NATO Mine Counter Measures Group One Works in Norwegian Waters: August 2018


One of NATO’s naval groups visited Trondheim on Friday (10 August 2018), and from there it will go on to search for sea mines dating back to World War II.

The operation will make the waters safer for fishermen and shipping in the area.

Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group One (SNMCMG1) currently consists of four ships from Belgium, Norway, Latvia and Lithuania.

During their port visit to Trondheim members of the public will be able to visit the ships to find out more about their work. After leaving Trondheim, SNMCMG1 will begin historical ordnance disposal operations along the Norwegian coast.

During this mission the group will search and identify sea mines and other dangerous ordnance left over from World War II.

All the data collected will be handed to the Norwegian authorities to improve maritime safety. This year the ships have carried out mine clearance operations off the coast of France, the United Kingdom and in the Baltic Sea.

NATO has four standing maritime groups which are made up of ships from various nations, a demonstration of Allied solidarity.

These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from exercises to operations.

They also serve as an on-call maritime force as a part of NATO’s Spearhead Force – the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.

In June and July, NATO’s major anti-submarine warfare exercise Dynamic Mongoose 2018 was held off the coast of Norway.

In October and November Norway will host Trident Juncture 2018, one of NATO’s largest military exercises in recent years. It will have more than 40,000 participants from more than 30 countries.

Credit: NATO

The featured photo shows BNS Godetia, with LVNS Rusins and LNS Kursis in background, crossing the Geiranger fjord.


Chinese Military Power 2018: Building a Strategy to Counter a Modern Authoritarian State With a Clear Vision if Not a Clear Future


By Robbin Laird

The PRC is combing military with economic with political warfare means to expand its global reach.

In the words of Ross Babbage, the PRC and Russia are focused on making the world safe for authoritarian states.

Information Warfare and the Authoritarian States: How Best to Respond?

As the context within the Pacific changes, Australia, Japan and the United States will shape ways and means to work together to shape a containment belt against the Chinese projecting power and disrupting what is often called the rules based order.

The latest Pentagon report on Chinese military power provides an update on key developments as well as critical challenges, which the Chinese authoritarian state poses to the liberal democracies.

The report provides a compressive overview, but I want to highlight a small number of items.

One of the most interesting pieces in the report is contained at the end of the report and his entitled: “Xi Jinping’s innovation-drive development strategy.”

The piece underscores the significance of an ongoing innovation strategy for shaping an innovative military industrial complex.

China’s push for leadership in global S&T development comes at a time in which dual-use technology advances, applicable for both commercial and military purposes, increasingly occur in the commercial sector.

This means that efforts by China to cultivate a broad base of S&T talent, particularly given its stated focus on dual-use sectors, will be relevant to China’s military power in coming decades.

 Specific examples include advanced computing, essential for weapons design and testing; industrial robotics, potentially useful for improving weapons manufacturing; new materials and electric power equipment, which could contribute to improved weapon systems; next generation information technology, which could enable improved C4ISR and cyber capabilities; commercial directed energy equipment, which could contribute to the development of directed energy weapons; and artificial intelligence, which could contribute to next-generation autonomous systems such as missiles, swarming technology, or cyber capabilities.

The report describes an overall force modernization strategy for China, but also identifies some innovations in concepts of operations different from what the US and its allies in the Pacific are focusing upon.

A case in point is the importance laid on using bombers in a maritime strategy.

The PLA has long been developing air strike capabilities to engage targets as far away from China as possible. Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets.

The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike U.S. and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.

Such flights could potentially be used as a strategic signal to regional states, although the PLA has thus far has not been clear what messages such flights communicate beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities.

A third key issue discussed in the report is the effort to shape a more effective joint force, which can be used in a peer-to-peer conflict.

As the Chinese have not engaged in land wars far from their area of strategic interest, they have been investing in relevant capabilities for peer-to-peer conflict.

The PLA is a historically army-centric organization, and bureaucratic intransigence has for years limited the PLA’s ability to transform itself into a modern joint force. Beginning in 2015, the execution of PLA reforms are addressing this need, as well as critical related issues such as institutional intransigence borne of corruption and the parochial interests of senior PLA leaders.

In addition to strengthening Party control over the PLA, China’s leaders directed a complete restructuring of the PLA headquarters to strengthen CMC administrative control of the PLA and to establish a joint command system capable of organizing and directing operations on a routine basis…..

Reforms in 2017 and the resulting restructuring of PLA forces have highlighted the PLA’s vision for the future of PLA combat operations. They included the disestablishment of five group army headquarters, the reorganization of many divisions and regiments into combined arms brigades, and the formation of some air assault brigades. A PLANMC headquarters was established and the Marine Corps is tripling to seven brigades across all three naval fleets. The PLAAF reorganized its Airborne Corps into nine brigades, established additional air bases, and restructured its fighter and attack divisions into brigades subordinate to the new bases.

To standardize training, operations, and equipment development, the PLA is also reorganizing its system of academies and research institutions. Organizations have been realigned to enable joint oversight and management of equipment research and development to create efficiencies in the acquisition system. Joint operations and warfighting concepts are being infused into academic curriculum, targeting mid-level officers, to enhance joint interoperability and command proficiency.

