Current generation of US spy satellite has a resolution of 10 cm per pixel

At the end of August, US President Donald Trump released a photo from satellite imagery showing the launch pad of the Imam Khomeini Spaceport at the Semnan Space Center in northern Iran, where a launch of an Iranian Safir space rocket failed. It was Iranian’s third attempt to loft a satellite into space, after two launches in January (Simorgh) and February (Safir) were unsuccessful in placing satellites in orbit. More than two-thirds of Iran’s satellite launches have failed over the past 11 years, a remarkably high number compared with the 5 percent failure rate worldwide.

In contrast to publicly available satellite imagery from Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies, the resolution of the tweeted imagery was with approximately 10 cm per pixel stunningly good. The imagery was probably shot by the USA-224 aka NROL-49 spy satellite, which is based on a KH-11 KENNEN (Block V) design. It shows the capabilities of the current generation of US spy satellites.

The photo used in Trump’s tweet probably was made by a cellphone. However, it seems that Trump did not tweet the satellite image immediately, because the black box at the top left corner was added after the shot and probably hides the level of classification on the original image.

David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who closely examined the satellite imagery said that the image in Trump’s tweet revealed many details that reinforced the idea of a fueling or final-preparations disaster. For instance, the launching tower was still in the middle of the launching pad rather than having been pulled back — the standard Iranian practice.

For more details, the excellent and informative video produced by Scott Manley about the satellite imagery and the US spy satellite behind it, is highly recommended:

 
Sources

Posted in English, Intelligence, Iran, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia’s anti-air & air defense systems in Syria: more for show than substance?

by Roger Näbig (Twitter). He works as a lawyer and freelance journalist in Berlin with a focus on global conflicts, defense, security, military policy, armaments technology, and international law. He also gives lectures on defense policy issues. For a German version of the article see here.

Russia has neither the military means nor the political intention to establish an impregnable no-fly zone for Israel, the US and its allies in Syria. However, the findings on Russian anti-air and air defense systems gained in the Syrian conflict are not directly transferable to Russia’s “A2AD” zones in Europe.

Panzir-S1 at the Hmeimim military airfield (Syria).

Panzir-S1 at the Hmeimim military airfield (Syria)..

Russia has been exclusively equipping Syria with its anti-aircraft systems since the Soviet era and trains the Syrian soldiers in their use under Russian doctrine. Syria’s air defense consists mainly of modernized but outdated S-200VE (NATO code: SA-5 Gammon – long-range) and more modern 9K40 Buk-M2 (SA-17 Grizzly – mid-range) which are supplemented by Panzir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound – close-range). Russia is also said to have rebuilt entirely Syrian air defenses and linked them with Russia’s air defense and radar systems at the military bases in Hmeimim (Air Force) and in Tartus (Navy). According to official statements, the two Russian bases on the Syrian Mediterranean coast are protected by three air defense layers, some of which also include Syrian systems. The outer ring is formed by S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler), S-300V4 (SA-23 Gladiator) and presumably Syrian S-200VE, the middle sea-based S-300FM (SA-N-20) and Buk-M2E, the inner Osa-AKM (SA-8 Gecko), S-125 Pechora-2M (SA-3 Goa) along with Tor-M1 (SA-15 Gauntlet) and Panzir-S2 for immediate close-range defense (Mikhail Khodaryonok, “Three Layers of Russian Air Defense at Hmeymim Air Base in Syria“, TASS, 12.02.2016).

Despite the combination of both air defense systems and intensive training of Syrian soldiers, Syrian air defense has suffered some defeats with its Russian systems since 2014. In recent years, using mainly fourth-generation fighters (F-15, F-16), Israel has flown more than 250 airstrikes on targets in Syria where only one of its aircraft was lost.

The United States launched airstrikes against a Syrian military airbase in 2017 and a year later, with Britain and France, against three alleged chemical weapons manufacturing plants (see also “Chemical Weapons in Syria: Red Lines or Proving Grounds“, offiziere.ch, 04.08.2018). In the first attack on April 2017, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at the Shayrat Airbase (south-east of Homs) in western Syria, of those, 58 hit their target. They were all launched from the two US destroyers, the USS Porter and USS Ross (“ISI First to Analyze Shayrat Airfield Missile Attack“, ImageSat International, 05.11.2017). After Russia had repeatedly pointed to its superior air defense in Syria and because the US had warned Russia just before the attack, this was an embarrassing performance. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that only 23 of the cruise missiles had reached their target, an assertion that can be refuted by analyzing satellite imagery (see below). Instead, it seems that Russia had not activated its air defense systems, and only the older Syrian systems were used. So why did Russia remain inactive, even though it had the means and had advance notice of the attack?

Trump’s bombardment of Syria’s Shayarat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles -- click on the image to enlarge (compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography).

Trump’s bombardment of Syria’s Shayarat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles — click on the image to enlarge (compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

Before this question can be answered, one must first address the common misconception about the alleged ability of Russian S-400 and S-300V4 anti-aircraft systems to create an impenetrable no-fly zone within a radius of up to 400 km. Although on paper, the technical data for both systems is impressive, many factors influence their actual range and efficiency in actual use against enemy fighter aircraft. For example, the 40N6 rocket with a range of 380 km on the S-400 was just approved for serial production at the end of October 2018 (Franz-Stefan Gady, “New Long-Range Missile for Russia’s S-400 Air Defense System Accepted Into Service“, The Diplomat, 23.10.2018). Even if it were to be available in larger quantities, only large targets, such as tanker, cargo and early warning aircraft flying at an altitude of more than 10 km could be detected and engaged at this range (Robert Dalsjö, Christofer Berglund und Michael Jonsson, “Bursting the Bubble – Russian A2/AD in the Baltic Sea Region: Capabilities, Countermeasures, and Implications“, Swedish Defence Research Agency Report, 04.03.2019). The accurate targeting of stealth-capable 5th generation aircraft (F-35, F-22) and needed low-flying cruise missiles remains an insurmountable technical problem for Russian air defense systems (Guy Plopsky, “Russia‘s Air Defenses in Syria: More Politics than Punch“, BESA Center Perspectives Paper, No. 618, 18.10.2017). Due to the radar horizon, even older 4th generation fighters can only be detected and identified at a distance of approx. 30-40 km and cruise missiles at an altitude of approx. 50 m at approx. 25 km which can only be partially improved by A-50 AWACS aircraft (Roger McDermott, “Russian Air Defenses and the US Strike on Al-Shayrat“, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 14, Issue 50, 11.04.2017). Finally, radar detection can be severely hampered by airborne electronic warfare, such as the use of specialized combat aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler used in the attack on the Syrian military airfield.

The airstrike on Damascus and Homs in April 2018 on three alleged Syrian chemical weapon research and production sites involved 105 US, British and French (stealth) cruise missiles approaching from different directions. According to the Pentagon, all missiles fired reached their intended targets. Russia was also warned of this attack. Even in this attack on its closest ally in the Middle East, the Russian air defense systems remained inactive. Instead, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Syria’s air defense alone had shot down 71 cruise missiles with its S-200, S-125, Osa, Buk, and Strela anti-aircraft systems (at Damascus International Airport, the Shayrat Airbase and other military airfields; a claim refuted by the coalition). This statement reflects Russia’s ambivalent attitude, because at no time did Russia deploy its anti-aircraft systems for the Syrian army during airstrikes on Syrian territory. There are two explanations for this. Firstly, Russia does not want to be drawn into an escalating conflict with the US or Israel, which could result from the active use of its air defense systems. Secondly, Russia’s political-military interests are solely for the protection of its two military bases in Syria (see also Damien Sharkov, “Criticisms aside, was Russia Capable of Halting the U.S. Strike?“, Newsweek, 08.04.2017).

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Graphic compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

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Other indications point to this explanatory approach. In June 2017, a report by Russian television stated that Russia would not attack coalition aircraft in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), as long as they are more than 60 km away from the Hmeimim military airbase. While Syrian fighters flew escort for Russian fighter-bombers, the Russian side did not return the favor. In June 2017, when a US F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22, Russia also decided for political reasons to issue a clear warning. In those Syrian areas west of the Euphrates where the Russian Air Force is engaged in combat operations in Syrian airspace, all manned or unmanned aerial vehicles, including those belonging to the international coalition against IS, would pursued as air targets by the Russian air defense (“Russian Missile Defense to Track US-Led Coalition Aircraft in Syria – MoD“, Sputnik, 19.06.2017). It remained with the warning. When in February 2018, at Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, US fighters flew over the Euphrates to the western bank to repulse an attack by Syrian units supported by the private Russian paramilitary “Wagner Group“, neither the Russian air defense nor the Russian Air Force budged, even though here the lives of their citizens were at stake.

Sometimes conflicts do arise, and we are naturally concerned about the possibility of military confrontation between the Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria. We do everything possible to prevent it. To prevent the escalation of the conflict. — Levan Dzhagaryan, Russian Ambassador in Teheran, cited in Anna Ahronheim, “Russia Concerned about Military Confrontation between Israel and Iran“, The Jerusalem Post, 19.07.2018.

Russia also does not militarily intervene in Israeli airstrikes, including those on Iranian military installations in Syria. It is an open secret that Moscow is watching the growing influence of Tehran and the Shiite militias in Syria with increasing discomfort and distrust. More and more, Russia sees Iran as an annoying competitor, vying for supremacy in Syria, rather than a willing “brother-in-arms” in the bloody civil war. Syria, on the other hand, needs Iran as an ally to make up for its lack of battle-hardened ground forces. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Russia looks on passively when Israel bombs Iranian positions in Syria, as long as no Russian soldiers or institutions are harmed (Amir Tibon, “Everyone Wants to Get Iran Out of Syria. But No One Knows How to Do It“, Haaretz, 26.08.2018). Russia also worries that the perpetual Israeli-Iranian feud could drag its Syrian allies into a war with Israel in the medium term, which would do more harm than good to Russia itself. At the same time, Moscow does not want to dupe Damascus nor anger Teheran too much, which is why the Syrian air defense is allowed to engage with the Israeli Air Force in attacks on Iranian weapons depots and rocket factories (Lidia Averbukh und Margarete Klein, “Russlands Annäherung an Israel im Zeichen des Syrien-Konflikts“, SWP-Aktuell 2018/A 45, August 2018). It was foreseeable that this political balancing act would lead to long-term problems.

What followed then in September 2018 was so far the most significant political failure in the Syrian air war for Russia: the accidental shooting down of its Il-20 Maritime reconnaissance aircraft with a fifteen-man crew over the Mediterranean by a Russian designed Syrian air defense unit (presumably an S-200VE), which had previously tried in vain to fight four Israeli F-16Is in Syrian airspace. After this debacle, Russia decided in October 2018 to deliver the long-promised three S-300 batteries to Syria, each with eight launchers. One reason for this may well have been that the incident revealed the Syrian S-200 identification and compatibility problems with the more modern Russian systems, in addition to general shortcomings in air defense coordination between the two countries. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu justified the deliveries, fiercely criticized by Israel, as aimed with guaranteeing a clear identification of Russian aircraft by the Syrian air defense in the future as well as avoiding further losses due to friendly fire. For Syria, this decision represents a significant increase and improvement in its air defense capabilities, even though the S-300’s maximum combat range is lower, the missiles used are much more effective.

Soviet S-200 ground-to-air missile (Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin).

Soviet S-200 ground-to-air missile (Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin).

Israel’s airstrikes on Damascus International Airport and nearby weapons depots in January 2019 are indicative of Syria’s progress in expanding its air defense capabilities. After all, Syrian Buk-M2 and Panzir-S2 anti-aircraft batteries could intercept some Israeli missiles of the first wave of attack, but this did not prevent Israel from eventually gaining the upper hand in military terms. The Syrian systems were no match for the Israeli “saturation attack” with several more waves of rockets, guided bombs, cruise missiles, and so-called suicide drones “Harop” against the original targets and additionally against the Syrian air defense units. In addition to the Iranian weapons camps, two Syrian Panzir-S2s were hit and destroyed. A video (below) showing the final approach of an Israeli guided missile to the modern Russian SHORAD system spread like wildfire on the Internet.

The recent strike shows clearly that, for political reasons, Russia still does not want to intervene in the conflict itself with its own, more modern anti-aircraft systems, and that therefore Israel will probably be able to overcome the Syrian air defense in the future, albeit with different methods of deployment and use more and better weapons systems. While Syria’s S-300 anti-aircraft batteries were unlikely to be fully operational in January 2019 and Syrian soldiers probably lacked adequate training, morale and operational readiness, Russia has probably also delivered older, less powerful export versions of its anti-aircraft systems. In addition, the Syrian S-300 anti-aircraft batteries were also not used in later Israeli airstrikes, for example in mid-April 2019, suggesting that Russia has a decisive voice in when they’re used (Sebastien Roblin, “Israeli F-16s Smashed a Syrian Missile Complex (And Russia Held Its Fire)“, The National Interest, 24.06.2019). Whether this will continue in the future will crucially depend on how the Middle East conflict develops. Therefore, one should be careful with inferences for comparable “A2AD” zones in Europe, e.g., in Kaliningrad or on the Crimean peninsula. In any case with its sometimes older anti-aircraft systems in service in Syria, Russia can gain valuable operational experience, which it will use to modernize its systems continuously.

Nonetheless, Israel’s and the United States’ many years of experience in the air war over Syria prove that Russia can not set up insurmountable “A2AD” zones in Eastern Europe either. The laws of physics (radar horizon), electronic warfare, and stealth capabilities in 5th/6th generation fighters (F-35, FCAS) continue to demonstrate the limits of Russian air defense. Worth mentioning is also the Israeli successes in the fight against Russian air defense systems by drones and the application of the former Soviet tactic of the “saturation attack” from the Cold War. Only if the European states are prepared and willing to spend more money on the purchase of modern combat aircraft, missiles, cruise missiles and drones in the future will they be able to disrupt or combat Russian air defense systems effectively in the event of a conflict. For Germany, this should be a wake-up call, not only to rely on NATO partners, but finally to clarify the succession of the almost 40-year-old Tornado fighter bomber, which, among other things, flies Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (“SEAD”) missions in the ECR version, and, above all, speeding up the development of the Future Combat Air System with France.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, International, Roger Näbig, Russia, Syria, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proteste als Antwort auf die erodierenden Freiheitsrechte in Hongkong (Updated)

Go to the English version…

Als ehemalige, am 1. Juli 1997 an die Volksrepublik China zurückgegebene, britische Kolonie unterscheidet sich Hongkong in vielfacher Weise von China. Im Rahmen des vom chinesischen Führers Deng Xiaoping formulierten verfassungsmässigen Prinzips “Ein Land, zwei Systeme” und basierend auf Artikel 5 des Hongkonger Grundgesetzes ist die chinesische Sonderverwaltungszone bezüglich seiner internen Angelegenheiten für die 50 Jahre nach seiner Rückgabe an China, also bis 2047, weitgehend autonom. Dieses Selbstbestimmungsrecht umfasst nicht nur die Gesetzgebung, welche auf demokratisch-marktwirtschaftlichen Grundlagen beruhen kann, sondern auch das Erheben von Zöllen und die Ausgabe einer eigenen Währung. Auch der Personenverkehr zwischen Hongkong und China ist nicht frei. Festland-Chinesen, welche nach Hongkong ziehen, gelten als Migranten. Sie benötigen ein Visum oder eine Genehmigung um in der Sonderverwaltungszone zu arbeiten, zu studieren, ein Unternehmen zu gründen oder sich niederzulassen. Aussenpolitisch vertritt sich Hongkong in den Bereichen Wirtschaft, Finanzen, Aussenhandel und Kultur selber und ist damit weiterhin ein eigenständiges Mitglied bei der Welthandelsorganisation, der Asiatisch-Pazifischen Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft, der Asiatischen Entwicklungsbank und dem Financial Stability Board. Für die restliche Aussen- und für die Verteidigungspolitik ist jedoch die chinesische Zentralregierung zuständig.

