Posts tagged ‘submarine’

BALTIC 2 BLACK: Black Sea Exercise Ends; Poland buying Abrams tanks; Norway-German submarine deal

From the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, Russia’s Neighbors Are Nervous

In recent years, Baltic and Nordic nations have been rattled by Russia’s antagonistic behavior. There have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses, from an underwater vehicle  entering Swedish waters, to Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007. Concerns about a resurgent Russia have grown in the Black Sea region since Russia attacked neighboring Georgia in 2008, seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has supported Ukrainian separatists fighting a bloody hybrid war in eastern Ukraine since 2018.

While the United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russia, the U.S. military has been upping its presence in the Baltic and Black seas — as well as the Barrents Sea in the Arctic — to deter Russian belligerence.

Sea Breeze 21, “Who’s Provoking Whom?

Sounding like a script from a Cold War era newscast, the United States and its allies accuse Russia of dangerous aggressive behavior during a recent multinational training exercise in the contested waters of the Black Sea.

Noting that Russian aircraft overflew U.S. Navy ships at dangerously low altitudes during the recently ended Exercise Sea Breeze 21, Admiral Robert Burke said the Russians were creating a tactical risk that could morph into a strategic issue. “And that’s a big concern with this increasing aggressiveness,” Burke said, adding “We’re not going to flinch and we’re not going to take the bait.”

The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross sails in formation during Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in the Black Sea on July 9, 2021.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Damon Grosvenor))

Burke, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said the latest bad behavior underscores Moscow’s increasingly provocative actions in the air and at sea, SEAPOWER reported in an article by your 4GWAR editor.

Russia’s embassy in Washington called for the exercises to be cancelled, and the Russian defense ministry said it would react to protect its own national security, Al Jazeera reported on June 28, the day Sea Breeze 21 began.

Upping the ante, Russian warplanes later practiced bombing simulations of enemy ships in the Black Sea during the U.S.-Ukrainian exercises, as the friction grew following an earlier incident with a British warship.

For nearly a decade, a resurgent Russia has mounted a huge military buildup in the North Atlantic, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Arctic and the Black Sea. “They want to be in control of those waters, for their own exclusive use,” Burke said, adding “We can’t cede that to the Russians.”

When officials notified Russian authorities about their plans three weeks before Sea Breeze 21 began, Moscow reacted by closing off half of the western part of the Black Sea and announcing their own ship bombing exercise. “If it wasn’t so threatening, it would be laughable,” Burke told a live-streamed edition of the United States Navy Memorial’s SITREP speakers series July 20.

(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Sea Breeze, a long-standing exercise in the Black Sea to enhance interoperability and capability among participating forces in the region, has grown from eight participants in 1997 to 32 this year. The 2021 exercise included 5,000 personnel, 30 ships and 40 aircraft supplied by 17 NATO members, U.S. allies like Australia, and partner nations like Sweden and Senegal.

The admiral praised U.S. and allied commanders for their restraint. “When a strike aircraft overflies a destroyer at 100 feet altitude, right over top, our COs are making a judgment call of whether that strike fighter is on an attack profile or not,” Burke said. “It could be argued that they’re baiting us into shooting first. We’re not going to do that first without provocation, but I’m also not going to ask my commanding officers to take the first shot on the chin,” he added without elaboration.

A Marine, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment  2d Marine Division, cuts through barbed wire during Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine on July 2, 2021.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

In June, Russia said one of its warships fired warning shots and an aircraft dropped bombs near Britain’s Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, to force it away from territorial waters, claimed by Russia, near Crimea — which Moscow seized in 2014. Russia denounced the Defender’s maneuver as a provocation and warned that the next time it might fire to hit intruding warships, according to the Associated Press.

The Royal Navy insisted the Defender wasn’t fired upon on and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters when Russia sent its planes into the air and shots were heard during the showdown.

