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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 46

Dizzying displays in Dubai

If you have struggled to keep pace with the news coming out of Dubai this week then check out Shephard’s full coverage of the air show here.

A commercial kick for UAS

The Zephyr UAS is to enter the commercial market at the end of 2018 as part of Airbus Ariel’s commercial services offering. The platform can be used for large area image gathering as well as a communications relay for companies looking for satellite capabilities but are unable to afford launch costs.

Another long range UAS originally developed for military applications, Insitu’s ScanEagle, has burst into the commercial market after securing a seven figure contract with Shell’s QGC business in Australia. The contract requires Insitu to collect, exploit and deliver data gathered by its ScanEagle during inspections of infrastructure and hardware.

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However for a market experiencing exponential growth the question of how UAVs should be regulated and who is ultimately responsible for the enforcement of laws remains unresolved. At the Commercial UAV Show representatives from small and large companies voiced concerns about the extent of illegal and unregulated activity in the commercial drone industry.

The chiefs speak their minds

Concerns of a very different nature have been voiced by former defence chiefs in the UK as the government begins its latest national security capabilities review. Air Marshal Barry North warned the UK Defence Committee that assumptions made in the 2010 and 2015 SDSRs could leave the country exposed to significant military capability gaps. The ex-chiefs also argued that UK forces are twenty years out of date and are unprepared for modern warfare.

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Chinese influence abounds

The Ghana Navy has commissioned into service four Chinese made fast patrol boats that were donated by the Chinese government as part of a $7.5 million grant to equip the Ghana Armed Forces.

Meanwhile Chinese hardware has appeared in Rwanda with new photos revealing that the Army is operating Chinese-made Norinco SH3 122mm self-propelled howitzer. This makes Rwanda the first known foreign users of the SH3 which until now was not known to have been exported.

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Norinco will also be delivering the first batch of 34 VN1 IFVs to the Royal Thai Army next year. The VN1 will be Thailand’s second Chinese-sourced APC after the commissioning the Type 85 in1987.

China shows no signs of slowing its search for export markets for its military systems as Chinese companies have pursued extensive research and development to hone their radar and identification, friend and foe systems.

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US SOF hungry for new tech

The US Air Force is in search of technology to support future personnel recovery activities against a background of increasingly sophisticated operational environments. The requirements are focused on three major areas: locate/authenticate; support for isolated personnel and execute recovery.

Meanwhile the US DoD Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office is to hold an Advance Planning Briefing for Industry. The expected 500 attendees from government, industry and academia will be provided with a look at anticipated requirements that may be funded in FY19.

U.S. Special Forces Fast Rope On Target

 

The World According to Shephard: Week 44

NATO SOF prepare for battle

NATO special operations forces have taken part in an exercise across eastern Europe  involving scenarios loosely based on recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The exercise was designed to enable NATO and non-NATO entity special forces to counter an invasion by an enemy force as well as ‘diversionary’ forces.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosted its ThunderDrone Prototype Rodeo, the culmination of the first in a series of rapid prototyping events that began in September. The results are expected to go beyond the physical drone with its mechanical features, autonomy, swarming and machine learning all being explored.

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Swarms of unmanned requirements

The Australian Army is also enhancing its aerial unmanned capabilities with the procurement of FLIR Systems’ PD-100 Black Hornet 2 nano-UAVs. The deal will increase the Army’s Black Hornet fleet to over 150 providing enough to equip every army combat team at the platoon and troop level with an organic reconnaissance capability.

The US Navy’s requirement for an unmanned Carrier-Based Aerial-Refuelling System has hit a bump in the road after Northrop Grumman withdrew from the MQ-25 Stingray programme following changes to the programme requirements. There is a risk that further changes could see other competitors to follow suit.

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Meanwhile in Israel the country’s first commercialised AUV, the HydroCamel II has completed over 250 hours of sea trials in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the system’s developers at Ben-Gurion University, the AUV’s autonomy and manoeuvrability capabilities set it apart from its competitors.

