About Me

My Photo
MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1



27 August 2015

Oshkosh Defense Wins JLTV Contract

The US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) has awarded Oshkosh Defense a $6.7 billion firm fixed price production contract to manufacture the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

The JLTV production contract awarded to Oshkosh includes a base contract award and eight option years covering three years of LRIP and five years of FRP. Oshkosh will begin delivering vehicles approximately ten months after contract award. (Photo: Oshkosh)

The JLTV programme fills a critical capability gap for the US Army and US Marine Corps (USMC) by replacing a large portion of the legacy HMMWV fleet with a light tactical vehicle with far superior protection and off-road mobility. During the contract, which includes both Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) and Full Rate Production (FRP), Oshkosh expects to deliver approximately 17,000 vehicles and sustainment services.

Following a rigorous, disciplined JLTV competition, the US Army and USMC are giving our nation’s warfighters the world’s most capable light vehicle – the Oshkosh JLTV,” Charles L. Szews, Oshkosh CEO boasted. “Oshkosh is honoured to be selected for the JLTV production contract, which builds upon our 90-year history of producing tactical wheeled vehicles for US military operations at home and abroad. We are fully prepared to build a fleet of exceptional JLTVs to serve our troops in future missions.” (Photo: Oshkosh)

The JLTV Family of Vehicles is comprised of two variants, a two seat and a four seat variant, as well as a companion trailer (JLTV-T). The two seat variant has one base vehicle platform, the Utility (JLTV-UTL). The four seat variant has two base vehicle platforms, the General Purpose (JLTV-GP) and the Close Combat Weapons Carrier (JLTV-CCWC).

The winning firm or team would build 17,000 vehicles for the Army and Marines in the first three years of LRIP, followed by five years of FRP, according to a Congressional Research Service report. As part of engineering and manufacturing development contracts awarded to the three companies in 2012, each company delivered 22 prototype vehicles. The first Army unit would be equipped with the vehicles in fiscal 2018, and its acquisition would be complete in 2040. The USMC would begin its buy at the start of production and finish in fiscal 2022.

Because of the JLTV programme, our soldiers and marines are getting a level of technical performance that no other vehicle can match,” US Army Maj.Gen. (Ret.) John M. Urias, Executive Vice President of Oshkosh and President of Oshkosh Defense explained. “Our JLTV has been extensively tested and is proven to provide the ballistic protection of a light tank, the underbody protection of an MRAP-class vehicle, and the off-road mobility of a Baja racer. The Oshkosh JLTV allows troops to travel over rugged terrain at speeds 70% faster than today’s gold standard, which is our Oshkosh M-ATV. Looking to future battlefields, we know that our troops will face a myriad of threats. Soldiers and marines can be assured that the highly capable Oshkosh JLTV will perform the mission.”  (Photo: Oshkosh)

According to Oshkosh, its JLTV combines the latest in automotive technologies with the Oshkosh CORE1080 crew protection and TAK-4i independent suspension systems to provide next generation performance. In designing its JLTV, Oshkosh leveraged its extensive experience producing and sustaining more than 150,000 heavy, medium and protected MRAP vehicles for the US and its allies.
Oshkosh beat out Lockheed Martin and AM General to win the contract to build the JLTV, which eventually could cover as many as 50,000 vehicles and be worth as much as $30 billion over the next 25 years.

A tough political fight may lie ahead before production begins. Neither Lockheed or AM General has ruled out filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office, a process that could complicate the multi-decade initiative that will see around 55,000 vehicles roll off the assembly line.

The Lockheed Martin JLTV Team was disappointed to learn that the US Army and USMC did not select our JLTV,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. “We believe we presented a very strong solution and await the customers’ debrief to hear more detail regarding the reasons behind this selection before making a decision about a potential protest.”

We are disappointed with the Government’s decision and continue to believe that AM General and our BRV-O vehicle are the right choice for the JLTV programme, based on our best value offer which is backed by decades of JLTV expertise and proven record as a trusted and reliable partner with the US military,” a AM General spokesman said. “Our BRV-O provides world-class survivability features to Soldiers and Marines while delivering unmatched vehicle payload and performance. We are very proud of our team’s efforts and our BRV-O offering. At this time, we are reviewing the government’s decision and are considering all available options.”

