IN THE NEWS

IN THE NEWS

Dec 30, 2019

As Taiwan prepares for presidential elections amid heightened tensions with China, the latter has sailed its new aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into the Taiwan Strait, accompanied by frigates.

Dec 30, 2019

At least 75 people died in Mogadishu 28 December when a car bomb was detonated during the morning rush hour. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but al-Shabab militants have carried out similar attacks in areas around the Somali capital.

Dec 30, 2019

A Chinese national who managed to get around a perimeter fence at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Key West 26 December has been charged by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He told investigators that he was trying to photograph the sunrise but the images on his camera included some of a base facility.

Dec 30, 2019

Lockheed Martin has secured a seven-year contract worth an estimated $1.5 billion to upgrade the Greek air force’s fleet of General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons. Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told his parliament that 84 aircraft would be upgraded, the schedule determined by how many are needed to maintain operational availability.

Dec 30, 2019

The Taliban say they have agreed to a temporary nationwide cease-fire in Afghanistan, possibly setting the stage for a peace agreement which would enable the U.S. to wind up its 18-year military presence. The U.S. has said any deal must include a promise by the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups.

Dec 30, 2019

The U.S. Army is optimistic that new rifle marksmanship qualification standards will reduce shooting times while simulating some aspects of real combat situations. The initiative is part of a training regimen unveiled last summer and covering not only rifle and carbine marksmanship but also pistols and other individual weapons. Training is broken down into preliminary instruction and evaluation, pre-live fire simulation, magazine and shooting position, grouping and zeroing, practice qualification, and final qualification.

Dec 30, 2019

Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tankers operated by the U.S. Air Force are fully operational again after a three-month ban on carrying cargo and passengers. The ban was put in place after cargo locks were deemed deficient.

Dec 30, 2019

A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper has been used by French forces in Mali to kill 33 terrorists. The attack was carried out just two days France confirmed it would be deploying the remotely-piloted aircraft.

Dec 30, 2019

The Boeing MH-139A helicopter, dubbed Grey Wolf, will be used by the U.S. Air Force to provide roving security for the more than 440 Minuteman III missile silos in five states as well as in the Washington, D.C., area. Boeing won a $2.38 billion contract to build up to 84 militarized versions of the “off the shelf” AW139s. The first aircraft has been delivered for testing and the USAF expects operational deployment to begin in 2021.

Dec 30, 2019

Russia's first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles has been put into service and President Vladimir Putin says they are invulnerable to interception by “any existing and prospective missile defence.” He says the nuclear-capable missiles can not only exceed Mach 20 but also are highly manoeuverable. A test a year ago evidently saw the weapon strike a target at a range of 6,000km.

Dec 24, 2019

Canada’s top naval officer, VAdm Art McDonald says new frigates, expected to enter service in the mid-to-late 2020s, are being designed with ballistic missile defence in mind, even though successive governments have avoided the U.S. program. He says while they likely will not have the capability initially, design decisions will facilitate the installation if there’s a federal policy shift.

 

Dec 24, 2019

Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik says the U.S. has allocated $175 million next year in military aid for the Baltic states, its NATO allies bordering on Russia. The total includes $125 million in general military aid and $50 million earmarked for air defence capabilities of Latvia and Lithuania as well as Estonia.

Dec 24, 2019

The fledgling U.S. Space Force is being decried by China as a “direct threat to outer space peace and security.” A foreign ministry official says his country is “deeply concerned about it and resolutely opposed.” The U.S. said last February that China and Russia had begun a major push to develop technologies that could allow them to disrupt or destroy western satellites.

Dec 24, 2019

China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to promote dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea as political rhetoric between the two continues to frustrate efforts to wind down North Korea’s nuclear program. The announcement was made by South Korean President Moon Jae-in after a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Dec 23, 2019

Manuel Marrero Cruz, formerly Cuba’s minister of tourism, the country’s economically-critical source of foreign revenue, has been confirmed as its first prime minister since 1976, when the position was scrapped by Fidel Castro. Marrero, whose appointment was ratified unanimously the National Assembly, will take on some of the responsibilities held by President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Dec 23, 2019

The Conservative Party of Canada has rescheduled its national convention to November from April and opted for Quebec City rather than Toronto, preferring to focus on the process of replacing Andrew Scheer as leader. No date for a leadership convention has been decided.