Hongkongs Regierungschefin Carrie Lam mit Chinas Präsident Xi Jinping.

Hongkongs Regierungschefin Carrie Lam mit Chinas Präsident Xi Jinping.

Die wichtigste politische Funktion in Hongkong hat der/die Regierungschef/in inne. Dieses Amt wird seit dem 1. Juli 2017 durch Carrie Lam ausgeübt, welche der chinesischen Zentralregierung in Peking nahesteht. Sie wurde von einem 1’200 Mitglieder umfassenden Election Committee gewählt, welches verschiedene Berufsgruppen und Stadtteile repräsentieren soll, jedoch mehrheitlich durch pekingnahen Wirtschaftsleuten besetzt ist. Die von Lam angeführte Wahlreform 2014/15 hätte vorgesehen, dass die Bevölkerung aus 2-3 vom Election Committee nominierten Kandidaten hätte wählen können. Es handelte sich dabei jedoch um eine politische Mogelpackung, denn bei einer solchen Vorselektion hätten progressive Demokraten schon von vornherein keine Chance auf eine Wahl gehabt. Nach wie vor hätten pekingnahe Politiker im Vorteil gestanden, jedoch mit dem Unterschied, dass sie nun “pseudodemokratisch” durch die Bevölkerung gewählt worden wären. Deshalb lehnten pro-demokratische Kreise die Wahlreform ab, und es kam 2014 zu Protesten (Umbrella Movement). Schliesslich scheiterte die Wahlreform im Hongkonger Legislativrat, so dass immer noch das Election Committee alleine, ohne nachfolgende Wahl den/die Regierungschef/in festlegt. Das war natürlich nicht, was die pro-demokratischen Kreise mit ihren Protesten erreichen wollten; viel mehr wollten sie ein allgemeines Wahlrecht bei den Wahlen des Regierungschefs. Doch mit dem Scheitern der Wahlreform fehlte den meist jungen Demonstranten der breite Rückhalt in der Bevölkerung und die Proteste flauten ohne grosse politische Auswirkungen gegen Ende 2014 wieder ab.

Die seit März 2019 anhaltenden Proteste haben zwar einen anderen politischen Auslöser, knüpfen ideologisch jedoch an den Protesten von 2014 an. Am Anfang der erneuten Proteste steht ein von Lam eingebrachtes Auslieferungsgesetz über flüchtige Straftäter und Rechtshilfe in Strafsachen. Nicht nur unterscheiden sich die Strafverfolgung und das juristische System Hongkongs von demjenigen Chinas massgeblich, es ist auch eine der Bereiche in denen Hongkong autonom ist. Wegen den offensichtlichen Unterschieden schlug bereits im Juni 1987 die Special Group on Law of the Hongkong Basic Law Consultative Committee das Territorialprinzip vor. Das angewendete Strafverfolgungs- bzw. Justizsystem ist damit vom Ort der Tat abhängig, und nicht ob es sich beim Täter um einen Chinesen vom Festland oder aus Hongkong handelt. Eine dementsprechende gesetzliche Regelung fehlt jedoch bis dato. Dies führte 2018 zu einer Kontroverse, als ein Bürger aus Hongkong am Mord seiner Freundin in Taiwan bezichtigt wurde. Da es keine Auslieferungsmechanismen zwischen Hongkong und dem chinesischen Festland, Macau oder Taiwan gibt, kann der Verdächtige nicht nach Taiwan ausgeliefert werden (Daniel Victor and Tiffany May, “The Murder Case That Lit the Fuse in Hong Kong“, The New York Times, 15.06.2019). Das im Februar 2019 von Lam eingebrachte Auslieferungsgesetz soll diese gesetzliche Lücke hinsichtlich Festlandchina, Macau und Taiwan schliessen. Die Gegner dieses Gesetzes argumentieren, dass es langfristig die Möglichkeit schaffe nicht nur Straftäter, sondern auch andere der chinesischen Zentralregierung unangenehme Hongkonger Bürger und Ausländer zum Prozess nach Festlandchina auszuliefern.

Das chinesische Staatswappen in der Ständigen Vertretung Pekings in Hongkong wurde nach einem weitgehend friedlichen Marsch am 21. Juli 2019 mit schwarzer Farbe beschmiert.

Das chinesische Staatswappen in der Ständigen Vertretung Pekings in Hongkong wurde nach einem weitgehend friedlichen Marsch am 21. Juli 2019 mit schwarzer Farbe beschmiert.

Die tieferliegenden Gründe für den in der Hongkonger Bevölkerung breit unterstützten Protest haben auch mit dem Scheitern der pro-demokratischen Proteste von 2014 zu tun und sind ein Zeichen für das schwindende Vertrauen der Hongkonger in Politik und auf das zunehmende Aushöhlen des autonomen Rechtssystems. Die politische Vertretung ist wegen dem fehlenden allgemeinen Wahlrecht nicht durch die Bevölkerung legitimiert und seit der Rückgabe Hongkongs pro-chinesisch geprägt. Dass es den Demonstranten um mehr als nur den Rückzug des Auslieferungsgesetzes geht, zeigen auch die Attacken gegen das Gebäude der Ständigen Vertretung Pekings in Hongkong beispielhaft auf, welches vor etwas mehr als zwei Woche mit Eiern beworfen und dessen Staatswappen über dem Eingang mit schwarzer Farbe beschmiert wurde.

Zusätzlich sind die Freiheitsrechte in Hongkong seit den Unruhen von 2014 zunehmend am Erodieren. Ende 2015 sind beispielsweise fünf Buchhändler spurlos verschwunden, weil sie Bücher verkauft hatten, welche in Festland-China verboten sind (Ben Bland, “Hongkong: Beijing Opens a New Chapter“, Financial Times, 27.01.2016). Im Juli 2017 wurden vier pro-demokratische Politiker aus dem Legislativrat gedrängt, weil sie ihren Eid nicht richtig abgelegt hätten und zwei weitere, weil sie ein von China unabhängiges Hongkong befürworten würden. Der Entscheid des höchsten Hongkonger Gerichtes wurde von Lam ausdrücklich begrüsst (Ben Bland, “Hongkong Shaken by Removal of Pro-Democracy Lawmakers“, Financial Times, 14.07.2017). Im September 2018 wurde die Hongkong National Party wegen ihrer Forderung der Unabhängigkeit Hongkongs verboten. Zunehmend werden auch Kritiker ins Fadenkreuz genommen, so beispielsweise Victor Mallet, Asien-Redakteur der Financial Times mit Sitz in Hongkong, wo er mit seiner Familie lebte, bis ihm im Oktober 2018 eine Erneuerung seines Visums abgelehnt wurde. Dies erklärt, weshalb im Vergleich zu 2014 nicht nur mehr Menschen sich den Demonstrationen anschliessen, sondern dass sie auch aus verschiedensten Bevölkerungsschichten stammen.

Hongkongers opinion

Source: Nectar Gan and Kristin Huang, “Will China Send in the Troops to Stamp out Protests in Hong Kong?“, South China Morning Post, 24.07.2019.

Zwar hat die chinesische Zentralregierung kein Interesse an einer weiteren Eskalation, doch je länger desto mehr fühlt sich Peking von den Demonstranten herausgefordert. So wurde bereits über verschiedenste Kanäle den Demonstranten gedroht, sollten sie die soziale Ordnung gefährden. Beispielsweise hatte der Sprecher des chinesischen Verteidigungsministeriums, Wu Qian, Ende Juli erklärt, dass die People’s Liberation Army (PLA) auf Ersuchen der Stadtregierung nach Hongkong entsandt werden könnte, um die soziale Ordnung aufrechtzuerhalten. Würde ein solcher Schritt aus Sicht Pekings notwendig werden, könnte dies unverzüglich umgesetzt werden, denn mit der in Hongkong stationierten Garnison befinden sich bereits rund 6’000 -10’000 Soldaten in der Sonderverwaltungszone. Eigentlich wurde die Garnison bei der Übergabe Hongkongs aus symbolischen Gründen sowie zur Katastrophenhilfe und zur Verteidigung in die Sonderverwaltungszone geschaffen. Bisher kamen die Soldaten der Garnison erst einmal zum Einsatz, anscheinend jedoch ohne Ersuchen der Hongkonger Regierung: bei den Aufräumarbeiten nach dem schweren Taifun im Oktober 2018 (Alice Wu, “Hong Kong’s Continued Turmoil Paves Way for PLA to Step in“, South China Morning Post, 29.07.2019). Doch die Soldaten sind durchaus bereit zum Ordnungsdienst. Rund eine Woche nach Qian’s Aussagen wurde ein martiales Video der PLA Hongkong Garnison veröffentlicht, welches als Drohung gegenüber den Demonstranten in Hongkong verstanden werden kann (sie Video unten). Die “Global Times” — ein Propagandainstrument der Kommunistische Partei Chinasteilte den Clip auf Twitter, inklusive der Überschrift: “Eine offene Warnung an abtrünnige Hongkonger und ihre ausländischen Unterstützer?” Ausserdem ruft ein Soldat auf Kantonesisch – dem in Hongkong üblichen Dialekt – zu Beginn des Videos in ein Megafon, dass die Demonstranten für alle Konsequenzen selbst verantwortlich seien. Am Schluss dieser Sequenz führen bewaffnete Soldaten Demonstranten mit hinter dem Rücken gebundenen Händen in Bereiche ab, die als “Arrestzonen” markiert sind (Laurel Chor, “Hongkong Protests: China Releases Dramatic Army Propaganda Video“, The Guardian, 01.08.2019).

Gesetzlich ist eine Einmischung der PLA in die lokalen Angelegenheiten gemäss Artikel 14 des Hongkonger Grundgesetzes nur auf Ersuchen der Hongkonger Regierung vorgesehen, oder wenn sie gemäss Artikel 18 die Kontrolle über die innere Sicherheit verliert. Mit den mehr als 1’300 internationalen Unternehmen, welche ihren regionalen Sitz in Hongkong haben, sowie der Tatsache, dass Hongkong der viertgrösste Aktienhandelsplatz und der achtgrösste Exporteur der Welt ist, wird eine militärische Intervention Pekings eher unwahrscheinlich (Matthias Kamp und Michael Settelen, “Hongkongs Wirtschaft vor unsicheren Zeiten“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 30.07.3019, S. 19). Jude Blanchette, Freeman Chair in China Studies am Center for Strategic and International Studies, ist jedoch der Meinung, dass solche Annahmen falsch seien. Sie würden die Art und Weise ignorieren, wie die Kommunistische Partei Chinas historische Ereignisse sieht und wie sie Entscheidungen treffe:

Looking at China’s own recent history, from the CCP’s perspective the lesson of Tiananmen Square was not that the use of tanks and PLA troops to subdue the Chinese people was a mistake. Rather, Deng Xiaoping and the party elders believed that the price was justified in order to stave off an even greater catastrophe. As Deng said in his first speech after the June 4 crackdown, “The nature of the incident should have been obvious from the very beginning. The handful of bad people had two basic slogans: overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system.” — Jude Blanchette, “How Close Is Hong Kong to a Second Tiananmen?“, Foreign Policy, 14.08.2019.

Die Frage bleibt, wie weit die Demonstranten gehen können, um dieses Mal wenigsten einen Teil ihrer Forderungen — (1) die vollständige Rücknahme des Auslieferungsgesetzes, (2) die negative Charakterisierung der Proteste, (4) die Freilassung und Entlastung verhafteter Demonstranten, (3) die Einsetzung einer unabhängigen Untersuchungskommission für polizeiliches Verhalten und Gewaltanwendung während der Proteste, (5) der Rücktritt von Lam und die Durchführung des allgemeinen Wahlrechts für die Wahlen zum Legislativrat und zum Regierungschef — durchsetzen zu können, jedoch gleichzeitig keine rote Linien zu überschreiten. Laut einem Bericht von Reuters scheint es, dass die Regierung von Hongkong kompromissbereit wäre, jedoch Peking einen solchen Kompromiss unterbindet. Gleichzeitig sind die roten Linien Pekings nicht klar definiert. Gemäss dem Sprecher für das Büro für die Angelegenheiten Hongkongs und Macaus in Peking, Yang Guang, dürfe erstens die nationale Sicherheit nicht gefährdet werden, zweitens die Demonstranten weder die Autorität der Zentralregierung noch jene des Grundgesetzes herausfordern und drittens dürfe Hongkong nicht als Basis missbraucht werden, China zu unterwandern (Patrick Zoll, “Drei Fragen und Antworten zu der Situation in Hongkong“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 01.08.2019).

Demokratie-Aktivist Joshua Wong spricht im Juni 2017 während einer Demonstration mit der Presse. (Foto: Thomas Peter).

Demokratie-Aktivist Joshua Wong spricht im Juni 2017 während einer Demonstration mit der Presse. (Foto: Thomas Peter).

Die Verhaftungen von Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Andy Chan und anderen regierungsfeindlichen oder prodemokratischen Führern sind ein Zeichen dafür, dass die Regierung Hongkongs unter dem Druck Pekings nun eine härtere Linie verfolgen könnte. Es zeigt aber auch, dass die chinesische Zentralregierung noch keine direkte Intervention in Betracht zieht. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass die Verhaftungen die Demonstrationsbewegung langfristig schwächen werden, denn im Gegensatz zu 2014 haben die aktuellen Proteste keine klaren Führungsstrukturen. (Patrick Zoll, “Die Verhaftungen in Hongkong sind symbolisch – und ihre harte Linie fährt die Regierung offenbar auf Wunsch Pekings“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.08.2019).

