Military Balance Blog

Getting rid of Gainful: replacing the Soviet-era 2K12 missile system

2k12 Kub surface to air missile. Credit: Timm Ziegenthaler/Stocktrek Images

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The Czech Republic and Hungary are now embarked on programmes to provide a successor capability to that of the 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful) short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The Czech Republic issued a request for information in 2016 and may make a down-select by the end of this year or early 2018. The aim is to have an initial operational capability with a system to replace the 2K12 Kub by 2021, with a full operational capability by the middle of the decade.

The 2K12 entered service with the then Czechoslovakia, a Warsaw Pact member state, in 1985 and has undergone modernisation and life-extension to allow a regiment of the system to be retained in service. At the end of the Cold War seven regiments of the 2K12 were in service.

Hungary is in a similar position as it looks to replace is 2K12 SAMs. Missile support, including the provision of increasingly hard to source spares, is being provided by Poland. The latter country also remains a 2K12 operator, although the type is due to be replaced as part of Warsaw’s Wisla air-defence programme. The Polish government is aiming to sign a contract with Raytheon for the Patriot SAM system by the end of this year. Hungary has already begun to examine its potential options in acquiring a successor to the 2K12 Kub and has already defined its operational requirement.

The 2K12 system provided the ability to engage targets at ranges of up to 23km and at altitudes of up to 14km. The Czech requirements include the ability to engage at ranges beyond that of the 2K12 and also to carry out multiple simultaneous target engagements rather than the single-target-only engagement provided by its Kub system. A variety of US, European and Israeli medium-range systems are under consideration to meet the Czech requirement, from systems that fall around the minimum performance specified out to those with engagement capabilities toward 100km.

Hungary is also in the process of modernising its man-portable point-defence SAM. The MBDA Mistral is the focus of this activity, which includes Identification Friend or Foe Mode 5, improved communications and increased detection range. Alongside the Mistral-2 standard of missile, the Mistral-3 variant has also begun to be delivered. This provides a greater effective range than the Mistral-2. This version of the missile has a maximum range of 6.5km


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

US Armoured Brigade Combat Teams – rotational deployments

Personnel and tanks of the US 4th Infantry Division, deployed in Romania. Credit: DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

By Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

The deterrent power of the United States Army’s heavy Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs) continue to underpin regional stability in Europe, the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula. However, following the 2015 inactivation of the last ABCT to be permanently based overseas, all three of these tasks are now being filled by units on nine-month rotational deployment from the US, putting a significant strain on the army’s force-generation capabilities.

Going into 2012, the army had 17 armoured brigades in the active force. By the end of 2015 this number had dropped to nine as the army attempted to simultaneously adapt to both changing strategic circumstances and budgetary pressures. This headline figure overstates the actual force reduction, since the remaining armoured brigades all increased their assigned manoeuvre battalions from two to three as part of this process. Nevertheless, the drop from 36 manoeuvre battalions to 27 was still a significant decrease in available heavy combat power.

In addition, the inactivation of the last three armoured brigades based outside of the continental US (the 170th and 172nd Infantry Brigades in Germany and the 1st ABCT, 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea) now requires the army to meet the demand for heavy armour from commanders in Europe and Korea, as well as a continuing requirement in Kuwait, by rotating forces into theatre from the US for fixed tours.

The US Army force-generation process aims to achieve a dwell-to-deployment ratio of approximately two-to-one in the active force; i.e. a unit should spend two months at its home station resetting and training between deployments for every month it has been deployed. Continuously maintaining three simultaneous ‘heel-to-toe’ ABCT rotational deployments with this ratio in place therefore requires the use of all nine of the current active force ABCTs (see table).Table showing US Armored Brigade Combat Team deployments

Having all of its armoured brigades already committed leaves the army with little flexibility to meet potential contingency operations; any new allocation of heavy armour would require damaging changes in the dwell-to-deployment ratio. In theory, a resource that could be used to ease this burden on the regular army are the five Army National Guard ABCTs, but there remain significant cost and training obstacles to effectively employing this option. As a result, as the National Commission on the Future of the Army noted in 2016, in recent years the army has preferred to break its dwell-to-deployment ratio guidelines for active units rather than calling upon available reserve-component units.

One result of this has been a decision by the army to reverse the recent trend of cuts in ABCT numbers, and announce plans to add at least one, and ideally two, more armoured brigades to the active force by converting existing infantry formations. The first formation to convert – 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart in Georgia – is scheduled to begin receiving its new equipment in summer 2017, before its formal conversion to an ABCT later in the year. It should become available for deployment sometime in 2018.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

After Norway’s submarine selection: challenges in a crowded market

German submarine. Credit: Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems

By Tom Waldwyn, Research Analyst for Defence and Military Analysis

February’s announcement that Norway had selected ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) submarine design brought some relief to the German shipbuilder, which had recently lost out on the much-coveted Australian submarine competition, SEA 1000 Future Submarine.

The company’s current submarine order portfolio includes a third Tanin-class boat for Israel and a couple of Type-218SGs for Singapore, the first of which is to be delivered in 2020. Whilst a production contract is yet to be signed with Norway, this agreement will see submarine production continue in Emden and Kiel into the late 2020s and early 2030s. Included in the Norwegian announcement was the news that Germany would itself acquire two of the new boats, which will be an improved version of the Type-212A, known as Type-212NG (Next Generation/Norway–Germany).

Like many other NATO countries, the size of Germany’s submarine fleet has shrunk since the 1990s, partly due to a lack of investment and perceived threats. More recently, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) has jumped back up NATO’s agenda as the frequency of Russian submarine patrols has increased and more countries around the world are acquiring advanced submarine technology, particularly in Asia. Whether this renewed enthusiasm for ASW will generate a growth in other European submarine-fleet sizes remains to be seen.

Currently there are five European companies offering conventionally powered submarine (SSK) designs for export:

  • DCNS – France
  • TKMS – Germany
  • Fincantieri – Italy
  • Navantia – Spain
  • Saab – Sweden

Also worth considering in the European context is South Korea’s DSME, which entered the Norwegian competition, albeit unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, the export potential of Japanese designs has yet to be tested beyond the Australian competition and cheaper options are now offered by Russian and Chinese yards. Countries currently license-building submarines for their own fleets include Brazil, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey, and it is not inconceivable that they may compete in the future.

The available export opportunities are highly contested and just losing one competition has the potential to cause serious problems for a company’s submarine-building division. As can be seen in table below, several NATO Europe countries have bought new boats within the previous 15 years and some others are already in the process of replacing their current fleets. Poland and the Netherlands are the next hosts of a European submarine competition. Poland’s Orka project, begun in 2012, has seen Saab and DCNS sign agreements with Polish conglomerate PGZ concerning submarine manufacturing, while the recent Norwegian–German agreement references the potential for selling to the Poles.

Table of German submarine numbers. Credit: IISS

The Polish requirement includes the ability to fit the boats with a land-attack cruise missile, which might make DCNS’ bid more attractive, although relations between the two countries are reported to be frosty following the cancelling of the H225M helicopter deal in 2016. The Netherlands has yet to issue a formal tender for new submarine designs and is currently in the process of extending the life of its Walrus-class boats out to 2025. However, Saab has stolen a march in the process by signing an agreement with Damen Schelde as far back as January 2015 for the Walrus replacement.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

Slingshot redux: Russia's alleged ground-launched cruise missile

Gorbachev and Reagan. Credit: Getty/Photo 12

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace, and Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis.

'We believe that the Russians have deployed a land based cruise missile that violated the spirit and intent of the intermediate nuclear forces treaty,’ US Air Force General Paul Selva, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on 8 March. 'The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility.'

Having for several years proved reticent to discuss in any detail allegations of an INF-breaching cruise missile, unnamed US officials were reported as identifying the system as the SSC-8 in an article published in The New York Times on 14 February. The absence of the ‘X’ in the designator indicates the system now has entered service. In the article, one official reportedly claimed that two battalion-size units of the SSC-8 had until recently been held at the Kapustin Yar test range in southern Russia, but that one battalion had been moved to an operational base in December 2016. The SSC-8 is near certain to be dual capable and able to be fitted with either a conventional or a nuclear warhead.

The SSC-8 may be associated with the Russian designation 9M729. A shorter-range cruise missile, for the 9K720 Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) system, is the 9M728 (SSC-7). The SSC-7 appears to be based on Russian guided-weapons manufacturer Novator’s 3M14 (SS-N-30) family of cruise missiles. The longer-range weapon may well also be part of this family of cruise missiles.

Novator was also the designer of the 3M10 Granat (SS-N-21 Sampson) submarine-launched cruise missile upon which Russia’s SSC-X-4 Slingshot GLCM was based. Over 80 of the SSC-X-4 had been produced along with at least six transporter-erector-launch (TEL) vehicles when the INF agreement was reached. Under the terms of the treaty, these were to be destroyed.

Russian SSC-8 Cruise Missile System

While the 9M728 (SSC-7) has a range around the lower INF threshold of 500km, the SSC-8 has a maximum range likely in excess of 2,000km, with an operational range of over 1,500km. The INF Treaty agreed between the US and the then-Soviet Union banned either side holding ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges of 500–5,500km.

At the time of the INF agreement, some analysts in the US raised concern as to the limitations of using ’National Technical Means’ for the cruise-missile-verification element of the treaty. A 1988 US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence noted in a now declassified report that ’US National Technical Means of verification are not as highly effective against ground-launched cruise missiles ... In particular an illegal force of GLCMs could probably not be detected nearly as promptly nor with the same degree of confidence [as a ballistic system]. This is due to their much smaller size and to the fact that they are in almost all respects identical with and virtually indistinguishable from sea-launched versions of the same missile.'

The TELs used for the SSC-8 are likely similar to those of the standard Iskander-M, based on the MZKT 9730 chassis. However, given that the new missile is longer, and possibly in as much as a six-tube configuration, the missile container will likely be larger.

With regard to reports that a first unit has now deployed, the most straightforward option for Russian forces would be to co-locate the battalion set with an existing army missile brigade equipped with the Iskander system, probably in the Western or Central Military District. There are four such brigades at present – the 26th at Luga, the 92nd at Penza, the 112th at Ivanovo and the 119th at Elanskiy.

Of these brigades, it is the last, in the Central Military District, that has attracted the most speculation, primarily because the dates given by the Russian defence ministry for its reported conversion to the Iskander system at Kapustin Yar, in November and December 2016, coincide with the dates for the first operational SSC-8 unit’s departure from the base. It is possible that it was the 119th Brigade itself that has taken delivery of the SSC-8, given the timing and the apparent similarities between the systems; however, there is at present no public confirmation of this.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

Russia’s defence spending: the impact of economic contraction

By Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, Research Fellow for Defence Economics and Procurement, and Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The Russian defence ministry now wants to conclude its plan for the 2018–25 State Armament Programme (SAP) by mid-2017 as it attempts to protect procurement ambitions from the impact of the country’s shrinking economy.

The follow-on to the 2010–20 SAP was originally due to begin in 2016 but Moscow’s economic problems resulted in the long-term plan being deferred as the regime grappled with immediate issues.

Russia’s economy has stabilised after the shocks of 2014–15: GDP fell by only 0.8% in 2016, compared to 3.7% in 2015, and modest growth is expected this year. Yet the government is committed to fiscal tightening. To that end, federal expenditure will be reined in over the next few years: spending will fall by 1% year on year in 2017, 1.3% in 2018 and 0.33% in 2019. As part of this, military expenditure in current roubles is expected to fall in 2017 and 2018, rising only again in 2019.

In real terms, projected total military expenditure is estimated to fall by 9.5% in 2017 and by 7.1% in 2018, and then by a more modest 1.7% in 2019.

The collapse in the barrel price for oil, combined with Western economic sanctions and the need to substitute a range of sub-systems and components previously sourced from Ukraine, have combined to place defence expenditure under pressure. Some near-term relief, however, has and continues to be provided by delays to projects with originally overly optimistic delivery schedules. Delays in the production of a fifth-generation fighter to meet the PAK-FA requirement and a family of heavy armoured vehicles for the army based on the Armata platform, for example, have resulted in deferred procurement costs with regard to the 2010–20 SAP.

While overall defence expenditure is to be reduced, the defence ministry is attempting to safeguard procurement investment. An interim 2017–19 procurement-funding programme sustains the level of acquisition spending. In protecting procurement, however, the ministry needs to impose larger cuts in defence spending elsewhere. Within the budget, applied research and development (R&D) is cut significantly over the 2017–19 period.  If continued, this could prove a false economy. Much of the original R&D for the weapons systems Russia is now fielding can be traced back to the 1980s. The economic turmoil of the 1990s meant little if any funding for significant defence R&D, and this situation only began to improve markedly in the early years of this century.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

Sweden reintroduces conscription, in a changing European security environment

Swedish soldiers. Credit: Getty/Fredrik Sandberg

By Monty d’Inverno, Research Analyst for Defence and Military Analysis.

This article was originally published on CartaCapital.

On 2 March 2017, Sweden announced that it would reactivate conscription, citing as reasons the deteriorating security environment in Europe and the failure of an all-volunteer system to provide the required personnel. The plans call for 4,000 recruits annually to begin basic training in 2018 and 2019. The reintroduction of conscription is a means of addressing an immediate personnel problem, but also underscores the worsening security situation facing Sweden.

The decision comes only seven years after Sweden suspended conscription. Since the end of the Cold War, a reduced threat from Russia and an international focus on other areas, such as the Middle East, had allowed Sweden and other Nordic countries to take a so called ‘strategic time-out’. This resulted in reduced military spending and a move towards smaller armed forces optimised for expeditionary operations (see The Military Balance 2017, p. 75), including the NATO mission in Afghanistan, which Sweden supported though it is not a NATO member. Suspending conscription in 2010 was part of this trend.

Security worries increase

Concern over Russia’s renewed military assertiveness in Sweden’s neighbourhood, and its military activities in Ukraine after 2014, prompted Sweden to reassess this stance. Indeed, a defence ministry spokeswoman was reported as saying that ‘the Russian illegal annexation of Crimea [in 2014], the conflict in Ukraine and the increased military activity in our neighbourhood are some of the reasons’ for the reintroduction of conscription. Russia has certainly been more active in Sweden’s neighbourhood. Its increasing military presence in the Arctic is a concern to Stockholm, but Russia’s activity in the Baltic region in particular has been instrumental in reviving attention on defence in Sweden. A range of incidents have attracted media attention and sharpened scrutiny on the current capabilities of Sweden’s armed forces.

