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Russia, Philippines sign contract for delivery of RPG-7B grenade launchers

4:54:00 AM Add Comment

CLARK /Philippines/, October 24. /TASS/. Moscow and Manila have signed a contract for the delivery of the Russian-made RPG-7B grenade launchers and ammunition to the Philippines.

The contract was signed by Russia’s Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheyev and Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana in the presence of Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu.

The signing ceremony took place in the Philippines’ Clark, where the fourth meeting of defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and dialogue partners is being held.


Rila MRAP enters production

6:37:00 AM Add Comment

The International Armored Group (IAG) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed to Jane’s that it has secured an export order for its latest 4x4 Rila mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) with production already underway.

As with all IAG wheeled armoured vehicles, the Rila MRAP has been developed using internal research and development funding.

IAG briefed Jane’s that the Rila MRAP is based on an Italian Iveco Trakker chassis, which is fitted with an all welded monocoque steel armour hull with the lower part being the traditional V-hull type.

Ballistic protection level can be configured to the end user’s requirements but according to IAG, this can be to STANAG 4569 Level II, III, or IV standard through a full 360° as well as the roof of the vehicle.

Blast protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IED) is stated to be STANAG 4569 Level 3a, 3b, or 4a.

The vehicle is powered by a 6-cylinder 12.6 litre turbocharged inline diesel developing 380 hp coupled to an automatic transmission.

Suspension is of the leaf spring type with telescopic shock absorbers and run-flat tyres are fitted as standard with the option of a central tyre inflation system for improved cross-country mobility.

Gross vehicle weight is currently being quoted as 18,000 kg, of which 4,500 kg is available for crew accommodation, fuel, weapons, and mission equipment. It is fitted with a 12 V or 24 V electrical system.

Seating arrangements can be configured for specific customer requirements but is typically commander and driver to the rear of the engine compartment and 10 dismounts seated five down either side at the rear facing inwards.

All crew members are provided with blast attenuating seats with a headrest and five-point harness. The seats can accommodate personnel wearing ballistic protection and hydration packs.


Reaper operations ramp up in France

6:35:00 AM Add Comment

The sole French General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper based in France has taken part in its first international close air support exercise, ‘Serpentex 2017’, above Corsica in the last month.

France’s MQ-9s have operated out of Niamey, Niger, for Operation ‘Barkhane’ since 2014, but the first domestically based French MQ-9 only began flying out of Air Force Base 709, its home base in Cognac, southwestern France, on 6 July.

The Reaper flying out of Cognac is controlled by a French landing and recovery element (LRE), although, as in Niamey, GA-ASI provides the ground maintenance element.

Exercise ‘Serpentex’, which took place from 11-29 September this year, trains joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from several NATO countries to conduct close air support missions, with the French Reaper used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) duties and to lase targets on the exercise’s range. The Reapers flown during Operation ‘Barkhane’ have been used to ‘buddy-lase’ precision-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles launched from Mirage strike aircraft and Tiger HAD helicopters respectively.

An average of one Reaper mission per day is launched from Cognac for Exercise ‘Serpentex’. The unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV’s) transit from Cognac to Corsica involves a three-hour flight at an average speed of 180–210 kt along a specific military air corridor, which is activated specifically for the duration of the flight.


Fishermen on Senkaku Islands: Why Do Japanese Have To Withdraw From Japanese Territory?

6:33:00 AM Add Comment

September 11 marked the 5th anniversary of the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands (part of Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture) that had previously been privately owned.

Since then, China Coast Guard ships sailing through the waters around the islands have become the norm, and China has boasted that it has broken de facto Japanese control of the islands. In addition, the ships entering the waters around the islands have increased their military capability, and there have been repeated incursions. 

In February 2016, in response to the incursions, the Japan Coast Guard set up the Senkaku Security Unit. However, confrontations between the safety agency and Chinese ships are continuing, and even now local fishermen cannot approach the fertile fishing grounds surrounding the islands.

Although the islands and waters around Senkaku are Japanese territory, the incursions have prevented the Japanese from exploiting the resources. “How long is this situation going to continue,” the fishermen and residents of Ishigaki ask.

Japanese authorities say, “We are headed for a long conflict.”

Five years ago, when the huge number of Chinese Coast Guard ships first appeared, the command of the Japan Coast Guard expressed readiness to provide security for the islands. At that time, China was strengthening its de facto control over the South China Sea, and it was anticipated that they would try to do the same with the Senkaku Islands. 