PLA leaders are also revising personnel and promotion systems to reduce nepotism, broaden the experience of PLA officers, and encourage and grow operational experience.

The PLA will likely face challenges in fully implementing these reforms, foremost of which is to sustain their scope and pace amid senior leadership transitions and expanding PLA missions. Their success likely depends greatly on strong centralized leadership and direction that can dispel inter-service rivalries, guide and assess organizational change, and influence corresponding reforms in China’s defense industrial base and other supporting institutions.

To capitalize on joint organizational reforms, the PLA will probably need to field significant quantities of new weapons and communications systems required to operationalize its combined operations warfighting concepts.

Finally, as China’s leaders pursue their ambitions for a more globally deployable strategic force, the PLA will need to develop the doctrine, institutional structures and procedures, infrastructure, and platforms to project, support, and sustain forces abroad – all of which appear relatively nascent today.

Clearly, the liberal democracies need to build a comprehensive strategy to deal with a modern authoritarian state clearly focused on expanding its influence, leveraging the weaknesses of our societies, and our proclivity to believe that globalization somehow lead to global freedom and inevitable human progress. 

We need to stop being effectively Rousseauian with regard to China.

We need to shape a SIOP designed to counter the Chinese and learn to stress their societies to expand our influence.

And we should re-engage with Taiwan as part of the overall effort to shape a more deliberate strategy towards the China that is evolving, rather than seeing the China we hope will be there one day.

For a report, which focused on ways to counter the Chinese strategy by shaping a SIOP approach see the following:

To read the full report see the following:

Or the report can be downloaded here:



In a 2013 piece written prior to the publication of our book on the remaking of American military power to deal with dynamics of change in the Pacific, I laid out a way to look at the evolving Chinese challenge which I think underscores the comprehensive nature of the challenge and how to shape a way ahead.

2013-04-07 The rise of China in the last 20 years is a significant global event.

The challenge for the next twenty is to understand how Chinese military power is intertwined with Chinese power projection and how the West and Asia will respond.

But a key element is simply to understand the challenge of how the military dimension fits into the Chinese global presence.

In the accompanying brief, the Second Line of Defense team has put together a way to understand how these different variables are coming together and evolving over the next 20 years.

We start with the question of three ways forward or how the PRC can built out its capabilities.

The basic bottom line is that the Chinese are clearly trying to extend reach from a more secure homeland base. 

And they’re doing this in a couple of different ways; one way is building their nuclear deterrent by having a more survivable force hidden in tunnels and deployed via mobile systems.

And at the same time, they are building what is referred to as anti-access, anti-denial capabilities, which at this point in history, is largely is an extension of the homeland.

They are trying to secure the area from which they can operate over time.

This provides them then with a base; the policy is based on the concept that adversaries will accept the sanctuary and demonstrate a lack of interest or capability in intruding into the sanctuary.

It forms the basis for projection power further into the Pacific and the South China Sea up into Japanese waters, up to the Arctic and towards the Malacca Straits and further south.

The question then becomes the approach being shaped to project power into the maritime zones ultimately for the Arctic and for the great royal route to the south.

Traditional power projection tools are being built for these purposes whether they be carriers, airlift, tanking, bombers, long-range missiles.  A variety of Chinese tools are being built to allow the Chinese over time to project power as the United States has understood this over the last 30 to 40 years.

And in fact, the Chinese are following a U.S. model in some respects, that is to say, a very linear air and maritime model using AWACS, using integrated strike packages, and carrier battle group kind of thinking.

But the third level could be understood as leveraging technologies and thinking about the future of power projection very, very differently.

In the interview we did with Mark Lewis, he referred to how the Americans built the USS constitution and that class of frigates in a very innovative way that surprised the British.

We are assuming that some of these game-changing technologies, whether they be hypersonics or innovative use of global ISR assets, space-based e.g., could shape a new approach for the Chinese.

In other words, the Chinese are building out Chinese military power through a building block approach. 

By 2030 or so, they will certainly have a global power projection force, but in the interim period, they are focused on securing a sanctuary and building from the sanctuary outward into the Pacific.

In addition,  the global exports of aircraft, missiles and other very exportable technologies will allow the Chinese to build global alliances in the military domain.

This is the double bounce idea of the technology; on the one hand, technology comes into China and then is re-exported in the form of advancing products from China.

Regional reach is the key focus in the next decade. 

The anti-access, anti-denial efforts are clearly conjoined with a regional reach perspective.  That means, in effect, the coming out into the maritime air domains of the Pacific.

However, this is a crowded and dangerous three-dimensional operational space, that is to say underwater, above water, and air-breathing.

And several competitors of China have been already triggered to re-shape their capabilities by concerns about what the Chinese are doing, whether they be Singapore or Japan, or Australia.

To build out a global presence involves a variety of tools coming together and over time, shaping a more integrated force structure package.  These include the global exports of missiles, aircraft and capabilities, which allow the Chinese to build out global power relationships as well.

The Chinese are also participating in global missions such anti-piracy to give them the kind of experience of operating abroad far from the homeland, something that they hitherto have had no experience doing.

And this lack of experience for maritime and air reach is a key vulnerability that the Chinese have, of course.