Werden die Demonstranten dieses Mal mehr erreichen als in 2014? Kaum! Im besten Fall wird das Auslieferungsgesetz komplett zurückgezogen und eine unabhängigen Kommission zur Untersuchung des Polizeieinsatzes während den Demonstrationen eingesetzt, welche kaum irgendwelche Unregelmässigkeiten feststellen wird. Die Demonstranten würden damit zwar mehr als in 2014 erreichen, die weitere Erosion der Freiheitsrechte jedoch kaum aufhalten, geschweige denn ein Ausbau der demokratischen Prinzipien erzielen. Die chinesische Integration Hongkongs wird ungehindert fortschreiten, jedenfalls solange, wie es keine erheblichen negativen Auswirkungen auf den Wirtschaftsstandort haben wird. Zwar ist eine militärische Intervention eher unwahrscheinlich, jedoch bei einer weiteren Eskalation auch nicht vollkommen auszuschliessen. Es ist eher davon auszugehen, dass die Aktivisten, wie 2014, langfristig an breiter Unterstützung verlieren werden und damit die Dynamik der Protestbewegung tendenziell abnehmen wird.

Update vom 05.09.2019
Lam hat im Fernsehen verkündet, sie werde das Auslieferungsgesetz formal zurückziehen. Sie kommt damit zumindest einer von fünf Forderungen der Demonstranten nach.

Weitere Quellen
Patrick Zoll, “China zieht in Hongkong rote Linien“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 30.07.2019.

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Protests as a response to the erosion of freedom in Hong Kong

Originally published in German…

As a former British crown colony returned to the People’s Republic of China on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong differs in many ways from Mainland China. Based on Deng Xiaoping’s principle of “one country, two systems” as enshrined in Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, the Chinese Special Administrative Region is to remain mostly autonomous in its internal affairs for the 50 years following its return to China, i.e., until 2047. This right to self-determination includes not only the right to make its laws, which can be based on the principles of a democratic market economy, but also levying customs duties and issuing a separate currency. The flow of people across the border between Hong Kong and Mainland China is also not free. Mainland Chinese who move to Hong Kong are considered migrants. They need a visa and special permission to work, study, start businesses or settle in the Special Administrative Region. In terms of foreign policy, Hong Kong represents itself in the areas of economy, finance, foreign trade, and culture and thus continues to be an independent member of the World Trade Organization, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Asian Development Bank, and the Financial Stability Board. However, the remainder of its foreign and defense policy is the responsibility of the Chinese central government in Beijing.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam with China's President Xi Jinping.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam with China’s President Xi Jinping.

The head of Hong Kong’s government is called the Chief Executive, a position held by Carrie Lam since July 1, 2017. She is close to the central government in Beijing and was chosen by the 1,200-member Election Committee. This electoral college represents various professional groups and districts in the city but is mostly occupied by business people with close ties to Beijing. The 2014/15 electoral reform proposed by Lam would have had a popular vote to select from 2-3 candidates nominated by the Election Committee. However, this proved to be just more smoke and mirrors, because, with such a pre-selection of candidates, progressive Democrats would have had no real choices to make at the polls. Politicians close to Beijing would still have been at an advantage, but now with the difference that they would have been pseudo-democratically “elected” by the people. This is why pro-democracy groups rejected the electoral reform, leading to protests in 2014 supported by a political movement known as the “Umbrella Movement“. In the end, the proposed electoral reform failed to pass Hong Kong’s Legislative Council; the Election Committee alone still chooses the Chief Executive, without any subsequent vote by the people. This outcome was not what the pro-democracy groups wanted to achieve; instead, they were seeking universal suffrage and the right to elect the Chief Executive freely. However, with the failure of the electoral reform, the mostly young protesters failed to find broad support in the population, and the protests died down again towards the end of 2014 without much political impact.

The current protests that have going on since March 2019 were triggered by other political concerns, but are nevertheless ideologically linked to the protests of 2014. At the beginning, the renewed protests were against a new extradition bill on “fugitive offenders and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters” introduced by Lam. With this bill the Legislative Council of Hong Kong would establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives between Hong Kong and Taiwan, Macau and Mainland China, which are not covered in the existing laws. Not only is Hong Kong’s law enforcement and legal system significantly different from that of Mainland China, but it is also one of the areas where Hong Kong is autonomous. Because of these differences, the Special Group on Law of the Hong Kong Basic Law Consultative Committee proposed the “territorial principle” in 1987. Law enforcement would be based on where the offense took place and not whether the accused is from the mainland or Hong Kong. The corresponding legal regulations have, however, yet to be enacted. This led to a controversy in 2018 when a Hong Kong citizen was accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan. Since there are no extradition mechanisms in place between Hong Kong and Taiwan, the suspect could not be extradited to Taiwan. (Daniel Victor and Tiffany May, “The Murder Case That Lit the Fuse in Hong Kong“, The New York Times, 15.06.2019). However, the new extradition bill is not only intended to close this legal gap, but it will also be used to extradite offenders to Macau and Mainland China. The opponents of this law argue that, in the long term, it will also be used to extradite other Hong Kong citizens and foreigners targeted by the central government in Beijing for trial on the mainland.

The Chinese state coat of arms at the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was smeared with black paint after a mostly peaceful march on July 21, 2019.

The Chinese state coat of arms at the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was smeared with black paint after a mostly peaceful march on July 21, 2019.

The renewed protests in Hong Kong, which are widely supported by the people, are also related to the failure of pro-democracy protests in 2014 and a sign of the people’s dwindling confidence in politics and the growing erosion of the autonomous legal system. Those in power lack legitimacy because of the lack of universal suffrage and have been consistently pro-Beijing since the handover of Hong Kong. Protesters were pelting eggs at Beijing’s Liaison Office building in Hong Kong more than a month ago, and the PRC’s coat of arms at the entrance has been spray-painted black. These attacks indicate that the demonstrators are looking for more than just the repeal of the extradition law.

The freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong have been increasingly eroding since the 2014 protests. For example, at the end of 2015, five booksellers disappeared without a trace because they were selling books banned in mainland China (Ben Bland, “Hongkong: Beijing Opens a New Chapter“, Financial Times, 27.01.2016). In July, four pro-democracy politicians were forced out of the Legislative Council because they did not take their oath properly and two others because they endorsed a Hong Kong independent of China. Lam expressly welcomed the decision of the High Court in Hong Kong. (Ben Bland, “Hongkong Shaken by Removal of Pro-Democracy Lawmakers“, Financial Times, 14.07.2017) In September 2018, the Hong Kong National Party was banned for its calls for Hong Kong’s independence. Critics have also been increasingly targeted. For example, Victor Mallet, the Hong Kong-based Asia editor of the Financial Times, had lived in the territory with his family until he was refused visa renewal in October 2018. This explains why, in comparison to 2014, not only are more people joining the demonstrations, but also why they come from different social strata.

Hongkongers opinion

Source: Nectar Gan and Kristin Huang, “Will China Send in the Troops to Stamp out Protests in Hong Kong?“, South China Morning Post, 24.07.2019.

Although the Chinese central government has no interest in further escalation, it feels challenged by the demonstrators and has begun threatening protesters through various channels against “endangering the social order.” For example, Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Wu Qian said at the end of July that, at the request of the city government, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could be sent to Hong Kong to maintain social order. If such a step became necessary from Beijing’s point of view, this could be implemented without delay as there are already some 6,000 to 10,000 troops stationed at the garrison in the Special Administrative Region. The garrison had been created at the handover of Hong Kong for symbolic reasons as well as to provide disaster relief and defense in the Special Administrative Region. To date, the soldiers of the garrison have only been called on once without the request of the Hong Kong government: in the cleanup after the severe typhoon in October 2018. (Alice Wu, “Hong Kong’s Continued Turmoil Paves Way for PLA to Step in“, South China Morning Post, 29.07.2019) However, the soldiers are quite ready for the call to arms. About a week after Qian’s statement, a martial video was released by the PLA Hong Kong Garrison, which could be understood as a threat to Hong Kong’s demonstrators (see video below). The Global Times, a propaganda tool of the Chinese Communist Party, shared the clip on Twitter, with the headline: “A blunt warning for Hong Kong’s secessionists and their foreign backers?” Furthermore, at the beginning of the video, a soldier is using a megaphone to speak in Cantonese — the usual Hong Kong dialect — to say that the demonstrators were solely responsible for any consequences they might suffer. After this sequence, armed soldiers then marched demonstrators with their hands tied behind their backs to areas marked as “detention zones”. (Laurel Chor, “Hongkong Protests: China Releases Dramatic Army Propaganda Video“, The Guardian, 01.08.2019).

By law, PLA interference in local affairs under Article 14 of the Hong Kong Basic Law may only take place at the request of the Hong Kong Government or if it loses control of its internal security following Article 18. With more than 1,300 international companies headquartered in Hong Kong, the fact that Hong Kong is the world’s fourth-largest stock market and the world’s eighth-largest exporter, Beijing’s military intervention seems to be unlikely. (Matthias Kamp and Michael Settelen, “Hongkongs Wirtschaft vor unsicheren Zeiten“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 30.07.3019, S. 19). However, Jude Blanchette, holding the Freeman Chair in China Studies at Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes that assumptions postulating Beijing will seek to avoid a violent crackdown on protesters ignore the way the Chinese Communist Party views historical events and how it makes decisions:

Looking at China’s own recent history, from the CCP’s perspective the lesson of Tiananmen Square was not that the use of tanks and PLA troops to subdue the Chinese people was a mistake. Rather, Deng Xiaoping and the party elders believed that the price was justified in order to stave off an even greater catastrophe. As Deng said in his first speech after the June 4 crackdown, “The nature of the incident should have been obvious from the very beginning. The handful of bad people had two basic slogans: overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system.” — Jude Blanchette, “How Close Is Hong Kong to a Second Tiananmen?“, Foreign Policy, 14.08.2019.

The question remains as to how far the demonstrators can go and how they can ensure that at least some of their five main demands are met — (1) the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process, (2) the retraction of the “riot” characterization, (4) the release and exoneration of arrested protesters, (3) the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force during the protests, (5) the resignation of Lam and the implementation of universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections — without crossing a red line? According to a Reuters report, it seems that the Hong Kong government would be willing to compromise, but Beijing is preventing such a compromise. Concurrently, Beijing’s red lines are not clearly defined. According to Yang Guang, spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, firstly, national security should not be endangered; secondly, the demonstrators may neither challenge the authority of the central government nor of the Basic Law; and thirdly, Hong Kong should not be misused as a base to infiltrate mainland China. (Patrick Zoll, “Drei Fragen und Antworten zu der Situation in Hongkong“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 01.08.2019).

Democracy activist Joshua Wong talks to the press during a demonstration in June 2017. (Photo:  Thomas Peter).

Democracy activist Joshua Wong talks to the press during a demonstration in June 2017. (Photo: Thomas Peter).

The arrests of Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Andy Chan, and other anti-government or pro-democracy leaders are a sign that Hong Kong’s government, under pressure from Beijing, could now take a harder line. However, it also shows that the Chinese central government is not yet considering direct intervention. It is unlikely that the arrests will weaken the demonstration movement in the long term because unlike in 2014, the current protests have no clear leadership structures. (Patrick Zoll, “Die Verhaftungen in Hongkong sind symbolisch – und ihre harte Linie fährt die Regierung offenbar auf Wunsch Pekings“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.08.2019).

Will this year’s demonstrators achieve more than they did in 2014? Hardly! In the best-case scenario, they might see a repeal of the extradition law and an independent commission set up to investigate the police operations during the demonstrations, which, of course, will detect hardly any irregularities. Although the demonstrators would thus achieve more than they did in 2014, the further erosion of the freedoms in Hong Kong would hardly be stopped, let alone any expansion of democratic principles achieved. The Chinese integration of Hong Kong will continue unchecked, at least as long as it does not have a significant negative impact on the city as a center for business. Although a military intervention is rather unlikely, it cannot be completely ruled out in case of further escalation. It is more likely that the demonstrations will gradually lose broad support in the long term, as they did in 2014, and thus slow down the momentum of the protest movement.

Update from 05.09.2019
Lam announced on television that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill. She is thus complying with at least one of the five demands of the demonstrators.

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Between the wars: Iran’s relations with Iraq in the 1970s

by Paul Iddon

For a brief period, the second half of the 1970s, Iran and Iraq went through a thaw in their hitherto antagonistic relationship. After having reached an agreement to settle a major border dispute, they seemed to have also settled other fundamental differences and were ready for a new relationship. History shows that this was just the calm before the storm.

Overview of Boats on Shatt-al-Arab River in 1968 (Photo: Dean Conger / Corbis via Getty Images).

Overview of Boats on Shatt-al-Arab River in 1968 (Photo: Dean Conger / Corbis via Getty Images).

A cold war almost becomes hot (1969-75)
The dispute over the status of the 200km long Shatt-al-Arab/Arvand Rud waterway, formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, was the primary issue between the two countries. Iraq, citing the 1937 Tehran Treaty, claimed sovereignty over the entire river, arguing that this should demarcate the official border between the two countries. Iran, on his part, claimed sovereignty up to its deepest channel, or thalweg. In April 1969, Iraq sought to impose sovereignty over the entire river, demanding that no ships passing through it fly the Iranian flag or else it would block shipping to Iranian ports. Baghdad threatened to use force if Tehran did not comply with these conditions. Iran responded by abrogating the 1937 treaty and tensions mounted. Both countries had artillery guns pointed at each other across the waterway.

In an apparent show of force, Tehran launched in April 1969 the Joint Operation Arvand. An Iranian freighter, the Ebne Sina, flying the Iranian flag and carrying a cargo of steel beams, was escorted by the Iranian Navy, backed by a squadron of Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom IIs jet fighter-bombers, down the waterway under the nose of the Iraqis, who did nothing (“Iranian Ship Challenges Iraq Estuary”, AP, April 27, 1969). Three days later, Iran escorted another one of its freighters through the river without any repercussions. This was a humiliation for the Iraqis, whose threats were rendered meaningless by its far more powerful neighbour.

When then Iraqi Vice President Saddam Hussein forced approximately 60,000 Iraqis of Iranian descent, some of whom had lived in Iraq for generations, out of the country in 1971, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, visited the Iraqi border and lambasted Iraqi leaders, declaring that: “They are dying of envy at our progress and the things we have accomplished in Iran.” (Andrew Scott Cooper, “The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East“, Oneworld Publications, 2011, p. 155). In September 1973, during his revealing interview with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, Pahlavi did not mince words when asked which neighbour was his worst: “Iraq is ruled by a group of crazy, bloodthirsty savages and… do you know they force our people to cross the minefields along the frontier on foot? That’s right. Iranians wishing to come home because they’re persecuted in Iraq have to cross our minefields on foot. Dozens of armless and legless people are in hospital.” (Oriana Fallaci, “The Shah of Iran: An Interview with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi”, The New Republic, December 1, 1973)

In the mid-1970s the Shah’s Iran, along with Israel and the United States, oversaw a covert war against Iraq by supporting the Kurdish revolt there. Documents declassified from that time show that the Shah wanted to use the Kurds in order to keep the Iraqi Army bogged down inside its borders, an interest he shared with Israel which also feared the Ba’athist Iraq becoming a regional military power. When Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in the October 1973 war, Israel even asked the Iraqi Kurds to mount an offensive operation against Iraq in order to keep it from joining in that war. Upon consulting with the U.S.-Americans, who then consulted with the Shah, about this request, the Kurds were convinced not to do so and to instead retain a defensive posture inside Kurdistan. (Roham Alvandi, “Nixon, Kissinger and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War“, Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 99).

