Thursday, March 19, 2020

[TheList] 5243 ADDITION spl

Daily news from Military Periscope for 18 March

USA—Defender Europe Drills Scaled Back Due To Coronavirus Stars And Stripes | 03/18/2020 The U.S. has halted the deployment of forces to Europe for the planned Defender Europe exercise due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19), reports the Stars and Stripes. On Monday, U.S. European Command announced that the movement of personnel and materiel had been suspended on March 13. Several elements of the large-scale exercise, including Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response, have been canceled, said the command. About 6,000 troops, including a division headquarters and armored brigade combat team, had deployed to Europe since January, reported the Army Times. A total of 20,000 personnel were scheduled to participate in the training across the continent. The armored brigade combat team is expected to hold gunnery and other exercises with allied and partner forces as part of a modified Allied Spirit exercise. Other units will return to the U.S. Future rotations to Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve, the U.S. effort to deter Russian aggression in Europe, are also likely to be adjusted, officials said. The exercise was designed to demonstrate the ability of the U.S. to deploy a division-sized force from the U.S. to Europe.

USA—Iranian Faces Federal Charges Of Seeking Military Components In Violation Of Sanctions Voice Of America News | 03/18/2020 An Iranian citizen is set to face federal charges for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, reports the Voice of America News. On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Dept. announced that Merdad Ansari had been extradited from the republic of Georgia to San Antonio, Texas, where he will face trial. From 2007 to 2011, Ansari and two accomplices allegedly procured or attempted to procure dual-use technologies from 63 different U.S. firms. The dual-use technologies sought by Ansari could be used in systems such as nuclear weapons; missile guidance and development; secure tactical radio communications; offensive electronic warfare; military electronic countermeasures (radio jamming); and radar warning and surveillance systems, the Justice Dept. said. Prosecutors say that Ansari, 38, helped to obtain materials for use by the Iranian military in violation of a U.S. sanctions regime. He faces up to 25 years in prison. In 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Ansari on charges of conspiracy to launder money and commit wire fraud.

USA—Air Force Awards $550 Million To Startups To Bolster Innovation Breaking Defense | 03/18/2020 The U.S. Air Force recently awarded over $550 million in collaborative funding to 21 startups following a virtual pitch day as part of its AFventures effort, reports Breaking Defense. The awards were issued on March 14 following the Spark Collider event in a virtual setting. The event was originally scheduled for the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, but was moved online due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. AFventures is a collaborative effort between the Air Force acquisition shop, the AFWERX innovation hub and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer Program, according to the program's webpage. The program plans to award approximately $1 billion annually in funding to innovative startups to help them to bridge the "valley of death" between demonstrating a technology and becoming a formal program of record. It uses the new Strategic Financing (STRATFI) contracting mechanism, which involves all of the AFventures partners. Over $100 million of the funding awarded came from the SBIR, along with $100 million from the Air Force and $350 million in private investment. Concepts being funded under the program include machine-to-machine connectivity; augmented reality systems; and geospatial imagery analysis.

USA—Bell, Sikorsky Move Forward In Army's Long-Range Assault Aircraft Project Lockheed Martin | 03/18/2020 Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky has been selected by the Army for a competitive demonstration and risk reduction (CDRR) effort as part of the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. Sikorsky will provide its SB>1 design, developed with Boeing, for the project, which follows the Joint Multirole Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) project, said a Lockheed release on Monday. On the same day, Bell Helicopters announced that it had also been selected for the CDRR program. Bell will deliver a refined design of its V-280 Valor tiltrotor, along with supporting technical documentation building on the data collected during previous flight demonstrations, the company said. The CDRR will consist of two year-long phases, during which Sikorsky and Bell will provide initial conceptual designs, an assessment of the feasibility of requirements and trade studies using model-based systems engineering, reported Defense News. The project will assess various technologies identified by an Office of the Secretary of Defense independent technology readiness assessment, including the powertrain, drivetrain and flight control software, said Army program officials. It will also enable the service to work on integrating mission systems. Plans call for the FLRAA competition to begin in earnest in 2022, with the first-unit equipped to be fielded in 2030.

United Kingdom—Delays To Projects Hampering Forces, Says Auditor Reuters | 03/18/2020 The combat capability of British forces is at risk due to delays in the production and delivery of new equipment, says a new report cited by Reuters. About a third of the military's 32 most important projects are behind schedule, the National Audit Office said on Wednesday. New equipment is on average more than two years behind schedule. These projects include the F-35 fighter jet, offshore patrol vessels and the Falcon Early Entry Capability battlefield communication system, the report says. The 32 programs are valued at about 196.2 billion pounds (US$232.8 billion), reported the Forces News. An ongoing issue is that equipment is delivered either late or in poor condition, the NAO said. In addition, there is a shortage of personnel in the acquisition office and a lack of essential skills. Six of the 32 project teams are short at least 20 percent of their full strength, says the report.

