Quick Reaction Alert Royal Air Force Operations


The Royal Air Force is deployed on Operation AZOTIZE in Estonia in support of Baltic Air Policing.

And earlier this month engaged in its “seventeenth QRA scramble resulting in an intercept since the RAF took over enhanced Air Policing (eAP) from the German Air Force on 3 May 2019 as part of Baltic Air Policing. The UK operates in support of NATO to reassure our allies and is a further demonstration of the UK’s commitment to the security of the region.

“Elsewhere around the world RAF Typhoon jets are also deployed in the Falklands Islands on QRA missions, as well as operating in the Middle East on Operation SHADER.”

The UK Ministry of Defence article published on August 8, 2019 described the process as follows:

RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon fighter aircraft scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth, with an RAF Voyager from RAF Brize Norton, to monitor two Russian Bear maritime patrol aircraft approaching UK airspace.

Meanwhile Typhoons deployed on NATO Baltic Air Policing also scrambled from Amari airbase to intercept a Russian Bear bomber and two Flanker fighter aircraft flying close to Estonian airspace.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“Every day certain states are determined to push international norms and to test the UK’s resolve. The threats to the international rules based system are on many fronts.

“The RAF is well equipped to stand sentry alongside our allies on the UK’s and Europe’s borders. I am grateful they are there 24/7 to uphold the UK’s commitment to our security.”

UK QRA launch

The QRA launch from RAF Lossiemouth took place after the two Russian patrol aircraft flew close to the international airspace of the UK’s fellow NATO Allies. A co-ordinated response allowed Allies to monitor the aircraft until the RAF intercepted them.

Our fighters escorted them from the UK’s area of interest and ensured that they did not enter either UK sovereign airspace. The intercept and monitoring was completed in international airspace throughout and conducted in a safe and professional manner.

The RAF routinely identify, intercept and escort Russian aircraft that transit international airspace. Russian aircraft frequently attempt to test NATO’s level of readiness, as well as conduct intelligence-gathering missions. The rapid reaction of the RAF and by NATO allies serves as a reminder of NATO’s cohesion and its ability to react.

In the UK, the RAF Typhoon and Voyager aircraft are held at a state of readiness every day, supported by engineering and airspace management personnel.

The lead RAF pilot of the Typhoons that intercepted the Russian aircraft said:

“Protecting NATO and UK airspace is what the RAF is here for, so today’s mission gave us the opportunity to demonstrate that we will always police our area of interest and also how well trained the Typhoon force is for dealing with events like this.”

Estonia QRA launch

The RAF Typhoons deployed on NATO Baltic Air Policing in Estonia intercepted a Russian TU-142 ‘Bear’ Bomber, heading west close to Estonian airspace. The Typhoons then handed the escort over to Finish and Swedish QRA aircraft, before being tasked to re-intercept to maintain the escort of the TU-142 as its transited close to NATO airspace. The “Bear” had since been accompanied by two Russian SU-30 ‘Flanker’ fighters.

This is a routine NATO mission for the Typhoons which provides reassurance that the UK is here to work in partnership with Estonia.

A Typhoon pilot from XI(Fighter) Squadron, attached to 121 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), was conducting Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty when the scramble was called. He said:

“We were scrambled to intercept a Russian TU-142 aircraft, routing west close to Estonian airspace. We then handed over the escort to our Finish and Swedish partners, as the aircraft continued West. We were then tasked to re-intercept and escort the TU-142 ‘Bear’ which has since been joined by two SU-30 ‘Flanker’’. These Russian aircraft transiting the Baltic region were not on a recognised flight plan or communicating with Air Traffic Control. The intercept was uneventful and conducted in a professional manner throughout.”

For our overview look at Quick Reaction Alert Operations, see the following:

Japan in Tailsman Sabre 2019: Opening the Aperture on Perimeter Defense

We argued in our 2103 book on Pacific strategy, that Japan would work to enhance its perimeter defense and move eventually towards what we called a two anchor appraoch.

We argued that expanded perimeter defense is a key part of what we referred to as the “dynamic defense” phase in Japanese policy. We argued that “this meant greater reach of Japanese systems., better integration of those systems within the Japanese forces themselves, more investments in C2 and ISR, and a long-term strategy of reworking the U.S.-Japanese military relationship to have much greater reach and presence.

“The dynamic defense phase carries with it the seeds for the next phase — the shaping of a twin-anchor policy of having reach in the Arctic and the Indian Ocean.

“Obviously, such reach is beyond the capabilities of the Japanese themselves and requires close integration with the United States and other allies.  And such reach requires much greater C2, ISR and weapons integration across the Japanese and allied force structure.”

One of the key features of our appraoch was and continues to be how to leverage the new systems we are already bringing on line which allows us to expand our deterrence in depth capabilities.

There is way too much emphasis Inside the Beltway on potential and hypethetical future systems and significant denigration of how the newly being introduced systems when much more effectively integrated with robust C2 rather than some hegemonic Amazon cloud like system can deliver the capabilities we need in the evolving five year period in front of our forces.

It too often seems that the approach is shaping dense briefings of the world in 2030 as a deterrent to our adversaries rather than building out the capabilities which are within reach as new systems enter the force.

If we were to write this book now we would expand significantly the Australian role in what is becoming a Japanese-Australian-United States creative process in reshaping full spectrum crisis management forces.

A good example of how the future is being shaped now has been the work done in Tailsman Sabre 2019..

The Japanese fully participated in the exercise and brought some of their perimeter defense capabilities to the exercise effort.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defence:

From June 3rd to August 21st, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) are participating in the Talisman Sabre 2019 with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in Australia. It is the first time the JMSDF participates in this exercise.