Nevertheless, the Shah did not want the Kurds to prevail since he opposed Kurdish independence anywhere in the region, fearing it would inspire Iran’s Kurdish minority to revolt and secede, as they had done in Mahabad in 1946. Ironically, the Kurdish leader the Shah was supporting against Saddam Hussein, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, was a key figure in the short-lived Republic of Mahabad.

Kurdish Peshmerga in 1974 during the Second Iraqi-Kurdish War (1974-75). Photo from the "Photo Library of Kurdistan".

Kurdish Peshmerga in 1974 during the Second Iraqi-Kurdish War (1974-75). Photo from the “Photo Library of Kurdistan“.

This covert war almost became hot. Through Iran, Israel supplied the Kurdish Peshmerga with portable anti-air and anti-tank missiles, captured Soviet-made 9K32 Strela-2s and 9M14 Malyutkas, to give them an edge over the Iraqi Army. Iranian artillery units deployed inside Kurdistan killed several Iraqi troops and destroyed a vast amount of Iraqi military equipment. This support from the Iranian military, which at that time was twice as large as Iraq’s, proved key to the continued success of the Kurdish revolt. However, the Shah ultimately used the Kurdish revolt to make a deal with Iraq over the Shatt-al-Arab, avoiding a potential Iran-Iraq War from breaking out in the 1970s.

Saddam Hussein, clearly the country’s strongman, offered to resolve the Shatt-al-Arab dispute in Tehran’s favour, relinquishing Iraq’s claim to the eastern part of the river. In return, in a classic trade-off, he wanted Iran to withdraw its support for the Iraqi Kurds. The Shah agreed. Consequently, on March 6, 1975, the Shah met with Iraq’s strongman in Algiers and signed the Algiers Agreement. Mere hours later, Iranian forces withdrew across the border, taking their heavy weapons with them. The Kurds were left on their own and Baghdad was able to crush any remaining resistance promptly. Over 200,000 Kurds fled to Iran. (see also George S. Harris, “Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds“, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 433, no. 1, 1977: 121).

Upon learning that the Shah had struck a deal with Saddam and was pulling Iranian forces out of Kurdistan, a furious Mullah Mustafa asked an Iranian SAVAK intelligence commander: “How can you trust Saddam, who once he gets rid of the Kurdish revolution will be stronger and then change his mind? You will regret this. (Jonathan C. Randall, “After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?: My Encounters with Kurdistan”, Routledge, 2019, p.169).

The Shah frantically sought to justify his action as a necessary one, invariably arguing that it had been Iran doing the fighting in Kurdistan. Saddam Hussein echoed this view, telling one journalist a mere month after signing the Algiers Agreement that: “The only thing that kept Barzani going in the past was Iranian intervention on his behalf.” (C.L. Sulzberger, “His Kurds, and Why”, The New York Times, March 29, 1975). Also, according to the Shah Saddam Hussein confided to him during their meeting in Algiers that “your unsparing sword cut down the flower of Iraqi youth.” (Alvandi, p. 114).

Meeting in Algiers, March, 1975: The Shah of Iran (left) with Algeria's President Houri Boumedienne (centre) and Saddam Hussein (right).

Meeting in Algiers, March, 1975: The Shah of Iran (left) with Algeria’s President Houri Boumedienne (centre) and Saddam Hussein (right).

Years later, Saddam Hussein revealed what he said was his real reason for making this huge territorial concession to Iran in a meeting with his advisers. He recalled that the Iraqi Army had only enough artillery shells to keep fighting for just one more day, and the Soviet Union had refused to resupply it. Since Iran had artillery units in Iraqi Kurdistan that could outgun the Iraqis, Saddam Hussein knew he had little choice. If the Iran-Iraq war had started at that time, Iraq would have been in a less advantageous position and could have suffered a major defeat. It was out of this strategic necessity that he chose to make this concession. More importantly, he knew he could crush the Kurdish resistance if they lost the support of the Iranian military, which is precisely what happened. (Amatzia Baram, “Deterrence Lessons From Iraq“, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2012).

Thaw (1975-79)
Israeli Professor Amatzia Baram, who has studied Saddam Hussein’s regime very closely for decades, once summed up Iran-Iraq relations in the late 1970s as “good, no less than good – quite a lot of trust amazingly. These two dictators seemed to like each other in a bizarre way.”

In one November 1976 interview, the Shah was asked why he continued to pursue a large military build-up at a time when the U.S. anticipated that Iran had enough military power to deal with any confrontation with Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. “Well, it is a little immature to say that when you know the Iraqis have a special defensive agreement with the Soviets,” the Iranian autocrat replied, referring to the 1972 Iraq-Soviet Friendship Agreement. Upon being asked if he believed that the Soviets would come to Iraq’s aid in the event of a war with his country, the Shah said: “the rescue of Iraq in any such given conflict – that’s a question I would like to ask myself. But there is a treaty.” Despite any worries he had about such an outcome, the Shah nevertheless summed up relations with Iraq at that time as “very good.” (“Iran Will Support 15 Pct. Hike In Oil”, UPI, November 22, 1976).

Newspaper reports in that period also highlighted Iraq’s seeming new moderation in the region, which analysts and reporters alike often attributed to the new oil boom in the country and the increasing standard of living that came with it. After Algiers, Baghdad stopped trying to undermine Tehran through propaganda calling for Iran’s Arab-majority western frontier province of Khuzestan, which it called Arabistan, to be separated from Iran. It also stopped broadcasting radio signals to Saudi Arabia calling for the overthrow of the royal family there. Iranian Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda visited Iraq, and Saddam Hussein visited Iran. This was described as an “unprecedented coming together of Iran and Iraq” at the time. “If Iran and Iraq’s new friendship holds, the face of the Middle East could be changed,” anticipated one May 1975 newspaper article (Gavin Young, “Shah wants big Powers out of Gulf”, The Observer, May 4, 1975).

“Iran is our neighbour, and you cannot change your neighbours – it is one hundred times better to have good relations with your neighbour than bad,” said Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s then information minister, at the time. (Eric Pacer, “Irans Vast Purchases of Weaponry Strain Ability of Country to Absorb It All“, January 5, 1977).

Ayatollah Khomeini, living in exile, sits in his garden at Pontchartrain, near Paris, in October, 1978.

Ayatollah Khomeini, living in exile, sits in his garden at Pontchartrain, near Paris, in October, 1978.

Another telling sign of the fundamental changes that were afoot in those years took place in a security conference in Muscat, Oman in 1978. Iraq essentially conceded from the get-go that Iran was the foremost power in the Persian Gulf. Ironically, the entire conference failed to make any headway because Iraq and Saudi Arabia feuded over which one of them should take “the number-two position” after Iran. “Iraq believed that the Arab states should have a minority status vis-à-vis Iran within the common security arrangement, and that Iraq should be the dominant voice within that minority,” was how one historical account summed up that conference. (Trita Parsi, “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States“, 2007, p. 60)

In July 1977, six bilateral agreements were signed between Iran and Iraq which covered “trade and cultural relations, freedom of movement by Iranians in visiting Shi’it[e] holy places in Iraq, agriculture and fishing, railway systems linkages, and co-ordination of activities concerning the movement of ‘subversive elements.'” (S. H. Amin, “The Iran-Iraq Conflict: Legal Implications“, International and Comparative Law Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 1, January 1982, p. 167–88). It seemed, from the perspective of many observers at the time, that Iran-Iraq relations had truly turned a new page.

Opponents of the Shah in Iran used this thaw to visit Iraq and meet with the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who lived in the Iraqi shrine city of Najaf after the Shah exiled him in 1963, to plan the Shah’s overthrow. As Richard Helms, the U.S. ambassador to Iran in those years, noted in retrospect: “People knew about Khomeini. This was particularly true after the Algiers Agreement of 1975, when Iranian pilgrims were again permitted to visit the holy shrines in Iraq at Karbala and Najaf. Some pilgrims brought tapes back from Khomeini, and one began to hear reports of their being played in mosques and circulated clandestinely. So that as a political factor, people were aware of him.” (Cooper, p.239).

In 1977, Saddam Hussein offered to kill Khomeini, who he described as that “meddlesome priest”, for the Shah. The Iranian monarch declined the offer, reasoning that if Khomeini was made a martyr that would have created more problems than it would solve. (Abbas Milani, “The Shah“, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012, p.390). Saddam Hussein instead opted to exile the ayatollah. As a result, Khomeini relocated to France, where he quickly gained access to the Western press and used it to denounce the Shah’s regime and organize his return to Iran to become its new ruler.

Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran for the first time after years in exile.

Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran for the first time after years in exile.

Revolution and eve of war (1979-80)
In October 1978, Farah Diba, wife of the Shah and Empress of Iran, visited Najaf to meet Abu al-Qasim Al-Khoei, one of the most influential scholars of Shiism. While Al-Khoei criticized the Shah’s response to protesters in Tehran, he never expressed any support or opposition to the revolution in Iran. (Patrick Cockburn, “Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shia Insurgency in Iraq“, Faber and Faber, 2001, p.62)

In January 1979, the Shah fled Iran. The following month Khomeini made his victorious return to the country on the chartered Air France plane and began establishing a new regime in Iran. Saddam Hussein consolidated his power in Iraq the same year by infamously conducting a televised purge of his opponents in the Ba’ath Party in July and became Iraq’s undisputed ruler. He feared Khomeini would carry out his expressed desire to export the Iranian Revolution. Iraq is a Shi’ite-majority country and was then ruled by an elite within the country’s Sunni minority. Saddam Hussein was prepared to do anything to prevent Khomeini from fomenting revolution among Iraq’s Shiite majority against his regime.

In September 1979, the Iraqi dictator attended a non-aligned conference in Cuba with the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations Salah Omar al-Ali. They both met an Iranian delegation and discussed the status of the Shatt al-Arab. The Iranians seemed agreeable. Al-Ali was delighted, thinking that war had been avoided. “We are neighbours,” he told Saddam Hussein. “We don’t need another war. We need to rebuild our countries, not tear them down.”

Saddam Hussein, however, interpreted the Iranians desire to retain the status quo as a sign of weakness on their part, which he was all too eager to exploit. “How should we solve our problems with Iran?” he asked his ambassador as he smoked his characteristically big Cuban cigar. “Iran took our lands. They are controlling the Shatt-al-Arab, our big river. How can meetings and discussions solve a problem like this? Do you know why they decided to meet with us here, Salah? They are weak is why they are talking with us. If they were strong there would be no need to talk. So this gives us an opportunity, an opportunity that only comes along once in a century. We have an opportunity here to recapture our territories and regain control of our river.” (Mark Bowden, “Tales of the Tyrant“, The Atlantic, May 2002)

Iranian posing on a wrecked Iraqi T-62 tank in Khuzestan in Iran, just across the border from Iraq.

Iranian posing on a wrecked Iraqi T-62 tank in Khuzestan in Iran, just across the border from Iraq.

It was clear, war was on Saddam Hussein’s mind. He calculated that Khomeini’s purges against the Shah’s generals, and the U.S. embargo on spare parts for Iranian military hardware, meant that Iran’s armed forces had been, for the most part, rendered ineffective.

Mullah Mustafa Barzani died of cancer in exile in Washington on March 1, 1979. “We do not want to be anybody’s pawns,” he said in the only interview he gave before his death. “We are an ancient people. We want our autonomy. We want sarbasti – freedom. I do not know who will take my place one day. But they cannot crush us.” (William Safire, “Of Kurds and Conscience”, The New York Times, December 13, 1976). Shortly after his father drew his last breath, Masoud Barzani staunchly declared, “we’ve got to get back to Iraq to fight again.” (Smith Hempstone, “Memories of the Barzanis”, The Post Star, April 6, 1984).

In a meeting with his senior advisers in November 1979, the same month Islamist students took U.S.-Americans hostage in the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Saddam Hussein expressed his belief that it was the U.S. who had orchestrated the Iranian Revolution. “They [the Americans] are involved in the events of Iran, including the removal of the shah, which is completely an American decision,” he said. (Kevin M. Woods, “The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings of a Tyrant’s Regime, 1978-2001“, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p.22).

In April 1980, members of the Iran-supported Islamic Dawa Party in Iraq attempted to assassinate Tariq Aziz in Baghdad. Then it also tried to assassinate the Iraqi Minister of Culture and Information. Baghdad responded by deporting thousands of Iraqi Shiites to Iran and rounding up several Dawa members and supporters. (“Iran-Iraq War Timeline”, Wilson Center, September 1, 1982).

Iraqi troops watching the Iranian city of Khorramshahr, over the horizon across the Shatt al-Arab, burn early in the Iran-Iraq War (Photo: Francoise De Mulder).

Iraqi troops watching the Iranian city of Khorramshahr, over the horizon across the Shatt al-Arab, burn early in the Iran-Iraq War (Photo: Francoise De Mulder).

In December 1979, journalists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak reported from the Iraqi border with Iran where they found Iraqi military personnel to be breathtakingly cocky and confident that they would prevail at ease if war broke out. “The men in those border posts still love their shahinshah,” Iraqi Col. Mahir al-Raschid told Evans and Novak. “The gendarmerie always has. They will not fight for Khomeini.” (Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Iraq’s imaginary war”, Syndicated piece, December 19, 1979).

On September 22, 1980, Iraq bombed several targets across Iran and simultaneously launched an enormous invasion of its Khuzestan province, sparking a war that raged for eight years. It was the longest conventional war of the 20th century and left at least a million dead on both sides. Iran and Iraq went from the promise of a major thaw in the late 1970s to, in a shockingly short time, one of the bloodiest modern conflicts the Middle East has ever seen in the 1980s.

Posted in English, History, International, Iran, Iraq, Paul Iddon, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese Tanks – Illustration: Sixty Years of Tank Design

by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

According to the Military Balance 2019, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may possess the largest active-duty tank fleet on the planet, with about 5,800 tanks in operational service. However, Chinese tanks remain relatively little known in the Western world. Therefore, in a two-part series, we first briefly surveyed the operational history of mainland Chinese tank forces, and the development of indigenous Chinese tanks through 1990. In a second part, we looked at the organization and role of contemporary PLA tank units and reviewed Chinese tanks currently in PLA Ground Force, Navy and Air Force service, as well as models exported abroad. Finally, Louis Martin-Vézian provided offiziere.ch with a comprehensive illustration of the last sixty years of Chinese tank design.

• • •

PLA tank evolution.

Click on the illustration to enlarge it.

• • •

Remark: The illustration is meant to depict the influence of foreign designs, not only direct re-engineering. Also, due to space limitations, we mostly (with a few exceptions) did not focus on sub-variants of Chinese tanks. However, the distinction between a sub-variant and a new tank is at times undeniably arbitrary (as demonstrated by Type 79, formerly known as the Type 69-III).