Obviously protecting their engagement in raw materials and transit of goods and services is also a very important aspect of building out capability over time, particularly as the U.S. capabilities attrite which currently is the case as the U.S. has half the size the Air Force it once had.  It has a declining number of ships, so there are legitimate gaps in protecting the global commons, which the Chinese will clearly provide and others will see this provision as a legitimate expression of their global role, which it may well be, but all depends completely on how their role plays out.

But what are the critical pieces or the game-changers for the Chinese? 

It really is an interaction between a reactive enemy; and in this case, it’s what the West and Asia do in dealing with the Chinese build out.

The Chinese build out is occurring in a very fluid and dynamic strategic environment, and from this standpoint, one needs to look at what are the most critical technologies or capabilities, which are game-changing for the Chinese themselves.

In other words, it is a question of the build out, the technologies, and the strategic environment and the response of others to this environment. 

It is a highly interactive.  The lack of interactive understanding guides some comments with regard to what the Chinese will be able to do, rather than analyzing what they can do up against what other’s will accept or not accept and what they will do to deny the Chinese with the benefits of enhanced military capabilities.

What actions will be taken by the U.S. or its allies which the Chinese consider the biggest threats to their ascendency?

Which actions will the Chinese target to try to block, and which Asian partners of the United States are most crucial to isolate and undercut in their military modernization efforts to allow for Chinese ascendency?

In our forthcoming book on Pacific strategy, we argue that the U.S./Japanese alliance is the absolute crucial alliance in facing the Chinese in the years to come.

The Chinese military power is coming out into the Pacific and the two greatest naval powers of the 20th century could well become closer together, and this is a major problem facing the Chinese.

And already, the Japanese and the United States have invested in common technologies, Egis, SM-3 missiles and F-35 aircraft, and will seek to integrate this capability in years ahead.

And this integration is a major challenge to the Chinese as the Chinese seek ascendency or an ability to control their environment much further away from the mainland.

In other words, managing the threat is a key part of how you build out military capabilities from a Chinese perspective.

An American-Japanese alliance is clearly a key barrier to Chinese ascendancy.

The Chinese are certainly dedicated to breaking the coalition and its power by undercutting U.S. Military modernization, encouraging the criticisms of the F-35 enterprise, because from a Chinese perspective the F-35 can enable the kind of coalition as can challenge most effectively any Chinese ascendency.

Information warfare involves a set of tools that the Chinese use to try to undercut competitors as well.

The key is to pressure the U.S. lynchpin role in the Pacific to limit what the U.S. can do to reinforce what Asian allies do. It is a Ben Franklin situation where if the allies work together and they work together interactively in the United States, there’s more than sufficient capability to manage the Chinese challenge. If they do not they will have to confront the Chinese challenge largely in isolation from one another.

At the same time, the Chinese are using a diversity of power of tools including information warfare tools to convince folks that there is no real Chinese threat.

Things like the request constantly for transparency from the Chinese, even when the Chinese fly fifth generation aircraft over people calling for the transparency misses the ultimate point that the Chinese are clearly selling the idea that what they’re doing is not threat-based, but it’s a normal projection of Chinese power.

The Chinese power projection effort which is inextricably intertwined with their military is a central reality of the 21st century. 

It is a table setter.

How the US, the West and Asia respond will determine the shape of the competition to come.









The Role of the Australian Army in Australia’ Indo-Pacific Strategy: A Work in Progress


By Robbin Laird

Australia is building an integrated force and working to extend the reach and range of that force.

This is a core effort for the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force and clearly focused on dealing with challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

But what is the role of the Australian Army in this effort?

Clearly, the Australian Army has been a key player in working relationships such as with Indonesia and Malaysia, and with the new amphibious capability will expand its engagement in the region.

But if we are in the midst of strategic shift from land wars in the Middle East to crisis management in which peer competitors have force on force capabilities which significantly impact on our combat and diplomatic success, what is the role of the ground force?

The Strategic Shift Facing the Liberal Democracies: Williams Foundation Report #8

This is a challenge not only for regular Army forces but for Special Forces as well.

We have dealt in a preliminary fashion with the question of the impact on Special Forces in a recent article, but the question being addressed here is how does a regular ground force, such as the Australian Army, adapt to the new conditions and what force modernization priorities need to be emphasized an highlighted?

The new chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, has provided some baseline elements for answering the question in his initial Commander’s intent published on July 14, 2018 and in his Futures Statement published on August 8, 2018.

The Commander’s Intent highlighted what the Chief of Army sees as an “Army in Motion.”

To be ready now, we must harness the whole Army and leverage the potential of the joint force and the entire enterprise. We need both capability and capacity. We must be physically, morally and intellectually prepared for operational deployment, at any time, wherever we are needed. Army must also transform to capture future opportunities. Being future ready is a way of challenging the status quo; constantly evolving how we think, equip, train, organise and prepare to compete in the future.  

The statement then goes on to note:

The evolving character of war and the realities of an increasingly competitive and disruptive world demand we unlock our full potential. 

We must create and leverage new opportunities to team with other militaries as well as across the joint force, government, industry, academia and community to generate capability advantage. 

We will optimise what we have at every level in Army by thinking of new ways to operate, by experimenting, innovating and accepting risk.  

And the statement concludes with this comment:

Army is always in motion. 

Our next steps will be guided by a strategic framework, and articulation of our future warfighting concept, Accelerated Warfare.