This exercise aims to improve the tactical capabilities of the JGSDF and JMSDF in amphibious operation and land battle as well as interoperability between Japan and the U.S., and to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Approx. 330 personnel from the JGSDF’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade and 1st Helicopter Brigade as well as approx. 500 JMSDF personnel from the JS Ise and JS Kunisaki are participating in the exercise.

And in an article by Seth Robson published by Stars and Stripes on July 24, 2019, the Japanese engagement in the exercise was highlighted:

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force began observing and participating in amphibious training with U.S. Marines on Okinawa in 2012.

The training, which was off limits to media, was part of a multiyear effort to develop amphibious capability that included new helicopter carriers and landing craft.

The buildup has taken place amid tensions in the East China Sea, where China has challenged Japan’s claim to the Senkaku Islands (known as Daioyu by the Chinese) and the nearby oil and gas resources.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Capt. Hiroshi Watanabe, who was on the ground at Bowen, said 300 out of the now 2,000-strong amphibious brigade are participating in Talisman Sabre.

The force transited north from Brisbane in a pair of warships, the JS Ise and JS Kunasaki before conducting an amphibious landing, he said.

“It’s a very good exercise to improve our skill level,” he added.

“We think interoperability between Japan and the U.S. will improve through this exercise,” Watanabe said, using a military buzzword describing the ability of one nation’s armed forces to use another country’s training methods and equipment. “Also, there is relationship building between Japan and Australia.”

Conor was on Okinawa from 2014 to 2017 and watched the Japanese amphibious capability grow in strength.

Troops from the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade trained at Camp Pendleton earlier this year, said Conor, whose unit is part of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory this summer.

“It gives [the Japanese] the ability to respond within Japan’s island chain in a very rapid manner,” he said of the new force.

Marine Col. Matthew Sieber, an exchange officer who is helping the Australian army grow its own amphibious capability, said Talisman Sabre had put the Japanese troops a long way from their homeland.

“They are getting some great training in new training areas that they can’t get in Japan,” he said. “The number of repetitions they can get here in Australia is far more than they can do in Japan.”


SDB1 Arrives for the RAAF’s F-35s

By Sergeant Max Bree and Corporal Mark Carter

Bombing capacity of F-35As has quadrupled with the arrival of small diameter bombs introduced to No. 3 Squadron in June.

The GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb, Increment 1 (SDB1), packs about 16kg of modern high explosive, guided by GPS-aided inertial navigation.

Wing Commander Simon Bird, Chief Engineer at Aerospace Explosive Ordnance Systems Program Office (AEOSPO) – Explosive Materiel Branch, said it was Air Force’s most advanced bomb and made best use of the F-35A’s internal weapon bay.

“We’ve got a next-generation bomb to go with our fifth-generation fighter,” Wing Commander Bird said.

“Where you used to carry one JDAM [joint direct attack munition] in a position on the aircraft, SDB1 allows you to carry four bombs that each achieve very similar effects. Although at 285lbs the SDB1 is lighter than a 500lb JDAM, it’s highly accurate and packs a more powerful, modern explosive.

“SDB1 is also designed to penetrate harder targets, or can fuse above ground to create area effects.”

The bombs make use of ‘Diamondback’ wings, which deploy after release to provide greater stand-off range.

“With JDAMs you’ve got to be very close to the target to engage it, but because of the wings on SDB1, a single F-35A can engage up to eight separate targets from outside the range they can defend against,” Wing Commander Bird said.

“What’s more, because an SDB1 is carried internally, the F-35A can remain low observable and will not be affected by any extra drag from carrying eight bombs.”

Four bombs are fitted to new bomb release unit racks before loading on the aircraft.

“With an old JDAM, you had to take all the components and build it up, but that takes time, equipment and people,” Wing Commander Bird said.

“You can test the SDB1 without opening the box; you can test them before they’re even shipped to the base you’re going to operate from.

“This weapon comes fully assembled; you basically take it out of the box and load it.”

About 15 armament technicians from No. 3 Squadron received familiarisation training on the bombs before planned test firings in coming months.

AEOSPO’s engineering, logistic and technical staff ensured introduction of the weapons and their delivery was a milestone towards the F-35A’s initial operational capability in 2020.

This article was published by the Australian Department of Defence on August 16, 2019.

Flying Officer Matthew Walker, left, delivers bomb familiarisation training to armament technicians from No. 3 Squadron, from left, Corporal Christopher Sorrensen, Leading Aircraftman Adam Fulmizi and Corporal Simon McMillan. Photo: Sergeant Guy Young


The UK and Norway Shape Enhanced Cooperation for ASW Operations in the North Atlantic


By Robbin Laird

Recently, both the UK Ministry of Defence and Norwegian Ministry of Defence websites highlighted the meeting between the UK Minister of Defence and the Norwegian States Security of Defence held at RAF Lossiemouth in August 2019.

Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan hosted Norwegian State Secretary Tone Skogen to discuss NATO and the UK’s role in the North Atlantic.

The UK is investing £3 billion in nine new Boeing Poseidon P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, with Norway committing to a further five. The aircraft are sophisticated submarine-hunters designed to scout complex undersea threats.

The aircraft will work together, and with NATO allies, to combat a range of intensifying threats in the North Atlantic, including increased hostile submarine activity.

Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

“The UK’s maritime patrol aircraft programme demonstrates our ongoing commitment to working with international allies in the North Atlantic, strengthening our alliances with valued partners such as Norway.

“Our two nations share basing facilities, undergo cold weather training together and patrol the seas and skies side-by-side allowing us to successfully face down the growing threats from adversaries in the North Atlantic region.”

During the visit, the defence ministers experienced a demonstration flight in a US Navy Poseidon P-8A aircraft.