These include reports in 2013 that Russian bombers and fighters had deviated from their normal flightpath and passed close to Swedish airspace, in what was termed by the media, and later by NATO, as a ‘simulated attack’. This caused disquiet in the Swedish media when it emerged that there were no aircraft or pilots ready to respond. In October 2014, there were reports (though these were never confirmed) of a possible Russian submarine operating in the Swedish Archipelago, resulting in a major search operation. Other media reports have highlighted potential risks to the strategically important Swedish island of Gotland.

In response to growing security concerns, Sweden in 2015 announced increases in defence spending over five years and a renewed focus on national defence (see table below). For the first time since 2005, a permanent garrison was reinstated on Gotland in September 2016. Sweden is also acquiring new capabilities like the Saab Gripen JAS-39E/F combat aircraft (in test), Type-A26 submarines (under construction) and the Meteor rocket-ramjet air-to-air missile, which entered service last year (See The Military Balance 2017, p. 181). Nevertheless, gaps remain. For instance, although Gotland will ultimately be assigned a battlegroup of some 300 troops, it has been reported that only about 160 of these will be permanent, while the others would need to travel to Gotland in the event of a crisis.Swedish defence budget data. Credit: IISS

Broader implications

The return of conscription is also seen as a way of addressing personnel shortfalls. The IISS Military Balance+ online database indicates that the Swedish armed forces had a total of 29,750 active military personnel as of 2016. However, Stockholm said in March that ‘at the end of 2016 Swedish armed forces were missing about 1,000 full time serving squad leaders, soldiers and sailors and about 7,000 of the part time serving squad leaders, soldiers and sailors it needs’. Conscription is seen as a way of tackling these gaps, but also as a way of attracting future volunteers to the force. Enrolment of potential conscripts will begin in mid-2017, with basic training starting from January 2018. As in Norway, conscription will be gender neutral, reflecting that defence establishments need to attract the best candidates amid an increasingly competitive employment environment. Conscription will mean more costs for the defence budget, however, at a time when Stockholm is having to fund new equipment and address readiness issues.

This renewed focus on defence has raised broader questions about the future direction of Sweden’s defence policy. Like its neighbour Finland, Sweden is not a NATO member and during the Cold War it traditionally followed a non-aligned policy. Sweden’s reliance on its own forces for defence was one of the reasons it maintained conscription longer than many NATO members. However, the post-Cold War security situation has seen greater cooperation with NATO. Sweden supported NATO-led operations (in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Libya) and has increased training and cooperation with NATO members in 2016, including exercises, ratifying a NATO Host Nation Support agreement, and defence-related agreements with Denmark, the UK and the US. Support for joining the Alliance has increased among opposition parties in Sweden, and an opinion poll from 2016 suggested that almost 33% of Swedes were in favour of this, up from the 17% noted in a 2012 poll.

However, it is not clear that this would translate into any eventual bid for NATO membership. Like its neighbour Finland, Sweden already participates in EU-level security and defence structures. Its forces have deployed on EU missions and Stockholm is participating in elements of the implementation plan for the EU Global Strategy. But the EU is not a military alliance. While it is not inconceivable that Sweden will break with its non-aligned tradition – and Stockholm will keep close watch on any similar debates in Finland – for the moment the likely trajectory will be one of closer cooperation with NATO in discrete areas, amid enhanced bilateral and regional defence and security cooperation.

Tensions fuel boom in Asian defence spending

Asia's defence budgets are growing. In a difficult environment the potential for friction is increasing, IISS Director-General and Chief Executive John Chipman told experts at the Munich Security Conference. Watch his address and see how:

  • tensions are raised by North Korean missile tests and confrontation in the South China Sea
  • militaries have invested in cutting-edge aircraft and more submarines
  • some of the region's weapons are challenging Western technological superiority.

Access the latest Asian defence data in Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

Testing times ahead with North Korea

North Korean Missile Test. Credit: North Korean State Media

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

Only a few months into 2017, the isolated regime has already carried out at least seven launches, suggesting no let-up in the pace of development testing. There have been one or more test failures, the latest reportedly on 22 March. Often justified by North Korea as a response to the threat of external aggression, the provocative tests not only indicate current operational capabilities but also highlight the progress of several new longer-range systems. The North Korean regime also appears to be continuing the design and development of nuclear payloads and the associated systems for weapon delivery.

Almost half of all launches since the beginning of 2016 have been associated with the development of new systems. Out of 31 tests shots since the start of last year, at least 14 related to the testing of developmental programmes along with several additional associated ground tests. The 2016 tests also included the first attempted launch of the Hwasong-10 (Musudan) – a road-mobile, intermediate-range missile system first shown publicly in 2010. However, the seemingly troubled series of up to eight launches last year yielded only a single success.

Although the Hwasong-10 programme continues to be problematic, there are clear indications of progress elsewhere, particularly with regard to the development of solid-propellant motors. This is a technology that offers greater launch readiness and ruggedness over the liquid-fuelled counterparts Pyongyang has until now depended upon. In addition, tests on the country’s first submarine-launched ballistic missile, Bukkeukseong-1 (KN-11), continued throughout 2016 and these demonstrated an apparently successful switch to a solid motor – quite likely the result of earlier reported failures of the liquid-fuel design. A land-based modification of KN-11, the Bukkeukseong-2 (KN-15), which also uses a solid motor, was shown publicly for the first time in a successful February 2017 test. This used a tracked transporter-erector-launcher vehicle, offering improved mobility. KN-15 was also reportedly launched in the most recent 4 April test.A table showing North Korean ballistic missile tests in 2016 and 2017. Credit: IISS

Despite flight tests of these new missiles, the regime’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programmes have remained so far on the ground. Neither the Hwasong-13 (KN-08), with the potential to hit much of the US mainland, or its Hwasong-14 (KN-14) derivative have yet been test flown. Propulsion and re-entry-systems ground tests were carried out in 2016, and the regime in early 2017 suggested that its pre-flight ICBM test-development programme was nearing completion. This prompted speculation of a launch in the near future. However, predicting if, when and how North Korea will test-launch such a system remains difficult.

Testing not only the ICBMs at operationally representative ranges for these new systems remains a challenge for North Korea. Using the Sea of Japan (East Sea) would risk overly provocative entry or over-flight of Japanese territory, were some missiles now in development tested toward their maximum ranges. Recent launches have not extended beyond around 1,000km – the upper range of the operational types involved – and this was only achieved by firing from the west side of the country and risking a potential splashdown within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Indeed, three of four missiles fired successfully in the 6 March test hit the sea within Japan’s EEZ.

The recent test launches of the three longer-range missiles under development (Musudan, KN-11 and KN-15) instead all adopted lofted trajectories (with an apogee far greater than the minimum-energy trajectory), providing some indication of their theoretical ranges without the provocation associated with a full-range flight test.

This blog was updated on April 5, in light of a new North Korean test.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

Iran’s missile balancing act

Soumar

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Iran's continued development and testing of ballistic missiles is understandably a focus for the United States, the other nuclear-deal partners and the Gulf states. Two other recent missile developments, however, are also worthy of attention, as will be in the medium term any change in emphasis regarding Tehran's ballistic and 'conventional' weaponry. 

The latest firing, on 29 January 2017, of a yet-to-be-identified type of ballistic missile – Iran called it the Khorramshahr – only stresses further the relationship between Iran and the new US administration. But it does not technically breach the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 2231). This missile test reportedly also coincided with what may have been the first end-to-end firing of the Soumar cruise missile. The Die Welt newspaper cited German intelligence officials as claiming the cruise missile was tested at a range of 600 kilometres.

When unveiled in March 2015, Soumar's design heritage was clear – the missile used a Russian-designed Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) airframe. Tehran acquired at least six of the missile airframes from Ukraine in 2001, perhaps along with some engines. The Russian aerospace forces field the Kh-55 in two variants – the nuclear-armed Kh-55SM (AS-15B) and a conventional derivative, the Kh-555 (AS-22). The latter version can be identified by the fixed and asymmetric strakes on the nose section, an aerodynamic modification required as a result of replacing a lighter nuclear payload with a heavier conventional explosive.

The basic Kh-55 has a maximum range in the order of 2,500km; considerably longer than the reported Soumar test. Assuming the accuracy of the German report with regard to a 600km trial, this raises at least a question as to why the missile might not have been tested at its nominal maximum range. This would not have required a larger test-range, but rather placing the weapon in a race-track pattern for part of the flight time.

The use of a turbojet rather than a turbofan engine would impact the range, given the latter is considerably more fuel efficient, if a more demanding technology to master. Iran appears to be able to produce small turbojet engines: the Toulloue family is likely a copy of the French TRI-60 turbojet.

The third missile to have recently re-emerged in Iran displayed at the start of February and is at the other end of the physical scale, but though this does not necessarily make it unproblematic for adversaries. Tehran showed what it called the Misagh-3 shoulder-launched man-portable surface-to-air missile. The weapon is similar to the Chinese QW-18, although the fuse configuration is notably different. The original Misagh is similar to the Chinse QW-1.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

2017: year of the aircraft carrier

By Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

This year began with another gap in the US aircraft carrier presence in the Middle East, while China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, conducted exercises in the South China Sea. The former underscored the continuing strains in the US Navy’s under-strength carrier force, the latter the symbolic significance of China’s carrier ambitions, albeit still with limited capability for now.

But in March 2017 the first new-design US carrier for more than four decades, the USS Gerald R. Ford, should finally begin delayed contractor’s sea trials. Delivery to the US Navy is pencilled in for April – restoring the carrier force from ten to 11 ships. The Ford’s innovative design elements, including the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), should bring significant capability enhancements over the Nimitz class. At least two sister ships are planned, but there could be further evolution in US carrier design as controversy continues over Ford-class programme costs, while debate continues over the operational concept for carriers in a more challenging maritime domain.

The launch of China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier should also take place this year. The ship is an incremental enhancement of the Liaoning, which was previously intended for the former Soviet Navy as the Varyag. The speed of the new ship’s construction is a testament to China’s commitment to its carrier programme. Like the Liaoning, the new ship will not have catapults or arrestor gear, limiting its potential. But there are growing indications that the next vessel to be built will be so equipped.

In the United Kingdom, the first of the Royal Navy’s new 65,000-tonne carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, should finally enter service, although sea trials have been delayed. However, a key remaining question is whether the delivery and deployment plans for the UK’s F-35B Joint Strike Fighters will enable a carrier strike capability to be restored in the early to mid-2020s. The second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, will also be officially named and ’flooded-up’, or launched, this year.

After a lengthy building period, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, will also near completion this year, with a planned acceptance into the Indian Navy in 2018. As with China, India’s Vikrant looks like a stepping stone towards a follow-on design that will have catapults and arrestor gear.

Amid these developments, Russia and France both experienced some of the issues involved in trying to sustain only single carriers in service. The Russian Navy’s Admiral Kuznetsov returned from a deployment off Syria which had only limited operational impact, and saw two aircraft lost. Meanwhile, the French Navy’s Charles De Gaulle, although operationally more effective, is now disappearing into a two-year refit that will leave France without a carrier for the period.


This analysis originally featured on the Military Balance+, the new IISS online database that enables users in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to make faster and better-informed decisions. The Military Balance+ allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime.

A federated way ahead for NATO in an age of complexity


NATO is facing a set of security challenges of unprecedented complexity and of potentially increasing gravity. The current security environment demands a fresh approach, built on policy that encourages NATO nations to connect much more closely and flexibly, among themselves, with the NATO command structure, and with partners.

Although NATO has of course adapted before, it is in danger of losing its edge and, on occasion, being out-innovated by more agile and adaptive adversaries, undermining the security of member states and risking military failure. The scale of the challenge to NATO is greater than it has been for a decade or more.

What is needed is a new policy and attitude to commitments and relationships both within the Alliance and among its members, such that NATO is able to benefit more directly and more urgently from the capabilities and expertise of member nations, and vice versa. A persistent federated approach would enable such connections to be forged and fostered, without impinging in any way on the sovereignty of member nations.

Enabling and empowering the Alliance’s constituent parts, in a persistent federated approach, is the way to tackle complexity, uncertainty, the rapid acceleration of change, the need for a persistent 360-degree perspective on threats, and the requirement for new levels of strategic understanding and awareness as well as innovative approaches to partnerships.

A federated approach allows multiple paths for the flow of information between participants, to facilitate tackling both unpredictable and unpredicted, but also complex and dynamic, evolving challenges. Capability and expertise are distributed amongst NATO member states, within NATO structures, and among partners. Adopting a persistent federated approach implies always looking for ways to unify these different centres of activity and make best use of them, with the goal of creating greater capacity.

Download the full paper: A federated way ahead for NATO in an age of complexity

This Food for Thought Paper was prepared with the support and cooperation of NATO Allied Command Transformation, ahead of the NATO Transformation Seminar 2017 taking place in Budapest, Hungary, on 21–23 March. The IISS is proud to have been selected as a partner for this event to help ensure that it shapes NATO’s transformation initiatives.

China's aircraft and missile developments - implications for the F-35

 

At the launch of The Military Balance 2017, Douglas Barrie, IISS Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace, talks about the significance of China’s aircraft and air-to-air missile developments.

'The pace and the introduction is almost unheralded,' he says. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is developing a capable palette of air-to-air weapons that could make the air environment more difficult for the F-35 and supporting aircraft.

Watch the full launch.


The Military Balance 2017 features analysis of China’s defence policies, military capabilities and defence economics, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2017, released on 14 February 2017, is now available to order.

