Tremendous! Trump of Saudi Arabia!

• • •

But now seriously: Those who expected Donald Trump to fly into Riyadh and insult his Saudi hosts with the kinds of broadsides he delivered on the campaign trail against Islam and Muslims needn’t have worried. He didn’t do anything embarrassing. But he did commit the United States to a deeper alliance with the very leaders who are part of the problem. –> Blake Hounshell, “Donald of Arabia“, Politico, 21.05.2017.

What’s all in the $110 billion Military Arms Deal — probably the largest single arms deal in American history — which the US sealed with Saudi Arabia?

Source: Anthony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Saudis to Make $6 Billion Deal for Lockheed’s Littoral Ships“, Bloomberg, 19.05.2017.

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Israel-Saudi relations have come a long way

by Paul Iddon

At the Munich Security Conference earlier this year Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman “accused Iran of trying to undermine Saudi Arabia” and accordingly called on “moderate” Sunni Arab monarchies to fight “radical” forces in the region. According to him, Tehran is seeking to “undermine stability in every country in [the] Middle East […] their main destination at the end of the day is Saudi Arabia.” He declared, “I think that [for] the first time since 1948 the moderate Arab world, Sunni world, understands that the biggest threat for them is not Israel, not Jews and not Zionism, but Iran and Iranian proxies.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir avoided a question at that conference about the prospect of an overt Israeli alliance aiming to counter Iran and normalize relations in the process. Nevertheless Lieberman’s comments are the latest to indicate that Israel and the Sunni Arab states are seeing eye to eye when it comes to their opposition to Tehran’s actions in the region.

Back in 2015, retired Saudi General Anwar Majed Eshki and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold revealed, at an event of the Council on Foreign Relations, that their countries held five secret meetings concerning Iran. Such interactions coupled with a perceived common threat show both sides now possess an unprecedented level of common interests.

These behind the scenes interaction do not begin and end with consultations over Iran. Bloomberg reported back in February 2017 that, “[t]rade and collaboration in technology and intelligence are flourishing between Israel and a host of Arab states, even if the people and companies involved rarely talk about it publicly. […] The Arab embargo of Israel, nominally in force since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948, necessitates that all business between Israel and most Arab states remain strictly off the books, cloaked by intermediaries in other countries,” the report outlined. “But the volume and the range of Israeli activity in at least six Gulf countries is getting hard to hide.” The report also says that “Other Israeli businesses are working in the Gulf, through front companies, on desalination, infrastructure protection, cybersecurity, and intelligence gathering.”

These engagements are not unlike Iran’s own pre-revolutionary low-profile relations with Israel. This included selling Israel Iranian oil (see the Eilat-Askelon pipeline) and Israel covertly helping Iran develop its modern military, then among the largest (Iran had the fifth largest army in the world at the time) and certainly the most technology advanced in the Persian Gulf region.

Anwar Majed Eshki and Dore Gold shaking hands at an event of the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015.

Anwar Majed Eshki and Dore Gold shaking hands at an event of the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015.

While Saudi Arabia never formally accepted the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 it did not nevertheless perceive it as a major strategic threat. In the late 1930s the fledgling Saudi kingdom drove the Hashemites out of the Hejaz region – which includes Mecca – beginning decades of rivalry between it and Jordan (David Wurmser, “Tyranny’s Ally: America’s failure to defeat Saddam Hussein“, The AEI Press, 1999, p. 112). When Israel emerged the Jordanian kingdom found itself wedged between two rivals. In the mid-1990s Amman-Riyadh rivalries were finally done away with, incidentally around the same time Israel and Jordan signed their own peace agreement, and they presently enjoy cordial relations.

Saudi Arabia did play small, albeit more symbolic, roles in the background of the major Arab-Israeli wars. Even though it feared the fiery revolutionary rhetoric of the regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt it couldn’t feasible have itself perceived as opposed to, or even ambivalent about, the Arab states in their fight against Israel. The Saudis agreed to use the “oil weapon” in support of Nasser’s successor’s, Anwar Sadat, war against Israel to reclaim the Sinai Peninsula. The Saudis initiated the infamous oil embargo shortly after Washington overtly beefed up Israel’s conventional military late in the October 1973 war – known as Yom Kippur War in Israel and the Ramadan War in the Arab countries.

The US built-up its current relationship with Saudi Arabia during this period. Washington’s own bilateral relations with Riyadh have come a long way from the days of the Nixon administration, when they were preparing secretive contingency plans which included taking military action against Abu Dhabi in response to Riyadh’s embargo.

As part of the periphery doctrine established early in its existence Israel maintained cordial relations with non-Arab states in the wider region, notably Turkey and the Shah’s Iran. Even after the Iranian Revolution Israel favored Iran over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the eight year Iran-Iraq War. They began voicing their concerns about Iran in the early 1990s following the decimation of Saddam’s military in the 1991 Gulf War. Today Israel’s old periphery doctrine seems to have shifted from the periphery to include major Sunni Arab powers in the region against Iran, a major non-Arab state.

A Royal Air Force Boeing Sentry AEW.1 (E-3D serial ZH103) from No. 8 Squadron, RAF Waddington, deployed to the U.S. Air Force 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing, prepares to take off for a mission from Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on 22 March 2003.

A Royal Air Force Boeing Sentry AEW.1 (E-3D serial ZH103) from No. 8 Squadron, RAF Waddington, deployed to the U.S. Air Force 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing, prepares to take off for a mission from Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on 22 March 2003.

Back in the early 1980s Israel vehemently opposed the nascent Reagan administration’s decision to sell five hi-tech E-3 Sentry surveillance planes to the Saudi kingdom. The planes, with their powerful radars could detect Israeli jets taking off and possibly eliminate any element of surprise, of the kind which famously won them the June 1967 war, Israel would need in a future war. Nevertheless the deal went ahead, much to Israel’s consternation. In November 1981 Israeli warplanes reportedly violated Saudi airspace in the northwest near the kingdom’s Tabuk airbase, perhaps to warn Riyadh against challenging their military supremacy in the region.

As a newspaper report from the time observed that incident came “at a time of increased tension in the Mideast over Saudi defense. On Oct. 28 [1981] the US Senate, over the vehement protests of Israel, approved an $8.5 billion arms package to the oil-rich kingdom, which provides 20 per cent of American imported oil. Israel regards possession of sophisticated arms by a hard-line Arab nation as a threat to the security of the Jewish state.”

For over 50 years now US administrations supplying arms to Arab powers always sought to assure Israel that they will uphold their military’s technological edge over these states. The Obama administration sought to placate Israeli and Saudi opposition to the Iran nuclear deal by offering them more lucrative arms deals.

The Saudi military’s build-up in the last decade is both vast in scale and the technology involved. According to a report seen by Reuters the Obama administration offered the Saudis more than $115 billion worth of weapons since coming into office which constituted, “the most of any US administration in the 71-year US-Saudi alliance.” The offers “included everything from small arms and ammunition to tanks, attack helicopters, air-to-ground missiles, missile defense ships, and warships.”

Mute opposition from Israel on this – although they did say they are “not thrilled about it” – is noteworthy, especially considering that as recently as 2003 Riyadh relocated many of its advanced American-made F-15E Strike Eagle jets to Tabuk, allegedly to counter any Iraqi attacks during that years war, where they could reach Israeli airspace in a mere six minutes.

Israel is clearly no longer, at least publicly, concerned about the Saudi military’s expanding capabilities. The Israelis do publicly say, repeatedly, that their primary concern is Iran’s growing power in the region. Undoubtedly these stated concerns and their acquiescence to the Saudi military’s manic build-up indicate that they hope Riyadh can one day bolster the Israeli military by afflicting significant damage on Tehran were a war to break out.

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Can the T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank Possibly Match Its Hype?

by Sébastien Roblin. He holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States.

Few tanks have received as much attention in peacetime as the T-14 Armata. Russian state media has published hundreds of articles in its praise. Western media has reciprocated with pieces depicting the Armata as heralding the end of NATO’s military superiority. And of course there have also been many pieces, such as this article on offiziere.ch by my colleague Joseph Trevithick, doubting that the Armata is nearly as good as Russia Today promises, and more pointedly, that Moscow can afford to produce more than a handful of them in the near term.

The T-14 Armata seen at the rehearsal for the 2016 Victory Parade in Alabino near Moscow on April 11, 2016 (Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License).

The T-14 Armata seen at the rehearsal for the 2016 Victory Parade in Alabino near Moscow on April 11, 2016 (Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License).

There is undoubtedly much hype and propaganda surrounding the Armata, and early claims about the T-14’s armament and engine have been demonstrably scaled back with time. On the other hand, even stripped of hyperbole, the T-14 exhibits intriguing innovations and evolutions in tank design.

This article reviews the claims that have been made about the T-14 and its various systems, considers what these claims imply and, where evidence is available, whether the claims stand up to scrutiny. The reader should keep in mind that in regards to certain issues, such as the configuration of the T-14 armor, it is only possible to speculate. In other cases, the officially available data may be open to question. The author invites the reader to interpret the same set of data to their own satisfaction, and to offer their own insight on any data that has been overlooked or not given the consideration it is due.

How much do the world's tanks cost?

How much do the world’s tanks cost?

Production
Perhaps the first relevant question one should ask is whether the T-14 will actually be produced in numbers sufficient to enhance the effectiveness of the Russian Army. Russia currently has an order for more than 100 T-14 tanks, sufficient to equip several battalions. Thus the T-14 appears to be far more tangible than other much boasted about defense projects such as the PAK-FA stealth fighter or S-500 SAM system that seem unlikely to materialize in operational units in fully capable form before the end of the decade, despite claims in the media to the contrary.

Nonetheless, the Russian military was not pleased by the price tag of the T-14. Russia Insider claims the T-14 prototypes cost $6.5 million each, and that price will fall to $3.7 each once mass production begins. More recent publications claim costs ranging between $4 and 5 million.

