Where did the Coronavirus originate? President Donald Trump’s administration is strongly pushing the unfounded theory that it was the product of a laboratory in Wuhan. US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, at one point claimed that there was “enormous evidence” to support this. However, no evidence has yet been produced.
Agencies within the Five Eyes intelligence community (shared signals intelligence between US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) reportedly have no evidence to apportion blame. This seems to be supported by the scientific community. No other nations are supporting the ‘laboratory theory’ either, with most opinion focusing on the belief that it started in a wet market selling wildlife in the city of Wuhan.
The question is, does sowing seeds of doubt by suggesting a Chinese ‘cover up’ in this way, not to mention attacking the World Health Organisation, serve to deflect blame away from the current Administration’s handling of the crisis in an election year.
Media reports of interest:
Report USAToday, 10 May: The head of a research group that studies bat-borne coronaviruses in China similar to the COVID-19 strain that’s ravaged the globe has warned that a US government decision to cut funding to his organisation imperils American public health.
EcoHealth Alliance’s research grant was abruptly terminated last month by the National Institutes of Health, the primary agency of the US government responsible for biomedical and public health research. EcoHealth Alliance’s research in China is focused on identifying and warning about coronaviruses dangerous to human health.
The National Institutes of Health confirmed EcoHealth Alliance’s $3.4 million grant, distributed over six years, was canceled on April 24. But it would not discuss details about how the decision was made.
The Guardian, 7 May: “Dr Hume Field, science and policy advisor for China and Southeast Asia with EcoHealth Alliance and an international authority on emerging zoonoses associated with bats, said an investigation into the origin of Covid-19 “should be driven by science, not politics”.
Field, an epidemiologist who worked on the multi-national investigation into the origin of Sars which included scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said the the molecular biological evidence demonstrated no evidence that SARS-Cov-2 was created or manipulated in a laboratory.
“It’s puzzling to me, there is a perfectly natural or scientific explanation staring you in the face. But there seems to be a need from some people to say ‘that’s too simple, there must be a conspiracy here’.”
The Guardian, 14 April: “The Pentagon’s top general [General Mark A. Milley] stated that US intelligence has looked into the possibility that the coronavirus outbreak could have started in a Chinese laboratory, but that the ‘weight of evidence’ so far pointed towards ‘natural’ origins.”
There are now increasing international voices calling for an independent investigation to look at how the virus developed and how it was allowed to spread. Euronews reported on 6 May that: “According to the EU’s Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell, a draft resolution outlining the plan will be presented at the WHO’s annual World Health Assembly on 18 May.”
Until there is an ‘independent investigation’ within China, the uncertainty will continue.
DEFENCE AND COVID-19
NATO PROJECT LOOKS TO IMPROVE DIAGNOSTICS TO TACKLE COVID-19 SECOND PHASE
On 5 May, a NATO announcement stated that the organisation was launching “a practical scientific project to develop new tools for a rapid and accurate diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection.” Its aim is to increase the speed and efficiency of COVID-19 diagnosis.
This two year project, delivered through NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) programme, is being led by scientists from Italy’s Istituto Superiore di Sanità (National Health Institute) and Tor Vergata University Hospital together with the University Hospital of Basel University in Switzerland.
The longer term benefits of this research was summed up by Professor Silvio Brusaferro, president of the National Health Institute: “This project is very important, especially in the context of new indispensable tools that we will have to deal with the second phase of the health emergency.”
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND PLEDGE MUTUAL DEFENCE INDUSTRY SUPPORT THROUGH COVID-19.
On Saturday 9 May, a joint statement was issued by Ron Mark, New Zealand Minister of Defence, and Melissa Price, Australian Minister for Defence Industry.
During a joint teleconference on 7 May 2020, involving Australian Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, and Minister for Defence Industry, the Melissa, with New Zealand’s Minister of Defence, Ron Mark, the conversation centred on how the defence industries of both nations could be supported throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the joint statement: ‘Ministers emphasised the importance of the Closer Economic Relations Agreement and the Australia and New Zealand Government Procurement Agreement, which creates and maintains a single ANZ government procurement market.’
In went on to outline “opportunities for competitive ANZ suppliers to demonstrate their ability to offer value for money and provide quality goods and services in support of industry capability development in both countries. It also reduces the cost of doing business for both government and industry.”
“Close industrial engagement is in our mutual interest noting the importance of resilient global supply chains for all,” Minister Price said. “We discussed how companies like Hawker Pacific and Airbus Australia Pacific play a crucial role in supporting both Australia and New Zealand’s defence forces during this time.”
