Author Archives: alicebudge

The World According to Shephard: Week 5

Costing Britain’s defence

The UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson recently confirmed the MoD’s intention to split off the defence part of the National Security review into a separate review. The Clarence offers some suggestions on where the cuts might fall while protecting the capabilities necessary to meet the goals of the 2015 National Security Review.

Meanwhile the MoD came under increasing pressure this week after it was forced to defend itself in light of suggestions by the National Audit Office (NAO) that it did not include the costings of the Type 31e light frigate project in its equipment plan. The NAO’s report found that there could be an affordability gap potential of over £20 billion.


Up-gunning Europe

Final testing of the German Armed Force’s anti-tank missile system on its fleet of Puma IFVs is expected to be completed by Q3 2018, with initial fielding scheduled for 2020. The MELLS missile system is armed with Spike LR missiles and will provide the German forces with significant additional operational scope and capabilities.

In Bulgaria the MoD has indicated it will acquire new wheeled IFVs as part of its modernisation agenda, in addition to upgrading existing soviet-era armour. The tender is expected to be launched in mid-2018 for 150 8×8 vehicles to equip three battalions. Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev look into some of the contenders for the programme.

Europe tanks

The British Army’s training units are preparing for the imminent delivery of the first Ajax variant after the completion of government acceptance testing (GAT). The Ares specialist troop carrier configuration will be received by the Armour Centre at Bovington, while GAT for Ajax is expected to commence in early 2018 following successful manned live firing trials.


Patrolling the seas from above and below

Russia’s Beriev Be-12 fleet of maritime patrol aircraft is set for an upgrade of its vintage 1970s mission suite according to the Russian Naval Aviation Chief. The aircraft will receive three new components, a hydroacoustic sub-system, new radar and new magnetic anomaly detector to keep the aircraft in service until the mid-2020s.

Going beneath the waves in Taiwan, where the navy performed a successful demonstration of its minehunting capabilities. Despite the success of the demonstration, the main message was that the Republic of China Navy’s minehunting capabilities have reached the end of their lifecycle and must be replaced soon. The service is at risk of losing its ability to counter China’s sea mine blockade threat.

Minehunting edit

Special Forces march into future threats

NATO special operations forces are actively seeking next-generation technologies to support a future operating environment dominated by missions in confined, congested and contested megacities. This includes exploiting technology in order to support subterranean operations in dense urban environments with large populations.

Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service is also considering future training and material requirements of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) following the eradication of Isis from the country. ISOF has recently performed more conventional light infantry operations to retake huge swathes of land from Isis including the City of Mosul and now needs to re-focus on elite counter-terrorism skills required to ensure the stability of Iraq.

Iraq SOF

The perils of open source data

Military agencies are in an on-going battle to maximise the benefits of commercial open source data while avoiding the potentially devastating intelligence pitfalls.

The security risks associated with open source data were starkly highlighted by the release of Strava’s Global Heatmap.

The map, which shows the routes travelled by users of its exercise tracking product, inadvertently exposed sensitive information about American and allied military bases and troop movements in conflict zones across the world.



The map highlights a number of well-known military bases across Iraq and Syria, where Western soldiers have been stationed as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

However, it is the movements of troops outside their bases, their patrol and supply routes and smaller camps not previously known about which could offer valuable information to enemy forces.


At the recent Defence Geospatial Intelligence conference in London, military and industry leaders discussed how security challenges can be overcome to enable better exploitation of the vast reams of commercial data available to military and intelligence agencies.

However, as Maj Gen James Hockenhull, director of cyber intelligence and information integration at the UK MoD noted, the relationship between the military and industry requires improvement.

With incidents such as the Strava heat map, military users of commercial geospatial systems remain sceptical about the security and reliability of the data being collected and disseminated.


However, the proliferation of commercial satellites offers a huge potential for militaries to access near real-time, high-resolution imagery within government spending constraints.

Further developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning algorithms have led to a significant leap in the efficiency, and outsourcing, of geospatial intelligence analysis to companies willing to invest heavily in the technologies.

These include companies such as Esri and DigitalGlobe who are developing deep learning algorithms to enable automated identification of a wide range of objects.