From early on the Japan Coast Guard modeled the creation of a special security unit for the islands and worked steadily to respond. Moreover, in addition to the continual procession of Chinese government ships, the frequency of provocative acts has increased. About two years ago, the Chinese dispatched government ships armed with machines guns. Their oceanographic research vessels have been conducting surveys repeatedly without permission.

According to the Japan Coast Guard, a total of 643 Chinese government ships have made incursions into the waters around the Senkaku Islands since these were nationalized in September of 2012.

In this context, it cannot be said that the security provisions of the Japan Coast Guard are fully adequate, and there is a need for support above and beyond the special unit for the Senkaku Islands.

The Japan Coast Guard command warns of an impending crisis: “If there are accidents or incidents other than those involving the Senkaku Islands, it will be difficult to dispatch ships in response. It really feels like we are treading on thin ice.”

Chinese Take Over Fishing Grounds

Fishermen in Ishigaki can only sigh over the ongoing situation that shows no sign of resolution. “We certainly do not want the situation where we cannot work to continue indefinitely,” said Yasumasa Higa, 60, former head of the Okinawa Prefecture Association of Fishermen.

The area around the Senkaku Islands is a singularly good fishing ground because the Japan Current (Kuroshio) brings plankton that serves as food and makes the waters a gathering place for high value fish, such as hamadai (etelis). The waters are also known as a spawning ground for blue fin tuna. 

Unfortunately, after the nationalization of the area, not just Chinese government vessels but Chinese fishing boats have pushed into the waters around the Senkaku Islands.

Japanese fishermen have had to contend with 3,000-ton-class Chinese ships that pursue the much smaller Japanese fishing boats, and with Chinese fishing boats that cut Japanese nets. To avoid trouble, the Japanese fishermen have been forced to move to other areas to fish.

Hitoshi Nakama, 67, a member of the Ishigaki municipal council who serves as patron of the Association to Protect the Senkaku Islands, says: “China is doing whatever it wants. If this ends with de facto control like Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks, held by South Korea, and called Dokdo or Tokdo in Korean), the situation will only get worse.”

Our Territory Is Being Taken

Adding to the conflict over possession of the Senkaku Islands is the Japan-Taiwan Fisheries Agreement concluded in April 2013. This was intended to check Chinese-Taiwan joint fishing operations by recognizing the right of Taiwanese fishing boats to operate in the waters around the Senkaku Islands but Chinese-Taiwanese fishing vessels have taken advantage of the latitude in the agreement.

“We had to withdraw in the face of an onslaught of Chinese-Taiwanese fishing boats. While the Senkaku Islands are and have been Japanese territory, why is it that we are the ones who have to exercise self-restraint and withdraw?” Higa lamented.

At the same time, Japan has not stationed government officials on the islands, and has not engaged in the construction of berths for ships. It has followed a foreign policy of avoiding actions that provoke China.

However, if the situation continues to worsen, there is concern that Japanese control of the Senkaku Islands will be further weakened.

At the end of July, Study Times, the house organ of the Central Party School that trains the Chinese Communist Party cadres, published an article celebrating the accomplishments of Xi Jingping, president of China and the Chinese Communist Party. 

With respect to the Senkaku Islands, it emphasized, “In the fall of 2013, he declared an air defense control area for the South China Sea and in one stroke brought an end to the long standing ‘de facto control’ by Japan through the regular dispatch of patrol flights.”

President Xi Jingping has stated his intent to make China “a powerful maritime nation.” Through the dispatch of ever more heavily-armed patrol vessels, it appears that he will be increasing the pressure on Japan.

On Uotsurishima, the shrubs that cover the island are withering due to foraging by goats. Nakama plans to put forward a resolution at the regular municipal assembly session scheduled for September, asking for a ground survey. 

“Nationalization in and of itself was a good idea but it’s about time for development to begin. It’s necessary to break out of this situation where even the local residents can not get close to the islands,” he said.

The islands are approximately 440 kilometers from the main island of Okinawa and 330 kilometers from the Chinese mainland. The group includes Uotsurishima, Kitakojima, Minamikojima, Kubashima, and  Taishoto. The surrounding territorial waters and connected area are similar in shape to the island of Shikoku and about the same area. The islands became a Japanese possession in 1895. On September 11, 2012, in order to provide for their stable management, the Japanese government nationalized three islands: Uotsurishima, Kitakojima, and Minamikojima. In 1971, China began asserting that the islands were Chinese territory.