Another consideration is that the Armata chassis is also being used for the T-15 heavy IFV (for which no production orders are extant so far), the T-16 armored recovery vehicle, and also a tank destroyer variant using the 152-millimeter gun from the Koalitsya self-propelled artillery system. Some claim the figure of more than 100 Armatas actually includes these other vehicles, and a second “true” production run of 70 Armatas is due in 2019.

Revealed in Uralvagonzavod's corporate calendar for 2016.

Revealed in Uralvagonzavod’s corporate calendar for 2016.

Moscow has “confirmed” it will produce 2,300 T-14s by 2020 (now 2025). However, a British intelligence report estimates that only 120 T-14s will be produced annually. Thus, some argue that even if the T-14 is every bit the wunder tank it is claimed to be, Russia cannot afford many of them any time soon.

In January, the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has announced its interest in upgrading its fleet of 400 T-90A tanks to the T-90M. This is thought to use technologies adapted from the T-14, including the Afghanit active protection system, Malachite reactive armor, and, for certain, the 2A82 main gun. This would be a substantial upgrade for the T-90A, though as usual, the extent of implementation will matter.

Offensive Capabilities

Main Gun
For nearly three decades, several generations of Russian tanks relied on the 2A46 125 millimeter gun — a weapon which famously failed to penetrate the M1 Abrams tank during the 1991 Gulf War. Since other top-of-the-line Western main battle tanks boasted similar levels of protection, this was a rather serious shortcoming. However, the Iraqi tanks lacked the more advanced ammunition developed for the 2A46 gun, which theoretically could have pierced the Abram’s frontal armor at shorter combat ranges.

The T-14 finally has a new gun — not a 152 millimeter 2A83 gun as was long rumored, but a longer-barrel 2A82-1M 125 millimeter gun (56 calibers in length verses 51 calibers on the 2A46M1). Russia claims the 2A82 generates 17% more muzzle energy than the 120 millimeter L/55 gun on later Leopard 2 tanks.

The T-14’s unmanned turret has the space for a larger carousel autoloader which can fire ten rounds per minute of single-piece ammunition and can use longer penetrator rods. Russia claims the 2A82 can pierce the equivalent of one meter of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) at 2 kilometers using its new Vacuum-1 APFSDS round, which has a 0.9 meter long penetrator. If this claim is accurate, this would pose a real threat to top Western main battle tanks even at medium combat ranges. However, the round would also need to be produced and deployed in sufficient quantities, which has not always been the case for advanced Russian munitions. Russian media also claims the T-14 can fire a new “remotely detonated” Telnik high explosive shell, which presumably may be similar to the programmable air-burst shells coming into service on tanks like the Leclerc and M1A2 SEP V3 tank.

Russian defense official still maintain they will upgrade the T-14 with a 2A83 152 millimeter main gun in the future, but most observers believe this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Assertions that a tank-mounted 152 millimeter gun was just around the corner date back to the 1990s.

Unlike most Western tanks — bar the Merkava — the T-14 can fire anti-tank missiles from its main gun. This is an ability that Russian tanks have boasted since the T-64A. In theory, tank-launched missiles may be superior to shells at extremely long engagement ranges, or possibly for attacking helicopters. However, tank-launched missiles have seen little use in combat. The Armata uses a new SACLOS missile called the 3UBK21 Sprinter, with a range of 8 kilometers and an anti-helicopter mode — though the 7.5 kilometer range claimed for the Aramata’s laser targeter might shorten that range a bit.

 A Russian schematic of the new T-14 tank translated into English by a U.S. Army analyst. Illustration via the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office’s OEWatch 5, Issue 3, March 2015, p. 52.

 A Russian schematic of the new T-14 tank translated into English by a U.S. Army analyst. Illustration via the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office’s OEWatch 5, Issue 3, March 2015, p. 52.

 
Sights and Sensors
Of course, major factors of offensive capability are detection and fire control — in other words, which tank will detect its adversary first and actually land a hit. The T-14 reportedly has sights with 4x and 12x optical zoom. Its sensors are also said to be capable of detecting tank-sized targets to a range of 7.5 kilometers during the day, or 3.5 at night. The commander’s sight is mounted on top of the turret and can rotate 360 degrees; the gunner has a sight slaved to the turret, and also has its own periscope. Both sights have thermographic and electromagnetic channels, as well as laser rangefinders. The driver has his own forward-looking infrared sensor. There are also many video cameras giving a 360 degree view around the tank, as the crew otherwise would have little ability to see outside.

Western tanks have generally been seen as having superior sights, sensors and ballistic computers compared to Russian designs. For example, an M1A2 sight is capable of 50X magnification. Russian thermal imagers are also believed to have lower resolution. The T-90A tanks uses French Thales Catherine sights, and there is evidence that the T-14’s sensors may rely on imported or smuggled Chinese or Western components for thermal imagers.

Secondary Armament
Through early 2015, it was widely reported that the T-14 would boast a 30 millimeter auto cannon as a secondary armament for engaging infantry, helicopters and incoming missiles. This would have been another radical design feature, as very few modern tanks boast a secondary weapon heavier than a heavy machine gun. However, the T-14 unveiled at the May Day parade had no such weapon. Apparently, the main secondary armament is to be a remotely-operated 12.7 millimeter Kord machinegun mounted above the commander’s sight. Remote weapons have become standard equipment for tanks in urban combat zones, and their inclusion on the T-14 makes a lot of sense. It has also been claimed that this machine gun could automatically controlled by the T-14’s radar to serve as a back-up hard-kill active protection system. Russian officials maintain the 30 millimeter cannon may show up in future versions of the T-14. There is also a co-axial PKTM machinegun in the turret, but no hull-mounted machinegun.

The T-14 tank mounts two active protection assemblies on both sides of the turret. Covered by passive armor for ballistic protection, these modules integrate the Afghanit sensor (trapezoidal unit), five hard-kill launch tubes mounted at the turret’s base, two peripheral cameras and flat (possibly covered) sensor, likely radar coupled with the soft-kill system. Some sources indicate these sensors are derived from AESA radar technology developed and implemented on the Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter jet. The rotatable soft-kill launcher containing 12 cartridges can be seen above, mounted on a rotating pedestal. (Source: Tamir Eshel, "New Russian Armor – First analysis: Armata", Defense Update, 09.05.2015).

The T-14 tank mounts two active protection assemblies on both sides of the turret. Covered by passive armor for ballistic protection, these modules integrate the Afghanit sensor (trapezoidal unit), five hard-kill launch tubes mounted at the turret’s base, two peripheral cameras and flat (possibly covered) sensor, likely radar coupled with the soft-kill system. Some sources indicate these sensors are derived from AESA radar technology developed and implemented on the Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter jet. The rotatable soft-kill launcher containing 12 cartridges can be seen above, mounted on a rotating pedestal. (Source: Tamir Eshel, “New Russian Armor – First analysis: Armata“, Defense Update, 09.05.2015).

 
Defense

Crew Survivability
The T-14 is renowned for its unmanned turret. The crew of three — a commander, gunner, and driver — instead reside in an armored pod in the front hull. The Armata’s main gun ammunition is stowed separately from the crew in the turret. This means that penetrating hits to the turret are very unlikely to kill crew, which could be especially advantageous when a T-14 is in hull-down position, with just the turret exposed over the crest of a hill. On the other hand, at 3.3 meters tall, the T-14 has a profile nearly a full meter taller than an M1A2 Abrams. One disadvantage of this layout is that the crew will be especially dependent on the Armata’s many external cameras to gain a better view of the battlefield. It should also be noted that there is very little machinery standing in between the crew and any shells or missiles that penetrate the front hull.

Afghanit Active Protection System
Undoubtedly the most ambitious development in the Armata is its Afghanit Active Protection System, which includes both soft-kill measures (seeking to confuse or misguide approaching missiles) and a hard-kill system (attempting to physically destroy them).

The soft-kill component consists of four smoke grenade dischargers on the turret top, each with twelve grenades. These serve not only to visually obscure the tank, but release multi-spectral aerosol clouds that may mask the vehicle’s infrared signature and block targeting lasers and radars. Two of the launchers have a vertical orientation, allowing them to counter top-attack missiles. In theory, the soft-kill measures might help ward against deadly infrared guided Javelin or laser-guided Kornet missiles. However, some sources argue that modern IR sensors are sufficiently powerful not to be confused by such a cloud.

The Afghanit’s hard-kill component consists of five tubes carrying interceptor charges nestled under each side of the turret. The T-14’s has a millimeter-wave length AESA radar system, believed to be adapted from the one used on the PAK-FA stealth fighter, that detects incoming projectiles and automatically turns the turret towards them so that the hard kill tubes can shoot the threat down. This has the added benefit of presenting the thicker front turret armor towards the projectile. The radar may also be able to provide targeting data on the firing platform.

Afghanit Active Protection System (Hard Kill).

Afghanit Active Protection System (Hard Kill).

Given the combat-proven effectiveness of the Israeli Trophy hard-kill active protection system, as well as Russia’s long history developing and fielding active protection systems, the Afghanit system may be effective in swatting down rocket propelled grenades and most low-flying anti-tank guided missiles. However, the hard-kill interceptors’ horizontal orientation means they are incapable of stopping top-attack missiles.

The publication Izvetsia also claims the Afghanit will work against kinetic anti-tank shells ie. the armor-piercing main gun rounds of an opposing tank, at speed of up to 1,700 meters a second — a claim most Western analysts are skeptical of. Consider, first of all, that a tank shell is smaller and travels many times faster than an anti-tank missile, making it harder to detect, giving the active protection system less time to react, and presenting a much harder target to intercept. However, in the event the Afghanit manages to hit an incoming shell, physics still presents a problem: the vast kinetic energy of a tank shell cannot be negated by the Afghanit’s smaller, low-velocity projectiles. That is to say, even if hit by an Afghanit interceptor round, a tank shell would possess sufficient force to continue towards its target. However, an intercepted shell may be deflected off course, and its penetration could be degraded by a few hundred millimeters, giving the tank’s armor a better chance of resisting. Thus, it seems that if the Afghanit is capable of contributing at all to defense against its kinetic shells, it may do so at the margins.

