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Monday, August 3, 2020

What's Going On In The World Today 200803



U.S. Army Upgrades Vision For Future Vertical Lift Programs

Left: Mission systems and aircraft systems will be isolated from each other in the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, with bidders narrowed to the Bell 360 (top) and Sikorsky Raider X. Right: An Increment 2 version of the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft should arrive about four years after either the Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 (top) or Bell V-280 enters service in 2030.

In piecing together a delicate plan to field two advanced rotorcraft simultaneously within a decade, the U.S. Army chose its prioritiea s carefully.

The Army could load the first Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) with advanced new systems and weapons needed for operations in the 2030s or keep to existing or highly mature technologies and field both aircraft years earlier.

Ultimately, the Army selected an acquisition strategy based on the latter. Increment 1 versions of the FLRAA and FARA are now scheduled to enter service together in the third quarter of fiscal 2030. More advanced Increment 2 versions of both should enter service in 2034 and 2035, respectively...

U.S. Naval Update Map: July 30, 2020

Can The Army’s Rebooted Hi-Tech Fighting Vehicle Program Overcome A History Of Failure?

Can The Army’s Rebooted Hi-Tech Fighting Vehicle Program Overcome A History Of Failure?

Last Friday the Army posted a trial Request for Proposals for its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program, which at an estimated cost of $45 billion aims to procure 3,800 armored vehicles to replace the 40-year-old M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) in U.S. Army service.

The Army plans to collect feedback on the draft requirements for several more weeks before issuing a finalized Request for Proposals later this year. This marks a bid by the service to reassure the defense industry it will be more flexible as it revives a defense program that has spectacularly imploded three times over the last two decades—the last attempt as recently as January.

The M2 Bradley is designed to transport mechanized infantry units into battle and provide anti-personnel and anti-vehicle fire support with its rapid-firing 25-millimeter cannon and TOW missile launcher. (There is also a M3 scout model used by armored cavalry units which is largely similar.)

Though the 30-ton Bradley is more heavily armored than most peer IFVs, its suspension and powertrain is now strained by the weight of additional armor protection installed over the years, limiting its mobility and ability to generate electricity to power additional systems.

But two successive programs seeking to devise a Bradley replacements consumed over $19 billion between 2003 and 2014, only to be canceled.

Under the auspice of the broader Next Generation Combat Vehicle program, in 2018 the Army kicked off its third attempt to replace the Bradley called the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), reflecting that the Army wanted the vehicle to be useable without an onboard crew if necessary...

US sends spy planes to S.China, Yellow seas for info on PLA submarine, aircraft carrier moves

On the same day news came out that the US asked China to close its Consulate General in Houston, the US military sent reconnaissance aircraft to the South China Sea and Yellow Sea, a move likely aimed at gathering intelligence on possible submarine and aircraft carrier movements by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), experts said on Thursday. A US Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft and a US Army RC-12X signals intelligence collection aircraft on Wednesday entered the South China Sea and Yellow Sea respectively, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank. Chinese military expert ...[said] the P-8A in the South China Sea could track the locations of PLA surface vessels via radar and optic devices, and detect PLA submarine activities via sonar buoys. It could also gather intelligence on PLA deployments on islands and reefs...


Russia continues to position equipment to support private contractors in Libya, AFRICOM says: The latest imagery from AFRICOM details the extent of equipment Russia is providing to private military company Wagner Group in Libya.

U.S. Africa Command has discovered more Russian military equipment in Libya capable of assisting in operations against the U.S. and United Nations-backed Government of National Accord, officials said in a media release.‘

The latest overhead imagery details military cargo aircraft, air defense equipment, utility trucks, and mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles provided to the Wagner Group — a private military company that U.S. officials have warned has close ties to the Kremlin and is headed by a former Russian intelligence officer.


New Zealand suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong

Praveen Menon

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes following China’s decision to pass a national security law for the territory, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said on Tuesday.

“New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China,” Peters said in a statement.

“If China in future shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework then we could reconsider this decision.”

Beijing imposed new legislation on the former British colony earlier this month despite the protests of Hong Kong residents and Western nations, setting the financial hub on a more authoritarian track.

Australia, Canada and Britain all suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong earlier this month. U.S. President Donald Trump has ended preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong...