What we can take away from this is a clear emphasis on the centrality of Army working effectively in the joint and coalition force.

That begs the question, that if the joint and coalition force in question in the Indo-Pacific region is engaging in dealing peer competitors, notably China, what role will the Army play and what innovations are crucial to play that role?

With the release of the accelerated warfare statement preliminary answers are provided to this question.

The Challenge

The challenge is described as follows in the accelerated warfare statement:

We live in an era of increasing competition where the rules-based international order is coming under increasing pressure. Being future ready means continuing our contribution to an open and fair international system, and being prepared for increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.


Our region is becoming increasingly defined by a changing geopolitical order and operating spectrum of cooperation, competition and conflict. At the same time, the pace of urbanisation and regional competition in littoral environments is bringing its own form of complexity. These trends are a major factor in accelerating the speed and dynamism across diplomatic, informational, economic and military interactions between sovereign states and other actors.


Our operating landscape is changing – adversaries, including violent extremist organisations and state-based threats can now control and influence all operating domains. The advent of rapidly evolving, easily accessed technology increasingly offers asymmetric capabilities to both established powers as well as non-state actors and even individuals. The ability to sense and strike from long range as well as swarming low-cost technologies are increasing the vulnerability of major military systems.

Future strike capabilities will not just be physical but also digital, executed often at the speed of a mouse-click. Sophisticated Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities offer the ability to deny manoeuvre while distributed systems that are ‘smarter’ and smaller are becoming increasingly essential to survivability. Networking will be critical in terms of generating a system capable of ‘cooperative engagement’.


While the nature of war as a contest of wills is enduring, technological disruption is rapidly changing war’s character. These characteristics include the convergence of big data, artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, unmanned and autonomous capability with precision weaponry. Fused, synthesised and assured information for decision superiority is also likely to be an essential battlefield enabler with the challenge to protect this information from disruption and deception.

Technology is not the sole answer. Our challenge is to underpin technological change with a joint warfighting philosophy linked to future investment, force structure, mobilisation and logistics transformation to be relevant, adaptable and survivable in the modern operating environment.


The reach of sensors and fires means Army must address all domains and comprehensively integrate across them. Space and cyber have not been fully contested in previous wars and therefore we have limited knowledge for how conflict in these domains will play out in the future.

Our ability to operate in the traditional air, sea and land domains are at risk of being debilitated from space and cyber yet there is also great opportunity in these domains for military advantage. Future conflict is likely to be across domains where networks and integration are the key to generating military power.

Put together, the geopolitical context, changing threat, disruptive technologies and domain integration means that we must prepare for an accelerating environment. Future warfare, in certain parts, will be fought at the speed of machines with success belonging to the side who can adapt the fastest.

Future advantage will lie with the side who can ‘own the time’ and best prepare the environment.

Let us take some of these items separately.

The ability to sense and strike from long range as well as swarming low-cost technologies are increasing the vulnerability of major military systems.

This is true but the Williams Seminar to be held on August 23, 2018 will focus on how the Aussies can have relevant technologies highlighted here.

And if it is to be long-range strike and active defense, much of that will operate in Western Australia.

What is the Army’s plan to work with Air Force on shaping an active defense and mobile defense of Western Australian defense assets to ensure longer range strike and support for the forces engaged deep within the region?

Future conflict is likely to be across domains where networks and integration are the key to generating military power.

Of course, the reverse is true, namely that Australia needs to have core capabilities to disrupt networks and rip apart adversary combat formations.  What is the Army’s role in the offensive-defensive enterprise?

The US Army at Fort Sill is certainly trying to work through how offensive and defensive systems can support disruption of adversary systems and capabilities, although the US Army is falling short of sorting out how their systems will integrate with Air Force and Naval systems, in operations in an integrated battlespace.

The reach of sensors and fires means Army must address all domains and comprehensively integrate across them.

Of course, this is a major challenge because it boils down to rapid insertion of new sensors and software into combat platforms and integration of those ground based platforms, above all with Air Force.

How is the Australian Army going to address that challenge?

Australian Army Response to the New Threat Environment

The final section of the Accelerated Warfare futures statement addresses the question of how Army will respond to the threat environment.

Within this accelerating context, Army must respond. We must push ourselves to think in creative and unconstrained ways to ensure our warfighting philosophy is appropriate and informs our future capabilities.

Accelerated Warfare as a description of ‘how we respond’ means owning the speed of initiative to outpace, out-manoeuvre and out-think conventional and unconventional threats. It requires excellence in the art and science of decision-making as well as deep thinking about Army’s role in understanding, shaping and influencing the environment.

Our role for creating access, persistence and lethality in the joint force are areas for greater discussion. This includes aligning shared interests to create access to our preferred operating environments, technologies and partners.

We must discuss how we leverage persistent presence through access, endurance and our people-to-people links. Applying lethality on the land, from the land and onto the land for potency and influence across all domains must remain a central focus for our role in the joint force.

As we discuss ‘how we respond’, we will also think about our organisational elements.

Our people must be leaders and integrators who contribute to multi-disciplinary teams, enabling us to thrive in uncertainty, adapt to change and generate solutions.