Dec 23, 2019

After an abortive mission to the International Space Station, the CST-100 Starliner transport capsule designed by Boeing Defense, Space & Security has returned safety to earth, landing in New Mexico 22 December, two days after its Florida launch. Managers are reviewing data to determine whether another unmanned mission is needed before the capsule can be used to deliver crews to the ISS. The problem with the latest test was that the module’s intrernal clock did not synchronize with the Atlas V booster.

Dec 23, 2019

During a recent political rally in Michigan, U.S. President Donald Trump diverted from his script to talk about Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 stealth fighters – and the aesthetic attributes of their pilots. “Honestly, they’re better looking than Tom Cruise,” he said at one point, referring to the star of the upcoming Top Gun movie sequel. “These guys are so good looking. . . . Just like central casting.”

Dec 23, 2019

The Japanese cabinet has approved a record ¥5.31-trillion (nearly $6.37 billion Cdn) budget, up 1.1 per cent from 2019 but still subject to legislative approval by the Diet. The seventh consecutive annual increase, it represents 13 per cent growth since Shinzo Abe took office as Prime Minister in 2013.

Dec 23, 2019

Dennis Muilenburg has stepped down as president and chief executive officer of The Boeing Company, the latest fallout from the 737 MAX mess. Board Chairman David Calhoun is to succeed him 13 January with Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith serving as interim CEO.

Dec 23, 2019

Russia’s and China’s use of their UN Security Council veto to block cross-border aid for Syrian refugees is being condemned by Canada and other countries. The veto came as Russian-backed Syrian forces have gained ground against the last opposition enclave in Syria's northwest and thousands of Syrian refugees fled into Turkey.

Dec 23, 2019

The first two Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships scheduled for delivery to the Royal Canadian Navy in 2020 could be spending as much time in the Caribbean as they do in the North, according to RCN Commander VAdm Art McDonald. He says planners see a role for the ships in providing disaster relief as hurricanes in southern waters grow in size and intensity.

Dec 23, 2019

NATO’s operation of its new Alliance Ground Surveillance drone fleet in Europe’s regulated airspace will rely on Italian rules. The “military type” certification for the Northrop Grumman Global Hawks, five of which are to be based in Italy in 2020. evidently includes no information about certification for operation alongside civilian aircraft, or whether they are authorized to fly in Italian airspace at all.

Dec 23, 2019

Key elements of the Royal Canadian Navy’s proposed new patrol frigates have been questioned in an unsolicited industry critique presented to the senior officials overseeing the program. Among other things, it questions the Department of National Defence’s preferences for the ship’s radar as well as its main deck gun and anti-missile system.

Dec 20, 2019

U.S. Army Gen Mark Milley, the 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is defending the 18-year war in Afghanistan in the face of criticism that senior military commanders presented a rosier public assessment of the conflict than was evident on the ground. “There’s an assertion out there of some sort of coordinated lie,” he said 20 December. “I find that a bit of a stretch. More than a bit of a stretch, I find that a mischaracterization.”

Dec 20, 2019

An uncrewed demonstration flight of Boeing’s new Starliner capsule, designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, had to be cut short 20 December when excessive fuel consumption prevented it from leaving earth orbit. Launched from Florida, it is expected to land in New Mexico in two days.

Dec 20, 2019

CAE Elektronik GmbH has signed a contract with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency to provide the German Navy with a comprehensive training solution for its fleet of 18 NH90 Sea Lion search and rescue helicopters. The contract calls for a full-mission simulator as well as cockpit procedures, operational tactics and winch/hoist trainers in a purpose-built facility.

Dec 20, 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's agenda for Britain to quit the European Union at the end of January moved closer to fruition 19 December with a 358-234 first-reading vote in the House of Commons of his EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. It also would also ban an extension of the transition period, during which the UK adheres to many EU rules, beyond 2020. Parliamentary debate on the bill resumes 7 January.

Dec 20, 2019

The Belgian Army got less than it bargained for in a €31-million upgrade of its 13-year-old fleet of 44 Austrian-built Pandur armoured vehicles - less interior headroom, that is. Overall interior volume has been reduced but the maximum height of a driver or gunner now is less than 1.7m, a problem in a country whose citizens are among the tallest in the world on average. 

Dec 20, 2019

There were no surprises in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s year-end CBC interview. Among other things, he discussed “regional dynamics” within Canada as well as climate change, energy options and NATO as well as the new North American trade pact awaiting ratification and the potential for one with China.

