S. Army is requesting $364m to conduct a division-sized exercise in the Indo-Pacific region in fiscal 2021, the service confirmed to Defense News. Yet, the cost breakout details are classified, according to an Army spokeswoman. The exercise is fueled by a rising China, characterized in the National Defense Strategy as a long-term, strategic competitor of the United States. The NDS lays out a world where great power competition rather than counterterrorism will drive the Defense Department’s decision-making and force structure.
While the U.S. Army has 85,000 permanently stationed troops in the Indo-Pacific region and is already conducting exercises such as Pacific Pathways with allies and partners, the service is aiming to practice rapid deployment from the continental United States to the Pacific.
In FY20, the Army will conduct a smaller version of Defender Pacific while Defender Europe will get more investment and focus. But then attention and dollars will swing over to the Pacific in FY21.
Defender Europe will be scaled back in FY21. The Army is requesting just $150m to conduct the exercise in Europe, according to the Army.
This year it has been reported that Defender Europe, already underway with troops and equipment arriving at ports on the continent this month, will cost about $340m, which is roughly in line with what the service is requesting in FY21 for the Pacific version.
The only specific funding lines broken out for the FY21 Defender Pacific exercise is home station training; it’s unclear if those numbers are included in the total cost.
The Army is requesting $150,000 for home stationing training devoted specifically for Defender Pacific and is also asking for another $214,252 for an “expanded level deployment exercise that demonstrates employment of [Continental United States]-based forces into the Pacific Theater,” according to budget documents. The funds include additional transportation, maintenance and operations for the exercise.
Defender Pacific will build upon the U.S. Army’s expanding role in the region. The service is already growing its Pacific Pathways exercise series and plans to focus on reinforcing the Oceania region this year. The series began in 2014 and has supported training efforts that satisfy bilateral needs between the U.S. Army and its allies and partners in the region in roughly three rotations each year for about 10 months total.
Last year, Pacific Pathways shifted from shorter rotations that involved more countries to longer visits that involve fewer countries as a way to improve bilateral relations. And participation has grown from a battalion-sized task force to roughly the size of a brigade.
The Defender series is intended to be a regular exercise each year in the Pacific and Europe with the regions trading off being the larger exercise every other year. (Source: Defense News)
27 Feb 20. Australia, Japan, and US commence COPE North 2020 exercise. Multilateral military exercise COPE North 2020 is currently underway at Andersen Air Base in the US territory of Guam, with participation from the US Military, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force.
The training exercise began on 12 February and will run until 28 February. More than 2,000 military personnel and and over 100 aircraft have taken part in this year’s exercise, which focuses on combat readiness and interoperability.
The event saw humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises to help promote stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region, along with strike mission training within the first week. The second week has seen a focus on air combat tactics and large force employment training.
“It’s a pleasure to stand here on this strategic rock with our strategic partners – Japan and the United States of America,” said RAAF Group Captain Hinton Tayloe, CN20 exercise director, in a statement for US Indo-Pacific Command.
“Cope North is a collective demonstration of our readiness and resolve to live by our higher principles.”
“Each year we get a different team of units coming out here to meet and learn from one another, and this year we’re asked to replicate a more advanced threat,” said US Air Force Captain Travis Worden, 18th AGRS pilot and chief of weapons.
“This is going to force much more planning and integration among international partners to find a valid solution. Ultimately, the design being at the end of this exercise, we’ll all be stronger for it.”
The exercise will also see combat exercises led by “red air” pilots trained at simulating potential combatant nations forcing “blue air” groups from each country to respond and co-operate according to the threats presented.
“We are that force to punch blue air in the mouth,” Capt Worden said.
“We pride ourselves in doing everything we can in order to capitalise on mistakes our ‘good guys’ are making. The goal being in the long run the United States, Japanese and Australian militaries are stronger for it.”
“I’m very excited to participate in the complicated, large force employment,” said Japan Air Self-Defense Force Captain Yutaka Aoyama, 305 Squadron F-15 pilot.
“We cannot conduct such a large force employment in Japan, so this training will be extremely beneficial. I’m very much looking forward to this challenge.”
