Uptick in NATO Intercepts of Russian Military Aircraft in Europe


NATO air forces across Europe scrambled more than 400 times in 2020 to intercept unknown aircraft approaching Alliance airspace. Almost 90 percent of these missions – around 350 – were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.

This is a moderate increase from 2019. Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners. 

“In recent years, we have seen an increased level of Russian military air activity close to the Alliance’s borders,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. “We are always vigilant. NATO fighter jets are on duty around the clock, ready to scramble in case of suspicious or unannounced flights near the airspace of our Allies. Air policing is an important way in which NATO provides security for our members,” she said. 
Across Europe, some 40 air surveillance radars and reporting hubs, and about 60 NATO jets, are on duty 24/7 to serve as a quick-response force for aircraft which fall into distress or defy international flying rules near Alliance airspace. NATO has operated a Baltic Air Policing mission for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since the three countries joined the Alliance in 2004.

NATO also provides Air Policing coverage for Allies in the Western Balkans who do not have fighter jets of their own: Albania, Slovenia, and Montenegro. Talks are also underway to extend Air Policing coverage to North Macedonia. Allies have also helped to police the skies of Romania, Bulgaria and Iceland in 2020.

NATO jets respond to unannounced military flights, as well as to civilian aircraft losing communication with air-traffic controllers for any reason, which could range from technical problems to hijacking.

NATO has two air operations centers – one in Germany, covering northern Europe, and one in Spain covering the south – which monitor all air movements across Europe.  

Featured Photo: RAF Typhoon and Tu-142 Bear Maritime Patrol Aircraft bomber. Courtesy: UK Royal Air Force.

Published by NATO on December 28, 2020.



The UK Carrier Strike Group Reaches Initial Operating Capability

According to an article published by the UK MoD on January 4, 2021, the new UK carrier strike group built around its unique strike carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, has reached IOC status.

The CSG has reached Initial Operating Capability (IOC), meaning all elements of the group from fighter jets to radar systems to anti-ship weapons have been successfully brought together and operated.

Both the air and naval elements of the CSG have now met this milestone, which includes qualified pilots and ground crews being held at short notice for carrier-based operations and trained to handle weapons and maintain the equipment.

Another marker of success at this stage includes the ability to deploy Anti-Submarine Warfare capabilities such as frigates and destroyers, as well as both fixed and rotary wing aircraft including Merlin helicopters to operate alongside the carrier.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said:

This is a hugely significant milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy and the whole country. This achievement is a testament to the determination of our service personnel and industry workforce who have delivered this first-rate military capability, a capability held by only a handful of nations. I wish the entire Carrier Strike Group well ahead of their first operational deployment this year.

Following the success of the NATO Joint Warrior Exercises last autumn, the Carrier Strike Group capability has reached the key IOC milestone for the programme on schedule.

The multinational deployment in 2020 focussed on incorporating all elements of the CSG with 13 of the UK’s allies including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, Japan, UAE and the US. Exercise Joint Warrior saw the largest number of aircraft on a British Royal Navy carrier since 1983, as well as the most F-35B jets at sea across the globe.

Full operating capability for the CSG is expected by December 2023.

And in this exclusive interview conducted during a visit to Portsmouth, England in 2018, the preparation for IOC was outlined in detail. This interview published on June 15, 2018 follows:

The coming of the HMS Queen Elizabeth to the UK combat force is a trigger for significant defense transformation.

Most of the analysis of the new carrier really focuses on the platform and what is necessary to get that platform operational but that is far too narrow an approach.

The carrier is a centerpiece, trigger or magnet for broader UK defense transformation within a unique historical context, namely, the broader strategic shift to dealing with higher end operations and the coming of Brexit.

At the heart of the focus of getting the HMS Carrier Strike Group to sea is its projected maiden operational deployment in 2021.

This is a significant challenge and the focus of attention of the Royal Navy and its industrial partners and a major element of my discussions while at Portsmouth.