Dec 19, 2019

Palestinians’ right to self-determination has received new backing from Canada in a UN General Assembly vote. The 17 December resolution was endorsed by 166 other countries while the United States, Israel and three other states voted against it. Canada’s support has been relatively consistent for more than a decade.

Dec 19, 2019

Tina Kaidanow, a State Department veteran who moved to the Pentagon last year, stepped down 16 December as senior adviser for international cooperation. She is the fifth high-level Department of Defense official in a single week to either leave or announce plans to do so. Michael Vaccaro, the DoD’s director for international armaments cooperation, will be her acting successor.

Dec 19, 2019

Majid Jowhari, a Toronto-area Liberal MP first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 and re-elected in October, is flatly denying allegations by an Iranian-language television network that he has worked with and accepted money from the Iranian government. The unsubstantiated allegations were aired on the U.S.-based Iran-e-Farda network by a freelance journalist described as a close collaborator with Masoud Molavi, a former Iranian intelligence agent who was shot to death 14 November in Istanbul.

Dec 19, 2019

U.S. Air Mobility Command officials met 17 December with 14 companies for an “industry day” to discuss how the U.S. Air Force could use civil refueling aircraft on certain missions, freeing up its own fleet for more training and operations. The Command faces an equipment shortage as it tries to bring long-delayed Boeing KC-46 aircraft into service.

Dec 19, 2019

The Government Accountability Office says the U.S. Air Force must do a better job of managing deployments of the Air National Guard and Reserves personnel it relies on to support Special Operations missions. USAF Special Operations Command as well as the wider USAF community have increasingly relied on these personnel for operational needs, including warfighting, rather than mainly in support roles. The GAO says they need more predictability and preparation to be seconded from their civilian careers.

Dec 19, 2019

The U.S. Department of Defense is being advised by the Rand Corp. to adapt artificial governance structures which would permit a more coordinated scaling up of AI use. A new study of AI issues also prompted the respected think-tank to recommend, among other things, a five-year road map for the project and close working relationships with the corporate and academic sectors.

Dec 19, 2019

>Even as South Korea struggles to deal with a U.S. demand that it pay more toward maintaining American military there, it was among the top 10 customers for U.S. manufactured weapons in the last five years. A recent report by the Defence Agency for Technology and Quality puts South Korea’s 2014-2018 imports from the U.S. at $6.28 billion, good for fourth place behind Saudi Arabia at $13.5 billion, Australia at $7.8 billion and the United Arab Emirates at $6.92 billion<

Dec 19, 2019

Estonia, Latvia and Finland have signed a letter of intent to pursue a joint purchase of new armored vehicles. The two Baltic states are NATO members while Finland is a NATO partner, but they all share their borders with Russia.

Dec 19, 2019

As a nonaligned NATO partner sharing more than 1,300km of border with Russia, Finland is keenly aware of the need to keep its national defense in top shape. Defence Minister Antii Kaikkonen talked about a range of issues and challenge during a recent U.S. visit, including the growing use of artificial intelligence as well as “traditional” military technologies such as planned replacements for the air force’s 62 Boeing F-18 Hornets.

Dec 19, 2019

Even as some U.S. Defense officials say they’re unhappy with efforts by the European Union to play a larger role in regional security, NATO’s top officer says the alliance’s working relationship is yielding benefits. U.S. Air Force Gen Tod Wolters, a four-star who is Supreme Allied Commander Europe, says he consults with the EU Military Committee’s chairman, Gen. Claudio Graziano, Chief of the Italian Defence General Staff, as often as he does with NATO’s military chairman, British Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.

Dec 19, 2019

Prototypes for improved combat boots are being assessed by the U.S. Army with a view to making the footwear lighter, more flexible and easier to break in.

Dec 19, 2019

A new session of the British Parliament opened 17 December with a Speech from the Throne through which Queen Elizabeth, on behalf of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s majority government set out plans for quitting the European Union, among other things. Top priority is being given to a Withdrawal Agreement Bill which must be passed before 31 January if Johnson is to meet his declared timetable.

Dec 18, 2019

As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 18 December to impeach President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the third president in history to be so charged. The two votes were divided along party lines in the Democrat-controlled house; the votes were 239-197 on the abuse of power and 229-198 on obstruction. The situation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate for a formal trial, expected early in the new year, with Senators functioning as ostensibly impartial jurors.