US Army TACOM LCMC has awarded Oshkosh Defense a $6.7 billion firm fixed price production contract to manufacture the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), beating Lockheed Martin's and AM General's offer. (Photo: Oshkosh)
Meritor announced today it plans to supply wheel-ends for approximately 17,000 JLTV to be manufactured by Oshkosh . Meritor's bevel gear hub wheel-ends will help optimise the Oshkosh JLTV's payload capability and mobility, according to the company. 

"For more than half a century, we've supported our troops by delivering technology solutions for military applications," said Tim Burns, vice president, Defense & Specialty for Meritor. "We're proud to support this next-generation light, protected tactical vehicle for the Army and Marine Corps."

Interestingly, according to Col. Shane Fullmer, US Army's JLTV project manager, as an option within the initial $6.7 billion contract, the US Army can buy a technical data package from Oshkosh for JLTV that would allow the service to re-compete production. However, the Army has not decided on that yet.

RUAG Defence – Taking a Holistic Approach at the Impulstag

At RUAG Defence’s annual Impulstag (Stimulus Day) in Thun, Switzerland, the company on 21 August demonstrated their expertise to customers, the armasuisse, and journalists.

RUAG Defence’s laser-based firing simulators (LASSIM) mounted on a PANDUR, only shown to journalists a day before the Impulstag. (Photo: Mönch/DPM)

Effectiveness is the foundation of all mission critical communication, especially in the combat arena where flexible and reliable tactical communication infrastructures must, without fail, allow the necessary coordination between fixed and mobile headquarters with mobile field personnel and their equipment. RUAG’s tactical communication (TACOM) equipment for network enabled operations allow military and homeland security organisations to rapidly deploy a communications infrastructure, to be securely connected, mobile and more effective. The RUAG All-IP access nodes are aligned to the NATO TACOMS architecture for Wide Area, Local Area, and Mobile Subsystems, which includes Radio Access Points along with Interoperability with external public, strategic and legacy networks. RUAG’s product portfolio is built on proven and state of the art technology that has been field tested by several Armed Forces in military environments and by peace keeping forces in multi-national operations.

RUAG's Tactical Communication equipment for network enabled operations allow military and homeland security organizations to rapidly deploy a communications infrastructure, to be securely connected, mobile and more effective. (Graphic: RUAG)

IMFS (Integrated Military Communications System) is the tactical telecommunication system for voice and data of the Swiss Army. It provides high mobility, robustness through meshed topology, and information security. Introduction of the system took place around 2000, and RUAG is the general contractor on behalf of armasuisse. The central element is the IMFS node which can be equipped with terminal, trunk and IP-router modules. As ordered in 2006, the IMFS is equipped with the Com Rack, which extends the classical IMFS services by advanced features such as the IP adaptation for legacy radios. The Com Rack, which is based on the Tactical openAccess platform of products is available in a 19in variant for installation in containers and wheel-based vehicles and as a ruggedised variant for installation in tracked vehicles.

In the combat arena, where flexible and reliable tactical communication infrastructures are a must, effectiveness is the foundation of all mission critical communication. RUAG’s TACOM experts are highly focused on supporting network enabled operations for defence and security organisations. “Based on the Tactical openAccess platform our network equipment such as the Tactical openAccess Node, Tactical LAN Switch and Tactical Power Supply Unit allow military and homeland security organisations to be securely connected, mobile and more effective,” a RUAG executive said.

Key to this mobility is the existence of Tactical Telephony Services (TTEL). This allows the building of a distributed telephony system, whereby the directory can be decentralised and support full user and subnet mobility. This makes a user always individually reachable with the same number, wherever they physically are in the network. TTEL provides seamless voice communications across legacy networks be they military Eurocom networks, analogue radio or digital telephone networks and their functionalities, as well as the modern SIP based VoIP networks. Now prioritisation has been added to the features of the TTEL, providing added functionalities to support communications during crisis and emergency operations. The open platform approach of RUAG also provides customers with flexibility through the easier integration of third party applications.

