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Thursday, April 12, 2018

What's going on in the World Today 180412


U.S. Naval Update Map: April 12, 2018

U.S. Air Force To Kick Off Competition For New A-10 Wings

Mar 27, 2018 Lara Seligman | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
President Donald Trump’s signature on the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill last week gave the U.S. Air Force the green light to move forward with re-winging the A-10 Warthog so the venerable attack aircraft can fly into the 2030s.

The fiscal 2018 appropriations act includes $103 million for the Air Force to restart production of A-10 wings—a necessary step to keep the aging fleet flying for at least the next decade. Out of a fleet of about 280 A-10s that need new wings, Boeing has re-winged about 170, but the remaining 109 aircraft are still flying with their original wings from the 1970s...

Secretive X-37B Military Space Plane Wings Past 200 Days in Orbit
By Leonard David, Space.com's Space Insider Columnist

That mission, known as Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5), began Sept. 7, 2017, when the robotic spacecraft launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

According to Air Force officials, one payload flying on OTV-5 is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, or ASETS-11, of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). This cargo is testing experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes for long durations in the space environment. [The X-37B Space Plane: 6 Surprising Facts]

The X-37B space plane has a payload bay about the size of a pickup-truck bed, which can be outfitted with a robotic arm.
The X-37B space plane has a payload bay about the size of a pickup-truck bed, which can be outfitted with a robotic arm.
Credit: Boeing




New Version Of Turkish Anka UAV Emerges

LONDON—Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has developed and flown a heavily modified version of its Anka medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system equipped with a signals or communications intelligence payload.

Images of the platform, believed to be called the Anka-I, were uploaded to social media sites by Turkey’s defense procurement agency SSM on March 24 and quickly deleted, but not before several users had saved the images and re-uploaded them.

The Anka-I is believed to be a development of TAI’s Anka-B, introducing additional performance and endurance over the Anka-A development aircraft. But it can only be operated through line-of-sight operation because it lacks the beyond-line-of-sight satellite communications system of the Anka-S model currently entering service with the Turkish air force.

The Anka-I is believed to be using a sub-suite of Aselsan’s Multi-Int intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor suite developed for multimission aircraft, replacing the standard electro-optical camera and side-looking airborne radar of other versions. The aircraft carries 14 different aerials around the fuselage as well as large cheek fairings containing four sensor apertures. It is unclear whether the cheek fairings are on both sides of the aircraft, as the images online only show the aircraft on the starboard side...

Vietnam: A Coast Guard Counter in the South China Sea

As China continues to steadily ramp up its quasi-military forces, countries around the South China Sea are responding by strengthening their own maritime enforcement capabilities in the competition for sea lanes, natural resources and disputed territory. On April 11, Vietnam's National Assembly released a draft bill outlining potential changes to the authority, functions and structure of the country's coast guard. Significantly, the proposal would empower the coast guard with greater flexibility on when to open fire at sea, raising the risk of skirmishes in waters where the undefined boundaries already lead to fishing conflicts and other disputes...


Merkel’s Military Revival

Germany is poised to become Europe’s first line of defense, but facing down a revanchist Russia will require more spending and better coordination among NATO allies.

For months after Germany’s September 2017 election, it was unclear whether Chancellor Angela Merkel could form a viable new government. The widespread anxiety over the outcome of the coalition talks finally dissipated after the Social Democratic Party (SPD) decided on March 4 to join the government, cementing Merkel’s continued leadership. With political instability and populism rising across Europe, the formation of a new coalition government in Germany led to universal expressions of relief.

But if Germany wishes to achieve its ambitious regional and global leadership goals, it will need to enhance the ability of its armed forces, the Bundeswehr, to act abroad. And this will require a substantial increase in national defense spending. Germany has long lagged in defense spending despite being Europe’s largest economy.Germany has long lagged in defense spending despite being Europe’s largest economy. Among NATO allies — all of whom are treaty-bound to meet a mandated annual defense target of 2 percent of GDP — Germany ranks 17th in the EU at 1.2 percent and is nowhere close to meeting this target at present. Over the past two decades, German defense spending has gradually decreased to the current level of $45.9 billion, which renders Germany largely unable to project force abroad...