Watching the ships roll in

Above sea the Ukrainian coast guard is bolstering its fleet by purchasing up to 25 new high-speed patrol boats. The acquisition is part of Ukraine’s strategy for maritime security at each seaport to be ensured by a squadron of boats including unmanned patrol boats, a patrol attack boat, a high-speed interceptor, a coast guard boat and a new trimaran.

However in the UK the Royal Navy found itself in hot water this week after the National Audit Office published its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the navy. The report found that between April 2012 and March 2017 there was a 49% increase in the practice with 60% of instances occurring between 2016 and 2017.

Picture are, on the left RFA GOLD ROVER, and on her right HMS LANCASTER sailing together on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) duties.

In Poland it has emerged that the Polish Navy may be forced to decommission its only Kilo-class submarine, ORP Orzel after a fire broke out on the boat. The fire is believed to have begun while crew members were discharging the submarine’s batteries while moored in the north of the country.

The digital battlespace

Moving into the digital world where the defence industry may be on the brink of a revolution as blockchain service providers  report increasing levels of interest from the industry. While the exact nature and extent of the impact blockchain will have remains uncertain, it is clear that this technology is here to stay.

Meanwhile Thales is in the process of analysing logged data from the recent Formidable Shield ballistic missile defence exercise to see if modifications made to its SMART-L Multi Mission radar can further enhance the technology. During the exercise the radar was able to detect the missile from a distance of 1,500km.

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In the race to advance electronic warfare capabilities the US is expediting efforts to field technology into theatre that enables critical vehicle systems to remain functional in GPS-denied environments. GPS signals are increasingly vulnerable to jamming or spoofing by adversaries such as Russia who are actively deploying advanced EW capabilities.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 43

Pick of the week

While all eyes have been fixed upon North Korea, Uldduz Larki looks into NATO’s decision to host its most recent ballistic missile defence exercise in the Atlantic theatre, a sign that Russian deterrence remains a strategic priority. Read more of Uldduz’s report on the alliance’s inaugural Formidable Shield exercise here.

The bumpy road to agreement

After a series of lengthy pauses in the development of Germany and Israel’s submarine programme, the two nations moved a step closer to agreeing the purchase of three new submarines.

The vessels, which will be supplied by TKMS will replace Israel’s three Dolphin-class diesel electric submarines. Germany’s TKMS is also hopeful of future sales within Europe as the country has agreed to partner with Norway and has received similar interest from Italy.

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Meanwhile details are emerging about the Franco-British collaboration on a Future Combat Air System as the programme readies for the transition from planning to development.

Alongside work on the Anglo-French unmanned combat demonstrator is an investigation of open-system mission architecture. The latest announcement means that high-level concepts are now in the process of being turned into detailed requirement sets.

Elsewhere, Scott Gourley and Richard Thomas were at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vagas this week. Find all of the latest news from the show floor online

Finally, Boeing has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK despite souring relations with the government following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier. In a conversation with Shephard a Boeing spokesperson was keen to downplay any tension between the two parties following a number of attacks on the company from UK politicians.

Maritime insecurity

The future of the UK’s amphibious capabilities looks increasingly uncertain as the defence minister suggested it may no longer be a strategic priority.

Speaking at a meeting of the UK’s defence committee, Michael Fallon denied that the MoD had entered into conversations with Brazil and Chile over a potential sale of the HMS Albion and Bulwark which would put UK amphibious capabilities in jeopardy. MPs voiced their concerns that the MoD’s budget cuts are placing the UK’s security at risk.

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Saab’s Q3 results indicate the Swedish company expects to gain from increasing submarine activity in Europe and Asia. Reporting a 10% growth in sales over the first six months of 2017, the company is reaping the rewards of rising European and international defence spending.

Russia continues to bolster its muscle on the sea’s surface, ordering four Project 21980 Granchanok patrol boats. The main use of the boats will be to provide security to the Kerch Strait Bridge, currently under construction, which will eventually connect Crimea with mainland Russia.

