|The Maritime Security Forum is pleased to provide you with a product, in the form of a daily newsletter, through which we present the most relevant events and information on naval issues, especially those related to maritime security and other related areas. It aims to present a clear and concise assessment of the most recent and relevant news in this area, with references to sources of information. We hope that this newsletter will prove to be a useful resource for you, providing a comprehensive insight into the complicated context of the field for both specialists and anyone interested in the dynamics of events in the field of maritime security.
MS DAILY BRIEF – March 1 th, 2024
Daily appearance Monday-Saturday 10 AM (GMT +2)
A TRINKET DEDICATED TO THE ROMANIAN FLEET – 1913
Macron stands by his comments on troop deployment in Ukraine. “Every word has been carefully weighed, thought through and measured”-Update date: 29.02.2024 22:32
The French president is emerging as one of the pillars of resistance against the growing threat from Russian Federation.
Two years ago, just days before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Macron became the butt of jokes after his attempts to de-escalate the situation were thrown into disrepute by Mr Putin. We remember how, back then, the talks between the Kremlin leader and Emmanuel Macron took place at the “big table”, with the two talking from a distance of 5-6 metres.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is on an official visit to the Russian Federation. Photo Credit: Kremlin
Now President Macron seems to have radically changed his tone towards the Russian Federation.
The French president said after a conference of European leaders that while there was “no consensus” on sending Western ground troops to Ukraine, “nothing should be ruled out”.
French President Emmanuel Macron made clear on Thursday that his statement on Monday refusing to rule out the prospect of sending Western troops to Ukraine was intentional, despite the reactions it provoked.
According to LeMonde, Macron insisted that everything he said about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine was carefully thought out and weighed.
“These are serious enough issues; every one of the words I say about this issue is weighed, thought out and measured,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the 2024 Olympic village near Paris.
The president declined to answer any further questions on the issue.
Macron said on Monday that “everything must be done” to ensure Russia’s defeat after invading Ukraine
The prospect of sending Western troops to Ukraine has been rejected by other NATO members, including the US, Britain and Germany. On the other hand, the statement was not rejected by Estonia and Lithuania.
Germany realised immediately after the Russian invasion on 24 February that the regional geopolitical situation had changed irreversibly. Berlin promised massive investment in the military to deal with the Russian threat, Politico reports.
Macron, however, took another year to come to the same conclusion. His problem is that the French public does not perceive the war as a great civilisational clash for Europe’s democracy and freedom.
“Russia is not seen as a direct threat to France, and the war is seen as a ‘business’ of the former USSR,” Jeanbart said.
This perception stands in stark contrast to Poland, the Baltic nations and even Germany and the Nordic countries, for whom the danger is more imminent, Politico adds.
So the French president must carefully navigate between domestic criticism and the need to forge a Europe that can withstand military aggression from Russia.
The French-led NATO Battle Group in Romania is growing to brigade level. Leclerc tanks and Caesar howitzers to be deployed in Romania-Update: 29.02.2024 21:09
The NATO Battle Group Romania is under French command. To this end, the French have deployed military equipment in Romania, including French Leclerc tanks and armoured vehicles. Photo source: Twitter French Forces in Romania.
The French-led NATO Battle Group in Romania is to increase its presence at brigade level.
This was confirmed by French General Loïc Girard, the commander of the battle group and Senior National Representative in Romania, during a meeting he had on security issues with Romanian journalists, which was also attended by DefenseRomania.
The NATO Battle Group Romania, as part of the Aigle mission, in which France is the framework nation, is deployed to Cincu.
Thus, starting in spring 2025, when a major exercise is scheduled in Cincu, the Battle Group will be upgraded to brigade level.
This deployment of additional forces and technique will take place, temporarily, in spring 2025. A brigade of more than 4,000 troops and several hundred armoured vehicles will be deployed from France to Romania for several weeks. This is a NATO exercise to test on a large scale the deployment of a full brigade on Europe’s borders in a very short timeframe.
The brigade will be in Romania for a few weeks for training, with the troops returning to their home countries once the exercise is over. This deployment exercise can be repeated at NATO’s request. The Cincu multinational battalion, which has more than 1,500 troops, is permanently deployed in Romania. With this battalion, France confirms its long-standing military presence in Romania.
It is expected that at the NATO summit in Washington, which marks the 75th anniversary of the birth of the most powerful military defence alliance in history, the Group’s upgrade to brigade level will be formalised.
Estimates are that the Battle Group will grow to around 4,000 troops. France being the framework nation that has assumed leadership of the Group will have the most troops.
The Group is a multinational one, with several nations taking part.
The NATO Battle Group in Romania was established in record time, starting in May 2022, by transforming the multinational allied elements of the NATO Response Force. It is led by France and is based in Romania in Cincu.
And the French allies will also bring modern combat technology to Romania. General Girard told the meeting that 50 Leclerc tanks will be deployed in our country as part of the NATO Battle Group, but in addition to the French state-of-the-art tanks, other capabilities such as armoured vehicles and 155 mm Caesar self-propelled howitzers will also be deployed.
The French have transformed Cincu into a state-of-the-art modern base
As a reminder, last year during a press briefing attended by DefenseRomania at the Multinational Division South-East Command (HQ MND-SE) in Bucharest, the French military talked about their mission in Romania and the modernisation of the Cincu base.
Since then, a multinational detachment of engineers has been working continuously to build a base in Cincu, a military base that will also be a small town. The teams work even at night.
This is where the soldiers of the French-led Battle Group, which was set up in Romania in record time following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, will be stationed.
The costs are shared between France and Romania, but the French have brought the heavy equipment themselves. The construction materials needed for the infrastructure are being purchased from Romania.
Israel has yet to provide evidence to support Hamas claims of 7 October attack on UNRWA, says UN-The Guardian,Fri 1 Mar 2024 04.46
Accusations against 12 staff prompted major donors to suspend funding to Palestinian UN agency despite Gaza famine crisis
A month after Israeli allegations that a dozen UN staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas attack, UN investigators have yet to receive any evidence from Israel to support the claims, although they expect to receive some material “shortly”.
The allegations against the 12 employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) have prompted 16 major donors to suspend contributions totalling $450m at a time when more than two million Gazans are facing starvation. UNRWA says it is approaching “breaking point” and has only enough funds to continue operating for the next month at most.
The UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) launched an investigation on 29 January, following Israeli allegations initially presented to UNRWA in January, and on Wednesday gave UN Secretary-General António Guterres an update on its work.
FILE – Palestinians queue for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. The World Food Programme said on Tuesday it had halted food deliveries to the isolated north of the Gaza Strip because of growing chaos in the territory, raising fears of possible starvation. A study by the UN children’s agency warned that one in six children in northern Gaza is severely malnourished. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
Diplomats who have seen the preliminary ILO report said it contained no new evidence from Israel since the initial presentation of the claims in January – which were not backed up by any evidence. In summarising the findings, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric confirmed that the investigation had not yet received corroborating material from Israel.
“OIOS investigators have analysed the initial information received by UNRWA from the Israeli authorities,” Dujarric said on Thursday. “The investigation remains ongoing. OIOS will attempt to corroborate additional information and compare the information obtained with material held by the Israeli authorities, which OIOS expects to receive shortly.”
“OIOS staff plan to visit Israel soon to obtain information from the Israeli authorities that may be relevant to the investigation,” Dujarric said, adding that investigators described the cooperation of member states as “appropriate.”
He said the investigators had consulted with other member states and visited UNRWA headquarters in Jordan to examine information on UNRWA staff and operations, including electronic communications and data on the use of UN vehicles.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that a US National Intelligence Council assessment rated with “low confidence” that a handful of UNRWA employees participated in the October 7 attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
The Israeli mission to the UN has referred questions about the investigation to the Foreign Ministry in Tel Aviv. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the government would “give them all the material that proves UNRWA’s involvement in terrorism and the damage they have done to the future of the region”.
Since the initial charges against 12 UNRWA workers, nine of whom are believed to be still alive, Israel has claimed that a total of 190 UNRWA employees, including teachers, were also Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants. The Israeli military also said a tunnel was found under UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters and that weapons and ammunition were found in the headquarters building.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the agency “does not know what is under its Gaza headquarters,” which he said had been abandoned since an Israeli evacuation order in October. He said that in times of relative peace, UNRWA inspected its headquarters every quarter and always protested if its neutrality was violated.
