Tag Archives: 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.


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.

Scan Eagle/Insitsu Frontiers shoot

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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 32

Despite August’s title as the ‘silly season’ it has been anything but that for Shephard Media as the world of aerospace and defence shows no signs of slowing down.

Out with the old, in with the new

The New Zealand Defence Force is seeking replacement explosive ordnance disposal robots. The new UGVs and neutralisation systems will be used for civil, military and counter-terrorism scenarios by the New Zealand Army’s EOD detachment, or ‘Bomb Squad’.

NZ bomb squad

Meanwhile the Brazilian army has received its first VBTP-MR Guarani 6×6 amphibious armoured vehicle equipped with a 30mm remote-controlled weapon station. The army’s 15th Mechanised Infantry Brigade became the first active unit to receive the vehicle and is part of a new tranche of 1,580 Guarani vehicles now being delivered.

New unmanned technology is currently being developed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and IAI. The new unmanned MMMWV was publicised in a video released by the IDF. Beth Maundrill spoke with IAI about the new technology. Read Beth’s blog here.

Finally, this week the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) said a farewell to its Heron, as it flew its last mission ahead of its withdrawal from service. The RAAF’s No. 5 Flight which was responsible for the Heron mission in Afghanistan will be disbanded at the end of the year. The RAAF is acquiring a replacement capability through Project AIR 7003 which is scheduled to be delivered after 2020.


Up in the air

This week Helen Haxell looked into the ups and downs of the military and civil helicopter markets for the first half of 2017.

Helen reported that the last six months in the civil helicopter sector have witnessed significant recovery with flight returns, concept aircraft and new platforms dominating the commercial market. She commented that ‘if last year was the ‘annus horribilis’ for the civil helicopter sector that notion has definitely not crept into 2017.’

As for the military helicopter sector it has been a frantic year so far. As progress has continued across US military helicopter programmes, the Black Hawk has garnered the majority of headlines with developments in the Middle East and across Asia-Pacific.

Black Hawk Landscape

Plain sailing?  

In the UK, preparations for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth ramp up as vessels and personnel from the navy and Royal Marines take part in the NATO Exercise Saxon Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

Across the Atlantic in South America, the Mexican Navy has continued its patrol vessel fleet expansion as it strives to tackle a wide range of challenges from cartels and narcotics activities to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Richard Thomas looks into the navy’s latest Tenochtitlan-class patrol vessel, the ARM Bonampak which is well suited to operations in the littorals and EEZs.

While in the Arabian Gulf, US Navy patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron One have carried out proficiency fire testing of their MK 60 Griffin Missile Systems. Five vessels launched surface-to-surface Griffin missiles at moving target sleds to demonstrate their ability to hit surface targets such as small boats.

Coastal Patrol Ships Conduct Test Fire of Griffin Missile System in Arabian Gulf

NATO: Falling short?

NATO released its Expenditures Data for 2014 and Estimates for 2015 report on Monday (maybe next year they will come up with a snappier title).

Why is this important? Well as always it’s good to know who is spending what. More significantly, this is a bit of a naming and shaming exercise to see who isn’t pulling their weight among the member nations.

What’s the target amount to be spent on defence by governments? It’s 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, first formulated in 2006.

Nato pic 2And who are the winners? For the 2015 predictions on spending as a percentage of GDP: Estonia at 2%, Greece at 2.4%, UK at 2.1%, the US at 3.6% and new entry Poland now spending 2.2% of GDP on defence, up from 1.8% in 2014.

So out of 28 member states only five have managed to meet the 2% requirement set out by NATO, despite the growing threat from Russia and ISIL. And if you believe what you read on the internet it seems that the UK is taking a short cut to 2% by including spending on peacekeeping missions in the target. Which is apparently perfectly legit.

So the next question is how worried should we be that not all of the nations are getting their wallets out? Well, at the NATO summit in Wales last year the allied states agreed to reverse the trend towards declining budgets and work towards the Holy Grail of 2%. We cannot however expect that to happen overnight, with NATO noting that those currently under the bar should aim towards the 2% guidelines within a decade.

Destroying the Islamic State?

U.S. Soldier's transfer authority in Mosul

Guest post by Richard Irons, consultant at SCS.

The Islamic State (IS) continues to grow in strength and threatens moderate governments and societies in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as western interests in the region. In Syria and Iraq, where IS is strongest, the International Coalition has developed a strategy to destroy IS largely based on military force. This strategy – or at least how it is being implemented – is unlikely to succeed in the near future.

IS’s campaign that culminated in the battle for Mosul between the 6th and 10th of June had been in progress since at least January. Since then, the Iraqi garrison in Mosul had become increasingly isolated and under siege, subject to continuous assassination and bomb attacks. The army and police no longer patrolled some areas of the city because of the threat posed by insurgents.

So when the attack came on 6th June, the army and police were already demoralised. The insurgents steadily increased the military pressure and on the 9th, the situation started to collapse: three very senior army officers fled Mosul by air. As news of their departure spread, soldiers and policemen began to desert and the defence collapsed.

In the course of four days a city of two million people, with some 20 to 30,000 defending police and soldiers, was captured by about a thousand insurgents.

This illustrates two basic military facts that need to be understood. First, IS is a well-led military organisation operating to a coherent strategy. Second, the Iraqi Security Forces, like many other armies, can fold dramatically when confidence is shaken.

President Obama laid out his objectives and strategy for combatting IS on 11 September, saying ‘we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism campaign.’

He then laid out four elements of his strategy to achieve this objective. The first is a campaign of airstrikes against IS in both Iraq and Syria. The second is to support Iraqi armed forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga: providing training, intelligence and equipment.