Norwegian State Secretary Tone Skogen said:

“The UK and Norway have a long history of cooperation on maritime surveillance and operations. This close relationship will only improve now that we will operate the same type of MPA, the P-8 Poseidon. UK and Norwegian priorities are aligned in the North Atlantic, and we look forward to a close and integrated partnership in meeting common challenges within the realm of maritime security.”

The entire nine-strong UK Poseidon P-8A fleet will be based at RAF Lossiemouth. The first aircraft has been built and has just completed its first test flight. It will be handed over to the RAF in the United States later this year and arrive in Scotland early in 2020.

Last year, the station broke ground on construction of a £132 million strategic facility for the new fleet, to be completed in 2020. The new facility is being constructed by Elgin-based Robertson Northern and will comprise a tactical operations centre, an operational conversion unit, squadron accommodation, training and simulation facilities and a three-bay aircraft hangar.

When all of these developments are complete there will be 470 additional service personnel based at RAF Lossiemouth, taking the total number of people employed there to 2,200.

RAF Lossiemouth is one of the most important air stations in the UK: it is already home to four RAF Typhoon squadrons – half of the RAF Typhoon Force – which conducts air policing work to protect the UK’s airspace from unwanted intrusion, and also on behalf of NATO in Eastern Europe to reassure allies.

The UK’s NATO commitments also include sending four RAF Typhoons to conduct air policing in Icelandic skies for the first time later this year. Such operations allow the RAF to develop valuable skills in new and challenging environments, as well as working closely with allies to protect Euro Atlantic security.

Earlier this month, RAF Typhoons benefitted from a £350 million contract with Rolls-Royce to support the maintenance of their EJ200 engines up to 2024.

The featured photo shows Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Norwegian State Secretary Tone Skogen meeting at RAF Lossiemouth.

Credit: UK MOD

We have highlighted the significance of allied cooperation in shaping new capabilities during the strategic shift back to direct defense of Europe over the past few years, and are focusing on this shift in our new book to be published next year. 

The ASW piece is especially significant but also is being built differently from the time of the Cold War.

In this article published on July 19, 2017, we highlighted the crafting of a maritime domain strike enterprise in the North Atlantic with the new systems enabling the effort.

That article follows:

2017-07-19 Recently, the UK, Norway and the US signed an agreement to work together on ASW in the North Atlantic, which will leverage the joint acquisition of the P-8 aircraft.

This agreement and the evolution of the aircraft is yet another example of the US and its allies standing up at the same time an evolving defense capability in which allies are clearly key partners in shaping the evolution of a core combat capability.

To lay down a foundation for a 21st century approach, the US Navy is pairing its P-8s with a new large unmanned aircraft, and working an integrated approach between the two.   In a very narrow sense, the P-8 and Triton are “replacing” the P-3.

But the additional ISR and C2 enterprise being put in place to operate the combined P-8 and Triton capability is a much broader capability than the classic P-3. Much like the Osprey transformed the USMC prior to flying the F-35, the P-8/Triton team is doing the same for the US Navy as the F-35 comes to the carrier air wing.

The team at Navy Jax is building a common Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Combat Culture and treats the platforms as partner applications of the evolving combat theory. The partnership is both technology synergistic and also aircrew are moving between the Triton and P-8.

The P-8s is part of a cluster of airplanes which have emerged defining the way ahead for combat airpower which are software upgradeable: the Australian Wedgetail, the global F-35, and the Advanced Hawkeye, all have the same dynamic modernization potential to which will be involved in all combat challenges of maritime operations.

It is about shaping a combat learning cycle in which software can be upgraded as the user groups shape real time what core needs they see to rapidly deal with the reactive enemy.

All military technology is relative to a reactive enemy.

As Ed Timperlake has noted “It is about the arsenal of democracy shifting from an industrial production line to a clean room and a computer lab as key shapers of competitive advantage.”


And from the ground up, the US Navy is doing this with the Brits, the Australians, and soon the Norwegians will join into the effort.

Canada is a key player in the North Atlantic ASW effort.

There is a great deal of respect by the Brits, the Australians and Norwegians for the professionalism and competence of the Canadian ASW forces.

But there is concern with the level of funding effort which the Canadian government makes to this effort and to the uncertainty about the Canadian modernization path.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s first P-8A Poseidon, A47-001 fly’s in formation with a current AP-3C Orion over their home Base of RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.Credit: Australian Department of Defence

Much like the F-35 pilots and maintainers for allies are being trained initially in the United States and then standing up national capabilities, the same is happening with the P-8/Triton allies whereby the Brits and Australians are training at Jax Navy and this will most certainly happen with the Norwegians as well.

In fact, recently an RAF pilot has gone beyond 1,000 flight hours on the P-8 at Jax Navy.

And the allies are doing training for the entire P-8 force as well.

The Australians are buying the P-8 and the Triton and the Brits and Norwegians the P-8s but will work with the US Navy as it operates its Tritons in the North Atlantic area of interests.

These allies are working key geographical territory essential to both themselves and the United States, so shared domain knowledge and operational experience in the South Pacific and the North Atlantic is of obvious significance for warfighting and deterrence.

And given the relatively small size of the allied forces, they will push the multi-mission capabilities of the aircraft even further than the United States will do and as they do so the U.S. can take those lessons as well.

There is already a case in point.

The Australians as a cooperative partner wanted the P-8 modified to do search and rescue something that the US Navy did not build into its P-8s. But now that capability comes with the aircraft, something that was very much a requirement for the Norwegians as well.

And the US Navy is finding this “add-on” as something of significance for the US as well.

I have visited the Australian and British bases where the P-8s and, in the case of the Aussies, the Triton is being stood up. And I have talked with the Norwegians during my visit in February about their thinking with regard to the coming MDA enterprise.