Israel has long called for UNRWA, established in 1949, to be disbanded, but with 30,000 employees, (13,000 in Gaza), it dwarfs any other UN agency, which have a combined total of about 200 staff in Gaza.
“It’s a bit short-sighted to think that UNRWA can technically hand over all its activities to other UN agencies or NGOs,” Lazzarini told journalists in Jerusalem on Thursday.
“It’s an agency [that is] quite unique because … we provide primarily government-type services to one of the poorest communities in the region,” he said.
“The World Food Programme itself has said it can’t avoid the hunger that is already affecting hundreds of thousands of people,” said Christopher Gunness, a former UNRWA spokesman. “This can only be done by UNRWA, with its 13,000 workers, warehouses and food distribution centres.”
“The IOW report is a ladder that all donors to de-funding can climb down if they wish and avoid accusations of complicity in famine and genocide, as well as pandering to the political agenda of the Israeli far right,” Gunness added.
In parallel with the OIOS investigation, a wider review of UNRWA’s activities and neutrality is underway, led by a former French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, and supported by three Nordic research organisations.
The Colonna review was commissioned by Guterres in January, before the Israeli allegations were made. It is expected to present a progress report in mid-March, which could lead to the resumption of funding from major donors before the agency runs out of money completely, UN diplomats said. The review panel is expected to submit a final report in mid-April.
Summary of the day so far
Here’s a recap of the latest developments:
More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the territory’s health ministry.
More than 100 Palestinians were killed as they gathered to receive humanitarian aid in Gaza City on Thursday, health officials said. At least 112 people were killed and more than 280 injured in the incident, the Palestinian health ministry said.
There have been conflicting reports about the events that led to the deaths. Witnesses said Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians rushing to remove food from an aid convoy, and Gaza’s health ministry described the incident as a “massacre”. Israel disputed the death toll and said many of the victims were run over by trucks.
Hamas has warned it could end negotiations for the release of hostages after the incident. In a statement, it said, “The negotiations conducted by the leadership of the movement are not an open trial at the expense of the blood of our people.”
Joe Biden acknowledged that the deadly incident will complicate ceasefire talks. The US president told reporters that he was reviewing reports and said “there are two competing versions of what happened. I don’t have an answer yet.” The US is urgently seeking information about what happened in northern Gaza, a US State Department spokesman said.
The Israeli military released video footage of what it said were people looting aid trucks in Gaza in the run-up to the incident. Due to forced relocation and lack of access to aid, agencies have warned that a large part of Gaza’s population is suffering from a lack of food, with one in six children under the age of two found undernourished during a check-up in January, and yesterday it was reported that one in five pregnant women seen in a Gaza clinic is also undernourished.
Egypt and Jordan issued separate statements condemning Israel after the incident. Egypt said, “We believe that attacking peaceful citizens rushing to pick up their share of aid is a shameful crime and a flagrant violation of international law.”
Two Israeli men were killed Thursday in a gun attack on a gas station in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Israeli army and medics said. The Israeli army said the attacker had been “neutralised” by security forces, adding that troops were pursuing other suspects in the area.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said more than 25,000 women and children have been killed by Israel since 7 October. Austin added that about 21,000 precision-guided munitions have been supplied to Israel since the Gaza war began.
Israel is considering possible restrictions on access to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque during the upcoming fasting month of Ramadan, a government spokesman said. Far-right Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week that there would be a quota for people wishing to take part in prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. Israel has restricted the number of participants at the mosque since 7 October.
Eastern front is difficult as Russians attack towns and villages, says military chief Syrskyi; Ukraine claims three more Russian warplanes shot down
Russia is prepared to hand over to Ukraine the bodies from a military plane crash in January, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA, which quoted Tatiana Moskalkova, a human rights official. Russia accused Ukraine of downing the Ilyushin Il-76 plane in Russia’s Belgorod region and said all 74 on board were killed, including 65 Ukrainian soldiers captured en route to a prisoner exchange.
Russia has not presented evidence. Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied shooting down the plane and has disputed Moscow’s version of events, including who and what was on board. The Ukrainian military said Russia failed to warn it about a plane carrying prisoners and the need to temporarily “deconflict” the airspace. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Moscow at the time of “playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners”.
The Ukrainian military said on Thursday it had shot down three more Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers, continuing a string of successes. On Telegram, army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said, “After successful combat operations against an enemy aircraft on the night of February 29, two more Russian aircraft were destroyed: Su-34 fighter-bombers in the Avdiivka and Mariupol sectors.”
Ukrainian forces have repulsed Russian troops from the village of Orlivka, west of Avdiivka, but the situation on the eastern front remains difficult, Syrskyi said. Orlivka is less than 2km northwest of Lastochkyne, which was recently occupied by Russian forces.
Syrskyi said the Russian army is trying to capture the towns and villages of Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi and Krasnohorivka in eastern Donetsk. These are places where military officials had said they would form a new line of defence after Ukrainian troops withdrew from Avdiivka on 17 February.
In southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces were focusing on recapturing the towns of Verbove and Robotyne, towns Ukraine recaptured in last summer’s counteroffensive in 2023, Syrskyi said.
The Russians on Thursday carried out dozens of shell attacks on border territories and settlements in the Sumy region, the Ukrainian military said. “The communities of Yunakivska, Khotynska, Bilopolska, Vorozhbyanska, Krasnopilska, Velikopysarivska, Shalyginska, Seredino-Budska, Znob-Novgorodska, Druzhbivska came under fire.” In one case, in Vorozhbyan, a person was injured and a warehouse caught fire.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West was trying to “destroy us” and “limit our development” in his annual address to parliament. Putin said Western countries risk provoking a nuclear war if they send troops to fight in Ukraine.
Nuclear war is a familiar threat evoked by the Putin regime and its supporters, and after his speech, the US said it had no sign that Russia was preparing to use such a weapon. “This is not the first time we have witnessed irresponsible rhetoric from Vladimir Putin. It’s no way for the leader of a nuclear-armed state to talk,” said Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appointed Volodymyr Karpenko as the new commander of Ukraine’s logistics forces, according to a presidential decree. Karpenko, previously logistics commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, replaced Oleh Huliaka, who had held the post since 2021.
Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking top-secret military documents, including information about Ukraine’s air defenses, on social media, is expected to plead guilty, according to court documents.
European defence and foreign ministers will meet in Paris in the coming days to discuss additional support for Ukraine and Moldova, a French foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday.
Ukraine has identified 511 people suspected of war crimes since Russia’s 2022 invasion and has already handed down 81 convictions, its prosecutor general said in Kiev on Thursday. Andriy Kostin was speaking at a conference on war crimes alongside chief prosecutors from Poland, Lithuania and Romania and the president of Eurojust, the EU’s justice arm.
Ukraine planned to export a large volume of electricity on Thursday, taking advantage of lower domestic consumption during a period of mild weather, the Energy Ministry said. The country’s electricity exports, which began shortly before it was invaded by Russian troops in 2022, were halted after numerous Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure and the seizure of its largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.
A Russian court on Thursday rejected a Russian-American woman’s appeal against her detention for treason. The FSB security service said last week that Ksenia Karelina had been detained on suspicion of raising funds for the Ukrainian armed forces. The Los Angeles resident raised funds for a Ukrainian organisation whose ultimate beneficiary was the Ukrainian military, the FSB said.
Sri Lanka has decided to stop issuing free long-term visas to Russian and Ukrainian citizens who have lived there for the past two years, a government official said.
Crimean bridge alternative sought (Photo/Video): Russia builds military railway amid risks of further Ukrainian attacks-Update: 29.02.2024 13:04
Russia has begun construction of a section of a new railway from Mariupol, which it plans to use to connect Rostov-on-Don with Crimea via the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Zaporozhye regions. Photo source: investigator.org.ua.
There are reports that the Russian Federation is building a military railway around the Crimean bridge. Videos shared on social media are said to show progress in the construction of this new railway line. The footage was reportedly taken by people driving past the construction site.
The videos show that the Russian Federation is using a rolling stock railway system to lay the railway lines, in essence, they are installed automatically according to set elevations. Before work began, the surrounding land was levelled to allow for seamless construction of the railway.
