Weekly bulletin WE 17th March 2019
The Russian Defence ministry has released figures for new and upgraded hardware received by the Russian armed forces for the period 2012-2018. In the past 6 years, Russia has received 3,700 new/and/or upgraded tanks, over 1,000 warplanes and combat helicopters, several warships and 7 submarines. In the same period, its armed forces also received more than 200 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 17 Bal and Bastion coastal defense systems. Other facts and figures to keep in mind: Cruise missile numbers have grown thirtyfold and cruise missile carrier numbers have grown twelvefold. Ten new brigades armed with Iskander missile systems have been formed and the number of contract soldiers has doubled to 394,000 servicemen within the same 2012-2018 time frame.
Finally, a little nugget of information: Russia has tested 316 different pieces of the equipment in Syria, from individual soldier’s kit to warplanes and ammunition.
Proposed 2020 US Defence Budget and INF.
The budget proposes to purchase between 80 and 144 F-15 over a long period of time. A few units would be purchased every year in order to offset the amount of ageing planes in the fleet.
Another shock proposal seems to be the willingness to offload 15,000 uniformed medics onto the civilian market. The plan offers to convert those dentists, nurses, physicians and surgeons positions to civilian jobs.
The theme of this proposed budget seems to be focused on R&D, especially in the domains of stand off missiles, cyber capabilities alongside unmanned vehicles and hypersonic vehicles.
In other news, this week, the US DoD has confirmed it will go ahead with the manufacture of components for Ground Launched Cruise Missiles before withdrawing from the INF. The US had announced last month that they suspended their compliance with the INF treaty which bans both ground launched intermediate range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. This statement gave the US a 6 months notice before exiting the treaty or reintegrating it. Not only has Washington announced it will restart manufacturing components for such missiles, it has also announced its willingness to test two previously banned missiles asap. A ground launched cruise missile with a range of 1,000 kilometres might be ready for testing as soon as August this year and an intermediate range ballistic missile with a maximum range of between 3,000km and 4,000km should be ready for testing as soon as November 2019. The Pentagon has announced that neither of those missiles would be nuclear tipped.
A couple of weeks ago, Moscow said it would pursue the development of ground launched missiles banned under the INF should Washington do so. With this latest confirmation, it is now almost 100% probable that the INF treaty is dead. Welcome back to the 1980’s !
The question of where those missiles would be deployed remains… To be effective against China, those missiles would need to be installed in Guam or on the territory of local US allies such as Japan and South Korea. Likewise, to be effective against Russia, those would need to be deployed on the territory of NATO member states. Nevertheless, the US has not yet consulted its allies on the matter.
The Blue Angels are scheduled to upgrade some of their old F-18 Hornets by second hand early model SuperHornets… The Blue Angels routine will be shorter and their maneuvers will be modified to put less stress on those old airframes and increase safety…
A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been quarantined at sea for more than two months because of a virus outbreak. The viral infection in question is called Parotitis. The symptoms are apparently similar to the mumps. The warship impacted is the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship. 25 sailors and Marines have been infected from December onward but all are expected to make a full recovery. The ship has nevertheless been able to function properly.
Concerns were recently expressed regarding the low levels of manpower and recruitment within the Royal Navy. At current levels, it is suspected that the Navy would have to pick crews from various other RN frigates and destroyers to be able to fully man both UK carriers. As such, creating a UK battlegoup would be impossible and other missions would be impossible to fulfil as it would leave several frigates and destroyers manned by skeleton crews. As things already stand, several RN ships are currently docked or relegated to training duties due to the lack of adequate manpower to be able to fulfill complex missions.
The Chinese Navy has apparently just reached 40% of the total tonnage of the US Navy. The US Navy is still the largest, globally. However, while the US Navy is present all over the world, the Chinese currently focus on their near abroad, operating under the umbrella of their air force and coastal batteries. As such the Chinese enjoy numerical and firepower superiority over the disputed Sea of China area.
Belgium has retired its last Westland Sea King helicopter. It operated up to 5 of those over the past 43 years for shore patrols and Search and Rescue duties. As such, the Belgian “Red Noses” flew 60,000 hours, responded to over 3,000 distress calls and saved 1757 lives throughout their careers. The Sea Kings are being replaced by NH-90 helos.