It is clear from these discussions, that they see an F-35 like working relationship being essential to shaping a common operational enterprise where shared data and decision making enhance the viability of the various nation’s defense and security efforts.

During my visit to RAAF Edinburgh, which is near Adelaide in South Australia where the Aussies will build their new submarines, I had a chance to discuss the standup of the base and to look at the facilities being built there.

As with the F-35, new facilities need to be built to support a 21st century combat aircraft where data, and decision-making tools are rich and embedded into the aircraft operations.

At the heart of the enterprise is a large facility where Triton and P-8 operators have separate spaces but they are joined by a unified operations center. 

It is a walk through area, which means that cross learning between the two platforms will be highlighted.

This is especially important as the two platforms are software upgradeable and the Aussies might well wish to modify the mission systems of both platforms to meet evolving Australian requirements.

The P-8 and Triton integrated facility being built at RAAF Edinbourgh, near Adelaide in South Australia. Credit: Australian Ministry of Defence

And in discussions with senior RAAF personnel, the advantage of working with the US Navy and other partners from the ground up on the program was highlighted.

“In some ways, it is like having a two nation F-35 program. Because we are a cooperative partner, we have a stake and say in the evolution of the aircraft.

“And this is particularly important because the aircraft is software upgradeable.

“This allows us working with the USN to drive the innovation of the aircraft and its systems going forward.”

“We’ve been allowed to grow and develop our requirements collectively. We think this is very far sighted by the USN as well. I think we’ve got the ability to influence the USN, and the USN have had the ability to influence us in many of the ways that we do things.”

“We will be doing things differently going forward. It is an interactive learning process that we are setting up and it is foundational in character. We’re generating generation’s worth of relationship building, and networking between the communities.  We are doing that over an extended period of time.”

“For about three years we have been embedding people within the USN’s organization. There are friendships that are being forged, and those relationships are going to take that growth path for collaboration forward for generations to come.

“When you can ring up the bloke that you did such and such with, have a conversation, and take the effort forward because of that connection. That is a not well recognized but significant benefit through the collaborative program that we’re working at the moment.”

“We are shaping integration from the ground up. And we are doing so with the Australian Defence Force overall.”

I visited RAF Lossiemouth as well where the Brits are standing up their P-8 base.

With the sun setting of the Nimrod, the RAF kept their skill sets alive by taking Nimrod operators and putting them onboard planes flying in NATO exercises, most notably the Joint Warrior exercises run from the UK.

This has been a challenge obviously to key skill sets alive with no airplane of your own, but the US and allied navies worked collectively as the bridge until the Brits get the new aircraft.


And the base being built at Lossiemouth will house not only UK aircraft, but allow Norwegians to train, and the US to operate as well.

Indeed, what was clear from discussions at Lossie is that the infrastructure is being built from the ground up with broader considerations in mind, notably in effect building a 21st century MDA highway.

The RAF is building capacity in its P-8 hangers for visiting aircraft such as the RAAF, the USN, or the Norwegian Air Force to train and operate from Lossiemouth. In many ways, the thinking is similar to how building the F-35 enterprise out from the UK to Northern Europe is being shaped as well.


In effect, an MDA highway being built from Lossie and the F-35 reach from the UK to Northern Europe are about shaping common, convergent capabilities that will allow for expanded joint and combined operational capabilities.

At this is not an add on, but built from the ground up.

Flying the same ISR/C2/strike aircraft, will pose a central challenge with regard to how best to share combat data in a fluid situation demanding timely and effective decision-making?

The UK is clearly a key player in shaping the way ahead on both the P-8 and F-35 enterprises, not just by investing in both platforms, but building the infrastructure and training a new generation of operators and maintainers as well.

At the heart of this learning process are the solid working relationships among the professional military in working towards innovative concepts of operations.

This is a work in progress that requires infrastructure, platforms, training and openness in shaping evolving working relationships.

Having visited Norway earlier this year and having discussed among other things, the coming of the P-8 and the F-35 in Norway, it is clear that what happens on the other side of the North Sea (i.e., the UK) is of keen interest to Norway.

And talking with the RAF and Royal Navy, the changes in Norway are also part of broader UK considerations when it comes to the reshaping of NATO defense capabilities in a dynamic region.

In my interview with the new Chief of Staff of the Norwegian Air Force, Major General Skinnarland, she underscored how important she saw the collaborative from the ground up approach of operating new systems together.

Referring to the F-35, she argued that “With the UK, the US, the Danes and the Dutch operating the same combat aircraft, there are clear opportunities to shape new common operational capabilities…

“And with the P-8s operating from the UK, Iceland, and Norway can shape a maritime domain awareness data capability which can inform our forces effectively as well but again, this requires work to share the data and to shape common concepts of operations.

“A key will be to exercise often and effectively together. To shape effective concepts of operations will require bringing the new equipment, and the people together to share experience and to shape a common way ahead.”

In effect, a Maritime Domain Awareness highway or belt is being constructed from the UK through to Norway. 

A key challenge will be establishing ways to share data and enable rapid decision-making in a region where the Russians are modernizing forces and expanded reach into the Arctic.

Obviously a crucial missing in action player in this scheme is Canada. And in my discussions with Commonwealth members and Northern Europeans there is clear concern for disappearing Canadian capabilities.

Perhaps one way to enhance modernization of Canadian forces along with the Brits and the Norwegians would be to shape a joint buy with the UK and Norway to procure a set of Tritons in common and work common data sharing arrangements.

Or perhaps a model to sell data rather than buy aircraft might be considered as well which has been the model whereby Scan Eagle has operated with the USMC.

As the COS of the Norwegian Air Force put the challenge:

“We should plug and play in terms of our new capabilities; but that will not happen by itself, by simply adding new equipment.

“It will be hard work.”