These mutually beneficial exercises grow the alliances between the three nations and provide an advantage that rivals would find difficult to match. COPE North has included air operations for the last 40 years and helps promote the greater security of the region. (Source: Defence Connect)
26 Feb 20. USAF TPS awards five-year contract to Calspan. Calspan has won a contract at the US Air Force (USAF) Test Pilot School (TPS). Located at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California, US, the school trains the USAF’s top pilots, navigators and engineers. Training is provided on how to conduct flight tests and produce data for test missions of existing and future military aircraft and airborne systems.
Under the five-year contract, the USAF TPS curriculum will continue to include Calspan’s variable-stability Learjets.
The company currently has a fleet of four Learjet in-flight simulators, which are used to test aircraft flight control laws and handling qualities in actual flight.
Calspan is also responsible for providing experienced instructor test pilots. This contract marks the completion of a half-century relationship between Calspan and the USAF TPS.
Calspan CEO and test pilot Lou Knotts said: “We are proud to continue our long-standing partnership with AFTPS.
“This contract reinforces the value Calspan brings to the school and we look forward to participating in the ever-evolving curriculum used to train the next generation of flight testers.”
Most of the pilots from Calspan are former US military personnel, who graduated from USAF TPS or other military test pilot schools.
In July 2017, Calspan secured a contract with USAF TPS. The $20m five-year contract included support for Variable Stability In-Flight Simulator and Test Aircraft (VISTA) NF-16 aircraft. The company maintains a full-time staff at Edwards Air Force base. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
26 Feb 20. USAF’s command and MAJCOMs to build virtual training hangars. US Air Force’s (USAF) Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has announced a partnership with multiple major commands (MAJCOMs) to create virtual aircraft maintenance hangars.
The competency-based virtual and augmented-reality hangars are being built for the aircraft maintenance and career enlisted aviator communities as part of AETC’s Integrated Technology Platform (ATP) initiative.
AETC is building the virtual training hangars for the classroom and flightline with 3D Aircraft Mission Design Series environments for every airframe in its inventory.
They will feature augmented-reality capabilities and comprehensive instructor tools.
AETC force development strategy chief and technical adviser Masoud Rasti said: “This effort is tied to our priority to transform the way airmen learn through the aggressive and cost-effective modernisation of education and training.
“We have to be visionary and agile when it comes to training today and the intent is to apply current and emerging technology to support the warfighter, no matter where they might be, so they can operate within joint, all-domain environments.”
The ITP is aimed at executing a competency-based learning strategy and environment that makes use of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning technologies, for officer and enlisted career fields. (Source: naval-technology.com)
25 Feb 20. Defence and technology company, MASS, today opened a new state-of-the-art training academy in Lincoln, where electronic warfare and defence training and simulation programmes will be delivered for its defence and industry customers. The New Horizons building, situated at Teal Park, will enable MASS to carry out electronic warfare, cyber and defence training programmes for military professionals from its base in Lincoln. A number of world class training simulators have been installed at the New Horizons building, enabling MASS to carry out all of its leading training programmes from the Lincoln location and host hundreds of delegates from around the world each year. The facility will house key training capabilities covering electronic warfare, cyber and digital forensics.
The new facility was opened at an event on Tuesday 25th February by Major General Tom Copinger-Symes, Director of Military Digitalisation UK Strategic Command and MASS Managing Director Chris Stanley.
Moving to the new academy marks a significant growth for MASS in Lincoln, with the company already hiring for new roles in the building, creating jobs in the region.
Chris Stanley, Managing Director of MASS, said: “We’re delighted to be officially opening our new state-of-the-art facility at Teal Park. We have had an established presence in Lincoln since 2005, the new facility will mean we are able to offer our leading electronic warfare, cyber and defence training capabilities at the Lincoln office and allows us to meet the increasing demand for our specialist services.
“The new facility will support the future growth of the company, and I’m excited by our potential to further strengthen our offering which enhances UK and international security.”
“We have already hosted our first cohort of electronic warfare students at the academy, which immediately demonstrated the benefits of housing all of our training capabilities under one roof.”
The move to the New Horizons building will also see MASS introduce green-first initiatives which include providing all employees with a reusable steel water bottle, installing electric car charging points for staff and visitors, and introducing recycled plastic garden furniture and benches.
MASS’s head office will remain in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire while the company has also expanded with a new office opening in Beckington, Somerset.