Malachit Reactive Armor
The Armata also boasts the new Malachit explosive reactive armor (ERA), thought to be an evolution of the earlier Relikt ERA. Reactive armor involves an array of explosive bricks set on the hull of a tank that blast outward to disrupt and deflect incoming shaped charge warheads. Traditional ERA is useful against missiles, rockets and HEAT shells, which project a jet of molten metal into the target when impacted. However, traditional ERA is largely ineffective against kinetic shells. Relikt and now Malachit use a radar system to detect incoming shells and detonate the reactive armor before the moment of impact. Relikt also differs from earlier forms of ERA by using small explosives between reactive armor plates that feed the metal plates laterally into the path of a projectile, causing the penetration rods of sabot shells to warp and possibly shatter. Thus, Russia claims that Relikt and its successor Malachit are both effective at degrading kinetic tank shells. Relikt is also a dual-layer ERA intended to counteract tandem charge warheads. Details of how Malachit differs from Relikt are scant. The U.S. Army developed the new M829A4 120 millimeter sabot shell as means to counteract Relikt ERA, so perhaps the new reactive armor may be designed to counter the latest American shell.

Armor
The Armata has a composite armor made of ceramic and a a new steel alloy made through electroslag melting which Russian designers maintain enables better performance for the same weight. The T-14 also has slat armor on the rear hull sides to protect the vulnerable engine compartment and air intakes against rocket propelled grenades. Russian media claims the T-14 has a maximum protection equivalent to 1.1 to 1.3 meters of Rolled Homogenous Armor verses HEAT munitions. This would suffice to block many older anti-tank missiles such as the TOW, which can penetrate a maximum of 900 millimeters. Against armor piercing rounds, the T-14’s armor supposedly is equivalent to 1 meter RHA.

Some observers, however, feel that the T-14’s weight and size don’t add up to such formidable levels of protection. The Armata weighs just 50 tons compared to the 72 ton M1A2, which in later iterations is estimated as having 0.95 meters of protection against kinetic rounds. Proponents of the T-14 maintain this is simply because the Armata has a smaller volume to protect. But while the Armata’s smaller turret could account for some of the difference, it is taller and actually has a longer hull than the M1A2 at 8.5 meters compared to 7.9 meters. The use of extremely expensive metals also seems unlikely given the T-14’s projected cost. For this reason, many Western observers believe the Armata remains overall less well armored than an M1.

One common theory is that the T-14’s turret is lightly armored — perhaps just enough to protect against the automatic cannons common on infantry fighting vehicles — while heavy armor protection is reserved for the manned front hull. This might reconcile the high claimed maximum armor value for a vehicle that weighs significantly less than its Western counterparts, and may rely on its reactive armor and active protection system to protect against missile and rocket threats from the sides and rear.

Other Defensive Systems
The T-14 has four turret-mounted Laser Warning Receivers. These would alert the crew if they are being painted by the laser targeted of an enemy tank or missile system, giving the T-14 crew a chance to orient the turret towards the adversary and back the vehicle out of danger. It is also said to have a magnetic-countermeasure system on the rear hull intended to disrupt electronics on remotely-detonated IEDs or possibly even incoming missiles. The Moscow Times also claims the T-14 will be coated with radar absorbent paint and that its heat-emitting components have been recessed within the vehicle to lower its infrared signature, making the T-14 a “stealth tank”. However, analysts are skeptical that the T-14’s engine can be significantly hidden from modern IR sensors, or that anti-radar paint can have a significant effect on detection when not combined with other measures to reduce radar cross section

As one can see, the Armata’s multi-layered defensive system could be particularly effective against direct fire missiles.

As one can see, the Armata’s multi-layered defensive system could be particularly effective against direct fire missiles.

 
Mobility
Initial widely publicized claims of a 1,500 horsepower turbocharged diesel engine for the Armata have been downgraded to a 1,350 horsepower engine. Other sources state the engine is governed to 1,200 horsepower. Armata designers insist they will eventually field a model with a fully-powered 1,500 horsepower engine.

Due to the T-14’s comparatively low weight, it can still attain a maximum road speed of 50 mph (80 km/h) or more — 5 mph (8 km/h) faster than even a Leopard 2 or Leclerc, and 35% faster than a Challenger 2 or a T-90. The T-14 reportedly has an automatic gear box suspension, allowing it to move in reverse as quickly as forward. Reports that the T-14 has hydrostatic transmission, by contrast, are likely inaccurate due to the expense of such a system.

The Armata is claimed to have an operational range of 310 miles (500 km), putting it in between the T-72 and T-90. Of course, Russia will have to hope that the T-14 demonstrates greater reliability than the vehicle that stopped up on the 2015 Victory Day parade rehearsal. The official explanation: an inadequately trained driver didn’t realize he had the parking brake on. Towards that end, the Armata will also come with its own automated diagnostic system, another feature that has come into fashion on Western battle tanks.

Further Development
Pravda claims that the Armata will come with its own dedicated Pterodactyl lightweight drones tethered by a power cable to the vehicles, which will fly dozens of meters high to aid in spotting adversaries.

Russian media also touts the future deployment of entirely remote-controlled Armatas. This seems plausible in the sense that the crew already relies on externally mounted cameras to look upon the world, the Armata’s main and secondary weapon are remotely controlled, and the main gun uses as an autoloader. Thus, the crew of remotely-operated Armata could use the same controls to operate an Armata from a place of safety, allowing the Russian military to field battle tanks without putting their crews at risk. However, though robot tanks may lie in the future, Moscow has yet to present a prototype. There are also practical considerations. Maintaining datalinks in battlefield conditions secured from hacking, jamming and other natural or artificial sources of interference would be of vital importance for a remote tank, and represent a new electronic Achilles Heel for adversaries to exploit.

 
Conclusion
Obviously, there’s considerable uncertainty given the information available on the T-14. This is what the currently available evidence suggests to the author:

  • The 2A82 cannon may be effective against current Western tanks at medium combat ranges — if the new ammunition is as effective as claimed, and is actually produced in quantity.
  • The T-14’s sensors and fire control systems are likely inferior to modernized Western counterparts, given the information available.
  • The T-14’s multi-layered Active Protection Systems and Explosive Reactive armor will likely give it good protection against direct-fire anti-tank missiles and rocket propelled grenades. However, top-attack munitions will only face the soft-kill countermeasures of the Afghanit system.
  • The usefulness of the Afghanit system against kinetic armor piercing rounds is in doubt. The effectiveness of the Malachit ERA against armor-piercing sabots is an unknown quantity, though Relikt ERA appears to have inspired the United States to develop a new armor piercing round.
  • The Armata’s significantly lower weight implies less conventional armor than on the M1 Abrams or Leopard 2. It is possible that the armor may be concentrated on the crew compartment.
  • The Armata will have greater crew survivability than earlier Russian tanks.
  • The T-14 is faster than modern Western tanks.
  • For the time being, Russia is unable to afford large-volume production of the T-14. Thus, the Russian army will field mostly T-72s into the 2020s.
Posted in Armed Forces, International, Sébastien Roblin, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Projekte des VBS: Neues Kampfflugzeug

Ende April 2017 hat das Departement für Verteidigung, Bevölkerungsschutz und Sport (VBS) eine Übersicht über alle im VBS laufenden “Top-Projekte” veröffentlicht. Als “Top-Projekte” werden Beschaffungen oder Organisationsänderungen bezeichnet, welche aufgrund ihrer grossen finanziellen Engagements, ihrer mehrjährigen Laufzeiten, ihrer hohen Komplexität und ihrer starken Abhängigkeiten untereinander im Fokus der politischen Gremien und der Öffentlichkeit stehen. Wer jedoch eine detaillierte Vorstellung der einzelnen Projekte erwartet hat, wurde von dem Bericht enttäuscht — mehr als eine grobe Übersicht lieferte dieser nicht. Deshalb hat sich offiziere.ch vorgenommen, einige dieser Projekte in einer Artikelserie detaillierter vorzustellen. Im vorliegenden Artikel geht es um die Beschaffung eines neuen Kampfflugzeuges für die Schweizer Armee.

Saab Gripen JAS 39E: bereits detailliert evaluiert?

Saab JAS 39 Gripen

Streng genommen Projekt “Neues Kampfflugzeug” im Bericht noch gar nicht erscheinen, denn gemäss den Angaben im Bericht wurde das Projekt noch gar nicht gestartet. Die Vorbereitungsarbeiten laufen jedoch bereits: Eine VBS-interne Expertengruppe bestehend aus Vertretern der Armee, der armasuisse und des Generalsekretariat VBS klären grundlegende Fragen zu Bedarf, Vorgehen und industriellen Aspekten. Ein umfassender Bericht der Expertengruppe wird demnächst erwartet. Aufgrund erster Erkenntnisse und dem davon abgeleiteten drängenden Handlungsbedarf hat die Expertengruppe bereits Ende November 2016 einen Kurzbericht veröffentlicht. Die Expertengruppe wird zusätzlich durch eine weitere VBS-externe Gruppe unter der Führung des Alt-Ständerats Hans Altherr begleitet. Darin Einsatz haben Vertreter aller vier Bundesratsparteien, der Schweizerischen Offiziersgesellschaft, der Swissmem, des Eidgenössisches Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten, des Eidgenössisches Finanzdepartement und des Eidgenössisches Departement für Wirtschaft, Bildung und Forschung sowie weitere Vertreter des VBS und der Armee (die personelle Zusammensetzung ist hier zu finden). Die Beratungen der Begleitgruppe sind jedoch vertraulich.