Dec 18, 2019

Kate Purchase, executive director of communications and planning in the Prime Minister's Office, leaves this week after more than six years as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She is moving to a position with Microsoft.

Dec 18, 2019

SNC-Lavalin Construction has been fined $280 million, to be paid over five years, after pleading guilty to fraud over $5,000 in relation to its dealings with Libya, notably the son of the country’s now-deceased leader, Moammar Gaddhafi. In a statement of fact presented in a Montreal courtroom, it was agreed that the company paid $127 million to two shell companies between 2001 and 2011, including $47 million to Saadi Gadhafi for helping it to secure construction contracts.

Dec 18, 2019

Tensions between Turkey and Greece, both members of the NATO, continued to rise this week as Turkish F-16 fighters crossed into Greek territory and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threated to have naval vessels conduct exercises in the area.in the Aegean Sea. The latest air incident occurred 17 December when Greek fighters engaged in 16 mock dogfights to drive the Turkish aircraft out. The violations apparently were a response to Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos’ declaration that his country has military supremacy in the Aegean.

Dec 18, 2019

An increase in advance funding for more Boeing CH-47 Chinooks has been approved by congressional officials even though the U.S. Army wanted to procure fewer of the twin-rotor helicopters next year. The Army had wanted to divert funds toward development of future vertical lift aircraft for long-range assault and attack reconnaissance roles.

Dec 18, 2019

Engine issues which have led to long delays in U.S. Marine Corps plans to get its new Sikorsky CH-53 King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters into operation evidently have been mostly mitigated or addressed. The USMC took first delivery in May 2018 only to find approximately 125 technical issues necessitating design changes. Initial operations now are not expected until 2021, two years later than planned.

Dec 18, 2019

A Spanish shipbuilder, Navantia, has been dropped from the pool of bidders for The Netherlands’ program to replace four submarines because it could not fulfill industrial cooperation requirements. That leaves Naval Group of France, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems of Germany and Saab-Kockums of Sweden competing for a contract which is expected to be awarded in 2022.

Dec 18, 2019

Jerry DeMuro, chief executive officer of the U.S. subsidiary of Britain’s BAE Systems llc, will transfer control next year to chief operating officer Tom Arseneault. Taking on a newly-created role of executive vice-president of strategic initiatives, including evolving cybersecurity requirements, DeMuro will remain on the board of directors.

Dec 18, 2019

A few days after the U.S. Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin about the operations of a Russian surveillance ship, the Viktor Leonov, in the vicinity of U.S. naval bases in Georgia and South Carolina, it returned to international waters 18 December. “Unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements,” the USCG said in its bulletin.

Dec 18, 2019

Steven Walker, 21st director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will be leaving 10 January to take up an undisclosed role in the private sector. Deputy Director Peter Highnam, a former director of research at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, will assume the role in an acting capacity until a successor is chosen.

Dec 18, 2019

Less than two weeks before their current defence-sharing arrangement is due to expire, South Korea and the United States failed 18 December to strike a deal over hosting some 28,500 U.S. troops. Seoul says Washington wants up to $5 billion more annually, a five-fold increase over its 2019 contribution. Negotiators missed a year-end deadline last time around but managed to reach a retroactive agreement earlier this year.

Dec 18, 2019

A $788-billioh defence spending bill, approved by Congress and requiring President Donald Trump’s signature, includes initial Space Force funding. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the draft 2020 National Defense Authorization Act 17 December only a few days after the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives had approved it.

Dec 18, 2019

All members of the German military, the Bundeswehr, will be able to travel free on the national rail service, Deutsche Bahn, through a new program which will cost the government an estimated €4 million annually. The initiative evidently is designed to improve military recruitment and to address a slump in passenger rail traffic

Dec 18, 2019

China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, has been commissioned in a 17 December ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping. Conventionally powered, it is similar in basic design to a Soviet-era carrier purchased from Ukraine in 1998.

Dec 18, 2019

Britain’s new Conservative government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to block at extension of the post-Brexit transition period beyond 2020. It could have been extended by two years but Johnson has told Parliament that draft legislation to prevent that is designed to end years of “deadlock, dither and delay.” He also reiterated his determination to “get Brexit done” by 31 January. 