25 Feb 20. RAF on Exercise Indradhanush. RAF Personnel under the command of No.8 RAF Force Protection Wing have arrived at Hindan Air Force base to take part in Exercise INDRADHANUSH. This exercise will see the Force Protection Force (RAF Police and RAF Regiment) working alongside Garud Regiment and Indian Air Force Police and Security personnel.
Ex INDRADHANUSH is part of an ongoing bi-lateral UK/Indian Air Force exercise programme which commenced in 2013 with previous iterations involving fast jet, air transport and force protection personnel both in India and the UK.
Wing Commander Lee Wales, Officer Commanding No. 8 RAF Force Protection Wing said: “The FP Force are looking forward to training alongside the Garud Regiment and the IAF Police and Security; the training will strengthen relationships between both forces whilst exchanging Tactics, Techniques and Procedures and demonstrate FP Armoured Vehicle capability.”
The RAFP are deploying on Exercise INDRADHANUSH to demonstrate the crucial role they play in securing and enabling the delivery of Air Power through cross-domain Protective Security and Counter Intelligence.
The RAF Regiment will demonstrate the Complex Air Ground Environment (CAGE) – the environment in and around an operational airfield and how a specialist Force Protection Force ensure the Service’s capabilities and personnel are PROTECTED whilst enabling air operations. (Source: Warfare.Today/RAF)
25 Feb 20. Japanese and American Marines build joint doctrine with amphibious warfare drills. Elements of the First Marine Division and the Japanese 2nd Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment Landing Team have demonstrated the growing interoperability and joint warfighting capability of the US and Japan’s developing marine units, shedding light on Japan’s continued shift away from its pacifist constitution.
Japan has closely followed the modernisation of the Chinese armed forces and raised concerns about the nation’s defence capabilities and the continued relevance of the post-Second World War, pacifist constitution.
As a result, the Japanese government has responded with a period of unprecedented defence budgets as the pre-war power seeks to shake off the chains of the pacifist constitution enforced upon it by the US, UK, Australia and other allies following the end of the war in the Pacific.
Growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and modernisation efforts resulting in the fielding of key power projection capabilities, including aircraft carriers and supporting strike groups, fifth-generation combat aircraft, modernised land forces, area-access denial and strategic nuclear forces, combined with growing political and financial influence throughout the region, is serving to shake Japan’s confidence.
Accordingly, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly earmarked increased funding for the nation’s defence budget, expanding the capabilities of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).
Prime Minister Abe has long been suspected of harbouring plans to repeal the post-Second World War constitutional limitations, namely Article Nine, and reinstate a power projection focused force structure and doctrine to be supported by Japan’s industrial capability to modernise and equip itself in the face of growing regional instability and tensions.
Amphibious warfare operations and doctrines have emerged as a key focus point of Prime Minister Abe’s long-term restructure and reorientation of the JSDF. In recognising this, the Japanese have stepped up frequent interoperability and training operations with the US Marines and Australia’s own developing amphibious units.
Most notably, Japan’s 2,100-strong Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) participated with the other regional allies as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 to perfect contemporary amphibious operations.
Major General Roger Noble, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations for the Australian Defence Force, clarified the importance of amphibious operations and Australia’s commitment to evolving the capabilities, in conjunction with partners like Japan, saying:
“Australia’s defence policy continues to be based on the three interconnected strategic interests of a secure, resilient Australia, with secure northern approaches and proximate sea lines of communications; a secure nearer region, encompassing maritime south-east Asia and south Pacific; and a stable Indo-Pacific region and rules-based global order.”
Building on this example, Japan’s 2nd Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment Landing Team have joined elements of the US Marines First Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, California, to participate in Exercise Iron Fist 2020.
Developing doctrine and CONOPS to support a “separate but synchronised” capability
Drawing on the example set by US Marine forces based in and around Japan, the island nation has moved rapidly to enhance the 2,100-strong ARDB concept as part of the broader “south-western wall” to serve in a similar function to that of China’s A2/AD network.
That is to blunt any potential adversary’s concerted naval and aerial attack through the use of integrated anti-ship and anti-air defence systems, combined with roving packs of hunter-killer submarines, airborne early warning, command and control aircraft, fighters and, in the event of an amphibious occupation, the ARDB.