During my visit to Portsmouth, I had the opportunity to talk with two key Royal Naval officers working hard to prepare the carrier for its first operational deployment. Captain Allan Wilson and Captain Mark Blackmore in Navy Command provided an overview on the way ahead with the carrier task force as well as a very insightful look at the challenge of working several intersecting programs coming together in the future maritime task force.

Captain Blackmore influences the Senior Responsible Officer for the Queen Elizabeth carrier and functions as Admiral Blount’s right hand man in delivering the carrier programme. They are not responsible for UK F-35 LTNG, which is the function of Air Command.

But with three new aircraft coming onboard the Queen Elizabeth, they are working with the integration of the other aircraft as well and closely with Joint Helicopter Command.

For example, the integration of the aircraft to fly on the carrier is part of the challenge as well, and includes three new aircraft, the F-35, Commando Merlin, and the Crowsnest.

And the carrier is shaping a shift from the current concepts of operations for the Royal Navy to a new one as well.

Currently, the key focus is upon targeted deployment built around a single ship to an area of interest.

With the carrier, a maritime task force is being built which will go together to an area of interest.

This change alone requires significant change as the shipyards will now have to manage the return of the task force and the maintenance cycle task-force driven as opposed to a cycle of dealing with single ships combing back from a targeted deployment.

The current goal is to have the HMS Queen Elizabeth deployed on its maiden operational deployment in 2021.

As Captain Blackmore highlighted the way ahead: “We accepted the ship last December and she will go off for the next two years to do fixed wing trials.

“We will do Developmental Test (DT) one and two this Autumn, DT three next Autumn, then Operational Test with the goal of achieving an initial operational capability (IOC) for carrier strike in December 2020 and then about four months later, we plan to deploy CSG-21.

“My focus is clearly on this end point, namely the first deployment wherever it is finally decided to do the initial deployment.

“Prince of Wales comes on about two years astern to Queen Elizabeth and she will be seen off the US Eastern Seaboard early next decade to do the rolling landing trials.

“We have a new landing aide called a Bedford array which is fitted to Prince of Wales which allows us to exploit the full enveloped of rolling landing and gives the pilot visual cues which enhance his capability to come back to the ship with more fuel and weapons as needed, The Queen Elizabeth will then be fitted with the new system.”

A key element for the carrier is clearly its integration with the F-35 for which the developmental test will expound this Fall off of the Virginia coast. 

The declaration of full operational capability for the carrier is correlated with the operation of the first 24 F-35Bs, which will occur by 2023.

The new carrier embraces both the carrier strike and amphibious assault roles.

As Captain Blackmore put it: “Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) is both an organization and a capability and it captures both the literal maneuver amphibious element and also the carrier strike element.”

The US is playing a key role in the UK working towards CSG21.

One aspect is clearly working with the USMC on F-35B and jointly training at MCAS Beaufort.

The Marines will be evident on the ship as well with their operating from the ship during DT trials as well.

A second aspect which came up in the discussion concerning the workup for the infrastructure was the participation of the US military sealift command in Portsmouth, a subject covered in a separate interview.

The third aspect is working with the US Navy on various aspects of preparation and training for carrier operations.

In 2012, an statement of intent was signed between the US and the UK providing a broad consensus on collaboration and joint training which has been evident throughout the workup of the Queen Elizabeth.

During my visit, I met with Lt. Commander Neil Twigg, who has just come from the USS George W. Bush we he operated as a Super Hornet pilot.  He is the resident fast jet expert on the staff at Navy command.

As Captain Blackmore put it: “We have been involved with the US Navy with regard to to the training of personnel and the concepts, the processes and the organizations that need to come together to make a carrier a carrier. As a US Admiral noted, “This is not a pickup game.  This is not something you just step onboard and just do.”

Working with the US has been a central piece of the activity to bring on line the Queen Elizabeth.

The new carrier is designed differently from a US large deck carrier and will operate differently from the US carriers, and part of the transition is sorting out a way ahead for the UK concept of carrier operations.

And that is clearly a work in progress.

But it is rooted in the design of the ship to operate F-35Bs and helicopter assault forces in varying combinations dependent on the mission.