Posted in Armed Forces, China, English, History, International, Louis Martin-Vézian, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine’s Civil War is Causing Considerable Shifts in the U.S. Army

by Darien Cavanaugh. He is writing on politics, foreign policy, global conflict, and weapons platforms has been published at War is Boring, offiziere.ch, The National Interest, Real Clear Defense, Yahoo! News, The Week, Global Comment, and the Center for Securities Studies. To see more of his work, visit his website.

U.S. Army Col. Richard A. Wholey Jr, commander of the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, uncases the colors of the 678th during a ceremony at the U.S. Army garrison Ansbach on March 27, 2018.

U.S. Army Col. Richard A. Wholey Jr, commander of the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, uncases the colors of the 678th during a ceremony at the U.S. Army garrison Ansbach on March 27, 2018.

In March of 2018, soldiers of the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (678th ADA) officially uncased their colors in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach’s Von Steuben Community Center in Ansbach, Germany. An Army press release stated “The ceremony symbolized the start of the 678th ADA’s forward deployment in Europe in support of U.S. Army Europe’s Operation Atlantic Resolve and NATO regionally aligned partner forces.”

U.S. Army Col. Richard A. Wholey Jr., commander of the 678th ADA, was quoted as saying that the 678th ADA was the first Air Defense Artillery Brigade to uncase its colors in Europe “since the Cold War drawdown”. An article in The Military Times added that the 678th ADA would “provide pivotal short-range air defense (SHORAD) coordination for U.S. forces in Europe, a capability found lacking when compared to the Russian military’s assets on display in the Ukraine conflict.”

That same month, the Army resumed its Roving Sands missile-defense maneuvers, a two-week training exercise involving 1,800 soldiers from Fort Bliss at the White Sands Missile Range outside of El Paso, Texas. The soldiers trained with Avenger, Patriot, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems capable of shooting down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Roving Sands was a regular training event from 1989 through the early 2000s but it was discontinued in 2005. While the Army did not disclose its specific reasons for resuming the exercise, an article in The Army Times underscored that “Congressional testimony in recent years has signaled missile overmatch concerns with Russia in Europe, the growing ballistic missile threat of North Korea’s military, and missile defenses being built in Iran”.

Roving Sands is a large scale Army air and missile defense exercise that allows soldiers to practice their skills at operational ranges that aren't possible at the combat training centers. This is the first such exercise since 2005.

Roving Sands is a large scale Army air and missile defense exercise that allows soldiers to practice their skills at operational ranges that aren’t possible at the combat training centers. This is the first such exercise since 2005.

It turns out that the reactivation of the 678th ADA and the resumption of Roving Sands were relatively small components of the U.S. Army’s broader efforts to adjust to new threats it saw presented by Russia in Ukraine. In early July, the Army announced that it has been conducting new pilot Stinger missile course for soldiers in maneuvers units since 2017 and plans to form 10 new SHORAD battalions that will feature the new Maneuver SHORAD (M-SHORAD) on the Stryker platform. The M-SHORADs will boast two hellfire missiles, a 30mm chain gun, a 7.62 machine gun, and four Stinger missiles. The first prototypes were scheduled to roll off the assembly line in late July.

 
Commenting on these new SHORAD programs, Col. Mark A. Holler, commandant of the Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, stated that the conflict in Ukraine had been a “wake-up call” for the Army in general and specifically for its air-defense forces. A subsequent Army Times article also noted that the changes were intended “to counter what’s being seen in Ukraine and elsewhere”.

Ukraine’s civil war, which is often referred to as the War in Donbass, pits pro-Russian separatist rebels based in the eastern Donbass region of the country against the national government and allied militias. It has been a source of frustration for NATO since hostilities broke out in April of 2014. The conflict stems from the Euromaidan protests that erupted in November of 2013 when the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who had close ties to Moscow, refused to finalize an association agreement with European Union (EU). Yanukovych signaled that Ukraine might join the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan instead, in part because Russia was Ukraine’s largest trade partner at the time.

Pro-EU protesters gather in Kiev, Ukraine, on 27 November 2013.

Pro-EU protesters gather in Kiev, Ukraine, on 27 November 2013.

Pro-EU protests began occurring in cities across the northern and western regions of Ukraine, and sometimes escalated into deadly clashes between police and protestors. The protests eventually culminated in the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014, which saw Yanukovych fleeing to Russia in February and being replaced by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a leader of the Batkivshchyna (All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland”) political party. As power was transitioning in Ukraine, Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, home of the strategic important Sevastopol Naval Base, and then came to the aid of pro-Moscow separatists who had been organizing in Donbass, where a large portion of the population is ethnically Russian. In a matter of weeks, the rebels gained control of several cities in Donbass

When Ukrainian forces began a major push to retake rebel-held towns and cities in the summer of 2014, Russia sent troops, artillery, and armor across the border into Ukraine to support the rebels. It also provided the rebels with SHORAD missile systems, including man-portable Igla surface-to-air missiles and medium-range vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft missiles such as the Buk. In addition, Russia positioned several surface-to-air missile batteries and radar systems along its border with Ukraine.

The SHORAD capabilities of the rebels caught the Ukrainian military off guard. It is difficult to provide an exact count because of conflicting reports from the Ukrainian government and the rebels, but it is clear that approximately 20 Ukrainian military aircraft were shot down in the War in Donbass during the spring and summer of 2014. Ukrainian officials claimed that one of the planes was downed by a Russian surface-to-air missile, and that another was shot down by a Russian MiG-29 fighter with an air-to-air missile it reportedly fired from inside Russian air space. However, most of the aircraft were taken down by rebels using the Iglas, Buks, and other anti-aircraft weapons provided by Russia.

People pose on the wreckage of a Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane after it was shot down by a missile in July 2014.

People pose on the wreckage of a Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane after it was shot down by a missile in July 2014.

The Ukrainian aircraft that were shot down included multiple Su-25 close-air support jets, MiG-29 fighter jets, Mi-24 attack helicopters, and Mi-8/17 transport helicopters, as well as one Su-24 attack jet, one An-26 transport plane, one An-30 surveillance plane, and one Il-76 strategic airlifter. The downing of the Il-76 inflicted the highest number of single-event casualties for the Ukrainian Air Force to date in the civil war, with 40 soldiers and nine crew members dying in the attack. In an October 2018 report from The National Interest on the state of Ukraine’s air force, Sebastian Roblin noted that Kiev had withdrawn all of its military aircraft from combat missions in the civil war by the end of August of 2014 in order “to avoid unsustainable losses”. Roblin added, “They have not shown up over the frontlines since”.

The rebels’ Russian-supplied anti-aircraft weapons arguably would not have been as effective against more advanced aircraft from the U.S. or other NATO countries, but the fact that Russia was able to so easily neutralize Ukraine’s air force by proxy nevertheless came as a surprise to Western intelligence. It suggested that NATO had underestimated the threat Russia could pose to its member states, especially those in Eastern Europe, or countries that are potential members. The U.S. Army’s new SHORAD programs are, at least in part, a response to that miscalculation.

Each U.S. Army division used to host a SHORAD battalion, but as the Pentagon’s attention shifted from near-peer adversaries like Russia and China to focus on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency concerns after the September 11 attacks, the SHORAD battalions were phased out. By 2017, no U.S. Army division had a SHORAD battalion, according to an Army press release. The plan to add 10 new SHORAD battalions to the Army’s ranks is part of the Pentagon’s broader shift back to preparing for larger conflicts against near-peer adversaries.

Posted in Armed Forces, Darien Cavanaugh, English, International, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Schwierige G36-Nachfolge – Unrealistische Anforderungen an das künftige Sturmgewehr der Deutschen Bundeswehr?

This article is also available in English.

von Björn Müller (Facebook / Twitter). Er ist Journalist in Berlin mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheits- und Geopolitik. Dieser Artikel basiert auf dem Manuskript der NDR-Sendung “Streitkräfte und Strategien” vom 15.06.2019.

Seit Ende der 1990er Jahre ist das Sturmgewehr G36 von Heckler & Koch das Standardgewehr der Deutschen Bundeswehr. Die Soldaten haben Vertrauen in diese Waffe. Aus ihrer Sicht hat sich das Gewehr bewährt, auch bei Auslandseinsätzen etwa in Afghanistan. Vor mehr als vier Jahren sorgte das G36 jedoch für Negativ-Schlagzeilen. Versuche hatten gezeigt, dass die Waffe bei Hitzeentwicklung deutlich an Treffgenauigkeit verliert. Unter Druck schlechter Berichterstattungen in den Medien und ohne die Untersuchungsberichte weiterer Arbeitsgruppen und Kommissionen abzuwarten, kündigte die damalige Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen die Ausmusterung des Gewehrs an. Schliesslich zeigte sich, dass die Bundeswehr-Soldaten im Gefecht keine Probleme mit dem Gewehr hatten und dadurch auch nicht gefährdet wurden. Trotzdem: Die Truppe soll ein neues Sturmgewehr bekommen. Der bürokratische Prozess für das Nachfolgemodell ist bereits angelaufen. Es zeichnet sich allerdings schon jetzt ab, dass die Soldaten möglicherweise auf die neue Waffe länger warten müssen als vorgesehen. Denn an der Ausschreibung gibt es Kritik.

Ein Bundeswehrsoldat der Schnellen Eingreiftruppe in Masar-i-Scharif, Afghanistan, ausgerüstet mit einem G36.

Ein Bundeswehrsoldat der Schnellen Eingreiftruppe in Masar-i-Scharif, Afghanistan, ausgerüstet mit einem G36.

Seit Ende April 2017 läuft das Ausschreibungsverfahren für ein neues Standardgewehr der Deutschen Bundeswehr. Das jetzige Modell G36 soll zügig ersetzt werden wegen vermeintlicher technischer Schwächen, wie die Treffungenauigkeit bei höheren Temperaturen.

Die Zweifel an der Zuverlässigkeit der Waffe waren vor vier Jahren zum sogenannten “G36 Skandal” eskaliert. Das Verteidigungsministerium und der G36-Hersteller Heckler & Koch lieferten sich einen erbitterten Kleinkrieg. Es ging um die Frage, ob das Unternehmen mit dem G36 eine Waffe geliefert hatte, die nicht den Anforderungen der Truppe entsprach. Das Ministerium verklagte Heckler & Koch sogar auf Schadenersatz; verlor jedoch den Gerichtsprozess (siehe auch Robert Birnbaum, “Zuverlässig statt ungenau“, Tagesspiegel, 14.10.2015). Trotzdem galt das G36 als nicht mehr zeitgemäße Waffe, die für alle Einsatzszenarien der Bundeswehr vom Baltikum, über Afrika bis Afghanistan geeignet war.

Nun sollen für 245 Millionen Euro 120’000 Sturmgewehre beschafft werden. Doch auch um die G36-Nachfolge bahnt sich ein Konflikt an. Im Oktober 2018 wurde publik, dass alle eingereichten Sturmgewehre bei der Erprobung durch die Bundeswehr durchgefallen sind. Das Unternehmen Heckler & Koch, das sich ebenfalls um den Auftrag beworben hat, kritisierte in einem im Mai bekanntgeworden Schreiben an das Verteidigungsministerium massiv die in der Ausschreibung genannten Kriterien. Die völlig unrealistischen Anforderungen an das kommende Sturmgewehr würden zur Beschaffung einer Waffe führen, die den Bedürfnissen der Truppe nicht gerecht werde. Eine zentrale Rolle spielt das geforderte maximale Gewicht von 3,6 kg. Dazu Daniel Soudry, Fachanwalt für Vergaberecht im Verteidigungsbereich:

Und hier setzt der Vorwurf von Heckler & Koch an. Dass man sagt, entweder werden alle Anforderungen erfüllt und das Gewicht überschritten, oder das Gewicht wird eingehalten und die Anforderungen an die Nutzung der Waffen werden nicht erfüllt. Also mit anderen Worten eine Art ‘Quadratur des Kreises’. Und das wäre dann so ein klassischer Fall, wenn das zutrifft, indem dann das Vergaberecht sagt, hier wird etwas gefordert, was von Bietern eigentlich nicht erfüllbar ist. Und so was lässt sich dann durchaus vergaberechtlich angreifen.

Die Ausschreibung macht keine Vorgaben für das Kaliber des neuen Sturmgewehrs. Zulässig sind daher neben dem gebräuchlichen NATO-Standard-Kaliber 5,56 mm auch das größere Kaliber 7,62 mm. Glaubt man Heckler & Koch wäre dieses schwere Kaliber die einzig vernünftige Wahl für die kommende Waffe. Nur mit dem Kaliber 7,62 mm ließen sich die Bundeswehr-Anforderungen mit Blick auf die Durchschlagskraft und Präzision erfüllen. Das Problem ist allerdings, dass die neue Waffe nicht mehr als 3,6 Kilogramm wiegen darf. Diese Gewichtsvorgabe lässt sich nach Ansicht der Waffenherstellers offenbar nur mit dem kleineren Kaliber 5,56 mm erfüllen. Laut Heckler & Koch ist der Brief an das Verteidigungsministerium kein Rüge-Schreiben. Ein solches würde eine Klage vorbereiten. Warum aber dann die Intervention?

Mit Blick auf die Ausschreibung zur Nachfolge des Gewehrs G36 sind wir unserer Verpflichtung als Fachfirma nachgekommen, unsere Kunden kompetent und umfassend bei der Auswahl des neu zu beschaffenden Sturmgewehrs zu beraten. Ziel dieser explizit technischen Information ist es, dass für die Soldatinnen und Soldaten eine überlegene Standardwaffe zur erfolgreichen Durchführung ihres Auftrages für alle realistischen Einsatzszenarien beschafft werden kann. — Florian Bokermann, Director Public Affairs & Government Relations des Rüstungsunternehmens Heckler & Koch.

Der Waffenersteller also klüger als die Experten der Bundeswehr? Nicht unbedingt. Heckler & Koch zielt mit dem Schreiben offenbar darauf ab, das Verteidigungsministerium zu bewegen, die Ausschreibung den Unternehmens-Vorstellungen anzupassen. Offensichtlich erfüllen die beiden Modelle, mit denen sich Heckler & Koch um den Großauftrag beworben hat – die Modelle HK433 und HK416 – nicht den von der Bundeswehr aufgestellten Anforderungskatalog. Beide Waffen haben das Kaliber 5,56 mm. Heckler & Koch fordert offenbar, die Gewichtsvorgabe von 3,6 kg für das neue Sturmgewehr zu lockern. Denn dann könnte das Unternehmen mit seinem Modell HK417 antreten. Diese Waffe hat das Kaliber 7,62 mm und ist die schwere Version des HK 416, mit der sich Heckler & Koch an der Ausschreibung beteiligt hat, aber durchgefallen ist.

