Brazil Aircraft Carrier Modernization Underway

DG (08JUN15) Arsenal da Marinha do Rio de Janeiro

Satellite imagery confirms that Brazil’s Sao Paulo Aircraft Carrier has entered the dry dock at the naval shipyard in Rio de Janeiro, probably to be evaluated for ship improvements.

Few countries in the world have a working aircraft carrier and Brazil happens to be one — even if barely. With a 7,400 km coastline and significant offshore energy reserves, it’s not hard to see why. Recent space snapshots suggest the country is well underway in maintaining its status as Latin America’s only flattop operator.

Imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe from May shows Brazil’s Sao Paulo (A12) aircraft carrier in the dry dock at Arsenal da Marinha do Rio de Janeiro. The shipyard, located on Ilha das Cobras, is just inside Guanabara Bay in the nation’s former capital. It’s the country’s main maintenance center for the Brazilian Navy, and it’s here the country has taken the first steps to modernize the carrier to serve until the late 2030s.

Historical imagery shows the former French carrier entering the dry dock by the end of March. Reports in May announced the hiring of an international firm to help with ship evaluation. Texas-based engineering consultancy Zentech reportedly secured the contract to perform a comprehensive inspection of the hull steel to support future upgrades.

As a part of a five year program, the firm will be looking for corrosion to determine hull integrity and provide recommendations on steel replacement. “The initial work involves corrosion inspection, condition evaluation and detailed analysis of the carrier’s hull integrity, including the creation of 3D models, to accurately map the results of the vessel’s hull gauging for further detailed analytical work, and ultimately providing recommendations regarding steel replacement,” Zentech said.

The firm has an excellent track record in the region doing similar work on offshore oil rigs for Mexico state-run oil company PEMEX.

040608-N-1281L-009  Aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), June 8, 2004 - Brazilian Navy aircraft carrier BNS Sao Paulo (A12), foreground, comes along side USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as the ship transits around South America to its new homeport of San Diego. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class John Lill. (RELEASED)

Aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), June 8, 2004 – Brazilian Navy aircraft carrier BNS Sao Paulo (A12), foreground, comes along side USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as the ship transits around South America to its new homeport of San Diego. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class John Lill. (RELEASED)

Beyond evaluation, Brazil’s other partner firm, French shipbuilding group DCNS, has been awarded around $2 million to provide further assistance in upgrading the power and propulsion systems. Once completed, the ship is expected to have a 54 MW electrical power and distribution system enabling speeds in excess of 27 kts.

Other upgrades include work on the flight deck’s steam catapults, arresting gear and aircraft elevators. All of which could indicate Brazil is still open to acquiring the Gripen-M, the carrier version of the Gripen-E. Reports of recent Gripen purchases however, have not mentioned the variant, though time will tell.

While improvements are expected to help, how well a modernized Sao Paulo will function is still difficult to predict. On-board fires over the years combined with the carrier’s age, suggest work could prove challenging, if not expensive.

But given the ship’s record, it couldn’t possibly get worse. During the carrier’s 14-years in service with Brazil’s Navy, the vessel managed no more than 3 months service between maintenance periods. With such limited value, it’s unlikely the 51-year old flattop has contributed much in way of furthering the country’s naval doctrine.

Of course, carriers in Brazilian service probably never have. Its previous carrier, the Minas Gerais (A11)—a former Colossus class flattop—barely operated fixed-winged aircraft. To be fair, before that vessel was retired, the Navy did manage to acquire its own fixed-wing air arm, where previously it had to embark with air force pilots.

saopaulo(A12)

It seems likely, Brazil enjoys the title as Latin America’s sole carrier operator—and the status it affords—more so than the practical use of the platform. And now if it wants to keep the title, the Sao Paulo’s modernization will need to go smoothly in the coming years.

That’s because plans to acquire Brazil’s next carrier have been delayed, largely due to economic mismanagement. Those plans would also see a new carrier built domestically with a foreign partner—no small feat given the country’s lack of experience. As a result, the Navy doesn’t expect its first new carrier till sometime in 2028, slipping from 2023.

It goes without saying, if Brazil’s beleaguered economy doesn’t return to robust growth, things could get shaky for defense acquisitions. With ongoing GDP contraction expected throughout 2015, Brazil may have a tough road ahead to modernize, let alone acquire a larger more expensive carrier.

Nevertheless, the Navy reports that modernization work is to start in 2017 and expected to take 48 months with the Sao Paulo returning to service in 2021.

Posted in Armed Forces, Brazil, Chris B, English, Sea Powers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Boko Haram ist noch lange nicht besiegt

von Peter Dörrie (published in English)

Abubakar Shekau in einem Propagandavideo von Boko Haram.

Abubakar Shekau in einem Propagandavideo von Boko Haram.

Boko Haram hat sich zurückgemeldet: In einer Serie von Angriffen am 22. und 23. Juni griff die islamistische Rebellengruppe mehrere Dörfer im Nordosten Nigerias an. In den Orten Debiro Hawul, Debiro Bi und Gjuba töteten Angreifer und eine Selbstmordattentäterin 40 Menschen. Das Mädchen, das sich in Gjuba in die Luft sprengte und 10 Menschen mit in den Tod riss, war erst 12 Jahre alt.

Der Krieg gegen Boko Haram ist noch lange nicht vorbei. Und er wird sich wohl noch auf unbestimmte Zeit hinziehen, wenn die Gegner der Islamisten ihre Strategie nicht ändern.

Mindestens 25’000 Menschen sind durch die Gewalt zwischen Boko Haram und nigerianischen Sicherheitskräften seit dem Ausbruch des Konflikts im Jahr 2009 ums Leben gekommen. Eine Million wurden zu Flüchtlingen gemacht. Nach Jahren politischen und militärischen Versagens der nigerianischen Regierung konnten die Rebellen bis Ende 2014 große Teile des nordöstlichen Bundesstaates Borno unter ihre Kontrolle bringen — eine Fläche von der Größe Belgiens.

Anfang 2015 änderte sich die Dynamik mit einer Großoffensive des nigerianischen Militärs. Stark erhöhte Rüstungsausgaben führten zu besseren Waffen und besserem Training. Und nachdem die Extremisten auch Ziele in den Nachbarländern Kamerun und Niger attackierten, traten diese Länder zusammen mit der tschadischen Regierung in den Konflikt ein. Das nigerianische Militär eroberte danach mehrere Städte zurück und befreite hunderte Geiseln aus den Händen von Boko Haram. Für einen Moment konnte sich Nigeria Hoffnung auf ein baldiges Ende des Konflikts machen. Vielleicht war der endgültige Sieg gegen Boko Haram doch nur eine Frage der Waffen, des Geldes und der Zeit?