We must leverage emerging technology as a potential source of advantage, integrating new technologies within the joint force. Partnerships through teaming with our international military partners, industry and academia will be of paramount importance to unlock potential and strengthen relationships for mutual benefit.

We must pull the future towards us rather than wait for it; Army must respond proactively by rethinking our contribution to joint warfighting philosophy, strategy and concepts. I look forward to your engagement as we explore these ideas together, define the next steps and inform our capability development priorities.

The key question of course is where one is doing this.

Geography matters.

Does the Army’s role vary dependent upon which geography within the Indo-Pacific region it will be asked to deploy?

There is no one size fits all integration, and the ADF has emphasized this point with its emphasis on shaping a task force concept.

Where do the ground forces fit within which task forces to deal with which missions and in which geographical sectors in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond?

The new Chief has set in motion an interesting approach and we will see where it will and can go in the period ahead.

For the Williams Foundation seminar report on Land-Air integration, see the following:

Williams Foundation Report #4








The Perspective of the Chief of Staff of the Indian Air Force: Shaping a Way Ahead


By Air Marshal VK Jimmy Bhatia (Retd)

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, has confirmed that IAF has received bids from six global vendors in response to IAF’s Request for Information (RFI) for 110 modern combat jets, and that the induction of 36 Rafale jets already contracted from France would begin from September next year.

The procurement process would be progressed under the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016, and that “IAF intends to induct 15 per cent of the aircraft in a direct fly away condition which would facilitate a relatively faster induction till the time production is commenced by the (Indian) Strategic Partner.”

In an interview with India Strategic on the eve of the Farnborough Airshow, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa observed that as the guardian of the Indian skies, IAF was ready to face any situation, 24 x 7, any time.

Asked about the drawdown in the strength of IAF Fighter Squadrons, he said IAF is giving “due emphasis” to this aspect and that the existing aircraft in its inventory, the MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage 2000, are being upgraded while a number of indigenous HAL-made Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas are also planned to be inducted. Besides the 40 Tejas already ordered, IAF has asked for 83 Tejas Mk 1A, which would have AESA radar and BVR missile capability.

He also said that the order for 272 Su-30 MKI aircraft, or 13 Squadrons, being supplied by HAL would be over by 2021. (Most of the aircraft have already been received).

Here is the full text of the Interview:

India Strategic.

To begin with, heartiest congratulations for a very well conducted Pan-India air exercise Gagan Shakti 2018. The entire country has acknowledged the prowess of air power and the IAF should be rightly proud of what was achieved during the exercise. Could you please comment on what were the major takeaways of Gagan Shakti 2018 and if there would be any follow ups?

Air Chief.

Ex Gagan Shakti provided extremely valuable takeaways. It validated the capability to conduct sustained high tempo operations. This in turn validated our internal manpower and process optimisation. Joint operations took centre stage in the exercise. Our sister services provided exceptional support and we were able to refine various joint operation concepts.

As you are aware, the IAF’s airlift and heli-lift capabilities have been vastly expanded in recent years with the induction of C-17s, C-130Js and a large number of Mi-17 V5 Medium Lift helicopters. This entire capability was exercised and used to validate our ability to move forces on strategic and tactical levels.

It also brought home valuable lessons for combat support, which was rendered in an exceptional manner by various DPSUs and OEMs. This enabled the IAF to maintain and sustain extremely high rates of serviceability throughout the exercise period, and produce an unprecedented quantum of flying. The intense flying activity over extended periods also allowed the IAF to exercise its networked AD system. The system has now been extended in coverage and fine tuned and optimised.

India Strategic.

How is the IAF planning to cope up with the increasing drawdown in its combat squadrons’ strength?

Air Chief.

The IAF sees itself as the guardian of the Indian skies and the first responder in all contingencies. We are therefore 24 x 7 ready to face any situation with our available resources. As far as the drawdown in the strength of fighter squadrons is concerned, it is being given due emphasis.

We are upgrading MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft in a phased manner as a part of obsolescence management so that they remain relevant and contemporary.

Induction of 36 x Rafale aircraft will commence by September 2019 and will significantly enhance our operational capability.

Induction of the balance of 272 x Su-30 MKI aircraft from HAL is under process and will be completed by 2021. The induction of the 40 indigenous LCA is also ongoing.

Additionally, the RFP for procurement of 83 x LCA Mk 1A has been issued in December 2017. The Government of India plans to procure fighter aircraft under the ‘Make in India’ initiative for which RFI has been issued on April 6, 2018, and is also examining other suitable options.

Future inductions will include the LCA Mk-II, which is expected to form a bulk of the Air Force in the years to come, as the IAF proposes to replace its Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar with this aircraft.

The IAF is also supporting DRDO in the D&D of indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). If all the inductions take place as planned, the IAF is expected to achieve its authorised strength of fighter squadrons by 2040.

India Strategic.

When the IAF receives its full complement of the total order of 272 Su-30 MKI Jet fighters, would it have received its fair share of ‘Heavy’ fighters or would it consider additional acquisitions of these aircraft which are reportedly on offer from the Russian OEM?

In the same context, has the IAF worked out an optimum mix of the Heavy/ Medium/Light jet fighters for a balanced fleet of its fighter force? Please elucidate.

Air Chief.

The IAF seeks capabilities which are required to maintain its combat preparedness and operational edge over potential adversaries.