Counting to two: analysing the NATO defence-spending target

© NATO

By Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, Research Fellow for Defence Economics and Procurement, and Bastian Giegerich, Director of Defence and Military Analysis

In September 2014, NATO’s heads of state and government agreed at the Wales Summit to make an obligation out of what hitherto had only been a recommendation: to spend 2% of their GDP on defence. Those who were spending less should undertake efforts to lift themselves to this level within ten years – by 2024. According to The Military Balance 2017 only two countries met this spending target in 2016, down from four in 2015. Estonia and Greece cleared the bar at 2.2% and 2.4%, and the United Kingdom just dipped below the threshold at 1.98% (2.0% when rounding to the nearest tenth) in 2016. Poland spent 2.1% of its GDP on defence in 2015, partially due to one-off extra funds for the payment of F-16 combat aircraft; however, it reached only 1.9% in 2016. While it is certainly headline grabbing and is supposed to have a mobilising effect in the political arena, is the 2% number actually relevant to understand states’ defence capabilities and commitment to the transatlantic alliance?

There are in fact three problems with the 2% target: how to count, how to figure out whether the money is actually well spent, and the fact that the gap between the ambition and reality has not closed in the past two years. Despite these issues, the 2% target has become increasingly prominent in the debates on European defence and security, and turned into a political constraint for government leaders. The UK, falling roughly £380 million (US$500m) short in 2016, has committed in its 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to uphold the 2% threshold. In recent years, the UK could remain above the 2% in part by including several spending items in the defence budget reported to NATO. In Germany, the 2016 Defence White Paper indicated that ‘the German government will and is determined to aim to spend two per cent of its gross domestic product on defence’, without giving a date, however. In France, the 2% target has moved to the forefront of the political agenda: in December 2016 the chief of the defence staff published an op-ed suggesting the defence budget should reach 2% of GDP by the end of 2022, i.e. by the end of the next president’s term. Across the Atlantic, the 2% figure became a strong symbol following Donald Trump’s first post-election interview to the European media, as he repeated comments hinting that US support could become conditional upon European states’ defence expenditure. President Trump seems to like things that can be quantified.

How does one count to 2%?

Given that a lot is riding on this benchmark, it is important to point out that there is no shared understanding of what makes up a defence budget. In its definition of ‘military expenditure’, NATO includes, besides defence ministry budgets, pensions, expenditure for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, and research and development costs. Yet, the United Nations accepts another meaning of military expenditure, as states report different numbers to the UN than to NATO. For example, the UK reported £36.9 billion (US$57.7bn) to the UN but £39.8bn (US$62.3bn) to NATO in 2013, while in 2015 even the United States reported US$584.4bn to the UN and US$641.3bn to NATO (latest available data).

Where possible, the IISS tries to approximate the NATO definition; however, the necessary information is not always available, not even for European countries which are among the most transparent in an international setting. Even across European countries, governments do not all have the same definition of what they consider to be defence budgets. In Turkey for example, financial documents provide a budget figure for the defence ministry, but there is an additional figure for the defence industries’ under-secretariat. Even when combined, these two numbers likely do not cover all military-related spending in Turkey. To decide what numbers to count is the first hurdle when considering the 2% issue.

A second problem relates to the additional information needed to calculate the share of GDP. The IISS collects GDP figures from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook Database. However, GDP data can come from a variety of sources, such as national statistics agencies, but also the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or the European Commission. Different GDP figures may therefore lead to different results when calculating the share of GDP spent on defence. In addition, because the IISS looks at defence spending worldwide, it uses the IMF’s GDP data in US dollar terms and to calculate the share of defence spending, exchange rates have to be applied. But, here again, exchange rates may come from a diverse range of sources – for The Military Balance, exchange rates are derived from the IMF data. These calculations also have an impact on the result for the share of countries’ GDP spent on defence: the US State Department’s World Military Expenditure and Arms Transfers report shows that there can be at least five different methods to convert military expenditure from local currencies to US dollars, which generate sometime very different results. Consequently, in some cases, whether or not states hit the 2% target is dependent on the data sources and definitions.

Going beyond the 2% figure

Leaving methodological issues to one side, arguably the 2% assessment only provides a limited representation of countries’ defence capabilities and commitments. Beyond the 2% defence spending target, it is worth noting that, while in absolute numbers real-terms defence spending did increase across European NATO member states in 2016 (going up from US$255.7bn in 2015 to US$256.5bn in 2016, or a real-terms growth of 0.3%), this rate was still well below the GDP growth of European NATO member states altogether – which was 1.8% in 2016. This shows that there remains a discrepancy between defence-spending discourse and reality (see chart).


How and on which items governments spend their money is more important in ascertaining the degree to which European states get involved in their own security. For example, the NATO definition (and therefore the 2% figure) encompasses military pensions. For many states, this represents a significant proportion of their defence budget (in 2016, 33% of Belgium’s defence budget was spent on pensions; 24% of France’s; 17% of Germany’s) – pensions contribute to the 2% target, but do they contribute to a states’ ability to defend itself. To better capture how defence budgets are spent, NATO put forward another yardstick: 20% of defence expenditures ‘should be devoted to major equipment spending’. However, this raises again a range of definitional and measurement issues regarding what ‘major equipment spending’ actually comprises. Moving beyond symbolic figures of 2% or 20%, what should matter is how these tremendous sums of money concretely translate into cohesive defence capabilities across the Alliance. Based on the data sets now made readily available in the Military Balance+ on states’ forces and equipment levels, it is now possible to generate an overview of military capabilities with a few clicks and compare this result to defence spending. Ultimately, it is the output that matters.


The Military Balance 2017, released on 14 February 2017, is now available to order.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, analysis and research.

NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence: reassurance and deterrence

NATO battlegroup in Lithuania Feb 2017. Credit Getty/Petras Malukas

By Amanda Lapo and Monty d’Inverno, Research Analysts for Defence and Military Analysis.

The arrival of Belgian and German troops in Lithuania in January 2017 marked the first deployment of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP). At the conclusion of the Warsaw Summit, NATO declared this presence was designed to ‘unambiguously demonstrate... Allies' solidarity, determination, and ability to act by triggering an immediate Allied response to any aggression’. While this relatively small conventional force faces multiple challenges in its role to provide a minimum credible deterrent in the region, it also offers a unique opportunity to improve the interoperability of NATO’s land forces. After the arrival of four battalion-sized battlegroups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland by May 2017, NATO will have deployed some 4,000 troops to the region as part of the EFP, with these rotational forces ‘underpinned by a viable reinforcement strategy’.

The locations of the battlegroup headquarters and the contributing countries and lead nations are marked on the accompanying map and table: Canada (Latvia), Germany (Lithuania), the United Kingdom (Estonia) and the United States (Poland). The assessed composition of the battlegroups, shown in the tables, has several significant implications.

NATO enhanced forward presence plan 2017NATO Baltic states tablesThe multinational force is to be drawn from a total of 16 different contributing countries out of a total of 28 member states. The presence of such a range of NATO states in the force represents a potentially more effective extension of the ‘tripwire’ function to guarantee the support of a range of allies in response to any attack on the host nation.

The Canadian, German and UK-led battlegroups will consist largely of tracked armoured forces, including infantry fighting vehicles and main battle tanks. Given the limited armoured forces in the existing inventory of the three Baltic states (see The Military Balance 2017, p. 67), this force represents a substantial increase in NATO’s capability in the region. However, the EFP battlegroups are, in total, equivalent to only a single heavy brigade, spread over an extensive geographical area – far from the highly publicised assessment in 2016 that a force including at least three heavy brigades would be needed to provide the minimum credible deterrent to a possible Russian attack.

Battlegroups could join others to create division-sized heavy force

However, NATO does have the additional capability of the land component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (which is brigade-sized), while the US deployed in Europe, from late 2016, an Armoured Brigade Combat Team. If the EFP battlegroups are counted alongside these other two brigade-sized formations, they could be seen as part of a wider attempt to achieve deterrence by demonstrating the capability to generate a division-sized heavy force in Eastern Europe.

Higher level command-and-control arrangements suggest that a potential divisional capability is in mind. The EFP battlegroups will report to a new multinational division headquarters based on the existing Polish 16th Mechanised Division in Elblag, which will in turn answer to the NATO Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin. However, developing effective command-and-control relationships and interoperability with host-nation forces will be just as important. For instance, the German-led battlegroup in Lithuania has been assigned to Lithuania’s mechanised infantry brigade and will take part in its training cycle. Similarly, the US has already confirmed that its Stryker battalion will be put under the tactical control of a Polish brigade, while encouraging others to implement similar command-and-control arrangements.

Overall, NATO’s EFP will likely face significant challenges in command and control and interoperability at both local and alliance level. In addition, its immediate combat capability may well be smaller than some defence planners would wish for. Nevertheless, if sustained the EFP will not only contribute to defence and deterrence in the Baltic region, but will also act as a valuable catalyst in enhancing cohesion and joint combat-readiness among NATO allies.


The Military Balance 2017, released on 14 February 2017, is now available to order.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, analysis and research.

The Military Balance+ – new IISS database available

Since 1959, The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has published The Military Balance, the annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics. In a major innovation, the analysis and data contained in this trusted book is now available in an online database – the Military Balance+. This new product will enable subscribers in government, the armed forces and the private sector, as well as academia and the media, to assess defence developments more rapidly, facilitating faster and better-informed decision-making. The IISS will continue to produce its annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics in book form.

The Military Balance+ represents a step change in defence analysis. The database is easy to use, allowing users to build their own data queries and use a bespoke search capability to instantly view, compare and download defence data anywhere, anytime. In a world of instant news, where measured analysis is of increasing value, you can rely on the Military Balance+ to deliver authoritative, respected and reliable defence information where and when you want it.

The Military Balance+ is produced by a dedicated team of professional analysts working in the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme and will be frequently updated throughout the year. IISS analysts will continuously monitor developments, assessing and integrating relevant information as soon as possible.

If you want to know:

  • Defence budgets across the world, year by year
  • Which nations operate different types of aircraft, helicopters, ships and armoured vehicles, and how many by country
  • Ongoing military operations and multilateral exercises
  • Military deployments and forces based abroad
  • Military personnel numbers across the world
  • Global arms orders and procurement activity

The Military Balance+ should be your first stop.

FORCES

The Military Balance+ provides data on the military forces of 171 countries and selected non-state armed groups. ­Click on a region or a country and scroll through the list of units by service. ­View personnel numbers, search for force types in the Data Analysis Tool and compare with other regions or countries.

EQUIPMENT

Explore regional equipment holdings or view a country’s equipment inventory. ­Search by equipment type (e.g. destroyers) or equipment name (Type-052) or search and compare equipment holdings between multiple countries, international organisations (e.g. NATO) and selected non-state armed groups (e.g. Peshmerga).

DEFENCE ECONOMICS

Investigate the defence budgets, GDP, growth and inflation rates of regions or 171 states. ­Use the powerful Data Analysis Tool to compare between regions or countries, or to create timeseries comparisons.

PROCUREMENT

Utilising the IISS's extensive research, explore weapons and systems procurements or training and maintenance deals by country or company. ­View contracts that have been signed, cancelled or completed, or are under negotiation. ­Use the powerful search tool to filter orders by type and value, or simply conduct a free-text search. ­Then see more detail on particular contracts by looking at the order timeline, companies involved, construction locations and notes. ­This extensive data set will provide users with an up-to-date resource on global defence procurements.

PLUS…

  • Regular front-page analysis features
  • Updated national capability and cyber summaries
  • Demographic information
  • Regional and country maps
  • Military exercises
  • Global force deployments
  • Analysis and graphics
  • Future expansion – additional data types, data years and functionality

CHOOSE A SUBSCRIPTION PACKAGE TO MEET YOUR NEEDS

  • Corporate licences for a minimum number of five users are available, granting instant access and download rights to at least three years of data. Prices available upon application.
  • Individual subscriptions can be purchased at an introductory rate of £695 per year (or £522 for IISS members), giving a single user the ability to view and analyse current data.

'Amid continuing conflict and broadening insecurity, The Military Balance provides essential facts and analysis for decision-makers and for better informed public debate.' Dr Robert M. Gates, former US Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence


The Military Balance+ was launched on 14 February 2017. Licenses are available at www.iiss.org/militarybalanceplus.

China’s very-long-range missile development

China's very-long-range missile

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The recent sighting of what appears to be a very-long-range air-to-air missile on a Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker derivative should have been of little surprise; after all, Moscow had first considered such a weapon in the mid-1980s. The weapon in question, however, is not Russian but Chinese.

Images were released on the internet in November 2016 of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force two-seat Flanker, likely a J-16, fitted with large missiles on inboard pylons. The weapon is well over five metres in length; by comparison, the medium-range US-manufactured AIM-120 AMRAAM is 3.7m long. Given the aerodynamic configuration and size of the weapon, a likely application is that of a missile intended to be used at extended ranges to engage large, high-value and non-manoeuvring targets, such as tankers or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and airborne early-warning aircraft. Using a very high, lofted trajectory it would appear that an engagement range well beyond 300 kilometres is feasible.

A very-long-range missile could provide the launch aircraft with the ability to engage high-value targets without having first to penetrate any defensive fighter screen. The range of the weapon could also mean that even if non-stealthy aircraft using it were detected by an opponent's fighter screen, they would remain beyond the engagement envelope for any defensive medium-range air-to-air missile.

Russia's Novator missile company had first shown a weapon in this class in 1995. Known variously as the KS-172, K-100 and AAM-L, the missile used a two-stage design with a larger diameter booster motor fitted to a narrower diameter second stage. Originally intended to meet – or at least compete for – a Soviet/Russian long-range-missile requirement, Moscow has offered the design for export, including as part of the weapons fit for the Sukhoi Su-35. One Su-35 brochure identified the missile as the K-100-1. Meanwhile, Russia appears to have retained the Vympel R-37M (AA-13 Axhead) as the only long-range air-to air missile in its inventory. The R-37M is carried by the MiG-31BM Foxhound, and it has also been offered for export as an option as part of the weapons package for the Su-35. 

The Chinese design, meanwhile, has a constant diameter but may well use a two-stage configuration with boost and sustainer solid-propellant motors to achieve the desired range. Using a lofted trajectory, where the missile climbs to perhaps 24,000–27,000m to minimise atmospheric resistance, would help extend the range. The missile would initially be lofted at an acute climb angle to rapidly gain altitude; a sustainer motor would then ignite and, following burn-out, the missile could then use a glide trajectory to extend its range. The shape of the weapon, however, does not suggest a great deal of body lift. For instance, the imagery does not show even a narrow mid-body wing on the missile.