Doch die aktuelle Gegenoffensive hat diese Hoffnungen zerstört. Boko Haram ist zwar geschwächt, doch ganz offensichtlich noch nicht bereit den Kampf aufzugeben. John Campell, ein Analyst des Council of Foreign Relations bezeichnet die Behauptungen zu den Geländegewinnen der nigerianischen und tschadischen Militärs als übertrieben. Die meisten Bevölkerungszentren seien wieder unter der Kontrolle der Regierung, doch Boko Haram habe immer noch großen Einfluss in den ländlichen Gebieten.

A California National Guard Special Forces soldier from Los Alamitos-based Special Operations Detachment–U.S. Northern Command and Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses with Nigerian soldiers on May 31, 2014, during a training mission in Nigeria.

A California National Guard Special Forces soldier from Los Alamitos-based Special Operations Detachment–U.S. Northern Command and Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses with Nigerian soldiers on May 31, 2014, during a training mission in Nigeria.

Während Militärs aus Nigeria, Niger, Tschad und Kamerun mit hohen Verlusten auf Seiten der Rebellen prahlen gibt es für diese Angaben keine Bestätigung — unabhängigen Beobachtern ist das Konfliktgebiet versperrt. Boko Haram verfügt nachweislich immer noch über die notwendige Kapazität koordinierte militärische Operationen durchführen zu können. Dutzende Kämpfer der Organisation waren in den letzten Wochen an Angriffen in Nigeria und Niger beteiligt.

Dabei setzen die Islamisten immer weniger auf territoriale Kontrolle. Stattdessen konzentriert sich die Gruppe auf Überfälle und Selbstmordattentate, Angriffsarten gegen die militärische Übermacht nur beschränkt etwas ausrichten kann. Ein Selbstmordattentat in der tschadischen Hauptstadt N’Djamena tötete am 15. Juni 2015 27 Menschen und verwundete 101. In Maiduguri, der Hauptstadt von Borno, starben bei ähnlichen Attacken Dutzende.

Inzwischen hat sich Boko Haram außerdem der Terrororganisation “Islamischen Staat” (IS) angeschlossen und lässt sich von diesem in ihrer “Öffentlichkeitsarbeit” und “militärischen Strategie” inspirieren. Statt auf dem Sterbebett zu liegen scheint sich Boko Haram eher gekonnt an die neue Situation anzupassen. Leider hat bisher weder Nigeria noch eine der anderen beteiligten Regierungen auf diese Entwicklung reagiert. Noch immer setzen alle Beteiligten ausschließlich auf eine militärische Lösung. Das ist bedauerlich. Wenn Militärstrategen eine Lehre aus dem Krieg in Afghanistan und dem Aufkommen des IS lernen konnten, dann doch das ein rein militärischer Ansatz in der Aufstandsbekämpfung schon fast zwangsläufig scheitern muss. Außerdem fehlt Nigeria und den anderen Staaten der finanzielle lange Atem, um den aktuellen militärischen Kraftakt durchzuhalten. Insbesondere wenn der Weltmarktpreis für Öl auf längere Sicht niedrig bleibt.

In der Zivilbevölkerung wird das Militär aktuell kaum genug Verbündete im Kampf gegen Boko Haram finden. Laut einem aktuellen Bericht von Amnesty International sind in den vergangenen Jahren 8’000 Menschen im Gewahrsam des nigerianischen Militärs umgebracht worden, verhungert, erstickt oder unter Folter gestorben. Boko Haram ist zwar noch brutaler, doch für Zivilisten gleicht die aktuelle Situation einer Wahl zwischen Pest und Cholera.

Aus militärischer Sicht wirkt sich zudem der Mangel an Koordination zwischen den beteiligten Armeen verheerend aus. Der tschadischer Präsident Idriss Déby diktierte noch vor kurzem der Presse ins Mikrofon, es gebe “null” Kommunikation zwischen tschadischen und nigerianischen Truppen im Kampfgebiet, obwohl die tschadische Armee in nigerianischem Grenzgebiet operiert und Luftschläge fliegt.

Für Tarila Marclint Ebiede, ein Analyst am Center for Research on Peace and Development an der Universität Leuven sind die militärischen Anstrengungen gegen Boko Haram sinnlos, solange nicht auch die politischen und sozialen Ursachen des Konflikts angegangen werden. “Peacebuilding im Kontext mörderischer Konflikte ist komplex und mit Dilemmata durchsetzt,” schreibt er in einem Artikel für World Policy.

Ebiede schlägt ein Programm zur Entwaffnung, Demobilisierung und Reintegration für Kämpfer von Boko Haram vor. Ein solches Programm müsse natürlich die extreme Gewalt, religiöse Indoktrinierung und individuelle Schuld der Kämpfer in Betracht ziehen. Doch diese Herausforderungen seien zum Beispiel auch bei der Aufarbeitung des Genozids in Ruanda schon teilweise gemeistert worden. Militärischer Druck auf Boko Haram würde natürlich ein wichtiger Bestandteil einer solchen Strategie bleiben. Aber er wäre Mittel zum Zweck, anstatt der Zweck selbst.

Weitere Informationen
Der am 29. Mai 2015 frisch vereidigte nigerianische Präsident und ehemalige General Muhammadu Buhari hat am Montag, 13. Juli 2015 die gesamte Führung der nigerianischen Armee sowie den nationalen Sicherheitsberater, Oberst Sambo Dasuki, entlassen. Sowohl der Generalstabschef der Armee als auch die Kommandeure von Armee, Luftwaffe und Marine müssen ihren Posten verlassen. Das bestätigte Buharis Sprecher in der Hauptstadt Abuja. Die Nachfolger sollen in den kommenden Tagen vorgestellt werden und unter anderem die Zusammenarbeit mit den Armeen von Tschad und Niger verstärken. Für mehr Informationen siehe Thomas Scheen, “Nigerias Präsident entlässt gesamte Armeeführung“, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 13.07.2015.