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Poland Buying M1 Abrams tanks

Poland’s defense minister announced July 14 that the NATO member will buy 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks from the United States, confirming previous reports of a planned acquistion, according to Defense News.

The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 is an upgrade to the U.S. Army’s current main battle tank. The upgrade was designed to defeat or suppress enemy tanks, reconnaissance vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, anti-tank guns, guided missile launchers (ground and vehicle mounted), bunkers, dismounted infantry and helicopters.

A soldier provides ground guidance for an M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams Tank at Ware Range, Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 2021. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sergeant Austin Berner)

The announcement came just two months after Polish defense leaders said they were buying 24 armed drones from fellow NATO member Turkey.

The U.S. and allies in NATO have made reinforcing Poland and the nearby Baltic states a focal point since Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. Since then, U.S. tanks from units rotating overseas have been a consistent presence in Poland, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

Baltic Region (Map: CIA World Factbook)

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Norwegian-German Submarine Deal.

The military procurement agencies of Germany and Norway have reached an industrial agreement to buy new, common submarines from Germany’s Thyssekrupp Marine Systems, the Norwegian government announced July 8, 2021.

The identical submarines will be delivered starting in 2029, with operational service expected to last into the 2060s. The agreement on industrial cooperation will help open up the German market to the Norwegian defense industry, according to the announcement. A ceremony in Kiel, Germany this Fall will include the unveiling of a model of the new, common of the 212CD class submarines.

Norway will order four submarines from Thyssenkrupp for 45 billion crowns ($5.3 billion), while Germany will purchase another two, the defense ministries of both countries, said, Reuters reported.

As part of the deal, Norway and Germany also agreed to buy missiles jointly, and to finance the development of a new type of naval strike missile from Norway’s Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace.

In 2017, Norway and Germany, both NATO members, agreed in principle to build the submarines as part of a closer cooperation of their navies.

July 29, 2021 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

HIGH NORTH: Nordic Nations Plan Closer Defense Ties vs. Russia

Eyes on the Bear.

Norwegian F-16 fighter jets during Exercise Cold Response in 2014. (Photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE

Norwegian F-16 fighter jets during Exercise Cold Response in 2014.
(Photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)

After months of Russian probes, intrusions and military provocations, the countries of Scandinavia have agreed to build closer defense ties among themselves and with the neighboring Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Writing in a joint declaration, the defense ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland said Northern Europe must prepare for possible crises or incidents because of Russia, according to a dispatch from Reuters (via Army Times’ Early Bird).

“Russia’s leaders have shown that they are prepared to make practical and effective use of military means in order to reach their political goals, even when this involves violating principles of international law,” the ministers wrote in a joint statement in the daily Aftenposten.

Over the last year, there have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses from an underwater vehicle — believed to be a Russian submarine — entering Swedish waters and Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007.  Then there is Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebels.

“Russia’s actions are the biggest challenge to the European security,” the ministers said. “Russia’s propaganda and political maneuvering are contributing to sowing discord between nations, and inside organizations like NATO and the EU.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We recommend clicking on the photo above to enlarge it and get the full impact of its technical achievement).

April 10, 2015 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Nordic Defense Worries; Special Ops Up North; Alaska Oil Fight; Canadian Patrol Boats

Russia’s Nordic Neighbors Worried.

A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen during a flight exercise in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard)

A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen during a flight exercise in 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard)

Sweden’s military is trying to get the country’s new government to boost long-term defense spending by adding as much as $620 million.

Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine and suspicions that an unidentified underwater craft that violated Sweden’s territorial waters in late 2014 was Russian have convinced military planners that more defense spending is needed to acquire needed upgrades to fighter aircraft and submarines, as well as financing military exercises, according to Defense News.  Unlike all its Baltic and North Sea neighbors (except Finland), Sweden is not a member of NATO.