Da Kampfflugzeuge im gesamten Leistungsspektrum zum Einsatz kommen, müssen sie den Anforderungen sowohl des Luftpolizeidiensts als auch der Luftverteidigung genügen. Die [30] F/A-18C/D sind qualitativ gut, genügen aber zahlenmässig nicht, um bei einer konkreten und anhaltenden Bedrohung den Luftpolizeidienst mit 2-4 Flugzeugen permanent in der Luft über längere Zeit sicherzustellen. Dabei ist zu berücksichtigen, dass eine erhöhte Bedrohung einen Bedarf nach zusätzlichem Training auslöst, wodurch die Flotte zusätzlich beansprucht wird. Für länger anhaltenden Luftpolizeidienst mit 2-4 Flugzeugen permanent in der Luft wären an sich 5 Staffeln mit insgesamt 55 Kampfflugzeugen nötig. Luftverteidigung ist noch anspruchsvoller. — Schweizerischer Bundesrat, “Konzept zur langfristigen Sicherung des Luftraumes: Bericht des Bundesrates in Erfüllung des Postulats Galladé 12.4130 vom 12. Dezember 2012“, 17.08.2014, S. 23.

 
Vorgeschichte
Am 18. Mai 2014 lehnte die Stimmbevölkerung den vorgeschlagenen Fonds zur Beschaffung des Kampfflugzeugs Gripen E in Höhe von 3,126 Milliarden SFr mit 53,4% Nein-Stimmen ab. Damit konnten die mit dem Rüstungsprogramm 2012 vorgesehenen 22 Grippen E Kampfflugzeuge der schwedischen Firma Saab nicht beschafft werden, welche als Ersatz für die in die Jahre gekommenen 54 Northrop F-5 Tiger vorgesehen waren. Das Vorhaben startete 2003 mit informellen Gesprächen der armasuisse mit den Herstellern der vier Kandidaten Eurofighter Typhoon (Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug), F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Boeing), Rafale (Dassault) und Gripen (Saab), welche eine informelle Kostenangabe für die weitere Planung beinhaltete. Die armasuisse sah ursprünglich vor für die F-5 Tiger 33 Ersatzkampfflugzeuge zu beschaffen, welche mit den dazumal noch 33 F/A-18 C/D Hornet der Schweizer Armee eine Flotte von 66 Kampfflugzeugen umfassen sollte (basierend auf Michael Grünenfelder, “Weiterentwicklung der Luftwaffe bis 2015 – eine Strategie“, Air Power Revue der Luftwaffe Nr. 1, Beilage zur ASMZ 10 (2003), 21-30). Womöglich waren die informellen Kostenangaben der Hersteller etwas zu optimistisch, jedoch mit den Offerteneinreichung verabschiedete sich Boeing aus dem Beschaffungsprozess und die armasuiss musste aus finanziellen Gründen sich mit maximum 22 Kampfflugzeugen begnügen. Mit dem Tiger Teilersatz war gleichzeitig auch der Wiederaufbau grundlegender Fähigkeiten zur Luftaufklärung und zur Bekämpfung von Bodenzielen geplant. Diese beiden Fähigkeiten mussten mit der Ausserdienststellung der Dassault Mirage IIIRS ab 2004 (Luftaufklärung) und des Hawker Hunter ab 1995 (Erdkampf) aufgegeben werden.

Auch der weitere Verlauf der Beschaffung eines Ersatzkampfflugzeuges stand unter einem schlechten Stern. Die Wahl des Gripen E war umstritten, denn praktisch wurde der Gripen C/D evaluiert — der Gripen E befand sich zu dieser Zeit noch auf dem Reissbrett. Das war auch deshalb problematisch, weil es sich beim Gripen E nicht bloss um ein Upgrad-Programm handelte, sondern dieser sich von seinem Vorgängermodell deutlich unterscheidete. Grabenkämpfe innerhalb der Armee um Geld und Typenwahl sowie die damit verbundene Indiskretionen und ein Bundesrat mit erheblichen kommunikativen Defizite gaben dem Vorhaben schlussendlich den Todesstoss. Damit hat sich die Notwendigkeit einer Beschaffung eines neuen Kampfflugzeuges jedoch deutlich verschärft, denn nun muss nicht nur der F-5 Tiger (von denen gegenwärtig noch 26 im Einsatz stehen), sondern in absehbarer Zeit auch die 30 F/A-18C/D ersetzt werden. Wie viele Kampfflugzeuge beschafft werden sollen, steht momentan offen, doch auch die 22 Gripen wären heute kaum mehr für “nur” 3,1 Milliarden SFr zu bekommen. Ausserdem stellt das Kampfflugzeug nicht die einzige kostspielige Beschaffung dar; weitere Anschaffungen werden in den Bereichen Panzer, Artillerie, Luftabwehr, Übermittlungs- und Führungssysteme notwendig werden.

Eine der Tiefpunkte bei der gescheiterten Gripen-Beschaffung: Die in der Sonntagszeitung veröffentlichten Evaluationsberichte der Luftwaffe, welche sowohl dem Gripen C/D (MS19) wie basierend auf dem damaligen Kenntnisstand auch dem Gripen E/F (MS21) schlechte Noten vergaben. Am besten schnitt der Dassault Rafale ab. Deshalb war dieser für die Luftwaffe die erste Wahl, die zweite Wahl fiel auf den Eurofighter (Quelle: Titus Plattner, "Gripen: Sechsmal Note ungenügend", Sonntagszeitung, 12.02.2012, p.3; siehe auch "Aufgeschnappt: Saab Gripen im Sturzflug", offiziere.ch, 12.02.2012).

Eine der Tiefpunkte bei der gescheiterten Gripen-Beschaffung: Die in der Sonntagszeitung veröffentlichten Evaluationsberichte der Luftwaffe, welche sowohl dem Gripen C/D (MS19) wie basierend auf dem damaligen Kenntnisstand auch dem Gripen E/F (MS21) schlechte Noten vergaben. Am besten schnitt der Dassault Rafale ab. Deshalb war dieser für die Luftwaffe die erste Wahl, die zweite Wahl fiel auf den Eurofighter (Quelle: Titus Plattner, “Gripen: Sechsmal Note ungenügend”, Sonntagszeitung, 12.02.2012, p.3; siehe auch “Aufgeschnappt: Saab Gripen im Sturzflug“, offiziere.ch, 12.02.2012).

 
Projektstand
Der erste Kurzbericht der Expertengruppe zeigt in drei Bereichen einen unmittelbaren Handlungsbedarf auf:

  • Auf die Ausserdienststellung der F-5 Tiger soll momentan Verzicht verzichtet werden, um gegebenenfalls zumindest einen Teil der Flotte zur Entlastung der F/A-18C/D Flotte als “Serviceflugzeug” über 2018 hinaus weiter betreiben zu können. Der F-5 Tiger ist aufgrund seiner komplett veralteten Bewaffnung und seines Radars weder für den vollständigen Luftpolizeidienst noch für die Luftverteidigung zu gebrauchen. Als “Serviceflugzeug” kann er jedoch für Einsätze zur Überwachung der Radioaktivität der Luft, im Training zur Zieldarstellung und als Agressor, für die Patrouille Suisse sowie in sehr beschränktem Ausmass für den Luftpolizeidienst am Tag und bei guten Sichtverhältnissen eingesetzt werden. Für diese Aufgaben sind 26 F-5 Tiger vorgesehen, der Rest soll mit der Armeebotschaft 2018 zur Senkung des Betriebsaufwandes möglichst rasch ausser Dienst gestellt werden. Die finanzierungswirksamen Aufwände für den Weiterbetrieb von 26 F-5 Tiger belaufen sich jährlich auf geschätzte 30 Millionen Franken. Eine Verlängerung der Nutzungsdauer und Kampfwertsteigerung der F-5-Tiger-Flugzeuge kommt hingegen wegen den Kosten (je nach Variante 950 Millionen bzw. 1’250 Millionen SFr.) nicht in Frage.
  • Dank mehreren Upgrade-Programmen konnten die F/A-18C/D in den vergangenen zwanzig Jahren leistungsmässig auf der Höhe der Zeit gehalten werden. Trotzdem ist eine Nutzungsdauer nur bis zum Jahr 2025 mit 5’000 Flugstunden vorgesehen. Um mit der Auslieferung des neuen Kampfflugzeuges zwischen 2025 und 2030 keine strategische Lücke aufreissen zu lassen, soll die Nutzungsdauer des F/A-18C/D bis 2030 und bis zu 6’000 Flugstunden verlängert werden. Dazu ist eine Verstärkung der Flugzeugstruktur, ein Logistikpaket, welches die Verfügbarkeit von Ersatzteilen sicherstellen soll, die Erneuerung des Missionsplanungs- und Debriefing-Systems sowie der Simulatoren und des Ausbildungssystems vorgesehen. In den Bereichen Kommunikation, Navigation und Identifikation werden Komponenten ersetzt oder erneuert, um so die Interoperabilität bis 2030 sicherzustellen und auch Radarlenkwaffen sollen nachbeschafft werden. Schliesslich soll ein neues im Helm integriertes Nachtsichtgerät die Übersicht in der Dunkelheit erheblich verbessern. Die mit der Nutzungsverlängerung verbunden Kosten betragen 450 Millionen SFr. Das Geschäft wurde mit der Armeebotschaft 2017 bei den eidgenössischen Räte beantragt und wird voraussichtlich in der kommenden Sommersession im Nationalrat beraten. Zusätzlich beantragte die Sicherheitspolitische Kommission des Nationalrates Ende April 2017, dass mit zusätzlichen 20 Millionen SFr gleichzeitig eine beschränkte Erdkampffähigkeit des F/A-18C/D aufgebaut wird.
  • Schliesslich bestätigt die Expertengruppe: eine Neues Kampfflugzeug ist dringend notwendig. Deshalb wurde mit der Armeebotschaft 2017 die Bereitstellung eines ersten Kredits von 10 Millionen für die Projektierung, Erprobung und Beschaffungsvorbereitung (PEB) des neuen Kampfflugzeugs den eidgenössischen Räten beantragt.