Target acquisition and mid-flight data updates present challenges at extended ranges, even against non-manoeuvring subsonic aircraft, and in this case third-party targeting is a possibility. Another platform, most likely another aircraft but potentially a ground-based radar, could pass track data to the launch aircraft, for instance when the launch aircraft's own radar is not able to identify the intended target.


The Military Balance 2017released on 14 February 2017, features analysis of China’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. Print copies are available to order.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, analysis and research.

New wall chart: US forces in Europe in 1989 and 2017

Military Balance wall chart graphic.The Military Balance is the IISS’s annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics. Included in the print edition is The Military Balance Wall Chart, which this year focuses on US forces in Europe in 1989 and 2017.

The chart displays US force dispositions and basing in Europe and selected other locations at the end of the Cold War and today. It shows the change in force levels and equipment capabilities, providing quantitative comparisons of personnel, forces and equipment, alongside analysis of other issues related to the US military presence in Europe.

Map features include:

  • US Army, US Air Force and US Navy main operating bases and headquarters in continental Europe and selected locations, e.g. Turkey, Iceland and the Azores.
  • Unit types, e.g. fighter, tanker and special operations squadrons; missile wings; armoured divisions, regiments and brigades; and US Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Forces.
  • Associated equipment types, including combat, transport and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft; principal naval surface combatants and submarines.
  • Army Prepositioned Stock (APS) and European Activity Set (EAS) depots.
  • Ballistic-missile-defence (Aegis Ashore) facilities.
  • NATO members in 1989 and 2017, and current European non-NATO members.

Text boxes include:

  • Personnel numbers, force types and missions for ground forces, air forces and naval forces in 1989 and 2017.
  • US missile defence in Europe.
  • Nuclear forces.
  • European Reassurance Initiative.

Graphics include:

 US regional military personnel: 1989–2015 (Europe; Middle East and North Africa, South Asia; Western Pacific).

  • US global personnel: 1989–2016, by total active armed forces and US forces in Europe.
  • US European Command organisations and units.
  • US Forces in Europe equipment.

 The Military Balance Wall Chart is also available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request.

The Military Balance 2017 will be released on 14 February 2017. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

New features of The Military Balance 2017

The Military Balance 2017

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics, and is available in both print and electronic format. It is also now available as a database – the Military Balance+, which allows users to customise, view, compare and download data instantly, anywhere, anytime. The Military Balance is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, and an indispensable handbook for anyone conducting serious analysis of military affairs, whether in the defence industry, government, the armed forces, academia, consultancy or the media.

In The Military Balance 2017, launched on 14 February, opening texts examine developments in armed conflict and military capability, including: 'The changing defence-industrial landscape', analysing acquisitions and mergers in the US, European and other markets, and the effect of declining Western defence budgets on procurement; 'Special-operations forces', examining the development, utility and operational capacity of this capability; and 'Twenty-first-century challenges to twentieth-century deterrence', which considers how deterrence norms may be challenged by new and complex threats.

A Comparative Defence Statistics colour graphics section displays headline figures for defence economics and selected trends in land, sea, air and the defence industry. The Military Balance 2017 includes the following full-colour graphics:

  • Top 15 defence budgets 2016
  • 2016 top 15 defence and security budgets as a % of GDP
  • Planned global defence expenditure by region 2016
  • Planned global defence expenditure by country 2016
  • Real global defence spending changes by region 2014–16
  • Defence budgets in states bordering the East and South China seas (2016)
  • Composition of real defence spending increases 2015–16
  • Composition of real defence spending reductions 2015–16
  • Selected European aerospace defence consolidation, 1990–2016
  • Key defence statistics for China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US, including headline numbers of key military capabilities, and active and reserve personnel
  • Battlefield missiles and rockets: Russian and US equipment capabilities
  • Attack helicopter operators and fleets, 1997–2016
  • Anti-submarine warfare: fixed-wing-aircraft fleets

Regional and select country analyses assess the major developments affecting defence policy, military procurement and defence economics, in North America, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Specific country analysis this year includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Eritrea, France, Iraq, Japan, the Nordic states, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam and Yemen. The online and digital-download versions of The Military Balance 2017 include additional content, featuring analysis of defence developments in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran and Israel.

Within the regional chapters, maps and tables further assess select defence issues. Graphics features detail select key equipment, including the United States' Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, Russia's Almaz Antey S-400 (SA-21 Growler) air-defence system and the British Army's new Ajax armoured reconnaissance vehicles. These contain diagrams informed by analysis, facts and figures, and exemplify the broader work carried out within the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme.

Detailed A–Z entries by region list national military organisations, headline personnel numbers, equipment inventories and relevant economic and demographic data as well as, at the end of each chapter, information on selected national arms procurements and deliveries. Additional data sets detail by region military exercises conducted during 2016, comparative defence spending and personnel numbers by country, and a non-state armed groups section detailing observed equipment holdings for select groups.

The Military Balance Wall Chart this year assesses 'US forces in Europe in 1989 and 2017'. The chart displays US force dispositions and basing in Europe and selected other locations in both 1989 and 2017. It shows the change in force levels and equipment capabilities between those years, providing quantitative comparisons of personnel, forces and equipment, alongside analysis of other issues related to the US military presence in Europe.

Map features include main operating bases and headquarters; unit types and associated equipment types for each location; and Army Prepositioned Stock and European Activity Set depots. Accompanying text boxes assess the size, role and missions of US ground, air and naval forces in 1989 and 2017, US missile defence in Europe and the European Reassurance Initiative. Associated graphics show numbers of US military personnel in Europe and Total US military personnel in 1989–2016, US European Command organisations and units, and US Forces in Europe equipment.

The Military Balance Wall Chart is available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request.


'Amid continuing conflict and broadening insecurity, The Military Balance provides essential facts and analysis for decision-makers and for better informed public debate.’ Dr Robert M. Gates, former US Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence

‘Because military affairs are inevitably clouded in fog, the IISS Military Balance is an essential companion for those who seek to understand.’ Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary-General of NATO

'The Military Balance is the unique and vital resource on which informed public debate of the world's armed forces is founded. Up-to-date figures and information on defence budgets, procurement totals, equipment holdings, and military deployments are presented clearly and succinctly. In the area of defense information, where nationally produced fictions often masquerade as facts, The Military Balance is the internationally recognized source of record.' William S. Cohen, former US Secretary of Defense


The Military Balance 2017 will be released on 14 February 2017. Print copies are available to order.

European Defence and the Emperor's New Uniform

Photo by European Union

By Bastian Giegerich, Director of Defence and Military Analysis

A series of blows has forced the European defence debate into high gear. Russia is modernising its armed forces and pursuing an aggressive foreign policy, tearing down dearly held principles of Europe’s security order in the process. To the south, the actions of Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have sent instability, migrants, and terrorists across the Mediterranean. Brexit will deprive the European Union of one of its most militarily capable and extrovert members, and will reduce the bandwidth leaders have available for other strategic questions. NATO ally Turkey is adrift, after a failed coup and a crackdown against alleged conspirators that is shaking society and state. Across the Atlantic, president-elect Trump suggests he might interpret NATO’s Article 5 collective defence guarantee as a modern-day protection racket, in which partners who pay up enjoy a security umbrella while others miss out.

Under pressure externally and undermined internally, EU leaders have turned to defence to prove European cooperation can still add value and deliver for Europeans. At the end of June Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, presented a Global Strategy meant to clarify priorities for European action. In July, a new agreement between NATO and the EU suggested the two organisations would work together ever more closely. Staff at both have worked out a plan comprising of 42 actions across the policy areas of hybrid threats, maritime security, cyber security, defence capabilities, defence industrial matters, better coordination on exercises, and defence and security capacity building. Not to be outdone, the European Commission put forward a European Defence Action Plan on 30 November including proposals for a European defence fund, measures to strengthen Europe’s defence supply chain, and a renewed commitment to a single European defence equipment market. On 15 December EU heads of state and government endorsed the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, drafted by Mogherini to advance the objectives of her global strategy document.

Just before Christmas, then, a sense of achievement spread through offices in Brussels and member states’ capitals. It was suggested Europe’s security problem had been triangulated. EU–NATO collaboration would finally take off. The Commission would make EU money available for defence purposes for the first time ever. Ambitions had been clarified, and member states would cooperate more in pursuit of defence capability generation and provision. Compared to just 18 month ago, when the EU’s defence agenda had stalled completely – witness the insubstantial decisions on defence at the time – progress was huge. More cooperation would bring more security. All that was left to do was to communicate this to citizens and get on with the business of protecting Europe.

But doing more than 18 months ago cannot be the benchmark. The real question is whether Europe’s decisions supply greater international security capability: is the continent better equipped to face risks and threats, or not?

Against this yardstick, real commitment is actually limited. Mogherini’s implementation plan, which outlines 13 separate actions, asks EU member states to ‘agree to review the military requirements stemming from the [EU Global Strategy] and the Level of Ambition, in line with agreed procedures under the control of the Political and Security Committee as well as the EU Military Committee, as a contribution to the [Capability Development Plan].’ Stripped of jargon, this means member states have not yet agreed that a review of their military capability targets is necessary, nor that it should be driven by the EU Global Strategy.

Another action item calls on EU member states to ‘agree to explore the potential of a single and inclusive Permanent Structured Cooperation on Defence (PESCO) based on the willingness of Member States to strengthen CSDP by undertaking concrete commitments. If so requested, the HRVP can provide elements and options for reflection’. PESCO is part of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, but was never activated. Now, at the end of 2016, member states and EU bodies propose to consider activating it – but only if it can be inclusive, meaning as many member states as possible should participate. This makes it difficult for PESCO to be effective in terms of generating capability. The implementation plan promotes some sound ideas, for example around output rather than input-oriented capability development. However, without proper buy-in from EU member states it will remain a marginal paper.

The European Defence Action Plan is, likewise, a mixed bag. Much of what it proposes is not strictly new. The research element of the defence fund, for example, essentially rehashes plans for a preparatory action on defence research which may in time lead to a Commission funded defence research stream. Old idea or not, if successful this initiative could unlock billions of Euros of research and development funding for security and defence in the 2020s. The capabilities element of the defence fund is nothing more than a Commission invitation to EU member states to make money available for pooled projects (the Commission suggests €5 billion, or about US$5.2bn, a year). Small and medium enterprises will hope that the Commission’s focus on the supply chain gives them access to EU funds through European Investment Bank loans or access to the European Structural and Investment Funds programme. The Commission estimates up to 50% of EU member states defence spending is inefficient because of poor cooperation. Its focus on defence industrial matters is understandable. It has much less expertise, and no authority, to develop capability targets by itself.    

The EU and NATO have tried to develop a strategic partnership since 2002. When Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, that partnership was essentially hijacked by the unresolved Cyprus issue and has atrophied ever since. But with the external security landscape deteriorating and threat vectors multiplying, the view that the EU and NATO should complement each other has gained traction, and leaders in both organisations now seem determined to make this idea a reality. Not least because the overlap in membership is so significant and governments cannot afford to provide two sets of instruments – as the mantra goes, Europeans have a single set of forces that can be used in NATO, the EU, or in other settings.

The record of over 30 EU missions and operations since 2003 demonstrates that EU member states do not undertake high intensity or combat missions through an EU framework, even though they have the capacity to conduct them. There might be a single set of forces, but there is obviously no single set of responsibilities when it comes to NATO and the EU.

Currently, the EU is expanding its set of autonomous responsibilities to include the protection of the EU and its citizens (without defining what this might mean). Much ink has been spilled trying to determine whether or not there should be EU headquarters, EU strategic autonomy, or even a European Army. Perhaps this energy could be channelled more constructively into determining a proper functional division of labour, based on where NATO and the EU can add value. If EU member states are not willing to make existing capability available to the EU for certain missions, but are willing to make them available to NATO, then perhaps herein lies an answer. Participants in recent defence roundtables have joked that if a problem can be bombed it is for NATO, and if it can be fixed it is for the EU. Reality is, of course, not this simple – a look at first principles might, nevertheless, be helpful.      

All the strategy making Europe has engaged in over the past 18 months should be judged in light of a simple stress test for European defence: which threats would overwhelm the capacity of EU institutions and EU member states? Recent plans, strategies and action items will only prove their worth if they reduce the size of that list.

Liberal democracies and hybrid war

Photo by Kremlin.ru

By Kaan Sahin, Visiting Mercator Fellow on International Affairs

Whenever academic and government circles in Europe discuss hybrid warfare they focus on defending against it. Efforts to strengthen resilience have been identified in national defence white papers, EU strategies and NATO summit communiqués as the most important response in this regard.

Hybrid warfare is seen as something that happens to democracies, with authoritarian or non-state actors being the hybrid attackers. The overriding assumption is that Western democracies cannot wage hybrid war themselves, at least not as a full-spectrum activity combining defence and offence.

Interestingly, Russian policy makers and strategists have a different view. For them, the West has waged offensive hybrid warfare against Russia and others for years; this has been claimed by Russian military chief Valery Gerasimov. From this perspective the Russians – not the West – are the ones who have to defend themselves.

In an article for Foreign Policy Max Boot even calls for the West, and in particular the United States, to wage hybrid war on the Kremlin – to revive the 'political warfare skills it once possessed and that have since atrophied.' But are today’s democracies equipped with the tools to do so?

There are three factors which suggest that democracies are unlikely to engage in offensive hybrid warfare. Together, they create a structural asymmetry favouring authoritarian and non-state actors.

Firstly, Western democracies would struggle to coordinate decision-making across different levels of power at speed. Checks and balances would complicate successful hybrid warfare operations, as would institutional and bureaucratic competition and rivalry. Democracies also have to act within a well-defined legal framework, without breaching the boundaries of their own constitutional order and the norms of international law. In a state of war or emergency these laws can be temporarily suspended, but hybrid warfare very often occupies a space somewhere in the grey zone between peace and war. In such grey zones liberal democracies would struggle to mobilise the public and state institutions.

Secondly, hybrid warfare would be challenging for democracies from an ethical point of view. Certain elements – like terrorism or employing organised criminals as proxies – are off limits for democracies, diminishing their toolbox of offensive hybrid tactics. Even tools like counter-propaganda are considered morally problematic. German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, for example, has stated that such measures do not suit free societies.