The Armed Forces Command (AFC) is pushing the newly elected socialist-green government to add between $380 million and $620 million to the spending plan, which is set at about $5.5 billion in 2015. The AFC’s position is that $380 million is the absolute bare minimum amount required to cover the Swedish Armed Force’s basic needs in operations and procurement in 2015-2020.  Defense chief General Sverker Göransson has warned the government that if the annual budget remains at $5.5 billion, the armed forces could not finance key — or even small scale — programs, such as the next-generation Grippen fighter or submarine modernization projects. Meanwhile, funds would be stretched to pay for equipment for soldiers, multi-branch military exercises or vehicles.

Sweden’s Parliamentary Defense Committee roundly supports increasing the defense budget, Defense News said. Meanwhile, the other non-NATO nation in the High North may be drawing closer to the Western alliance.

According to Alaska News Dispatch, a recent poll in Finland shows  63 percent of Finns surveyed say that an advisory referendum would be the best way to decide whether or not Finland should join NATO.

In the poll, commissioned by Yle and carried out by Taloustutkimus Research, 63 percent of respondents supported a referendum — even if the president, government and a majority of parliamentarians hold the same view regarding NATO membership. Only 27 percent of respondents felt that Parliament should make the NATO membership decision.

Ten percent of respondents said they did not know how the matter should be decided.  Just over one thousand people were polled between December 29 and January 8.

The strongest referendum supporters were the Finns Party and Left Alliance voters. The conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) and Swedish Peoples Party were least enthusiastic about the idea. Public opinion polls have consistently shown that a solid majority of Finns are against joining NATO, so a referendum would be unlikely to rubber-stamp membership, the Dispatch noted.

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Two members of the Norwegian Naval Special Operations Command.  (Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)

Two members of the Norwegian Naval Special Operations Command.
(Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)

WASHINGTON – The head of U.S. Special Operations Command and top theater commanders will be going to Norway soon to discuss how to deal with aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic region.

Norway, a NATO member that shares a  195.7-kilometer (121.6 mile) land border with Russia, announced in December it was suspending bilateral military activities with Russia — because of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine — until the end of 2015. “Military bilateral cooperation has been suspended since March 2014, since the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization in eastern Ukraine,” said a press release from Norway’s Ministry of Defense

Army General Joseph Votel said the main concern is “Russia and its coercive activities” in the Arctic. “It’s important to engage and understand what’s happening out there and understand the spaces in which they can exert their influence,” he told a SOF-industry conference last week (January 27).

To that end, Votel said he and U.S. SOF commanders (probably from Northern Command, European Command and Pacific Command – which all border the Arctic) will meet in a few weeks with their Norwegian counterparts who are “paying significant attention to this.” Norway, a member of NATO, is one of five nations that border the Arctic. The others are Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), the United States and Russia.

Russia has been taking increasingly aggressive steps to assert control in the Arctic where the rapid melting of sea ice is expected to open access to the polar region — which is projected to contain 25 percent of the world’s untapped oil, as well as other valuable minerals. To see more, click here.

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President Barack Obama is asking Congress to increase environmental protections for millions of acres of pristine animal habitat in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, in a move that has already led to fierce opposition from the state’s Republican lawmakers.

The White House announced last week (January 25) that Obama would ask Congress to designate 12 million of the refuge’s 19 million acres as wilderness. The wilderness designation is the strongest level of federal protection afforded to public lands, and would forbid a range of activity that includes drilling for oil and gas and construction of roads. If the proposal is enacted, the area would be the largest wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act over 50 years ago. But the proposal seems unlikely to find support in Congress, according to the New York Times.

The policy won’t have much effect on the nation’s oil production—Alaska accounts for only 7 percent of it, and most of the protected areas have been off-limits to industry for decades. And it didn’t really change the status quo or offer anywhere near the environmental protection the president could have conveyed. But he sure ticked off some Alaskans, according to National Geographic.

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Slush Breakers?