 
Umfang der Evaluation
Offiziell gibt es momentan keine Informationen über eine “Longlist” möglicher zu evaluierende Kampfflugzeuge. Doch verschiedene Quellen weisse auf folgende Anbieter hin:

  • Saab mit dem Gripen E: Während der letzten Evaluation wurde die Vorgängerversion Gripen C/D praktisch erprobt. Dieser wurde aufgrund der schlechten Leistungsfähigkeit in mehreren Punkten als ungenügend beurteilt. Der Gripen E wurde nicht praktisch erprobt, doch aufgrund der technischen Daten erfüllte er dazumal die an ihn gestellten Anforderungen auch nicht vollständig. Diese Beurteilung ist womöglich nicht (mehr) zutreffend, eine “Rehabilitierung” ist jedoch nur mit einer umfassenden Evaluation zu erzielen — der Gripen E muss nun den Praxisbeweis antreten. Ausserdem weist der Zeitplan bei der Entwicklung des Grippen E gegenüber der ursprünglichen Planung eine Verzögerung auf — der Jungfernflug wird voraussichtlich erst im zweiten Quartal dieses Jahres absolviert. Dies ist zwar später als bei der letzten Evaluation angenommen, doch rechtzeitig um in der kommenden Evaluation genaustens auf Herz und Nieren zu überprüfen. Der Gripen E wurde der Schweiz im Rahmen des letzten Beschaffungsversuch für 140 Millionen SFr pro Stück angeboten. Er war damit das mit Abstand günstigste Angebot; die Stückpreise bei den anderen Anbietern lagen rund 40-50 Millionen SFr höher. Es ist jedoch anzunehmen, dass der Preis des Gripen E mittlerweile gestiegen ist.
  • Dassault mit dem Rafale: Der Rafale wurde bereits bei der letzten Evaluation getestet (vermutlich der F3 Standard). Mit dem F3-R Standard sollen 2018 Waffen und Avionic erneuert werden; ausserdem ist für 2023 im Rahmen des F4-Standards ein weiteres Update vorgesehen.
  • Wäre der Lockheed Martin F-35 eine Option für die Schweizer Luftwaffe? Kaum -- dies war jedenfalls unser Standpunkt vor 5 Jahren.

    Wäre der Lockheed Martin F-35 eine Option für die Schweizer Luftwaffe? Kaum — dies war jedenfalls unser Standpunkt vor 5 Jahren.

    Airbus (et al.) mit dem Eurofighter Typhoon: Im Rahmen der letzten Evaluation wurde der Schweiz die Tranche 3A offeriert, welche kein Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar enthielt (dieser könnte mit CAPTOR-E womöglich ab 2020 operationell sein). Die Weiterentwickelte Tranche 3B fand auf dem Markt kaum Interesse und wurde deshalb bis jetzt nicht umgesetzt. Auch sonst gibt es einige Alarmzeichen, dass die Eurofighter-Produktion mittelfristig beendet werden könnte.
  • Lockheed Martin mit dem F-35 Lightning II: Der F-35 wäre der einzige komplett neue Kandidat in der Evaluation. Ausserdem handelt es sich in der Evaluation um den einzigen Kampfflugzeug der 5. Generation. Er ist damit nicht nur überqualifiziert sondern auch das technologische Risiko ist bedeutend höher als dies bei den restlichen Kampfflugzeuge der 4. Generation mit grundsätzlich erprobter Technologie der Fall ist. Andererseits wird der F-35 in den nächsten Jahrzehnten das wichtigste Kampfflugzeug der US-Luftwaffe sowie mehrerer Nato-Staaten und Verbündeter sein. Bestellungen liegen derzeit aus einem Dutzend Länder vor, darunter aus Grossbritannien, Italien, Norwegen, Däne­mark, Australien und der Türkei. Insgesamt könnten rund 3’000 Stück produziert werden, was den Kampfjet preislich attraktiv werden lassen könnte. Momentan liegt der Stückpreis bei mindestens 155 Millionen SFr. Trotzdem erachtet offiziere.ch den F-35 als eine eher unwahrscheinliche Variante (siehe “Tiger Teilersatz: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening II ?“, offiziere.ch, 27.02.2010).
  • The threat has migrated all over the place. Enough stealth is important but you don’t need it all the time all the stealth you could possibly get. — Dan Gillian, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F program manager, zitiert in Dave Majumdar, “Boeing Wants to Build a ‘Super’ F/A-18E/F Super Hornet”, The National Interest, 04.04.2017.

    Boeing mit dem F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Block II): Beim F/A-18E/F handelt es sich im Vergleich zum F/A-18C/D um eine umfassende Neuentwicklung, die um etwa 30 % grösser (30% größerer Rumpf und 25% höhere Flügelfläche) und erheblich leistungsfähiger (35% mehr Trockenschub) ist. Das Hauptproblem beim F/A-18E/F liegt darin, dass die derzeitige Infrastruktur der Luftwaffe für eine solche Grösse nicht ausgelegt ist, und eine Anpassung zusätzliche Kosten erzeugen würde. In den 2020er könnte womöglich eine Block III Variante produziert werden, mit einem geringeren Radarquerschnitt, neuer Avionik, einem langwelligen Infrarot “Search and Track” System (long-wave infrared search and track system; IRST), einer neuen taktischen Zielerfassungstechnologie (Tactical Targeting Network Technologies; TTNT), neuem elektronischen, defensiven Eigenschutzsystem, einem grösseren Tank und einer längeren Einsatzdauer (von 6’000 auf 9’000 Flugstunden).

Angesichts dieser potentiellen “Longlist” ist davon auszugehen, dass eine komplette Evaluation aller möglichen Kandidaten durchgeführt werden muss, weil ansonsten das Risiko bestünde, dass unterlegene Anbieter eine Ungleichbehandlung geltend machen würden. (Expertengruppe NKF, “Erste Erkenntnisse und unmittelbarer Handlungsbedarf aus den Arbeiten der Expertengruppe neues Kampfflugzeug (NKF), Kurzbericht“, Schweizer Armee, Armeestab, 18. November 2016, S. 6).

Internationale Sicht
Gemäss gegenwärtiger Planung werden die meisten Betreiber von F/A-18A-D Flotten, diese bis zum Jahr 2030 ausmustern und durch modernere Kampfflugzeuge ersetzen. Die USA, Australien und Kuwait sehen als Ersatz den F/A-18E-G Super Hornet / Growler F-35 vor (Expertengruppe NKF, “Erste Erkenntnisse und unmittelbarer Handlungsbedarf aus den Arbeiten der Expertengruppe neues Kampfflugzeug (NKF), Kurzbericht“, Schweizer Armee, Armeestab, 18. November 2016, S. 16f).

Ausblick
Wenn die Armeebotschaft 2017 wie benatragt von den eidgenössischen Räten verabschiedet wird, so kann 2018/2019 die Evaluierung erfolgen, so dass 2020 eine Typenwahl möglich sein wird. Danach soll eine erste Tranche neuer Kampfflugzeuge mit dem Rüstungsprogramm 2022 beschafft werden, eine zweite Tranche rund 5 Jahre später. Die neuen Kampfflugzeuge der ersten Tranche würde dann der Luftwaffe ab 2025 schrittweise zufliessen und die neue Flotte wäre etwa ab 2030 einsatzbereit.

• • •

Info-Box: Die Armee ist ein Gesamtsystem
Damit Bodentruppen – insbesondere während Spannungen und in einem bewaffneten Konflikt – ihre Aufgaben erfüllen können, muss zumindest eine vorteilhafte Luftsituation erlangt werden, d. h. die Luftwaffe muss in der Lage sein, gegnerische Luftkriegsmittel zu hindern, ihre Waffen wirkungsvoll einzusetzen. Fehlt ein schützendes Dach in der Dritten Dimension, so verliert die Armee ihre Handlungsfreiheit auch am Boden. Ohne wirksame Luftverteidigung könnte überdies auch die Zivilbevölkerung und die kritische Infrastruktur in einem bewaffneten Konflikt nicht vor Bedrohungen aus der Luft geschützt werden. Insgesamt würde die Handlungsfreiheit der Landesregierung in Krisen und Konflikten erheblich eingeschränkt, wenn die Armee über keine Mittel verfügen würde, um den Luftraum zu schützen. Hinzu kommt, dass die Luftwaffe auch in der normalen und besonderen Lage originäre Aufgaben erfüllt, indem sie die Lufthoheit wahrt und die von der Schweiz festgelegten Regeln zur Benützung ihres Luftraumes mittels Luftpolizeidienst durchsetzt. Für die Erfüllung all dieser Aufgaben werden auch in absehbarer Zukunft moderne Kampfflugzeuge benötigt. — Expertengruppe NKF, “Erste Erkenntnisse und unmittelbarer Handlungsbedarf aus den Arbeiten der Expertengruppe neues Kampfflugzeug (NKF), Kurzbericht“, Schweizer Armee, Armeestab, 18. November 2016, S.4f.

• • •

Posted in Armed Forces, Switzerland, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On our own behalf: I’m back

Deutsch (scroll down for an English translation)

Werte Leser,

Preview of the "Ethnic civil wars 1949-2015 Dataset" - part 1.