Klar ist: Unternehmen haben naturgemäß ein Interesse daran, ein Produkt zu verkaufen, das sie bereits entwickelt haben und wofür ihre Produktion bereits ausgelegt ist. Für Nachbesserungen und Neuentwicklungen müsste Heckler & Koch mit viel Geld in Vorleistung gehen, ohne sicher sein zu können, den Auftrag am Ende zu bekommen. Zumal die Firma laut Geschäftsbericht eine hohe Schuldenlast drückt (H&K AG, “Quarterly Report: Results for the Year Ended December 31, 2018“).

HK416 A5 - 11" – Kal. 5,56 MM X 45 NATO

HK416 A5 – 11″ – Kal. 5,56 MM X 45 NATO

Eine Änderung der Ausschreibung ist allerdings nicht in Sicht. Das zuständige Beschaffungsamt der Bundeswehr hält stattdessen eine Nachbesserung der eingereichten Sturmgewehre für machbar und erwartet sie auch. Ein Sprecher des Beschaffungsamtes der Bundeswehr meinte dazu: “Die Forderungen zum Nachfolger des G36 sind anspruchsvoll, aber erfüllbar. Wir sind zuversichtlich, dass der Wettbewerb eine geeignete Waffe hervorbringen wird.” Der Fachjournalist und Sachverständige für Handfeuerwaffen, Lars Winkelsdorf, sieht das allerdings anders. Er schlägt in dieselbe Kerbe wie Heckler & Koch:

Also mir liegen zahlreiche Unterlagen vor; und tatsächlich ist es so, dass die Bundeswehr hier eine ‘Eier-legende-Vollmilch-gebende-Vollblut-Rindsau’ verlangt. Wir haben einerseits Forderungen nach Wirkung, nach weitreichender Präzision. Andererseits soll die Waffe möglichst leicht sein. Und hier sind zahlreiche physikalische Faktoren, die sich bereits gegenseitig ausschließen.

Bei einer ersten Testphase waren dann auch tatsächlich alle eingereichten Waffen für den G36-Nachfolger durchgefallen, auch das HK416 von Heckler & Koch. Irritierend ist jedoch: Frankreichs Armee beschafft gerade das bei der Bundeswehr gescheiterte HK416 als neues Standardgewehr. Einsatzorte und Szenarien von Deutschen und Franzosen gleichen sich seit geraumer Zeit immer mehr an – beide stehen von Afghanistan über Afrika bis ins Baltikum gemeinsam in Einsätzen. Zudem ist Frankreichs Konzept einer Interventionsarmee deutlich mehr auf Kampfeinsätze ausgerichtet, als das Konzept der Bundeswehr. Da wirkt es verwunderlich, dass eine Waffe, die den Franzosen genügt, bei der Bundeswehr sang und klanglos durchfällt. Auf Nachfrage heißt es dazu aus dem Beschaffungsamt der Bundeswehr nur: “Die Anforderungen der französischen Streitkräfte an ihr neues Sturmgewehr unterscheiden sich signifikant von denen der Bundeswehr”.

Ein durch Frankreich ausgewähltes Produkt könnte auch im deutschen Vergabeverfahren relevant werden. Bei dieser Auswahl wären dann die Informationen zu den französischen Spezifikationen und Ergebnissen der Produkterprobungen sehr hilfreich. — Zitat aus dem Bundesministerium der Verteidigung im Jahre 2015.

Inzwischen läuft eine zweite Testreihe der Kandidaten zum G36-Nachfolger, die im Spätsommer abgeschlossen sein soll. Hierzu sollten die bietenden Unternehmen verbesserte Modelle einreichen. Heckler & Koch hat das offenbar nicht getan, sondern tritt anscheinend mit seinen bisherigen Modellen an und setzt auf eine Änderung der Sturmgewehr-Kriterien. Der andere, öffentlich bekannte, Mitbewerber – das Unternehmen Haenel – wollte sich nicht dazu äußern (Haenel hat jedoch gegenüber dem polnischstämmigen Journalisten Remigiusz Wilk an der EnforceTac verraten, dass sie der Bundeswehr die zweite Generation des MK 556 Sturmgewehrs offeriert hätten).

Für Winkelsdorf sind die Vorgaben der Bundeswehr-Ausschreibung nicht nur technisch unerfüllbar, der Waffenexperte hält zugleich die ganze Konzeption des G36-Nachfolgers für völlig misslungen:

Man sucht ein Gewehr als Werkzeug für alle infanteristischen Aufgaben in der Bundeswehr. Und hier wäre es tatsächlich sinnvoller, wenn die Bundeswehr ihren Soldaten eine gemeinsame Plattform zur Verfügung stellen würde. Hier hätte auf Ebene des Ministeriums selbst zunächst ein klarer Katalog entwickelt werden müssen, welche Waffensysteme überhaupt gebraucht werden für zukünftige Einsätze und vor allem für welche Truppenteile.

Das hieße, statt möglichst viele Wünsche aus der Truppe an das kommende Sturmgewehr in ein Modell zu pressen, sollte die Bundeswehr aus den jeweiligen Einzelinteressen eine Gewehr-Plattform definieren. Daraus ließen sich dann sinnvolle Modell-Varianten für die jeweiligen Endnutzer, wie Fallschirmjäger oder Soldaten des Seebataillons entwickeln und beschaffen. Nochmals Winkelsdorf:

Beispiel wäre die amerikanische Waffenfamilie des M16, wo es zahlreiche verschiedene Versionen gibt. Von der Kurzvariante für Spezialkräfte bis hin zu Präzisionsgewehren. Aber auch auf russischer Seite sehen wir, dass von der Kalaschnikow zahlreiche Spezialversionen für Panzerbesatzungen, für Infanteristen und sogar als leichtes Maschinengewehr gefertigt werden.

Doch die Bundeswehr will weiterhin ein neues extrem leistungsfähiges Standardgewehr für alle Soldaten beschaffen. Der Eindruck bleibt, wie bei vielen Rüstungsprojekten der Bundeswehr, wird einmal mehr eine Goldrandlösung angestrebt. Diese stünde im krassen Widerspruch zum Anspruch des Wehrressorts bei der Beschaffung pragmatischer vorzugehen, um so den Zulauf von Waffensystemen zu erleichtern. Ob sich die Anforderungen der Bundeswehr für das neue Sturmgewehr erfüllen lassen, muss sich erst noch zeigen. Klar ist offenbar schon jetzt: Die Beschaffung des G36-Nachfolgers wird sich in die Länge ziehen.

Update vom 12.10.2019
Die Beschaffungsentscheidung zum neuen System Sturmgewehr Bundeswehr wird nach derzeitigem Zeitplan im 2. Quartal 2020 erwartet — das entspricht einer Verzögerung von einem Jahr. Über die Ergebnisse der zweite Testphase herrscht derzeit Stillschweigen. Auch wen das Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr nicht erklärt hat, ob eines der nachgereichten Sturmgewehre die anspruchsvollen Tests erfolgreich bestanden hat, lässt die Tatsache über die erwartete Beschaffungsentscheidung den Rückschluss zu, dass mindestens eine der Waffen alle geforderten Kriterien erfüllt hat. (Quelle: Jean-Phillipp Weisswang und Waldemar Geiger, “System Sturmgewehr Bundeswehr: Entscheidung 2020 erwartet“, ES&T – Europäische Sicherheit & Technik, 12.10.2019).

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Chinese Tanks – Part 2: Today’s Types, Training and Doctrine

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.

According to the Military Balance 2019, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may possess the largest active-duty tank fleet on the planet, with about 5,800 tanks in operational service. However, Chinese tanks remain relatively little known in the Western world. Therefore, in a two-part series, we first briefly surveyed the operational history of mainland Chinese tank forces, and the development of indigenous Chinese tanks through 1990. In this second part, we look at the organization and role of contemporary PLA tank units and review Chinese tanks currently in PLA Ground Force, Navy and Air Force service, as well as models exported abroad. Finally, Louis Martin-Vézian provided offiziere.ch with a comprehensive illustration of the last sixty years of Chinese tank design.

Type 99A tank at Theme Exhibition of the 90th Anniversary of Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Type 99A tank at Theme Exhibition of the 90th Anniversary of Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

 
Training & Doctrine
It is usually a mistake to over-fixate on technical capabilities when less easily quantified qualities of doctrine, training, and leadership have a more decisive impact on an armed force’s combat effectiveness. In these regards, the PLA has much ground to make up: it fought its last war in 1979, an episode which revealed major shortcomings in its military capabilities. For all their considerable mass, PLA Ground Forces lacked the speed, flexibility, and proficiency in combined-arms and inter-service operations.

In 1991, Saddam Hussein’s massive mechanized army, which included about 1,500 Chinese Type 59 and Type 69 tanks, was dealt a crushing defeat in the Gulf War by modern Western militaries. Appreciating how technologically and doctrinally outdated its forces were, the PLA began reevaluating its People’s War doctrine, which advocated drawing foreign invaders in for guerilla warfare and battles of attrition.

In some respects, PLA Ground Force modernization has focused equally on mechanizing PLA infantry units on foot with a mixture of tracked and wheeled Armoured personnel carriers, and more heavily armed Infantry Fighting Vehicles. At the same time, resources shifted away from the PLA Ground Forces to the PLA Navy and Air Force as U.S. sea and air power, not Soviet land power, became perceived as China’s most significant military threat.

Another massive round of reorganization was kicked off 2014/15 with Xi Jinping’s order to downsize military ranks by 300,000 personnel even as defense spending increased. Many ground forces formations were eliminated or reorganized in pursuit of a leaner, more capable brigade-centric force.

Historically, PLA service has been a prestigious, life-long occupation for its officers, incentivizing maintenance of a large army. Military exercises were often rigidly scripted and unrealistic, with OPFOR unit commanders encouraged to lose so as not to cause the non-OPFOR team to lose face.

Internal military documents reveal senior PLA commanders are frankly aware of these shortcomings. As described in these articles by Don Tse and Gary Li, the PLA reorganized its 195th Mechanized Infantry Brigade into an U.S.-style Brigade Combat Team to serve as an OPFOR unit in training exercises, lavished with air, artillery, electronic warfare, and nuclear/chemical weapons support.

In 33 exercises held at Zurihe, Inner Mongolia from 2014 to 2016, the OPFOR unit defeated elite Chinese armor brigades equipped with Type 96 and Type 99 tanks 32 times, typically inflicting 70% losses—most suffered before visual contact.

Rather than burying these embarrassing outcomes, the Xi Jinping government publicized them widely to promote its military reform project, even featuring one of the skirmishes in a documentary, along with an interview with the defeated unit’s sobbing political officer (see this Chinese video minutes 7-11).

PLANM personnel in a ZTD-05 amphibious assault vehicle during the training exercise in inner Mongolia.

PLANM personnel in a ZTD-05 amphibious assault vehicle during the training exercise in inner Mongolia.

 
Organization
Prior to 2017, PLA tanks were organized into 17 tank brigades and roughly 24 mechanized infantry brigades (including regular, light and amphibious types). There was also one full armor division (the 6th) and seven mechanized infantry divisions. All but one of the PLA’s eighteen Group Armies (corps) incorporated one armored brigade each and one to three mechanized brigades.

However, in a major reform later in 2017, the number of Group Armies was paired down to thirteen, and the mechanized and armored divisions disbanded. In the place of mechanized and armored brigades, PLA tanks are now spread out to 78 to 80 combined arms brigades. These are composed of combined arms battalions, as well as a supporting battalion each of artillery, air defense, reconnaissance, a combat support battalion (engineering, C2, EW), and several logistical battalions.

A combined arms battalion consists of one company of 14 tanks plus three mechanized infantry companies, each with 12 infantry fighting vehicles. Supporting assets, all self-propelled, include two HQ-17 SAM systems (similar to the Russian TOR), six 35-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, a medium battery of 120-millimeter artillery (or possibly self-propelled mortars), and a six-vehicle anti-tank battery with HJ-10 fiber-optic-wire-guided missiles.

The PLA also operates seven amphibious combined arms brigades equipped with landing ships and Type 63A tanks. Meanwhile, the PLA Navy’s Marine Corps recently expanded from two to six brigades, equipped with Type 05 amphibious fighting vehicle. Two each are deployed in Guangdong, Shandong and Fujian provinces. Finally, the PLA Air Force operates six mechanized airborne brigades equipped with ZBD-03 airborne infantry fighting vehicles.

Role of Tanks in Chinese National Security
Following the Sino-Soviet split during the Cold War, China’s armored forces primarily were oriented toward countering a potential Soviet invasion — a danger highlighted by violent clashes on the Sino-Soviet border in 1969. Modern-day Russia maintains a ground army, recent alignment between Beijing and Moscow on foreign policy appear to have diminished fear of conflict. In 2018, Russia even invited 3,000 Chinee troops to participate in its massive Vostok 2018 military exercise.

China is also involved in an escalating security competition with India along its Himalayan border, the site of a brief 1962 war in which armored units did not see action (save possibly some PLA self-propelled artillery). While mountainous terrain impedes armored operations, China has invested heavily in building up road infrastructure in adjacent Tibet and recently deployed a Type 15 light tank specifically for operations in mountainous terrain.

The PLA also maintains capabilities for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan, even if such a destructive and risky contingency is unlikely in the near term. Tanks would play an essential role in supporting any amphibious landing in Taiwan, which is defended by M-60 Patton tanks.

Other more hypothetical scenarios in which armor might play a role include potential conflicts with Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines over disputed islands or intervention in the event of the collapse of North Korea or strife on China’s southeast Asian flank.

As Beijing, and even Chinese action movies, increasingly evoke a national self-image as a global power, Chinese armor may also be deployed abroad for peace-enforcement and anti-terrorist missions, or in defense of economic interests or allied governments. This is particularly true in Africa, where China has a tremendous commercial presence and recently opened a permanent military base in Djibouti. Thus, future Chinese deployments might incorporate increased force protection measures, even if China — compared to other states — does not have to show an excessive number of fallen soldiers in UN peacekeeping missions so far (see statistics below).

Arguably, Beijing may fear internal challenges to the Communist Party of China rule more than any foreign adversary. Thus, the PLA’s huge tank fleet — and particularly its more dated types — may be valued as an emergency measure to quash mass protests such as those that occurred in Tiananmen Square in 1989, or to contain large-scale uprisings by ethnic minorities such as occurred in Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009. In the latter incident, at least one source state tanks were used passively to block streets and control rioting. Regarding the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian stated that the PLA could be deployed to Hong Kong to maintain social order at the request of the city’s government.

The Mainstay: Type 96 Main Battle Tank
The Type 96, a 47-ton main battle tank in a similar class to the Russian T-72B3, is at the heart of PLA modernization. It comes with most of the characteristics associated with Russian-style tanks: a three-man crew, explosive reactive armor (ERA) tiles, and a carousel autoloading 125-millimeter gun with a maximum rate of fire of six rounds per minute (rpm) and capability of firing Refleks-type ATGMs. The Type 96’s octagonal turret is fitted with modular composite armor for easy upgrade or repair and features side storage spaces that double as spaced armor. The later Type 96A model added an angular wedge of ERA to the turret and Shtora-style laser-jamming systems on either side to foul the guidance of certain types of anti-tank missiles. The tank’s gunner benefits from modernized fire control systems derived from the Type 99 and improved thermal imagers extending night vision from 800 meters to 2 kilometers.