The design of the Canadian patrol boats will be modeled on this Norwegian Coast Guard vessel class: NoCGV Svalbard. (Photo by Marcusroos via wikipedia)

The design of the Canadian patrol boats will be modeled on this Norwegian Coast Guard vessel class: NoCGV Svalbard.
(Photo by Marcusroos via wikipedia)

Already five years behind schedule, Canada is finally getting underway with the construction of a small fleet of Arctic patrol boats to project a Canadian military presence in the High North where melting sea ice is opening up new maritime shipping routes – and access to underground riches.

The $3.2 billion ($3.5 billion Canadian) project will produce five ships – down from a planned eight vessels. But critics complain that none of the vessels will be ice breakers, as originally planned, and none will have landing craft equipped with an over-the-snow ground vehicle, according to Defense News. The ships weaponry is also said to be scaled back. Some critics in the military have called the planned ships “slush-breakers” since they won’t be able to break through heavy Arctic ice.

The ship-building plan was originally announced in 2007 by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The patrol vessels were supposed to be in the water by 2013. Under the new deal, construction will begin in September, with the first ship ready by 2018. The last ship is expected to be delivered by 2022, according to the builder, Canada’s Irving Shipbuilding. Lockheed Martin is set to supply the onboard combat systems.

“The Arctic offshore patrol ships will enable us to become a truly Arctic, rather than just northern, Navy with the capability to operate in the Canadian Arctic archipelago on a sustained and persistent basis,” Vice Admiral Mark Norman, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy told a naval conference in October, Defense News said.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region.” Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening “international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. (Click on the image to enlarge)

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo.
(Click on the image to enlarge)

February 5, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Russia Moving on Arctic Bases; Swedes Hunt Russian Sub; U.S. Focusing on Climate Change

Russian Bases.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shogiu says Russia will complete the deployment of military units Russian territory along the Arctic circle by the end of 2014, according to RIA-Novosti.

“We have been very active in the Arctic region lately, and this year we will have a large number of units deployed along the Arctic Circle, from Murmansk to Chukotka,” Shoigu announced at a meeting Tuesday (October 21) with top military brass in Moscow.

Over the past few years, Russia has been pressing ahead with efforts aimed at the development of its Arctic territories, including hydrocarbon production and development of the Northern Sea Route, which is growing importance as Arctic sea ice recedes as an alternative to traditional routes from Europe to Asia.

Attention has been focused on the Arctic by several nations including the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark since the region is believed to have large reserves of oil and gas.

On October 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a NATO presence in the Arctic isn’t necessary, because, he said, there are no problems in the region requiring the alliance’s participation.

Norway, the NATO member closest to Russia in the Arctic, announced two years ago that it wants more soldiers in the north. “Our ambition is a clear NATO footprint in the north,” said State Secretary Roger Ingebrigtsen of Norway’s Defense Ministry, according to the Barents Observer via Alaska Dispatch News

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Russian Sub?

Meanwhile, Swedish naval forces have been scouring their territorial waters since last week for what they think may be a Russian submarine.

Since October 17, surface vessels and helicopters 200 service personnel were mobilized along with helicopters, minesweepers and an anti-submarine corvette fitted with stealth-type anti-radar masking, according to The Guardian.

The operation began late on Friday following what Sweden’s armed forces said was a reliable tipoff about something in the Stockholm archipelago, which has 30,000 islands and rocky outcrops around which a submarine could lurk. The officer leading the operation declined to give more details, saying only that there had been no armed contact, according to the British newspaper.

Although officially neutral and not a NATO member, Sweden is no stranger to Russian provocations. Besides the possible submarine, Russian planes have violated Swedish and Finnish airspace in recent months. Against the backdrop of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Sweden, like other countries, is growing increasingly nervous about what Moscow might do next, according to The Economist.

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Papp-Arctic Council

Admiral Robert Papp Jr., the special U.S. representative to the Arctic, says climate change will be a main priority for the U.S. when it takes over chairmanship of the Arctic Council next year.