Preview of the “Ethnic civil wars 1949-2015 Dataset” – part 1.

ich kann mitteilen, dass ich letzte Woche nach monatelanger intensiver Arbeit meine Masterarbeit “Multicultural Failure? Peacebuilding after Ethnic Civil War” bei der Freien Universität in Berlin einreichen konnte. Bei dieser Arbeit geht es hauptsächlich darum, wie sich Abspaltung, territoriale und politische Autonomie sowie Repression auf die Erfolgschancen eines dauerhaften Friedens nach einem ethnischen Bürgerkrieg auswirken. Damit verbunden war die Zusammenstellung einer umfangreichen Datenbank aller ethnischen Bürgerkriege (> 1’000 durch Kampfhandlungen bedingte Tote pro Jahr) zwischen 1949 und 2015 (Ethnic civil wars 1949-2015 Dataset). Momentan bin ich noch unschlüssig, ob ich die Masterarbeit nach der Verteidigung im Herbst dieses Jahres veröffentlichen werde. Der Entscheid ist davon abhängig, wie gut die Arbeit beim Joint Examination Board ankommt. Ich stelle jedoch die dazugehörige Datenbank bereits jetzt allen Interessierten zur Verfügung und zwar als Excel-Datei sowie als PDF zur Erstellung von Postern (Teil 1 / Teil 2).

Das Erstellen dieser Masterarbeit sowie gleichzeitig meine berufliche Tätigkeit zwangen mich die verfügbare Zeit für offiziere.ch seit anfangs dieses Jahres auf ein Minimum zu reduzieren. Dies hatte zur Folge, dass viele eingereichte Artikel für Wochen oder gar Monate auf eine Bearbeitung warten mussten. Ich danke allen Autoren, die dafür Verständnis aufbringen konnten und offiziere.ch trotzdem treu bleiben. Es ist geplant, dass ich in den nächsten Wochen allmählich wieder mehr Zeit in den Blog investieren werde. Momentan kann ich jedoch nicht versprechen, dass wir dieses Jahr bei den veröffentlichten Artikeln zahlenmässig wieder an die letzten paar Jahre aufschliessen werden können. Es geht in Zukunft wieder mehr darum, die Qualität ins Zentrum zu stellen und dafür auf eine hohe Veröffentlichungskadenz zu verzichten. Sollten Sie interessiert sein uns dabei zu helfen, sind Sie interessiert einen qualitativ hochstehen Artikel einmalig oder regelmässig beizusteuern, dann melden Sie sich auf [email protected].

Patrick


English (für eine deutsche Übersetzung nach oben scrollen)

Valued reader,

Preview of the "Ethnic civil wars 1949-2015 Dataset" - part 2.

Preview of the “Ethnic civil wars 1949-2015 Dataset” – part 2.

I can finally announce that last week, I handed in my master’s thesis “Multicultural Failure? Peacebuilding after Ethnic Civil War” to the Freie Universität Berlin after months of intensive work. This thesis mainly addressed how secession, territorial and political autonomy, and repression affect the chances for lasting peace after ethnic civil war. This involved compiling a comprehensive database of all ethnic civil wars (> 1,000 deaths per year caused by combat operations) between 1949 and 2015 (Ethnic civil wars 1949-2015 data set). At the moment, I remain undecided as to whether I will publish the thesis after I defend it this autumn. The decision will depend on how well the paper is received by the joint examination board. However, I am already making the database available to anyone interested as an Excel file, as well as as a PDF for creating posters (part 1 / aprt 2).

Writing this master’s thesis and my professional obligations have kept the time available for me to work on offiziere.ch to a minimum since the beginning of this year. As a result, many articles that have been submitted have been waiting for weeks or even months for me to edit them. I would like to thank all of the authors for their understanding and their continued loyalty to offiziere.ch in spite of this issue. I plan to gradually invest more time in the blog again in the next few weeks. At the moment, however, I cannot promise that the number of articles published this year will be able to return to the levels of the last few years. In the future, it will be more important to focus on quality than on quantity. If you are interested in helping us out or in submitting high-quality articles on a one-off or repeated basis, then please contact us at [email protected].

Patrick

Posted in Editorial Announcements, English, Security Policy | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The ISIS drone threat

by Paul Iddon.

In a 1993 televised panel discussion about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and potential ballistic missile threats from countries like North Korea and Iran, scholar Russell Seitz briefly touched upon the simple forms in which asymmetrical threats can come.

“If you also buy an Apple Newton and a model airplane, you have just bought yourself a cruise missile,” he told the panel. “So we have already arrived at a rather dystopic future in which the appropriate technology on the consumer level makes it imperative that we address the problem.”

An ISIS drone modified to carry a 40mm rifle grenade in the attached plastic tube.

An ISIS drone modified to carry a 40mm rifle grenade in the attached plastic tube.

Seitz’s example is particularly prophetic in light of developments in the present Battle for Mosul. The Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has managed to modify drones available to hobbyists into small bomb-dropping – bombs the size of grenades with “badminton birdies for tails” – aircraft. The Iraqis find the small nimble remote-controlled quad-copters difficult, but not impossible, to shoot down.

For its part the US military is taking note on how ISIS use these drones. “They’ve actually gone to almost swarm-level capability in a couple of cases,” said U.S. lieutenant general Michael Lundy. “That is a big area that we are learning.”

A Patriot missile belonging to a U.S. ally shot down an ISIS quad-copter in March. U.S. General David Perkins pointed out the obvious “overkill” involved in using a $3 million a piece missiles to shoot down very basic $200-300 drones that’s relatively easy for anyone to acquire (see from 14m54s in the full video below). Given their potential swarm capability identified by lieutenant general Lundy, ISIS or some other groups, could try and goad the U.S., and/or its allies, into firing off several expensive missiles in order to bring down these cheap pilotless aircraft.

Or, as Perkins put it: “If I am the enemy, I am thinking ‘I am just going to go on eBay and buy as many of these $300 quadcopters that I can and expend all these Patriot missiles’.”

Such a scenario is not wholly unlike Israel’s use of $50,000 a piece Iron Dome Tamir missiles to shoot down relatively inexpensive $500-1,000 home-made rockets used by the Hamas in Gaza. Or, for that matter, British use of air-to-surface Brimstone missiles, which cost around $250,000 each, to take out individual ISIS technical Toyota pickup trucks.

“In the big picture ISIS’s drones are more of an annoyance than a real threat to the security forces,” Joel Wing, an Iraq analyst who runs the Musings on Iraq blog, told Offiziere. “These drones serve three main purposes for ISIS,” he explained. “The attacking of civilians in liberated east Mosul, where they usually fly around looking for a crowd on which they can drop a grenade. The harassment of Iraqi forces, flying over them usually results in the Iraqi Security Forces trying to shoot them down, which stops them from doing whatever they were doing beforehand. And finally, they use these drones to spot targets for mortar and rocket fire and to direct car bombs. That’s actually probably their most important use for the insurgents.”

Last November, in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, ISIS reportedly used a drone to drop bombs on several densely populated areas, killing up to six people and wounding several others. This is a clear attempt on their part to terrorize the civilian population of that city, which they have been besieging for over two years now.

"After we moved forward, #Iraq forces shot down this weaponised IS drone that had been buzzing over us earlier. Pic credit our driver Alaa." — Sara Hussein, Reporter with Agence France-Presse (@sarahussein) 23. Februar 2017.

“After we moved forward, #Iraq forces shot down this weaponised IS drone that had been buzzing over us earlier. Pic credit our driver Alaa.” — Sara Hussein, Reporter with Agence France-Presse (@sarahussein) 23. Februar 2017.

On October 2 an ISIS drone rigged with a small amount of explosives killed two Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers and injured their two French military advisors.

Iraqi forces pushing into Mosul found a drone workshop belonging to the militants, showing their diligent efforts to weaponize these consumer products. A similar workshop was found in the city of Ramadi after it was liberated from the militants at the end of 2015. Both discoveries indicate that ISIS has been making earnest and organized attempts to weaponize drones to try and garner an edge over their enemies.

The US-led coalition shot an ISIS drone out of the sky for the first time all the way back in March 2015. “It was a commercially available, remote piloted aircraft, really something anyone can get,” remarked US Army Colonel Steve Warren following the incident. He also described it as little more than a “model airplane”, aptly echoing Sietz’s aforementioned two-decade old warning about the simplicity of such technology. However, unlike the drones today it seems that one was used for reconnaissance rather than attack purposes, so therefore required little or no modification. In late 2015 ISIS used a drone to film rocket attacks against the Turkish base in Bashiqa. Also, during its siege of the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani in late 2014 ISIS used drone footage of the city in its propaganda videos.

Iraq's armed forces have captured a Da'ish weaponised quadcopter and shuttlecock grenade depot in western Mosul in April 2017.

Iraq’s armed forces have captured a Da’ish weaponised quadcopter and shuttlecock grenade depot in western Mosul in April 2017.

The steady weaponization of these drones among such groups is alarming. Early last September, Jund al Aqsa, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, released a video purporting to show it is capable of dropping bombs from an unmanned drone on Syria’s Homs province. The Lebanese-based Shiite militia Hezbollah also demonstrated that it is capable of dropping unguided bombs from drones in Aleppo last August. Iran is a known supplier of military equipment to that particular group so those drones are purpose built for such attacks as opposed to ISIS’s modified commercial versions. An Iranian-made drone was also suspected in the bombing and killing of four Turkish soldiers in northwest Syria last November.

ISIS’s many enemies will likely force the group from the swaths of territory they control in Iraq and Syria while the militants’ drone program remains in its infancy. If ISIS had been able to remain in Mosul for longer it could well have devised more deadly drone weapons, possibly even enabling these tiny unmanned flying machines to unleash chemical weapons – ISIS already developed and deployed quite primitive chemicals against their Kurdish enemies in both Iraq and Syria – on densely populated areas in either Iraq or Syria.

In recent months these ruthless militants have demonstrated is that it is becoming easier for sub-state actors and terrorist groups to acquire relatively cheap technology and weaponize it to the extent that it could pose a very real threat to military and civilian targets alike.