Furthermore, leaders in democracies have to generate and maintain a measure of public support for their actions to legitimise and justify their choices. In the age of social media and decentralised access to information, every step taken by a Western government is meticulously inspected and questioned. Moreover, unlike their autocratic counterparts, democratic governments would not be able to co-opt domestic media outlets for conducting information operations. While hybrid tactics would only present a challenge of legality for democratic governments in some cases, they would often present a challenge of legitimacy, nationally and internationally.

Thirdly, and finally, democracies have comparative disadvantages in terms of global interdependencies. Free societies are dependent on international infrastructure, access to capital and energy markets and natural resources. Turning these global flows into weapons in a conflict would always carry an immediate cost. Moreover, democratic governments would find it difficult to enrol help from private enterprises in such efforts.

Given these structural issues, it is not surprising that much intellectual energy in EU and NATO member states is spent on defending against hybrid threats, rather than even thinking about hybrid warfare in a full spectrum sense. Nonetheless, their toolbox is not completely empty. Covert operations and the use of proxies – under certain circumstances – are established practice. Mixing conventional military means with guerrilla-style tactics carried out by trained forces is equally not beyond reach. Also, democracies have sophisticated information tools, which can be used offensively. Even ‘plausible deniability’ is used, for example in the cyber space.

However, these limited tools do not mean that democracies can wage hybrid war in a comprehensive and orchestrated way like their autocratic and non-state counterparts can. If they did, they would compromise the very essence of what they seek to defend. 

A new dog in the fight

Photo by Alan Warnes

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

China has joined a so far exclusive club of nations capable of designing and developing high agility imaging-infrared guided air-to-air missiles (AAMs). As well as being introduced into the air force, the PL-10 missile has already been put on show for possible export customers. The missile was displayed for the first time at Air Show China, held in Zhuhai in early November.

Given the close ties between China and Pakistan on the JF-17 light fighter programme, Islamabad is an obvious candidate as the first export customer for China’s latest ‘dogfight’ missile. Beijing has previously supplied its PL-5 and PL-7 infrared-guided missiles as part of weapons packages to other air forces including those of: Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan and Venezuela.

The PL-10 represents a considerably more capable design than Beijing has previously been able to offer. Only a handful of countries have the capability to design and develop high-agility imaging infrared AAMs. Only six such missiles are in service: the US AIM-9X, the British ASRAAM, the French Mica-IR, the European multi-national IRIS-T, the Israeli Python 5 and the Japanese AAM-5. The South African A-Darter is nearing service entry, while Russia has yet to field – or offer for export – an imaging infrared AAM.

The Luoyang PL-10 will provide the PLAAF with a successor to the PL-8 – effectively the Israeli Python 3 AAM – and the Russian R-73 (AA-11 Archer), which are the two most capable short-range missiles in its inventory.

The missile uses a similar aerodynamic configuration to the IRIS-T, the once proposed Ukrainian Gran, and indeed the Japanese AAM-5, with small fixed destabilisers to the rear of the seeker dome, narrow span mid-body wings and all moving cruciform tail surfaces.

The rear fins also have a distinctive notch on the trailing surfaces. Design insight may have been gained from Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. The PL-10 also appears to use an umbilical fitting similar to that of the R-73, potentially allowing the weapon to be fitted to the same launch pylon.

Launch weights varying between 89kg and 105kg have been claimed for the missile. Given that it uses a combination of thrust vector and aerodynamic control, and the drag penalty that this incurs, it is likely to be at the upper end of this weight range. As of late 2015, some 30 test-firings had been carried out. Development of the missile has been probably been under way for around 15 years.

The missile is believed to have been provided to the PLAAF in a small initial batch. It has been seen fitted for testing on the J-10, the J-11 and the J-20. If the service trials are successful, the weapon will likely emerge as the standard imaging-infrared missile in the PLAAF inventory and as the replacement for the PL-5, PL-7 and PL-9 infrared missiles that Chinese industry has previously supplied to export customers.

Latvia deployment marks shift in Canada’s security and defence posture

Canadian forces participate in airborne operations during Rapid Trident 2011

By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

A year into its administration, the new Canadian government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has embarked on a drive to re-engage with its global commitments. Its painful but ultimately successful negotiation with the European Union of a landmark free-trade agreement on 30 October can be seen as a key component of this initiative. Another show of its outward-leaning strategy came a few days before the signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, when Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sarjjan announced at a NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting that Canada would deploy its largest sustained military force to Europe in more than a decade. It will support NATO’s enhanced forward presence on its eastern borders.

NATO’s decision to deploy four battalions across the Baltic States and Poland on a rotational basis was announced by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Warsaw Summit in July 2016. Canada will take a leading role, deploying more than 450 personnel to take command of a multinational battalion in Latvia in 2017, to be stationed at Adazi military base. Placing Canadian troops front and centre of NATO’s eastern border forces is not without controversy, particularly since their nation’s re-engagement comes during challenging times for NATO.

In September, Canada hosted NATO’s Atlantic Treaty Association General Assembly meeting in Toronto, which served as the first international forum in which Canada’s shifting posture was reflected on in depth. Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion saw the Latvia deployment as going beyond a symbolic gesture: ‘Canada is taking a pivotal role in enhancing deterrence’ he told the assembly. There is cross-party appeal to this move, representing an endorsement of the vision of Canada as a key bulwark against new forces driving shifts in the world order.

Canada’s leadership and personnel will form the core of a 1,000-strong battalion to deploy to Latvia in ‘early 2017’. Up to 455 Canadian personnel will provide a battlegroup headquarters element, a mechanised infantry company, combat service support, vehicles and equipment. Further details on the other elements of NATO’s deployments to its eastern borders emerged at the meeting of NATO defence ministers: Canadian troops will be joined by Albanian, Italian, Polish and Slovenian personnel, although the exact nature of their contribution has yet to be finalised; Germany will lead troops from Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway in Lithuania; the United Kingdom will be supported by Danish and French troops in Estonia; and the US will command British and Romanian forces in Poland.

Beyond this initiative, the Trudeau administration is also actively seeking to deploy Canadian forces in peacekeeping operations. A return to this arena is seen as an opportunity to showcase the country as a force for good on the international stage – a public image the administration is betting most Canadians would identify with. In his explanation as to why Canada is sending troops to Latvia, Sarjjan said that his government wants to be ‘a responsible partner in the world … Canada has a deep sense of wanting to help when it’s needed … [The country] is stepping up and Canadians expect that … so it’s not a difficult sell for us because it’s engrained in Canadians already.’

Committing to long-term deployments abroad will come with significant costs, however, and critics have questioned the country’s ability to sustain such missions, particularly while the country falls far short of NATO’s defence spending commitment of 2% of GDP. Canada maintains one of the lowest proportional defence budgets in the alliance, at less than 1% of GDP, and there are not yet any indications that this is likely to change. Many worry that spending money on deployments will only worsen the budgetary problems faced by badly needed procurement programmes.

When asked about the disconnect between the current defence budget and the new government’s rhetoric, Mark Gwozdecky, Assistant Deputy Minister for International Security and Political Affairs, side-stepped the issue and questioned the use of budgets as a method of comparison: ‘We need a more sophisticated approach to measuring a country’s contribution to [NATO] defence.’ In common with a number of other nations that do not currently meet the 2% spending target, Ottawa seems to suggest that output rather than input metrics might be a more appropriate measure.

Despite lacking the military or financial punch of some others in the Alliance, Canada’s re-engagement comes at an important time. A changing geopolitical reality has given new urgency and importance to NATO as an institution. At the same time, it is not yet clear how the incoming US administration will position itself after campaign rhetoric suggested it might take a purely transactional approach. By contributing to high-profile deployments, as well as leveraging a wider array of foreign-policy tools, Canada could lead by example by means of a combination of military presence and cultural influence.

The Kuznetsov questions for NATO

Photo from Mil.ru

By Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

The Russian Navy's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has now embarked on its much-heralded and much-anticipated latest deployment from the Northern Fleet with a group of accompanying warships and support vessels, including the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Pyotr Veliky and the Udaloy-class destroyers Vice-Admiral Kulakov and Severomorsk.

Their presumed destination includes the eastern Mediterranean. They have already been tracked by Norwegian naval and maritime air assets, with other NATO surveillance capabilities on standby, and the carrier has already been observed conducting some limited air operations.

In one sense, this deployment fits into an established pattern of periodic sorties by the Admiral Kuznetsov in recent years. But the timing and strategic backdrop means that, this time, it is set to attract even more attention, not least given the ever-sharpening frictions with the West and the anguished debate over the trajectory of the Syria conflict and Russia's ambitions and intentions there.

The Admiral Kuznetsov itself is an elderly platform with a questionable reliability record. It remains uncertain the extent to which the carrier is deploying with a comprehensive air group. So far, only limited numbers of Su-33s and newer MiG-29Ks have been observed on the flight deck. Likewise, the accompanying warships are legacy platforms from the Soviet era.

Nevertheless, they do carry some significant capabilities. The carrier and the battlecruiser in particular are armed with the SS-N-19 Shipwreck/3M45 Granit surface-to-surface cruise missile. So they represent more than just a symbol of power projection. One uncertainty is what submarine assets may be accompanying the group and – equally – what NATO might also be deploying in terms of unseen surveillance

Depending on the state of diplomacy over Syria when the task group arrives in the eastern Mediterranean, the Admiral Kuznetsov's air group could make a direct if limited contribution to the Russian air campaign. The Su-33 has a very limited air-to-surface capability. And, while the MiG-29K has a multi-role capability, the extent of weapons integration achieved so far remains unclear. Even so, such a carrier-based intervention would be a first for the Russian Navy. More than that, it would be the latest in a string of firsts by the Russians in demonstrating operational capabilities in Syria that had previously been used on operations only by the West, such as ship-launched and submarine-launched cruise missile strikes.

What other characteristics might distinguish this deployment from those that have gone before? The uncertainties include what other activities the group might engage in to demonstrate intent and influence, perhaps off Libya for example. And how sustained a deployment is planned? A prolonged, high-profile deployment would certainly strengthen Moscow's messaging about its determination to create a permanent presence in the eastern Mediterranean, directly as a counter to NATO but also to spread influence in the region and beyond. There may be risks in terms of sustainment. But the deployment could also include a visit to the Russian facility at the Syrian port of Tartus, which would carry great symbolism.

This brings us to the questions for NATO. Much is being made and will be made of NATO's preparations and ability to shadow and monitor the progress of this task group. But there are broader and longer-term questions still for NATO, in terms of how to respond to a demonstrable willingness by Moscow to use its maritime assets more assertively. Russia's aim is to create strategic effects in what it considers its near waters, as a direct counter to NATO (as stated in Russia's latest maritime strategy) and to spread influence.

Previous deployments by the Admiral Kuznetsov have coincided with transits of US Navy carriers to and from the Middle East. This has to some extent served as a reminder of the discrepancy in actual combat capability between US carriers and Russia's single carrier. This may well happen again, but a US carrier presence in European waters has for some time been only a transitory thing. Whatever the limitations of the Admiral Kuznetsov and its consorts, they are reinforcing the impression that Russian naval activity is continuing to challenge the United States and its European allies over maritime force posture and capabilities.

For all that NATO members have invested in some significant advanced capabilities over the years, naval force numbers have reduced substantially, and so has the commitment to skill, training, and capabilities in the context of a contested maritime domain. NATO members will need to look at further responses in the medium term to regenerate key maritime capabilities. And it still needs to look long and hard at what will be the right focus and scale of commitment in the longer term.

French arms exports success – the data behind the numbers

Rafale, from French Ministry of Defence

By Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, Research Fellow for Defence Economics and Procurement

India's decision on 23 September 2016 to sign a contract procuring 36 Rafale combat aircraft marked the latest deal in an impressive export run by France's defence industry. French observers saw their country's industry soar to the number-two position of global arms exporters in 2016, behind the United States, but before Russia.

Selected French arms exports (2013–16)

Customer

Equipment Name

Platform Type

2016

Australia

Shortfin Barracuda-class

Submarines

India

Rafale

Combat aircraft

Kuwait

H225M

Helicopters

2015

Egypt

Tahya Misr-class (FREMM)

Gamal Abdel Nasser-class (Mistral-class)

Rafale

Destroyer

Amphibious assault ships

Combat aircraft

Georgia

Ground Master 200 & 400

Radar systems

Qatar

Rafale

Combat aircraft

Uzbekistan

H225M & AS350 Ecureuil

Helicopters

2014

Egypt

El Fateh-class (Gowind 2500)

Frigates

Peru

PERÚSAT-1

ISR Satellite

Qatar

System 21 (Mod)

Military satellite communications system

United Arab Emirates

Falcon Eye

ISR Satellites

2013

Brazil

SGDC

Communications Satellite

Saudi Arabia

Madina-class

Frigate modernisation

Singapore

SAMP/T

Air defence system

In light of numerous deals, official numbers for French arms exports have increased exponentially, from €6.5 billion (US$9.0bn) in 2011 to €16.9bn (US$18.8bn) in 2015. These figures represent the total amount of contracts signed during the year in question (prises de commandes in the French export-control reporting system). They do not reflect the value of actual deliveries, however. The aborted Mistral amphibious assault vessel sale to Russia illustrates this point: in 2011, the deal for two ships was accounted for in official figures for contract values, coming in at €1.2bn (US$1.7bn). But France cancelled the contract in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, eventually reimbursing Russia for €949.8m (US$1.1bn) and finally selling the two amphibious assault ships to Egypt in 2015 for a reported sum of €950m (US$1.1bn). In addition to signed contracts, to get a full sense of France’s position in the global arms market, two other data strands have to be taken into account: actual deliveries and licensing figures.

By themselves, the figures for signed contracts are virtual numbers. Actual exports are spread out overall several years, linked to the timing of equipment deliveries. In reality, according to the latest report to parliament on arms exports released in June 2016, the value of deliveries is significantly lower than the value of the contracts. Based on the figures for deliveries, France does not come close to surpassing Russia. According to data released by Russia for the year 2015, Russian deliveries amounted to US$14.5bn (€13bn) and contracts signed in 2015 reached US$26bn (€23.2bn).