United Kingdom—Brother Of Manchester Bomber Found Guilty Of Murder British Broadcasting Corp. | 03/18/2020 A British court has found the brother of the bomber in the 2017 bombing attack in Manchester guilty of murder, reports BBC News. On Tuesday, the Central Criminal Court of England found Hashem Abedi guilty of 22 counts of murder for his role in the attack following a concert at Manchester Arena. He was not in court to hear the verdict and did not cooperate with the trial proceedings, reported the PA Media (U.K.). His brother, Salman Abedi, died in the bombing. Prosecutors said that the brothers planned the attack together for months, in part during a trip to Libya, the country from which their parents had emigrated, reported the Voice of America News. Accordingly, they argued that Hashem was also guilty even though he was not present. Hashem was detained days after the attack by Libyan militias and has alleged that he was tortured over the two years prior to his extradition.

Russia—Covert Intel Unit Operated Under Diplomatic Immunity In Europe Business Insider | 03/18/2020 A Russian intelligence unit behind several killings and attempted assassinations in Europe was able to operate with impunity by using diplomatic passports, reports the Business Insider. Unit 29155, part of Russian military intelligence (GRU), was able to operate throughout Europe by using diplomatic passports issued by the Russian mission in Switzerland, unidentified intelligence officials said. Such passports allow the holder significant freedoms under the principles of the Vienna Convention. The unit was apparently founded in 2008 following the Russian invasion of Georgia and consists of former special operations personnel. It is reportedly tasked with eliminating "enemies of Russia" abroad through assassination and has been linked to the poisoning of a Bulgarian arms dealer in 2015 and Russian defector Sergei Skripal in the U.K. in 2018. Members of the unit also allegedly conducted information operations in Moldova in 2015 and were part of an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016. Intelligence services have determined that the unit was being coordinated by a Russian official in Geneva working under the name "Georgy Gorshkov." Open source intelligence analysts at Bellingcat working with Russian and Swiss journalists determined that the official's real name was Egor Gordienko and that he had been coordinating the unit's activities since arriving in Switzerland in 2017. Gordienko was recalled to Russia before his identity was revealed.

China—New Rocket Fails To Place Classified Satellite In Orbit Space News | 03/18/2020 The first launch of China's new Long March 7A (CZ-7A) rocket failed to successfully place a classified satellite into orbit, reports Space News. Monday's launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center was intended to place a satellite known as "new technology verification-satellite 6" into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The mission was a failure, reported Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, without providing details. An investigation has been launched. The CZ-7A, a new variant of the medium-sized Long March 7, features an additional third stage, noted Spaceflight Now. The rocket is expected to become China's main platform for putting communication satellites into orbit. The intended geostationary transfer orbit suggests that the lost payload may have been an experimental communications spacecraft.

Taiwan—Borders Closed After Spike In COVID-19 Cases Central News Agency (Taiwan) | 03/18/2020 The Taiwanese government has decided to close its borders to most visitors to mitigate the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), reports the official Central News Agency (Taipei). Starting Thursday, only citizens, alien residents, diplomats and those granted special consideration will be allowed to enter the country, said the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). All recent arrivals will undergo a 14-day quarantine, said Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung. Those who have been in or traveled through Europe, Egypt or Turkey between March 5 and March 14 must also quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, effective immediately, the minister said. The measures follow an increase in COVID-19 cases among citizens who recently returned from travel abroad. To date, Taiwan has reported 77 coronavirus cases and one death, reported Bloomberg News.

South Korea—Navy Orders 1st Of 6 New Frigates Naval News | 03/18/2020 Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has received a contract to build the first of a new class of frigates for the South Korean navy, reports Naval News. On Monday, HHI announced that it had signed a US$322 million detailed design and construction contract for the first of six Ulsan-class Batch III frigates. The shipyard was awarded a contract for the basic design of the class in 2016. Major changes include a four-sided fixed phased-array radar and a hybrid-electric propulsion system. The radar is capable of 360-degree, omnidirectional detection, tracking and engagement, providing a significant improvement in air defense capabilities over earlier ships. The new propulsion system will allow the frigates to run with a reduced noise signature while conducting anti-submarine warfare operations and dash at high speeds using a gas turbine. Delivery is scheduled for 2024, noted the Yonhap news agency (Seoul).