All parties emphasised the need for the maintenance and recovery of both national defence industries and for the need to work together throughout the crisis. it was noted that some “New Zealand companies qualify as local industry under specific industry programmes.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: (If your company is donating equipment or services to the military or government to help in the fight against COVID-19, let us know and we will publicise it here in the weekly briefing).
GENERAL NEWS AND ITEMS OF INTEREST
NATO AIR STRIKES CONTINUE AGAINST DAESH IN NORTHERN IRAQ
On 5 May the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed that on Tuesday 28 April two Typhoons from the Royal Air Force flying from their base at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, had attacked Daesh targets to the north-east of Bayil, northern Iraq.
According to the MoD, the RAF still maintains daily armed reconnaissance missions over Iraq and eastern Syria as its contribution towards preventing Daesh, which has not been completely defeated despite statements to the contrary, from gaining momentum again.
The two Typhoons were joined by other coalition aircraft to attack a series of cave entrances where intelligence sources stated that Daesh operatives were based. The Typhoons used Paveway IV precision-guided bombs against six target caves.
Earlier last month on 10 April, a pair of Typhoons supported by an RAF Reaper UAV identified then attacked a Daesh group who had occupied buildings west of west of Tuz Khurma, according to the MoD. Precision guided bombs were used in this attack.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace commenting on the attacks said: “The strikes continue because the Daesh threat is relentless and so will we be.”
US GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS
Highlighting a selection of $100 million+ government awarded contracts awarded between 4-8 May 2020:
No contracts over $100 million announced. Best of the rest:
AAI, doing business as Textron Systems won two contracts for its Aerosonde Mk4.7 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The first was a $25 million contract for three Aerosonde Mk4.7 systems, initial spare parts, logistics support, new equipment training and two field service representatives. Work will be performed in Nigeria.
The second was a $20 million contract for two Aerosonde Mk4.7 systems, initial spare parts, new equipment training, logistics support and a field representative. Work will be performed in Uganda. Both contracts via US Army Contracting Command.
AAI, again doing business as Textron Systems, was awarded a $20 million contract modification for engineering and technical services for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) and Unmanned Surface Vehicle program. The UISS will allow the Littoral combat ship to perform its mine countermeasure sweep mission and targets acoustic, magnetic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types. The award is through Naval Sea Systems Command.
DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Royal Food Service Co.,* Atlanta, Georgia, has been awarded a five year $465 million ID/IQ contract for fresh fruit and vegetables. Customers are Army, Navy and Department of Agriculture schools. Contract through the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY
Boeing has received a $128 million contract on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense development and sustainment contract. The value of this contract, including options, is increased from $11.2 billion to $11.3 billion. This is for continued support to Ground-based Midcourse Defense by manufacturing C2 boost vehicles, booster spare parts and associated avionics to maintain fleet and flight test programmes. The Missile Defense Agency is the contracting activity.
DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Intuitive Surgical received a $420 million five year contract for surgical robots, instruments and their related accessories. Using customers are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. Contract through Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
Huntington Ingalls Industries received a $187 million contract modification to prepare and make ready for the refuelling complex overhaul (RCOH) of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Huntington Ingalls Industries is the original building yard contractor for all ships of the CVN-68 class, the reactor plant planning yard, the lead design refuelling yard and the only private shipyard capable of refuelling and overhauling nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Contract through Naval Sea Systems Command.
Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems has received an award for $325 million for the repair of the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared System used in support of the F/A-18 aircraft. Work is expected to be complete by May 2025 with annual work funds of $54 million. Via the Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapon Systems Support.
US AIR FORCE
StandardAero was awarded a $237 million contract for maintenance, repair and overhaul repairs of the J85 engine. Contract through the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
No contracts over $100 million announced. Best of the rest:
DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Point Blank Enterprises received a $81 million contract for body armour. Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Contract through Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a $60 million contract to provide US Trident II Strategic Weapon System (SWS) ship alterations and United Kingdom SWS ship alterations for Strategic Systems Program shipboard integration installations. Contract through Strategic Systems Programs.
EVENTS RECENTLY RECONFIRMED
UK Air Land Integration Conference
17-18 November 2020, Reading, UK.
(Formerly the Close Air Support Conference)
Organised by Omega Conferences & Events
Egypt Defence Expo
7-10 December 2020, Cairo, Egypt.
Statement from the organiser: “Clarion Events is continuing to closely monitor the latest public health and government advice in each of the markets where we operate around the world and we are carefully following their guidelines.”
No cancellations advised since last week.
Keep safe and healthy everyone.
Armada International / Asian Military Review