Posts filed under ‘Ukraine’

FRIDAY FOTO (September 9, 2022)

BOUND FOR UKRAINE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matt Porter)

Senior Airman Natasha Mundt, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and other airmen assigned to the 305th Aerial Port squadron, load Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions to a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on  August 13, 2022.

The munitions cargo is part of an additional security assistance package for Ukraine. The security assistance the U.S. is providing to Ukraine is enabling critical success on the battlefield against the Russian invading force.

On Thursday, September 8, the Pentagon announced another authorization of security assistance valued at up to $675 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twentieth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.

Weaponry and other equipment includes more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that have been playing havoc with Russian facilities — including ammo dumps and command centers — behind the front lines, as this CBS News piece illustrates.

Also going to Ukraine will be: Four 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds; additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARM) that destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems; 100 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); 1.5 million rounds of small arms ammunition; more than 5,000 anti-armor systems; 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems; 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; plus additional grenade launchers, small arms, night vision devices and other field equipment.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department notified Congress it intends to make $2 billion available in long-term investments in Foreign Military Financing. One billion to bolster Ukraine’s security and the other $1 billion for 18 of Ukraine’s regional neighbors.

To date, the United States has committed approximately $15.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian territory in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the United States has committed more than $17.2 billion in security assistance — and more than $14.5 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24.

September 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Closer to Joining NATO; Did Russian MiGs Violate Finnish Airspace — Again?

BALTIC SEA REGION UPDATE

Updates with new link to 1949 NATO Treaty and photo of U.S. Marines training with Finnish forces recently.

Sweden, Finland and NATO

The chances of Sweden and Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have grown stronger with the United States becoming the 23rd member of the 30-nation defense alliance to approve the admission of the two historically non-aligned Nordic states.

In an unusual bi-partisan 95-to-1 vote on August 3, the U.S. Senate approved accession protocols to the 1949 treaty that created NATO, to admit Sweden and Finland as full members of the defense pact. Approval by all 30 current members of NATO is required for any new states to be admitted to the western defensive bloc created to counter the Soviet Union’s expansion, replacing democratic governments with totalitarian puppet regimes after World War II.

President Joe Biden signed the instruments of ratification bringing Finland and Sweden one step closer to joining the NATO alliance.

The Baltic Region. (Map: CIA World Factbook)

During the signing ceremony at the White House, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought he could break us apart,” but “Our alliance is closer than ever, it is more united than ever, and after Finland and Sweden join we will be stronger than ever.”

The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It’s a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine’s West-looking government, according to The Associated Press (via NPR).

Finland and Sweden — increasingly disturbed by their Baltic Sea neighbor’s aggressive behavior in the region — simultaneously handed their official letters of application to join NATO on May 2022. NATO heads of state and government extended an invitation to both countries to join the Alliance at the Madrid Summit on June 29. The accession protocols for both countries were signed on July 5. The protocols must now be ratified by all Allies, according to their national procedures, according to NATO.

Seven member countries have to sign the treaty change: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. For some of them, like Slovakia and Greece, ratification is only a mater of when the legislature returns to work after the summer, according to analysts at the Atlantic Council think tank. One of the last holdouts is expected to be Turkey, which accuses the two countries of being too lenient toward Kurdish rebel groups it considers to be national security threats. Turkey’s justice minister said in July month that the government had renewed requests for the extradition of terror suspects wanted by his country.

On June 28, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding to address security concerns raised by Turkey and lift Turkey’s veto on Finland’s and Sweden’s membership of NATO. However, in mid-July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey can still “freeze” Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bid unless the two countries take steps that meet Ankara’s security demands. While lifting its objection to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, Turkey warned that it would block the process if they fail to extradite suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, according to The Associated Press (via the PBS News Hour).

Based on those considerations, plus how long it took recent new members like North Macedonia (21 months); Greece (8 months); and Spain (also 21 months), “we can expect something like a yearlong process (somewhere between eight and twenty months),” said Rich Outzen, a former State Department official and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey. He added it could be delayed until “shortly after Turkish national elections in June 2023.”