Mexico: Revised NAFTA Details Likely In May

Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said there is an 80 percent chance that NAFTA parties could reach an agreement in principle by the first week of May, adding that progress was made when the United States backed down from its 50 percent domestic content requirement and 85 percent regional content requirement for automobiles, Inside U.S. Trade reported April 9. Guajardo also noted the urgency for the United States to present a plan for a revised trade agreement to the U.S. Congress, before midterm elections in the fall. Though U.S. President Donald Trump hoped to present a revised NAFTA deal at the Summit of the Americas from April 13 to April 14 in Lima, it is more likely that a preliminary deal could be revealed.










Everyone Loves Israel Now

There's much more to the Arab world's newfound friendship with Israel than ganging up on Iran.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Arab world today is how relatively uncontroversial Israel has become. During 11 days of travel through Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, we heard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict mentioned only once. This is a dramatic shift from decades during which hostility to Israel served as perhaps the most important unifier of often fractious Arab governments.

But if the change is real, it’s also very easily misunderstood. At a conference held at Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies last year, an Arab colleague was asked, “When will Arab states finally accept Israel?” His concise, and accurate, response: “When they realize that they are better off with Israel there than had Israel not been there...”


The US-DPRK Summit: Assessing Chinese Anxieties

The visit by the mysterious North Korean visitor on Monday raises wide speculation about what China and North Korea are jointly planning ahead of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summits with South Korean President Moon in April and with US President Trump in May. Information about the meeting is scarce. And the visit is probably best characterized as the convergence of Chinese desire to remain relevant and North Korean desire to manipulate US and China against each other. It is a direct result of the announcement of a Trump-Kim Summit earlier this month and reflects the Chinese maneuver to address the potential exclusion of China in a deal that could impact the future of not only the Korean Peninsula, but also the region.

When news broke on March 8 that President Trump had agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the whole world was taken by surprise. In China, the announcement evoked two different reactions. Among Chinese foreign policy wonks, there was palpable anxiety over the perception that the Chinese government had been reduced to the role of an interested bystander and that its strategic interests would be sacrificed in the US-DPRK bilateral negotiations. Officially, China’s reaction appears to be much more positive. In President Xi Jinping’s phone conversation with President Trump on March 10, he hoped that “US and North Korea will initiate their engagement and dialogue as early as possible and strive for a positive result.” The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a positive statement...

Bad History Makes for Flawed Policy

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the United States,” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a day after Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day speech last year. “It won’t happen.”

Now the North Korean leader has made Trump’s pledge possible. He has stopped testing just short of demonstrating a reliable thermonuclear weapon and an ICBM with a reentry vehicle capable of delivering it. If President Trump is prepared to negotiate in earnest and live up to his commitments, he might make his wish come true—but not if he heeds advice to confront Kim at the summit with an ultimatum to disarm or else. John Bolton may offer that advice in the mistaken belief that brandishing sanctions and threatening war gives Trump leverage, but Kim retains far greater leverage by resuming tests.,,


Syria: What to Make of Russian Threats Against a U.S.-Led Strike

Russia's explicit threat issued on April 11 to shoot down missiles and target deployment sites in the event of a U.S.-led military strike on Syria has caused a great deal of consternation. The statement fits with a Russian pattern of threats against U.S. assets in the war-torn country, and it is not likely to change U.S. intentions to punish the Syrian government for its purported use of chemical weapons against a rebel-held area. The latest developments appear to be just another chapter in the continuing back-and-forth between the countries over Syria; they include Russian moves to cut communication avenues with the United States, the United States responding to ameliorate the issue, then the two sides eventually returning to talks over deconfliction, where the two sides coordinate military action to avoid incidents between them. Those talks are where Moscow has routinely tried to steer the dialogue away from battlefield tactics and toward the overarching strategic issues between it and Washington...