According to Russian sources, the new military supply railway is expected to serve both Russian armed forces stationed in the Crimean Peninsula and other Ukrainian territories now under Russian occupation, such as Melitopol and Donetsk.
Russia has begun construction of a section of a new railway from Mariupol, which it plans to use to connect Rostov-on-Don with Crimea via the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Zaporozhye regions.
The line runs from Rostov-on-Don, positioning the city as the main supplier of military resources for the Russian army. The railway line reaches the town of Dzhankoi – the centre of the Dzhankoi district of Northern Crimea, which has a population of about 35,000.
Russia has started building a new railway from Mariupol to Crimea
Indeed, the construction of this railway is not a recent activity. Earlier reports of work on the new railway line emerged towards the end of last year.
The plan appears to be a move to reduce reliance on the bridge across the Kerch Strait as a transit route for military supplies, especially given the ongoing confrontation with the Ukrainian military over the past 24 months.
The bridge is seen as a high risk factor by the Russian military. Just a few days ago, Lieutenant General Kirilo Budanov, head of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence Service [GUR], in a post on his Telegram channel, urged the population to avoid the Kerch Strait Bridge in the coming weeks and months. This has prompted speculation that the Ukrainian military may resume attacks on the bridge.
Budanov’s post reads, “Our adversaries should prepare for more surprises, and I advise ordinary people not to use the so-called Crimean Bridge.” His message was published against the backdrop of ten years of conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which began with the “occupation of Ukrainian Crimea”.
General Budanov pointed out that Russia has seen the loss of a quarter of the total number of warships that make up the Russian Black Sea Fleet, forcing it to withdraw the remaining ships from some ports and to redirect its air force as airfields and military units in Crimea have persistently faced attacks from Ukrainians.
Some experts note that ongoing construction work on the new bypass railway is proceeding relatively unhindered. It is interesting to note that in recent months there have been no attempted assaults on the construction by Ukrainian armed forces, and the plan continues unhindered.
This point is crucial, given that this railway could be more advantageous to the Russian army than the Crimean Bridge. However, there is speculation that Ukrainian forces may target the railway after it is commissioned.
Russia allegedly used Su-57 aircraft near Luhansk for strike missions on Ukrainian positions: intelligence released by Russians raises big question mark- Publication date: 29.02.2024 15:31
Su-57, photo credit: Moscow Defense Ministry
Reports are circulating that the Russian Air Force has used a “fifth-generation” Su-57 fighter jet to carry out attack missions in Ukraine’s disputed Luhansk region. The information is still unclear, but it still seems very possible that this aircraft entered Ukrainian airspace during the operation.
On 18 February 2024, as part of an operation, an Su-57, flanked by two Su-35 jets, executed a missile strike against Ukrainian military sites. The mission originated from the Luhansk region, currently under occupation, where the Su-57, accompanied by the two Su-35 aircraft, entered Ukrainian airspace to carry out a missile launch, according to Air Recognition.
The operation reportedly involved the use of a Kh-69 cruise missile designed exclusively for the Su-57. However, due to a malfunction, the missile deviated from its intended trajectory and crashed in a field, failing to hit its target. Despite this failure, there have been previous instances, namely on 7 and 8 February, when the Kh-69 was used successfully in air strikes. This missile, which is a modification of the Kh-59MK2 missile, is compatible with various Russian military aircraft.
Some aspects of the mission deployment are still unclear. For example, there are inconsistencies about the type of Kh-59MK2 cruise missile that would have been used. What’s even stranger: normally, a Su-57 would not be supposed to enter Ukrainian airspace to hit targets in Luhansk. That’s because Kh-59MK2 missiles can hit these targets when launched even from within Russia’s borders.
Despite this vagueness, it is known that actions took place in this region in early February. Ukrainian sources have confirmed attacks involving Russian use of Kh-59MK2 missiles on 7 and 8 February. This missile is effective against small and fortified targets, as proven by its previous successful use in Syria.
An interesting point: even though the Kh-59MK2 can hit targets up to 300 km away, it is small enough to fit in the Su-57’s internal weapons compartments. This means the aircraft can maintain a small radar footprint. More interestingly, no other “fifth-generation” fighter is known to carry this type of missile inside.
In addition, it has been noted that the use of a Su-57 in a missile attack against Ukraine was dual purpose, with the intention of producing a military propaganda film. This production aims to demonstrate the mastery of the Russian defence sector and is anticipated to play a significant role in the narrative leading up to the upcoming Russian presidential election.
The Sukhoi Su-57 (NATO codename: Felon), Russia’s first fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter, represents a significant leap forward in Russian military aviation capabilities. Developed by Sukhoi, a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation, the Su-57 is designed to perform attack missions, featuring advanced stealth technology, supersonic cruise speed and high-quality avionics. At least that’s how the Russians describe it.
One of the most distinctive features of the Su-57 is its stealth capabilities. The aircraft’s design incorporates innovative materials and technologies that minimise its radar cross-section, making it less visible to enemy radar systems. This invisibility is complemented by its internal weapons bays, which help keep its radar profile low while carrying a wide range of munitions.
Estonian General: Talk of sending NATO troops to Ukraine is a signal to Russia-Update: 29.02.2024 08:33
A Polish soldier in a tank during a NATO exercise. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
According to Neeme Vali, European leaders continue to discuss how they can continue to support Kiev in its confrontation with the Kremlin. Moscow understands that the West is not ready to stop. Talk that the West would be willing to send troops to Ukraine is a sign for the Russian Federation, says Estonian General Neeme Vali, reports ERR.
According to him, European leaders have lately been constantly discussing the issue of giving additional support to Ukraine. One of the topics they have recently discussed is the possible deployment of military personnel from NATO member states to Ukraine. This is a kind of signal to Moscow.
“On the one hand, this is a good message for Europeans who are getting used to this war. But on the other hand, it is certainly a signal to Russia that Europe is ready to continue to help Ukraine and to do its part to support it,” said Neeme Vali.
The retired Estonian general added that Europe has the possibility to send its military to Ukraine, but the question is whether this makes sense. This is because Ukraine has sufficient manpower and further support in the form of arms and equipment is expected from Western partners.
“Today, it is not that Ukraine is short of soldiers, but that it needs more equipment and weapons,” Neeme Vali continued.
The same view was expressed by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, when she said that Ukraine needed ammunition the most, and European leaders agreed.
On 27 February, the first reports emerged that NATO was discussing the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine, as French President Emmanuel Macron said. According to him, this would have heeded Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski’s request to increase support for Kiev, but there is no consensus yet on sending NATO troops.
Polish President Andrzej Duda also expressed his opinion on the matter. According to him, at the meeting of NATO and EU leaders, the issue of additional assistance for Ukraine was highly discussed. The countries will make their own decisions on how to support Kiev in its confrontation with Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later said that the Alliance had no plans to send its military to Ukraine. According to him, the allies are offering Ukraine “unprecedented support” but have “no plans” to deploy their troops on Ukrainian territory.
Aggression to the next level: After Russian controllers threatened to shoot down a French plane an attempt was made to blind French helicopter pilots-Update: 29.02.2024 08:17
French NH-90 Caiman helicopters of the French Naval Forces. Photo Credit: French Navy
French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu has also consistently denounced the Russian military’s aggressive behaviour towards the French air force and navy, claiming around a hundred incidents took place in 2023.
According to Lecornu, these ranged from simple threatening messages to attempts to interfere with patrols in freely accessible international air and sea space.
On 22 February, Lecornu gave a concrete example of a threat by Russian air traffic controllers to shoot down French planes. Subsequently, the French Army General Staff stated that the incident mentioned by the minister occurred in November 2023 and involved an E-3F AWACS aircraft, which was carrying out a specific mission in the Black Sea area.
“A very aggressive radio exchange took place,” the minister explained, stressing the unprecedented nature of this attempt at intimidation.
According to him, aggressive interactions can take different forms, from unprofessional behaviour of Russian pilots towards French air patrols, as was the case of the encounter between two Rafale fighter jets and a Su-35 aircraft at the Syrian-Iraqi border in July 2023, to the use of electronic warfare means against French naval vessels (referring to the Dupuy de Lome research vessel incident in 2020).