Additionally, it is envisioned that Japan’s ARDB unit will serve as a quick reaction force capable of securing Japan’s far-flung territorial holdings, particularly those islands closer to the Chinese mainland that have served as contentious flash points between the two major powers.
As part of developing this capability, the joint training exercise provided an opportunity for both forces to develop what Captain Coleman Fuquea, a US artillery officer and exercise planner with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, describes:
“We wanted to pursue the concept with them of ‘separate but synchronised’, so headquarters and staffs working together and synchronising. But on the tactical level, US and our Japanese allies would fight in separate battle spaces.”
Building on this, the ARDB units joined their Marine counterparts and spent several weeks training prior to launching the amphibious landing operation, which included landing on a defended island, with the Japanese force serving as a defending, or Opposing Force (OPFOR), keeping the nation in line with the Japanese constitution.
Capt Fuquea explained, “The scenario is the seizure of an island, built into our larger scenario.”
This was reinforced by the US Naval Institute, which expanded on the focus of Exercise Iron Fist 2020, stating: “The Japanese force wasn’t training to seize an island – Japan’s constitution prohibits offensive military operations – but rather is building and strengthening its capabilities for maritime security, including defending islands from an invading force.
“The scenario is a real and ongoing threat to Japan, an island-nation whose 3,000-plus islands include contested claims by China and other countries, including the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.”
Plans to integrate Japan’s growing maritime power projection capability
Japan’s ARDB unit is to be supported by the rapidly developing naval-based power projection capability, including the Izumo and Hyuga Class vessels to replicat the compact, yet highly-capable force structure of the joint US Navy/Marine Expeditionary Strike Groups.
Japan has initiated a range of modernisation and structural refits for the Izumo Class vessels to develop small aircraft carriers capable of supporting airwings of 28 rotary-wing aircraft, with capacity for approximately 10 ‘B’ variants of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, with both 27,000-tonne vessels capable of supporting 400 marines.
The smaller Hyuga Class vessels, weighing in at 19,000 tonnes, are capable of supporting an air wing of 18 rotary-wing aircraft, with space for amphibious units and supporting equipment. Additionally, it is speculated that like their larger Izumo Class cousins, the Hyuga and sister Ise can be modified to accommodate the F-35B.
The introduction of these capabilities will directly support Japan’s long-range maritime strike, air interdiction and fleet aviation capabilities, which are critical to defending Japanese territorial and economic interests in Indo-Pacific Asia.
These vessels, in conjunction with smaller Osumi Class transports, will also play host to the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force’s (JGSDF) ARDB.
These serve as a promising addition to future training operations and CONOPS development for both the US and Japanese forces, something highlighted by Capt Fuquea, who added, “It would be great in the future if we could get a Japanese L-class ship here. What we’d really like to see in the future is force-on-force training and have the US and the Japanese more of a sparring-partner relationship. That allows unit leaders … to get a thinking adversary.”
Developing complementary force structures
The Australia-Japan relationship is the nation’s closest and most mature in Asia and is underpinned by the strategic, economic, political and legal interests of both countries. The countries work closely in strategic alliance with the US, and lead in critical regional partnerships with countries such as India and the Republic of Korea.
Australia and Japan regularly participate in joint defence exercises and frequently consult on regional security issues, such as the nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches undertaken by North Korea.
The Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (JDSC) signed in 2007 provides a foundation for wide-ranging co-operation on security issues for both countries, including law enforcement, border security, counter terrorism, disarmament and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The JDSC also established the regular 2+2 talks between the respective foreign and defence ministers.
Like Australia, Japan is dependent upon unrestricted access to critical sea lines of communication (SLOC), which require robust naval and air power capabilities –these developments and the strategic reorientation provides avenues for the two nations to develop similar, complementary force structures to ensure unhindered access to Indo-Pacific Asia’s SLOC.
For both Australia and Japan, nations defined by their relationship with traditionally larger, yet economically weaker regional neighbours, the growing economic prosperity of the region and corresponding arms build up, combined with ancient and more recent enmities, competing geo-political, economic and strategic interests, places the nations at the centre of the 21st century’s ‘great game’.