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New-generation land warfare has arrived

Russia’s military investment are not just ocean bound as it appears Russian Land Forces units will be trialling the new-generation assault rifles of Kalashnikov dubbed AK-12 and AK-15. The new assault rifles have undergone testing within the frame of the Ratnik future soldier programme which will deliver new-generation high performance personal equipment to a range of Russian forces.

Following a significant boost to its defence budget, Romania continues to invest in modernising its land forces and has signed a MoI for the licenced manufacture of the Piranha IFV, a de facto act of selection of the new-generation wheeled IFV. Talks will take place on the firm delivery contract for an order of 227 Piranha Vs with an 8×8 wheel drive formula.

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Helicopters bought and sold

Remaining in Eastern Europe, the Czech Air Force is expected to receive 12 Bell Helicopter UH-1Y Venoms from the US DoD as part of a $575 million FMS deal. The aircraft are to be reserved for domestic service missions. The announcement suggests the current stock of Mi-8/17s and Mi-24/35s will most likely be retired.

This week Gordon Arthur reported that US Army Apaches stationed in South Korea will hook up with the General Atomics Grey Eagle MALE UAVs over the coming years, as well as boost their cooperation with the new Apaches of the Republic of Korea Army. Read more about Gordon’s visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek here.

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While attention turns to Future Vertical Lift as the US Army’s next-generation of aircraft, the AH-64 Apache remains a key platform to the service’s fleet and remains integral to Boeing’s future international sales. With a prospective sale of six Apaches to the Indian Army in the works, the AH-64E is projected to remain in service until at least 2016.

 

 

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 40

 

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The Shephard team has had a great week reporting from Helitech International 2017 on the ups and the downs of the commercial rotorcraft industry. Full coverage of the exhibition is available here

The team is now preparing to jet off to AUSA which will take place in Washington DC next week. Keep up with all the latest developments here

 

Chinese plots and Taiwanese arms 

‘How viable are the Chinese invasion plans laid out in a new study published earlier this week,’ asks Wendell Minnick.  The study, entitled ‘The Chinese Invasion Threat’, uses Chinese-language government papers, many written by members of the People’s Liberation Army, on how to unify the ‘renegade province’ of Taiwan into China.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has announced it will initiate a research process to upgrade its M60A3 TTS MBT fleet. The decision to pursue its secondary option of modernising its M60A3 comes after a long and fruitless period of seeking US-built M1 Abrams tanks.

Around the world in armoured vehicles 

Taiwan has also ordered a total of 285 30mm cannons from Orbital ATK to be installed on an IFV variant of the domestically manufactured Clouded Leopard 8×8 armoured vehicle. The $112million contract is for the MK44 Bushmaster II 30mm cannon.

In Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy has begun deploying its new HMV-150 4×4 armoured vehicle to the country’s southern province of Narathiwat for patrols and other security operations.

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While new Tiger 4×4 vehicles have been delivered to the Somali National Army from China as part of a sweetener deal from Beijing to increase their influence in the Horn of Africa. The initial instalment of 32 light armoured vehicles is part of a gift from China which is reported to also include a considerable cash donation, according to Tim Fish in Mogadishu.

Armoured vehicles are not just on the move in Asia, as Latvia received its first examples of second-hand M109 self-propelled howitzers from Austria and will take part in the country’s annual military parade on 18 November.

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Russia has launched a large-scale BMP-2 and BMD-2 upgrade programme. The Russian MoD and KBP signed a contract covering the upgrade and refurbishment of around 540 tracked IFVs and will include the integration of the new B05Ya01 Berezhok turret developed by KBP.

US military tests and invests

The US military has awarded a spate of contracts for unmanned systems in recent weeks, including a $100 million firm-fixed-price contract with Endeavor Robotics for the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II. The programme will see the US Army provided with a medium-sized common robotic platform.

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At the Modern Day Marine exposition in Quantico, Virginia, companies such as BAE Systems and HDT Global have been discussing and displaying their latest military products. Read more news from the exposition here.