Get Ready: China Could Build New Artificial Islands Near India

6:29:00 AM Add Comment

There are growing fears, particularly in India, that China may soon launch an island reclamation project in the Indian Ocean.
The fears stem from a constitutional amendment passed by the small archipelagic nation of Maldives last week, which for the first time allows foreign ownership of Maldives territory. Specifically, the constitutional amendment allows foreigners who invest over $1 billion to own land, provided that at least 70 percent of the land is reclaimed from the sea.
Since July 2013, China has launched a massive reclamation project in the South China Sea that has created 2,000 acres of artificial landmass in five Spratly island outposts. Some 75 percent of this been dredged this year alone.
Unnamed Indian officials have told local media outlets that they are “concerned” that China now plans to do the same in some of the Maldives’ 1,200 islands, which are located strategically in the Indian Ocean.   
They are not alone; domestic opponents of the amendment have expressed similar concerns. For example, Eva Abdullah, one of just 14 parliamentarians to vote against the amendment, told The Diplomat “this will make the country a Chinese colony.”
She elaborated by saying, “what I fear is that we are paving the way for the establishment of Chinese bases in the Maldives and making the country a frontline state between India and China, thereby disturbing the current balance of power in the Indian Ocean. We cannot ignore the increasing rivalry between India and China.”
Maldivian and Chinese officials have sought to temper such fears, however. In a statement given to Reuters, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Beijing “has always respected and supported the Maldives' efforts to maintain its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
The statement added that “what the relevant people said about China building bases in the Maldives is totally baseless.” China has claimed that it will never build oversea military bases.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has similarly dismissed fears that China will reclaim the islands and use them for military purposes. In a public address, Yameen said: “The Maldivian government has given assurances to the Indian government and our neighboring countries as well to keep the Indian Ocean a demilitarized zone.” 
Vice President Ahmed Adeeb echoed Yameen in an interview with The Hindu this week, saying: “Our sovereignty is not on offer… We don’t want to give any of our neighbors, including India..any cause for concern. We don’t want to be in a position when we become a threat to our neighbors.”
While the Indian government appears to have officially accepted Maldives’ assurances, others are more skeptical.
Anand Kumar, an analyst the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA), noted “The constitution has been amended for the benefit of the Chinese. It is only China which has capacity to acquire 70 percent of the land.”
Others were alarmed at how fast the constitutional amendment was approved. Indian sources have noted to local media outlets that the legislative process in Maldives often takes weeks and months. By contrast, one Indian source tells the Indian Express that “the parliamentary panel reviewed and approved the Bill within just one hour… that raises alarm bells.”
Even before the new constitutional amendment was passed, India had been growing increasingly concerned with Maldives, a country that it considers to be in its sphere of influence. Earlier this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled a planned trip to Maldives after prominent members of the opposition, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, were jailed by the Yameen administration.
Similarly, even before the new amendment was proposed, Indian officials were alarmed by Maldives’ growing ties with China since President Yameen assumed power in November 2013. China has been investing heavily in Maldives in recent years as part of its Maritime Silk Road initiative.
Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Maldives last year, where he promised further investment, including in the Male International Airport. Chinese tourism to Maldives has also grown steadily in recent years, providing a hefty economic sum for the small nation.
China has also been trying to make inroads with other coastal South Asian nations like Sri Lanka as part of what many fear is Beijing’s “String of Pearls” strategy for the Indian Ocean.


'PH failed to detect signs that led to Marawi' – expert

6:08:00 PM Add Comment

The Marawi crisis 'is a failure of government to act based on sound and timely intelligence,' terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna says

MANILA, Philippines – Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna criticized the Philippine government Friday, September 22, for failing to read signs of the "build-up" of the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS) in the Philippines, leading to the siege of Marawi City.

"The Philippines failed to detect, to read, the indicators, the signs, and the clues that led to Marawi. We have to acknowledge that," Gunaratna said on Friday.

"If governments do not understand to read the indicators, then another Marawi is inevitable in this region," he also said.

Gunaratna was speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Conference on Peace and the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Southeast Asia at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

The expert was referring to the May 23 siege of Marawi by the terrorist Maute Group, which is linked to ISIS. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

The Marawi siege triggered clashes with the Philippine military, and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to put Mindanao under martial law.