And that will include the possibility of an expanded relationship with India as well.

The Indians have purchased P-8s as well but have put unique systems on the aircraft to do many of the missions.

There is an inherent potential for India to work with the other P-8 partners as well but full cooperation will require reaching a number of data sharing agreements with the other P-8 partners.

In effect, the P-8 will be part of the evolving naval collaborative framework between the Indians and the U.S. as well as with other allies. 

What makes the P-8 an especially interesting platform is that it is a shared platform between India and the U.S. with others (such as Australia) likely to join in and this sharing of a platform can provide a tool for enhancing collaboration in the daunting task of shaping effective ISR for 21st century maritime missions.

The opportunity is inherent in the technology; the challenge will be to shape the collaborative approach and shared concepts of operations.

The threats require nothing less.

Editor’s Note: This piece was first published by Breaking Defense.

Allies And The Maritime Domain Strike Enterprise




The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic, the Nordics and the Direct Defense Challenge

In 2016, Vice Admiral James Foggo III, currently commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, spoke of the current situation in the North Atlantic as the arrival of the fourth battle of the Atlantic.

“In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and commentary such as Francis Fukuyama’s landmark essay “The End of History?” led us to believe that our strategic rivalry with Russia and our need to stay one step ahead of Russian capabilities had faded. It has not. Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us. Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict.”1

In his timely new book, Magnus Nordenman has provided a very comprehensive overview to the fourth battle of the Atlantic.

And in so doing, he does a solid job providing an understanding of how the Russian challenge is both different from and similar to that posed by the Soviet challenge. 2

There are similarities in terms of the importance of the U.S. and Canada being able to project power to reinforce Nordic allies in dealing with the air and naval forces coming from the Kola Peninsula to cut Europe off from its North Atlantic partners. The Kola Peninsula then and now has the highest concentration of military force on the planet. And as such, the priority for both the Soviets and the Russians is the same – provide for anti-access and area denial of the Kola Peninsula.

But the differences are more pronounced. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries joining NATO much of the sea and land support capabilities available to the Soviet navy are now not available.

“Today, Russia’s geostrategic situation has changed considerably since the end of the Cold War, but its ambition to be a major maritime power has not. Geographic conditions, however, funnels that maritime ambition toward the north. Post-Soviet Russia has lost much of its littoral territory around the Baltic Sea, with Poland and the Baltic states now fully integrated NATO members. What remains is the outlet at Saint Petersburg through the Gulf of Finland and the Kaliningrad enclave in the southeastern corner of the Baltic Sea.

“The Baltic Sea no longer provides Russia with assured access to the broader maritime domain, given that the other Baltic littoral states are either members of NATO or close partners of the alliance. In a war, the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet would find it impossible to exit the Baltic Sea, but it could, on the other hand, certainly cause NATO and the United States significant frustration if they attempted to reach the Baltic States across the sea.”3

This means that the Kola Peninsula has become even more important, despite an Arctic opening. 

And the latter can be seen from a military standpoint as expanding the perimeter of defense for the Kola Peninsula.

The Russian force is also quite different from the Soviet Union. 

The Russians have built and are modernizing an integrated missile and subsurface and surface fleet, reinforced by airpower, to provide an expand zone of defense for the Kola Peninsula.  They are also shaping more capabilities to ensure that the much reduced port structure, which could receive reinforcements from the U.S. or Canada, could be destroyed in times of severe conflict.

“If a crisis comes, the Russian navy is increasingly well placed and equipped to operate in the far North Atlantic to strike at vital ports, airfields, and command-and-control centers that are needed to bring in U.S. and NATO reinforcements coming across the North Atlantic. If those cross-Atlantic reinforcements were stopped or delayed in coming ashore, NATO and the United States could very well lose a confrontation with Russia in Europe’s east, far away from the shores of the Atlantic.” 4

The arrival of the new Russian capabilities – cruise missiles throughout the fleet with higher quality platforms to deliver missile strikes – has come with the procurement holiday and shift of focus by the U.S. and allies to the land wars in the Middle East. Much of the infrastructure built ashore to support maritime power in the North Atlantic has atrophied or simply disappeared.

“The network of bases and sensors that were established throughout the North Atlantic region and beyond to deal with the challenge of the Soviet navy was truly impressive, and by the end of the Cold War these nodes in NATO’s defense of the North Atlantic ranged from Bermuda in the west and Sigonella in Italy, far into the Mediterranean, and from Iceland and Norway in the north to the Azores in the south. Keflavik, however, stood out as a hub among the other spokes for North Atlantic ASW operations.”5

This has been accompanied by a dramatic shrinkage of air and naval capabilities available to prosecute a Russian fleet as well.

“In aggregate, twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War the naval picture in the North Atlantic had changed radically. European navies were smaller than ever before, but primed and ready to take on missions and threats far from their European waters. The U.S. naval presence in Europe had been more than halved and reoriented toward the Mediterranean and the turbulent Middle East. Sensor networks, basing infrastructure, and command structures intended for the Atlantic and Europe’s north had been reduced or scrapped during the same period. And ASW training was far from the minds of Western navies. Then, in 2014, great-power competition and the specter of future war returned to Europe and the North Atlantic.”6

This state of affairs, the return of the Russian challenge, and the disappearance of the defense systems for the West to deal with a Russian challenge, has led to a a significant challenge for the West. On the one hand, the Nordics have re-focused on their direct defense, and are building out new capabilities to deal with a 21stcentury Russian challenge.  And on the other hand, the NATO allies not present in continental Europe, the UK, Canada, and the United States, have refocused on the challenge and are starting the process of rebuilding the capabilities.

The challenge will be to ensure that the two efforts, those by the Nordics and those by the offshore powers, converge to create a credible deterrent capability for North Atlantic defense.