Values of French arms-export contracts and deliveries (2011–15)

Year

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Contract values (€bn)

6.5

4.8

6.9

8.2

16.9

Deliveries (€bn)*

3.8

3.4

3.9

4.0

6.2

* Deliveries do not include the provision of services.

Another parameter in understanding the international arms-export picture is the value of export licences. This refers to the value of administrative authorisations requested by industry and granted by government. The value of licences relies on numbers provided by industry when submitting licence applications, which are much higher than values for contracts and deliveries. Compared to previous years, the value of French export licences issued in 2014 and 2015 has exploded. This development is, however, only in part due to new contracts; most of the increase was actually triggered by a change in the reporting method.

When France transposed EU directive 2009/43/EC on the simplification of intra-community transfers of defence-related products into national law in 2011, its arms-export-control system was reformed, with adjustments coming into full effect in 2014. Before 2014, French defence companies had to go through a two-step process that required, firstly, pre-authorisation and, secondly, export authorisation. These steps were merged into one in 2014. Before this reform, official French reporting only captured the values of the second licensing step (export authorisations). As explained in the latest EU report on arms exports, the merger of two licence types led to a summation of both and has 'therefore inflated the overall value of licences reported'. In addition, the report says the merger 'has driven a large number of exporters to request that their prior agreements already granted be converted into single licences'. As a result, the licensing figures reported by France from 2014 onwards can neither be compared to previous French figures, nor to those of other European states.

Value of licences issued by France (2011–15)

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Licences (€bn)

10.5

14.3

9.8

73.3

164.2

There is no denying that French industry, supported by government, has celebrated genuine successes on the global arms market in recent years. However, the best way to measure these successes is not necessarily based on the numbers officially used. The most accurate representation of arms sales lies in the value of deliveries. Being aware of the data behind the numbers generates a more precise understanding of defence-market trends.

Bastian Giegerich: Share guns and sovereignty – armaments cooperation in Europe

© Eurofighter/BAE Systems/Ray Troll

By Bastian Giegerich, Director of Defence and Military Analysis

The white paper on German security policy and the future of the Bundeswehr, published by Angela Merkel's cabinet on 13 July, promotes a new approach to multinational armaments cooperation. Based on the assessment that increasing development costs and low national order volumes will be unsustainable in the long run, the German proposal in essence boils down to four elements:

  • Harmonised capability requirements to enable one standardised design rather than multiple national versions that drive up prices and prevent interoperability.
  • A lead-nation approach, in which one country facilitates the necessary harmonisation and then manages the project, instead of complex multinational governance structures that increase the transaction costs of coordination.
  • Production based on technological and industrial excellence, rather than on the purchase of production share, to avoid financing industrial overcapacity.
  • Rolling out cooperation across the life-cycle of equipment, from development and procurement, to maintenance, repair and operational support, given that buying a piece of kit is usually the smaller share of the overall cost.

These ideas are not new – in fact, they represent lessons identified from all that went wrong with European multilateral armaments cooperation in the past. What is novel is to see them expressed unfiltered in the national strategy of a key player in the European defence puzzle, with the explicit goal of promoting industrial consolidation and improving European interoperability, transatlantic burden-sharing and efficiency of defence spending. If pursued with vigour, and if other European countries buy in, the impact would be rather fundamental.

Harmonised capability requirements are only possible if armed forces accept 'good enough' solutions rather than push for perfection and customisation according to national needs. It means every partner agreeing that a helicopter needs a winch but refraining from specifying different maximum loads. The next challenge would be to freeze the design once agreement on requirements has been reached. As Sir Bernard Gray, former chief of defence materiel in the United Kingdom, suggested: 'the relationship between a Requirements Manager and a defence programme is like the relationship between a dog and a lamp post. [Requirements Managers] simply find it impossible to pass a programme by without leaving their mark on it.'

The lead-nation idea can only work if nations rediscover the long-lost secret of effective multilateralism: one partner has to carry a disproportionate share of the burden in order for all to enjoy the benefits of their cooperation. In this case, being the lead-nation essentially means taking on the role of project manager – a thankless task and one that nations will only accept if they perceive an urgent need to close an important capability gap. But it does not imply that only large nations can be lead nations.

Likewise, lead-nation status would not mean production-lead. Only a limited number of European nations has a defence-industrial base of international significance. A focus on excellence would trigger transnational defence-industrial consolidation, because the previous practice of dividing production shares on the basis of the percentage a customer buys of the overall production run has produced a fragmented industrial landscape. There are currently four Eurofighter production lines representing the ownership structure of the Eurofighter consortium: Germany (Airbus Defence & Space) and the UK (BAE Systems) 33% each, Italy (Leonardo) 21%, and Spain (Airbus Defence & Space) 13%. Fragmentation in the area of land and naval systems is arguably even worse. However, a future combat aircraft constructed according to the ideas Berlin is promoting in the 2016 white paper is unlikely to be built that way.

At the same time, side benefits beyond the defence and security industries would probably be necessary initially to provide some sort of compensation for those governments likely to lose out under the potential new arrangements. Lists of sovereign national technologies will need be drawn up, identifying those areas in which a country is not willing to rely on external suppliers. To be helpful, such lists need to fulfil at least two criteria: they have to be significantly shorter than the overall list of defence-industrial technology in a country and their overlap with other countries that have major defence-industrial capacity can only be partial.

The drafters of the German white paper were under no illusion as to what they were proposing: 'Essentially this means relinquishing individual sovereignty for the greater sovereignty of all.' As the saying goes, if more than one miracle is necessary to make an idea happen, it is unlikely to happen. At the same time, an idea whose time has come is a powerful thing. If the German government is willing to invest in its ideas it should start by simultaneously and coherently engaging stakeholders in the requirements community, the procurement community and defence industry. New approaches to armaments cooperation will stand and fall with buy-in from these three groups.

Nick Childs: US carriers – more support from amphibious fleet

Photo by US Navy

By Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

At the beginning of August, the United States launched a series of air strikes against elements of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Libya. Among the US forces taking part were US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) combat aircraft from the big-deck amphibious-assault ship (LHD) USS Wasp. It was a timely reminder of the LHD's ability to operate in the support aircraft carrier (CVS) role in the absence of a full-size nuclear-powered strike carrier (CVN). And it is a role that is on the cusp of a significant transformation.

Debates ebb and flow over the continuing utility and cost-effectiveness of the US Navy's CVN force – and whether the ships can still be considered the masters of the seas in a naval sense. For a number of reasons, those debates seem to be in full flood at the moment: broad defence-budget concerns and worries about the resources available for the US Navy's overall shipbuilding programme; cost increases and delays affecting the new Ford-class carriers; and question marks over the implications for carriers of advances in and the proliferation of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities like anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, making for a much more contested maritime domain in the future.

As it has done in the past, the US Navy has responded to all this by embarking on a new alternative carrier study, to look at other possible designs from less than 40,000 tonnes to more than the current 100,000-tonne model. The outcome is likely to be an endorsement of the cost-effectiveness of the CVN model, possibly with the proviso that much will depend on how the ships' future air groups evolve in the face of the A2/AD challenge.

There have of course been advocates of the US Navy building smaller, cheaper carriers before. Others have also previously made the point that such ships already exist in the shape of the big-deck amphibious ships, at 40,000–45,000 tonnes. However, their capabilities are constrained without catapults and arrestor gear, and are therefore limited to STOVL operations. Their normal AV-8B complement is around six jets, compared to a CVN’s air wing of some 50 F/A-18s plus supporting aircraft. But they have performed the CVS function regularly: US Marine Corps AV-8Bs have struck Islamic State targets in Iraq; the US naval aviation contribution to the original NATO-led operation in Libya in 2011 consisted of an LHD with AV-8Bs; and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, two LHDs were configured in essentially a CVS role with more than 20 AV-8Bs each.

Among the factors transforming the picture now is the impending operational debut of the F-35B STOVL variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will have significantly more capability than the AV-8B. Further development of the Osprey V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft should fill some further capability gaps – for example, in inflight refuelling, ship logistic support (the US Navy has selected a V-22 variant for its next carrier on-board delivery aircraft) and even airborne early warning.

The first US Marine F-35B operational squadron is due to forward-deploy to Japan at the beginning of 2017, and aircraft will go to sea operationally for the first time later in the year. Work on adapting the LHD fleet to accommodate the new aircraft is under way. The latest two big-deck ships, USS America and USS Tripoli, are of a modified design (designated LHA), with enhanced aviation facilities at the expense of the earlier ships' stern ramp and floodable well deck for landing craft (although subsequent LHA vessels have those features reinstated).

Institutional resistance, as well as technical limitations, has got in the way of past exploitation of these amphibious ships' aviation potential. In part, CVN supporters have clearly seen them as a threat. And issues remain. The F-35 has huge potential, but will also impose significant additional requirements in terms of resources and operational demands. The US Marine Corps and the US Navy see a shortfall in amphibious shipping as it is. So adding more tasking to the bigger ships in the CVS role complicates that equation further.

But, in the more challenging and contested operating environment of now and into the future, embracing the CVS role more actively, and developing the concept in a comprehensive way, would add to the credibility of the US naval aviation force as a whole. Just as the concept of distributed lethality – spreading more offensive missile capabilities around the fleet – actually enhances the case for the continuing effectiveness of the CVN in a whole-fleet context, so too would the further exploitation of the F-35B/V-22/CVS concept in certain scenarios, affecting the calculations of both potential foes and allies as to the US Navy's ability to meet its commitments. USS America and USS Tripoli, in particular, could find themselves operating regularly in what would in effect be a CVS role, perhaps calling even for a re-designation of the ships.

Of course, air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq or Libya have taken place in a relatively benign air and maritime environment. The CVS cannot replicate the CVN's capabilities. But embracing the CVS concept could allow the more focused tasking of the currently overworked CVN force.

There are potential ripple effects for other navies. A number now have or are acquiring big-deck amphibious ships. Australia, Spain and Turkey have all opted for the Spanish-designed Juan Carlos class of LHD. The class even has a ski-jump ramp to facilitate STOVL operations. Opting to operate F-35s from these ships would be a major step. Australia has flirted with the idea, but has so far held back because of the resource implications. But the Italian Navy is planning to put F-35Bs on its CVS, INS Cavour.

Another intriguing addition to the developing global array of carrier capabilities is the impending arrival of the first new UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. This carrier and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales are equipped with ski-jumps for STOVL operations, but at 65,000 tonnes could accommodate air groups on a scale second only to the CVNs. Actual UK F-35B numbers will be limited initially. The current ambition is to have 24 available for the carrier deployment by 2023. The ships' official capacity is 36. In reality, at 65,000 tonnes, they could accommodate more. Adding V-22s in different roles would enhance their carrier credentials even further.

It is hoped that those undertaking the US Navy's alternative carrier study have looked at the UK design. But, rather like the current and planned LHDs and LHAs, these ships already exist and will soon be in service, potentially to form part of a combined spectrum of US and UK carrier capabilities that could have real strategic impact.

Douglas Barrie: Ramjet revival

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

While NATO was considering how best to respond to Russian ‘aggressive actions’ at the Warsaw Summit on 9–10 July, Alliance partner Sweden was measuredly introducing a new ‘big stick’ into its air-launched weapons inventory. The Swedish Air Force, given its location, has a close-up view of the modernisation of Russian air power.

On 11 July, at the Farnborough International Air Show, Swedish air force chief Major General Mats Helgesson announced that the Meteor rocket/ramjet beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile had reached the ‘initial operational capability [IOC] phase’ on the JAS 39 Gripen aircraft. The Swedish Air Force presently operates its JAS 39 with the AIM-120B AMRAAM, known locally as the RB-99. Sweden is the first of the six European Meteor partner nations to reach the IOC point with this new missile.

Following the JAS 39, Meteor will be introduced into service on Typhoon and Rafale combat aircraft. The four Eurofighter partner nations – Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom – are all participants in the Meteor programme, as are France and Sweden. The UK is the programme’s lead nation.

Several nations pursued ramjet technology in the 1970s and 1980s for tactical missile applications, but only three of the projects begun by the Soviet Union eventually entered service. All of the latter had anti-ship applications.

Ramjet propulsion is now undergoing something of a revival for air-to-air and air-to-surface roles. It has the advantage of providing greater average velocity than a solid-rocket missile of comparable size. Although the peak velocity is lower, the motor burns for far longer, allowing the missile to reach the target whilst still under power.

In the air-to-air role, as well as providing a greater maximum range, the use of ramjet propulsion makes a missile far more difficult for the target to defeat using escape manoeuvres – at medium range and beyond – when compared to conventional solid-propellant missiles.

Along with Sweden's introduction of Meteor, July also saw the Indian Air Force finally begin long-awaited flight trials of the air-launched variant of the ramjet-powered Brahmos air-to-surface missile on a Su-30MKI Flanker. China, meanwhile, released footage of a naval exercise appearing to show a firing and target engagement of the YJ-12 ramjet-powered anti-ship missile from an H-6 bomber. Both the Brahmos – a version of the 1980s Russian 3M55 Onix (SS-N-26) – and the YJ-12 are far larger than the Meteor.

India already fields the Brahmos on naval vessels as an anti-ship weapon, while the army has taken delivery of a ground-launched land-attack variant. The Chinese YJ-12 is broadly similar to another Russian rocket/ramjet missile, the 3M80 (SS-N-22 Sunburn) operated by the Chinese navy. China has also bought the ramjet-powered Kh-31P/A (AS-17A/B Krypton), in its anti-radiation and anti-ship variants, and has used this air-launched missile as the basis for its own YJ-91 anti-radiation missile.

China has also worked on a ramjet-powered air-to-air missile design for at least the last decade, although the exact status of this project is not known. It is possible, if not likely, that Beijing received some engineering support on the propulsion side for this project. Russia developed and ground-launch tested a ramjet demonstrator version of the R-77 (AA-12 Adder) in early 1990s, but this programme was shelved due to lack of funding.

