US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan, 15 April, 2021.

“This Officer works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.” – Apocryphal Officer Fitness Report.

Dear Readers,

The withdrawal of American and, for that matter, NATO and coalition forces from Afghanistan is politically expedient. The Taliban still control the majority of the countryside with government forces holding the metropolitan areas – a classic counter-insurgency scenario. The progress that has been achieved after 20 years of counter-insurgency is in danger of being all but lost if the militant Taliban wrest control from the current government and return Afghanistan to a state ruled by a harsh and oppressive version of Sharia Law.

Al Qaeda may not be the force it once was, but its presence is still detected within the Taliban. But the threat of Islamic extremism, currently spreading throughout Africa in a variety of countries, may find an opportunity should Afghanistan spiral into a ‘power vacuum’ over the next few years if the government loses control.

The new strategic approach from the traditional western power brokers looking to retain ‘the rules based international order’ is a commitment to support ‘partners and allies’ to meet national threats using their own internal armed forces backed by training, arms sales and likely intelligence support – as now seems to be the case regarding Afghanistan.

Following campaigns in the first couple of decades of the 21st Century in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, there is a greater emphasis in supporting ‘partner’ nations to conduct fighting by proxy, so that the traditional power brokers do not have to commit large scale forces to costly foreign campaigns with no defined end point. However, in many cases this will be expecting much from nations where corruption and cronyism supersedes political and military effectiveness.

The decision to merge U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) with U.S. Europe Command (EUCOM) creating U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) shows how concerning the growth of Daesh on the African continent has become. But with Russia increasingly rejuvenating as a peer threat the new command will have to be strategically agile between its ‘big Army’ verses COIN requirements – which are not always mutually compatible.

Apologies – no quiz this week.

Editor


AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE ASSESSES ‘BIG 4’ THREATS AND CHALLENGES FOR THE COMING YEAR


”Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic,” stated the introduction of the 2021 Annual Threat Assessment Report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday 9 April.

While the complete document merits reading, I have selected a number of statements that defence analysts will be watching keenly over the next year:

CHINA
“China’s increasing cooperation with Russia on areas of complementary interest includes defense and economic cooperation.” – Expect to see an increase in joint exercises and perhaps technology exchange in terms of defence equipment. (Ed)
Also
“Beijing will continue to promote the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to expand China’s economic, political, and military presence abroad, while trying to reduce waste and exploitative practices, which have led to international criticism. China will try to increase its influence using “vaccine diplomacy,” giving countries favoured access to the COVID-19 vaccines it is developing. China also will promote new international norms for technology and human rights, emphasising state sovereignty and political stability over individual rights.” – China pushing to replace the United States as partner of choice for nations, particularly those that are currently non-aligned. (Ed)

RUSSIA
“Private military and security companies managed by Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin extend Moscow’s military reach at low cost, allowing Russia to disavow its involvement and distance itself from battlefield casualties.” – Intervention through thinly disguised deniability. (Ed)

TEHRAN
“We expect that Iran will take risks that could escalate tensions and threaten US and allied interests in the coming year.” – Risk taking should usually be avoided in unstable international relations (Ed)

PYONGYANG
”Kim [Jong Un]… aims to achieve his goals of gaining prestige, security, and acceptance as a nuclear power through conventional military modernisation efforts, nuclear weapon and missile development, foreign engagement, sanctions-evasion, and cyber capabilities.” – Taking actions to get noticed as he has demonstrated on numerous occasions. (Ed)

EMERGING TECHNOLOGY
“New technologies, rapidly diffusing around the world, put increasingly sophisticated capabilities in the hands of small groups and individuals as well as enhancing the capabilities of nation states. While democratisation of technology can be beneficial, it can also be economically, militarily, and socially destabilising. For this reason, advances in technologies such as computing, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and manufacturing warrant extra attention to anticipate the trajectories of emerging technologies and understand their implications for security.


SOUTH KOREAN BORDER GUARDS TO TRIAL AI AS LONE SWIMMER BEATS THE SYSTEM

The sensitive border between North and South Korea is one of the most highly watched in the world, yet a North Korean man who swam around the coastal border on 18 February has prompted the South Korean Defence Ministry to test a new artificial intelligence (AI)-based security system.

