Thursday, March 19, 2020

[TheList] 5244 addition

World news from Military Periscope for 19 March

USA—Navy Lacks Coronavirus Testing Kits At Sea Breaking Defense | 03/19/2020 U.S. Navy ships at sea have not yet received any novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing kits, reports Breaking Defense. There are no FDA-approved test kits suitable for placement on forward-operating ships, a Navy source told the website. Depending on location, sailors can have specimens collected and sent to land-based testing centers, said the official. Three ships in the fleet have portable testing machines but these can only identify symptoms of common illnesses and cannot confirm infection with COVID-19. The Navy is preparing to deploy its Mercy-class hospital ships to help deal with the growing outbreak. The ships, each with 1,000 beds, will likely take patients who are not infected with the virus, freeing up hospital capacity for coronavirus patients. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it could take weeks for the ships to deploy, reported CNN.

USA—Pentagon Makes Preparations To Assist With COVID-19 Response Air Force Magazine | 03/19/2020 The U.S. Dept. of Defense has begun distributing medical equipment from its strategic reserves and is readying other resources to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, reports Air Force magazine. On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it was releasing 5 million N95 masks, with 1 million to be made immediately available to the Dept. of Health and Human services, along with 2,000 deployable ventilators. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also announced that he had ordered the Navy to prepare the Mercy-class hospital ships Mercy and Comfort for deployment, reported Business Insider. The military was making deployable tent hospitals available as well. Esper noted that the hospital ships and tent hospitals were not suitable for treating infectious diseases like COVID-19 but could be used for trauma cases to free up hospital space to treat coronavirus patients. On Wednesday, Defense One reported that the Air Force had started transporting coronavirus tests with its cargo aircraft. Around 500,000 testing kits had been brought from Italy to Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. Bringing the kits to Memphis, a major commercial aviation hub, enabled the kits to be quickly transferred to commercial aircraft for transport around the country, sources said.

USA—State Dept. Revamps Fund To Replace Russian Equipment In Europe Defense News | 03/19/2020 The State Dept. is changing the way it disperses funding from the European Recapitalization Incentive Program (ERIP), reports Defense News. The program was launched in 2018 to help U.S. partners in Europe to replace Russian equipment. Initially, the State Dept. released the funding in a single round. After considering a second round of grants, the department has decided to shift to a more flexible model. In the future, ERIP funds will be made available on a rolling basis, as appropriate opportunities arise, officials said. The initiative is funded using excess money from other programs, including regional Foreign Military Financing. The first round of funding provided around $277 million to eight countries: Albania (UH-60 helicopters); Bosnia-Herzegovina (Huey II helicopters); Croatia (Bradley infantry fighting vehicles); North Macedonia (Stryker wheeled armored vehicles); Slovakia (UH-60s); Greece (Bradley or M1117 armored vehicles); Lithuania (UH-60s); and Bulgaria (F-16s). The deals with Greece and Lithuania are pending, with a letter of request from Vilnius anticipated within weeks. To qualify for the funding, recipients must pledge to buy no more equipment from Russia and match the funding provided by the U.S.

USA—BAE To Develop New Seeker For THAAD Interceptor Bae Systems | 03/19/2020 Lockheed Martin has awarded BAE Systems a contract to develop and produce a new infrared seeker for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, reports BAE Systems. The value of the deal and schedule were not disclosed. Work under the contract will take place in Huntsville, Ala., the company said in a Tuesday release. BAE produces the current THAAD infrared seeker, completing approximately 500 to date. The new seeker may be intended for integration with a next-generation interceptor prototype being developed by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), reported Defense News. The MDA requested $273.6 million in fiscal 2021 to develop the THAAD system, including $139 million for the new interceptor. The goal is to produce an interceptor that can defeat intercontinental ballistic missiles.

NATO—N. Macedonia Set To Join Alliance After Spanish Approval Defense News | 03/19/2020 Spain has become the final NATO member to approve the accession of North Macedonia to the alliance, reports Defense News. On Tuesday, the Spanish Parliament ratified the North Macedonian accession protocol. The vote was conducted virtually due to concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The accession protocol had been previously approved by all 28 other NATO members as well as North Macedonia. Spain will deposit its instrument of ratification with the U.S. State Dept. within the 72 hours, said Spanish officials. The deposit of the final instrument of ratification will make North Macedonia's membership official.