In that regard, once the deliveries of the license manufactured Su-30 MKI are complete, which is expected by 2021, the IAF will have 13 Squadrons of the Su-30 MKI.

As far as additional procurement is concerned, an RFI for 110 fighter aircraft has been hosted by the IAF to meet its operational requirements under Strategic Partnership route.

India Strategic. How does the IAF plan to steer the new Fighter ‘RFI’ to make good the time it lost due to MoD abandoning the earlier so-called single-engine fighter programme?

Air Chief. The RFI for 110 fighter aircraft was hosted on April 6, 2018 and six vendors responded to the RFI. The procurement process would be progressed under the provisions of DPP 2016.

The IAF intends to induct 15 percent of the aircraft in a direct fly away condition which would facilitate a relatively faster induction till the time production is commenced by the Strategic Partner.

India Strategic.

We heard that IAF was quite satisfied with the ‘Tejas’ performance during Gagan Shakti 2018, including the ‘Surge’ phase.

Your comments please.

Also, how is the Tejas induction programme unfolding and what is the latest on the Mk-IA version? Will the IAF be able to get the Op capabilities it is looking for in the Mk 1A? And, most importantly will it get the new version on time?

Air Chief.

LCA is a versatile platform and its efficacy in various roles has been validated during Ex-Gagan Shakti. Tejas is a potent platform in ground attack as well as air defence role. Performance of the aircraft in air-to-ground weapon delivery was observed to be exceptional.

For air defence role, aircraft has good AI radar capability and integration of BVR missile is in the final stage. With active support of HAL the aircraft was found to be highly reliable during conduct of surge ops.

The commissioning of the first Squadron of LCA Tejas in July 2016 marks a significant step towards indigenous capability building. Currently, the squadron has nine aircraft and we expect the squadron to be fully equipped by March 2019.

The LCA Final Operational Clearance (FOC) contract of 2010 seeks Air-to-Air Refuelling, Operational Data Link (ODL) and better weapons. The FOC is expected in 2019. As far as the LCA Mk 1A is concerned, the first flight is expected by 2020.

The LCA Mk 1A apart from addressing obsolescence issues and maintainability improvements will have additional capabilities such as Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) capability, Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and advanced avionics.

We are hopeful that ADA and HAL will ensure that the LCA Mk 1A is delivered to IAF on time.

India Strategic.

AD Weapons: The indigenous Akash SAM System reportedly worked well during the Gagan Shakti Exercise and is shaping up well. Will the IAF be inducting more of these systems? In this context, what is the latest on the Israeli Spyder systems which were expected to join operational service in the IAF and the Indo-Israeli joint venture of MR-SAM? Also, what is the latest on acquisition of S-400 Triumf systems from Russia?

Air Chief.

Akash Missile System performed well during exercise Gagan Shakti. A case has been initiated to procure seven more squadrons of Akash Missile Systems (AMS) from BEL. The first Squadron of SPYDER missile was raised on February 16, 2018. Delivery of equipment for the other three squadrons is under way.

The system was also successfully utilised during Exercise Gagan Shakti. The MRSAM programme involves joint development and delivery of Firing Units (FUs) by DRDO in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI), Israel.

The contract for joint development and supply of MRSAM was signed between DRDO and IAI, Israel on February 16, 2009. There has been delay in inducting the system, while the first MRSAM Squadron has already been resurrected in 2015, the equipment should be delivered in 2019.

The S-400 is in use by the Russian Armed Forces since the year 2007. It is a long range anti aircraft missile system capable of intercepting Ballistic missile and low RCS targets like UAVs and cruise missiles. This system would be a game changer in our context and would provide us the much needed layered Air Defence at long ranges. The acquisition process for the system is under way.

India Strategic.

IAF is reportedly in the process of revamping its AD surveillance systems with DAC having cleared acquisition of High Powered Radars. How is IAF moving forward in terms of modernising its entire inventory of high, medium and LL Radars? Your comments please.

Air Chief.

The AD framework of the IAF is indeed being revamped. This is on two counts namely, induction of new state-of-the-art systems, and their integration into a completely networked AD system. As far as the induction of new systems is concerned, the process is proceeding smoothly.

There has been a concerted effort to induct cutting edge technology & follow up with indigenous manufacture. The Medium Powered Radar (MPR), Low Level Transportable Radar (LLTR), Low Level Lightweight Radar (LLLWR) categories have all seen infusion of large numbers of indigenously developed and produced radars.

This has increased the sensor density manifold in all sectors, including the mountainous regions in the North and East. Acquisition of HPRs, Aerostats and mountain radars will further reinforce this.

The integration of these increased numbers of systems into a highly automated system was undertaken indigenously with BEL being the lead agency. I am happy to state that the system was tested extensively in the exercise and proved itself as a robust force multiplier. IAF has graduated from a point defence, to area defence and is now moving towards layered defence.

India Strategic.

Did the IAF feel the inadequacy in terms of sheer numbers where its vital force multipliers such as AWACS and Mid-air refuellers are concerned during the recent Pan-India Exercise? If, so what actions are being initiated by the IAF to augment their numbers?

Air Chief.