Recent Russian exercises have highlighted the exact nature of the military challenge posed by the Russians. In blunt terms, Russia is seeking to expand its ability to deny the sea and air domain to the United States and its allies well into the North Atlantic. The extended bastion system is not a theoretical construct for it is being exercised by the Russians as well.

“In mid-March 2015, Russia launched an unannounced snap exercise that developed into one of the most far-ranging ever put on by the Russian military. All in all, it included some 80,000 personnel with exercise activities from the Baltic Sea region to the Black Sea and the Pacific. The exercise clearly simulated a conflict with NATO, and the first stage of the exercise was concentrated in and around the Kola Peninsula, where the Northern Fleet was deployed to conduct ASW and surface warfare exercises in the Barents Sea.

“At the same time, Russian strategic bombers performed strikes against simulated targets on the Kola Peninsula, while air defense units simulated defense against incoming air threats. Marine infantry assigned to the Northern Fleet were also mobilized and moved into the Arctic.

“During the second and third phase of the exercise, Russian ground, air, and naval units in the Baltic Sea region and around the Black Sea joined in the exercise to conduct live-fire drills in their area of responsibility.34 General interest media outlets called the Russian focus on the Kola Peninsula during the exercise “utterly baffling,” since the territory there is well away from the heart of Europe and with a low NATO presence in the surrounding region.”

“It is not so baffling if one transplants the events in and around the Kola Peninsula and the Barents Sea in mid-March 2015 into the Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea at some future date. The first phase of the exercise was clearly a rehearsal on how to deploy the extended bastion in order to deter and hinder NATO reinforcements coming into Europe across the Atlantic, strike land-based targets that would support NATO operations in the Atlantic (e.g., as ports, command centers, and intelligence nodes), and provide strategic cover for Russian ground, air, and maritime operations elsewhere. The same type of operation in the North Atlantic was rehearsed again during Russia’s major and recurring exercise Zapad in September 2017.”7

Nordenman provided some core principles when thinking through how to deter the Russians in the context of the fourth battle of the Atlantic and these principles are important ones not just for the maritime domain but in terms of rethinking how to provide for direct defense of Europe in the new global strategic context.

He argued that the return of the great power competition in the North Atlantic was not so much about the American-Russian rivalry as it was about the Euro-North Atlantic working relationship to put relevant capabilities into play, and ones which could be usefully used in crisis management.

“The United States could also help move along naval coalitions of the willing under the umbrella of NATO. Here America could help encourage regional naval leadership by its European friends and allies by having the United Kingdom take a leadership role in the North Atlantic, while, for example, Germany leads in the Baltic Sea and France or Italy takes on a leading role in the Mediterranean.

“This would allow the navies of Europe to more directly specialize and focus on the maritime domains of greatest concern to them. In the case of the North Atlantic, a maritime framework could be imagined that would include the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and, occasionally, Germany and France.

“This notion of clearer regional responsibility for the maritime domains around Europe is further merited by the many war games that have been played in Washington and elsewhere since 2014, which have all shown that a first response to a crisis with Russia will likely not be a NATO one, but a regional coalition of the willing led by the United States.

“NATO would come into play a short while later as the alliance reaches political consensus that is required for collective action. The North Atlantic Treaty, however, does not bar any one nation or group of nations from coming to the aid of an ally without alliance consensus.”8

This is especially necessary given the different character of the fourth battle of the Atlantic.

“The fourth battle of the Atlantic, like the other three earlier contests, will hinge on the ability to bring to bear high-end naval power in the maritime domain. The fourth battle, however, will also include hybrid elements, with potential attacks against the vital submarine cables across the North Atlantic, disinformation campaigns, aggression in cyberspace in peacetime with implications in the maritime domain, and disruptions of GPS and communications gear by electronic means.It may also include the use of nonmilitary vessels for military purposes, including coast guard ships, fishing boats, and merchantman.”

“Hybrid warfare has proven to be a tough challenge to deal with for the United States and NATO, as the alliance is, at heart, an institution focused on traditional military challenges. In the case of hybrid warfare in the maritime domain, NATO must focus on building maritime infrastructure resilience, find ways to clearly identify and attribute attacks and provocations, and help educate senior leaders on robust decision-making during unclear circumstances. The latter can be accomplished by rigorous political-military wargaming, which would confront decision makers with situations and decision points they may face during a real-world crisis.”9

In short, a key part of shaping a new approach to direct defense in Europe is winning the fourth battle of the Atlantic.

And here the West, although it has significant challenges to face in doing so, has a clear opportunity to leverage new technologies and its collaborative working relationships to win that battle.

“Change is also coming to ASW sensors and the equipment used to interpret and exploit the data collected by them. Big data analytics, using software to process and systematize the immense amounts of information and data points being generated by everything from everyday gadgets to advanced sensors, is rapidly changing businesses and everyday life. Using big data analytics can help decision makers and analysts pick out previously unknown patterns of behavior or irregularities, help predict coming events, or better organize an industrial process.”10

This means that if the U.S. and its allies can provide the territory from which to operate, deploy the new data rich platforms like P-8s, Tritons, F-35s, Aegis and various European systems, as well, then the revolution in sensor technologies, C2 and distributed warfare can play to their benefit. But this will not happen if clear focus is not kept on the nature of the challenge.

Nordenman highlights a key aspect of dealing with the Russian challenge, which is crucial for the Nordics, namely the need to hold the Russian bastion at risk. 

For the United States and Canada, it is about reinforcing Europe and holding the Russians at bay, notably with Putin threatening a nuclear strike via his projected new hypersonic missile to be launched via a submarine. But for the Nordics, it is about homeland defense, and not letting the Russians have a free ride to use the Kola peninsula and its extended perimeter defense without a significant capability by the West to attrite and destroy the Russian bastion.  When you come out from the land into the air and sea corridors. That is where the West for sure needs to be able to operate its own anti-access and area denial capability.  Two can play at this game.