Posted in International, Nigeria, Peter Dörrie, Terrorism | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Importance of Space in Maritime Security

In January 2015, CIMSEC announced a High School Scholarship Essay Contest. This article by Nolan McEleney was honorable mention. Nolan is currently a cadet officer in the Civil Air Patrol for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron where he is currently assigned as a flight commander. He is also a part of his squadrons cyberpatriot team which deals with cybersecurity and other threats as part of a nationwide competition. In the future, he would like to work with NASA, a private space company, or any science and tech company. Whether it be in a technical or non-technical role, he feel like a lot of these companies such as SpaceX are on the cusp of history with proposed missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. He would also like to be a part of and contribute to that in any way he can. Nolan currently intends on going to the University of Washington and participating in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps so that he can become an officer.

At a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), successfully impacting a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite (<a href=

USA-193 or NROL-21) approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean, as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. Former US-President George W. Bush decided to bring down the satellite because of the likelihood that the satellite could release hydrazine fuel upon impact, possibly in populated areas (U.S. Navy photo, 20.02.2008).” width=”350″ height=”490″ class=”size-full wp-image-21697″ /> At a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70), successfully impacting a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean, as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. Former US-President George W. Bush decided to bring down the satellite because of the likelihood that the satellite could release hydrazine fuel upon impact, possibly in populated areas (U.S. Navy photo, 20.02.2008).

As long as man has walked the Earth and gazed into the stars, he’s asked “what’s out there what’s waiting for me?” Today, many country ask that very same question, although not for what they can find, but how they can use Space and its resources to advance their scientific and military might into, and beyond the 21st century.

With the dawn of rockets and the nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, Space would soon become a vital asset for the interests of both countries and other major players for the years to come (particularly China). With the sudden rise of China, and the re-emergence of the Russia as a major military power, it is absolutely vital that the United States once again pursue Space for economic, political, and commercial purposes, as well as for strategic military purposes which will benefit not only the military, but the United States as a whole; and how the US Navy can play a big role in helping us make this happen.

As of the time of this writing, the United States and other Western European Countries are currently embroiled in a geopolitical dispute with Russia over Ukraine and the rights of its territory such as Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. As a result of this, the United States and the European Union declared economic sanctions on Russia which are meant to cripple the Russian economy and force Russia out over its interference in Ukraine. In response to this, the Kremlin has threatened to stop shuttling Astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), and cut off supplies to the ISS. [1] In 2007, the Chinese military carried out its first antisatellite missile test when it launched a ground based missile 500 miles to destroy an aging satellite of theirs.

Both of these events are very disturbing as they easily threaten the United States and its space capability to carry out intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions in Space using the latest technology and satellites. If these satellites, whether civilian or military, ever happen to be threatened in a time of war, the results could be catastrophic. The Navy should invest in further developing laser weapons like the LaWS that are capable of punching holes through thick steel plates on ships as well as a countermeasure against any ballistic missile that may threaten the US satellite capability in Space or onboard the ISS. Laser weapons are surprisingly very cheap and affordable. According to Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, “with affordability a serious concern for our defense budgets, this will more effectively manage resources to ensure our sailors and marines are never in a fair fight”. The article goes on to claim that firing this type of weapon can cost less than $1 dollar per shot; a great bargain in a time that the US military is starting to see a drawdown in military spending. Christopher Harrier, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War was quoted as saying that: “The existing naval weapons systems, small-caliber cannons, large-caliber naval guns, and missiles, are at or near the limits of their potential capability. Guns and missiles just aren’t going to get much more accurate or lethal while lasers have significant potential for increases in range, accuracy, lethality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.” (Giovanni de Briganti, “2015 Ushers In the Era of Laser Weapons“, defense-aerospace.com, 05.01.2014).

It is clear that if the Navy wants to confront new 21st Century threats, it must research and develop new combat systems, whether it is by land, sea, air, or space. The Russians and the Chinese are also looking into developing similar weapons systems, while also trying to implement a missile defense system capable of intercepting and eliminating enemy targets. With a resurgent Russia and emerging China, this has become a must for the defense of the US, its allies and its overseas military installations all around the world. It has been stated that an enemy country wouldn’t necessarily have to launch a direct nuclear strike if it wanted to destroy the United States. Countries like China and Russia could simply detonate a nuclear weapon in the upper atmosphere right over the Midwestern United States and knock out most, if not all, of the electrical power grids in the continental United States through an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP would be devastating to the United States as it would cripple the infrastructure, down all of the technology, leave the US Government and military crippled and slow to react, and cause the global economy to collapse. It would be a scene right out of a post-apocalyptic film like The Postman or The Book of Eli. Not to mention the millions of casualties and deaths that would occur due to starvation or anarchy (Juana Summers, “Newt Gingrich warns EMP attack could end it all“, Politico, 19.06.2013). It would truly be a shame and a complete lack of competence if the US Government doesn’t have a contingency plan already in place for an event like this.

1984 artist's concept of a generic laser-equipped satellite firing on another.

1984 artist’s concept of a generic laser-equipped satellite firing on another.

In order for this plan on space based missile defense to work however, it must learn from the mistakes made in the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan famously proposed in 1983 his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or the “Star Wars Program”. As many people know, SDI was announced in 1983 by Ronald Reagan as a means of countering the Soviet threat with space based weaponry capable of shooting down any Soviet missile before it entered American airspace. Unfortunately, due to the slow technological development at the time of space based missile defense systems, as well as other factors including the Dissolution of the USSR, inefficiency, and overall lack of continued public support, SDI did not succeed in meeting its goals.

In comparison to the 1980’s-early 90’s, America does have the infrastructure in 2015 to support a new SDI type program. For starters, in 1983 something called: “private space companies” did not exist. With companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences, and Blue Origin starting to appear and establish themselves as legitimate companies in the aerospace sector, there’s no reason why they couldn’t be expected to help the American military develop a space based missile defense system. Similar to how other Aerospace contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have helped the Air Force in its development of their new aircraft and weapons systems, a joint government/private program with the DoD and Navy providing the funding, and the private companies will handle the testing and development could be developed. That way there won’t be as large of an outcry by the public as there was with SDI in the 1980’s and the politicians/military leaders don’t have to worry so much about any failures and the potential political backlash with the program, as it will fall on the shoulders of the private contractors. Plus, this program will be more affordable now than it ever was in the 1980s.

SpaceX is currently developing the Falcon-9 space rocket with the intention of making it reusable and cheaper to launch into orbit. According to NASA, the average typical launch cost for the Space Shuttle Program was $450 million dollars. With the SpaceX designed Falcon-9 rocket, that cost is now about 50-56 million USD, an absolute bargain when compared to how much NASA’s launches cost. The biggest obstacle to this plan would not necessarily be the technical or financial challenges involved, but compliance with international law such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Article IV of the 1967 Space Treaty states: “States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner. The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.”