The Russians went further with their aggression and tried to blind the pilots of some of France’s helicopters
French NH-90 Caiman helicopters of the French Naval Forces. Photo: French Navy
At a hearing in the National Assembly on 27 February, Lecornu gave another example.
“The Russians tried to blind us pilots of helicopters operating from frigates. Russia took an aggressive and provocative stance,” the minister told parliament.
According to the French press, which quoted the minister, this appears to be about the impact on pilots on NH-90 Caiman or AS565 Panther helicopters.
“This practice goes beyond threats and aggressive radio communications because it affects the physical integrity of the crew. When night vision systems are used, bright light can cause temporary pilot blindness,” Lecornu said.
In response to the French defence minister’s statements, Russian propaganda is trying to justify the aggressive behaviour of Russian forces. Propaganda portal Topwar pointed out that the local press and the French public should ask themselves what their country’s air force is doing in the Black Sea and whether it is participating in combat missions, directing the Ukrainian army towards Russian targets.
At the same time, she said it was unclear what kind of deck helicopters the French minister was talking about, given that access to the Black Sea is forbidden to warships of Black Sea states.
Russians try to hide as many Russian Black Sea Fleet ships as possible from Ukrainian eyes (Photo): Kamikaze naval drones remain the main threat-Update: 29.02.2024 10:15
The Russian Navy has continued to apply deceptive camouflage to some of the most important ships operating in the Black Sea. The use of the new camouflage was first reported on June 22, 2023, when the frigate Admiral Essen was spotted in Sevastopol. Since then, at least 3 other warships have been painted in a similar way. Photo source: H I Sutton.
The Russians continue to apply camouflage to Black Sea Fleet ships in an attempt to protect them from drone attacks. OSINT analyst MT Anderson posted satellite images of them on his X (twitter) account. More and more ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is currently based in Novorossiysk, are cloaking their bow and stern, which should theoretically protect them from identification by reconnaissance means.
The Ukrainian publication Militarnyi previously reported that the Russians have been trying to camouflage their ships since June 2023.
This cloaking is supposedly a response to the threat posed by Ukrainian maritime kamikaze drones, which various reconnaissance systems to identify designated targets.
Experts at Naval News have suggested that this cloaking pattern is intended to confuse drone operators into considering a particular ship as a lesser target.
However, given that a thermal camera, which clearly shows the entire silhouette of the ship, is used to identify and target the ship, such a cloak is ineffective.
The flagship Admiral Makarov is one of the ships to have received this camouflage, but is on the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s casualty list.
One can assume that in this way the Russians are trying to protect their fleet from reconnaissance drones carrying optical reconnaissance equipment. It is possible that the resolution of the optical system will not allow accurate identification of ships whose bow and stern will merge with the water surface.
Heavy losses recorded by the Russian Black Sea Fleet during the Russo-Ukrainian war
Since the beginning of the military aggression against Ukraine, the Russian fleet has lost more than 20% of its composition, damaged and destroyed. The most expensive loss was the former flagship – the rocket cruiser Moskva.
The despot fleet suffered the greatest losses. The Minsk, Novocherkassk and Tsezar Kunikov were destroyed, and the landing ships Olenegorski Gorniak and Saratov Project 1171 were seriously damaged.
In addition, the submarine Rostov-on-Don Project 636.3, the corvette Askold Project 22800, several small desant ships, a large number of assault boats and the tug Spasatel Vasili Bekh were destroyed.
In addition, the corvette Veliky Ustyug, the frigate Admiral Makarov and the minesweeper Ivan Golubets were damaged. Most of the ships were sunk or hit by kamikaze naval drones.
Haftar’s command displays its strength in Sirte. Russian military tech is on the front lines-Publication date: 29.02.2024 11:32
The Military Intelligence Division (press service) belonging to retired Major General Khalifa Haftar’s militia command reported Wednesday that his son Saddam is overseeing the organization of a “ground force mobilization project” to be launched “in the coming days in the city of Sirte” in north-central Libya.
The activity itself is a large-scale show of force using live ammunition for combat. Saddam Haftar, the “commander of ground forces operations”, supervised the preparation of the military, facilities, military and logistical equipment at the exercise sites before the launch of the exercise in the city of Sirte.
This preparation comes at a time when the Libyan media reported that Haftar’s troops were preparing to hold a major military parade at several military sites in Sirte and Al-Jufra.
Security sources in Sirte city revealed that “three Haftar-affiliated militias will participate in the military parade, namely the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade, led by Saddam, the 106th Brigade, led by Khaled Haftar, and the 128th Brigade, led by Hassan Al-Zadma”, confirming that several convoys of Haftar-owned vehicles and military equipment had started arriving at Qardabiya Base since 28 January.
February Channel, which is close to the National Unity Government in Tripoli, published (13.02) a video on its official pages showing a military convoy it claimed was “affiliated to Haftar’s militias heading towards the city of Sirte”.
The February Channel had earlier (11.02) published a video showing a series of Russian T-72 tanks arriving at the Tariq bin Ziyad militia headquarters from Russia via the port of Tobruk”.
Moscow has maintained a military presence in Libya after its participation in supporting Haftar’s aggression against the capital, Tripoli, in 2019 and 2020 through the “Wagner” group, which is headquartered at the Al-Qardabiya base in the city of Sirte and the Al-Jafra base.
Since August 2023, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus Bek Yevkirov has met Haftar four times in Benghazi, amid growing talk of Russia’s desire to build a “Russian-African legion” and use Libya as a springboard for a number of African countries where Moscow seeks to maintain a military presence.
Haftar visited Moscow at the end of September and met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Lavrov. Libyan sources previously revealed that Haftar was seeking to sign a joint defence agreement with Moscow, under which he would obtain modern military technology and equipment, including drones. In return, Moscow would obtain military sites to strengthen its military presence in Libya.
In light of growing Western concern about Russian incursion into Libya, the British newspaper The Times revealed European concern in late January about Moscow’s plans to build a nuclear submarine base at a port in the east of the country, with Sirte and Ras Lanuf among the likely ports mentioned.
Turkish cargo ship stranded in Ukraine damaged by Russian missile attack on Ukraine – The Maritime Executive – 28 February 2024
A Turkish general cargo ship stranded in Ukraine since the war began two years ago has become the latest casualty of the fighting. Turkish media has confirmed that the ship was damaged in the latest Russian assault on the Herson region and is expected to sink at its dock.
Russian forces unleashed a missile barrage on the region overnight, according to the district administrator. He reports that in addition to the cargo ship, 12 high-rise apartment buildings, 15 private homes, a farm and a grain elevator were hit. One person was killed and two others were injured. Separate drone strikes included nine downed in the Odessa region and one in the Mykolaiv region.
The dry cargo ship Kuruoglu 3, operated by Turkey’s Kuruglu shipping company, arrived in Herson on February 22, 2022, with a company official telling Deniz Media that the ship was there to unload 2,800 metric tons of urea when it became stranded at the start of the war. Efforts to free the ship were unsuccessful because Herson was not included in the grain agreement or the corridor subsequently established by Ukraine.
The company told Turkish media that two missiles were fired into the area and hit the ship, which was built in 1990. The vessel has a tonnage of 7,600 dwt and a length of about 358 feet (109 meters). It is unclear if the crew remained on board the vessel.
Media reports have shown images of the ship listing away from the dock, with the company saying it is taking on water. He said the ship was being held by ropes, but the lines were expected to break and the ship would sink alongside the dock.
Last year, Turkish President Erdogan said that 12 Turkish ships were stranded in Ukrainian ports and that he was trying to get the ships released. A spokesman for the shipowners’ and operators’ association told Turkish media that up to 60 foreign-flagged ships are also still stuck in Ukrainian ports. Some of the ships stuck in Ukraine managed to use the corridor established in August 2023 and left, but those outside the three main ports could not leave.
SS-711 Narwhal: Taiwan’s first ‘state-of-the-art’ indigenous submarine to challenge the Chinese dragon – The EurAsianTimes – 29 February 2024
On 27 February, Taiwan lifted the curtain on its first indigenously developed Narwhal submarine when it entered open waters. The images of the vessel that appeared on X reveal interesting and advanced features that had previously been hidden.
Called “Narwhal” in English and “Hai Kun” in Chinese, the prototype has been undergoing rigorous port acceptance tests at the CSBC Corp. shipyard in Kaohsiung since last October, following the unveiling ceremony in late September.