The deployment of AWACS during the exercise was as per the exercise setting. To overcome the inadequacy, one DRDO developed AEW&C aircraft on Embraer platform has been inducted and the second aircraft is likely to be developed in FoC configuration by the end of 2018.

The procurement case for two additional IL-76 based AWACS is presently with MoD and is at CFA approval stage. Indigenous AWACS (I) programme for up to six aircraft is being progressed by DRDO. As an immediate measure, to meet the urgent operational requirements, IAF is also exploring latest technology aircraft available globally which are operational and in use.

India Strategic.

What is the score on acquisition of armed UAV systems or UCAVs the IAF was reportedly working on? In the same context, how is the indigenous UCAV programme developing?

Air Chief.

The IAF is progressing the case of upgrading the existing UAV fleet. Also, the Medium Altitude Low Endurance (MALE) RPA TAPAS (earlier called Rustom-II) is being developed by DRDO. The platform is to be developed as a weaponised platform. The IAF is seeking UAVs with stealth features which can enter contested airspace. IAF is exploring various options.

India Strategic.

When is the first woman fighter likely to be declared fully Ops to become a full-fledged member of the fighter fraternity in the IAF?

Air Chief.

Two women fighter pilots are presently progressing through their Conversion Syllabus on Bison aircraft. Both have successfully carried out their solo flight. They are likely to complete their Day Ops Syllabus by end of the year and be Fully Ops by March 2019.

India Strategic.

And lastly for the short questionnaire, would you like to share some thoughts on your latest Brazil visit?

Air Chief.

The key objectives of the visit were to explore avenues of mutual exchange of operational experience and share ideas to enhance individual capabilities. It was interesting to know that Brazilian Air Force drives the aviation related research in Brazil. This allows for focussed monitoring of projects, programmes, timelines and technological interface. The trip was a success so far as all objectives go.

This article was published by our partner India Strategic and republished with their permission.

The featured photo shows Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa going for a sortie in a Rafale fighter during his visit to France in July 2017.


US Working with India and Australia on P-8 Operations


By the end of RIMPAC, the U.S. and Indian planes were sharing high-end missions, an Australian P-8A squadron joined in as a major step towards the Royal Australian Navy declaring final operational capability on their new planes, and the U.S. and Australian P-8s not only prosecuted submarines but also dropped Harpoon missiles on a decommissioned U.S. ship during a sinking exercise(SINKEX).

Commander of Submarine Force for U.S. Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Daryl Caudle told USNI News during a July 25 interview at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that the aircraft play an important role in managing the entire theater anti-submarine warfare picture.

“One of my main objectives is building a more lethal anti-submarine enterprise. So lethality is a theme that stems down from our secretary of defense and the National Defense Strategy, down through the Pacific Fleet commander, all the way down to me as the submarine force commander.

“And to build lethality, you have to have capabilities, you gotta have highly trained people, and speed is important. Submarines move around at a certain speed, but airplanes move around at a much faster speed,” he said.

“So when we detect adversary submarines, to be able to employ aircraft onto that contact information just greatly enhances the legs, the speed and the lethality that we can employ against that. So the P-8 adds an entirely new dimension for us to be able to do that mission and is just an incredible capable aircraft. The mission space greatly enhanced over the P-3. … The information system’s greatly enhanced….”

The above was taken from an article by Megan Eckstein published by USNI news on August 10, 2018.

The rest of the article can be read here:

Recently, Second Line of Defense visited RAAF Edinbourgh and talked with Commander of the P-8/Triton force in the RAAF.

That interview will appear soon.

The Coming of the A320neo Multi-Mission Aircraft

Airbus Defence and Space is shaping a template for integrated air operations, which they call the Future Combat Air Systems.

Within this template, each key air combat platform is being reshaped or designed from the ground up to provide a contribution to integrated air operations.

A platform which makes sense both from its role in the commercial portfolio as well as for the demand side for military forces, namely, the A320 neo.

The A320 platform is widely operated worldwide and provides a solid platform from which to build a multi-mission ISR or C2 aircraft for missions such as those associated with maritime patrol aircraft.

If Airbus designed this aircraft from the ground up with considerations for new technologies with regard to upgradeability and interoperability, they have a chance to shape a new offerring for a 21st century air force.

In the IISS wrap up of the Farnbourgh Air Show in their Defence Analysis Briefing, the emergence of an A320 neo multi-mission platform was discussed.

“Airbus is looking to improve its offering too, saying that the A320 neo was being considered for new applications and that the “A320 M” A — would be designed to fulfill a range of ISR roles, particularly maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare.”

Clearly, Germany and France could provide a launch customer and the Canadians are clearly looking as well towards a CP-140 and could well become part of a launch customer base.

Notably, with Airbus relationship on the C series, a broader relationship between Airbus and Canada is clearly possible.

Airbus Defence and Space has described their approach as follows with the title “Airbus evaluates an A320neo multi-mission version:”

The best-selling jetliner is considered for a wide range of ISR and transport operations

Having made its mark in the commercial airline sector, the A320neo is now being considered by Airbus for new applications: as a highly-capable and cost-effective platform for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) duties and as a military transport.

The variant – designated A320M3A – would be designed to fulfill a range of ISR roles, particularly maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare. It also can be outfitted with modular roll-on/roll-off payloads for airlift missions ranging from carrying passengers, troops and VIPs to medical evacuation (medevac) and transporting cargo.