“NATO faces an urgent challenge in the Baltic Sea region, where the Baltic states are small, exposed, and difficult to defend against Russian military aggression. One way to deter Russia from ever seizing one or all of the Baltic states would be to hold key territory or capabilities of high value to Russia at risk.

“One such region is the Kola Peninsula, with the Northern Fleet and the submarine-based nuclear deterrent. The United States should give serious thought to a naval strategy in the far North Atlantic that in many ways harks back to the maritime strategy of the 1980s.

“This approach, however, is not without its potential shortcomings. Many NATO allies would be uneasy with this concept, and there is the real risk of pushing Russia into a “use or lose” decision with its submarine-based nuclear deterrent. Still, the concept bears careful consideration and quiet U.S. conversations with key European allies.”11 Magnus Nordenman, New Battle for the Atlantic(Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition, p. 201).

The featured photo:

NORTH SEA (Mar. 11, 2019) The guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) and the guided-missile frigate ORP General K. Pulaski (FrR 232) conduct a replenishment at sea with the German navy replenishment tanker FGS Spessart (A 1442).

Gravely is underway on a regularly-scheduled deployment as the flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 to conduct maritime operations and provide a continuous maritime capability for NATO in the northern Atlantic.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Andrew Hays/Released)


Western Australia Indo-Pacific Conference 2019: The Australian Defence Minister Sets Out Long Term Goals

The WA Indo-Pacific Defence conference is the flagship defence industry and defence issues conference. This year’s conference examined topics such as; ‘Partnership roles’, ‘industry support for the changing operational environment’, ‘New frontiers in Defence including the evolving role of technology and WA’s STEM agenda’, ‘Defence industry applications for WA’s battery minerals and resources expertise’ and ‘Key strategies outlined in the Western Australian Defence and Defence Industry Strategic Plan’.

The speech delivered by the Australian Defence Minister. who is from Western Australia. outlined a number of key objectives with regard to how Western Australia is currently and could in the future play a greater role in Australian defense.

Thank you for the warm introduction.  It’s a pleasure to be here today.

And thank you to those of you who has lasted to the end of a very full and fabulous day’s program, not quite the midnight shift, but as a 16 year member of the Fremantle Football Club, I can cope with being almost last – we are a resilient mob.

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet — the Noongar people — and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I acknowledge my federal colleagues, Governor Beazley, international visitors and senior Defence members.

And – I acknowledge and thank all current and former service men and women here this afternoon.

I’m very pleased to be speaking to you today as a proud Western Australian Minister for Defence Industry, and indeed the second Western Australian federal minister from the Defence portfolio to address the conference today.

How good is WA!

I have long held an interest in defence matters and really noticed the renewed energy in this sector across the State.

As is increasingly self-evident, security is of critical importance.

Earlier today, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds reiterated the increased importance of the Indo-Pacific, along with the Government’s unprecedented $200 billion investment in defence capability.

A key part of delivering on our record investment is my portfolio of Defence Industry.

Two months ago, I took the reins as Minister for Defence Industry — As Prime Minister Morrison has said, my job is to ensure the generational job-creating projects we’re bringing through our investment in defence capability are delivered on time and on budget.

And as an ex-construction Lawyer – I also like to add – “AND on spec”.

On spec includes the requirement for Australian local content in our contracts with major contractors.  To ensure all Australian businesses get opportunities.

And, let me say, I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the many fantastic businesses that make up our defence industry and creating the partnerships to deliver on our commitments.

I’ve met with cabinet makers, engineers, scientists, shipbuilders, tradespeople, industrial designers and mechanics – just to name a few.

All of these people and businesses are contributing to our defence industry, and all of them are benefitting from the Morrison Government’s record investment in our sovereign defence capability.

We are setting the pathway to grow the workforce across Australia – creating thousands of long-term jobs in the process.

We are building Australia’s defence industry to be resilient, sustainable and internationally competitive.

And my focus is laser sharp to ensure Australian industry involvement in the acquisition, operation and sustainment of Defence capability – and WA is key to our vision.

Western Australia has a proud and thriving local defence industry. 

As I’ve said, I’m a proud West Australian and I’m very pleased that WA is seizing the opportunity with both hands.

Our State contributes significant capability to safeguarding Australia.

It has a diverse industrial base, and expertise in critical defence skills.

It also has a strong track record in research and innovation.

Our Government is making sure WA has a critical role in the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

Workers in WA are building:

  • Ten of our new 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels
  • Twenty-one Pacific Patrol Boats
  • One hydrographic vessel, and
  • Two Mine Hunter Vessels

Workers in WA are delivering:

  • Significant capability upgrades to the Navy’s ANZAC-class frigates, and
  • Sustainment and maintenance of the Navy’s Collins-class submarines

This means more jobs for western Australians — more long-term jobs — and a stronger economy.

I can assure you, I want to see more Aussie projects delivered by Aussie workers using Aussie components — with some good old Aussie know- how and ingenuity.

To achieve this, we need more highly-skilled workers and this is why the Morrison Government is investing in upskilling WA’s workforce.

One of the ways we’re achieving this is through the Naval Shipbuilding College, which is building Australia’s future naval shipbuilding workforce.

The Naval Shipbuilding College is finding and training trade-qualified, job-ready workers and apprentices to truly be the workforce behind the Defence Force.

They will make sure locals have the right skills — at the right time — to help industry deliver Australia’s sovereign naval capability.

Together, we are building the skills to be used around Australia, across the Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

But the Government’s $200 billion investment in defence capability is more than just Naval shipbuilding.