United Kingdom—20,000 Military Personnel On Standby To Assist With COVID-19 Outbreak Reuters | 03/19/2020 Up to 20,000 British troops will be put on standby to deal with the growing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, reports Reuters. An additional 10,000 personnel are being called up to augment the normal 10,000-strong civil contingency force, which is held in higher readiness in case of a domestic crisis, reported the Guardian (U.K.). Some reservists may also be called up, officials said. Some troops deployed overseas will be flown home to augment efforts by the National Health Service and police, reported the Metro (U.K.). In addition, scientists from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) are working with Public Health England to understand the virus and its spread. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that schools would close effective Friday, reported Agence France-Presse. The government has been more cautious in implementing the strong measures employed by other European nations.

Norway—F-35s Train With U.S. Stealth Bombers For 1st Time Independent Barents Observer | 03/19/2020 In a first, Norwegian F-35 fighter jets have trained with American B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, reports the Independent Barents Observer. On Monday, three Norwegian F-35s escorted two B-2s during a flight over Iceland and the North Atlantic. The Norwegian fighters are part of a detachment deployed to Keflavik airfield in Iceland as part of the NATO air-policing mission there. The F-35s were in the air for about 90 minutes, including 30-45 minutes of joint training with the bombers, Norwegian officials said. The Norwegian F-35s were deployed to Iceland in February. The mission is scheduled to conclude at the end of the week. The U.S. Air Force deployed B-2s to Europe earlier this month. For this mission, the bombers flew from RAF Fairford in the U.K.

Russia—Kremlin Disinformation Campaign Seeks To Undermine Public Health In West Guardian | 03/19/2020 Russian media have been spreading disinformation with the goal of increasing the public health crisis in the West due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), reports the Guardian (U.K.). Between Jan. 22 and March 16, a European Union monitoring team identified at least 80 examples of misleading information spread by pro-Kremlin outlets, according to a copy of the report seen by Reuters. The misinformation is designed to reduce public trust in national health systems, the study says. The false reports have blamed immigrants for the disease and cast doubt on the authenticity of the epidemic, said researchers. Others suggested that the disease was manufactured to weaken China or to benefit the U.S., according to the report, as cited by the Financial Times (U.K.). The campaign includes media in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French. Instead of authoring original claims, many of these outlets amplify ideas that originated elsewhere, expanding their reach while maintaining a veneer of authenticity. The tactic allows the Russian outlets to deny that they are creating disinformation, claiming that they are merely reporting what others are saying, the report says.

China—Non-Lethal Weapons Could Be Used To Deter U.S. Ships In S. China Sea, Expert Says Global Times | 03/19/2020 A Chinese military analyst has proposed targeting U.S. warships in the South China Sea with non-lethal weapons, reports the state-run Global Times (Beijing). On Tuesday, Song Zhongping told the Chinese Communist Party newspaper that the People's Liberation Army Navy could target U.S. vessels in the South China Sea with non-lethal electromagnetic and low-energy laser devices. Such weapons could temporarily disable weapon and controls systems on the intruding ships, sending a strong warning, he said. Using non-lethal weapons to deter American vessels conducting freedom of navigation operations would be less escalatory than other systems, the analyst said. Song referenced the Feb. 17 lasing incident of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft by the Chinese navy as a good example of the tactic. China has denied U.S. accusations that one of its destroyers lased the American aircraft.

Taiwan—Coronavirus Disrupts Sub Development Work Taiwan News | 03/19/2020 The ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is hampering Taiwan's ability to work with foreign experts on its indigenous submarine project, reports the Taiwan News. As many as 30 foreign consultants have been quarantined since they arrived in early March. Other experts have postponed their travel to Taiwan due to the pandemic. The consultants were to have provided technical advice on the construction of the submarines. Those already in Taiwan are providing assistance through video calls in order to prevent delays. Taiwan began building a new shipyard for the construction of the diesel submarines in May 2019. Construction on the first boat was set to commence on June 1, but may be delayed since European-built equipment is not expected to arrive by May 31.