Hai Kun (SS-711), a diesel-electric design, is the first of eight hulls planned to rejuvenate Taiwan’s aging submarine fleet.
On the evening of 26 February, the prototype was towed from the CSBC Corp. factory to the nearby Jong Shyn floating dock No. 8, before being transferred to an adjacent dry dock for final port acceptance trials (HAT) on 27 February.
The ship’s journey from the factory to the floating dock and then to the dry dock took place in three separate stages, culminating in the launch of the warship.
CSBC Corp.’s test operations schedule outlined that the first phase involved towing the floating dock to the Pier 2 navigation channel from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 27.
The second phase, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., involved the detachment of the vessel from the floating dock, involving a detailed inspection, positioning of personnel and precise placement of the warship in the water.
Finally, the third phase, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., focused on towing the submarine into the CSBC dock, marking the culmination of the operation.
As the Narwhal moved from the factory to the floating dock, many spectators, including media representatives, took the opportunity to capture videos and photos of the indigenous submarine.
Earlier reports had suggested that acceptance tests for the submarine would begin in late April, with delivery anticipated before the end of the year. However, there have been indications of possible delays in this process.
According to retired Navy Captain Jiang Hsin-Biao, a scholar at Taiwanese think tank, the Institute for Defence and National Security Research (INDSR), the February 28 HAT dry-dock tests were aimed at testing the submarine’s actual displacement from its original design.
These tests include a tilt test to assess the stability of the vessel and to determine the coordinates of its centre of gravity.
In addition, the final HAT process at the dry dock will involve individual tests on all of the vessel’s equipment, ventilation systems and engine systems before conducting a comprehensive test through systems integration.
According to the Taiwanese military, successful completion of HAT testing is a prerequisite for advancing to the next phase: sea acceptance trials (SAT).
Fresh perspectives revealed in photos
A series of newly released photos circulating on the internet offer a detailed look at the Taiwanese-made submarine, revealing interesting and advanced features that were previously hidden.
Last year, during the launch event, crucial components such as the bow, torpedo tubes and other sensitive items were protected under the Republic of China (Taiwan) flag. This precautionary measure, explained CSBC President Cheng Wen-lon, was intended to prevent the exposure of confidential submarine parts pending further testing.
In the latest disclosure, after the prototype was moved on 26 February, many of these once-hidden components were exposed, including the intercept sonar, flank sonar array and torpedo tubes. The forward section of the hull displayed the torpedo tubes and the cylindrical array sonar (CAS), while above the hull an acoustic intercept/range array was visible. Below, evidence of the passive sonar (PRS) and flank sonar array was evident.
The transition from double hull to single hull is marked by a large opening on the side of the hull, similar to the Dutch Walrus class design, allowing more interior space but potentially generating additional noise. Finally, small ports on the hull side are intended for deployment of torpedo countermeasures.
Sharper image of the alleged 12x torpedo countermeasure tubes on the port side. https://t.co/1Bv4ToEcK1 pic.twitter.com/HQ9g4o9FDi
– Collin Koh 🇸🇬🇺🇦 (@CollinSLKoh) February 26, 2024
However, during last year’s unveiling ceremony and the recent relocation process, certain components of the Narwhal, particularly its tail, remained shielded from view.
Experts speculate that the decision to keep the submarine’s tail hidden may be attributed to concerns that potential “enemy forces” could estimate critical information, such as the prototype’s underwater speed and acoustic fingerprints, by observing details such as the number of propellers, their angles and structural patterns.
The development of indigenous submarines implies that Taiwan’s Navy is projected to have three operational submarines by 2025 and four by 2027, which includes adding two current Chien Lung (Sword Dragon) class submarines purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980s.
In addition, Taiwan currently operates two World War II-era submarines purchased from the United States in the 1970s, although these are used exclusively for training purposes.
Russia identifies ‘Abrams Killer’ FVP drone that destroyed first US-built tank – The EurAsianTimes – 28 February 2024
Drones have become the enemy of tanks in the war in Ukraine. While the recent destruction of the first US-supplied M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) in Ukraine was caused by a Russian “Piranha” First Person View (FPV) drone, several Russian tanks have been taken out by Ukrainian drones.
A representative of the Piranha design bureau in Ulyanovsk told the Russian state news agency TASS that he had received information from the officers responsible for destroying the Abrams that the killing was carried out in a meticulous operation by a “Piranha” First Person View (FPV) drone.
“We received this information from a customer who sent a communication to the battalion team commander who hit the tank. He said it was our Piranha. Then this information appeared in the news and on Telegram channels showing images of Abrams on fire,” he said.
He said these drones had already targeted other enemy armored vehicles. The drone’s main purpose is to target Ukrainian army positions and shelters. He went on to say that the “Piranha” is unique in the frequencies in which it operates, without giving details about the specifications of this little-known drone.
“Nobody has video transmitters on such a frequency. During electronic warfare tests, it proved to be the only drone that could not be suppressed,” he told the press.
In addition, a website called “piranhafpv.ru”, which may belong to the manufacturer of the Abrams killer drone, lists two products: the “Piranha-10 UAV”, which has a maximum speed of 140 kilometres per hour, and a “Pirania-7 UAV”, which has a maximum speed of 125 kilometres. In addition to these, there is also a drone called “Pirania-10 UAV with Thermal Imager” in the product list.
PIRANHA 10 UAV
Weight of drone with battery -1940 g
Maximum speed -140 km/h
Load capacity – from 2000 g to 4500 g
Video signal – Standard analog/digital
Video signal frequency -/ No standard
control – ELRS / CROSSFIRE
Ability to install a night camera, reset system – Yes
The first M1A1 Abrams MBT supplied by the US in Ukrainian service was damaged/destroyed. The blast panels can be seen deployed pic.twitter.com/ej72loRhMo
– OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) February 26, 2024
EurAsian Times could not confirm if this is the same class of drone that was used by Russian troops to destroy the US-built tank.
While details of the drone used are scarce, unmanned systems and Russian defense technology expert Samuel Bendett wrote on Platform X earlier that the “Piranha” FPV drone used in Ukraine was promoted by Russia’s Project Archangel volunteer effort.
Bendett also published a video purporting to showcase the Piranha FPV drone. He noted that many FPV drones were assembled by Russian volunteers for use by Russian troops.
Russia’s Project Archangel volunteer effort advertises the “Piranha” FPV drone used in Ukraine. Another of about a dozen FPV types assembled by volunteers and used by Russian forces. https://t.co/xXgurQoNEQ pic.twitter.com/1tPLzeWY0Z
– Samuel Bendett (@sambendett) February 15, 2024
When Abrams’ first kill was reported, some pro-Russian military bloggers noted that the MBT, which cost roughly $5-9 million, was taken out by a cheap $30,000 drone. However, the name of the drone has remained hidden until now.
On 27 February, the Russian Defence Ministry announced that Russian forces destroyed a US-made Abrams tank in the vicinity of Avdiivka in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on 26 February. Moreover, the Russian Defence Ministry has not yet confirmed the alleged role of the Piranha drone in the destruction of the Abrams MBT.
The destruction of the tank came as a breakthrough for Russian forces, who aggressively pushed into Avdiivka and managed to capture the town. As the report of the destruction was made public, the adviser to the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Yan Gagin, stressed that any new equipment supplied by the West to the Kiev regime was vulnerable.
Russian forces celebrate after taking out Abrams
In the wee hours of February 26, images and videos purportedly depicting a burning Ukrainian Abrams started doing the rounds on social media. The tank was reportedly operating in the eastern Donetsk area of Ukraine, close to the town of Avdiivka.
US-supplied M1A1 Abrams MBT in the Ukrainian service of the 47th Mechanized Brigade sitting on the side of a road in Donetsk region. pic.twitter.com/P9iY6vg7KU
– OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) February 24, 2024
Seen through a handheld drone controller, an overhead photo showed the back of the tank on fire after the alleged strike. In addition, alleged Ukrainian Abrams video footage shows a massive fire rising from behind the turret, likely caused by the detonation of secondary munitions.
According to official Russian media, a reconnaissance drone spotted the tank before shooting it down. Some reports speculated that the tank was probably hit first by a one-way attack drone and then by a grenade launcher to complete the task. However, these claims could not be confirmed.