The third element is to use indirect methods to strangle IS and limit its capacity to fight. And the fourth element is the provision of humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced by IS’s expansion.

Several things are worth noting about this strategy. The first is what is not there: getting the politics right. In Iraq, it was the sectarian policies of previous Prime Minister Maliki that so estranged the Sunni population that allowed al-Qaeda in Iraq and, subsequently, IS to grow. A more inclusive government led by Haider al-Abadi may be an important step to winning the Sunnis towards the State of Iraq and away from the Islamic State. If the majority of Sunnis can be persuaded to end support for insurgency, we can be relatively confident that the current front line between Caliphate and Government forces will stabilise and few other Sunni areas will fall to Islamic State fighters.

Political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia is an absolutely fundamental condition for success but, by itself, it is also quite insufficient to militarily defeat the IS.

The other thing to note in this strategy is the recognition that air power alone will not destroy IS. We can expect, over time, to be able to identify and destroy most of their heavier weapons – its tanks and artillery pieces. Without such weapons, they find it harder to mount successful offensives. But it only works to degrade, not destroy.

So it falls to the second element of the President’s strategy to bear the brunt of destroying IS. It will require a major ground force attack to recapture all the lost ground; not just in Iraq but also in Syria.

In Iraq, only the Iraqi Army can mount a sustained attack on IS to defeat its military forces and roll back its gains. The Kurds will not fight to recapture Sunni Arab lands for Baghdad. The Shia militias will have quite the wrong effect on the Sunni population if they attempt to ‘liberate’ them from the Caliphate. But the Iraqi Army today is a shadow of what it was even two years ago. It is a defeated and demoralised force.

So we really need the Iraqi Army to re-build itself to the level that it can mount a sustained attack to recapture and then hold lost territory. It needs to recover its self-confidence. As a result, I believe that if our strategic objective is really the destruction of the Islamic State then we have to do more than train and equip them. We will also need to embed advisors and fire control teams, to give them the confidence that was so badly shattered this summer.

But this option, it seems, has already been precluded by both President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, who have separately promised not to involve American and British troops in combat roles.

The US plan to build a non-radical Syrian opposition, strong enough to prevail against both Assad and IS, is bound to fail. The Free Syrian Army now no longer exists in any meaningful way. It has been destroyed by IS. There are only three effective forces left in Syria: the Syrian Army and its Hezbollah allies, supporting Assad; the Syrian Kurds fighting for survival in the north; and the IS and its allies. There is no non-radical opposition in Syria left for the US to support.

So the only way we could actually achieve the destruction of the Caliphate would be by both significantly increasing our military commitment in Iraq while, simultaneously, changing our political position vis-à-vis the Assad regime in Syria. Both of these conditions seem a long way from the thinking of our political leadership right now.

If we are relying on the military being a major part of our strategy to destroy (as opposed to degrade) IS, then we had better get used to the reality of the IS being around for quite a long time.

The dreaded ‘C word’

As I see it US military planners currently have a bit of a problem. Even as budgets shoot down following the end of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they have to start looking at the ‘what if’ scenarios for the next 20 years in order to ensure that they have the capabilities needed when their political masters next call on them to defend US interests.

The assumption is the next major conflict to involve the US will be in that timeframe as for the last century at least the US has deployed its military might in major operations with that relative frequency.

Looming large in those ‘what ifs’ is the rise of China and whether its current assertiveness in its region could become a major problem for the US and its regional allies despite the interconnected nature of their economies.


However, in public forums US military planners hardly ever use the ‘C word’ as if it’s some dirty little secret that can’t be shared outside the family. In some cases this can get to a certain level of absurdity.

I remember being at one briefing on UCAS-D when a military official was explaining the benefits an unmanned naval bomber would bring to the fleet. In explaining the range and stand-off capability one slide showed an unnamed coastline with range indicators of how far off the coast a US carrier group could be and still be effective. Despite the insistence of the briefer to the contrary it was the Chinese coastline turned through 90 degrees and helpfully given the OpFor traditional colour of red.

The reluctance to refer to China seems to have almost reached the limits of some form of inverted Tourette’s Syndrome where the mere use of the word causes speakers to swoon.

China’s bristliness is probably a large part of the reason why this is the case, but you have to wonder if it runs deeper and what damage this could be doing in preventing the military explaining what it needs to the public and to politicians in order to ensure the right funds are funnelled to the right projects.

The dangers of this were clear at the Surface Navy Association’s annual jamboree in Washington, DC this week.

US surface forces are in some amount of structural disarray having concentrated on a certain mission set, largely the projection of air power, since the end of the Cold War. China’s naval rise is forcing planners to look at the potential of large scale surface operations for the first time since the end of the Cold War and the loss of the Soviet navy as a peer competitor.


The speakers articulated a vision in which the US Navy needs to be prepared for large scale surface engagements (well it was the Surface Navy Association) but sometimes the reasons for needing longer range ship-to-ship missiles became lost without being able to point directly to the threat they need to counter.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some in academic and political circles that obsess about the potential threat that China represents, but they are often outliers, and policymakers and the public in the US usually have more immediate concerns than what may, or may not, be happening in the South China Sea.

However, to paraphrase, without being able to say ‘it’s the Chinese stupid’, military planners lose an important weapon in being able to justify the level of preparedness they obviously think is necessary.

Privately they might be able to say we’re concerned about the threat a more assertive China may represent, but without being able to use the ‘C word’ in the public square then it is going to be difficult to argue for the resources needed when people are more concerned about their weekly grocery bill.