Further compounding the precarious position of the two US allies is the need to accept that ‘Pax Americana’, or the post-Second World War ‘American Peace’, is over and Australia and Japan will be required to develop unique national responses to defend their unique national interests, with a focus on supporting the key alliances.(Source: Defence Connect)
23 Feb 20. Azerbaijan to buy M-346 Master jet. Azerbaijan is to buy an undisclosed number of Leonardo M-346 Master trainer and light attack aircraft, the country’s president announced on 20 February.
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and Leonardo Executive Director Alessandro Profumo exchanged a ‘declaration by agreement’ between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Leonardo for the acquisition of “an integration system for M-346 aircraft”, the website for the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, announced.
No details pertaining to a contract value or delivery timelines were disclosed. In May 2017 Leonardo showcased its Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master trainer aircraft to top Azeri military officials. While the number of aircraft was also not revealed, in July 2019 Leonardo chief executive Alessandro Profumo said that his company had signed a deal for six M-346FA light attack aircraft with a major “international customer”.
No customer for that deal has yet been formally disclosed, and the Azerbaijan Air Force (AzAF) and Air Defence Force is known to have a pressing requirement to augment and replace its Soviet-era MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’, Sukhoi Su-25 ‘Frogfoot’, and Aero Vodochody L-39 jets. If the earlier announced deal was for Azerbaijan, then it was likely an initial order given the numbers involved. A follow-on order to cover about 50 MiG-29s, Su-25s, and L-39s in service with the AzAF would likely be placed.
The M-346 is an advanced jet trainer that comes fitted with nine hardpoints (four under each wing and one on the centreline for an optional cannon pod), the M-346 can carry a range of ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ munitions, such as Mk 82/83/84 unguided bombs and GBU-12/16 and Opher Mk 82 guided bombs. (Source: Jane’s)
22 Feb 20. The largest cyber exercise you’ve never heard of. For years, the first time the Department of Defense’s cyber forces faced high-end digital attacks was not in practice or in a classroom, but in actual operations.
For the cyber teams that focused on offense, a playbook developed from years of National Security Agency operations guided their work. But on the defensive side, standards and processes needed to be created from scratch meaning, in part, there was a lack of uniformity and little tradecraft to follow.
Because cyber leaders had focused on staffing, training opportunities for defensive cyber operators had been sparse.
To help solve that problem, the Department of Defense is expected to award a contract worth roughly $1bn later this year for a global cyber training environment. But in the meantime, some units across the joint force have gone so far as to create their own small-scale training events and exercises to keep their forces’ skill sets sharp.
Perhaps the best example of these efforts are the 567th Cyberspace Operations Group’s “Hunt Event,” which has quickly grown to become one of the largest cyber exercises across the department. The bi-monthly exercise pits teams against each other in a competition for the coveted Goblet of Cyber trophy and bragging rights.
The group aims to better train defensive hunters, improve defensive tactics, techniques and procedures and develop defensive tradecraft.
“The point of this was that we didn’t really have a good range space to play on that had an active and live adversary so we could, in theory, replay traffic and we could go in and generate some easy kill, low hanging fruit signatures for detection,” Capt. Reid Hottel, training flight commander at the 837th Cyber Operations Squadron, told Fifth Domain.
“If we are supposed to be the primary counter to advanced persistent threats, the way that we were training was not like how we were fighting.”
The exercises started roughly a year ago to teach operators how to hunt on networks. It’s now evolved to where participants also work on leadership skills and build custom exploits on a large range with multiple stakeholders.
In addition to the Air Force CPTs — the defensive cyber teams each service provides to U.S. Cyber Command — members from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and Mission Defense Teams, specialized defensive cyber teams that will protect critical Air Force missions and local installations, also take part. At the most recent exercise in January, a representative from NASA participated. Now, the exercises have become so popular Hottel said other services are interested in participating in the future. This includes a Marine Corps CPT at Scott Air Force Base.
Building better leaders and hunters
To be the best, cyber leaders recognized their teams would have to beat the best and that meant training against the world’s most advanced cyber threats.
Some other forms of training — such as the popular capture the flag game, which involve teams trying to find “flags” such as files or scripts inside a network — are not always the most realistic form of training.
“When we were fighting, we’re up against advanced adversaries. We’re up against adversaries that are using tactics, techniques and procedures that are just above and beyond what simple little [scripts] … we were using in the past,” Hottel said. “This hunt exercise allows us to do that, whereas in the past, particularly in other flag exercises, we are not training at the APT level. We [were] training at the script kiddie kind of level and here we’re training at a much higher difficulty, which stretches and grows our operators into being true hunters.”