The Marawi clashes have killed at least 147 government forces, 45 civilians, and 660 terrorists. The crisis has also forced more than 600,000 Filipinos out of their homes.

'Not an intelligence failure'

In a speech, Gunaratna pointed out that the Marawi siege "is not an intelligence failure," but "an operational failure."

"It is a failure of government to act based on sound and timely intelligence," he said.

He explained that before the Marawi siege, the Philippine intelligence community had already produced 4 reports on the "build-up" in Marawi. The latest of these reports was published on April 14.

"So you can see that as we look at the expansion of IS in the Southeast Asian region, for governments, it is very important to read the signs, indicators, and clues of the build-up of groups in certain cities," he said, referring to ISIS by its other acronym, IS.

He added that the expertise of ISIS "is distinct" from that of terror groups Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and Jemaah Islamiyah, "which was largely fighting in the rural areas."

In contrast, he said, "if you look at IS, it was always moving from the desert to the cities," such as Mosul and Raqqa.

Gunaratna also said that "IS central advised those groups that occupied Marawi on how to conduct the battle in Marawi."

He cited advice from "IS central" on May 24, just a day after the Marawi siege. This was for the Maute Group to "quickly get a drone up," as the Armed Forces of the Philippines approached Marawi. "So you can see the guidance."

Duterte and previous leaders

At the same time, Gunaratna noted that President Rodrigo Duterte "acknowledged that IS is operating in the Philippines." (READ: Duterte says martial law due to ISIS threat)

"Unfortunately, the previous leaders, the previous bureaucrats, said there's no IS in the Philippines. So I think that the President understood that to fight IS, he needed to identify them," Gunaratna said. (READ: Admit ISIS presence in Philippines, analyst says)

"Identifying the problem itself is 50% of the solution," he said.

Former Philippine president Fidel V Ramos, who was in Friday's event, also gave his own "very sound advice" on the Marawi crisis.

"The Marawi uprising could have been prevented if only there was more of what we call in ASEAN 'musyawarah-mufakat.' What is that? Musyawarah means consultation. Mufakat means consensus," he said.

Consultation, he said, can be done through the government mechanism called Legislatic-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac).

Created by Ramos in 1992, Ledac advises the President and is composed of the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other government leaders.

Ramos, who endorsed Duterte for president, said "consultation" has taken a different form under the former Davao City mayor.

"Now the consultation is only among the party leaders. Ano 'yon?" (What's that?) –


Singapore seen as top spot to launch global cyber attacks

6:05:00 PM Add Comment

NEW YORK — Singapore has overtaken nations including the US, Russia and China as the country launching the most cyber attacks globally, according to Israeli data security firm Check Point Software Technologies.

The company, whose software tracks an average of eight to 10 million live cyber attacks daily, said Singapore rose to pole position after ranking in the top five attacking countries for the previous two weeks.

“It is not particularly unusual for Singapore to be featured among the top attacking countries,” said Eying Wee, Check Point’s Asia-Pacific spokeswoman.

A key Southeast Asian technology hub, much of the internet traffic flowing through Singapore originates in other countries. That means a cyber attack recorded as coming from Singapore may have been launched outside the country, she said.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore said there are a number of reports measuring cyber attacks, which are based on various methodologies and therefore provide different perspectives of the situation.

“As a commercial hub with high interconnectivity, Singapore is undoubtedly an attractive target for cybercriminals,” a spokesman for the agency said in an email, adding that it’s important for the nation to maintain high cybersecurity standards and take necessary measures to protect its systems and data.

Cyber Defense

The city-state, which wants to become a global technology hub, recently stepped up efforts to tighten cyber security after several high profile attacks on government agencies and companies.

“Singapore has now found itself on someone’s list,” Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said in July. “The attacks are orchestrated, the attacks are targeted, they want to steal specific information, there are minds behind this orchestration.”

Earlier this year, Singapore’s military established a cyber defense unit while the government drafted legislation to impose new cyber security requirements aimed at helping companies protect critical information infrastructure.

In May, Singapore stopped most of its public servants from being able to access the internet from their work computers. The nation’s central bank has also set up an international advisory committee dedicated to enhancing the safety and resilience of Singapore’s financial sector. BLOOMBERG