RUAG’s product portfolio is built on proven and state-of-the art technology which has been field tested by several defence forces in military environments and by peace keeping forces in multi-national operations. Today these solutions form the backbone of tactical communication infrastructures that deliver the highest standards of performance and reliability demanded by national and international military, peace-keeping and crisis management operations.


Earlier in 2015, RUAG has revealed its intention to satisfy symmetric and asymmetric threats to armoured vehicles as the future operating environment shifts to a more hybrid type of warfare.
RUAG Defence is having much success on the international market with its ballistic protection technology. The Swiss have been active in the protection market since the 1980s building it as a side business out of their knowledge of ammunition manufacture. The key to their success is being able to pull together skills and experience from diverse fields like; material technology, environmental conditions, testing, prototyping, simulation and production. According to RUAG Defence’s CEO, Dr. Markus A. Zoller, the current operational threat continues to evolve with opponents becoming more professional in the execution of tactics, techniques and procedures as well as having access to more powerful weapon systems.

According to Zoller, protection of armoured vehicles must be considered holistically and he used the concept of the Protection Onion to illustrate this. The outer shell within RUAG’s sphere of solutions, comprises unmanned technology in a bid to take the man out of physical danger; followed by intelligence for ISTAR systems and protection against cyber-attacks; active protection against rockets and mortars; and finally the core, comprising passive protection. “Protection has to be considered holistically across the four shells and RUAG can address it as an upgrader and as a provider of protection systems,” Zoller proclaimed.

Also earlier this year, RUAG announced that in a joint procurement effort, Austria (lead) and Belgium have awarded RUAG Defence a contract to upgrade their fleet of PANDUR I with ballistic protection kits. All five variants of the PANDUR I will be upgraded with mine-, IED- and ballistic protection. The realisation of the project will start this spring and will be finished by the end of 2020, which could come up to 130 kits.

RUAG Defence, the strategic partner of international land forces, is continuing to develop its business in the field of ballistic protection systems. In a joint procurement effort, Austria and Belgium have awarded RUAG Defence to upgrade their fleet of PANDUR Is with ballistic protection kits. (Photo: RUAG)

The solutions comprise further developments of RUAG’s existing portfolio of passive protection systems, which include the RoofPRO, SidePRO, MinePRO family of systems, designed to protect medium-sized armoured vehicles from RPGs, IEDs, and small arms; as well as hanged seats and a double bottom.

  • SidePRO-KE/IED is a highly engineered, fully integrated, modular polyvalent composite protection system that utilises a variety of advanced lightweight materials for direct application on armoured vehicles. SidePRO-KE/IED meets current threat level protection requirements.
  • MinePRO is a lightweight, blast and EFP resistant, easy to mount armour plate based on state-of-the art technology to ensure the safety of the crew. Further, all other subsystems of the vehicle such as stowage, seating for crew, driver and commander shall be evaluated, improved, reinforced or replaced.

RUAG currently is testing and qualifying protection against 40m threats, while internationally bidding on ramping up on vehicle defence via polyvalent protection solutions.

In August, RUAG announced selling eight SidePRO-KE kits to the Irish Navy, protecting machine gun mounted stations. Two ships will be equipped with four kits each, protecting machine gun marksmen.

A current project involving upgrading the protection on the PANDUR has only been made possible due to RUAG Defence’s ability to develop protection technology and also integrate it onto and into vehicles. This requires a large amount of vehicle knowledge and engineering knowhow to understand how best to protect the vehicle and ensure it will still perform as needed. RUAG Defence achieve this by using a strict and thorough development plan including; reengineering of the vehicle, protection solution integration, qualification of each protection element, improvements and then finally qualifying the vehicle as a whole.