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Did Russian fighter jets violate Finnish airspace?

While Finland waits to join NATO it reported that two Russian MiG-31 fighter jets are suspected of violating Finnish airspace near the coastal city of Porvoo on the Gulf of Finland.

The jets were westbound, the defence ministry’s communications chief Kristian Vakkuri said, adding the aircraft were in Finnish airspace for two minutes.

A MiG-31 in flight over Russia, 2012 (Photo copyright by Dmitriy Pichugin via wikipedia) Please click on the photo to enlarge image.

The Finnish air force sent up “an operational flight mission” and identified the MiG-31 jets and the Border Guard launched an investigation into the violation, Aljazeera reported.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia, reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the North Atlantic alliance in May, after being rattled by Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, according to Aljazeera, which has a very good map of NATO countries, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine at this link.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department has for years considered Finland to be — if not an ally, a partner nation — and conducted joint and multilateral training exercises with Finnish military units. Recently an element of the U.S. 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted bilateral training with the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit on Finland’s Russaro Island.

A member of the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit directs his fire team during a patrol with U.S. Marines in bilateral training on Russaro Island, August 11, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Yvonna Guyette) Click on photo to enlarge.

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BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations — now members of NATO — border Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Nordic countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

August 18, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Ukraine Getting U.S. Drones; Russia Wants More from Iran

UKRAINE, RUSSIA DRONE NEEDS

Never in the history of warfare have drones been used as intensively as in Ukraine, where they often play an outsized role in who lives and dies, according to the Associated Press.  Both the Russians and Ukrainians depend heavily on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

But after months of fighting, the drone fleets of both sides are depleted, and they are racing to build or buy the kind of jamming-resistant, advanced drones that could offer a decisive edge, the AP reported July 14.

Ukraine Getting More Kamikaze Drones

The U.S. Defense Department says hundreds of one-way drones will be included in the latest security assistance package for Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s brutal invasion.

The Pentagon announced Friday (July 22, 2022) that an additional $270 million in Security Assistance for Ukraine will include as many as 580 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). It is the sixteenth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine authorized by the Biden Administration since August 2021 — six months before Moscow’s unprovoked multi-front attack.

Back in April, the United States committed to sending 121 Phoenix Ghosts to Ukraine. Pentagon officials have not fully disclosed the capabilities of those drones, which were developed by the U.S. Air Force and produced by Aevex Aerospace, according to the Associated Press. Aevex describes itself as a leader in “full-spectrum airborne intelligence solutions.” The drones have onboard cameras and can be used to attack targets, AP reported.

In April, then-Pentagon press spokesman John Kirby said the Phoenix Ghost had been in development before the February 24 Russian invasion. And in discussions with the Ukrainians about their requirements, “we believed that this particular system would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine.”

While primarily a UAS designed for tactical operations like attacking targets, Kirby said Phoenix Ghost ‘s cameras could be used for reconnaissance. But its principal focus is attack, said Kirby, adding “its purpose is akin to that of the Switchblade … which is basically a one-way drone and attack drone. And that’s essentially what this is designed to do.”

Artist’s rendering of AeroVironment Switchblade 600 loitering missile. (Image courtesy of AeroVironment)

Switchblade’s manufacturer, AeroVironmentc Inc.,, calls the little lethal UAV a loitering missile. Originally weighing less than six pounds, it could be carried in a soldier’s backpack and launched from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, Switchblade sends back color video imagery and GPS coordinates which the operator can view on a hand-held ground controller.

What made Switchblade unique, 4GWAR noted back in 2011, is the ability to transition from a low-flying reconnaissance drone to small bomb with the flick of a switch by the soldier operating the ground controller. It can then be aimed at a nearby — but out of sight — target such as an un-armored vehicle.