This could provide intelligence agencies with rapid and accurate strategic information, such as the movements of enemy military equipment, troops, or weapons testing locations, such as the site of the North Korean missile test pictured above.




The World According to Shephard: Week 3

A game of charades?

This week the Geobukseon dives into the possible repercussions of constitutional change in Japan, suggesting that the country has never really been a pacifist nation. Tensions in the region have reignited debate regarding the nature of Japan’s self-defence forces, with many claiming it is a military force by another name.

Meanwhile, Gordon Arthur reports on the strengthening cooperation between Japanese paratroopers and US Army Green Berets who have conducted a mass airdrop exercise.


Qatar’s searches for new friends

Qatar’s Defence Minister has detailed plans to increase the country’s order of Hawk training aircraft from six to nine units. The announcement comes amid a rapid build-up of the Gulf-nation’s defence capabilities, in particular relating to its air force.

The minister also stressed that Doha is seeking to enhance and diversify its defence relationships with a wide range of ‘friendly’ nations. This was clearly demonstrated by the recent displays of Chinese and Turkish military equipment at Qatar’s National Day Parade.


Helicopter orders fly in

The US Army has wasted little time in moving its purchase of 35 new UH-72 Lakota aircraft forward, it is even prepared to proceed without a competitive process. The announcement came one day after the army’s deadline for industry to respond to how they could meet the service’s requirement to purchase the H145M.

The Indian Army is facing the peculiar dilemma of having to stall deliveries of HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) due to the unavailability of spares for the fleet already in service. There are more ALH aircraft on the production line than the army is willing to take as maintenance of the existing fleet remains a key concern.

India HAL heli

Indonesia’s military has also been receiving new aircraft, recently accepting two Airbus Helicopters AS565 MBe Panthers, three armed H125M Fennecs and a CN-235-220 aircraft. The Panthers, part of a November 2014 contract for 11 aircraft for the Indonesian Navy, are configured for anti-submarine warfare. Further deliveries of AS565s are expected in early 2018.

Finally, the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) has added 14 newly-built Ka-52 attack helicopters to its fleet. The RuASF now has a fleet of over 100 Ka-52s operated by its army aviation branch. The Russian MoD also expects to receive two enhanced Mi-28NM attack helicopters by the end of this year.


Nightwarden sale looms

Textron is confident that the first sale of its Nightwarden UAV is on the horizon. Beth Maundrill reports that the first deal is likely to be an international sale and it is understood this would be a completely new customer for the company. It is also possible that Sweden may select the Nightwarden as part of a UAS upgrade.


The future is here: quantum computing, AI and robotics

US Army leaders are seeking ways to capitalise on advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The army’s top four-star general has warned that the military must address the ‘fundamental change in the character of war’. To this end, the service is working to develop new weapons systems to meet challenges posed by near-peer and peer threats such as Russia and China.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency and its industrial partners are planning to launch two quantum key distribution satellites at the beginning of next decade to deliver commercial services to private and governmental entities. Quantum cryptography, which relies on encrypting data into the quantum states of particles is believed to be inherently unbreakable.






The World According to Shephard: Week 51

As 2017 draws to a close, everyone here at Shephard has been celebrating a record year and Beth Maundrill took a look at some of the highlights from the past 12 months.

Read of the week:

After the Korea Coast Guard (KCG) was forced to confront Chinese fishing boats early this week Gordon Arthur takes a look at the mounting tensions between the two nations. The incident saw KCG personnel fire 249 warning shots after a fleet of 44 Chinese boats was spotted operating within South Korea’s EEZ.

Unmanned intrigues

It has emerged that the Bangladesh Air Force is seeking to join the ranks of nations operating MALE UAVs after releasing an RfP for a system that would comprise three to four aircraft. The armed UAV’s maximum range will be 1,000km with a payload capacity of at least 120kg. Chinese and Turkish manufacturers are expected to be the primary bidders for the contract.

Boeing has released additional details relating to its MQ-25 unmanned refuelling tanker bid. According to Boeing the UAS is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations early next year.

The UK MoD is also looking to procure new UAS, as it seeks to enhance its ISR capabilities with 14 tethered UAS platforms. The contract is valued at £2 million and is expected to commence in March 2018 and run for two years.