The Type 96’s ZTP-98 gun is rated to penetrate 500 to 600 millimeter RHA equivalent at two kilometers. Its armor protection falls within a similar range, though reinforced in later models with FY-4 ERA (equivalent to Russian Kontakt-5) that ostensibly may improve equivalent armor thickness by as much as 60%.

Overall, Type 96 tanks remain at a disadvantage head-to-head versus heavier 60- to 70-ton Western tanks, but it can perform most other battlefield tasks (including engaging T-72/T-90 type tanks) satisfactorily and is comparatively inexpensive to manufacture. However, when trotted out for the competition in Russia’s 2014 tank biathlon, the Type 96A’s proved slower to accelerate and overall deficient in power compared to the Russian T-90. This is because increases in protection, and therefore weight, had not been matched by increasing the power of its 780 horsepower V12 engine.

The latest Type 96B model debuted in 2016 with improved thermal imagers, a more powerful 1,130 horsepower diesel engine of apparently Ukrainian origin (boosting speed from 35 to 40 miles per hour / 55 to 65 km/h), and improved suspension and ventilation. The new model won a gold medal at the 2016 biathlon, completing a course 2 minutes and 11 seconds faster than competing Russian T-72B3s (see video below).

However, in the following year’s events Type 96B tanks broke down, in 2017 due to lost track roller and in 2018 due to an overheated engine (they still scored second place).

The PLA operates 2,500 Type 96s of various models and intends for it to replace all of its older tanks eventually. Compared to the more formidable Type 99, the lighter Type 96 may be more practical for operations on difficult terrain and less developed infrastructure in sub-tropical southern China and mountainous Tibet, as well as for deployment in the second wave of an amphibious landing.

The Thoroughbred: Type 99 Main Battle Tank
The Type 99 represents China’s effort to build a tank with defensive and offensive capabilities comparable to top Western tanks like the M1 Abrams or Leopard 2. As such, it is arguably more capable — and more expensive at $2.5 million each — than strictly necessary for Beijing’s ground forces. It is the prize horse of the PLA’s stable, while the Type 96 serves as the workhorse.

A prototype model dubbed the Type 98 (40 built) first showed up in the 1998 May Day parade — itself an evolution of the Type 90-II tank, which was inspired by the Russian T-72 and T-80.

Today, the PLA has roughly 850 Type 99s in service, 250 which are newer and heavier 64-ton Type 99A or 99A2 models with redesigned turrets and modernized systems. The Type 99 tank is reserved for elite Chinese tank units, particularly in northern China and around Beijing, where the flatter terrain and improved infrastructure pose fewer problems for its heavier weight.

Like the Leopard 2, the Type 99 sports a 1,500 horsepower diesel engine, and can attain brisk speeds of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), or 37 miles per hour (about 60 km/h) off-road. Early Type 99s carry a similar auto-loading 125-millimeter gun to the Type 96, though with a faster maximum rate of fire (8 rpm). However, later 99A2 variant sport a longer smoothbore cannon, implying higher muzzle velocity and penetration. The A model also introduced an additional commander’s sight to supplement the gunner’s with hunter-killer capability and an improved weather sensor. In addition to GPS and battlefield datalinks, Type 99 also has a stealthy laser-based communication system.

The Type 99’s composite armor is thought to be of comparable effectiveness to that on an M1 Abrams (800 millimeter RHA equivalent or higher) and is boosted by explosive reactive armor tiles. The 99A model sports second-generation Relikt-style ERA employing radar to time detonation of the tiles versus incoming projectiles, theoretically enabling it to defeat tandem shaped-charge missiles and degrade penetration of kinetic projectile. Additional defensive systems on the Type 99 include:

  • A Laser Warning Receiver to warn the crew if a laser targeting system is painting it.
  • JD-03 Infrared Jammers that may disrupt semi-automatic and heat-seeking missile guidance systems.
  • A laser dazzler which could be used to damage opposing tank optics and potentially inflict permanent blindness on enemy crews. As the Chinese military used laser dazzlers in 2018 to harass U.S. military aircraft operating around Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, there is a reason to believe there may be little hesitation to use tank-mounted dazzlers for blinding attacks.

Reportedly China has tested a 140-millimeter gun on Type 99, bringing to mind similar large-caliber guns tested on the Leclerc, CATTB Abrams, and Leopard 2. However, such weapons remain over-kill, particularly given the limited scope of land warfare threats to China.

Chinese Type 15 light tank in live demonstration at China AirShow, November 2018.

Chinese Type 15 light tank in live demonstration at China AirShow, November 2018.

The Light Brigade: China’s New Type 15 Mountain Tank, and other Amphibious and Airborne Tanks
Unlike Western militaries, the PLA has long clung to the concept of “light tanks” due to concerns that marshy rice paddies in southern China would not support the weight of a full main battle tank. This initially led China to develop the Type 62 light tank — a Type 59 tank downgraded with thinner armor (maximum 50 millimeters) and a weaker rifled 85-millimeter gun to reduce weight to just 23 tons.

Type 62 tanks were retired from PLA service in 2017, but not so China’s Type 63 amphibious tanks, which are derived from Soviet PT-76 tanks using a cast-steel turret and up-gunned with 85-millimeter guns. The modernized 20-ton Type 63A model is upgraded further with a low-recoil rifled 105-millimeter gun, GPS, a more powerful 581 horsepower diesel engine, a thermal imager, and a fire control system allowing it to fire laser-guided missiles while swimming. The Type 63A’s improved water jets can propel it to 17 miles per hour (about 27 km/h).

The PLAN Navy Marine Corps also operates more modern ZTD-05 amphibious tanks, derived from the ZBD-05 amphibious fighting vehicle. The ZTD-5 mounts a stabilized rifled 105-millimeter gun which can also fire laser-guided anti-tank missiles while swimming, as well as a coaxial machine-gun and turret-mounted 12.7-millimeter anti-aircraft machine-gun. The aluminum tank weighs 26.5 tons and can attain a maximum speed of 23 miles per hour (37 km/h). Both vehicles can swim long distances, and are primarily intended for potential use in an amphibious invasion of Taiwan.

Unusually, China’s airborne (paratrooper) forces fall under PLA Air Force rather than PLA Ground Force control. PLA paratroopers adhere a mechanized airborne rather than a light infantry organization, with paratroopers dropped alongside ZBD-03 airborne fighting vehicles (see video below), inspired by the Russian BMD-3.

Three of the thinly armored vehicles can be parachute dropped from a single Il-76 or Y-20 transport plane. The vehicle’s one-man turret mounts a stabilized 30-millimeter autocannon, an HJ-73 or HJ-8 anti-tank missile launcher and a coaxial machine gun. Up to five infantrymen can be carried in the hull. The agile vehicles can sprint up to 42 miles per hour (about 68 km/h) and are also amphibious.

Type 88A tanks during the opening of the International Army Games at the Korla training ground in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in 2018.

Type 88A tanks during the opening of the International Army Games at the Korla training ground in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in 2018.

Second Generation Tanks: Type 79 and 88
As detailed in part one, the PLA developed numerous tanks during the 1980s. Three models, the Type 69, 79 and 88, were produced in modest numbers for domestic service, but the PLA was never fully satisfied with their capabilities. Around 500 of the latter two models remain operational in the Beijing military region, mainly in training and reserve capacities.

While the 100-millimeter gun armed Type 69 tank was retired in 2017, 200 of the improved Type 79 variant introduced in 1984 linger on. These are fitted with rifled 105-millimeter Type 83 guns, infrared sights, Marconi fire-control systems, and NBC-detection systems, and have also had ERA added.

The nearly 40-ton Type 88 (produced 1988—1995) incorporated the same Western systems onto a new hull design with five roadwheels (debuted in the Type 80 prototype model) and featured a German-built 730-horsepower diesel engine, increasing speed to 35 miles per hour (about 56 km/h). The later 88A and 88B subvariant introduced a longer-barreled Type 83A gun, a faster (13 rpm) loading mechanism, explosive-reactive armor tiles, and new targeting sensors.

Oldie but Goody: Type 59 First Generation Tanks
In 1956, the Soviet Union transferred the schematics for its now ubiquitous T-54A tank to China, which sported a potent 100-millimeter gun and up to 203 millimeters of frontal turret armor. The Chinese entered their version into mass production two years later, minus the T-54’s gun stabilization and infrared searchlight, and built 10,000 Type 59s before production ended in 1985.

A capable design when it was introduced, Type 59 tanks are outclassed by modern tanks and anti-tank weapons; however, it remains adequate for infantry support purposes in less contested environments. China retains more than 1’900 Type 59s in active units and thousands more in reserve. Of the Type 59s in 2015 serving in 69 battalions, around 1,300 were only lightly upgraded with modernized fire control systems. Another 500 are Type 59-IIs mounting more capable rifled 105-millimeter Type 83 guns (derived from UK’s L7).

Finally, there about 650 Type 59D models which entered service in 1995, boasting new FY-series ERA tiles, relatively modern fully-stabilized fire control systems, thermal sights, and anti-tank missile launch capability based on the Russian AT-10 Stabber (range 3.2 miles / about 5 km). Some D variants have higher-velocity Type 83A cannons.

That the PLA maintains so many Type 59s in service shows an enduring commitment to maintaining “mass” in its armored forces, even as it slowly incorporates more modern designs.

Modern Chinese Export Tanks
During the Cold War, China exported thousands of Type 59, 63, 69, and 79 tanks across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Type 59s saw extensive action in the Vietnam War (a Type 59 tank stormed the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon), Indo-Pakistani Wars, and the Iran-Iraq and Gulf Wars. Type 59s and 69s also participated in counter-insurgency conflicts in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.

Modern Chinese tank exports are on a much more modest scale. Since the 1980s, China began exporting newer tanks abroad under the VT-designation (see table below), making it little more obscure that a VT-1, for example, is effectively a Type 90-II tank.

Posted in Armed Forces, China, English, International, Sébastien Roblin, Technology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Russlands Luftverteidigung & Flugabwehrsysteme in Syrien: Mehr Schein als Sein?

von Roger Näbig (Twitter / LinkedIn). Er arbeitet als Rechtsanwalt und freier Journalist in Berlin mit dem Fokus auf globalen Konflikten, Verteidigung, Sicherheit, Militärpolitik, Rüstungstechnik & Kriegsvölkerrecht. Darüber hinaus hält er Vorträge zu verteidigungspolitischen Themen. For an English version see here.

Russland hat weder die militärischen Mittel noch die politische Absicht, in Syrien eine für Israel, die USA und ihre Verbündeten unüberwindliche Flugverbotszone zu errichten. Allerdings sind die im Syrien-Konflikt gewonnenen Erkenntnisse über die russische Luftverteidigung und die eingesetzten Flugabwehrsysteme nicht auf Russlands “A2AD”-Zonen in Europa direkt übertragbar.

Panzir-S1 auf dem Militärflugplatz Hmeimim (Syrien).

Panzir-S1 auf dem Militärflugplatz Hmeimim (Syrien).

Russland rüstet Syrien schon seit Sowjetzeiten exklusiv mit seinen Flugabwehrsystemen aus und schult deren Soldaten in ihrer Bedienung nach russischer Doktrin. Syriens Luftverteidigung besteht hauptsächlich aus modernisierten, aber dennoch veralteten S-200VE (NATO Code: SA-5 Gammon – Langstrecke) sowie moderneren 9K40 Buk-M2 (SA-17 Grizzly – Mittelstrecke), die durch Panzir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound – Nahbereich) ergänzt wurden. Russland soll zudem die syrische Luftverteidigung komplett neu aufgebaut und mit ihren Flugabwehr- und Radaranlagen auf den Militärbasen in Hmeimim (Luftwaffe) und in Tartus (Marine) verknüpft haben. Die beiden russischen Stützpunkte an der syrischen Mittelmeerküste selbst werden nach offiziellen Verlautbarungen durch drei Luftverteidigungsschichten geschützt, wobei teilweise auch syrische Systeme mit eingebunden sind: Den äußeren Ring bilden S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler), S-300V4 (SA-23 Gladiator) und vermutlich syrische S-200VE, den mittleren seegestützte S-300FM (SA-N-20) sowie Buk-M2E, den inneren schließlich Osa-AKM (SA-8 Gecko), S-125 Petschora-2M (SA-3 Goa) nebst Tor-M1 (SA-15 Gauntlet) und Panzir-S2 für die unmittelbare Nahbereichsverteidigung (Mikhail Khodaryonok, “Three Layers of Russian Air Defense at Hmeymim Air Base in Syria“, TASS, 12.02.2016).

Trotz der Verknüpfung beider Luftverteidigungssysteme und intensiver Ausbildung syrischer Soldaten musste die syrische Flugabwehr mit ihren russischen Systemen seit 2014 einige Niederlagen hinnehmen. Israel hat in den letzten Jahren hauptsächlich mit Kampfflugzeugen der 4. Generation (F-15, F-16) mehr als 250 Luftangriffe auf Ziele in Syrien geflogen, bei denen nur eine eigene Maschine verloren ging.

Die USA führten 2017 Luftangriffe gegen einen syrischen Militärflugplatz sowie ein Jahr später zusammen mit Großbritannien und Frankreich gegen drei mutmaßliche Produktionsstätten für chemische Waffen aus (siehe dazu “Chemical Weapons in Syria: Red Lines or Proving Grounds“, offiziere.ch, 04.08.2018). Beim ersten Angriff im April 2017 wurden 59 Tomahawk Marschflugkörper, abgefeuert von den beiden US-Zerstörern USS Porter und USS Ross, gegen den Militärflugplatz asch-Schaʿirat (süd-östlich von Homs) in Westsyrien eingesetzt, von denen 58 Tomahawks ihr Ziel getroffen haben (“ISI First to Analyze Shayrat Airfield Missile Attack“, ImageSat International, 05.11.2017). Nachdem Russland immer wieder auf seine überragende Luftverteidigung in Syrien hingewiesen hatte und unter Berücksichtigung der Tatsache, dass Russland von den USA kurz vor dem Angriff vorgewarnt wurde, stellte dies eine blamable Leistung dar. Kurzerhand erklärte das russische Verteidigungsministerium, nur 23 der Marschflugkörper hätten ihr Ziel tatsächlich erreicht – eine Behauptung, die durch die Analyse von Satellitenbildern widerlegt werden kann (siehe unten). Vielmehr scheint es, dass Russland seine eigenen Flugabwehrsysteme gar nicht aktiviert hatte und nur die älteren syrischen Systeme zum Einsatz kamen. Warum also blieb Russland untätig, obwohl es die Mittel hatte und vorgewarnt war?

Trump’s bombardment of Syria’s Shayarat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles -- click on the image to enlarge (compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography).