Governor Vladimir Saldo said in a post on his official Telegram channel that Abrams “burns even brighter than Leopards,” referring to the German-made tank, which has also been widely deployed by the Ukrainian military.
Taking pleasure in securing the kill of a tank believed to be among the best in the world, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shogun said, “From the very beginning, our soldiers have said that these tanks will burn just like any other.”
Drones from both sides – Russian and Ukrainian – have been used to hit tanks in the war in Ukraine. The first British-built Challenger tank to be destroyed in Ukraine suffered a minefield defeat at the hands of a Lancet drone, while the first German-made Leopard tank destroyed in the country appears to have been lost to drone-directed artillery fire.
File Image: Destroyed Abrams Tank
Drones have also destroyed several Russian tanks that are newer, as well as many Soviet-era tanks that are on both sides of the conflict. Several videos on social media showed how both sides used drones to strike.
Although Abrams is considered to be the most powerful and survivable tank in the world, military analysts have noted that no war machine operating and moving on the ground is invisible in the age of drone warfare.
Earlier, a decorated commander of the Russian tank battalion, holder of the Order of Courage and the Medal of Bravery, Captain Sambu Khutakov, warned that Russian tank crews were actively preparing for a hunt to challenge US Abrams tanks. It is almost ironic that the tank was finally taken out by a drone instead of a Russian tank, as anticipated.
Pro-Kremlin groups and experts have released manuals and videos that provide detailed information on effectively neutralizing an Abrams tank. They instruct attackers to target specific vulnerabilities, such as damaging optical and communications systems on the turret’s roof using high-caliber weapons.
Several military analysts also pointed out that the limited number of Abrams transferred to Ukraine would not change the game. Undeterred by these comments, Ukraine continued to call on other tank users, such as Australia, to transfer their old M1A1 Abrams tanks to Kiev’s forces.
Developing effective deterrence – from a warfighter’s perspective – The Strategist – 28 February 2024
The state of deterrence against China in the Indo-Pacific is constantly adapting to the evolving threat Beijing poses to the United States and its allies on multiple fronts. But a growing number of US military service members warn that deterrence is unraveling.
Houthi attacks targeting international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden show that the status quo is cracking fast.
Insights from those actively involved in deterrence operations can help shape effective policy. Such insights were gleaned from conversations between ASPI DC analysts and service officers at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey Bay, California. These discussions on “deck deterrence” demonstrated a multidimensional analysis of some of the key political and military issues needed to inform policies to build and sustain deterrence. The emergence of security pacts, such as AUKUS, has been of significant importance. It became clear from our interactions that there are substantial gaps in policy and public discourse regarding the purpose of AUKUS and deterrence objectives in the Indo-Pacific.
It is critically important to close these gaps in order to gain public support and protect the global system that has been under attack.
AUKUS serves two essential purposes. The first is that it provides an opportunity to act coherently to shape the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific. Although AUKUS headlines are dominated by nuclear-powered submarines, the agreement represents an opportunity to articulate and implement a comprehensive strategy to build deterrence that could alter Beijing’s cost-benefit calculus and restrain its aggressive behavior. Responding to China’s threat is necessary, although this will not necessarily restore deterrence. However, applying a comprehensive strategic effort is likely to do so.
The second purpose of AUKUS is the opportunity it offers to accelerate, amplify and deepen integration, collaboration and interoperability between allied militaries, technology industrial bases and supply chain networks to shape the Indo-Pacific strategic environment.
This level of effort is unlikely to be achievable through a piecemeal approach. AUKUS presents strategic rationale and stickiness to underscore its goal, to build deterrence in the Indo-Pacific and deflect China’s objective of shaping the environment to suit its strategic vision of sovereign subjugation. Accordingly, the strategic value of AUKUS lies not only in advancing military capabilities, but also in building a new strategic environment that makes it increasingly costly for China to get what it wants by supporting allies and their ability to maintain a strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific.
At the political level, there was no doubt that China needed to be discouraged from shaping the Indo-Pacific to suit its strategic priorities. But a common theme was ambiguity about US and allied deterrence objectives and a focus on the need to prioritise People’s Republic of China (PRC) deterrence activities. The PRC’s provocative actions, including its illegal territorial claims, airspace violations, construction and militarisation of artificial islands, establishment of administrative structures to exert political pressure, and deployment of militia vessels to gradually strengthen its presence in disputed waters, were the main concerns. However, deterring these coercive ‘grey zone’ activities, which take place under the threshold of kinetic warfare, requires a different approach to how US allies and partners challenge Beijing’s territorial claims to Taiwan, Japan’s Senkaku Islands or the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
China’s moves are beyond a gradual accumulation of small salami-slicing actions that add up to a significant strategic shift. A more accurate way to characterize China’s behavior is that it reflects a revisionist strategy of escalation , which is multi-pronged, accelerated and designed to overwhelm and disrupt the strategic environment to help it eventually become the predominant power. This strategic challenge is not one that the US can face alone, but it can be countered by a collective effort involving allies and partners. A joint effort is needed to push back against China’s goal of asserting its dominance and reshaping the Indo-Pacific strategic environment to align with its interests.
While US policymakers are increasingly aware of China’s multi-domain coercive toolkit, there is an absence of a clear policy message articulating why protecting the Indo-Pacific from Chinese influence is critical to both US and global strategic interests. Supporting the maintenance of grand liberum, the open sea, and demonstrating the political will to build and sustain deterrence is vital to reassure allies and partners and temper China’s revisionist activities.
Articulating this case is of fundamental importance, given that China is in long-term strategic competition and its geographical position gives it significant advantages over the US. This geographical reality, as well as the politicisation of aid to Ukraine in Washington and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, has created the impression in Beijing that the US lacks the political will to stay the course. Even if this perception among US observers in Beijing is inaccurate, it still works to the detriment of US credibility and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific, which encourages China to pursue its revisionist growth strategy more vigorously.
To be clear, none of the military people I spoke to advocated conflict with China. Instead, their argument was that in order to deter China, the US and its allies and partners must engage in a range of activities that collectively act as bulwarks to stop the momentum from escalating from boiling to hot war. These activities include military and security pacts such as AUKUS, building external and internal supply chains and ensuring their resilience. As China’s revisionist strategy advances its agenda, the US-led security architecture must articulate and implement a coherent response that challenges China’s perception of extended sovereignty and its strategic vision of enforcing compliance by neighboring states and Indo-Pacific peoples.
SLCM-N and the deterrent value of ambiguity – Breacking Defense – February 28, 2024
In this editorial, Kyle Balzer argues that the development of a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile is imperative for deterring China and Russia.
The debate over the development of a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N) has been a back-and-forth topic for several years. In this new op-ed, Kyle Balzer of the American Enterprise Institute argues that Congress should continue to support the development of the system in light of China.
The United States is ill-prepared to deter a potential existential military threat to the homeland: a regional nuclear war that escalates into a full-scale catastrophic exchange. Indeed, as the bipartisan Strategic Posture Commission warns, the U.S. defense posture requires broader nuclear options to insure against this particular situation.
As congressional hearings open this spring on the budget and defense posture, this issue deserves urgent attention given the emerging dual-peer nuclear threat environment. Fortunately, there is a clear answer to America’s posture problem already in development: the sea-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N).
Russia has a nuclear weapons doctrine that calls for limited nuclear use to dictate the terms on which a conflict is fought or ended. The Russian doctrine, in turn, is underpinned by a conventional posture embedded with thousands of nuclear weapons in theatres. Many of these lower-yield warheads are designed for survivable and accurate delivery systems, such as road-mobile missile launchers – the hallmark of a limited engagement capability. Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine revealed Putin’s willingness to take enormous risks, suggesting that in a future conflict with NATO, he might consider limited nuclear use an asymmetric advantage.
Given the rapid growth and sophistication of China’s regional nuclear potential, it is prudent to guard against Beijing adopting a similar employment doctrine in the future. (The latest DoD China Military Strength Report, for example, indicates that PRC military officers are debating whether “new, precise low-yield nuclear weapons could enable the controlled use of nuclear weapons, in the war zone, for warning and deterrence.” Such a situation is extremely worrying given China’s desire to isolate Taiwan and decouple the US military from the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, during the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, when China lacked a low-yield, long-range precision strike capability, Beijing issued nuclear threats in an attempt to prevent a US show of force.