It is also rooted in building out new ships and missiles to operate with the ship, and to be able to operate in the distributed operational battlespace being shaped by the US and other allied forces as well.

The new carrier both supports and interacts with all of these trends.

How will the carrier both contribute to and learn from these broader macro allied military transformation dynamics?

A core commitment of the UK government is to have a 100% available carrier strike capability.

This means that the maintenance and workup cycles for the two carriers need to be synchronized to ensure that this can be the case.

It is a significant challenge in that workforce, training, airpowers systems and maintenance of the carrier need to be synchronized and not just with the carrier but with the other elements of the maritime task force.

Given that the focus of the Royal Navy in the past few years has been very different, namely focused on deployment of single ships or maritime combinations built around a single non-carrier ship, shifting to the concepts of operations for a carrier strike group is very different.

Much of Captain Allan Wilson’s presentation and focus during the discussion was precisely on how to meet the challenge of the coming of a maritime task force.

The Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and MoD more generally have being adapting their organizational structure to ensure that the kind of integration, which a maritime task force enabled, by an F-35B will be successfully developed and delivered.

This is no easy task.

And Captain Wilson also noted that building out such a capability was a significant challenge but it must be met with a proper training regime to ensure a high level of readiness of the carrier maritime task force.

Captain Wilson noted: “We are redesigning force generation.

“In the past, and currently as we do with our amphibious task force, we deploy ships perhaps in a task force configuration and then they reach full operational readiness during the operation.

“When we come back to the UK, we do not maintain the task force at a high level of readiness.

“With the carrier task force approach, we are shifting our training focus to ensure that the task force is at a high state of readiness when it first deploys.”

“We bring the individual elements of the task force together to work together after they have done their initial training.

“We then integrate the jets with the task force in both synthetic and live training and get them up to certification before they go anywhere.

“We will certify the task force to high level of readiness prior to deployment and will deploy within that cycle.

“And we plan to keep that task force together for a defined period of time, which will require synchronization across the key elements of the task force in terms of maintenance, training and manning.

“That is not how we have done it in the past.

“The deployment has always been the headmark. We have surged units in and out of the task force.

“And we have worked the pieces individually.”

Captain Wilson underscored the challenge of aligning the work up of the carrier and its evolving task force approaches with the aircraft coming onboard the aircraft for its maiden deployment.

In this context, we discussed the Crimson Flag exercise to be held at RAF Marham in 2020.

Captain Wilson posed a key question: “How do you bring the other combat elements into a blended synthetic-live combat training environment to work with F-35?”

He provided an answer: “We have an exercise at RAF Marham scheduled for the Autumn of 2020, within which we anticipate USMC F-35s will participate.

“We are looking at what rotary wing assets will be available as well for this exercise.

“We bring ships crew into the exercise to work the exercise and to focus on combat capability generated from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.”

In short, the new carrier is a key part of the overall dynamics of change within UK defense.

And the senior Royal Navy team is clearly approaching this from an integrated approach looking at the cross cutting changes throughout the navy and air force as well the ground assault forces as well.

It is clearly a very dynamic and innovative process, one which will see significant challenges along the way as a core new capability is crafted for the United Kingdom.

Note: There are several aspects of the new UK carrier of interest to broader considerations of the evolution of the airbase, including manpower requirements, weapons handling,

C2 capabilities and flexible command posts, electric power generation, building the infrastructure to handle the requirements of a data rich aircraft which is the F-35B, and building unique F-35 specific capabilities, such as the ski jump and the unique rolling landing capabilities.

The featured photo: ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 25, 2019) The British Royal Navy aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth (RO 8) steams in the Atlantic Ocean off of USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Starboard side. Elizabeth is currently deployed in support of WESTLANT 19 which involves mission planning, arming the aircraft using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling Systems, flying missions and debriefing on completion. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Angel Thuy Jaskuloski)

The UK MoD Contract for Spear 3 Weapons for the F-35B


Paving the way for other F-35B customers globally, the UK has issued a contract for its procurement of the innovative strike missiles for the fifth generation aircraft.