A man swimming shore near the town of Goseong triggered military surveillance cameras 10 times but the guards monitoring did not notice or respond to eight of the warnings which included ringing alarm bells. The man was actually seeking to defect and was not a military spy.

Described as a pilot project, the AI-system will be employed by the 22nd Infantry Division in Goseong by 2022 if it proves a success. Current systems along the border include security cameras, thermal observation devices (TODs) and movement sensors.

The type of AI to be used has not been released.


US MAJOR ARMS SALES (Defence Security Cooperation Agency – DSCA).

No further updates.


US GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS

Highlighting a selection of $100 million+ government awarded contracts awarded between 12-16 April 2021 and Foreign Military Sales contracts.

16 April
US ARMY
(Highest award of the day). J. Kokolakis Contracting was awarded a $44 million contract for a reception complex. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the contracting activity.

US NAVY
BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems has been awarded a $13.6 million modification contract that exercises an option to procure the following kits and associated data: five OE-120B antenna groups, three retrofit kits, three installation and checkout kits, and one delta installation and checkout kit for the Navy; and one OE-120B antenna group and one retrofit kit for the government of Australia in support of the OE-120B/UPX Identification Friend or Foe Antenna program. Fiscal 2021 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $6.2 million; fiscal 2021 other procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $800,898; fiscal 2020 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $4.1 million; fiscal 2019 other procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $274,746, and Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $2.2 million will be obligated at time of award, The Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting activity.

15 April
US NAVY
Colonna’s Shipyard West; East Coast Repair and Fabrication; Epsilon Systems Solutions; Marine Group Boat Works; Pacific Ship Repair and Fabrication; Propulsion Controls Engineering; and South Coast Welding and Manufacturing, are awarded a maximum value $114 million modification to exercise Option Period Four to previously awarded IDIQ contracts to provide non-complex emergent and continuous maintenance on surface combatant ships (DDG and CG) and amphibious (LSD, LPD, LHA, and LHD) ships homeported in or visiting San Diego, California. Southwest Regional Maintenance Center is the contracting activity.

Northrop Grumman Systems received an $8 million order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement that provides for the production and delivery of AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Set weapons replaceable assemblies to include 182 sensors, 54 computer processors, and 12 Countermeasures Signals Simulator test gun sets for the Air Force and the governments of the Czech Republic, Bahrain, Morocco, India, Spain, Austria and Greece. Fiscal 2020 aircraft procurement (Air Force) funds in the amount of $324,086; and Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $7.9 million will be obligated at time of award. The Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting activity.

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Salus Medical Products has been awarded a $100 million IDIQ contract for radiology systems, accessories and training. Using customers are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.

14 April
US AIR FORCE
(Highest award of the day). West Coast JV has been awarded a $95 million IDIQ contract for the Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements program. This contract provides for a broad range of maintenance, repair, and minor construction work on real property at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada Test and Training Range, and Creech AFB, all located in Nevada. The 99th Contracting Squadron is the contracting activity.

13 April
US NAVY
American Fashion Fitness; Fabrox, doing business as Fit USA; SND Manufacturing; and String King, are each awarded an IDIQ contract for the purchase of up to a combined maximum quantity of 1,800,800 physical training uniforms. The maximum dollar value for all four contracts combined is $146 million. American Fashion Fitness is awarded $46 million. Fit USA is awarded $40.8 million. SND Manufacturing is awarded $35.3 million. String King is awarded $23.2 million. The Marine Corps Systems Command is the contracting activity.

Bell Boeing Joint Program Office has been awarded a $143 million contract for the logistics and repair support of MV-22B, CMV-22 (Navy) and CV-22 (Air Force) Osprey components. Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support is the contracting activity.

ManTech SRS Technologies is awarded a $100 million IDIQ contract for range sustainability services for military training and testing range complexes and assets at various locations worldwide. The Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command is the contracting activity.

12 April
US ARMY
Lockheed Martin has received a $447 million order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement that provides for the production and delivery of 12 MH-60R aircraft for the government of the Republic of Korea. Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $447 million will be obligated at time of award. The Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting activity.


EVENTS CONFIRMED

No further updates.


EVENTS CANCELLED 

No further updates.


Andrew Drwiega
Andrew Drwiega, Editor-in-Chief, Armada International / Asian Military Review.

Best wishes,

Andrew Drwiega

Editor-in-Chief
Armada International / Asian Military Review