Furthermore, the retrofittable VERO Kit unmanned technology, which can be adapted to turn any type of vehicle into an optionally-driven platform, was explained. A series of cameras and sensors, along with RUAG software, allows a vehicle crew to dismount and remotely control the platform, while constantly scanning a designated area and relaying that information back to a central control station. The obstacle avoidance system will be ready by October 2015.

RUAG VERO kit. (Photo: RUAG)

Also ready in October will be the RUAG Cyber Training Range in Lange, Switzerland, which allows a realistic cyber warfare training environment to improve the cyber awareness and readiness of cyber defenders via RUAG Training Support Cyber (RTS-C). The RTC-C provides its users with authentic, hands-on training in a controlled environment, using real-world cyber threats. While practicing, users gain practical knowledge as they are required to handle actual cyber-attacks, based on most recently discovered threats. The RTS-C curriculum covers all aspects of cyber warfare, including threat identification, incident management, mitigation, and forensics. It provides in-depth training on the tools and techniques that are under a team’s command when a real attack actually occurs.

Additionally, RUAG demonstrated its OSPREY Command Staff Trainer (CST), which meets the challenges and fills the gaps that exist in today’s military training. The OSPREY CST can be used to support the full spectrum of operations — training at all levels, from squad leader through division commander. Whether training for regular or irregular warfare, border or force protection, civil or natural emergency response, the OSPREY CST provides realistic scenarios to challenge the trainees so they can hone their decision-making and communication skills. The OSPREY CST system allows leaders and their supporting staff to practice planning for and executing training exercises. It provides all the tools required to develop a scenario to meet training requirements on any terrain. Trainees can operate the simulation in standalone and multi-player modes of operation, and can interoperate with other simulations and real-world C2 systems. The OSPREY CST accurately replicates the operational decision-making environment, to create a realistic, yet easy-to-use “experiential learning” environment in the most cost-effective way. RUAG is currently bidding the OSPREY CST in a Swiss tender.

RUAG’s live training solutions cover everything from individual soldiers through to complex MOUT (Mobile Operations in Urban Terrain) installations. The foundation of RUAG’s offering is the GLADIATOR Man Worn Unit. It comprises of a helmet unit, an integrated harness unit and a laser unit. Together they enable fire and movement training for individual soldiers through to a whole brigade. Participants learn using GLADIATOR personal weapon handling, individual and group ground tactics and operational techniques. In 2013, RUAG acquired GAVAP, and thereby the Small Arms Training Simulator for the French Army, Air Force and Navy (SITTAL New Generation), which was also exhibited at the Impulstag.

SITTAL NG2 Indoor Simulator for Infantry Light Arms Firing Instruction and Training. (Photo: RUAG)

The SITTAL NG2 Indoor Simulator for Infantry Light Arms Firing Instruction and Training provides individual and group training, up to the combat section with 3D virtual environment and real (neutralised) firearms, realistic recoil, and ballistics, used to train soldiers in forward observer, fire direction center and mortar crew skills proficiency. A brand-new version of SITTAL, setting a new standard for realism and tactical scenarios is being deployed on the French forces systems. It includes untethered weapons and Havok’s Vision Engine, which is a complete, end-to-end simulation development framework. Designed specifically for the simulation sector and continually updated for the visual fidelity demands of the commercial games industry, this advanced 3D engine specialises in building highly realistic and dynamic simulation environments so that users can focus on development goals, helping them exceed end user expectations. GAVAP, now RUAG, chose Havok Vision Engine as the development platform for their next generation simulators, because of its quality, performance, modularity and first-class support, according to the company. Havok Vision Engine allowed RUAG to set up some very specific features, was easy to integrate into their development pipeline, and really helped reach an outstanding level of quality, said a RUAG employee. As to future plans, RUAG disclosed they are working on a mobile system (plug & play) and a more intelligent trainer.

Also shown was the M109 self-propelled howitzer new generation modular upgrade, extending the range, rate of fire, incorporating a new electrical system, with higher operational readiness, and increased mobility and protection. According to the company, the future will hold the integration of modern munition and fuzes like the EXCALIBUR and PGK, while rubber tracks are also being evaluated. Markets of the future include Northern Europe and the UAE.