How One Component Improved U.S. Navy F/A-18 Fleet Readiness

The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 and EA-18G fleets have experienced a dramatic turnaround. In 2017, less than half of the Navy’s Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets were able to fly. Now, 80% of its carrier-based fighters are ready for missions. The solution involved fixing a single component within the General Electric F414 engine.

The Navy faulted constrained spending following the 2008 financial crisis and increased demand from the wars in the Middle East as reasons for the fleet’s lack of readiness. More specifically, those conditions exacerbated an issue embedded in the military’s vast supply chain.

For 20 years, the Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers have continually had electronic systems and new sensors added that placed greater and greater demand for power from its General Electric engine. That demand taxed a key component of the F414’s electrical power generation system—its generator control unit (GCU), which keeps the generator output within a specified range. Initial attempts to address the GCU’s issues through “component-level reliability improvements were not sustainable,” Navy spokeswoman Gulianna Dunn tells Aviation Week. Eventually, the GCU, already in short supply, failed to keep pace, causing a cascading effect on the availability of the carrier-based fighters. In the words of a Navy program official, the GCU was the “top platform degrader for all naval aviation...”

India wants Russia to join Indo-Pacific initiative to signal it’s not just a US-centric plan

India wants Russia to join the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative as New Delhi sees it as the next logical step to boost bilateral strategic ties with Moscow and mark 20 years of their renewed partnership, multiple sources told ThePrint. The Indo-Pacific initiative is a strategic grouping, seen largely as an attempt to counter China. New Delhi believes that if Russia joins the Indo- Pacific framework, it will no longer be seen as a grouping that is led by the US, something that Moscow has been protesting for long...


The number of prisoners jailed in Europe on terrorism charges at 20-year high, says report

More people are in jail on terrorism-related offences in Europe than at any point in the last two decades, a study has found. The report, published by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), says there are currently over 1,400 individuals held on terrorism- related charges across 10 European countries. France is detaining most of them, 549. Spain follows with 329 people jailed, while 238 are detained in the UK and 136 in Belgium. Other countries mentioned in the report are Sweden (53 prisoners), Netherlands (36), Norway (34), Greece (around 20) and Norway (19).

Suspected German 'IS' member arrested after deportation from Turkey

A woman suspected of being a member of the jihadi group "Islamic State" has been detained in Frankfurt after being deported by Turkey. She faces charges of war crimes and complicity in human rights violations.


Colombian guerrillas are using coronavirus curfews to expand their control. Violators have been killed.

... Armed groups in this violence-fraught nation of 50 million are imposing new levels of control during the coronavirus outbreak, and enforcing some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world — with harsh penalties for violators. In the port city of Tumaco, a narco-trafficking hub in the Colombian southwest, guerrillas posted pamphlets declaring all curfew violators “military targets.” In a warning to all, a medical transport responding to a call after curfew was torched in early May, its driver and patient killed.


Afghan Peace Talks Set to Start as Taliban Announce Eid Cease-Fire

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced his government would soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, thus paving the way for the start of long sought-after peace negotiations with the insurgent group. “With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time. We call on the Taliban to join us at the negotiating table and to conclude promptly a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” he said, adding that a Taliban commitment to a ceasefire during the upcoming Muslim holy festival of Eid will be “an indication of things to come.” Almost on cue, soon after the end of his speech, the Taliban announced a ceasefire for the “three days and three nights of Eid-al-Adha” expected to start late Thursday or early Friday...

U.S. withdrawal opens way for terrorist alliance in Afghanistan

An alliance of terror groups aimed at destabilizing peace in South Asia is emerging in Afghanistan as U.S. troops pull out of the war-ravaged nation, security officials said. Pakistan- based militant organizations, the Lashker-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Afghan Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan, the local affiliate of the terror group, have come together to carry out raids on Indian assets in Kabul and also attacked a Sikh temple in the city, the officials said, requesting not to be identified citing rules on speaking to the media. The alliance is planning to step up attacks in other regions in South Asia, including against troops in India’s Kashmir, they said. A surge in terrorist activity in South Asia, home to quarter of the world’s population and a third of its poor, could result in diversion of resources needed to pull millions out of poverty in the region. There’s also a risk it may lead to a confrontation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, after an attack on Indian forces in Kashmir brought them to the brink in 2019...