Although it ultimately failed to prevent two US battle groups from entering the region, China now possesses the capability to conduct limited nuclear strikes throughout the Asia-Pacific.
In light of the emerging dual-peer threat environment, the United States must do more both to extend deterrence to distant allies and, should deterrence fail, to avoid limited nuclear escalation. It must convince Russia and China that they cannot successfully engage in nuclear blackmail or escalate their way out of a failed conventional war.
The current US nuclear posture is necessary but insufficient to credibly accomplish this mission. Strategic nuclear forces, given their basic remote arrangements, lack ideal levels of flexibility and responsiveness. Moreover, Europe’s theatre nuclear posture relies on dual-capable fighters, which are more vulnerable to either pre-emptive strikes or integrated air defence. And the Asia-Pacific region currently lacks the infrastructure to serve a permanent nuclear mission. Even so, such a posture would suffer from the same vulnerabilities as Europe’s core system.
A more credible nuclear posture therefore requires four characteristics: 1) an enduring regional presence; 2) readiness to respond for operational effect; 3) large-scale deployment to increase overall force survivability and complicate adversary planning; and 4) the ability to penetrate air and missile defenses within the threat and engagement envelope. The SLCM-N is the only system designed to encompass all of these attributes.
If deployed on attack submarines, SLCM-N will have an enduring presence in the North Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and Asia-Pacific – whether actually patrolling an advanced area or not. Because of the low observability of submarine launchers, Beijing and Moscow will have to assume they are on the ground. SLCM-N would also enjoy unmatched survivability; have the ability to respond promptly for military effect; and will be able to conduct missions in dense anti-access/no-go zones. If deployed on certain surface ships as well as submarines, the deterrent effect could be even greater. Indeed, these distinctive attributes have convinced senior military officials and a number of former civilian defence officials to repeatedly endorse the programme.
The Biden administration’s opposition to SLCM-N as redundant and costly, despite bipartisan support for the program, is a serious mistake.
The administration’s first criticism is that the system is redundant. As noted above, that is simply not the case. If a conflict has reached the point where nuclear weapons are in play, nuclear-capable bombers will likely be in high demand for conventional missions. And the low-yield W76-2 warhead deployed on ballistic missile submarines was only produced in small numbers for an even smaller set of launchers on alert at any one time.
As for the administration’s concern over the $10 billion cost estimate for the 2023-2032 period, one might ask: What is the deterrence value of the most likely existential military threat to the United States?
SLCM-N would certainly mean fewer missile launch tubes dedicated to conventional weapons, as well as additional costs for certifying submarine crews for the nuclear mission. However, the attack submarine fleet would not necessarily have to dedicate a large number of launchers to the nuclear mission. Again, China and Russia should assume SLCM-N presence – whether or not deployed, in large numbers, in forward areas. In this sense, there is considerable deterrence and cost-effectiveness value in ambiguity.
SLCM-N, therefore, represents a relatively modest expenditure to insure against the greatest military threat to the homeland: a regional conflict escalating to full-scale nuclear war.
Kyle Balzer is the Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on nuclear strategy and policy
The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups (CSGs) and amphibious ready groups (ARGs), based on information available from open sources. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to US dominance of the world’s oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier and includes a significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warships, with an embarked marine expeditionary unit.
Defence electronics systems company Thales said Thursday it has successfully delivered the first CAPTAS-4 variable depth sonar transmitter to the US Navy’s Frigate Constellation (FFG-62) programme.
According to a Thales press release, the advanced sonar system was delivered to the U.S. Navy ahead of schedule, demonstrating the company’s commitment to excellence and its role as a trusted partner in naval operations worldwide. Known for its reliability and performance, CAPTAS-4 is the industry leader in active underwater variable depth systems.
AAC, the prime contractor, completed this important delivery on October 12, 2023, exceeding contractual expectations despite aggressive time constraints. Thales’ renowned sonar technology was selected by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in collaboration with the US Navy to equip its new frigates, marking a significant advancement in naval defense capabilities.
CAPTAS-4, the most powerful variant in the CAPTAS family, offers unmatched anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Tested extensively in various operational conditions by naval forces around the world, including the French, British and Italian fleets, its technical maturity and exceptional performance have earned it global recognition.
Thales’ expertise in underwater warfare spans more than five decades, making it the leading exporter of sonar systems globally. The CAPTAS family, characterised by low-frequency variable immersion sonars, is specifically adapted for anti-submarine operations, with CAPTAS-4 representing the pinnacle of this technology.
In particular, French multi-mission frigates equipped with the CAPTAS-4 system have received prestigious awards, including the Hook’Em Award, for outstanding performance in anti-submarine warfare during coalition exercises. Thales’ commitment to excellence and its state-of-the-art sonar systems have been instrumental in enhancing naval capabilities, enabling the detection, location and tracking of increasingly covert underwater threats.
Houthis say they will introduce military ‘surprises’ in the Red Sea – REUTERS – FEBRUARY 29, 2024 5:06 PM
Yemen’s Houthi rebels will introduce “military surprises” into their operations in the Red Sea, the leader of the Iran-aligned group, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said in a televised speech on Thursday.
Houthi militants have repeatedly fired on international merchant ships since mid-November in solidarity with Palestinians over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
A helicopter carrying six people crashed into the ocean off Norway’s west coast on Wednesday, and all on board were later plucked from the sea, the country’s joint rescue coordination centres said.
Haukeland University Hospital, the region’s largest, said it had received all six patients following the accident, but that their medical condition is unclear at this time.
The helicopter belonged to Bristow Norway, the company’s country manager Heidi Wulff Heimark told the Stavanger Aftenblad daily.
Bristow Norway transports crew to and from oil and gas platforms in the North Sea.
It was not immediately clear what type of helicopter was involved. Bristow was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.
The area was experiencing strong winds at the time of the crash, a rescue service official told TV2.
Air traffic data showed several rescue helicopters circling in the air near an island west of Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city and a busy hub for Norway’s offshore oil and gas industry.
In 2016, an Airbus AIR. PA Super Puma helicopter returning from the North Sea crashed in roughly the same area, killing all 13 people on board.
The accident led to the suspension of the use of this type of helicopter by the Norwegian oil and gas industry.
Philippines begins latest naval modernization attempt amid South China Sea tensions – USNI News – 28 February 2024 22:22
Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea with China and fears over how a conflict over Taiwan could endanger the country’s territories in the Luzon Strait, the Philippines is trying to prioritize its naval forces in a revised military modernization plan.
Despite Manila’s encounters with China in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, including the construction of several military bases on artificial islands and confrontations with Chinese ships over the past decade, the Philippines’ armed forces remain under-equipped, experts agree.
The Philippine Navy has lagged behind many of its Southeast Asian peers for decades as a consequence of relative neglect, as the country then focused heavily on internal security. This also led, most importantly, to neglect of the country’s maritime domain. Philippine maritime interests, particularly in the West Philippine Sea, have been compromised,” said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
Following the Scarborough Shoal incident in 2012, which led to China’s effective occupation of the feature in the Philippine EEZ, Manila resumed a 1990s upgrade act previously booked due to financial constraints. The revised Philippine Armed Forces Modernization Act called for the purchase of equipment, particularly naval vessels and aircraft, to enhance AFP capabilities and deter further intrusions into the South China Sea.
The Philippine Navy was to spend more than $40 billion on the purchases in two four-year and one five-year phases, known as “horizons”, between 2013 and 2028. Today, only a fraction of the originally planned spending has been executed. The armed forces failed to complete the first two phases of the horizon due to lack of funding from the Philippine government and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding shortfall has scuppered the Philippine Navy’s Strategic Shipping Plan 2020. The 2012 modernisation plan called for the service to acquire six anti-air warfare frigates, 12 anti-submarine corvettes, 18 offshore patrol vessels, 42 missile boats and three attack submarines, as well as various amphibious and auxiliary vessels. Since then, the service has acquired two frigates, three corvettes, six offshore patrol vessels and nine missile boats.
As tensions with China have grown over the past year, Manila has begun to revise its plan. Following incidents at Scarborough Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal and elsewhere in South China in 2022 and 2023, the Philippines has strengthened its naval deployments in the region. Philippine lawmakers have also promised increased funding for the navy and coast guard.