RUAG offers a modular upgrade for the self propelled howitzer M109 which meets the demands of today's and future battle field. (Photo: RUAG)

25 August 2015

T129 ATAK Demonstrates Capabilities in Poland

As mentioned before on this blog, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) demonstrated T129 ATAK Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter flights in Poland. These took place on 22-23 August 2015 during the Radom Air Show. The T129 ATAK is a candidate for the KRUK Programme of the Polish Armed Forces. The demonstration flights at Radom Airshow marked the official launch of the T129 Poland Roadshow.

The first batch of T129 ATAK helicopters has already been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces and is in service supporting the missions of the Turkish Army.

18 August 2015

T129 ATAK Poland Roadshow

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is launching its “T129 ATAK Poland Roadshow” 22 August  – 4 September 2015. The T129 ATAK Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter is a candidate for the KRUK Programme of the Polish Armed Forces. During its visit to Poland, the T129 ATAK will perform demonstration flights for the Polish defence industry and aviation lovers, aka AV-Geeks.

The T129 ATAK Helicopter will make its first ever public appearance in Poland during Radom Airshow 22-23 August 2015. Visitors will have the chance to witness the T129 ATAK’s performance and maneuverability during demonstration flights at 15:20h on both days.  More information about the T129 ATAK will be available on TAI’s stand at the show.

The T129 ATAK helicopter will be presented to Polish and Turkish high officials, industrial partners, and the media at a private event with a flight demonstration at Warsaw-Babice Airport on 28 August 2015 and it will appear again on static display at the TAI stand at MSPO Kielce, 1-4 September 2015.

The T129 ATAK Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter is a new generation, tandem, two-seat, twin engine helicopter, specifically designed for attack and reconnaissance purposes. It incorporates a totally new system philosophy, with new engines (LHTEC CTS 800-4A), new avionics, visionics and weapon systems, a modified airframe, upgraded drive train, and new tail rotor. T129 ATAK has been optimised to meet and exceed the performance requirements of the most challenging geographical and environmental conditions. (Photo: TAI)

The first batch of T129 ATAK Helicopters has already been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces and is in service supporting the missions of the Turkish Army. As an integral member of the NATO alliance, the Turkish Armed Forces have always been at the leading edge of innovative defense technology. With the strong endorsement of the Turkish Armed Forces, the already significant international interest on the T129 ATAK as a superior alternative attack helicopter is expected to intensify.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is a global center of technology in design, development, modernisation, manufacturing, integration, and life cycle support for integrated aerospace systems, from fixed and rotary wing air platforms to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems (UAS) and space systems. 

First Fleet Of T129 ATAK Helicopters Delivered to Turkish Army

On 31 July , Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) completed the delivery of the first fleet (nine helicopters) of T129 ATAK Multirole Combat Helicopters to the Turkish Army.

Having completed the first fleet delivery, the T129 ATAK Multirole Combat Helicopters are now being used effectively in operational theatres by the Turkish Land Forces. (Photo: TAI)

The T129 ATAK is now ready to meet a range of new export opportunities and requirements in the worldwide market. The successful delivery of the first helicopter fleet is a major milestone for the Turkish aerospace and defence industry in terms of design, development, and international collaboration. This latest accomplishment provides further evidence of the successful cooperation between the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) as a procurement agency, the Turkish Land Forces as an end user, TAI as a prime contractor, and subcontractors with the development and delivery of one of the most advanced combat helicopters in its class. As an outcome of the endorsement provided by the Turkish Armed Forces, according to TAI, the already strong international interest in the T129 ATAK as a superior alternative is expected to intensify.

Roketsan has reached the final phase in the UMTAS Project, the new-generation Long Range Anti-Tank Missile with an imaging IR (IIR) seeker. Multiple targets were successfully hit during firing tests, on 2 and 3 July 2015, at the firing range in Karapinar/Konya/Turkey. The UMTAS Project is in the design verification phase, where system qualification is expected to begin this year. (Photo: Roketsan)

11 August 2015

Iraqi PM Announces Reforms Aimed at “decentralisation” of Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Haider al-Abadi announced proposed reforms to the structure of Iraq’s central state over the weekend, including the elimination of several key government offices. The offices of vice president and deputy PM listed for termination have been divided along sectarian lines since 2004.