Dec 18, 2019

It’s been seven years since the Canadian Army retired its last ground-based air defence systems and with the prospect of no replacement for perhaps eight more years, the new Commander of the Canadian Army, LGen Wayne Ayre, says the program is “right at the top of the pile of stuff I want to get into.” He says the September drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi petroleum facilities underscores the “emerging threat.”

Dec 17, 2019

Researchers at several U.S. facilities are collecting and deciphering data from high energy x-rays of skulls to better understand bone mechanics and potentially develop better military helmets.

Dec 17, 2019

The fact that a U.S. Air Force prototype unmanned aerial system flew for two and a half days recently is seen as something of a breakthrough in that commercial technology can be adapted to build affordable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The autonomous Ultra-Long Endurance Aircraft Platform, which is expected to reduced procurement costs, is slated to remain aloft even longer in future testing.

Dec 17, 2019

The U.S. and China have agreed to the first phase of a trade agreement that will see the U.S. reduce tariffs and at least temporarily calm fears of an escalating trade war. The deal hinges on China buying more U.S. agricultural produce and making new commitments on intellectual property, technology transfers and currency.

Dec 17, 2019

With Boeing opting not to bid on the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles, Northrop Grumman has emerged as the sole contender for the $85 billion design contract. Both companies were awarded contracts for technical and cost elements in 2017. The USAF expects the next contract to be awarded late in the 2020 fiscal year.

Dec 17, 2019

Some details of an otherwise classified U.S. helicopter deployment over Washington, which has been generating noises complaints by local residents, have been made public by the Army. It received congressional approval in September to reallocate funds for an “emerging classified flight mission”, includong $1.55 million for aircraft maintenance, air crews and travel. Operational details remain classified, but the Army says it now is “prepared to respond to a natural or manmade disaster.”

Dec 17, 2019

The U.S. Department of Defense says that, contrary to public assumptions, increased combat operations do not lead to more suicides by military personnel and, conversely, may reduce the prospect. This is according to a study of more than 17 decades of Army data.

Dec 17, 2019

A Chinese university student is effectively being shut out of mainstream Chinese society for having quit the People’s Liberation Army. A PLA website says Zhang Moukang faces eight penalties, including a two-year ban on foreign travel; traveling within China on planes, long-distance trains or buses; buying real estate; getting loans or insurance; opening a business; and enrolling or studying in college or secondary school. Nor will he be permitted to get a government job, even temporarily, including with enterprises where the state controls most companies.

Dec 17, 2019

Results of a poll by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, released 17 December, suggest that Canadians want to see the Conservative Party become more centrist in its policies. Some 60 per cent of the respondents said they want the party to take climate change more seriously and 57 per cent say they want a more progressive stance on social values. In each case, 40 per cent of “core” Conservatives shared those views. As for who should succeed Andre Scheer as leader, former federal procurement minister Rona Ambrose appears be the preference not only of the broader sampling but also the Conservative core.

Dec 17, 2019

Pakistan’s former military leader, Pervez Musharraf, was sentenced to death in absentia by a special court in Islamabad 17 December. The court ruled 2-1 that he had committed high treason, a charge pending since 2013 and arising from his suspension of the country’s constitution in 2007 and imposition of emergency rule in a bid to extend his presidency. Musharraf led a coup in 1999 and served as president from 2001 until he resigned in 2008 to avoid impeachment. In Dubai for medical treatment since 2016, he calls the case against him baseless.

Dec 17, 2019

Former Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, 75, convicted of money laundering and corruption, has been sentenced in Khartoum to two years detention in a centre for older prisoners. Also accused of genocide, al-Bashir jailed opponents and former allies during his nearly three decades in power.

 

Dec 17, 2019

An Economic Update released by Finance Minister Bill Morneau 16 December projects the federal budget deficit for the current fiscal year at $26.6 billion. That compares with last spring’s budget forecast of $19.8 billion. The 2020-2021 deficit is expected to be at least $28.1 billion. Morneau’s department says the increase in this year’s outlook is largely driven by changes to how employee pensions and benefits are calculated but it also accounts for income tax break scheduled to take effect in two weeks.

Dec 17, 2019

Sami Bébawi, a former senior SNC-Lavalin executive has been found guilty in Quebec Superior Court on five counts of fraud and corruption arising from the engineering giant’s close ties with the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Having headed the company’s international construction division, he was portrayed by Crown prosecutors as the key to an elaborate scheme to bribe Libyan officials.

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