SpaceX's Crew Dragon, which will be a human-rated vehicle capable of making a terrestrial soft landing.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will be a human-rated vehicle capable of making a terrestrial soft landing.

The key words in this text being: “Nuclear or any kinds of weapons of mass destruction.” WMD’s are most often defined as being either: Biological, Chemical, Radiological, or Nuclear. Since lasers do not fall into either of these specifically defined categories (as lasers are electromagnetic), this would not violate international law regarding space and weapons of mass destruction. And their primary purpose would be defensive in nature. The Navy could easily place these interceptors on ships or in bases around the world in order to be alerted by any of these threats, as well as satellites which can track and locate enemy ships and submarines before they attack.

It is obvious that space will play a critical role in the development of naval affairs and maritime security through the use of satellites and space based defense which will be used to further America’s Naval supremacy in both the Sea and Space throughout the rest of the 21st century and beyond. As we can see, the Navy will not just be limited to the sea but will have an increasingly expanded role as technology and space travel progresses.

More information
Director of Central Intelligence, “Possible Soviet Responses to the US Strategic Defense Initiative“, 12.09.1983.

Notes by offiziere.ch
[1] Later on March 28, 2015, Roscosmos and NASA had agreed that Russia will supply ISS at least until 2024 and that possibly both organisation will collaborate on the development of a replacement for the current ISS (Jeff Foust, “NASA Says No Plans for ISS Replacement with Russia“, SpaceNews, 28.03.2015).

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The West Has to be Serious About Saving Ukraine, says Timothy Garton Ash

by Stephanie Liechtenstein. She works as website editor for the quarterly journal “Security and Human Rights” (SHR) and has held several positions in the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna (among them senior political assistant to the OSCE Secretary General) between 2003 and 2008.

This article was published on the SHR-blog” (SHR) first. SHR is a quarterly journal devoted to issues inspired by the work and principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Prof. Timothy Garton Ash

Prof. Timothy Garton Ash

How should European security be shaped in the future and how can the crisis in and around Ukraine be diffused? Timothy Garton Ash (Homepage, Facebook, Twitter), Professor of European Studies at Oxford University, provides some interesting and provocative answers to these questions in this interview, which was conducted by Stephanie Liechtenstein on the margins of the Core Group Meeting of the Munich Security Conference in Vienna on 17 June.

Prof. Garton Ash explains that the problem with the current security architecture is the fact that it seems disconnected from events on the ground in Ukraine. To address this problem, he makes the case for the West to start looking into the possibility of sending peacekeepers to Ukraine. Prof. Garton Ash also shares some interesting insights of private conversations he held while in Ukraine about two months ago.

Liechtenstein: Do you believe that the West missed an opportunity to build a “Common European Home” in the 1990s?

Prof. Garton: It is a fundamental mistake to believe that the actions of Vladimir Putin’s Russia are the result of mistakes made by Western policy. It is a classic mistake to overestimate the West’s own causal contribution. Russia lost an empire in the course of two years that it had grown for over 400 years. That is something almost unheard of in history. Hence, there was bound to be a reaction to the loss of that empire. Furthermore, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine created fears in Moscow that the Color Revolutions were coming into their front yard. Let me emphasize that those domestic and internal causes are much more important than anything the West did. In fact, the West made quite a lot of efforts – particularly in the 1990s – to try and find a major place for Russia in the international system, especially in the context of the CSCE/OSCE. So I think it is absolutely wrong to attribute the major part of the blame to the West.

Having said that, I do worry about the way we talk about Russia today. Some of the rhetoric sounds as if we are back in a new Cold War – when in fact this is not correct at all. Today we are in a very different situation and we are dealing with a very different Russia. If the West believes that the chances of building a common future with Russia are now over and that instead a new Cold War has started which requires a new containment policy, then it is making a big mistake.

We have to understand the frame of mind of Vladimir Putin. It is an aggrieved, wounded, humiliated and angry frame of mind. Therefore, the tone in which we talk to Russia and about Russia is very important. We don’t always seem to get it right. I have to admit that if I sat for several hours among people who constantly criticize England, I might be rather irritated, even if I agreed with them.

Ukraine

Liechtenstein: Do you think that one should make changes to the current European and Euro-Atlantic security architecture? Do you think that creating a pan-European security architecture would help solve some of the problems we are facing today?

Prof. Garton: I would like to stress that we already have a pan-European security institution. In fact, there are two such institutions. Firstly, there is the OSCE and secondly we should not forget about the Council of Europe. So, I don’t think that we need to change the basic architecture. What seems more problematic to me is that the architecture sometimes seems more like “origami” rather than real stone architecture. The main question therefore is: “How do we make the architecture real?” In my opinion, this can be done by connecting the security architecture that we have in place to events on the ground. This dimension has been missing from the discussions here at this meeting in Vienna. Most participants are either talking about the high level of the security architecture or about the low level of events on the ground in Ukraine. Yet, what is needed is to find a way to reconnect the two levels.

The civilian monitoring mission by the OSCE in Ukraine is one example of a connection between the security architecture and the actual reality on the ground. We need more such connections between the high level and the low level. This is why I think that we need to have a serious discussion about peacemaking and peacekeeping. However problematic or unrealistic that may be at the moment, such a discussion would get beyond the polemics and the vague statements of what a new security architecture could look like.

Liechtenstein: Are you saying that the mandate of the civilian OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine should be changed to allow for military peacekeeping to take place in Ukraine?

Prof. Garton: I start from the assumption that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states is and remains a fundamental characteristic of the international order. I wish we had defended those principles more strongly in Ukraine from the outset. When I was in Ukraine two months ago, my pro-European and pro-Ukrainian interlocutors said to me privately that they were ready to settle for a frozen conflict and the implementation of the Minsk II agreement on condition of having the possibility to build a functioning state in the rest of Ukraine. In order for that to happen, the shooting and fighting has to end. In this context, I have to say that the monitoring by the OSCE is very valuable, but we have to be honest about the fact that it does not stop the fighting. What we need are peacekeepers that are more effective at stopping the fighting on the ground. What the exact mandate of such a peacekeeping mission should look like and which Organization should implement it, is a question for diplomats to figure out. In general, I think we need to come up with an original, improvised formula which is acceptable to all parties.

Ukraine

Liechtenstein: If I understand you correctly, you are arguing that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission could stay on the ground and continue with civilian monitoring and some other UN Mission could be added to do (military) peacekeeping?