UN says thousands of anti-Pakistan militants in Afghanistan

A U.N. report says more than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, most belonging to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban group responsible for attacking Pakistani military and civilian targets. The report released this week said the group, known as the Tehreek-e- Taliban (TTP), has linked up with the Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State group. Some of TTP’s members have even joined the IS affiliate, which has its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan. The Afghan government did not respond Sunday to requests ... for comment. The report said IS in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan province, has been hit hard by Afghan security forces as well as U.S. and NATO forces, and even on occasion by the Afghan Taliban. The report was prepared by the U.N. analytical and sanctions monitoring team, which tracks terrorist groups around the world...


Chinese 'dark fleets' observed fishing off North Korea despite sanctions ban: report

“Dark fleets” believed to be from China have been fishing in North Korean waters, potentially netting Pyongyang millions of dollars in illicit fees and forcing smaller North Korean vessels further afield, a series of reports said this week. The South Korean coast guard as well as independent experts monitoring the implementation of United Nations sanctions have reported for years that ships of Chinese origin have been observed fishing in North Korean waters, in some cases having paid to obtain rights from North Korean authorities...

South China Sea: Australian warships encounter Chinese navy in disputed waters
Australian warships have encountered China’s navy in the disputed South China Sea at a time of heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries. The Australian government has played down the encounter – believed to have occurred last week – saying on Thursday that “all interactions with foreign warships throughout the deployment were conducted in a safe and professional manner”...

China Launches Propaganda for Recognition of Disputed Maritime Claims
Chinese scholars have had scores of reports published in internationally recognized scientific journals containing a mention of their country’s ‘nine-dash line,’ the core of its claim to the hotly contested South China Sea, an American research institution said this month. China is using the journal pieces to promote its claimed demarcation line, Vietnamese scholar Nguyen Thuy Anh wrote in a July 15 article for the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative under the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Journal articles are just China’s latest effort to publicize its nine-dash line for a wide global audience in hopes that the constant reminders will legitimize its claim over the claims of other countries, analysts say...

Second Chinese Icebreaker Heads to Northern Sea Route, Shifting Power Balance in Arctic

In mid-July, China dispatched its Snow Dragon-2 icebreaker to the Northern Sea Route (NSR). This action marks yet another step toward realizing Beijing’s longstanding plans to displace Moscow as the dominant power in the Arctic as well as to establish Chinese preeminence on that east-west maritime corridor, which hugs Russia’s northern coast (see EDM, June 12, 2019 and September 3, 2019). The icebreaker’s voyage has exacerbated Russian concerns about China’s role in the northern polar region. But it has additionally rung alarm bells in Washington and other Western capitals, which do not want to see the Arctic pass from being a Russian fief to a Chinese one. This development, thus, raises the stakes at the next Arctic Council meeting, now delayed until next year. Russia lacks the infrastructure or capital necessary for the NSR’s development; and at the same time, Moscow views a more robust Chinese presence in the Arctic as the lesser evil to an expanded presence by the United States.


Iran moves mock aircraft carrier to sea amid US tensions

Iran has moved a mock aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions with the United States, satellite photographs released on Monday show, likely signalling the Islamic Republic soon plans to use it for live-fire drills. ... Iranian state media and officials have yet to acknowledge bringing the replica out to the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world's oil passes. However, its appearance there suggests Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard is preparing an encore of a similar mock-sinking it conducted in 2015...

Iran launches underground ballistic missiles during exercise

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched underground ballistic missiles Wednesday as part of an exercise involving a mock-up American aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, highlighting its network of subterranean missile sites. Although state television documentaries have focused on operations at underground bases, all have avoided showing geographic details revealing their locations. Wednesday's launch from what appears to be central Iran's desert plateau may have changed that amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S. over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers and as economic pressures grow...




Israel 'thwarts Hezbollah infiltration from Lebanon'

Israel's military has opened fired on Hezbollah militants who were trying to "infiltrate our territory", PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said up to four militants crossed the bor der in the Mount Dov area, part of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. A Hezbollah statement said it had not engaged in any clashes, instead blaming a "nervous" enemy. The area has been tense for days after the death of a Hezbollah fighter. He was killed in an alleged Israeli air strike in Syria. Israel, which has neither confirmed nor denied it carried out the strike in the early hours of last Monday, had warned Hezbollah not to retaliate...