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A Political Gamble in The Gambia

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

In a surprise move, The Gambian voters rejected the 22-year authoritarian rule of Yahya Jammeh on December 1, 2016 and elected opposition figure Adama Barrow to their country’s presidency. It is difficult to discern exactly how reliable the results were as no international observers were present: European Union (EU) observers were denied access by local authorities while the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) opted to boycott the election, alleging that the Islamic Republic of The Gambia did not have the “political environment conducive for free and fair presidential elections”. Yet the international community rallied in support of Adama Barrow’s apparent victory, calling on Yahya Jammeh to honour the results and step down from power.

So far, there are promising signs for a peaceful transition. 19 political dissidents, imprisoned by The Gambian authorities during a series of protests in July 2016, were released on December 5. Among the 19 was Ousainou Darboe, a human rights lawyer and leader of Barrow’s United Democratic Party. Nonetheless, one must approach these recent developments in The Gambian politics with caution. The Gambian Armed Forces (GAF), and in particular The Gambian National Army (GNA), has long maintained significant influence in the country’s politics; for example, Yahya Jammeh came to power in July 1994 as a young officer at the head of a military coup against Dawda Jawara, The Gambia’s first President following the end of British colonial rule.

ECOWAS troops patrol in the streets of Barra town after the former President Yahya Jammeh left the country, in Banjul, The Gambia on January 22, 2017.

ECOWAS troops patrol in the streets of Barra town after the former President Yahya Jammeh left the country, in Banjul, The Gambia on January 22, 2017.

The Gambian military may have been encouraged to shift its support from President Jammeh to the opposition by ECOWAS’ recent mulling of economic sanctions against The Gambia, which is one of its member states, for its poor human rights record. ECOWAS accounts for more than 40% of The Gambian exports, with Mali closely following China as the top destination market for The Gambian export commodities. ECOWAS sanctions would have not only intensified social unrest in The Gambia but also deeply undermined the financial interests of military and political elites, particularly those vested in the deeply corrupt Customs and Port Authorities.

Perhaps the most important factor in Jammeh’s decision to step down as President and enter exile in Equatorial Guinea was a military intervention by ECOWAS. On January 19, 2017, a force of approximately 7,000 troops from Senegal, 600 from Nigeria, and 200 from Ghana deployed to The Gambia to “re-establish democracy”. Faced with superior forces, and with The Gambian military unwilling to offer resistance, Jammeh resigned two days later. Upon his inauguration, Barrow asked that a smaller ECOWAS force of approximately 2,500 troops remain in the country until the end of June 2017 in order to “ensure stability”. Although Senegal’s sizable troop contribution to the intervention might suggest that the deployment was more so about preserving influence in the country and the region, the stated cause of preserving peace and security in West Africa is plausible (see also John O. Sullivan, “The Gambia Intervention: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly“, Finest Bagels Blog, April 19, 2017).

In particular, the potential to diffuse social unrest in The Gambia, as well as the risk of a spill-over in the region, through a change in the Presidency should not be understated. Large-scale protests swept the country in April and May 2016, months ahead of the election, as The Gambians expressed dissatisfaction with deepening economic inequality. Approximately 43% of the population remains engaged in low-paying agriculture jobs, average economic growth since independence has been low, and more than 61% of The Gambians are estimated to live below the poverty line. This stagnation, even as the rest of the West African region generates excitement as a hub for future economic growth, ignited sufficient discontent for the United Democratic Party to offer a compelling alternative.

Under the new president, EU election observers have again access to the polling stations during the parliamentary election which were held on April 6, 2017.

Under the new president, EU election observers have again access to the polling stations during the parliamentary election which were held on April 6, 2017.

In December 2014, several United States-based The Gambian expatriates mounted an unsuccessful coup attempt against Yahya Jammeh, with four people killed in the process. For military elites in The Gambia, this failed coup and the increasingly frequent protests may have created the impression that a change was necessary – either wholesale and by violence, or piecemeal and peacefully. As such, the surprise victory by Adama Barrow and the even more surprising acquiescence to the election result by the military seems less like a momentous shift in West African politics and more so a testament to the versatility of The Gambia’s kleptocracy.

This is even more readily apparent when one considers how The Gambia’s new President will not have much political room to manoeuvre against the GAF. Faced with a coup of his own in 1981, then President Dawda Jawara requested military aid from neighbouring Senegal, which promptly deployed 2,700 troops. Efforts to unify the two countries into a new political entity – the Senegambian Confederation – soon followed but prompted tremendous backlash from The Gambian public and the eventual dissolution of that unified state in 1989. Barrow’s request for an intervention force from the ECOWAS, specifically Senegal, could later lead to his vilification by the same voters who brought him to power, especially if mistrust for Senegal’s strategic intentions does not prove to be unfounded and Senegalese troops remain in The Gambia beyond the June 2017 deadline.

As such, the December 2016 election is a promising sign that The Gambia is moving toward liberal democratic norms and that the ECOWAS can function well as a “security toolbox” for resolving or preventing conflicts in West Africa. However, it will largely be business as usual for much of The Gambian society, at least until the ascendant opposition parties can devise some means of implementing security sector reforms that curb the influence of military elites. If that cannot be accomplished, and if Senegalese troops remain late into the year, West Africa will face yet another crisis, worse in nature than even an uprising against Jammeh.

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Taliban’s Propaganda War

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrives by helicopter on an unannounced visit at Resolute Support headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul on April 24, 2017, hours after his Afghan counterpart resigned over a deadly Taliban attack. Mattis, making his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, was due to meet top officials including President Ashraf Ghani less than two weeks after the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on Islamic State hideouts in the country's east. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst, Getty Images).

US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrives by helicopter on an unannounced visit at Resolute Support headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul on April 24, 2017, hours after his Afghan counterpart resigned over a deadly Taliban attack. Mattis, making his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, was due to meet top officials including President Ashraf Ghani less than two weeks after the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on Islamic State hideouts in the country’s east. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst, Getty Images).

The news media heralds the terror organisation “Islamic State” (ISIS) as the pioneer of jihadi propaganda, noting how the terrorist organization has been minting coins and printing magazines in an effort to market itself as a worldwide caliphate. Newspapers of record from The New York Times to The Washington Post have discussed the alarming breadth and depth of its online presence, which continues to grow even as ISIS’s territory in Iraq, Syria, and the rest of the Muslim world shrinks by the day.

Few analysts have considered that the Taliban, whose insurgency in Afghanistan predates ISIS by almost two decades, might have inspired the caliphate’s ambitious but artless attempt at public relations. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name by which the Taliban refers to itself and of the Islamic state that it once ruled) has produced high- and low-tech propaganda since the mid-1990s. With the Afghan government’s recent setbacks on the battlefield, perhaps the news media should start paying more attention to the Taliban’s years-long mastery of impression and reputation management.

High-Tech Propaganda for the World
Because of the Taliban’s ban on photography and videography during the insurgents’ heyday between 1994 and 2001, critics have portrayed them as conservative, rural mullahs opposed to modernity in general and technology in particular. Cultural psychologist Neil K. Aggarwal documents in “The Taliban’s Virtual Emirate: The Culture and Psychology of an Online Militant Community” that the insurgents have, in fact, always been willing to use the Internet.

The Taliban started its first website in 1998, and the insurgents’ leader had one of Afghanistan’s only two working Internet connections in his Kandahar office despite outlawing TVs and VCRs in the rest of the country. The Cultural Commission, the Taliban government agency responsible for public relations, micromanaged all propaganda. Only spokesmen appointed by the insurgents could contact the news media, allowing them to talk with one voice. Commanders who spoke to journalists of their own accord might face punishment. Online fundraisers, meanwhile, requested support for jihad.

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan forced the Taliban to transition from a sovereign state to an insurgency. Nevertheless, a skeleton crew from the Cultural Commission remained to govern media intelligence and manipulation — likely from hideouts in Pakistan. It exists today, producing online magazines in Arabic, Dari, English, Pashto, and Urdu criticizing the excesses of the Americans and extolling the virtues of the mujahideen, meant to appeal to all the Muslim world.

Though the Taliban frames itself as an Afghan-led, local resistance movement when convenient, its propaganda quotes Arab theologians and references conquerors from Islamic history, encouraging African and Asian Muslims to join the Taliban and Western Muslims to attack their Christian homelands. Some of the most popular Taliban videos depict American POW Bowe Bergdahl.

A Taliban recruitment gathering in the Khak-e-Safid district of western Farah province, from online Taliban propaganda outlet Shahabat.

A Taliban recruitment gathering in the Khak-e-Safid district of western Farah province, from online Taliban propaganda outlet Shahabat.

Low-Tech Propaganda for Afghanistan
The Taliban’s Internet emirate has limited utility inside Afghanistan, with literacy at 31 percent. To engage Afghans who might lack the ability to read or write, the insurgents rely on a low-tech campaign of crowd manipulation, disinformation, intimidation, and political warfare.

From mosques in villages across the east and south of Afghanistan, Taliban preachers explain the importance of jihad against the Americans and their Afghan allies, “occupiers” and “puppets” waging a crusade against Islam. Supporters distribute cassettes and DVDs containing pro-Taliban lectures and songs even though the Taliban forbade listening to music during its brief rule. For regions against or outside Taliban control, the insurgents deliver night letters, unsigned pamphlets replete with directives and threats, to clinics, mosques, and schools in town centers.

According to the International Crisis Group, the Taliban provides Afghans in remote communities information from the battlefield through phone calls. On a wider level, the insurgents have intervened in disputes between Afghan tribes and updated the Afghan diaspora in Pakistan with printouts of their magazines, strengthening their legitimacy as a national resistance movement.

Given the U.S.-led coalition’s mishaps in its attempts at counter-propaganda, such as a British war plane crushing an Afghan girl when it dropped anti-Taliban leaflets on her by accident, the Western world may need to reconsider its own campaign to win hearts and minds.