Prof. Garton: Yes, this would be the ideal situation. However, this is very unrealistic since Russia would probably not agree to that and make use of its veto in the UN Security Council. Therefore, some highly improvised formula may have to be developed which is acceptable to all parties.

Liechtenstein: I read an article which you wrote for the Guardian in February 2015 in which you backed proposals to supply Ukraine with weapons. Do you still believe that this is necessary?

Prof. Garton: Firstly, I believe that it is entirely legitimate to supply weapons to the army of a sovereign state. Secondly, at the time I was persuaded by the Brookings proposal that there was a chance that this [supplying weapons to Ukraine] could slightly shift the military balance on the ground in Ukraine, and – above all – that it could shift the balance of calculation in Vladimir Putin’s mind. Yet, the West decided against arming Ukraine, the moment passed, and the Ukrainian forces eventually fled in disarray. Today we are in a completely new and different position and we have a new ceasefire agreement [Minsk II] in place. As I have mentioned before, my pro-European and pro-Ukrainian interlocutors have told me that they are willing to settle for the implementation of the Minsk II agreement. Hence, I don’t think that we should now be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians themselves. Therefore, I now emphasize the agenda of peacekeeping to enable Ukraine to build a functioning state in the rest of Ukraine.

Let me stress here again that the West has to be serious about helping Ukraine, especially in light of the fact that Ukraine has made a mighty concession by giving up a large part of its territory. As a quid pro quo, the West should be serious about saving the rest of Ukraine.

Posted in English, Peacekeeping, Security Policy, Stephanie Liechtenstein, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Khaan Quest and Mongolia: Molding a Mediator?

by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.

Khaan Quest 2015From June 20 to July 1, the Mongolian Armed Forces and United States Pacific Command jointly hold the latest edition of Khaan Quest (Facebook page), a multinational peace operation exercise hosted on Mongolian territory and primarily intended to enhance peacekeeping and peace support capabilities among participating states. Beyond allowing opportunities for strengthening relationships and exchanging best practices, Khaan Quest entails a command post exercise and a field exercise by ground forces. Of particular interest, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) participated for the first time, demonstrating China’s growing interest in regional security.

China had previously indicated its interest in participating in the 2014 edition but ultimately decided only to send a few observers, much as it had done for the 2013 edition. In late 2013, experts indicated that China-based hackers had been attempting to target Mongolian cyber infrastructure related to Khaan Quest 2014. It is unclear whether controversy emerging from the alleged cyber-attacks was related to China’s decision not to contribute troops to the 2014 edition or if logistical factors played a role. Chinese participation in Khaan Quest is not altogether surprising, however. Mongolia is actively engaged in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which China is a founding member, and China is one of the largest contributors of troops and material to United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Much as Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise has emerged as the largest multinational maritime exercise each year, Khaan Quest is rapidly developing as one of the broadest ground force exercise with participation from 25 countries this year. Involving more than 1,200 troops, the exercise encompasses participation from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, as well as the hosts and the aforementioned role of China (see also the Mongolian Armed Forces Opening Ceremony to the Khaan Quest 2015 in the video below). As such, the exercise is rapidly establishing itself as a pillar in Mongolia’s policy of cultivating “soft power” by promoting the image of Mongolia as a responsible, multilateral-minded actor.

Another important initiative in the pursuit of Mongolian soft power was the 2012 accession of Mongolia as the 57th participating state in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Almost three years later, however, Mongolia has made no known contribution of personnel to the OSCE’s field missions, such as the ceasefire monitors deployed to Ukraine since March 2014. The lack of a linkage between OSCE membership and peacekeeping represents some degree of inconsistency in Mongolian foreign policy but is understandable given the Mongolian Armed Forces’ lack of strategic airlift.

At least until the airlift deficiency can be remedied, Mongolia has instead focused on positioning itself as a regional mediator and a neutral ground on which talks can be held. As recently as March 2015, the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar hosted a three-day conference for officials from Central Asian countries and the OSCE’s Asian Partners for Cooperation (Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Afghanistan) regarding the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security. Through its previous role as one of the Asian Partners for Cooperation, Mongolia also hosted numerous talks and workshops for Afghan and OSCE officials. An ambition of the Mongolian government, not altogether unrealistic, might be for Ulaanbaatar to become the “Geneva of the East” and host yet higher level talks between parties to various territorial disputes, whether that is Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the Fergana Valley or Cambodia and Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple (see also Paul Price, “The ASEAN Fault Lines“, offiziere.ch, 03.04.2015). This would go some way toward preventing China from strong arming neighbours into participating in talks on Chinese territory and accepting terms dictated by Chinese policymakers. Rather, through Mongolian mediation, Ulaanbaatar talks could stand a better chance of reaching conclusions that reflect the will of the parties directly engaged in a given conflict.

Alaska Guardsmen treat simulated casualties during Khaan Quest. Alaska National Guardsmen with the 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade participate in the field training exercise portion during Exercise Khaan Quest 2015 at Five Hills Training Area in Tavantolgoi, Mongolia, June 29, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Balinda O’Neal).

Alaska Guardsmen treat simulated casualties during Khaan Quest. Alaska National Guardsmen with the 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade participate in the field training exercise portion during Exercise Khaan Quest 2015 at Five Hills Training Area in Tavantolgoi, Mongolia, June 29, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Balinda O’Neal).

Whatever the role Mongolian officials envision for their country in the 21st century, Khaan Quest is an important exercise to watch in the coming years. The participation of China and other Asia-Pacific countries underscores the relevance of the exercise, but the extent to which Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan become engaged will also speak to the extent of Mongolia’s reach internationally. If Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev remains disinterested in sending troops to participate or observe, there will be doubts as to the extent to which Mongolia can do more in countries to its west.

More information
Exercise Khaan Quest 2015 closing with some statistics.

Posted in English, International, Mongolia, Paul Pryce, Peacekeeping, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Royal Australian Navy’s Second Canberra-class LHD sets off for Sea Trials

DG Williamstown AUS

Satellite imagery from 03 August 2014 acquired by DigitalGlobe shows HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide at BAE’s Williamstown shipyard in Victoria, Australia.

The Canberra class amphibious assault ships are the largest vessels ever constructed for Australia, and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) recently sent the second vessel, the HMAS Adelaide (L01), off for sea trials in mid-June.