According to a January 6, 2021 article published by the UK MoD:

Known as SPEAR3, the next-generation missile can travel long distances at high-subsonic speed and over the next decade will become the F-35’s primary air-to-ground weapon.

At 1.8 metres long, the missile system has a range of more than 140-kilometres and, powered by a turbojet engine, can operate across land and sea, day or night, to overpower enemy air defence systems, while the pilot and aircraft remains a safe distance away.

Its ability to attack moving targets will enhance the UK’s future combat air capability and provide immense lethal capability to the Queen Elizabeth class carrier strike group.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said:

“The development of this next-generation missile will allow us to protect our personnel and assets on the ground, from thousands of metres in the sky above.”

“Our commitment to this system will secure hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK and showcase British technology and weapon expertise on the world stage.”

Following a successful development phase, the new seven-year demonstration and manufacture contract with MBDA will support more than 700 UK jobs, including the creation of 190 highly skilled technology jobs in system design, guidance control and navigation and software engineering.

At the peak of the contract, 570 people will work on various aspects of the system’s development in Bristol, Stevenage and Bolton. Another 200 jobs are expected to be sustained along the supply chain that includes L3/Harris, Roband, Collins, EPS and MSB.

Colonel Martin French, DE&S’ Lightweight and Medium Attack Systems (LMAS) team leader, said:

“The placement of this contract marks the next major stage of the SPEAR3 weapon system’s development and is a result of months of detailed negotiations between MBDA and the LMAS project team.

“Building on the successes and technology achievements of the previous four years’ work with MBDA, we now enter the exciting and challenging demonstration phase where we start to prove the system against the UK’s requirements and ramp up activities to integrate this highly-capable weapon system onto the F-35B aircraft.”

With its unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar, sensor technology, and armed with SPEAR3, the F-35 will protect aircraft carriers from enemy ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles.

The UK currently has 21 fifth-generation F-35Bs, having received three new jets on 30 November. The platform’s Initial Operating Capability (Maritime) was recently declared and, later this year, F-35 jets will sail with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group ‘21 deployment.

The initial demonstration phase will assess the weapon system against the UK military’s requirement through, testing, simulation and trials, which will include controlled firings from a Typhoon aircraft.

The contract forms part of the Complex Weapons portfolio with MBDA, which is on track to deliver £1.2 billion saving to UK defence. It also allows the MOD and MBDA to maximise the export potential of complex weapons, including the first-in-class SPEAR3, which supports UK prosperity and the international agenda.

In an article published on October 18, 2016, we looked forward to the coming of SPEAR-3 as follows:

The US Navy has clearly articulated a way ahead for US and allied forces, namely to shape integrated capabilities for the distribute force able to deliver effects throughout a kill web.

The CNO has shaped a concept of the kill webs to describe the approach towards shaping a distributed joint and coalition force, which can deliver effects throughout the extended battlespace.

One of the key aspects of changes involves weapons in the kill web.

Target identification and weapons delivery will not be necessarily located on the same platform; indeed, the ability to deliver lethal effect in the electro-magnetic battlespace will be distributed throughout the kill web.

Weapons are distributed throughout the kill web and can be fired by platforms also operating throughout the kill web capable of firing weapons not carried by that platform.

The Extended Battlespace

Distributed strike will become increasingly significant as well as weapons modernization accelerates and the problem of providing new capabilities to the force, a force that is distributed in operations.

What might be called fifth generation weapons can be identified as their ability to be networked and provide selectable, proportionate effects ideally at extended ranges.

On the networking aspect, it is their capability to interact with the launch platform or with the controller in the battlespace, which can be another platform in the battlespace.

It is interactivity with the strike command elements deployed in the battlespace and an ability to operate with strike agility, which characterizes the fifth generation platform.

The challenge is integrate weapons within the kill web, to ensure that weapons are not simply fired from a close proximity source but can be used by the decision authority most capable of identifying and killing a threat.

As Rear Admiral Manazir has put it:

“C2 is ubiquitous across the kill web. Where is information being processed?