Two Sunni offices, three Shi’ite offices and one Kurdish office face the chopping block under the reforms. Among those to lose their positions under Abadi’s plan are two prominent Shi’ite leaders, former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi.

Abadi’s proposals also include removal of restrictions on foreign direct investment and new initiatives to train security forces for the fight against IS. Iraq’s parliament will consider the proposed reforms beginning today.

Presented in US media as “anti-corruption” measures, the reform proposals actually represent a major step toward the dissolution of the unified Iraqi state and the breakup of Iraqi society into several autonomous statelets.

During official visits to Washington this year, Abadi has sought to assure his American backers that this program is necessary to counter the Iranian-backed Shia forces vying for control over Iraq and its oil resources. His government has backed the efforts of Washington to build up new proxy forces in Iraq, pledging $1 billion in military aid to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga forces during 2015 and overseeing the creation of the Sunni National Mobilisation Forces.

In an April speech at the Washington DC think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Abadi outlined a programme of privatisation of state-owned property and effective political autonomy at the local level, saying such measures were necessary to reverse the efforts of the previous Maliki government to centralize power in Baghdad. “If we do not decentralise, the country will disintegrate,” Abadi said. “To me, there are no limitations to decentralisation. In a major government reform, we are decentralizing decision-making from Baghdad to the local administration and local governments. The National Guard will take the responsibility to defend the provinces from any threat, and they will be accountable to the governors.”

Abadi’s proposals found a ready audience in the Obama administration. Already in 2006, then-Senator Joseph Biden advanced a, “five point alternative plan,” proposing the breakup of Iraq into three mini-states, one Sunni Arab, one Shiite Arab, and one Kurd. In the wake of Abadi’s visit, Vice President Biden told an audience at the National Defense University that, “Iraq needs a much greater functioning federalism.”

Prime Minster Abadi kept true to his commitment to reach out to them [Kurds and Sunnis], and to respond to their concerns, and make sure that power is not solely concentrated within Baghdad,” President Barack Obama said after emerging from meetings in May with the Iraqi leader. Leading figures in the administration and military have reiterated this line over the summer. Aggressive calls for arming the Kurds in the north and Sunni forces in Iraq’s western provinces have emanated from senior lawmakers and ruling class think tanks in recent months.

What if a multi-sectarian Iraq turns out not be possible?” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asked rhetorically during congressional testimony in June. “That is an important part of our strategy now on the ground. If the government can’t do what it’s supposed to do, then we will still try to enable local ground forces, if they’re willing to partner with us, to keep stability in Iraq--but there will not be a single state of Iraq.”

Carter went on to announce that the US will directly arm and supply the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), demanding that Baghdad accept an arrangement allowing regional forces, “to maintain security within their own territory, govern themselves, and share in the oil wealth of the country.”

While the Obama administration may prefer the controlled process of decentralisation envisioned by Abadi, voices in the US establishment are demanding a more aggressive policy, arguing for the complete withdrawal of US support for Baghdad and arming of the KRG and Sunni tribal forces.

In a study published earlier this month, “An Intensified Approach to Combating the Islamic State,” the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) called for US pressure, “to press Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to build a more inclusive central government that represents and serves all Iraqis--Shia, Sunni and Kurd--and devolves more authority and resources to the provinces.”

As part of an, “integrated political-military plan for Iraq,” the CNAS called for, “greater Sunni inclusion, devolution of authority and resources to provinces such as Anbar, as well as the establishment of a national guard as a vehicle for Sunni tribal militias to become part of the Iraqi security forces.”

The US should speed the supply of arms and equipment directly to local tribal militia and Peshmerga units, while holding out the prospect that arms will flow through Baghdad if and when the central government establishes a reliable process for their transfer and passes legislation to include these fighters in the Iraqi security forces,” the CNAS wrote.