...At this point, we are not seeing signs of U.S. carriers surging into the region. Of the carrier groups currently deployed, the USS John C. Stennis is training in the Pacific Ocean and the USS Theodore Roosevelt is conducting a port visit in Manila, Philippines. The USS Harry S. Truman, which left April 11 from its home port in Norfolk, Virginia, cannot realistically be in position to participate in a Syrian strike for an additional four or five days. The present force structure implies that any U.S. response will remain a punitive strike with a limited range of targets. Delay of the strike to allow more assets such as the Truman to move into place could portend an intent to expand the target set or conduct a more sustained strike over time for greater effect.”


The Signs, Options and Risks of a U.S. Strike on Syria
- The United States is building a military coalition to deter Syria's use of chemical weapons.

- This coalition may conduct a broader operation with a bigger target list than the U.S. strikes conducted in April 2017, but it would not be intended to change the civil war's frontlines.

- Like 2017's strikes, any potential operation will try to avoid Russian casualties and mitigate risk of further political escalation for the coalition.

The United States is building a coalition against Syria to respond to an alleged chemical weapons attack on April 7 against civilians and rebel forces in Douma, near Damascus. The primary objective of an operation against Syria will be to deter the further use of chemical weapons, something that a punitive missile strike launched last April by the United States did only temporarily...

Saudi Arabia shoots down missiles from Yemen; one dead from debris

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi air defenses shot down seven ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi militia on Sunday, with debris killing a man in what was the first death in the capital during the Saudi-led coalition’s three-year military campaign in Yemen.

Saudi forces destroyed three missiles over northeastern Riyadh shortly before midnight, as well as others fired at the southern cities of Najran, Jizan and Khamis Mushait, the coalition said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Debris from the missiles fell on a home in Riyadh, killing an Egyptian resident and wounding two other Egyptians, said coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki, according to SPA.

Reuters reporters in Riyadh heard several booms and saw smoke in the air. Another witness said he saw a long stream of light followed by additional explosions....




Motive Matters: Why the Austin Bomber Wasn't a Terrorist

By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor

Although the wave of fear caused by Austin bomber Mark Anthony Conditt subsided after he took his life with one of his own bombs as police closed in on him, a great deal of debate continues over whether he should be labeled a terrorist. Unfortunately, this is a controversy that arises nearly every time there is a case of mass violence in which the perpetrator did not have an affiliation with, or act in support of, a terrorist organization.

In the Austin case, Conditt left a lengthy recording in which he reportedly confessed to the bombing spree and even outlined how he constructed each of the devices he deployed. However, what he did not provide in that message was any indication of motive based on ideology, hate or politics. In fact, according to an account of the recording published by the Austin American-Statesman, authorities have noted that Conditt felt no remorse for the killings, describing himself as a psychopath.
Battlefield Biotech: The Rising Competition Between China and the U.S.

Biotechnologies, especially gene-editing techniques, are evolving at a rapid pace. China's domestic sector is catching up with the West most rapidly in the area of health care.

China's compulsion to overcome environmental and demographic constraints will ensure it continues to give priority to developing its domestic biotechnology sector.

The West, in turn, will watch for shifts in Chinese policy that would allow for foreign participation in the country, while moving to protect its intellectual property there..
Boeing, Rolls-Royce Back Reaction Hypersonic Engine Developer

LOS ANGELES—Boeing and Rolls-Royce have joined BAE Systems as key investors in UK-based hypersonic engine developer Reaction Engines.

The emergence of Boeing and Rolls-Royce as new backers in the latest round of strategic fundraising represents a significant endorsement for Reaction, which is designing and testing an air-breathing, combined-cycle rocket engine concept. Dubbed Sabre, the rocket burns liquid hydrogen with oxygen it extracts from the atmosphere rather than from onboard tanks, enabling long-range hypersonic cruise as well as, potentially, cheaper access to space.

Reaction says the £26.5 million ($37.5 million) in new funding also includes additional investment from BAE Systems, which injected £20.6 million into the company in 2015. Other investors in this round include Baillie Gifford Asset Management and Woodford Investment Management. Reaction says the funding, which will take the form of a subscription for new shares, is still subject to the approval of existing shareholders...

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