Headline products include a command and control variant of BAE Systems’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle, which is currently in engineering and manufacturing development, and a new Lightweight Expeditionary Bridge designed by HDT Global. The company has a few prototypes currently in testing with the US Marine Corps and has also shown the design to the US Army.

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Aviation ambitions

Staying in the US, the CAE Dothan Training Centre located at Dothan Regional Airport in Alabama is preparing to undergo the final phase of development after opening in March 2017. Today, 260 US Army and 70 US Air Force students have graduated from the seven courses provided by the company.

A senior Taiwan military delegation visited Washington to present a high-level briefing to the US government on Taiwan’s need for the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning fighter. The briefing was requested by the US government to clarify past enquiries by Taiwan for its need of a stealth fighter.

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Patrolling the seas

Gravois Aluminium Boats, through its Metal Shark subsidiary has been awarded a near $30 million contract for the construction of up to 50 patrol boats for the US Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Gravois and Metal Shark competed against six other offers for the contract to produce the US Navy’s next generation patrol boat, the PB(X).

The Nigerian Navy is also expanding its maritime security capabilities after it commissioned into service two new FPB 72 Mk II patrol vessels built by French shipyard OCEA. The vessels underwent sea and acceptance trials in France before being handed over to the Nigerian Navy as part of an effort to crackdown on illegal activities at sea.

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The world according to Shephard: Week 39

Firepower of all shapes and sizes

As tensions continue to run high on the Korean peninsula, Japan has begun to rethink its ballistic missile defence (BMD) approach as it now eyes Aegis Ashore. Read more here about the challenges facing Japan as it seeks to defend itself against escalating regional tensions.

Recent images have revealed that the Czech Republic is a major supplier of heavy weapons to Azerbaijan. Images released by the Azerbaijan MoD show the Czech-made Dana-M1CZ 152mm SPH and RM-70 Vampir 122mm MLRS during large-scale exercises held by the Azerbaijani military in late September.

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines has issued a contract to Glock Asia Pacific to supply it with 74,861 Glock 7 Gen4 9mm pistols and an identical number of holsters. The contract, valued at $24.3 million, will see the first batch of 35,000 weapons delivered with 180 days with the second batch delivered within a further 90 days.

UAV popularity persists

Staying in the Philippines, the army has requested several tiers of new UAVs to boost its ISR capabilities, while the US has contracted a further batch of six ScanEagle tactical UAV systems for Manila. The Philippines armed forces are also acquiring trailer-mounted pneumatic launchers and SkyHook recovery devices.

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Meanwhile the German Army’s Special Forces Command is also expanding its ISR assets following the procurement of nano UAS personal reconnaissance systems. The Calw-based command will receive up to a dozen PD-100 Black Hornet nano UAS and will fulfil an operational requirement for an organic ‘over-the-hill’ ISR-gathering micro UAS capability.

However, demand for UAVs is not driven only by defence acquisitions as Beth Maundrill discusses in her blog on the strength of the commercial unmanned market. She reports that defence companies are expected to make a bigger splash in the civil market. Read more here.

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Better late than never

The Indian Navy has finally received its first Scorpene, five years behind schedule. The first of six Scorpene diesel-electric submarines being licence-built for the Indian Navy has been delivered. The Project 75 programme to build six Scorpene submarines has been fraught with difficulties and delays, Gordon Arthur reports.

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The future of warfare

In Afghanistan the future of warfare may be increasingly dominated by private military corporations, as one controversial proposal for the next phase of the American-led war would see 5,500 private contractors put in charge of advising the Afghan military.

The idea is the brainchild of former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who claims his proposal would save both American troops’ lives and the government $30 billion dollars a year.

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One trend in the future nature of warfare is clear – marines are increasingly deploying in small groups in remote and primitive areas, complicating operational logistics.

As a result the Expeditionary Energy Office is currently searching for a solution to the problem by reducing fuel and water demands through the use of hybrid power solutions and improved distribution.

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Finally, the warfighters will increasingly utilise technology developed in the commercial sector. One such example is Gotenna, who is releasing a military variant of its mesh networking tactical radio.