Ian Keddie: F-35 achieves most significant milestone to date

Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

The latest figures released by Lockheed Martin confirm that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is now the most numerous fifth-generation aircraft in existence, overtaking the F-22 Raptor as it moves closer to becoming the ubiquitous twenty-first century airframe. At the end of 2015, 154 Low Rate Initial Production aircraft had been produced in addition to 20 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) models. A total of 53 F-35s are due to be built in 2016 and second quarter earnings information, released by Lockheed Martin on 19 July, revealed that 20 of those 53 aircraft had been delivered by the mid-point of the year.

When the last F-22 was delivered to the United States Air Force (USAF) in May 2012 it marked the 197th (189 plus eight SDD) fifth-generation aircraft to be built. Three Raptors have been lost in crashes since it was introduced, leaving 194 in existence. At 2016 production rates, a new F-35 is completed in Fort Worth, Texas, or at Cameri, Italy, in less than seven days. The figures revealed to Lockheed Martin investors brings the total number of F-35s to 194 (174 plus 20 SDD airframes) as of 26 June and marks a major landmark for the much-maligned programme.

Though its primary role is air-to-surface, the F-35 was always envisioned to be a multi-role platform, designed to be integrated into a variety of armed forces and nations. In contrast, the F-22 was developed as a specialist air-superiority fighter for the USAF. As such, a direct comparison of the two aircraft is not possible as both fulfil very different roles and will ultimately work together on US operations. Nevertheless, this remains the most significant milestone to date as F-35 numbers will continue to increase in comparison to its fifth-generation peers over the coming decade.

With F-35 production accelerating, falling unit costs and aircraft achieving initial operating capability (IOC) it appears that the JSF is entering a new phase. This is some distance from 2011, when the entire programme was perceived to be on the edge of a 'death spiral’. Rising costs and delays brought deserved criticism and eventually led to the appointment of Lieutenant-General Christopher C. Bogdan, drafted in to reform the programme in December 2012.

The US Congress has called for a new assessment over the possible procurement of more F-22s, in order to meet a perceived gap in air-superiority, and some critics continue to compare F-35 unit costs to current platforms such as the F/A-18 or F-16. What must also be taken into account, however, are the costs of restarting a production line from scratch or the rising maintenance costs and increasingly limited capabilities of legacy platforms.

If there was ever an opportunity to rethink F-35 and F-22 numbers, it was in the troubled years of 2010 and 2011: a time when the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform suggested cancelling the F-35B and halving orders for F-35A/Cs; and when the F-22 production line was still active. That time has passed: the USAF will declare IOC for the F-35A later this year, while the US Marine Corps will deploy F-35Bs to Japan in 2017. The JSF programme has suffered problems and has been justifiably scrutinised as the most expensive military weapons system in history. 

There remain some serious challenges to be addressed as the aircraft is brought in to service but these should be seen as problems to be ironed out in due course, not as the catastrophic failures as some would have. The F-35 has now become the most common fifth-generation aircraft and will likely be twice as numerous as the combined total of all current competitor platforms. Over 3,000 airframes will be built over the course of its lifetime, and it will become the workhorse for many military forces’ air combat capability for decades.

Douglas Barrie: UK trumpets defence deals at Farnborough

Crown Copyright

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The British government trumpeted defence deals with the United States worth over US$6 billion on the first day of the 2016 Farnborough International Air Show on 11 July, meanwhile Europe had to make do with a promissory note of jam tomorrow. In the wake of the UK's 'Brexit' vote, it was hardly ideal messaging, no matter how hard the out-going British Prime Minister David Cameron tried as he announced the agreements at the show.

The two key deals with the US were for nine P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft and 50 US AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. The P-8 deal, including support and infrastructure investment, was valued at US$3.4billion, while the AH-64E deal was costed at US$2.4 billion.

Britain has done without its fixed-wing ASW capability for more than long enough, while finding a path ahead for the Army's attack helicopter fleet was becoming an increasingly pressing concern. This is in no small part due to the looming obsolescence of the present WAH-64 Apaches, ordered in 1995.

US aerospace giant Boeing is the beneficiary of both orders. The P-8 has been favoured by the Royal Air Force ever since the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 programme as part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, because of unresolved technical issues. RAF crew have been embedded with the US Navy to help sustain British ASW competencies, and in the process gain experience of the P-8. There was no genuinely comparable competitor to the P-8 in terms of capability. Several companies, including Airbus with a maritime patrol variant of the C295, Lockheed Martin with a C-130J conversion and L3 with a Bombardier Q400 MPA had made approaches to the UK, while Japan had sounded out interest in the Kawasaki P-1 aircraft.

Only the P-1 was similar to the P-8 in terms of basic aircraft performance, but it is at an earlier stage of introduction into service, and carried with it much higher risk than the P-8. Given the Nimrod MRA4 debacle, the British government was inevitably going to be wary of taking on undue risk in its choice of successor.

The attack helicopter programme has also been secured by Boeing. While at first sight this would seem an obvious choice – the company after all builds the Apache – the back story to British military rotary aviation is convoluted, to say the least, and in the past has claimed at least one senior ministerial resignation. In 1986, then-secretary of state for defence Michael Heseltine resigned from the government of Margaret Thatcher over what became known as the Westland affair.

Westland, now in its latest incarnation as part of the Italian-headquartered Leonardo Helicopters, had been trying to garner as much work as possible on the Apache re-life programme. It was Westland that was the prime contractor for the original Apache deal signed in 1995, under which the UK purchased 67 attack helicopters, all but ten of which were assembled in the UK. The WAH-64 was also fitted with Rolls-Royce rather than US General Electric turboshaft engines.

This time around the UK is opting for an 'off-the-shelf' purchase of the AH-64E through the US government's Foreign Military Sales mechanism, including US engines. While the AH-64Es will come off the US production line in Mesa, Arizona, they will not entirely be off the shelf. The ambition is to re-use critical subsystems from the WAH-64 re-hosted on the AH-64E airframe, including the radar and electro-optical sighting sensors.

Conscious of the impression that the transatlantic-only deals might provide – irrespective of the justifiable nature of the choices – the UK government also announced the renewal of a Strategic Partnering Arrangement with Leonardo Helicopters UK. First signed in 2006, this has now been extended for a further ten years. However, as the ministry noted in its release, 'the new SPA is not a contract and does not have financial value.'

Along with the Leonardo SPA, the government also announced a 'partnering initiative' with Boeing, which according to Cameron will 'create thousands of jobs, secure investment in R&D and create opportunities for the supply chain'. The devil, however, remains in the delivery.

Adrian Philip Kendry: NATO defence spending and the Warsaw Summit – will Brexit have an effect?

By Adrian Philip Kendry, IISS Consulting Member, and former NATO senior defence economist and adviser to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Alliance’s 12th Secretary General

The unexpected result of the 23 June referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, when the British voted to leave the EU (‘Brexit’) by a 52% to 48% vote, has led to significant political upheaval in the UK, uncertainty over the country’s future place in, and engagement with Europe, and also highlighted political and economic challenges across the continent.

The uncertainty arising from the Brexit vote threatens to corrode international security and economic stability. It also casts a shadow over the 8–9 July NATO Summit in Warsaw. The UK’s vote is sure to feature in conversations there not only in relation to the UK itself, but also in terms of how it might affect the Alliance.

Corrosion and contagion: the Warsaw Summit and Brexit uncertainty
The Warsaw Summit is designed and intended to demonstrate NATO's renewed commitment to deterrence and defence, and the strengthening of its capabilities to meet three principal security challenges. Firstly, the fragile relationship with Russia and deep unease among East European allies following the annexation of Crimea and Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine. Secondly, insecurity in and beyond the Mediterranean, mirrored in the refugee/migrant crisis, continuing conflict in the Middle East, North Africa, the Gulf and Afghanistan and the export of Islamic State terrorism to NATO states. Thirdly, rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific that accompany growing territorial disputes over strategic and energy resources in the East and South China Seas.

The Summit is also intended to announce enhanced cooperation between NATO and the EU, particularly in intelligence-sharing, cyber security cooperation, counter-terrorism, maritime security and in responding to the challenges of hybrid warfare.

While the UK’s decision to leave the EU does not change the substance of the Summit agenda, it does heighten transatlantic worries over the effectiveness and resilience of an Alliance confronted by corrosive and contagious political and economic turmoil.

There is a very real prospect, according to the International Monetary Fund, that the economic instability resulting from Brexit will lead to a recession in the UK in 2017 with negative effects on growth in Europe more widely. This could, in turn, undermine transatlantic cohesion within NATO, diminish defence spending and reduce investment in the capabilities essential for Euro-Atlantic security and stability.

The full economic and financial consequences of Brexit cannot be predicted. There can be no doubt, however, that it has led not only to economic and financial uncertainty in the UK but also to significant risks for European political and economic stability. Alarmed by this prognosis, the White House has appealed to the UK and Europe to introduce fiscal relaxation that will promote growth and employment, and alleviate the destabilising economic and political frustrations of those who voted (and those who may in future vote) to leave the EU. However, measures to stimulate the economy will create an inevitable deterioration in the public finances – and in turn modify the UK Comprehensive Spending Review announced in November 2015.

Meanwhile, other risks include that Brexit could also lead to the UK being side-lined  as the European Union attempts to strengthen its security and defence policy, on the back of a strategy document presented, in late June, to member states by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

Brexit and risks for future NATO defence spending
As recently as late May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg indicated that an increase in NATO European defence spending could be expected in 2016 for the first time since the end of the 1980s. Therefore, the uncertainty arising from the Brexit decision provides an unhappy backdrop to the Warsaw discussions. Not only does it threaten to affect UK defence spending beyond 2016 but it also has the capacity to imperil the fragile recovery in NATO European defence spending. In turn, and by virtue of its unpredictable consequences, Brexit has magnified the long-established concerns of the United States over the commitment and resolve of NATO’s European members to strengthen their own defence spending and as a consequence reduce the transatlantic expenditure gap.

NATO defence spending in context
NATO defence expenditure (in 2010 constant prices) declined from just over US$1 trillion in 2010 to an estimated US$870 billion in 2015. Measuring and comparing defence spending is notoriously problematic. There are significant national differences regarding what should be included, which can complicate international comparisons. But with this caveat in mind, NATO defence spending in 2015 accounted for approximately 54% of the global total, while China, Saudi Arabia and Russia comprised 18%. Rather more tellingly, in the same year China’s defence spending exceeded that of France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. Equally, Russia and China’s defence spending in 2015 was greater than that of European Union members combined.

Transatlantic disparity
Within NATO, North America accounted for nearly three-quarters of Allied spending in 2015. This disparity has not diminished with the sharp decline in NATO defence spending on both sides of the Atlantic since 2008. In 2015, only five Allies met the Wales Summit commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence (and, of these, only the US, UK and Poland allocated 20% of their total defence spending to equipment and research and development). Seven allies, meanwhile, spent less than 1% of GDP on defence.

Strengthening the effectiveness of NATO defence spending
Faced with the myriad challenges outlined above, it is important for NATO heads of state at Warsaw to recognise that concrete and tangible initiatives must be introduced to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of their countries’ defence spending. Such initiatives should build on the measures adopted at the Wales Summit in 2014; they could usefully include the following:

  • Binding commitments from Allies to reduce the share of defence spending devoted to personnel (in 2015, this accounted for more than 75% of costs for some Allies). This could be achieved either by reducing personnel costs or by increasing equipment spending;
  • Recognising the notorious non-compliance of Allies in meeting the 2% and 20% commitments (and noting that a slower increase in economic growth compared to the planned growth in defence spending would statistically increase the ratio of defence expenditure to GDP), members should give undertakings that their finance ministries will be directly involved in negotiations over future defence spending and NATO commitments;
  • The mitigation of future NATO defence budget constraints as a necessary, but not sufficient condition for boosting NATO defence spending. This could be done by tackling the principal obstacles to transforming the fragmented and inefficient European defence-industrial and technological base, as well as strengthening the demand side of NATO European defence spending (deepening common requirements and agreements for equipment platforms and capability developments);
  • Improvements in defence resource management, together with additional resources that reinforce the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative both for Allies and partners (particularly in crisis-torn countries and regions);
  • Best practices in defence resource management must include greater transparency and accountability with enhanced procedures for building integrity and combating corruption.

James Hackett: Pacific Dragon and Asia-Pacific missile defence: more progress or familiar impediments?

Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) by US Navy

By James Hackett, Editor of The Military Balance and Senior Fellow for Defence and Military Analysis

The 2016 Rim of the Pacific naval exercise, due to be held from 30 June to 4 August with contributions from 27 nations, will this year be preceded by the Pacific Dragon trilateral missile-defence exercise involving Japan, South Korea and the United States. However, the degree to which this exercise will substantively advance the three countries' cooperative missile-defence capability remains unclear.

The imperatives for missile-defence cooperation are certainly there, with a range of missiles launched in 2016 by North Korea, including repeated (failed) tests of the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile and one successful launch by the multi-stage Unha space-launch vehicle.

For states faced with possible missile threats from the same source, the benefits of missile-defence cooperation would seem clear. Faced with a rapidly approaching weapon, early detection and engagement – ideally at a distance from population centres – increases the probability of a successful intercept and may provide the opportunity for a second shot. Meanwhile, if an adversary is launching a system that passes over the territory of a different nation, it also seems sensible to be able to generate a common picture of the threat environment, as well as of launch-detection, target-tracking and targeting data. This would help nations in engaging missiles that constitute a threat to all; for instance, it could mean one country detecting and tracking an incoming missile, and another country engaging it. However, while achieving these goals may be conceptually straightforward, in practical terms they remain elusive.

Elsewhere, such as in the Gulf, common threat perceptions exist. There, one is held to be from Iran's ballistic-missile inventory. And there are a number of capable missile-defence assets held in the inventories of Gulf states – ranging from the short-range Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3, to recent first deliveries of the medium-range Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic-missile-defence (BMD) system to the United Arab Emirates.

In this region, however, moving beyond common threat perceptions towards integrating air- and missile-defence capacities remains problematic. The US has long exhorted regional states to do more in this regard but, in the Gulf, US systems remain at the 'hub' of a regional 'hub and spoke' missile-defence architecture comprising increasingly modern – though still largely discrete – national capabilities.