Where is knowledge being gained?

Where is the human in the loop?

Where can core C2 decisions best be made and what will they look like in the fluid battlespace?

The key task is to create decision superiority.

But what is the best way to achieve that in the fluid battlespace we will continue to operate in? What equipment and what systems allow me to ensure decision superiority?”

With regard to weapons, this means ensuring that the weapons capability is in keeping with the evolution of the sensors and command elements in the kill web.

MBDA is currently making significant progress with two such weapons, the Meteor air-to-air weapon and the SPEAR 3 air-to-ground weapon. Both of these weapons have interactive data links and the capability to shift from a particular weapons platform, which launched it to another platform able to direct the target path.

Another core characteristic of what can be considered fifth generation weapons is that they are software upgradeable weapons, which are redesigned as both technology and combat performance evolve.

SPEAR 3 and Meteor are software driven, each can be enhanced further as lessons are learned or the threat evolves alongside their host platforms

These weapons can be carried by fifth generation aircraft which solves a problem identified by former Chief Air Force Scientist Mark Lewis: “Why are we putting 3rd and 4th generation weapons on 5th generation aircraft?”

Indeed, at the recent AFA annual conference, the ACC Commander, Hawk Carlisle, was asked that question and underscored that indeed this was a significant problem and one on which the USAF is working on.

MBDA’s approach has been to build its latest weapons to be useable by a variety of air platforms, including fifth generation ones, so that the flexibility of the kill web being shaped can be enhanced.

With regard to SPEAR this means that it can be carried by an F-35 which allows it to engage significantly more targets than if it used a legacy glide weapon or that Typhoon which will also most likely carry SPEAR 3 can contribute significant load out capability of this weapon for the platforms operating in the extended battlespace.

It is about what the weapon can do as an interactive data linked strike asset ON a platform; and yet be able to operate by OTHER platforms identified by the C2 authority to take over those strike assets and direct them to their final product.

This is about interactive capabilities; and a new approach to weaponization, which will transform how US or allied forces operate in the extended battlespace.

Spear 3 is a key example of how the UK is focusing upon the enhanced capabilities of the F-35 and Typhoon as strike platforms, but also shaping a way ahead for the kill web approach to weaponization.

Shaping a new weapons revolution where weapons are enabled throughout the attack and defense enterprise and not simply resident for organic platform operations is a key element of the way ahead. For example, the new software enabled Meteor missile can be fired by one aircraft and delivered to target by that aircraft or the inflight data link can be used via another asset – air or ground based – to guide it to target. METEOR firing from Gripen. Credit: SAAB
Shaping a new weapons revolution where weapons are enabled throughout the attack and defense enterprise and not simply resident for organic platform operations is a key element of the way ahead. For example, the new software enabled Meteor missile can be fired by one aircraft and delivered to target by that aircraft or the inflight data link can be used via another asset – air or ground based – to guide it to target. METEOR firing from Gripen. Credit: SAAB

And the Meteor air superiority missile operating off of the Typhoon, or Rafale l or Gripen can contribute not only to its own defense but through the kill web enabled strike complex contribute to the coalition force as well in terms of providing support functions. It is about re-framing what being a wing man is really all about in a fifth generation context

As then ACC Commander General Mike Hostage put the approach: “The 5th Generation aircraft will enable the air combat cloud and allow me to use my legacy assets differently. Many of my 4th Gen fighters can be used to extend the network of linked systems providing reinforcing fires, and I can focus on the 5th Gen assets as the core nodes shaping distributed joint capabilities.”

At the heart of interactive change as well is the evolution of the platforms carrying the new weapons as the new weapons themselves become integrated into the platform.

For example, the Swedish Air Force’s Gripen has integrated the Meteor onboard the aircraft which the Swedish Air Force believes substantially increases the lethality and survivability of the Gripen. According to a press release from SAAB dated July 11, 2016, this synergy was highlighted between weapon and platform.