The Gotenna family of products integrate with smart phones to allow direct communication and have already been used by organisations including US Army Special Forces Groups.

DSEI

Following a great week at DSEI, which saw thousands of exhibitors come together across two enormous exhibition halls, Grant Turnbull gives his verdict on ‘the movers and shakers’ of the show.

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The world according to Shephard: Week 36

This week Grant Turnbull and Richard Thomas have been in Poland for MSPO. You can read all the latest news from the event here

Helicopter orders fly in

MD Helicopters was awarded a huge $1.38 billion contract for 150 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters. The initial 30 are bound for Afghanistan to boost the air force’s current fleet of 27 Cayuse Warriors. This comes as the Afghan Air Force, under guidance and funding from the US DoD, is undergoing a transition from Russian-built helicopters to US-manufactured aircraft.

Another significant helicopter deal this week was received by HAL for 41 Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), primarily destined for the Indian Army. The deal is worth $951 million and includes 18 Dhruv-WSI armed variants. However, the Dhruv has suffered a number of crashes in recent months, the latest occurring on the 5 September.

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On the blog, Helen Haxell provides some insight into the recent return to strength of the civil helicopter sector. She takes a look at the impressive recovery of platforms such as the H225 and the Bell 525 Relentless, as well as discussing the new technology OEMs have been experimenting with.

The tanks roll in

Russia is continuing to invest in land modernisation as the Russian MoD inked several high value contracts for new or upgraded equipment in late August, report Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev in Sofia. Twenty-three contracts were signed with as many as 17 Russian defence companies receiving new orders worth an estimated $2.9 billion. The biggest share of new orders was given to main battle tank (MBT) manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, for the delivery of newly-built T-90M MBTs.

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Meanwhile, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGDF) has been showing off its land capabilities at the Fuji Firepower demonstration. The JGDF performed a mobility demonstration of one of its new BAE Systems AAV7A1 amphibious assault vehicles for the first time.

Also on show was a prototype of the new Type 16 Manoeuvre Combat Vehicle (16MCV). The Ministry of Defence is procuring 99 vehicles by March 2019 with the aim of deploying the vehicle in rapid deployment regiments by March 2018.

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US Special Forces out and about

The Science and Technology Directorate at US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has identified future SOF C4 needs. It’s vision is ‘to discover, enable and transition technologies to provide asymmetric advantage for Special Operations Forces (SOF).’ Specific technology areas of interest have been identified in an effort to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter. Read more about SOF’s ambitions here.

In the Philippines, US SOF forces have been assisting the Philippine military in their battle against Islamist insurgents in Marawi. Gordon Arthur reports that the US closure of Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines in 2015 appears to have been premature in light of the vicious months-long fighting against the Maute separatists who are linked with ISIS.

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China acts, ASEAN talks

Staying in the region, an agreement was reached in August for a ‘framework’ Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea  during the 7th East Asian Summit Foreign Minsters’ Meeting. Described by Wendell Minnick as lacking fortitude, the COC is a code for state behaviour pending the settlement of disputes over sovereignty of land features and the delimitation of maritime zones. He added commented that, ‘all ASEAN and China did was reiterate general principles that they had already agreed to 15 years ago.’

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In the meantime China’s naval expansion continues as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its largest naval supply ship to date. The Type 901 fast supply ship has a displacement of approximately 45,000t. Gordon said that ‘as the PLAN ventures further afield, the navy will require more capable and larger numbers of such auxiliary vessels.’

Greater clarity has also begun to emerge about the radical restructuring of China’s airborne air force. The airborne formation is a rapid reaction unit held in readiness for expeditionary or mobile tasks within China and increasingly for overseas contingencies. The restructuring is part of an effort to improve manoeuvring capability and extend their reach to ‘destinations in every theatre.’

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Pre-DSEI highlights

Let the DSEI madness commence – take a look at what to look forward to at DSEI next week.

Shephard’s full show coverage throughout the week is available here.

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