“Vivid images showing Chinese ships colliding and water cannons with smaller Filipino boats help get this buy-in from the voting public,” Ray Powell, director of Project SeaLight at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, told USNI News.
“Manila’s assertive transparency campaign of 2023 has pushed military modernization from one of many budget line items to a national imperative. This is a crucial and tangible way in which transparency has contributed to Philippine national resistance against [the People’s Republic of China’s] coercion,” he added.
In January, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved a $35 billion procurement list proposed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for a revised version of Horizon 3 – almost equivalent to the total projected cost of the original program. In contrast, the previous administration approved only $5.6 billion for Horizon 2.
Dubbed Re-Horizon 3, this revised phase aims not only to procure new equipment, but also to eliminate inefficiencies, streamlining the procurement process and developing a better defence strategy.
National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told reporters that the Philippines must “mobilize resources to make the most of what we have, making sure that the acquisitions made are supportable [and] sustainable, and redundancy is built in.”
“I said [the AFP and Department of National Defense] will not be a vendor’s paradise. We will not consider ourselves a vendee, but a customer. We will demand performance from all our supporters,” Teodoro said in an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer .
Teodoro criticized the inefficiencies of the modernization and procurement laws, calling them “cursed.”
Along with Re-Horizon 3, the new comprehensive archipelagic defense concept unveiled by Philippine defense officials brings increased emphasis on naval and air forces to the country’s defense. In this strategy, the AFP, traditionally domestically focused, is expected to operate offshore in the EEZ and beyond.
Philippine Navy missions include patrols from the EEZ to the inland waterways of the 7,641-island country. Moreover, with an external threat from China, the force is looking to acquire state-of-the-art anti-air warfare and submarine capabilities.
Geopolitical analyst Don McLain Gill in Manila has stressed the need for future acquisitions.
“The next step will be to ensure how such acquisitions can be effectively and practically integrated into the Philippines’ overall desire to enhance its ability to secure both its inland waters and the surrounding seas,” Gill said.
Koh pointed out that the country’s other maritime security organizations could “to some extent” reduce the funds the Philippine Navy needs for domestic duties.
“The modernization and recapitalization program of the Philippine Coast Guard – and, to a lesser extent, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – may help the Philippine Navy focus more on conventional combat and other military missions than on patrolling and enforcing the country’s EEZ,” Koh said.
Equipped with Japanese and French patrol vessels, the Philippine Coast Guard has been deployed frequently in the South China Sea to protect Filipino fishermen, ward off foreign ships and escort Philippine Navy supply missions to Second Thomas Shoal. The Philippine Coast Guard is to acquire a large number of ocean patrol vessels in a future upgrade.
Japan pledged to fund seven patrol vessels, in addition to the 12 existing ones previously handed over, following a diplomatic visit to Manila in November. Philippine senators also considered the Austal shipyard in Cebu to build three offshore patrol vessels.
While the list of assets is not yet public, Manila is considering buying two to three attack submarines from either France or South Korea and several BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles from India for its military.
South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries also expects additional warship orders from the Philippine navy. Since 2012, Manila has ordered two frigates, two corvettes and six offshore patrol vessels from the Korean shipbuilder.
Other major purchases include four landing platform docks from PT PAL Indonesia, which are the largest vessels in the Philippine Navy at 7,200 tonnes.
US donations include three Hamilton-class cutters and three Cyclone patrol vessels. These patrol vessels frequently patrol the South China Sea and the waters around Mindanao. Four other patrol vessels, two Protector and two Island-class patrol boats, have been targeted for transfer to the Philippines pending congressional notification requirements, according to a White House press release last year.
Joshua Bernard Espeña, vice president of the International Development and Security Cooperation think tank in Manila, told USNI News that the Philippine Navy is expected to acquire more offshore patrol vessels, corvettes and frigates previously purchased by Manila to strengthen its presence in the South China Sea.
“These relatively small but multirole surface platforms are exactly what the AFP needs to put a presence in much shallower EEZ waters. Especially with a tight budget, the PN needs flexible navigation for tactical and operational gains,” Espeña said.
On the other hand, Espeña sees the submarine acquisition as a “token purchase” due to conditions in the South China Sea. The attack boats would be better suited to operate in the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan, he acknowledged.
The Philippine Navy retired its last surface combatant from World War II in 2021 without a replacement, reducing the total number of ships in service. Koh stressed that the service must look at modernisation through a “qualitative and quantitative lens”.
Espeña advocates a “good enough” defense plan for Philippine forces and attributes the state-of-the-art combat to the United States under the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
“Here, we leave the US 7th Fleet to do the rest of a Mahanian-style warfare on the high seas. It sounds déclassé when we look at the tip of the iceberg; my guess is that DND is trying to optimize the AFP’s joint operational concept by bringing in more air defense systems, land-based cruise missile systems, and fixed and rotary multirole wing systems, among others,” Espeña said.
A Russian coast guard vessel caught fire in the Sea of Azov – intelligence / Audio – Black Sea News – 29.02.2024
On 29 February, a fire was recorded on one of the Coast Guard boats of the Russian Federation’s FSB Border Guard Service in the waters of the Sea of Azov.
According to Ukrinform, this was reported by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
“Fire engulfed the wheelhouse of the Russian ship. The enemy suffered losses in the number of five people. The crew of the craft urgently called for an evacuation group,” the Main Intelligence Directorate said.
Russian company FESCO sent equipment from St. Petersburg to Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey – Black Sea News – 29.02.2024
Russian shipping group FESCO has arranged direct shipment of oversized large-capacity equipment from the port of St. Petersburg to the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey.
Two superheater separators (SPS) have been sent to the site. The weight of one SPS is 330 tonnes, the length is 22.3 m, the outer diameter is 4.5 m. The total weight of the cargo batch reached 780 tonnes, reports the Russian PortNews website with reference to FESCO’s press service.
Specialists of the project logistics transport group chartered a special vessel for this transport, developed a scheme for placement, securing and delivery of oversized equipment, provided forwarding services in the port, organized the loading of NGN on the chartered vessel using port cranes.
The ship left St. Petersburg on the night of 25 February, the estimated date of arrival at the Vostochny cargo terminal, which is located on the construction site of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, is 16 March. There, specialists will unload the equipment and deliver it to the plant under construction for installation.
The Akkuyu nuclear power plant is a project implemented by the Rosatom State Corporation of Turkey. In 2021, FESCO and Akkuyu Nuclear SA (part of Rosatom, responsible for the design, construction and subsequent operation of the Akkuyu NPP) signed a contract for the provision of a range of logistics services at the Vostochny terminal for the handling of cargo delivered by sea for the needs of the project.
FESCO Transportation Group is one of the largest transport and logistics companies in Russia, active in port, rail and integrated logistics.
A detailed list of sanctioned Russian companies can be found in the database of legal entities sanctioned by Ukraine, the EU, UK, Canada and the US in connection with Russian aggression against Ukraine.
In the waters of the Kerch Strait, the occupiers have established no-navigation zones – Black Sea News – 29.02.2024
In the waters of the Kerch Strait, no-navigation zones have been established in the area of the Krasnodar Territory-Crimea main gas pipeline.
The corresponding order of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation of 8 February 2024 (No. 47) was published on the portal of legal acts of the Russian Federation, reports the Russian website PortNews.
The document contains the coordinates of the areas where sailing is prohibited for all types of vessels (small size, sailing, sport, jet ski, passenger, leisure, cargo, auxiliary fleet vessels, bunkering vessels, tugs), except for boats, ships and vessels of the National Guard of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, the Navy and the Russian FSB Border Guard Service.
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Indian Shipping Register fleet has increased by 117.5%.
According to Clarksons Research, in January 2022, the Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass) fleet was 11.4 million registered tonnes. Since then, this figure has grown by 117.5% to 24.8 million tonnes today, reports usm.media with reference to Splash 24/7.
The publication notes that the increase in total fleet carrying capacity in such registers is not a new phenomenon – many countries register vessels for the transport of Russian oil. In particular, Gabon, whose registry last year was the fastest growing in shipping. The reason is that the country has allowed its flag on Sovcomflot vessels.
In the two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the number of vessels flying the Gabonese flag has increased by an unprecedented 675%. This has enabled Gabon to become the second ‘maritime’ country in Africa after Liberia.