Speaking today at a the Farnborough International Airshow, at a ceremony to mark the Meteor’s entry into service, Major General mats Helgesson, Chief-of-Staff of the Swedish Air Force said, “After extensive testing by FMV and the Gripen Operational Test and Evaluation unit, all of the new MS20 functions including the Meteor missile are now fully integrated with Gripen.

The Swedish Air Force is now in its Initial Operational Capability phase with the Meteor.

The Meteor missile is currently the most lethal radar-guided missile in operational service, and the Swedish Air Force is the only operational user so far. I am very proud and satisfied to have the Meteor in the inventory of my air force.”

The complete MS20 upgrade is now flying with Swedish Air Force Gripens and MS20 enhancements will soon be implemented in the Gripens of the Czech Air Force. The upgrade delivers a host of new capability options for air-to-air, air-to-surface and ISTAR missions plus many improved mission systems and other changes. As ever with Gripen, operators are free to choose how, when and to what extent they implement the new capabilities that the upgrade enables.

A key element of Gripen’s MS20 capability expansion is full integration of the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile). Swedish Air Force Gripens are thus the world’s first and only fighters to be operational with this revolutionary European weapon system.

The ramjet-powered Meteor, developed by MBDA with Saab as a key partner, is an advanced, long-range and agile air-to-air weapon that is uniquely designed to counter the most sophisticated airborne threats of the 21st century.

Meteor is a tactical missile with strategic effect. Its extremely long range (beyond 100 km) and unrivalled no escape zone (three times greater than any current BVR missile) will dominate the future air-to-air battlespace, giving a decisive capability to Gripen and its pilots.


The Swedish Air Force Chief, Maj. Gen Mats Helgesson underscored that “From our perspective, (the Meteor) is a game changer. This is something we have invested lots of money in and makes the C/D a really potent air defender again….We are not completely ready with all the tactics, but it is fielded.”


The Typhoon is a more complex case as the multi-nation aircraft is being comprehensively transformed through changes in the cockpit, radar, helmet and targeting systems to handle a complex weapons load out.

The Typhoon will provide significant weapons mass for the new weapons being built by MBDA as well as some core legacy ones as well.

The Typhoon carrying a SPEAR 3 Missile. CreditL RAF
The Typhoon carrying a SPEAR 3 Missile. CreditL Eurofighter

And this year, Typhoon has been progressing with its transition to a core air-to-ground role and as it does so integrating the key weapons which perform the strike element within that mission, Brimstone, Storm Shadow and the new SPEAR 3 missile.

For example, Eurofighter in a news story published on July 12, 2016, announced that the Typhoon successful fired a SPEAR weapon for the first time.

The SPEAR missile is being developed to meet the UK’s Selective Precision Effects At

Range Capability 3 (SPEAR Cap 3) requirement for the UK’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft, with the potential to equip Typhoon. SPEAR will precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets in all weathers, day or night, in the presence of countermeasures, obscurants and camouflage, whilst ensuring a safe stand-off range between the aircrew and threat air defences.


But it is the interactive modernization of the Typhoon with innovations in the weapons enterprise, which shape a new capability, one which is integratable into a kill web.

The interactive innovations in Typhoon were highlighted at a UK Eurofighter Typhoon display at the Royal International Air Tattoo earlier this summer.

According to a press release from Eurofighter dated August 10, 2016:

“A UK Eurofighter Typhoon, featuring the latest weapons fit, performed a spectacular display for crowds at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and Farnborough

International Air Show, with BAE Systems’ Typhoon Test Pilot Nat Makepeace at the controls.

The display demonstrated the Eurofighter Typhoon carrying four Meteor Beyond

Visual Range Air to Air missiles, two ASRAAM infra-red missiles, six Brimstone 2 low collateral, precision strike missiles, and two Paveway IV GPS/laser guided bombs.”


The point here is the significant load out on the jet which can be used by itself, by its traditional wingman or to operate as a wingman in a kill web, which means by assets not operating within the fighter formation itself.

The UK MoD has focused as well on ensuring that its own fifth generation aircraft has advanced air-to-air missiles for its own defense,.