A State Founded on Propaganda
Tim Foxley, a former analyst for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, observed as early as June 2007 in a project paper called “The Taliban’s propaganda activities: how well is the Afghan insurgency communicating and what is it saying?” that the Taliban has been outperforming the West in public relations for years. The rapid fall in the number of Afghanistan-based U.S. soldiers from a height of 140 thousand in 2010 to 8.4 thousand (of those only about 2’000 participate in a counter-terrorism mission — the rest are involved in training and advising Afghan troops), however, has seen the Taliban seize at least one fifth of the country, more than the insurgents have controlled since their emirate’s collapse in 2001.

Though newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and think tanks such as the Middle East Media Research Institute began reporting on the Taliban’s latest inroads on social media, they have missed how the insurgents’ perception management coincides with their recent territorial advances: the Taliban is laying the groundwork for the re-establishment of its Islamic state through its propaganda, and control of the Afghan countryside has given it greater opportunities to do so.

In 2015, the Taliban seized Kunduz, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities. The insurgents retreated when the Afghan government received heavy air and fire support from the U.S., yet they announced that they had instead undertaken a withdrawal to avoid civilian casualties. In 2016, the Taliban overran much of Helmand, a province where farmers have long objected to the Afghan government’s efforts to police them and stop them from growing opium. There, the insurgents brand themselves as defenders of the farmers’ livelihoods while reaping the profits of the illegal drug trade.

In 2016, the Taliban has turned to Telegram and WhatsApp, Internet messaging platforms with end-to-end encryption. The insurgents have used these apps not to plot attacks or recruit foreigners as ISIS might but to deliver open letters to foreign governments, provide news to tech-savvy supporters, and request donations for orphans and widows rather than for the mujahideen (as in the past).

Like ISIS, the Taliban wants to be a state. Unlike ISIS, the Taliban has already been one, its campaign of public relations meant to ready the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s return. The news media, then, should start to consider what the insurgents’ advances on the ground and online mean for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Western intervention there. If the U.S.-led coalition wants to defeat the Taliban, it must crush the emirate that the insurgents’ propaganda seeks to establish.

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Iran’s high speed catamaran, Shahid Nazeri, deploys near the Strait of Hormuz

Satellite imagery shows Iran’s high speed catamaran, Shahid Nazeri, at Bandar Abbas, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Navy (IRGCN) First Region naval base.

DG (04FEB17) Shahid Nazeri in Bandar Abbas

DG (04FEB17) Shahid Nazeri in Bandar Abbas

The IRGCN deployed the Shahid Nazeri to an operational naval base and what could be the vessel’s home port, a review of imagery suggests. The vessel has been berthed at the naval arm’s First Region HQ for the last three months.

We first caught glimpse of the boat as it arrived at Bandar Abbas near the start of Velayat 95. Given our observations, we currently don’t believe it participated in the recent military exercise. By late February, the participants departed for their respective operational areas but the catamaran remained in its berthing position. However, ongoing monitoring suggests the boat makes brief stints into nearby waters.

In mid-April, the high speed vessel was still at the naval base berthed near two recently added piers, according to Planet imagery. The piers will probably support additional fast attack craft as Iran moves further personnel to the naval region. Construction on new support structures has been ongoing at the base since 2012.

As a side note, we tracked many of Iran’s sub-surface platforms as they made their way to forward positions for Velayat 95. At least ten of Iran’s Ghadir coastal submarines were berthed at Jask near the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, a deployment that also included Iran’s first indigenously developed submarine, the Nahang. This is the first time in years the Nahang has been observed on a deployment. Handhelds suggest the operations from Jask were supported with drone overwatch.

Iran’s two Kilo, which likely departed Bandar Abbas with the smaller coastal subs, were not located on imagery during the exercise. In 2016, however, we did note a Kilo deployment to Konarak, part of the Gulf of Oman’s Makran coast and an important area of future Iranian naval planning. As for Iran’s third Kilo, it remained at Bandar Abbas undergoing routine maintenance in the dry dock.

Shahid Nazeri

Shahid Nazeri

Iran’s Shahid Nazeri was initially unveiled back in September 2016 at a Bushehr-based shipyard. Local reports suggest the vessel can carry 100 passengers and a helicopter, cruise at 28 knots and operate at a range of 10,000 km. Iran emphasizes its use for long range deployments but plans to build a larger and more capable variant for special operations in international waters.

As with previous vessels, Iran continues to communicate its intent to establish itself further as a regional power and move operations beyond the confines of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s most recent statements suggest it’s building additional naval facilities on the Makran coast and wishes to establish bases in Syria and Yemen. A high-speed catamaran-like vessel could be useful in both regards. Assuming this is a technology demonstrator, watching the new vessel’s movements may provide insight as to how Iran may use an upgraded variant.

In the meantime, we continue to watch Iran’s indigenous production of defense equipment with interest. Until sanctions are removed in 2020 — when Iran can acquire foreign equipment — we expect to see further developments.

An excerpt of Iran’s most recent “Return to the Sea” movements:

May 2013
Iran’s Navy docked at China’s Zhangjiagang (FARS)
Dec 2013
The Alborz, Bandar Abbas and Younus submarine visit Mumbai, India and Colombo, Sri Lanka for the first time (FARS)
May 2014
Iran sends warships to Port of Sudan (Sudan Tribune)
Jan 2016
Iran sends the Alvand to participate in naval drills near Vizag (FARS)
Sept 2016
Iranian vessels arrive in Karachi for three day port visit (Tribune)
Nov 2016
Iran sends Bushehr and Alvand to round South Africa to enter the Atlantic Ocean for the first time; (Imagery confirms that they had to return to Durban for repairs; the Bushehr was in the dry dock in December and had departed by 24JAN17).
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Strategic Spillover: The Emirates in Africa

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

The Union Defence Force (UDF), which is charged with defending the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is becoming increasingly expeditionary. Historically, the UAE has actively participated in numerous multilateral operations. During the original Gulf War, several hundred Emirati soldiers aided in seizing Kuwait City from Iraqi forces in 1991. Further afield, Emirati combat aircraft took part in Operation Unified Protector, the NATO-led enforcement of a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace in 2011. However, these were generally limited-term deployments, intended to respond to specific threats.

UDF's military build up at at Assab, Eritrea.

UDF’s military build up at at Assab, Eritrea (see here for more).

Since the start of 2016, the UDF has significantly extended its reach. Satellite imagery indicates that the UDF has established an airbase at Al Khadim Airport, approximately 100 kilometres from Benghazi, Libya. From this base, the UAE will be able to step up its airstrikes in support of the Libyan National Army. In September 2016, the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and other rebel groups reported coming under attack from armed UAE Air Tractor 802s. Meanwhile, it seems the UAE has also established a military presence in Eritrea, as further satellite imagery from October 2016 shows nine UAE Dassault Mirage-2000’s stationed at Assab Airport. This follows rumours that the UAE could also be building a naval base in Eritrea very close to Assab Airport, the first permanent Emirati military base in a foreign country.

Although the prospect of the UAE establishing a foothold in East Africa may excite those who study the power plays of those countries carving out a presence there, it is important to note that the Emirates’ main strategic consideration is the ongoing war in Yemen. The extended reach of the UAE is not an expression of broader geopolitical ambition but has everything to do with rivalries on the Arabian Peninsula. Following the Iranian-backed coup in Yemen, the UAE participated in Saudi Arabia’s Operation Decisive Storm, deploying 30 combat aircraft to strike Houthi rebel positions.

Although Emirati officials claimed that the UAE’s military involvement in Yemen ended in June 2016, it is increasingly apparent that this is not the case. The UAE continues to participate in the Saudi-led naval blockade of Yemen, and a UAE-operated HSV-2 Swift logistics catamaran was destroyed by Houthi rebels in October 2016 while transiting the Bab al-Mandab strait. The airbase and naval base in Eritrea demonstrates that the UAE has no intention of reducing its involvement in the Yemeni conflict; rather, it is committed to stepping up its participation.

The HSV-2 Swift logistics catamaran attacked by Houthis was hit by a C-802 missile. It was later towed to the port of Assab.

The HSV-2 Swift logistics catamaran attacked by Houthis was hit by a C-802 missile. It was later towed to the port of Assab.

Ultimately, the UAE itself is under virtually no threat from the Houthi rebels and has no territory adjacent to Yemen. But UAE officials most certainly see their homeland as under threat from Iran, which has afforded considerable support to the insurgency the UAE is fighting in Yemen. For example, in a speech delivered by the UAE Ambassador to the United States at a January 2016 event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba called Iranian influence in the Middle East “…even more destabilizing than ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham]”.

The UAE has also long held a resentment against Iran, which pre-dates the Islamic Republic, for its perceived violation of the Emirates’ territorial integrity. In 1971, following the UAE’s independence from the British Empire, Iranian forces moved quickly to seize the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. This collection of islands in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf has changed in hands several times, but has since remained under Iranian occupation. Iran has consistently refused to comply with UAE requests to refer the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), only serving to deepen the atmosphere of mutual suspicion between the two countries.

It is this anxiety as to Iran’s long-term strategic ambitions that motivate the UAE to ramp up its expeditionary capabilities with deployments to Libya and Eritrea. After all, from the Emirati perspective, what is there to prevent Iran from taking more than just Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs? After all, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been accused of employing hybrid warfare to deepen the internal strife in nearby Bahrain. Unless sufficient pressure can be placed on the Houthis in Yemen, so the Emirati narrative goes, Iran may be emboldened to foment revolution in Bahrain or the UAE itself. Whether Iran or any IRGC elements aspire toward this is another matter entirely, but this fear on the part of Emirati officials explains the activities at Abbas and Al Khadim, and it should afford insight into deeper engagement by the UAE with American-led security institutions in the near future.

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