During one of his first speeches as the nation’s first Arctic envoy, Papp said the U.S. will be “more active and more forward leaning” when it comes to addressing the impact of climate change in the region, according to The Hill.

“It is imperative to address the effects of climate change before it’s too late,” Papp said during a September 30 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

If it weren’t for the “warming of the Arctic,” said Papp, the former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard,  no one would be up there exploring, shipping cargo or drilling for oil and gas, which is why the council will need to set more “actionable items and goals.” The U.S. is slated to take over chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada next year.

Defense Dept. photo

Defense Dept. photo


ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Arctic. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”








October 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM’s Future Technology Needs

What Do Special Operators Want?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The big money defense budgets of the past decade have come to an end. And thanks to additional across-the-board cuts imposed by Congress, each of the armed services is being asked to find even more programs, platforms and procedures to cut.

So what do Special Operations Forces (SOF) – who depend in part on the other services’ capabilities – need to do their job in this austere funding environment?

Well the No. 3 commissioned officer at U.S. Special Operations Command cited some technology needs in a question-and-answer session at last week’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association in Washington.

There’s always a need for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies – especially for sensors that can see through foliage in places like Africa and South America, Air Force Lieutenant General Bradley Heithold, SOCOM’s vice commander, told industry representatives.

“Our focus is on high definition. That’s a game changer for us,” Heithold said, adding that “We’re in the business of man hunting – whether to kill someone or capture them – so the fidelity that we get from our sensors is very important.”

He said SOCOM was in the process of modifying its fixed wing and unmanned aircraft with updated signals intelligence capabilities. “I don’t think we have a gap there, but it’s a game you’ve got to be in all the time. You can’t fall behind,” Heithold said.

Major General Mark Clark, commander of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), said the command was “absolutely” looking at a Joint High Speed Vessel, for a MARSOC maritime platform — as long as it could accommodate MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft or helicopters; operate in the littoral environment and include SOF equipment modules “so you can put them on or take them off.”

Modularity for SOCOM aircraft was also important, said Richard Holcomb, civilian deputy to the commanding general of Army Special Operations Command. Modular ISR, strike and air drop packages for Special Ops aviation assets “are clearly the way of our vision [going] forward,” he said. Army experts are also exploring how to arm the Osprey tiltrotor. Another area needing future study is non-lethal capabilities like directed energy, Heithold said.

USS Greeneville, a Los Angeles-class U.S. submarine, with the SEAL Delivery System attached.  (U.S. Navy photo)

USS Greeneville, a Los Angeles-class U.S. submarine, with the SEAL Delivery System attached.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Undersea mobility is another crucial technology, Heithold added. While progress is being made with the Advanced Seal Delivery System, a mini undersea vessel to transport Navy SEALS from a submerged submarine to shore, he urged industry to come forward with any technology that might help. SOF’s stealthy capability, “our true magic,” Heithold called it, “is going to be our ability to infiltrate and ex-filtrate from the sea – under the sea.”

And, as we posted last week, Heithold said the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) is the top acquisition priority. SOCOM commander, Admiral William McRaven, “is way focused on that,” said Heithold, noting that McRaven very much wants to protect “the first person through the door” during a raid or night action.

February 20, 2014 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: Intel That Leaders Can Act On

Avoiding Nasty Surprises

The uproar over the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging cell phone and Internet surveillance revived a national debate about the necessity of intelligence gathering and what the federal government does with what it learns.

Cyber operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

Cyber operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo by
William Belcher)

But the accumulation of “Big Data” – millions and millions of phone calls, text messages and emails — whether by government agencies or private corporations, underscores the urgency of acquiring intelligence that can be acted upon in real time. This is especially true in an era when the United States is confronted by near peer competitors like China and Russia, hostile nation states such as North Korea and Iran and non-state, violent extremist networks like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Actionable intelligence is simply that: information gleaned from a range of sources that enables decision makers – from political leaders to field commanders – to take appropriate and timely action when faced with a security threat like an imminent terrorist attack or the shipment of weapons of mass destruction.