We are ensuring the Australian Defence Force has the capability it needs – including superior aircraft and new armoured vehicles.

Delivering combat capabilities like the 5 th generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the world-leading Boxer Combat Reconnaissance vehicles.

But also delivering for Australian companies – with more than 50 directly sharing in more than $1.3 billion in F-35 production contracts.

And over 1,450 jobs across Australia by building and supporting the Boxer vehicle with Australian steel and Australian supply chains.

Today – we announced over $3 billion of investment in cutting edge equipment for Australia’s Special Forces.

Key equipment such as body armour, roping and climbing systems, as well as medical search and rescue  – are great opportunities for Australian companies to continue to provide the world’s best equipment to the world’s best Special Forces.

The Morrison Government is investing in the skills of the future.

Earlier this year, we released the Defence Industry Skilling Strategy.

Part of this strategy is establishing the National Defence Industry Skills office.

Together, we are helping industry, government and other stakeholders ensure that defence industry has the skilled workforce it needs in the years ahead to achieve our ambitious plans.

Later this year, I will host a national defence industry skilling and STEM summit to bring together key stakeholders and the Defence Industry Skills Office.

As Minister for Defence Industry it is a key priority of mine to create pathways for Australian students to find and pursue careers in our defence industry.

We must do more to attract more people to defence industry. With a skilled workforce we can grow our small businesses in the defence industry.

Here in Western Australia, through the Schools Pathways Program, we’re encouraging students to develop the science, technology and engineering skills for the future — skills needed in the defence industry and beyond.

We’re highlighting key subjects, with the hope that students will enrol in them at school and, later, pursue a career in Australia’s defence industry.

As well as more students, we also want to see more small Australian businesses in the defence industry, too.

To create and sustain a stronger defence industrial base, we need to maximise the involvement and success of Australian small business.

There are many opportunities here in WA and I encourage you to look at the Government’s broader investment program for opportunities which your business can take advantage of.

Some local success stories so far include:

  • Sea to Summit: Providing outdoor equipment, including sleeping bags, hydration packs, sleeping mats and rifle-bags, to State and National security organisations, and exporting to European defence markets.
  • Blacktree Technologies: Providing communications solutions to the Australian Defence Force.
  • AVI: who are designing, manufacturing and supporting customised equipment for critical communication systems.
  • International Maritime Consultants: Who are providing naval architecture advice and design services.
  • Total Marine Technology: Who are building Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), and exporting them to Brazil.

The Morrison Government is also helping small Australian businesses connect with global Primes — and with great success.

Under the Global Supply Chain Program, Australian small businesses have won more than $1 billion in contracts.

Western Australian businesses account for 13 per cent of that — 13 companies have won contracts totalling $131 million.

Local company, Orbital, is a great example.

It’s currently working with Insitu, a Boeing Subsidiary, exporting drones for the Scan Eagle in the US — an unmanned aerial vehicle used for reconnaissance.

And I want to see more Australian businesses exporting overseas – because trade creates jobs.

WA businesses are particularly fortunate in this area.

Not only do they have champions in myself and Defence Minister Reynolds, but also in the Australian Defence Export Advocate — David Johnston.

Since the Australian Defence Export Office opened last year, David has done a tremendous job advocating for Australian defence businesses, both at home and overseas.

Can I say – WA businesses really are well positioned to export their products.

I’m pleased to hear that there are six WA companies who are showcased in this year’s Australian Military Sales Catalogue. That’s a jump from just two last year.

WA is also contributing in the innovation space, and I encourage more WA businesses get involved with the Defence Innovation Hub.

The Defence Innovation Hub is working closely with businesses across the country to turn good ideas into advanced capability for the Australian Defence Force.

So far, it has awarded two contracts to Western Australian companies, totalling $3.1 million.

One of these contracts is with L3 Oceania.

Who is currently developing technology that has the potential to extend and enhance the acoustic surveillance capability of a submarine.

This is particularly useful in contested waters.

It’s also a great example of how WA contributes to national and regional defence.

Another area where WA contributes greatly is research.

Western Australians are, rightly so, incredibly proud of our universities. I’m pleased to say, all publicly funded universities in WA are working with Defence.

They’re working with us to better understand areas such as surveillance, space situational awareness and the undersea environment.

I know WA wants to be the forefront of cutting-edge defence science and innovation.

Here in WA, the Centre for Defence Industry (CDIC) – the ‘front door’ for many companies –

Is helping small businesses improve their capability so they can take advantage of opportunities in the shipbuilding supply chains.

To date, 34 contracts, with a total value of more than $2 million, have been awarded to WA businesses to improve capability – to be defence industry ready.

Defence West complements the work of CDIC, supporting WA’s defence industry and promoting our capabilities both nationally and internationally.

Working with state government agencies like Defence West is important in delivering a stronger, more resilient and internationally competitive defence industrial base.

The new Defence Science Centre, which I helped open in June, is a great step toward achieving it.

I expect big ideas and ground-breaking research to continue to come from this side of the country. In fact, I’m counting on it.

WA is positioning itself to play a critical role in national and regional defence, and I support this 100%

It is a state with so much potential and passion…

… with a strong entrepreneurial and enthusiastic spirit.

I look forward to working with the people, businesses and government in WA, as we continue to deliver the Government’s $200 billion investment in defence capability.

It is your work which contributes to the strength of our economy, and the security of both our nation and the region.

Thank you.

Australian Department of Defence

August 13, 2019.


Marine and naval forces from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Great Britain and the United States kicked off UNITAS LX, an annual multinational exercise kicking off in Rio de Janeiro, Aug. 19.

This year’s exercise is hosted by the Brazilian Navy and will conduct operations off the coast of Brazil through Aug. 30.


Video by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South