The aircraft are different and will operate differently as well in terms of effect, but by having a missile that can operate cross platform in 21st century combat environments, weapons innovation is not narrowly scoped to a platform or single platform dependent.

This is why the MoD signed a major contract this Summer with MBDA for its advanced air-to-air missile, ASRAAM. In discussions with Australian pilots who fly aircraft with ASRAAMs on board they particularly like the capability to fire the weapon and have it destroy targets behind it, which is clearly anticipating the data link enabled weapons world.

According to an article published on the UK MoD website on August 16, 2016:

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a contract worth around £184 million to ensure the UK’s new supersonic stealth combat aircraft will continue to be equipped with the latest air-to-air missile. Designed and manufactured in the UK,

ASRAAM is an advanced heatseeking weapon which will give Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy F- 35B Lightning II pilots, operating from land and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, the ability to defeat current and future air adversaries….. ASRAAM, which uses a sophisticated infra-red seeker, is designed to enable UK pilots to engage and defend themselves against other aircraft.

It is capable of engaging hostile air targets ranging in size from large multi-engined aircraft to small drones…..

ASRAAM is currently in service with RAF Typhoon and Tornado aircraft and is being carried daily on missions over Iraq and Syria as part of the coalition fight against Daesh.

The updated missile variant being secured under this new contract is expected to enter service on RAF Typhoon aircraft from 2018 and on RAF and Royal Navy F-35 aircraft from 2022, when the current variant will be taken out of service.


The entire kill web approach affects the modernization and acquisition of platforms and weapons as well as the high-end training necessary to shape an integrated force.

According to Rear Admiral Manazir: “The key is continually evolving combinations of capabilities that enhance the defensive and offensive power of the platforms that you put into the kill web.

We are very focused on the evolving man-machine relationship, and the ability of manned and unmanned systems, as well as kinetic and non-kinetic systems, to deliver a broader spectrum of capability to the force.

We are aiming to use the machine for the OO (Observe-Orient) part of the OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) Loop and optimize our human capabilities to do the DA (decide-act).

Fighter pilots have always been “thinking aviators” but we are adjusting what we expect from them as they become key nodes and crucial enablers in the kill web. Becoming a Top Gun pilot in this world will be quite different than in the legacy one.”

It is clear that MBDA is building weapons for this new age Top Gun pilot.


Visiting 2nd Marine Air Wing, December 2020


I first visited 2nd MAW in 2007, at the beginning of the Osprey era. There I saw a small number of the aircraft on the tarmac and met with pilots and maintainers at the beginning of a long period of disruptive change, a period of change which delivered new capabilities, and new approaches for the USMC in global operations.

With my visit in December 2020, I had a chance to follow up on discussions earlier this year with MAWTS-1 and with NAWDC about the dynamics of change with regard to the Marine Corps role in naval operations.

This changing role is being shaped at a time when the U.S. Navy is focused on blue water maneuver warfare, and the Marine Corps part of this might be referred to as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness in support of fleet operations.

But whatever the long-term vision, the future is now.

With the world as it is, and with the rise of 21st century authoritarian powers working skill sets for full spectrum warfare, for 2nd MAW it is about the challenge of being able to fight now and prepare for the future by leveraging current operations and shaping new approaches.

USS Donald Cook SM-2 Launch

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 14, 2020) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) launches a SM-2 missile during Exercise Joint Warrior 20-2, Oct. 14, 2020.

Exercise Joint Warrior 20-2 is a U.K.-hosted, multilateral training exercise designed to provide NATO and allied forces with a unique multi-warfare environment to prepare for global operations.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Hardy/Released)

UAE Prepares for Commercial Nuclear Operations

By India Strategic

ABU DHABI. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, ENEC, has announced that its operating and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, Nawah, has successfully achieved 100% of the rated reactor power capacity for Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. This major milestone brings the Barakah plant one step closer to commencing commercial operations, scheduled in early 2021.

100% power means that Unit 1 is generating 1400MW of electricity from a single generator connected to the UAE grid. This milestone makes the Unit 1 generator the largest single source of electricity in the UAE, reports Emirates News Agency WAM.