Several improvements have been made to Switchblade since then. The larger (50-pounds) Switchblade 600, has greater capabilities for engaging larger, hardened targets with multi-purpose anti-armor ammunition at longer distances than the original Switchblade 300, your 4GWAR editor reported in SEAPOWER.

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Short on Drones, Russia Turns to Iran

Both sides in the war have made ample use of unmanned aircraft, both for missile attacks by armed drones and reconnaissance of enemy troop movements and potential artillery targets. However, many military analysts believe the Russians — who surprised  Western observers with their coordinated use of drones as artillery spotters to target Ukrainian tank and artillery formations in 2014  — may now be running low on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

On July 12, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Russia was seeking hundreds of UAVs, including weapons capable drones from Iran.

“Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July,” Sullivan told a White House briefing, adding “”It’s unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already.”

On July 16, the White House said Russian officials visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice to view weapons-capable drones it is looking to acquire. The White House released the intelligence the same day President Joe Biden met  with leaders of six Arab Gulf countries, plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

The White House also released satellite imagery indicating Russian officials have twice visited Iran in recent weeks for a showcase of weapons-capable drones.

The satellite imagery showed Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones on display at Karshan Airfield on June 8 and July 5, while a Russian delegation transport plane was on the ground, the Associated Press reported.

Shahed 129 UAV seen during the Eqtedar 40 defense exhibition in Tehran. (Photo Fars Media Corporation via wikipedia)

Sullivan said in a statement that the administration has “information that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred UAVs.

“We assess an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-capable UAVs. We are releasing these images captured in June showing Iranian UAVs that the Russian government delegation saw that day,” Sullivan added. “This suggests ongoing Russian interest in acquiring Iranian attack-capable UAVs.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected reports on exporting Iranian drones to Russia, calling them “baseless.”

The U.S. intelligence assessment was first reported by CNN.

Russia had previously turned to China for help in supporting its war in Ukraine, U.S. officials disclosed in March, according to the CNN report. As of late May, the US had seen no evidence that China had provided any military or economic support to Russia for the invasion, Sullivan told reporters at the time.

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China’s DJI Halts Drone Business in Russia and Ukraine.

China’s DJI, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, announced in late April that is was suspending all business activities in both Russia and Ukraine.

Since the start of the war, Ukraine has urged the company to take steps to stop its drones being used by Russia.

The Chinese firm said the decision was not a statement about any country, and its drones are not for military use, the BBC reported.

DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions. Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine. We are engaging with customers, partners and other stakeholders regarding the temporary suspension of business operations in the affected territories. — DJI Statement

China has sought to remain neutral on the conflict, calling for a peaceful solution, but it has yet to condemn the Russian invasion.

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IN OTHER DRONE NEWS …

Valkyrie Drones Complete Tests for Skyborg Program.

A pair of XQ-58 Valkyrie drones have completed a series of tests for the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg program, to team unmanned and manned aircraft through an artificial intelligence-enabled autonomous system allowing fighter pilots and bomber crews to control unmanned wingmen.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

Defense contractor Kratos, which manufactures the Valkyrie, announced the successful tests at the Farnborough International Air Show in Britain July 19, but offered no details on what those tests demonstrated or when they occurred, Air Force Magazine reports.

The XQ-58, meanwhile, has conducted a limited number of flight tests showcasing some of its capabilities including releasing another drone in flight and carrying technology allowing an F-35 Lightening II and an F-22 Raptor to share data in-flight.

It was the first public announcement of the Valkyrie flying for the Skyborg program. The drone was first developed as part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio and flew its first several tests before Kratos was selected in late 2020 as one of three companies to conduct Skyborg flights, according to the magazine.

“This is a program about autonomy,” Jeffrey Herro, a senior vice president in Kratos’ unmanned systems division, told Air Force Magazine in an interview at Farnborough. “Our aircraft was chosen to be the testbed for these autonomy tests. And so we’ve been flying various payloads in support of the government’s activities on Skyborg.”

July 26, 2022 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment


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