He added that the exercises are also helping develop tradecraft.
“That’s one thing that nobody really teaches, there’s no commercial course that you can go buy that teaches tradecraft, that teaches the military away, that teaches the way that we use to find the APT, which in theory, should be ever evolving because our adversary is as well,” Hottel said. “These exercises have been really eye-opening to provide tradecraft development, to become hunters, to understand what it means to be a cyber protection team.”
The exercise has evolved to include custom exploits, custom root kits, custom attacks and zero-day exploits within a real-world mission where in some cases hunters don’t have any indictors of compromise that exist in the public domain. This means that there is no public reporting available on the exploits or tactics the adversary is using.
Participants can hone their skills, by actively hunting on a network in order to find anomalies that could lead to trouble.
“As hunters,” he said, “we don’t necessarily have singular methodology, we don’t necessarily have a unique way that we can go about finding advanced threats mostly because we haven’t really been training like that.”
The training is also helpful for new mission defense teams, which are just being officially resourced within the Air Force around local installations. By having those teams sit next to CPTs, who are using generally the same tools, they can learn about tradecraft and what to look for at the local level.
During the most recent exercise, officials said it was the first time they intentionally tried to trip up participants. Organizers created fake attack chains to see how the players scoped an investigation into a network and deducted points for the amount of time they wasted following that lead. This technique helps teach teams how to scope investigations without going down “rabbit holes,” and not adequately planning, Lt. Christopher Trusnik, chief of training at the 835th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, told Fifth Domain.
Beyond the technical hunting, this approach helped team leader to flex leadership muscles.
“It was more of teaching that leadership technique of you plan for this, how do you investigate quickly and how do you triage your investigation,” Trusnik, whose unit ran the January exercise, said.
Hottel explained that following this most recent event, teams focused on leadership and organization.
At one point, someone on his team previously had been coached on what they needed to include such as specific indictors that might be valuable to their mission partners to understand. At this exercise, they included those indicators.
In another instance, one team member who had never run a hunt mission struggled at first. Hottel stepped in and with just a little guidance, the leader became more disciplined and was able to find things much better in the last three days.
Benefits of cyberspace in training
Training in cyberspace has benefits that other domains don’t offer.
For one, forces don’t need a dedicated battlespace such as the Army’s National Training Center or the range used at Nellis Air Force Base for the Air Force’s Red Flag. With cyber, a custom range can be built and forces from all across the world can come in and participate.
The range used for the hunt exercises stays up weeks after the formal event so individuals or teams can try their hand, though they obviously won’t be eligible for the Goblet of Cyber trophy.
All of this could change with the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE). PCTE is a major program being run by the Army on behalf of Cyber Command and the joint force to provide a web-based cyber training environment where cyber warriors can remotely plug in around the world and conduct individual training, collective team training or even mission rehearsal — all of which does not exist on a large scale currently.
Hottel said that his forces haven’t been limited thus far without PCTE. Though, once the platform is online, they can upload the range they used for a competition and it can be accessed by anyone across the joint cyber mission force.
Testing new concepts
But in the meantime, smaller, unit level exercises like those run by the 567th allow forces to test concepts and learn from others. Unlike larger exercises that have requirements and stated objectives, smaller exercises can serve as a proving ground for staying sharp and pushing the envelope. This allows local units more control over what their personnel do but can also allow teams to test new concepts in a relatively risk-free environment.
“Let’s say that a national [cyber protection] team wants to test out … whatever they’re currently using because they feel like it would provide them an advantage so they want to test out something,” Hottel said. “We can throw that on the range as well and they can utilize an entirely defensive tool set. We’re not trying to make people tool experts, we’re trying to make them tradecraft, defensive hunters.”
Hottel also said that personnel playing on the archived range can bring new ideas, which can then be tested during the next exercise. In some cases, they may come up with an idea on their own and bring it to the next exercise to see if it actually works.
Ultimately, the event is designed to create better cyber warriors.