Heli Highlights

This week Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype successfully completed its first flight. The aircraft can be seen taking off and flying at a low altitude in a short video released by Bell. The data from the maiden flight will now be reviewed before the aircraft undergoes future tests.

In Kuwait an investigation has been ordered into a 41.1 billion deal to buy 30 military helicopters from France. An article in the French Marianne magazine sparked the investigation after reporting that a middleman had demanded tens of millions of euros from Airbus as a commission.


Building cyber ramparts

The proposed acquisition of Gemalto by Thales indicates efforts to increase its cyber security offering. Thales follows a host of high-profile defence primes that have already increased capability and added clients in the cyber security market through acquisitions.

Meanwhile Raytheon has developed an immersive cyber security training system that has been designed for individual and collaborative training as it has its eye on the US DoD’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment requirement.

The World According to Shephard: Week 49

Pick of the week:

As Brexit negotiations rumble on in Brussels, Neil Thompson reported on the recent European Defence Industry Summit (EDIS). Designed to bring together speakers to discuss Europe’s security situation, European representatives were noticeably missing, with US-based Raytheon left to represent the European defence industry’s interests.

Obstacles to realising greater integration of European defence industries include funding, transparency with NATO and how to facilitate greater interoperability.


The Clarence speaks

Despite the pomp and circumstance of the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the future of UK shipbuilding is at a juncture. As HMS Queen Elizabeth enters service and construction on the Prince of Wales nears completion the challenge will be to maintain the skills developed throughout the programme. Another challenge, The Clarence argues, will be to retain the manpower and funds necessary to maintain and run the carriers.

Making a splash

The Royal Navy is not the only maritime force to welcome a new ship this week, the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency launched its fourth 600t Hingol-class maritime patrol vessel. The armed boat, which began construction in May 2016, will help patrol Pakistan’s EEZ, undertake maritime security and perform search and rescue missions.

Meanwhile Michal Jarocki reports from Warsaw on the renaissance of the Polish Navy as it celebrates its 99th anniversary with a commissioning ceremony for the ORP Ormoran (601) minehunter. The vessel is the first warship in over 20 years to be designed and built in Poland.


The Canadian Surface Combat project has not seen such successes this week after encountering its latest rough patch. The Canadian government publicly rejected proposals not submitted through the formal process. The announcement followed a Naval Group statement in which it proposed an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution based on the FREMM frigate design to the Canadian government.

Drones dominate wish lists

The Indian military’s desire for UAVs will be boosted with further RfPs as the country aims for integrated army, navy and air force purchases of MALE and HALE UAVs. This demand is likely to be met through new industry activity, after Dynamic Technologies signed a cooperation agreement with IAI for the production, assembly and support of mini-UAVs in India.

Meanwhile, Poland has become the latest buyer of WB Group’s Warmate loitering munition. The UAS has received considerable interest from customers across the world and has already been used in combat. The Polish order includes 100 loitering munitions with deliveries expected to being in the coming weeks.

Warmate c

Record rotary rates

Poland is not only in search of UAS, but is also perceived as a prime export market for Bell Helicopter’s AH-1ZViper. Bell is continuing its efforts to convince the Polish government that it will successfully execute the Polish military’s attack helicopter programme ‘Kruk’. Bell is also offering its UH-1Y Venom to fulfil the Polish Army’s requirement for a modern, multirole utility helicopter.

The AH-64E Apache Guardian is tipped to reach ‘historically high’ production figures of up to 100 aircraft a year by 2021. The projection is based on a ramping up of international orders which would see production rise from its current level of 70 platforms a year. Boeing expects to close a number of international sales within the next six months.


The World According to Shephard: Week 48

This week has demonstrated that the world of military simulation is very much alive and flourishing as the Shephard team has spent the week in Orlando bringing you all the latest news from the industry’s annual meet. You can find all of the coverage from I/ITSEC here.

Armed to the hilt

The US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reapers are to get an ammunition boost with the integration of small diameter bombs onto the platforms. General Atomics was awarded a $17.5 million contract to kit out the UAS with GBU-39Bs.