Security Service Tightens Protection Around Netanyahu as Protests Heat Up

The Shin Bet security service revised parts of its protocol for protecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family in the past two weeks in response to the growing protests outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem’s Balfour Street and tensions between demonstrators, police and Netanyahu supporters. Shin Bet officials are also concerned by violent attacks against anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in recent days.... The Shin Bet security service revised parts of its protocol for protecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family in the past two weeks in response to the growing protests outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem’s Balfour Street and tensions between demonstrators, police and Netanyahu supporters. Shin Bet officials are also concerned by violent attacks against anti- Netanyahu demonstrators in recent days...


38 North: N.Korea likely still enriching uranium

US researchers say satellite images suggest that North Korea is continuing to enrich uranium. On Tuesday, the research group 38 North released a report that contains an analysis of the latest satellite imagery from the Nyongbyon nuclear complex. The researchers say that a possible liquid nitrogen tanker trailer was spotted in July at a building believed to be a uranium enrichment plant. They say the substance necessary for the enrichment process could have been delivered. They say they also observed specialized railcars in early July...

North Korea locks down border city as first possible coronavirus case is announced

SEOUL — North Korea locked down the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea after finding what could be the country's first official coronavirus case there, state media reported Sunday.

North Korea’s state-controlled Central News Agency announced “a critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country” after a suspected patient returned from South Korea by illegally crossing the border last week.

Coronavirus test results were described as “uncertain,” but the person was still put under quarantine while health officials launched an investigation into those who might have come in contact with the individual in Kaesong, the state media reported.

If confirmed, he or she would be North Korea’s first official coronavirus patient in a country that has remained “virus-free,” according to Pyongyang authorities...


https://inhomelandsecurity.com/russia-denies-us-uk-accusations-of-weapon-test-in-space/ Russia denies US, UK accusations of weapon test in space In Homeland Security Staff Russia denies US, UK accusations of weapon test in space MOSCOW (AP) — Russia dismissed U.S. and British claims that it tested an anti-satellite weapon in space and declared Friday that the accusations served to justify Washington’s own plans to deploy weapons in orbit. Get started on your Homeland Security degree at American Military University. U.S. and British officials claimed Thursday that the July 15 test of an anti-satellite weapon signaled a continuing Russian effort to develop technologies that could threaten space assets of the United States and its allies. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations, saying in a statement that the July 15 experiment didn’t threaten any other space objects and complied with the international law.


Canada’s fight against ISIS enters new phase leading to fewer troops in Middle East

Canada’s war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has quietly entered a new phase, resulting in plans to keep fewer troops in the Middle East even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes. The Canadian Armed Forces has had up to 850 troops in the region in recent years, including hundreds of military trainers who have been teaching the basics of soldiering to Iraqi forces as part of the global fight against ISIL. The military recalled about half the contingent to Canada in March as COVID-19 spread around the globe.... Brig.-Gen. Michael Wright, who as commander of Joint Task Force Impact oversees most of the Canadian military’s anti-ISIL efforts, says that won’t be the case after allied commanders determined the Iraqi military is now largely able to fight the militant group on its own.


U.S. Counterspy Gives Rare Warning on Foreign Meddling in U.S. Election

Voters should be on high alert for foreign interference in the Nov. 3 U.S. election, the U.S. counterintelligence agency chief said on Friday in a rare warning that the public should screen information, check online sources and report suspicious actions. William Evanina, chief of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), said that with just over 100 days to the election, it was "imperative" his agency share with voters some of the information about possible interference that U.S. spies have given to campaigns and legislators. "The American public has a role to play in securing the election, particularly in maintaining vigilance against foreign influence," said Evanina....

Using deepfake technology, MIT crafts the Nixon ‘moon disaster’ speech that never happened

MIT researchers have used advanced artificial intelligence to rewrite one of mankind’s greatest achievements.... Using archival NASA footage, the team at the Center for Advanced Virtuality made a short film called In Event of Moon Disaster, which presents an alternate timeline where the mission ended in tragedy. It culminates in an eerily convincing Richard Nixon “deepfake” reading the actual backup speech written for the president in case of catastrophe, complete with the fuzzy images and high-pitched hiss characteristic of the era’s CRT televisions. Deepfakes are realistic manipulated videos that use AI models to simulate one’s face and voice. They can be used to depict a figure saying something they never actually said. The video is the centerpiece of an interactive website published Monday, which was the 51st anniversary of the moon landing.


New MI6 boss named as former ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore

A former British ambassador to Turkey and a career Whitehall insider has been named as the next chief of MI6 to replace Sir Alex Younger, who is due to step aside towards the end of the year.

