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Showing posts from December 12, 2013

Australia extends Afghan service for Heron UAVs

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) is to extend the presence of its Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Afghanistan through to mid-2014, it announced on 11 December.

With the Australian Defence Force (ADF) set to end its deployment to Uruzgan province in the coming weeks, its Heron operations will shift from central Afghanistan primarily, to the south of the country for the final phase of its mission in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Herons will be withdrawn from theatre in July 2014.

Three Heron UAVs have been used by the ADF as part of its Operation 'Slipper' mission to Afghanistan since 2009, since when they have been providing Australian and coalition forces with an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability.

Saudi Arabia requests wireless TOW for national guard

SANG Cadillac Gage V-150 (now Textron LAV-150) armed with TOW guided anti-tank missiles. Source: SANG

Saudi Arabia has requested the sale of nearly 15,000 Raytheon TOW wireless anti-tank missiles for its national guard and another 1,750 of the wire-guided version for its army, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 5 December.

The proposed deal for the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) includes 9,650 BGM-71E TOW 2A Radio Frequency (RF) missiles and 4,145 BGM-71F TOW 2B Aero RF missiles. Estimated to cost USD900 million, the package would also include 91 TOW 2A and 49 TOW 2B 'fly-to-buy' test missiles, related equipment, spares, and technical support services.

Raytheon announced in 2010 that it had won a USD55 million contract to supply the SANG with wireless 2A RF missiles.

The 'A' variant of the TOW has a direct-attack tandem shaped-charge warhead for penetrating explosive reactive armour, while the 'B' fires its warhead downwards as if f…

India to shortly deliver new helos to Afghanistan

Seen here in Indian Army colours, the Cheetah/Cheetal helicopter is to be operated by Afghanistan in the observation and reconnaissance role. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen

India is to deliver two Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) HSA 315B Cheetah/Cheetal utility helicopters to Afghanistan in January, regional media reported on 11 December.

The new-build helicopters, which will be used for observation and reconnaissance purposes, are being supplied to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) as part of a wider defence and security co-operation deal between the two countries.

In June it was reported that Afghanistan was to receive three such helicopters from India. It is not clear if this number has now been reduced by one, or if the final helicopter will be delivered at a later date.

Operated by the Indian armed forces in the mountainous north of the country, the Cheetah/Cheetal is ideally suited to the extreme topographical and harsh environmental conditions found throughout Afghanistan.

Once in Afghan s…

Letter from Kurdistan

By Reva Bhalla

At the edge of empires lies Kurdistan, the land of the Kurds. The jagged landscape has long been the scene of imperial aggression. For centuries, Turks, Persians, Arabs, Russians and Europeans looked to the mountains to buffer their territorial prizes farther afield, depriving the local mountain dwellers a say in whose throne they would ultimately bow to.

The hot temperament of this borderland was evident in an exchange of letters between Ottoman Sultan Selim I and Safavid Shah Ismail I shortly before the rival Turkic and Persian empires came to blows at the 1514 Battle of Chaldiran in northern Kurdistan. The Ottoman sultan, brimming with confidence that his artillery-equipped janissaries would hold the technological advantage on the battlefield, elegantly denigrated his Persian foes:

Ask of the sun about the dazzle of my reign;

Inquire of Mars about the brilliance of my arms.

Although you wear a Sufi crown, I bear a trenchant sword,

And he who holds the sword will soon poss…

Russia Looks East for New Oil Markets

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In the final years of the Soviet Union, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began orienting his foreign policy toward Asia in response to a rising Japan. Putin has also piloted a much-touted pivot to Asia, coinciding with renewed U.S. interest in the area. A good expression of intent was Russia's hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2012 in Vladivostok, near Russia's borders with China and North Korea. Although its efforts in Asia have been limited by more direct interests in Russia's periphery and in Europe, Moscow recently has been able to look more to the east.

Part of this renewed interest involves finding new export markets for Russian hydrocarbons. Russia's economy relies on energy exports, particularly crude oil and natural gas exported via pipeline to the West. However, Western Europe is diversifying its energy sources as new supplies come online out of a desire to reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies.

This has forced…

Saudi Efforts Toward a Gulf Arab Union

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the 34th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Kuwait City on Dec. 10, 2013. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images


In response to the U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, Saudi Arabia is working on transforming the Gulf Cooperation Council into a much more robust supranational entity in order to counter the threat from Iran. However, Riyadh faces limits in the extent to which it can transform the Gulf Cooperation Council into a more coherent alliance. Most of the smaller member states agree with the Saudis on the need for a joint defense against an Iran that is likely to be unencumbered by international sanctions, but they do not want to align with the kingdom at the expense of their own national sovereignty.


After a Gulf Cooperation Council summit -- the first since the United States moved to normalize ties with Iran -- in Kuwait that began Dec. 9, the bloc's Supreme Council announced that the member states had agreed to esta…