Meanwhile the H145M will begin live fire tests of Airbus Helicopter’s HForce weapon system loaded with Thales’ FZ275 laser guided rockets. The new live fire tests follow on from successful ballistic development testing of the system.

BREAKING: New Block 5 MQ-9 debuts in combat

‘The secret of war lies in the communications’

Napoleon’s tools of communication may have looked dramatically different from today’s but their importance on the battlefield has not changed. Last week saw Thales demonstrate its new family of Software Defined Radios, Synaps, which they believe represents the future of ‘collaborative combat’ for the modern connected military.

Australia has approved Project Land 200 Tranche 2 as the country pushes to digitalise its armed forces with a new battlefield command system for the army. The system will enable commanders to plan, monitor, direct and review operations in real time.


Shipbuilders back in business

The second of the Mexican Navy’s updated Oaxaca-class patrol vessels has been commissioned into its fleet. This comes at the end of a year that has seen the navy’s fleet expanded considerably with new patrol vessels as significant investments have been made in the country’s critical infrastructure and shipbuilding capability.

Meanwhile in Indonesia the shipbuilder PT Palindo Marine launched a 110m OPV designed for the country’s coast guard agency. Indonesia has been developing its indigenous shipbuilding expertise and is soon likely to see the navy’s seventh landing platform dock begin construction.


Saab Kockums has begun construction on parts of the hull for the Royal Swedish navy’s new A26 class submarine. Saab is also upgrading the RSN’s Gotland-class submarines with a new combat management system and other capabilities which will be carried across to the A26.

How to solve a problem like drones

The European Parliament and European Council reached an informal agreement this week to introduce union-wide rules on the civil use of unmanned systems. The design and manufacture of UVs will have to comply with EU basic requirements on safety, security and data protection.

Also in Europe, Endeavor Robotics has delivered 44 FirstLook UGVs to Germany as the company continues to enjoy a bumper year. The UGV, which can be dropped from 16ft onto hard surfaces without sustaining damage, is used by a wide range of civil, parapublic and military customers around the world and has won a number of large contracts with the US.



US Cyber Command falls short

In the years since Daesh first swept across Syria and northern Iraq the group has forced some the world’s largest militaries to dramatically re-evaluate their warfighting strategies and capabilities.

Daesh emerged as a thoroughly modern insurgency, exploiting the connected world to communicate securely, sustain its income, disseminate propaganda and coordinate local and global attacks.

In response the US had to rapidly formulate a strategy designed to disrupt the group’s cyber-based lifeline in conjunction with more traditional efforts to push Daesh out of its territorial strongholds.


However, Ash Carter, Defence Secretary from 2015 to 2017 has voiced his opinion on the shortfalls of the US’ cyber war against ISIS in a damning report for the Belfer Centre.

During his tenure at the Department of Defence, Carter grappled with how best to confront the multifaceted threat posed by Daesh which included the launching of offensive cyber operations for the first time since CYBERCOM was established in 2009.

The results and effectiveness of such operations were, in his opinion, disappointing.

‘[CYBERCOM] never produced any effective cyber weapons or techniques…None of our agencies showed very well in the cyber fight,’ Carter stated in the report.

According to Carter the intelligence community unnecessarily delayed and disrupted CYBERCOM’s attempts to launch offensive cyber-attacks.

‘The intelligence community tended to delay or try to prevent its use, claiming cyber operations would hinder intelligence collection.’


The issue of the ‘dual hat’ command has been one of the primary stumbling blocks to creating an effective CYBERCOM.

This dual hat has created friction between the two bodies on whether offensive cyber operations or the NSA’s intelligence gathering efforts should be prioritised.

Despite President Donald Trump’s August announcement that the command has been elevated to a unified combatant command, CYBERCOM continues to share its commander with the NSA.

The current Defence Secretary, Gen James Mattis is overseeing a review into the separation of USCYBERCOM from the National Security Agency (NSA) in an effort to streamline and centralise US cyber strategy.

It is likely that the review will recommend a split, however it remains to be seen whether such a move would end the conflict of interest between CYBERCOM and NSA which has so far neutered US abilities to wage effective offensive cyber operations.


« Older Entries