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is the largest source of clean baseload electricity in the country, capable of providing constant and reliable power in a sustainable manner around the clock. This significant achievement accelerates the decarbonisation of the UAE power sector, while also supporting the diversification of the Nation’s energy portfolio as it transitions to cleaner electricity sources.

The accomplishment follows shortly after the UAE’s celebration of its 49th National Day, providing a strong example of the country’s progress as it continues to advance towards a sustainable, clean, secure and prosperous future. As the Nation looks towards the next 50 years of achievements, the Barakah plant will generate up to 25 percent of the country’s electricity, while also acting as a catalyst of the clean carbon future of the Nation.

Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of ENEC said: “We are proud to deliver on our commitment to power the growth of the UAE with safe, clean and abundant electricity. Unit 1 marks a new era for the power sector and the future of the clean carbon economy of the Nation, with the largest source of electricity now being generated without any emissions. I am proud of our talented UAE Nationals, working alongside international experts who are working to deliver this clean electricity to the Nation, in line with the highest standards of safety, security and quality.”

Nawah is responsible for operating Unit 1 and has been responsible for safely and steadily raising the power levels since it commenced the start-up process in July, and connection to the grid in August.

Achieving 100% power is one of the final steps of the Power Ascension Testing (PAT) phase of the start-up process for Unit 1. Nawah’s highly skilled and certified nuclear operators will carry out a series of tests before the reactor is safely shut down in preparation for the Check Outage. During this period, the Unit 1 systems will be carefully examined, and any planned or corrective maintenance will be performed to maintain its safety, reliability and efficiency prior to the commencement of commercial operations.

Ali Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of Nawah, said: “This is a key achievement for the UAE, as we safely work through the start-up process for Unit 1 of the Barakah plant. Successfully reaching 100% of the rated power capacity in a safe and controlled manner, undertaken by our highly trained and certified nuclear operators, demonstrates our commitment to safe, secure and sustainable operations as we now advance towards our final maintenance activities and prepare for commercial operations in 2021.”

The Power Ascension Testing of Unit 1 is overseen by the independent national regulator – the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), which has conducted 287 inspections since the start of Barakah’s development. These independent reviews have been conducted alongside more than 40 assessments and peer reviews by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and World Association of Nuclear Operators, WANO.

This is an important milestone for the commercial performance of the Barakah plant. Barakah One Company, ENEC’s subsidiary in charge of the financial and commercial activities of the Barakah project signed a Power Purchase Agreement, PPA, with the Emirates Water and Electricity Company, EWEC, in 2016 to purchase all of the electricity generated at the plant for the next 60 years. Electricity produced at Barakah feeds into the national grid in the same manner as other power plants, flowing to homes and business across the country.

This milestone has been safely achieved despite the challenges of COVID-19. Since the beginning of the global pandemic, ENEC, and subsidiaries Nawah and Barakah One Company, along with companies that form Team Korea, have worked closely together, in line with all national and local health authority guidelines, to ensure the highest standards for health and safety are maintained for those working on the project. ENEC and Nawah’s robust business continuity plans were activated, alongside comprehensive COVID-19 prevention and management measures, including access control, rigorous testing, and waste water sampling, to support health and wellbeing.

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, located in the Al Dhafra region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is one of the largest nuclear energy new build projects in the world, with four APR-1400 units. Construction of the plant began in 2012 and has progressed steadily ever since. Construction of Units 3 and 4 are in the final stages with 93 percent and 87 percent complete respectively, benefitting from the experience and lessons learned during the construction of Units 1 and 2, while the construction of the Barakah Plant as a whole is now more than 95 percent complete.

Once the four reactors are online, Barakah Plant will deliver clean, efficient and reliable electricity to the UAE grid for decades to come, providing around 25 percent of the country’s electricity and preventing the release of up to 21 million tons of carbon emissions annually – the equivalent of removing 3.2 million cars off the roads each year.

This was first published by India Strategic on December 7, 2021.