“We’re not trying to make people tool experts, we’re trying to make them tradecraft, defensive hunters,” Hottel said. (Source: Fifth Domain)
21 Feb 20. RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Hornets to support two exercises. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has announced that its F/A-18A/B Hornets will support two exercises. Around seven fighter jets from No 75 Squadron have already arrived at RAAF’s Base Pearce. Starting 23 February, the Hornets will fly for two weeks in support of exercises Phoenix Black and Nigrum Pugio. The exercises have been designed to enhance the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) combat-ready Joint Terminal Attack Controller qualified personnel skill level and effectiveness.
Phoenix Black and Nigrum Pugio will involve real-time mission scenarios for the ADF.
RAAF 75 Squadron commanding officer wing commander Pete Robinson said: “Exercise scenarios provide a significant training opportunity for fast jet aircrew to hone and maintain their skills, resulting in highly skilled personnel who are operationally ready.
“Practice bombing and gunnery will occur in the first week and explosive ordnance will be expended in the second week, all within a controlled environment.”
The exercise will also provide an opportunity for junior aircrew at Number 2 Flying Training School and Number 79 Squadron to understand how fast jet squadrons operate.
On the way to the designated RAAF base, the Hornets may stop at Broome International Airport for refuelling requirements.
The aircraft is scheduled to return to RAAF Base Tindal on 7 March.
Robinson added: “These exercises represent important training for defence personnel and we are grateful for the community’s ongoing support.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
21 Feb 20. UMS wins support contract for Boxer CRV training simulators. Australia-based Universal Motion Simulator (UMS) has won a support contract for the new Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) driver training simulators.
The new Boxer 8X8 CRVs are being manufactured by Rheinmetall Defence Australia for the Australian Army.
Rheinmetall will deliver 211 CRVs under the $5.2bn LAND 400 Phase 2 programme.
The seven-year, $14.12m contract awarded to UMS is for the sustainment of training simulators for the new Boxers.
Australia Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said: “This seven-year contract will provide long-term employment opportunities for Universal Motion Simulator Pty Ltd and its Australian workforce.
“The potential for growth for this Geelong-based company is indicative of this government’s commitment to further strengthen Australia’s defence industry.”
Additionally, the simulators can be reconfigured to assist training with other armoured vehicles such as the future Infantry Fighting Vehicles and the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. In February 2019, the acquisition of six driver training simulators was announced.
The delivery of the first simulators is expected to take place in 2022.
Australia Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the contract is a significant step to upgrade Australia’s armoured vehicle fleet.
Reynolds said: “The new Boxer vehicle fleet is part of the government’s $200bn investment in our defence capability to deliver a more potent, agile and capable Australian Defence Force.
“The new vehicles will provide a world-class capability to the Australian Army with their high levels of protection, firepower and mobility.”
The first Boxer CRV was delivered by Rheinmetall Defence Australia to the Australian Government in September 2019. (Source: army-technology.com)
21 Feb 20. Dutch Navy commissions new virtual reality programme. Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (Damen), Thales Nederland, and the maritime innovation cluster Extended Reality (ER) have developed a virtual reality (VR) programme for the Royal Netherlands Navy.
Called Intro-TD-OPV experience, the VR programme has been developed for technical students of the Royal Navy Technical Training to familiarise with naval ships virtually.
The VR programme was commissioned last week.
The maritime innovation cluster ER is operated by the Simulation Center Maritime (SimCenMar) navy personnel. The centre supports and conducts experiments covering almost all ER possibilities.
The functional design and VR technology mean that the features of the Holland-class patrol vessel HNLMS Holland can be easily learnt.
Students can be educated about the location and functionality of the different systems on board.
To make the process interesting, it is supported by gaming techniques and narratives. The use of VR technology, along with game technology and gamification, is expected to help the Royal Navy attract the technical target group.
Damen said in a statement: “After all, the defence sector in general, and the Royal Navy in particular, nowadays need all the tools to recruit and retain suitable personnel.”
For the successful fulfilment of the VR project, Damen has jointly worked with students from Media Designer course at Scalda in Vlissingen.
Over ten trainees have so far been involved in Damen’s VR and augmented reality department. Damen Shipyards Group earlier announced the contract signing for the new supply ship, HNLMS Den Helder. (Source: naval-technology.com)
Meggitt introduces the next generation of immersive training — the FATS® 180MIL.
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With the FATS 180MIL, users feel they’re in the action, facing decision-making pressures while maintaining situational awareness.