The 230 meter vessel left BAE Systems’ shipyard in Williamstown on 17 June and reportedly made its way to Sydney within ten days. Upon arrival, the Adelaide was dry docked at the well-known Captain Cook graving dock for flight deck cleaning and painting. On the way back to Williamstown the vessel will finish the planned trials. [1]

During a twenty day testing period at sea, the crew will undertake various tasks and scenarios taking over 240 hours to complete, according to Bill Saltzer, BAE Systems Director of Maritime. “[T]he trials […] cover everything from basic systems operations such as alarms, to the ship’s maneuverability while at sea,” he said in a statement.

A second set of sea trials will commence in August and test the ship’s communication and combat systems. Upon successful completion, the HMAS Adelaide will join the lead vessel, HMAS Canberra, previously commissioned and handed over to the Navy in November 2014.

The Canberra is home ported in Sydney at the RAN’s Fleet Base East.

DG (06MAY15) Captain Cook  RAN FBE

Satellite imagery from 06 May 2015 shows the HMAS Canberra in the Graving Dock on Garden Island in Sydney.

“The introduction of Australia’s two new Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock Ships […] will be a significant milestone in the development of the Australia Defense Force’s capacity to deploy and sustain military power across a range of contingencies,” notes a 2013 Defense Whitepaper.

“They will improve interoperability with the United States and regional partners and enhance Australia’s capacity to respond quickly and authoritatively in a range of crises,” the paper went on to say.

Nothing perhaps exemplifies this intent to watchers more than Australia’s participation in the Talisman Saber exercises. These joint exercises with the US occur biennially and routinely feature an amphibious assault component. And this year, defense forces from New Zealand and Japan joined for the first time.

The growing emphasis on amphibious operations has been an important element in Australia’s military doctrine. These latest ships complement the Army’s concept Manoeuvre Operations in the Littoral Environment which views joint operations as essential to success.

The Canberra class is based on Navantia’s Juan Carlos I aircraft carrier design and was a joint production project with Spain. The vessels replace RAN’s older Kanimbla-class amphibious landing platforms (previously Newport-class tank landing ships) which were decommissioned in 2011.

RAN is expecting delivery of the Adelaide by end of September this year.

Notes

[1] According to the vessel’s automatic identification system, the Adelaide has departed Sydney and is already on the way back (see also here):

Marine Traffic (09JUL15) Adelaide

Posted in Australia, Chris B, English, Intelligence, International, Sea Powers, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Did China Just Build a New Midget Submarine – Update

DigitalGlobe imagery published on Google Earth showing what appears to be a midget submarine at the Wuchang shipyard in Wuchang, China (30.534522 N / 114.283185 E). A Type 041 conventional submarine berthed at the same site in January is shown for comparison. (IHS/Google, DigitalGlobe)

DigitalGlobe imagery published on Google Earth showing what appears to be a midget submarine at the Wuchang shipyard in Wuchang, China (30.534522 N / 114.283185 E). A Type 041 conventional submarine berthed at the same site in January is shown for comparison. (IHS/Google, DigitalGlobe)

Three weeks ago, Offiziere requested information about a possible new Chinese midget submarine spotted at the Wuchang shipyard. The article was widely spread and cross-posted on Bellingcat, among others. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive any substantive information and even our colleagues from CIMSEC remained silent.

A week after our publication, Janes’s Defence Weekly picked up the topic, shedding a bit more light. According to Jane’s, the surface displacement seems to be around 400-500 tonnes, an estimate we didn’t include. Thus, the size of the Chinese midget submarine corresponds with that of the South Korean Hyundai KSS 500A.

A model of the South Korean midget submarine was first shown in Busan at the Maritime Achievement Exhibition, “Marine Week 2011″ (see image below). The platform is expected to replace the ageing Dolgorae class SSM sometime in 2016. Nevertheless, it is not known if any have been built. Jane’s reported in March 2015 that a variation of this design has been offered to the Royal Thai Navy.

 KSS 500A model at Marine Week 2011

KSS 500A model at Marine Week 2011

According to the intelligence publication, the KSS 500A design is for a 37 m, 510 tonne submarine that would be operated by a crew of 10 and be capable of carrying two heavyweight and four lightweight torpedoes. Its principle role was envisaged to be inshore surveillance and special forces operations, with the capacity to embark up to 14 special forces personnel. It’s possible our Chinese submarine is comparable.

Defense expert Xi Yazhou told Shanghai-based Guancha Syndicate that China, as a nation facing many challenges in the Pacific, does not need smaller-sized submarines and that in his view the Wuchang Shipyard was probably building the item for a foreign client — most likely Indonesia. Jane’s doesn’t share this view: as China has yet to export any submarines based on those in service with the PLAN, it is very unlikely that a midget submarine, with no known in-service equivalent, has been built for export sale.

The Chinese midget submarine stayed at Wuchang Shipyard until late November. Wuchang is about 500 miles inland and submarines built at the shipyard must transit down the River Yangtze to get to the coast. Interestingly, we, nor Jane’s for that matter, could find photographs showing the mini-submarine transiting down river, suggesting that either the boat remains under cover in Wuchang or that any images of it have been censored and taken down from Chinese military websites. If the midget submarine has been built for special forces operations, the latter seems most likely.

Main source
Andrew Tate, “China builds mystery midget submarine”, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 26.06.2015.

Posted in China, English, International, Sea Powers, Security Policy, South Korea | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Al-Bashir kommt davon — Darfur brennt noch immer

von Peter Dörrie

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir kam 1989 nach einem unblutigen Militärputsch im Sudan an die Macht und ist seit 1993 der Staatspräsident des Sudan.

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir kam 1989 nach einem unblutigen Militärputsch im Sudan an die Macht und ist seit 1993 der Staatspräsident des Sudan (Wikipedia).

Omar al-Bashir ist mal wieder davongekommen. Durch eine überhastete Abreise aus Südafrika, wo er an einem Gipfel der Afrikanischen Union teilnahm, konnte er erneut einer Verhaftung wegen einem ausstehendem Haftbefehl des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs (IStGH) in Den Haag entgehen.

Bemerkenswert an der Flucht ist vor allem die Mitwirkung der südafrikanischen Regierung selbst (siehe Markus M. Haefliger, “Pretoria lässt Sudans Staatschef ausreisen“, NZZ, 15.06.2015). Sie hatte al-Bashir, wie allen anderen Teilnehmern des Gipfels auch, diplomatische Immunität zugesichert. Das Southern Africa Litigation Centre, eine südafrikanische NGO klagte jedoch auf die Vollstreckung des Haftbefehls, der seit 2009 gegen al-Bashir gilt. Ein südafrikanisches Gericht wies die Regierung daraufhin an, eine Ausreise des sudanesischen Präsidenten zu verhindern, bis die Sache geklärt sei.