 The bottom line: preventing nasty surprises.

To read more of this story, go to the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) website or click here.

June 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Foreign Defense Contractors Flock to Brazil

A New Gold Rush

As it raises its defense spending as part of a strategy to secure its borders and offshore oil deposits, Brazil has become a big draw for foreign defense contractors like BAE Systems, Eurocopter, Boeing, Saab and Dassault, according to the Financial Times.

The Saab JAS-39 Grippen is one of the fighter aircraft Brazil is considering buying to modernize its airfleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

Saab’s JAS-39 Grippen is one of the fighter aircraft Brazil is considering buying to modernize its airfleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

Brazil is building a fleet of five submarines — one of them nuclear-powered — with French contractor DCNS. And aircraft from France (Dassault’s Rafale), the United States (Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Sweden (Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen) are all vying for Brazil’s much delayed selection of a contractor to build a new fleet of more than 30 multi-role jet fighters.

Brazil is Latin America’s largest country and the sixth-largest economy in the world.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranks Brazil 10th in military spending in 2011 — up from 11th in 2010. Brazil’s military budget was $35.4 billion, SIPRI calculated, or 1.5 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product. it’s defense spending has risen 19 percent since 2002, even though it dropped 8.2 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Overall, Latin America’s defense spending dropped 3.3 percent in 2011. It was up 5.1 percent in 2010. The biggest increase was Mexico’s: up 5.7 percent in 2011 and up by 52 percent since 2002 — largely due to increased military involvement in the country’s war with drug cartels, SIPRI said in an April 2012 report.

Helicopter Deal

CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer S.A. has signed an agreement with Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland establishing a joint venture to explore producing helicopters in Brazil, both companies announced recently.

Preliminary studies by Embraer and AgustaWestland indicate strong market potential for twin engine, medium lift helicopters — especially to meet the needs of the of the offshore oil and gas market. Other key market sectors, such as the military, “show promising potential as well,” the companies said.

January 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Next Virginia-class Sub is Ready

Coming Soon: the USS Mississippi

The U.S. Navy is taking delivery on its newest Virginia-class submarine, the Mississippi, nearly a year early, Navy Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) announced today (May 2).

The soon-to-be USS Mississippi. Photo courtesy General Dynamics-Electric Boat)

The soon-to-be USS Mississippi. (Photo courtesy General Dynamics-Electric Boat)

The sub, which will be known as the SSN-782 USS Mississippi after it is commissioned on June 2 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, took just over 62 months to build – the fastest delivery yet for the Virginia-class boats. The Mississippi is the ninth vessel in the class, which first entered service in 2004.

The Virginia subs are designed to be kind of a Swiss Army knife of undersea warfare in both the deep blue sea and closer to shore (the littoral waters). Their capabilities include being able to attack surface ships and other submarines, disperse explosive mines and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) attack land targets with Tomahawk cruise missiles, support special operations forces (like Navy SEALS) and other forms of irregular warfare, provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. NAVSEA says the Virginia-class boats support five of the Navy’s six maritime strategy core capabilities.

At the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Expo last month at National Harbor, Maryland, the program manager for the Virginia-class subs said the Navy planned to research an enhanced payload module that could either increase the boat’s firepower or add flexibility to the types of missions its UUVs could perform. Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley said the large modules, like big missile tubes, would increase a sub’s Tomahawk capacity from 12 to 40 missiles. It also would allow the sub’s crew access to UUVs while the boat is underway, a capability they don’t have now because the existing launch tubes are all in the bow.

An unidentified Virginia-class submarine during Alpha testing. (General Dynamics-Electric Boat photo)

The Virginia-class subs also have Mark 48 torpedoes, Mark 60 CAPTOR mines and advanced mobile mines. To see your 4GWAR editor’s story on the Virginia class submarines on the Navy League website, click here.