Richard Moore, 57, currently the political director at the Foreign Office, is the surprise pick from Downing Street, which had been expected to appoint Tom Hurd, a senior Home Office official and Eton schoolmate of Boris Johnson.

Moore served as ambassador to Turkey from January 2014 to December 2017, and has also been a deputy national security adviser. A fluent Turkish speaker, he studied PPE at Oxford and first joined MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, in 1987.

Whitehall sources said they believed Moore would bring “an insider’s empathy but an outsider’s perspective” – having formally left the spy agency for a conventional career in the Foreign Office about a decade ago...

...The new chief arrives at a time when MI6 is under pressure to refocus its efforts to targeting hostile states – China and Russia – while the scale of the threat from Islamist terror is unclear after Islamic State lost all its territory and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi...

U.S. charges Chinese researcher with lying, as tensions rise

Federal prosecutors have charged a Chinese cancer researcher at the University of California, Davis, with lying about her ties to the Chinese military and Communist Party when seeking a visa to come to the U.S. The FBI believes she is evading arrest by staying at China's consulate in San Francisco.... Photos accompanying an affidavit for an arrest warrant recently unsealed by a federal judge show the researcher, Tang Juan, in military uniform prior to her move to the United States. Chinese officials did not immediately respond to news of the charges. Federal prosecutors on Monday announced similar charges against Song Chen, a Stanford University researcher also accused of lying about his ties to the Chinese military...


Portland police: Rifle magazines, Molotov cocktails found

A bag containing loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails was found at a park near where protests have erupted for two months in Portland, Oregon, following the death of George Floyd, police said. A photo of the items was shared in a tweet from police late Sunday saying someone pointed out the bag to officers at Lownsdale Square Park late Sunday. No further information was immediately released. The discovery came just hours after two people were arrested following reports that a shot was fired in the same park. Officers responded just before 7:30 p.m. A person believed to be the gunshot victim arrived later at a hospital via a private vehicle with non-life threatening injuries, police said. It wasn't clear if either incident was connected to the demonstrations.,,

Canadian Man Facing Charges ... Posting Personal Details About Portland Federal Agents Online

A Canadian man is facing charges after allegedly posting online the personal information of federal agents deployed to Portland. Robert Bernard Hickey, 44, was arrested by agents from Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday...

New ISIS video calls for arson attacks on U.S.

A new video released by ISIS terrorists urges followers in America to begin a campaign of arson attacks. The four minute-long video is the first new marching orders in a long time from ISIS' propaganda wing, pushing followers to fight fire with fire, literally. The animated tightly- produced video is entitled "Incite the Believers" and many of the scenes are engulfed in flames and, as with previous terrorist "message" videos, it encourages violent criminal acts against Western civilization. This time, ISIS is encouraging followers to start fires for maximum damage and carnage...


Remapping the American Arctic

Rodger Baker, Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor
Jul 24, 2020

Maps play an important role in shaping national policy, and in shaping society’s consciousness and support. But they can also reinforce ideas of relative unimportance by leaving key areas off, or having areas appear as mere incidental inclusions, which can subconsciously constrain developments in foreign policy. Indeed, it is perhaps no surprise that many Americans still fail to recognize the United States as an Arctic nation when the majority of U.S. maps place Alaska in a small inset box, relegating it to a secondary geographic status despite Alaska’s critical role in U.S. national security, from missile defense to the interception of Russian strategic bombers.

Alaska’s Second-Class Map Status

Thanks to Alaska, the United States is one of eight nations in the world with territory within the Arctic Circle. But in its latest poll of American attitudes toward the Arctic, the Arctic Studio noted that nearly half of respondents expressed strong disagreement with the statement “The United States is an Arctic nation...”

Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo Cabin

With commercial flights aboard the suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle approaching, Virgin Galactic on July 28 unveiled the ship’s cabin.

The sleek, mimimalistic design is intended to blend safety for six passengers with maximizing the novel view of Earth from the edge of space and the ability to experience a few minutes of weightlessness unstrapped from seats.

The six seats are attached to the vehicle’s sidewalls, leaving the floor space open. They are set up in three rows, with one seat along each side of the cabin, which is 7.5 ft. (2.3 m) in diameter. The passenger section is set slightly below the cockpit, which will be occupied by two Virgin Galactic pilots...

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