Al-Bashir wurde daraufhin durch scheinbar engen Mitarbeitern des südafrikanischen Präsidenten persönlich zu seinem Flugzeug gebracht und konnte das Land unbeschadet verlassen. Nur wenig später urteilte ein anderes Gericht, dass der Haftbefehl vollstreckt werden müsse. Da befand sich al-Bashirs Flugzeug allerdings schon fast wieder im Sudan.

Südafrika wurde für diese Strafvereitelung international scharf verurteilt. Lange galt Südafrika als Unterstützer des IStGH. Der Staat gehört zu den Erstunterzeichnern des Rom-Statuts, der völkerrechtlichen Vertragsgrundlage des Gerichts und gilt als solide Demokratie mit funktionierender Gewaltenteilung und einer unabhängigen Justiz. Letzteres wurde durch das Verfahren im Fall al-Bashir durchaus unter Beweis gestellt — der sudanesische Präsident wird vorerst wohl keine Reisen nach Südafrika mehr planen.

Es lohnt sich jedoch den Skandal als Anlass zu nehmen, mal wieder einen Blick nach Darfur zu werfen. Es ist dieser — immer noch anhaltende — Konflikt in der westlichsten Region des Sudans, der al-Bashir einen Haftbefehl eingebracht hat.

Das Verfahren gegen den sudanesischen Präsidenten und mehrere seiner Untergebenen geht auf eine Überweisung des Sicherheitsrats der Vereinten Nationen an den IStGH im Jahr 2005 zurück. Zu dem Zeitpunkt lief der Bürgerkrieg in Darfur schon zwei Jahre auf Hochtouren. Rebellen, regierungstreue Milizen und Armee lieferten sich schwere Gefechte. Hunderttausende Tote waren das Ergebnis.

Blauhelm der Vereinten Nationen in Darfur. U.N./Albert González Farran

Blauhelm der Vereinten Nationen in Darfur. U.N./Albert González Farran

“Heute ist die Gewalt genauso schlimm wie 2003 oder 2004,” meint der Analyst Eric Reeves im Gespräch mit Offiziere.ch. “Fast die Hälfte der Bevölkerung musste fliehen.”

“Etwa 450.000 Menschen wurden 2014 vertrieben, weitere 100.000 allein im Januar 2015. Hinzu kommen die etwa zwei Millionen Langzeitvertriebenen seit dem Ausbruch der Kämpfe 2003,” resümiert die International Crisis Group.

Der Haftbefehl gegen al-Bashir wurde seinerzeit von vielen Beobachtern kritisiert, die eine Verschlimmerung des Konflikts nach einem ersten Friedensabkommen im Jahr 2006 befürchteten. Der Niedergang des Friedensprozesses begann allerdings deutlich vor der Veröffentlichung des Haftbefehls 2009. Seit dem “ist die Gewalt eskaliert,” sagt Reeves.

Seiner Meinung nach ist der Hauptgrund hierfür die vollständige Machtübernahme durch militärische Hardliner in der sudanesischen Regierung. Die Militärs setzen auf eine gewaltsame Lösung des Konflikts in Darfur und der anderen Bürgerkriege im Sudan, etwa in den Nuba-Bergen. Immer wieder veröffentlichte Reeves in den letzten Monaten interne Dokumente und Protokolle von Besprechungen des Führungszirkel des sudanesischen Regimes, die diese Analyse bestätigen.

“Obwohl ein definitiver militärischer Sieg nicht möglich ist scheint der Einfluss der Hardliner im Regime gewachsen zu sein. Sie haben wiederholt die Oberhand behalten, auf Kosten des Friedensprozesses,” meint Jerome Tubiana, ein Analyst des Small Arms Survey in einer Email an Offiziere.ch. Die militärische Strategie werde weiterverfolgt, so Tubiana, obwohl “die Rebellen in Darfur schon schwerere Zeiten überstanden haben.”

Al-Bashir spricht zu den Militärs in Heglig, Sudan am 23. April 2012.

Al-Bashir spricht zu den Militärs in Heglig, Sudan am 23. April 2012.

Ein militärischer Sieg des Regimes in Darfur wird auch in nächster Zeit in weiter Ferne liegen, insbesondere da sich die Wirtschaft des Sudans am Boden befindet. Die sudanesische Regierung bezieht ihre Einnahmen zu einem großen Teil aus einigen eigenen Ölquellen und den Transfergebühren südsudanesischen Erdöls. Rohölpreise sind jedoch auf historisch niedrigem Niveau und die Erdölförderung im Nachbarland wurde aufgrund des dortigen Bürgerkriegs fast vollständig eingestellt (zu Süsudan siehe auch: Cameron Reed, “Schism in the South: Will South Sudan Achieve Lasting Peace?”, offiziere.ch — Teil 1Teil 2Teil 3).

Gleichzeitig scheinen aber auch die Rebellen nicht in der Lage, von der Schwäche der Regierung zu profitieren. Die verschiedenen bewaffneten Gruppen hätten “wachsende Differenzen über eine gemeinsame Strategie,” so Tubiana, während Reeves eine “Zersplitterung der Rebellengruppen” seit 2006 beobachtet.

Währenddessen sterben Tausende und viele mehr fristen ihr Dasein als Flüchtlinge. Angriffe auf Zivilisten gibt es täglich und Regierungstruppen werden beschuldigt, für Massenvergewaltigungen und Folter verantwortlich zu sein. Durch den Konflikt kam es zur massenhaften Ausbreitung von Krankheiten und Mangelernährung. An diesen sekundären Folgen starben vermutlich weit mehr Menschen als an der direkten Gewalt.

Für all das trägt al-Bashir zweifelsohne ein hohes Maß an Verantwortung. Der südafrikanischen Regierung wird es trotzdem nicht schwerfallen, Kritik an ihrer Fluchthilfe in Grenzen zu halten. Und daran hat das Verhalten des Westens in erheblichem Maße Mitschuld.

Zu einfach machen es die westlichen Staaten afrikanischen Diktatoren, gegen den IStGH Stimmung zu machen. Zwar ist das am häufigsten von afrikanischen Staatsoberhäuptern vorgebrachte Argument, der IStGH sei “rassistisch”, weil er nur Afrikaner anklage, schlicht falsch. Korrekt ist aber, dass eine ganze Reihe von Staaten, darunter die USA dem IStGH selbst noch nicht beigetreten sind und ihre Bürger und Verbündeten vor dem Zugriff des Gerichts politisch schützen. Der amerikanische Kongress hat sogar ein Gesetz verabschiedet, dass es dem Präsidenten erlauben würde militärische Gewalt einzusetzen, um amerikanische Staatsbürger aus Den Haag zu befreien.