May 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Raids on Colombian Rebels, Dempsey’s South American Trip (UPDATE)

Updates with Dempsey visit to Brazil, adds background (in italics)

Colombia Rebels Killed

Wikipedia image

Government troops in Colombia killed 36 rebels Monday (March 26) in an airstrike on a training camp in the state of Metas south of Bogota, the capital.

It was the second such raid against Colmbia’s main guerilla force in less than a week. On March 21, the Colombian military killed 33 rebels in another air raid on Arauca state near the border with Venezuela, the British newspaper The Guardian reported. That raid followed an early March rebel attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers.

The attacks come just as the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, said it would release the last of its prisoners – some of them held for as long as 14 years – early next month.

FARC has been waging an insurgency against Bogota since the 1960s resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers, rebels and citizens. In recent years FARC has been battered by an increasingly professional and effective Colombian military with U.S. financial aid and military assistance, the Associated Press reported.

Recently FARC said it was halting kidnappings for ransom, a long-time source of income along with the illegal cocaine trade.

Veteran U.S. Officers to Assist Colombia

The United States is preparing to send Army brigade commanders with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan to Colombia to assist a joint task force aimed at defeating FARC guerillas.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, on a tour of Colombia and Brazil, says the U.S. officers will visit commanders of Joint Task Force Vulcano for two weeks to help with leader development and share their experience fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The task force is one of several created by the Colombian government to disrupt rebel organizations engaging in drug smuggling, arms trafficking, illegal mining and bomb manufacturing. The learning experience won’t be a one way street, Demsey says, adding that he fully expects U.S. leaders to learn from the Colombian counterparts.

On a two-day visit to Colombia to meet with high ranking political and defense officials, Dempsey said Colombia had a good strategy for combating FARC. That strategy calls for cutting FARC’s forces – now numbering 8,000-to-9,000 – by 2014.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listens to Colombian Armed Forces Commander Gen. Alejandro Navas (right) at Joint Task Force-Volcano near Tibu, Colombia. (Defense Dept. photo by Army Staff Sgt Sun L. Vega)

During his meetings, Dempsey said the Colombians indicated ways to accelerate their efforts on the ground including: border security, protecting critical infrastructure, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, intelligence fusion, airlift and unmanned aircraft.

The Colombians also would like the U.S. to provide additional aircraft to transport cargo and troops, Dempsey told reporters traveling with him, the Associated Press reported.

Getting Closer to Brazil

Dempsey wound up his first trip to South America as chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a visit to Brazil, where he met with Brazilian military leaders and toured the country’s jungle warfare training center near Manaus in the Amazonia region. The world class training center has seen only a few U.S. troops among its students. In fact, it has graduated more officers and non-commissioned officers from France (86) than from the U.S. (25) in its 48-year history.

Dempsey said Brazil, the largest country and largest economy in South America, has a key role to play in the region. The Pentagon, as part of its new strategic guidance, is seeking to enlist the assistance of Brazil, Colombia and other countries in the region to block the spread of terrorist groups and transnational crime – particularly narcotics trafficking.

To protect its the offshore oil deposits and the water and agricultural resources of the Amazon region, Brazil is expanding its military acquisitions under a 2010 defense strategy. It is building five submarines – one them nuclear-powered – in an agreement with French shipbuilder DCNS. France also has a deal to sell Brazil 50 EC725 Cougar military transport helicopters. And Sao Paulo is said to be close to deciding from whom it will buy 36 next generation mult-role combat jet fighters.

A staff member at Brazil's jungle warfare training center in Manaus explains to U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey the importance of natural resources. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt Sun L. Vega)

Brazil is, itself, a military manufacturer and exporter. Recently it sold the Embraer’s Super Tucan turbo-prop plane, which can serve as a trainer or light attack counter insurgency weapon, to three African nations: Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In the past, when it was ruled by a military junta, Brazil was a leading manufacturer and exporter  of armored vehicles, rocket launchers and small arms.