The Democratic-leaning think tank argued that direct arming of Sunni and Kurdish militants would, “incentivise Shia politicians in Baghdad, who have thus far been reluctant to pass legislation establishing an Iraqi National Guard, to support the new law in order to ensure these local forces ultimately fall under the control of the Iraqi security forces.”

In the absence of measures to empower US-aligned Sunni elements, including, “more autonomy and resources to govern themselves at the provincial level,” the only alternative would be the, “dissolution of Iraq as a unitary state,” the CNAS argued.

Washington must, “raise the costs for Iran both in Syria and across the region through more aggressive use of military and intelligence tools--jointly with Arab partner militaries--to counter Iran’s surrogates and proxies,” the CNAS concluded.

It is increasingly clear that the “solution” to the Iraq-Syria war envisioned by the US political-military elite is one that involves the partition of both countries. The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Vincent Stewart, told a conference of intelligence personnel at the end of July that Iraq, “may indeed be irreparably fractured and may not come back as an intact state.”

He added: “You also see a lot of fracturing in Syria, where you could end up with an Alawite-stan in the middle and something to the north and something to the south.”

Contesting the Arctic Region

Russia is seeking to increase its Arctic shelf borders. The Arctic consists of land, territorial waters and international waters. All land and territorial waters in the Arctic belong to one of five countries: Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark (through its autonomous territory Greenland), and the United States (via Alaska). Control of the area is regulated by international law; under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), international waters, including the North Pole and the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it, are not owned by any country. The five surrounding countries are limited to exclusive economic zones (EEZ) that stretch 200 nautical miles (370km; 230mi) from their respective coasts.

The waters beyond the territorial waters of the coastal states are considered the “high seas” (international waters). The sea bottom beyond the EEZ and confirmed extended continental shelf claims are considered to be the “heritage of all mankind” and administered by the UN International Seabed Authority. Following the ratification of the UNCLOS, each coastal country had a 10-year period to make claims to an extended continental shelf, which, if validated by the UN, would give it exclusive rights to resources on or below the seabed of that part of the extended shelf. However, in order to make such a claim, the country should prove that the shelf is a geological extension of its land territory. According to recent estimates, the Arctic shelf is believed to hold approximately 30% of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15% of its oil, with the majority of these resources remaining offshore.

Canada ratified the convention in November 2003; ten years later it announced that it would file a claim which would include the North Pole but asked for more time to prepare the application.

Denmark ratified UNCLOS in November 2004 and in 2014 it submitted its claim for approximately 895,541sqkm of the Arctic seabed – an area 20 times larger than Denmark itself. It became the first country to claim ownership over the North Pole itself. It became the fifth Danish territorial claim in the Arctic, with previous attempts occurring in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. The application is set to be considered only after Russia’s claim.

Norway ratified the convention in 1996 and by 2006 it had submitted its claim to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In 2009 it became the first Arctic nation to settle an agreement, according to which it got three new areas of its continental shelf, covering about 235,000sqkm, or three-quarters of the size of its mainland. The original Norwegian claims presented to the UN commission in 2006 had requested 250,000sqkm.

Russia ratified the convention in 1997. On 20 December 2001, Russia made an official submission to the UN, where it proposed to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf of Russia beyond the 200nm EEZ, but within the Russian Arctic sector. Russia's Federal Agency for Subsoil Use, Rosnedra, has suggested that energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom cooperate on the development of technologies for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Shelf. The territory claimed by Russia in the submission is a large portion of the Arctic within its sector, extending to but not beyond the geographic North Pole.

One of the arguments was a statement that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain ridge passing near the Pole, and Mendeleev Ridge on the Russian side of the Pole are extensions of the Eurasian continent. The application was rejected in 2002 due to a lack of geological evidence. On 2 August 2007, a Russian expedition called Arktika 2007, composed of six explorers led by Artur Chilingarov, employing MIR submersibles, for the first time in history descended to the seabed at the North Pole. There they planted the Russian flag and took water and soil samples for analysis, continuing a mission to provide additional evidence related to the Russian claim to the mineral riches of the Arctic. This was part of the ongoing 2007 Russian North Pole expedition, and was conducted as part of the 2007–2008 International Polar Year.