Airbus’ consideration of the A320M3A is in response to market demand, spurred by the growing use of more capable ISR systems – which require physically larger host platforms with increased electrical power and more efficient cooling systems than previously were the case for C4ISR aircraft.

A proven, low-risk solution

One of the biggest applications of the A320M3A is for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare, with countries in Europe and elsewhere seeking replacements for ageing aircraft – many of which will be encouraged to develop fleet commonality driven by the intensive growth of joint operations with member nations of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

Advantages in offering the new engine option (NEO) version of Airbus’ A320 commercial jetliner include an extensive capability for growth in a fuselage cross-section that is wider than its competitor in the same size category, the long range and endurance, as well as the lowest operational and life-cycle costs in its class. Other pluses for the A320M3A are the aircraft’s high reliability (proven in airline service), and the resources of an established worldwide supply chain and training network.

The A320M3A also benefits from being a low-risk solution: being based on Airbus’ highly-mature A320 airliner family in high-rate production; and building on the company’s proven capabilities in producing military derivatives of its commercial aircraft – such as the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which is in use by military services around the globe.




Modernizing the Egyptian Fleet: Adding the Meko Frigate?

By defenceWeb

Egypt is considering purchasing two Meko A200 frigates from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) as discussions with France’s Naval Group on the acquisition of further Gowind corvettes grinds to a halt over cost concerns.

France’s La Tribune late last month reported that the German deal would be worth around 1 billion euros.

TKMS urgently needs additional sales after losing out on the German KS-180 vessel programme, which is worth some 3.5 billion euros.

La Tribune reports that the German government is offering attractive credit through financial company Euler Hermes, whereas the Naval Group is struggling with its credit offers.

Egypt will presumably opt for the Aster 30 missile manufactured by MBDA, but apparently France will only sell this if it is used on Italian or French vessels, so Egypt would then be forced to make user of an alternative like the Umkhonto, as Algeria did.

In 2014 Egypt ordered four Gowind 2500 corvettes for around 1 billion euros, with one, El Fateh (971) built in Lorient and the other three being built in Egypt. El Fateh was delivered to Egypt in October 2017. The contract made provision for an option for two more.

First published by defenceWeb, Monday on 13 August 2018 and republished with their permission.



The SCALP Missile for Egypt: The ITAR Barrier


By defenceWeb

France is looking for a way around the United States’ blocking of Scalp cruise missile technology for Egypt, and is exploring the possibility of replacing American components with alternatives so it can deliver the missiles as well as additional Rafale fighters to Egypt.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly recently said in the country’s National Assembly that the decision by the United States to use the International Trade in Arms Regulation (ITAR) agreement to block the sale of Scalp missiles to Egypt could be circumvented if domestically-built parts are used instead.

“In this case, we will not be able to lift the US opposition to the sale of Scalp missiles.

“The only thing we can do is for MBDA [which makes the missiles] to make some investment in research and development to be able to manufacture similar components that are not covered by ITAR,” Parly said last month.

“We can do it for the Egyptian Scalp/Rafale in so far as the new missile can be built with a reasonable delay, though the customer might find this delay a bit too long.”

“It is true that we depend on this [US International Traffic in Arms Regulations] mechanism: We are at the mercy of the Americans when our equipment is concerned,” she said. Because the United States will not lift its opposition to the sale of Scalp missiles, France has had to come up with alternatives.

Egypt has ordered 24 Rafale jets from France, and is looking to acquire 12 more, but only if it can buy Scalp missiles for them.

It appears earlier reports that the impasse with the United States had been resolved, were premature.

La Tribune reported that French President Emmanual Macron broached the Scalp issue during his visit to the United States in April.

The newspaper in July reported that licenses had been granted to export components used in the missiles to Egypt while France is also in the process of finding alternative components for the missile that are ITAR-free.

In February it emerged that a plan to acquire 12 Rafales stalled after the United States refused to sell the manufacturer key components of the SCALP missile.

The planned Egyptian acquisition of 12 Rafale fighter aircraft has been in the making since November 2017. It was billed to be a follow-up sale to a February 2015 agreement for an Egyptian acquisition of 24 Rafale fighter jets.

The new Egyptian defence minister Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed visited France in July, with Egypt expressing interest in acquiring 30 Patroller unmanned aerial vehicles and Cougar helicopters for the navy. Egypt was also interested in acquiring two additional Gowind corvettes but apparently negotiations are stalled over pricing and is now looking at German warships.

Forecast International notes that the deepening Egyptian-French relationship comes as the volume of U.S. sales to Egypt has waned after the US put a temporary hold on military sales and assistance to Egypt.

Since President Sisi took office, Egypt has turned to Russia and France for the big force modernization contracts. From Russia, Egypt purchased dozens of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets and Ka-52 attack helicopters.

The Egyptian military introduced Antey-2500 surface-to-air missile systems into service and is to procure T-90S/SK main battle tanks.

France has sold Mistral helicopter carriers (initially destined for Russia) to Egypt, along with a FREMM frigate, several Gowind 2500 corvettes, and Rafale fighter jets. Further contracts with both countries are planned.

Reprinted with the permission of defenceWeb.

First published by defenceWeb on August 7, 2018.