Trump’s bombardment of Syria’s Shayarat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles — click on the image to enlarge (compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

Bevor diese Frage beantwortet werden kann, muss man sich zuerst mit dem häufig anzutreffenden Missverständnis über die angebliche Fähigkeit russischer Flugabwehrsysteme vom Typ S-400 und S-300V4 auseinandersetzen, dass diese eine undurchdringbare Flugverbotszone im Radius von bis zu 400km erschaffen können. Auf dem Papier sind die technischen Daten beider Systeme zwar beeindruckend, allerdings beeinflussen in der militärischen Realität bei der Bekämpfung feindlicher Kampfflugzeuge viele Faktoren deren tatsächliche Reichweite und Effizienz. So ist die für die S-400 vorgesehene 40N6 Rakete mit 380 km Reichweite gerade erst Ende Oktober 2018 zur Serienproduktion zugelassen worden (Franz-Stefan Gady, “New Long-Range Missile for Russia’s S-400 Air Defense System Accepted Into Service“, The Diplomat, 23.10.2018). Selbst wenn diese in größeren Stückzahlen verfügbar sein sollte, dann können auf diese Entfernung nur große Ziele, wie Tank-, Transport- und Frühwarnflugzeuge in einer Flughöhe von mehr als 10 km erfasst und bekämpft werden (Robert Dalsjö, Christofer Berglund und Michael Jonsson, “Bursting the Bubble – Russian A2/AD in the Baltic Sea Region: Capabilities, Countermeasures, and Implications“, Swedish Defence Research Agency Report, 04.03.2019). Die für den Einsatz von Flugabwehrraketen erforderliche genaue Zielerfassung von Kampfflugzeugen der 5. Generation mit Tarnkappenfähigkeiten (F-35, F-22) und tieffliegenden Marschflugkörpern stellt für russische Flugabwehrsysteme ein bislang wohl unüberwindliches technisches Problem dar (Guy Plopsky, “Russia‘s Air Defenses in Syria: More Politics than Punch“, BESA Center Perspectives Paper, No. 618, 18.10.2017). Aufgrund des sogenannten “Radarhorizontes” können selbst ältere Kampfflugzeuge der 4. Generation im Tiefflug erst in ca. 30-40 km Entfernung sowie Marschflugkörper bei einer Flughöhe von rund 50 m erst in ca. 25 km erkannt und erfasst werden (Roger McDermott, “Russian Air Defenses and the US Strike on Al-Shayrat“, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 14, Issue 50, 11.04.2017), was durch A-50 AWACS Flugzeuge nur bedingt zu lösen ist. Schließlich kann die Radarerfassung durch luftgestützte elektronische Kampfführung, z.B. durch den Einsatz hierauf spezialisierter Kampfflugzeuge wie der EA-18G Growler, die bei dem Angriff auf den syrischen Militärflugplatz zum Einsatz kam, stark eingeschränkt werden.

Beim Luftangriff auf Damaskus und Homs im April 2018 auf drei mutmaßliche syrische Forschungs- und Produktionsstätten für Chemiewaffen wurden 105 US-amerikanische, britische sowie französische see- bzw. luftgestützte (Stealth-)Marschflugkörper eingesetzt, die aus unterschiedlichen Himmelsrichtungen anflogen. Nach Angaben des Pentagons erreichten alle abgeschossenen Lenkwaffen die vorgegebenen Ziele. Auch bei diesem Angriff wurde Russland vorgewarnt – und auch bei diesem Angriff durch die westliche Koalition auf dessen engsten Verbündeten im Nahen Osten blieben die russischen Flugabwehrsysteme inaktiv. Vielmehr behauptete das russische Verteidigungsministerium, die syrische Flugabwehr allein habe mit ihren S-200, S-125, Osa, Buk und Strela Flugabwehrsystemen 71 Marschflugkörper abgeschossen (am Internationalen Flughafen Damaskus, am Militärflugplatz asch-Schaʿirat und an weiteren Militärflugplätzen, eine Darstellung, die von der Koalition bestritten wird). Diese Aussage spiegelt deutlich die ambivalente Haltung Russlands wieder, denn zu keinem Zeitpunkt hat Russland bei Luftangriffen auf syrisches Gebiet seine eigenen Flugabwehrsysteme in den Dienst der syrischen Armee gestellt. Dafür gibt es zwei Erklärungen: Erstens will Russland nicht in einen eskalierenden Konflikt mit den USA oder Israel hineingezogen werden, was aus einem aktiven Einsatz seiner Luftverteidigungssysteme folgen könnte und zweitens gilt Russlands politisch-militärisches Interesse allein dem Schutz seiner beiden eigenen Militärbasen in Syrien (siehe auch Damien Sharkov, “Criticisms aside, was Russia Capable of Halting the U.S. Strike?“, Newsweek, 08.04.2017).

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Graphic compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

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Auch andere Indizien weisen auf diesen Erklärungsansatz hin. Im Juni 2017 wurde in einem Bericht des russischen Fernsehens erklärt, dass Russland keine Koalitionsflugzeuge im Kampf gegen die Terrororganisation “Islamischer Staat” (IS) angreifen werde, so lange diese einen Abstand von mehr als 60 km zum Militärflugplatz Hmeimim einhalten. Während syrische Kampfflugzeuge Begleitschutz für russische Kampfbomber flogen, wurde dies im Gegenzug von russischer Seite nicht getan. Als im Juni 2017 eine US-amerikanische F/A-18E Super Hornet eine syrische Su-22 abschoss, entschloss sich Russland auch aus politischen Gründen dazu, eine deutliche Warnung auszusprechen: In denjenigen syrischen Gebieten westlich des Euphrats, in denen die russische Luftwaffe Kampfeinsätze im syrischen Luftraum durchführt, würden alle bemannten oder unbemannten Flugobjekte, einschließlich derjenigen der internationalen Koalition gegen den IS, von der russischen Flugabwehr als Luftziele verfolgt (“Russian Missile Defense to Track US-Led Coalition Aircraft in Syria – MoD“, Sputnik, 19.06.2017). Es blieb bei der Warnung: Als im Februar 2018 bei Deir ez-Zor im Osten Syriens US Kampfflugzeuge den Euphrat auch zum Westufer hin überflogen, um einen Angriff syrischer Einheiten mit Unterstützung des privaten russischen Militärunternehmens “Gruppe Wagner” zurückzuschlagen, rührte sich weder die russische Flugabwehr noch die russische Luftwaffe, obwohl hier sogar das Leben eigener Staatsbürger auf dem Spiel stand.

Sometimes conflicts do arise, and we are naturally concerned about the possibility of military confrontation between the Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria. We do everything possible to prevent it. To prevent the escalation of the conflict. — Levan Dzhagaryan, russischer Botschafter in Teheran, zitiert in Anna Ahronheim, “Russia Concerned about Military Confrontation between Israel and Iran“, The Jerusalem Post, 19.07.2018.

Militärisch interveniert Russland auch nicht bei israelischen Luftangriffen u.a. auf iranische Militäreinrichtungen in Syrien. Es ist ein offenes Geheimnis, dass Moskau den wachsenden Einfluss Teherans und der schiitischen Milizen in Syrien mit wachsenden Unbehagen und Misstrauen beobachtet. Russland sieht im Iran länger schon mehr den lästigen Konkurrenten, der mit ihm um die Vormacht in Syrien buhlt, als den willigen “Waffenbruder” im blutigen Bürgerkrieg. Syrien hingegen braucht den Iran als Verbündeten, der ihm die fehlenden, kampferprobten Bodentruppen zur Verfügung stellt. Daher ist es wenig überraschend, dass Russland tatenlos wegsieht, wenn Israel iranische Stellungen in Syrien bombardiert, solange keine russischen Soldaten oder Einrichtungen zu Schaden kommen (Amir Tibon, “Everyone Wants to Get Iran Out of Syria. But No One Knows How to Do It“, Haaretz, 26.08.2018). Russland hat zudem die Sorge, dass die israelisch-iranische Dauerfehde seinen syrischen Verbündeten mittelfristig in einen Krieg mit Israel hineinziehen könnte, der Russland selbst mehr schaden als nutzen würde. Gleichzeitig will Moskau Damaskus nicht zu sehr düpieren und Teheran nicht zu sehr verärgern, weshalb sich die syrische Luftverteidigung bei Angriffen auf iranische Waffenlager und Raketenfabriken mit der israelischen Luftwaffe messen darf (Lidia Averbukh und Margarete Klein,  “Russlands Annäherung an Israel im Zeichen des Syrien-Konflikts“, SWP-Aktuell 2018/A 45, August 2018). Dass dieser politische Spagat langfristig zu Problemen führen würde, war absehbar.

Was dann im September 2018 folgte, war für Russland der bislang größte politische Fehlschlag im syrischen Luftkrieg überhaupt: Der versehentliche Abschuss seines eigenen Il-20 Seeaufklärers mit einer fünfzehnköpfigen Besatzung über dem Mittelmeer durch eine syrische Flugabwehreinheit russischer Bauart (vermutlich S-200VE), die zuvor vergeblich versucht hatte, vier israelische F-16I im syrischen Luftraum zu bekämpfen. Nach diesem Debakel entschied sich Russland im Oktober 2018, Syrien die schon seit längerem zugesagten drei S-300 Batterien mit jeweils acht Startern auszuliefern. Ein Grund dafür dürfte wohl auch gewesen sein, dass der Vorfall Identifikations- und Kompatibilitätsprobleme der syrischen S-200 mit den moderneren russischen Systemen offenbarte, neben allgemeinen Mängeln bei der Koordination der Luftabwehr beider Länder untereinander. Russlands Verteidigungsminister Sergei Schoigu begründete die von Israel immer wieder scharf kritisierte Auslieferung mit dem Ziel, zukünftig eine eindeutige Identifikation russischer Flugzeuge durch die syrische Flugabwehr garantieren sowie weitere Verluste durch den versehentlichen Beschuss des Verbündeten vermeiden zu wollen. Für Syrien stellt diese Entscheidung eine wesentliche Steigerung und Verbesserung seiner Luftverteidigungsfähigkeiten dar, auch wenn die maximale Bekämpfungsreichweite der S-300 geringer ist, so sind doch die verwendeten Raketen wesentlich wirkungsvoller.

Sowjetische Boden-Luft-Rakete S-200 (Foto: Vitaly V. Kuzmin).

Sowjetische Boden-Luft-Rakete S-200 (Foto: Vitaly V. Kuzmin).

Die Luftangriffe Israels auf den Internationalen Flughafen von Damaskus und nahegelegene Waffenlager im Januar 2019 sind ein Indiz für die Fortschritte Syriens beim Ausbau seiner Luftverteidigung. Es gelang syrischen Buk-M2 und Panzir-S2 Flugabwehrbatterien immerhin einige israelische Raketen der ersten Angriffswelle abzufangen (Sebastien Roblin, “Israel Kamikaze Drones are Destroying Syria’s Air Defences“, The National Interest, 26.01.2019), doch dies konnte nicht verhindern, dass Israel letztlich militärisch die Oberhand behielt. Die syrischen Systeme waren dem israelischen “Sättigungsangriff” mit mehreren weiteren Wellen an Raketen, gelenkten Bomben, Marschflugkörpern und sogenannten Selbstmord-Drohnen “Harop” gegen die ursprünglichen Ziele und zusätzlich gegen die syrischen Flugabwehreinheiten nicht gewachsen. Neben den iranischen Waffenlagern wurden u.a. zwei syrische Panzir-S2 getroffen und zerstört. Ein Video (siehe unten), das den Endanflug einer israelischen Lenkwaffe auf das moderne russische SHORAD System zeigt, verbreitete sich im Internet wie ein Lauffeuer.

Der jüngste Schlagabtausch zeigt deutlich, dass Russland aus politischen Gründen weiterhin nicht selbst mit seinen eigenen, moderneren Flugabwehrsystemen in den Konflikt eingreifen will und es Israel daher wohl auch in Zukunft gelingen wird, die syrische Luftabwehr zu überwinden, wenn auch mit anderen Einsatzmethoden sowie unter Verwendung von mehr und besseren Waffensystemen. Zwar waren die an Syrien ausgelieferten S-300 Flugabwehrbatterien im Januar 2019 wahrscheinlich noch gar nicht voll einsatzbereit und vermutlich mangelte es den syrischen Soldaten auch an entsprechender Ausbildung, Moral bzw. Einsatzbereitschaft, doch Russland dürfte Syrien bislang auch eher ältere, weniger leistungsfähigere Exportversionen seiner Flugabwehrsysteme ausgeliefert haben. Ausserdem kamen die syrischen S-300 Flugabwehrbatterien auch bei späteren israelischen Luftschlägen – beispielsweise Mitte April 2019 – nicht zum Einsatz, was vermuten lässt, dass Russland ein für den Einsatz ausschlaggebendes Mitspracherecht hat (Sebastien Roblin, “Israeli F-16s Smashed a Syrian Missile Complex (And Russia Held Its Fire)“, The National Interest, 24.06.2019). Ob dies in Zukunft so bleibt, wird entscheidend davon abhängen, wie sich der Nahostkonflikt weiterentwickelt. Von daher sollte man mit Rückschlüssen für vergleichbare “A2AD”-Zonen in Europa, z.B. in Kaliningrad oder auf der Halbinsel Krim, vorsichtig sein. Auf jeden Fall kann Russland mit seinen teils älteren, im Dienste Syriens stehenden Flugabwehrsystemen wertvolle Einsatzerfahrungen sammeln, die es zur fortlaufenden Modernisierung der eigenen Systeme nutzen wird.

Dennoch belegen vor allem die langjährigen Einsatzerfahrungen Israels und der USA im Luftkrieg über Syrien, dass Russland auch in Osteuropa keine unüberwindbaren “A2AD”-Zonen aufbauen kann. Die Gesetze der Physik (Radarhorizont), elektronische Kriegsführung und Tarnkappenfähigkeiten bei Kampfflugzeugen der 5./6. Generation (F-35, FCAS) zeigen der russischen Luftverteidigung auch in Zukunft ihre Grenzen auf. Erwähnenswert sind auch die israelischen Erfolge bei der Bekämpfung russischer Flugabwehrsysteme durch Drohnen sowie die Anwendung der ehemals sowjetischen Taktik des “Sättigungsangriffes” aus den Zeiten des Kalten Krieges. Aber nur wenn die europäischen Staaten auch in Zukunft bereit und willens sind, mehr Geld für die Anschaffung moderner Kampfflugzeuge, Raketen, Marschflugkörper und Drohnen auszugeben, dann werden sie auch russische Flugabwehrsysteme im Konfliktfall wirkungsvoll stören bzw. bekämpfen können. Für Deutschland sollte dies ein Weckruf sein, sich hierbei nicht nur auf die NATO-Partner zu verlassen, sondern endlich die Nachfolge des fast 40 Jahre alten Tornado Kampfbombers zu klären, der u.a. in der ECR Version Einsätze zur Unterdrückung feindlicher Luftabwehr (“SEAD“) fliegt und vor allem die Entwicklung des Future Combat Air System mit Frankreich nunmehr zügig voranzutreiben.

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