Solange die internationale Gemeinschaft die Ziele des IStGH dermaßen politisch unterläuft, so lange wird al-Bashir durch seinen Status als Staatsoberhaupt vor einem Verfahren geschützt sein. Und derzeit deutet alles darauf hin, dass al-Bashir plant im Amt zu sterben.

Posted in Peter Dörrie, Security Policy, South Africa, Sudan | Leave a comment

Iran’s Building a New Flying Boat

DG (05OCT14) Ekranoplan ISOICO Shipyard

The Iran Shipbuilding and Offshore Industries Complex (ISOICO) appears to have built a new ekranoplan at the shipyard located near Bostanu, recent satellite imagery suggests.

Imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe from October 2014 shows Iran’s new flying boat. It’s the country’s first new model since publicizing the Bavar-2 back in 2010.[1]

The ekranoplan, also known as a ground effect vehicle after the technology it employs, was observed near the shipyard’s transverse table at the time of capture. Additional imagery from November also showed the boat in the water suggesting that harbor trials took place — though it’s doubtful the craft is operational. Subsequent imagery has shown that it returned to the ISOICO’s fabrication shop. In fact, imagery as late as April still showed it at the shipyard.

So far, there’s been no open source reporting on Iran’s new boat, though given the country’s previous record of promoting technological achievements, it should only be a matter of time.

This latest model is significantly larger than its predecessor measuring 18 meters in length with an approximate 17 meter wingspan. In comparison, the Bavar-2 has a length of approximately 8 meters and a wingspan of 6.5 meters. Unlike the previous model which features a single engine, imagery suggests the new craft has two, each mounted to the side of the fuselage.

While it was reported that the Bavar-2 featured surveillance cameras and a machine gun, no armaments could be identified at this time for the new craft. It’s possible this new model may not have been built for military purposes. Iran has several islands under its control and building an ekranoplan could be a perfect option for island tourism.

Given the measurements of the craft, the additional length more than likely suggests a shift from the single-seat configuration to a model featuring a cabin for additional passengers. Of course without further handhelds, it’s difficult to confirm. Future deployment locations could provide some insight.

DG (22NOV14) Bavar-2 Bander Abbas

That said, Iran’s current deployment of Bavar-2 have focused on locations near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. During test flights in 2006, the country had boasted that its craft could not be tracked by naval or aerial radar and that it could launch missiles. Of course, the location of the engine on the craft suggests otherwise and none to date have been photographed fitted with missiles.

Although Iran’s claims are often exaggerated, officials did say that the craft had been incorporated into Iran’s naval combat doctrine. It does seem likely, given their deployment locations, Iran would use them to swarm the Strait if provoked. Whether swarm tactics, with fast attack craft or otherwise, would actually work remains open to debate.

Ekranoplans or ground effect vehicles first made waves in the 1960s as the technology began to mature. The most notorious example comes from the Soviet Union where engineers constructed the largest model ever built. It was later discovered by a US spy satellite and US intelligence officers dubbed it the “Caspian Sea Monster.” The Soviet Union eventually cut funding for the program in the 1980s.

More recently however, the boats have come back in vogue with the military due to their high rate of speed. Last year, China tested a model similar to the newer Iranian one in the South China Sea. Authorities claim it reduced travel time between Sanya and Woody islands to two hours (down from 15 hours). China has said it would use them for merchant and patrol activities.

Russia also has plans to revive production of the boats for use in the Federal Border Guard Service. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations already employs them to fight fires, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines.

Iran’s latest production of a new variant probably follows similar requirements. It also represents another important milestone for Iranian self-sufficiency in the indigenous manufacture and repair of military equipment, a growing priority since the Iran-Iraq war.

Notes
[1] The Bavar-2 does have a variant known as the Bavar-4.
[2] Both images above were grabbed at the same ground height for comparison.

Update

Sacred Defense Week 2010 exhibit in Tehran

H/T to Galen Wright who shot over this pic showing the ekranoplan mockup displayed at the Sacred Defense Week 2010 exhibit in Tehran.

Posted in Armed Forces, Chris B, English, Intelligence, Iran | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan Has Received Four SU-30SM Fighters

KADF Su-30

In case you missed it, Kazakhstan’s recent military parade in May confirmed that the central Asian country is operating at least four Su-30SM aircraft. The parade, which took place in Astana, commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.

The Kazakhstan Air Defence Forces took delivery of the 4++ generation Russian-built fighters at the Taldykorgan Airbase also known as the 604th Airbase. Satellite imagery from April also confirmed that KADF had received four fighters.

The SU-30SM is a variant of the Indian Su-30MKI featuring an improved radar, communications system, ejection seat and weapons system. Back in February, Major General Nurlan Ormanbetov made the acquisition public during a visit to the Irkutsk Aviation Plant where the Su-30SM is built.

The KADF has been in desperate need to acquire new aircraft and modernize its aging force as most of its aircraft were acquired from older Soviet stocks in the 1990s. Its most recent efforts include a 2007 agreement with Belarus’ 558 Aircraft Repair Plant to modernize at least 10 of its Russian made SU-27. [1]

The repair plant reportedly modified the KADF aircraft to the SU-27M2 and SU-27UBM2 standard featuring both Belarusian and Israeli systems. Those aircraft are now joined by Kazakhstan’s latest acquisition of SU-30SM fighters.

Imagery from earlier this year shows both platforms along with KADF’s MIG-27 parked on the operations apron at the airbase.

Kazakhstan is part of Collective Security Treaty Organization where Russia has been promoting a unified air defense system with allies in the region. Over the years Russia has worked bilaterally to bring nearby states into the fold. Kazakhstan’s acquisition of SU-30SM help support that goal.

Notes:

[1] Media reports from Sept 2014 said that “two senior pilots” were killed in a crash involving an Su-27 near Almati. Although the variant of the aircraft wasn’t identified, imagery would suggest this was one of the upgraded Su-27UBM2. Recent imagery from 2015 only shows nine of the different camo scheme aircraft on the operations apron. However, this doesn’t discount that the other aircraft could have been in covered storage.

Posted in Armed Forces, Belarus, Chris B, English, Intelligence, International, Russia, Security Policy | Leave a comment