South Korea—Latest Cost-Sharing Talks With U.S. Extended Yonhap | 03/19/2020 South Korean and U.S. negotiators have decided to extend their latest talks on sharing the costs of stationing American troops on the Korean peninsula, reports the Yonhap news agency (Seoul). On Thursday, the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced that the negotiators had decided to hold a previously unscheduled third day of discussions in Los Angeles, Calif. South Korean officials have not revealed what, if any, progress has been made during the seventh round of negotiations. Seoul previously expressed a desire to reach a separate agreement that would avoid a looming furlough of South Korean employees on U.S. bases. The U.S. State Dept. rejected the proposal, saying that it could distract from quickly completing a comprehensive agreement. The U.S. is reportedly calling for Seoul to increase its contribution to US$4 billion, down from an initial US$5 billion, while South Korea has insisted on a 10 percent increase.

India—Military Considers Tri-Service Training Command The Print | 03/19/2020 The Indian military is looking at creating a new joint command for training, reports the Print (India). The command would be designed to jointly meet the training requirements of the air force, army and navy, said unnamed defense sources. It would likely absorb the existing training commands within the three services. The city of Nagpur is being considered to host the command, although no decisions have been made, the sources said. The Indian military has been working to increase the interoperability of its armed services, including releasing a joint doctrine in 2018. The new training command would ensure common policies across the services, with the objective of increasing efficiency, the ability of the services to work together and reducing costs, said a senior naval officer. Such training is necessary for the services to be able to execute joint operations, said army officials.

Pakistan—7 Militants Killed In N. Waziristan Op Dawn | 03/19/2020 At least four soldiers and seven militants have died in fighting in Pakistan's North Waziristan district, reports the Dawn (Karachi). On Wednesday, security forces launched a raid on a suspected hideout in Mama Ziarat, about 4 miles (7 km) southwest of Dattakhel, said the military Inter-Services Public Relations. The Dattakhel area is near the border with Afghanistan. When security forces cordoned off the hideout, the militants opened fire in an attempt to escape. One officer and three soldiers were killed in the clash. Another soldier was injured. The troops recovered arms, ammunition and homemade explosives from the site, reported the Nation (Pakistan). The militants were believed to belong to a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) cell led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The Pakistani military is installing fencing and new border posts along the Afghan border, a porous frontier exploited by militants, under a US$500 million project, reported the Voice of America News.

Afghanistan—Heavy Fighting In Balkh Province Despite Peace Deal Anadolu News Agency | 03/19/2020 Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan troops has continued despite the recently signed peace deal between the militants and the U.S., reports the Anadolu Agency (Ankara). On Tuesday, Taliban militants attacked a checkpoint in the Chahar Bolak district in the northern Balkh province, killing two security personnel, a provincial police spokesman said. The clashes forced the closure of the main highway between Balkh and Jawzan province, the spokesman said. A clean-up operation killed "scores" of Taliban fighters in Chahar Bolak, said the 209 Shaheen Corps.

Syria—Turkish Forces Establish New Outpost In Aleppo Syrian Observatory for Human Rights | 03/19/2020 The Turkish military has constructed additional observation points and military outposts around a de-escalation zone in Syria's northwestern Aleppo and Idlib provinces, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (U.K.). On Wednesday, local sources told the watchdog group that a new Turkish military post had been set up at Al-Jinah village in western Aleppo. Other troops had been spotted the previous day in Ram Hamadan to the east. Turkey appears to be fortifying its positions during the latest cease-fire. There are now at least 43 Turkish outposts and ad hoc military facilities in Syria, up from 12 declared in a September 2018 cease-fire agreement with Russia.

Malawi—President Reshuffles Military Leadership Nyasa Times | 03/19/2020 The commander of the Malawian military has been replaced, reports the Nyasa Times. On Tuesday, President Peter Mutharika announced that Maj. Gen. Peter Namathanga would replace Gen. Vincent Nundwe as the head of the Malawi Defense Force (MDF). He was promoted to general as part of the move. Namathanga was appointed commander of the air force last year. Nundwe and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Clement Namangale, have been assigned to other duties, said an MDF spokesman quoted by the Times (Malawi). No reason for the change was given but it follows a string of similar moves at the top of the military. Other services, including the police and members of Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party, have also been shaken up, allegedly putting Mutharika loyalists in positions of power, reported the Nation (Malawi).

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