North Korea—Trade With Russia Grows Despite Sanctions Yonhap | 03/18/2020 Trade between Russia and North Korea increased by about 40 percent last year despite global sanctions, according to a new report cited by the Yonhap news agency (Seoul). In 2019, trade between the two nations reached US$47.9 million, an increase of 40.6 percent over 2018, reported the International Trade Center in Geneva, Switzerland. About US$44 million consisted of Russian exports to North Korea, noted the report. Petroleum products represented the majority of the North Korean imports, totaling about US$27.2 million. Pyongyang faces wide-ranging U.N. sanctions that limit the number of North Koreans who can work abroad and capping oil imports, as well as measures targeting luxury goods and dual-use technologies. The sanctions have been tightened following missile tests in 2017 and 2018. Both North Korea and Russia are also subject to U.S. sanctions.

Brunei—In A 1st, Australian Sub Makes Official Visit Royal Australian Navy Press Release | 03/18/2020 An Australian submarine has become the first such vessel to conduct an official port visit to Brunei, reports the Royal Australian Navy. The Collins-class sub Dechaineux arrived at Muara Port on March 7 and departed on March 10, reported the Australian Dept. of Defense. During the visit, the Vice Adm Michael Noonan, the Australian navy chief, made a working visit to the sub and met with Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Ibni and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah. This is the second time in recent months that the Dechaineux became the first submarine to visit a port. She was the first foreign warship to visit the Malaysian navy's Kota Kinabalu Naval Base Submarine Pier at the end of 2019, the Australian navy said.

Iraq—Coalition Facilities Again Targeted In Rocket Attacks Reuters | 03/18/2020 Installations housing U.S. and coalition forces have been targeted in another round of rocket strikes, reports Reuters. On Tuesday, two rockets fell near the Green Zone in Baghdad, where most foreign embassies are located, said a U.S. coalition spokesman. There were no immediate reports of casualties. On Monday, a pair of rockets hit Besmaya, a base about 40 miles (60 km) south of Baghdad, according to an Iraqi military statement cited by Turkey's Anadolu Agency. The projectiles were launched from a nearby agricultural area in Nahrawan, the military said. U.S. and Spanish troops are stationed at the base as part of the global coalition fighting ISIS, reported Agence France-Presse. In response to the attacks, the U.S. has begun relocating personnel to better ensure their safety, officials said. Personnel were moved from Al Qaim along the Syrian border on Tuesday.

Yemen—80 Houthis Die In Fighting With Government, Coalition Forces Anadolu News Agency | 03/18/2020 The Yemeni army says at least 80 Houthi fighters have been killed in clashes in central Yemen, reports Turkey's Anadolu Agency. At least 60 Houthis were killed in fighting with government troops in the Qaniyah region of Al Bayda province, said a Yemeni army statement on Tuesday. Another 20 Houthis died in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in the Survah district of Marib province. The Emirati-backed militia Amalika also said that it downed a Houthi drone over the coastal Hodeidah province. Last week, Houthis seized parts of the oil-rich Marib province from government forces in a surprise move that extended their control over central Yemen, reported Al Monitor (Washington, D.C.).

Lebanon—Military Court Drops Charges Former Militia Member Accused Of Torture, Killings Al Jazeera | 03/18/2020 A Lebanese military court has dropped charges against a member of an Israeli-backed militia accused of running a prison known for torture during the Israeli occupation, reports Al Jazeera (Qatar). Amer Fakhoury was charged with operating the Khiam Prison while a he was a member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA). The militia was active between 1982 and 2000. He has been accused of overseeing the torture of thousands at the facility and being personally involved in the murder of several detainees. Fakhoury fled to the U.S. with other SLA members following the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 and was arrested when he entered Lebanon last September. The military court dropped the charges because the statute of limitations had expired, reported Lebanon's state-run National News Agency on Monday. The decision was influenced by political pressure from the U.S., which threatened sanctions if he was not released, said experts. Fakhoury's lawyer said that he had worked at the prison only in a logistical capacity and had no contact with prisoners. It was not clear if Fakhoury was going to be set free. A civil case brought by former inmates at the prison charging Fakhoury with arresting, imprisoning and torturing them was still pending, reported the Guardian (U.K.).

Mozambique—Insurgents Press South In Cabo Delgado Mozambique News Reports and Clippings | 03/18/2020 Insurgents have stepped up attacks in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province, reports Mozambique News Reports and Clippings (Milton Keynes, U.K.). Recent attacks have targeted several roads leading through the town of Bilibiza, marking the southernmost advance of the rebels. Insurgents also attacked the town in late January. On March 9, the rebels hit the road going toward the coastal town of Quissanga. The next day, the insurgents cut off the road heading inland from the town using trees and mutilated bodies. The fighting has reportedly included ambushes of government armored cars. While the attackers have not been identified, groups known to operate in the region include Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamma and the Islamic State. On Tuesday, the publication reported that 910 people had been killed in the conflict in Cabo Delgado, citing the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). More than half of the fatalities occurred in 2019, with 106 killed in 2020 through March 5.

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