On 4 August 2015, Russia resubmitted its bid, which contained new arguments based on, “ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research,” regarding territory in the Arctic to the UN. Via this bid, Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometres of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350nm nautical miles from the shore. According to Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq, Russia's bid for the expansion of its Arctic shelf border will be considered by the UN not earlier than in February or March of 2016.

The US had not ratified the UN Convention and, therefore, has not been eligible to file an official claim requesting the extension of its control of the continental shelf. The major obstacles facing ratification are the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, relating to minerals on the seabed outside the EEZ. It establishes an International Seabed Authority (ISA) to authorise seabed exploration and mining and collect and distribute seabed mining royalties. The US argues that the treaty was unfavourable to American economic and security interests, and is attempting to establish an alternative regime for exploiting the minerals of the deep seabed.

Clash of Geopolitical Interests 

Rich in natural resources, the Arctic is a potential arena for the clash of geopolitical interests of the Arctic states. Russia is actively developing territories in the Arctic region. In order to effectively use the new shipping routes, which are formed due to the melting of ice, as well as to optimize oil and gas production in the region, Moscow is carrying out massive modernisation of its northern coast and remote archipelagos.

A soldier demonstrates the Ratnik Soldier Combat Equipment Set during a military exercise at Alabino range, Moscow Region , for use in the arctic. 

In February 2013, Russian authorities unveiled a strategy to improve the country's military defence network in the Arctic, a programme that will continue through 2020. In April 2014, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had begun the construction of an integrated network of military facilities in its Arctic territories to bolster border defences. Russia is concentrating on the construction of a series of military bases, which will include search and rescue (SAR) stations, ports, runways and military headquarters. The other Arctic region neighbouring countries, do not have the same amount of bases in comparison.

In order to support new military bases, some of which were built during the Soviet times and now are undergoing modernisation, the Kremlin is also working to update the Northern Fleet. Altogether, Moscow plans to open 10 Arctic SAR stations, 16 deep-water ports, 13 airports, and 10 radar stations with air defence systems.

An integrated system to monitor conditions in the Arctic, including both civilian and military segments, will be created in Russia by 2025, developer RTI Systems concern recently said. The cost of the system is estimated at over $93 million. It will consist of several elements, specifically, primary sources of information received from surface wave radars, underwater lighting, a highly elliptical orbit space system and remote-controlled Unmanned Systems. The system will be amplified with transport and communications equipment.

By 2020-2025, a system to monitor conditions in the Arctic will be created. This includes the creation of a single information space, monitoring the situation in the air, on water, underwater and on land. It is a dual purpose system, both civilian and military,” a spokesperson for the concern said.

Russia is monitoring Arctic waters and airspace at a distance of over 300mi miles from the coastline, a representative of the country’s Defense Ministry said in late July.

Since February 2013, when Moscow announced a strategy to increase its presence in the Arctic and boost the region's development by 2020, Russia has been particularly active in exploring opportunities in the Arctic and is set to build a unified network of military facilities in the region in order to strengthen its border defence.

Red Flag 2015?

A number of fighter bombers and AWACS reconnaissance planes are taking part in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3, a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise for US and partner nation forces, providing combined offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment; now underway in Alaska. Overall command is being exercised by the Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The ROKAF is participating in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3.
During the two-week employment phase of the exercise, aircrews are subjected to every conceivable combat threat. Scenarios are shaped to meet each exercise's specific training objectives. All units are involved in the development of exercise training objectives. At the height of the exercise, up to 70 jet fighters can be operating in the same airspace at one time. Typically, RED FLAG-Alaska conducts two combat training missions each day.

All RED FLAG-Alaska exercises take place in the Joint Pacific Range Complex over Alaska as well as a portion of Western Canadian airspace. The entire airspace is made up of extensive Military Operations Areas, Special Use Airspace, and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.  Red Flag-Alaska 15-3 is slated to run until 21 August 2015.