In addition to international drug cartels that move drug shipments by plane, boat and homemade submarines, U.S. security planners are also concerned about the activities of Iran, China and Russia in Latin America and the presence of businesses linked to international terrorist groups – particularly in the largely lawless Triple Frontier region where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay share borders.

Dempsey said he was concerned that transit routes used to smuggle  drugs today could be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction in the future, the AP’s Robert Burns reported.

To see a 10-minute French television report on the Brazilian jungle warfare training center click here. (In French except where it’s in Brazilian Portuguese)

March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

ARCTIC: Exercise Cold Response 2012 (Updated)

“War” Near the Top of the World

New photos and information on air operations.

Canadian troops from the Royal Canadian Regiment fire a mortar during Exercise Cold Response. Canadian Defense Forces photo.

More than 16,000 troops from 14 countries just completed a weeks-long exercise in the frozen hinterlands of Norway and Sweden training in winter warfare skills such as infantry maneuvering and amphibious landings in extreme temperatures.

Called Exercise Cold Response 2012, the biennial training exercise – hosted by the Norwegians – is in its fifth iteration. In addition to Norway, the largest troop contingents among NATO countries included Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other participants included Sweden and Finland, two non-aligned Nordic countries, who belong to NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

The exercise began March 5 with a week of acclimation for troops not used to Norway’s harsh winters. Operations ran from March 12-21 with a few clean-up and departure duties beginning March 21.

U.S., British and Dutch Marines conducted joint amphibious assault operations along the northern Norwegian coast near Bardufoss. The Royal Netherlands Navy’s landing ship platform Hr. Ms. Rotterdam served as a base for the U.S. British and Dutch marines. The HMS Bulwark, a British amphibious assault ship, served as headquarters for the joint staff.

U.S. Marines disembark a Dutch landing craft near Harstad, Norway for Exercise Cold Response 2012. (Dutch Ministry of Defense photo)

Other land operations were conducted mainly in Troms County along the northern coast. Maritime operations also covered parts of Nordland County. And air operations were conducted from Andøya, Bardufoss, Bodø, Evenes and Ørland air bases in Norway, and Luleå in Sweden. Those ops covered most of Northern Norway and parts of Swedish air space.

Smaller forces and air assets operated in the border areas from Narvik in Norway to Kiruna in Sweden, and Swedish military aircraft flew in Norwegian territory from Swedish air bases.

CIA via University of Texas Libraries (Click on map to enlarge)

Other units taking part in the exercise included about 800 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment and some 215 Finnish soldiers from a Jager (ranger) company.

For the first time the exercise included air operations that crossed national borders. A Royal Norwegian Air Force cargo plane flew a transport run from Norway to Sweden and back again. Norwegian F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets supplied air cover over Norway with Swedish JAS Gripen 39 fighters taking over in Swedish airspace. But tragedy struck on March 15 when the Norwegian C-130J Hercules cargo plane crashed into a mountain just over the border near Kiruna in Sweden, killing all five crewmen on board.

A Swedish fighter jet refueling during Cold Response (Photo Louise Levin, Swedish Forsvarsmakten)

Air operations concluded with a large force engagement exercise with 36 aircraft participating including Norwegian and Belgian F-16s and Swedish Gripens. A Swedish pilot served as mission commander in the exercise, which tested coordination and aircraft management, including air refueling.

To see a video of the troops, ships, planes, helicopters and tanks in action, click here.

To a video of Norwegian tanks and troops, click here.

Two Royal Norwegian Navy Combat Boat (BC90s) underway during Exercise Cold Response 2012. (Dutch Ministry of Defense photo)

March 27, 2012 at 12:48 am Leave a comment

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