The US, Japan, South Korea and missile defence

In East Asia, Japan – like South Korea – is worried by North Korea's missile developments. On the face of it, this would appear to be an area suitable for real progress in the trilateral defence relationship between these states and the US.

After all, as well as the commonly perceived dangers from North Korean missile developments, there are some similarities in assets: both Japan and South Korea operate ships equipped with the US Aegis battle-management system, and both have ships equipped with the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) – on their Atago- and Sejong-class cruisers respectively. There is also an array of mainly short-range land-based systems, while Seoul plans to develop its Korea Air and Missile Defence system by the 2020s. Concern over continued Northern missile launches (and another nuclear test) in 2016 led Seoul to begin discussions on the long-mooted acquisition of the US-developed THAAD BMD system, to which China remains opposed. Meanwhile, the US retains significant missile-defence systems in the region. According to Admiral Harry Harris, Commander US Pacific Command, 'TPY-2 radars in Japan, the THAAD system on Guam, and the Sea-Based X-band Radar (SBX) based in Hawaii defend the US homeland and our allies', while the US Pacific Fleet also has a range of Aegis-equipped and missile-defence-capable vessels in the region.

Presently, while there has been some activity on the trilateral level, much missile-defence cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea takes place bilaterally. Examples include this year's US–Japan Keen Edge exercise and continued ties between South Korean and US air-defence units on the peninsula. However, there was an earlier Pacific Dragon in 2012, and discussions on the subject continue at the trilateral level. Japan's defence minister, Gen Nakatani, said in May 2016 that 'Japan, the United States and the ROK have already been discussing such matters as missiles at periodic and other meetings'. And in advance of this year's IISS Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), Seoul's Ministry of National Defense said that the three countries' defence ministers would hold talks in Singapore to discuss 'enhancing and addressing issues related to the system of cooperation and current national defence issues in order to respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats'.

Building cooperation, gradually

It is certainly true that there has been a measured warming in the Japan–South Korea defence relationship. At the 2015 IISS SLD, the defence ministers met for the first time since 2011. Later that October, Defence Minister Nakatani visited Seoul for meetings including a defence ministerial. Both countries' defence ministers met again at the 2016 IISS SLD, emphasising the importance of working bilaterally – and with the US – to counter North Korea's missile capabilities. According to the South Korean Ministry of Defense, they also 'discussed their plans to establish a director level hotline, which will link the Korean Ministry of National Defense and the Japanese Defense Agency [Ministry of Defense]'. While Pacific Dragon 2016 might have been made more pressing by North Korea's actions, it has been assisted by the 2014 Trilateral Information Sharing Agreement in gaining classified information 'concerning the nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea'.

Nonetheless, the degree to which this latest Pacific Dragon exercise will practically enhance missile-defence cooperation remains open to question. Much depends on the exercise programme itself. Called a 'missile warning' exercise by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter during his 2016 IISS SLD speech, the 2016 Pacific Dragon is reportedly 'designed to check the three countries' capacity to track ballistic missiles and share relevant information, involving their Aegis destroyers'. (The 2012 Pacific Dragon reportedly included target-tracking.)

But in other regions, bilateral and multilateral missile-defence exercises have progressed to test-engagements. For instance, the bilateral US–Israel Juniper Cobra 2016 missile-defence exercise culminated in live firings, as did the 'At Sea Demonstration' of BMD capabilities off Scotland in late 2015, comprising nations from the Maritime Theatre Missile Defence Forum.

Additionally, as well as the overall objective set for the exercise, it will be interesting to observe how Pacific Dragon 2016 is executed. For instance, will it see participating assets operating jointly as part of the same scenario, or will Japanese and South Korean vessels train bilaterally with the US, or instead will they train in a form of 'multi-bilateralism', where the US might simultaneously coordinate Japanese and South Korean capabilities?

But for all that, in a context where territorial disputes and historical sensitivities have previously been among the factors impeding closer bilateral defence cooperation, maybe it is good enough that both Japan and South Korea are building on the improved institutional ties of recent years, and that they are once more taking part in the same exercise at the same time, and against a commonly perceived threat.

Furthermore, maybe it is good enough that they are practising the sharing of tracking information and sensor data, and that they are practising interoperability – even if this interoperability might be with US forces and in the context of a US-centred 'hub and spoke' approach. Indeed, perhaps bilateral and trilateral exercises like Pacific Dragon are activities that Gulf states and the Gulf Cooperation Council might look to imitate, to help better develop their own missile-defence capabilities.

For states interested in effectively countering common missile threats – particularly in complex geographic environments – it is important to develop more effective and practical cooperation between themselves. It means states have to consider ways to continue deepening levels of trust and interoperability between their systems and their armed forces. Continued meetings and agreements that incrementally develop trust and cooperation are important. And so too are exercises like Pacific Dragon.

Though integrating missile-defence systems remains technically challenging, measures such as these may, over time, help missile-defence cooperation reach the levels of sophistication needed to address more realistic operational scenarios. In both East Asia and the Gulf, while the constraints on closer cooperation have so far outweighed the imperatives driving it, the risk remains that these imperatives will only become more pressing.

Ian Keddie: Undersea challenge for NATO takes shape


By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

In his keynote address at the Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) 2016 conference in Oslo, Norwegian State Secretary for Defence, Øystein Bø, declared that NATO must re-establish command of the maritime domain in light of a shift in the established order. Clearly, this means the new relationship with Russia, and developments such as increased Russian submarine activity, as well as its revived activities in and around the Arctic. Bø stated that ‘the strategic environment is changing’ and called for ‘a more frequent peacetime presence of allied forces in the High North’.

The 2014 NATO summit in Wales sought to address the gradual decline in the Alliance’s maritime pre-eminence. It restored anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to its list of 16 priority capabilities for the Alliance, following a prolonged absence. Next month’s Warsaw summit is likely to reinforce the requirement for a stronger focus on maritime forces, particularly in the Arctic region.

For all these reasons, Oslo seemed an appropriate venue for this year’s UDT. State Secretary Bø also pointed to the imminent release of a Norwegian Defence White Paper and his desire for Norway to strive towards the 2% defence-spending goal laid down by NATO. In terms of priorities, he pointed to long-term requirements such as replacements for the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a commitment to the F-35 aircraft, and a desired replacement for the Ula-class submarine. As for NATO itself, he added, ‘we would like to see a more frequent allied presence in the High North and North Atlantic and [for it] to invest in maritime capabilities to ensure it remains politically and militarily credible.’

The prevalent tone of UDT 2016 is indicative of the mood within the Western defence establishment: a need for further attention and investment in the maritime domain, particularly submarine warfare, while recognising the limitations of budgets and political will. Rear Admiral Dario Giacomin, head of submarines for the Italian Navy, called for a pan-European approach to procurement and the sustainment of submarine fleets; and Philip Schon, sales head for ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, acknowledged the rising costs of increasingly complex systems and the problem this presents to smaller navies that may only operate a few submarines.

The withdrawal by the United States from Europe following the end of the Cold War, as well as its ‘rebalance’ to Asia, make European collaboration all the more important. In the maritime domain in particular, the strategic importance of the North Atlantic has come back into focus as the High North undergoes the effects of climate change. European navies must cooperate operationally and industrially in order to retain a strategic edge.

For the defence industry, UDT 2016 was an opportunity to showcase the technologies that will deliver that edge, with a focus on concepts such as anti-access/area-denial and capabilities such unmanned maritime vehicles, with the main issue for navy chiefs and advisers being how these will influence defence policy. Despite the absence of some manufacturers, the majority of the sector’s key players all presented their latest submarine, unmanned, and sensor technologies. The changing strategic situation of the region, the pace of innovation, and the renewed interest in the domain are all driving this new agenda. 

Ian Keddie: The impact of UUVs on submarine operational doctrine

By Photo: POA(Phot) Tam McDonald/MOD, OGL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47870633

By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

The debate over the United Kingdom's maintenance of an independent nuclear deterrent has received renewed attention since Jeremy Corbyn took over as leader of the opposition Labour Party in 2015. There is now a significant doubt over whether Labour will continue to support at least the principle of sustaining a UK strategic nuclear force. The current UK government is committed to a Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD), employing a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) force on constant patrol. As Labour has been undertaking a review of its position, one of the arguments that has surfaced among opponents of the current government's plans is that the submarines themselves could become obsolete due to the proliferation of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) in particular – popularly referred to as 'underwater drones' – and Unmanned Maritime Vehicles (UMVs) – both sub-surface and surface – in general.

Ballistic missile submarines, operated by several navies as part of their nations’ strategic nuclear forces, carry out patrols in expansive oceans for extended periods. For the UK, this takes the shape of a Vanguard-class vessel departing the Firth of Clyde and remaining submerged in the Atlantic for a period of some three months. Nations which carry out ballistic missile submarine operations, and particularly CASD operations, invest a huge amount of effort to ensure that the submarine can complete each patrol undetected and uninterrupted. This is a key principal of CASD, so any threat to the integrity of the patrol is a serious concern. There have been many predictions of the impending transparency of the world's oceans through various developments in sensor or unmanned technologies. These predictions fail to grasp the complexity of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations and ignore the limitations imposed by physics.

Successful ASW is a difficult art to master. It requires sustained effort and the long-term commitment of a substantial number of assets. ASW operations are only successful when protecting a specific asset or confined to a limited area. These are not conditions in which SSBNs operate. UMV technology has seen rapid developments in the last decade. So it is tempting to imagine that it will offer a revolutionary change to the way ASW is carried out. The problem is that endurance and speed, as well as the size of the oceans, are all in favour of the SSBN.

In addition, UMV – and especially UUV – technology can be utilised by the submarine itself for deception or self-defence. The considerable advantages that SSBNs hold when operating in the open ocean have made them enormously difficult to track, even by a force equipped with the full spectrum of patrol aircraft, frigates, and nuclear-powered but conventionally-armed attack submarines (SSNs). A new generation of persistent, numerous, and interconnected UMVs are inevitably on the horizon. And they will present new challenges for both that SSN and the SSBN commander to take in to account. But the scale of the oceans and the realities of physics – specifically the transmission of energy through water – will remain a huge hurdle in terms of broad-area surveillance using UMVs. Also, navies who want to protect their SSBNs will not remain static in developing countermeasures.

The greater prospects for UMV technology and its impact on ASW lie in more focused tactical operational scenarios, against SSNs or conventionally-powered boats (SSKs), particularly when they are deployed in or around geographic choke points or in shallow and acoustically challenging waters. The supremacy of a submarine can be contested in environments like these. The impact of UMV technology is far more likely to be in littoral areas, and in tactical submarine operations, than in the vast, deep oceans that strategic submarines inhabit. UMV improvements and future developments will certainly influence SSBN design and doctrine, as have ASW improvements in the past. But they will remain just one sets of factors among many to be considered.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of the United Kingdom's defence policy, military capabilities and defence economics, displaying key forces by role and equipment inventories.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Nick Childs: The US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship - Less is more


By Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

For most of 2015, the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) commissioned in the United States Navy remained at four. Two more were commissioned late in the year and more are due to be commissioned during 2016. But just as LCS production and delivery finally starts to gain momentum, the future for this controversial programme seems even more clouded in uncertainty, with implications not only for the US Navy’s warfighting capabilities, but also its aspirations for increased forward-presence.

Originally, the LCS concept was intended to lead to the procurement of a large number of relatively light and affordable vessels that could be equipped, as required, with modular mission packages for anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures (MCM) or surface warfare. Two basic hull designs were adopted, produced by two industrial teams. One, led by Lockheed Martin, produced a mono-hull design and the other, led by General Dynamics, produced a trimaran design.

Concerns over cost growth and problems related to incorporating the various mission packages led to some debate over the programme’s direction, and undercut the original concept of operations, based around flexible mission modules. More significantly, though, there have been growing concerns about the survivability and lethality of the basic LCS designs in the face of an increasingly contested maritime domain, and amid rapid advances in capabilities suitable for anti-access/area denial tasks.

As a result, then-US defence secretary Chuck Hagel restructured the programme at the end of 2014. The last 20 hulls in the 52-ship programme would be completed to an enhanced design, with improved protection and increased firepower. It was subsequently announced that they would be referred to as frigates. Then, in a further twist, Hagel’s successor, Ashton Carter, directed in December 2015 that the programme should be cut to 40 ships, with just one design variant to be chosen for the final batch of hulls. Carter’s plan was that funds should be redirected to more high-end capabilities. The Pentagon fiscal year 2017 budget confirmed the Carter plan – to be made up of 29 basic LCS hulls and 11 frigate hulls.

The LCS has clearly fallen victim to increased anxiety in the US Department of Defense (DoD) over the need to invest more in high-end capability, even at the expense of quantity and forward-presence. The original 52-ship LCS programme comprised a significant 20% of the US Navy’s force goal of 308 ships. It also figures significantly in terms of the navy’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region – the six vessels commissioned so far are all home-ported at San Diego on the US West Coast. Now, Carter’s plan is proposing a 23% reduction in the LCS programme itself.

The Pentagon’s plan to forward-deploy four LCSs to Singapore by 2018 is likely to stand. But it has also said that it would like to forward-deploy eight to the Persian Gulf. Carter acknowledged in his directive that his proposal will reduce the number of LCS platforms available for presence operations. He says that this requirement will be met by more capable ships. But it is unclear how this will happen. And the move is bound to add to questions among US allies and partners both in the Asia-Pacific and the Gulf, who in any case have concerns over the scale of Washington’s enduring commitment. In addition, the design characteristics of the LCS, its manoeuvrability and shallow draft, are considered of particular value in, for example, the South China Sea.

For all these reasons, plus the industrial implications of curtailing one of the design variants, Carter’s plan is likely to face considerable scrutiny, not least in the US Congress. It was certainly controversial in US Navy circles. And, in part as a result of plans to field an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile capability during the course of the year, there has been something of a fightback from LCS supporters, contesting the notion that the ships would essentially be ‘sitting ducks’ in any high-end warfighting scenario. There are also concerns about maintaining the US Navy’s MCM capability if the LCS programme is cut back.

With the increased momentum of ship deliveries, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson has ordered a review of the LCS programme in terms of personnel, training and operations – especially the 3:2:1 concept of three crews for two hulls to maintain one ship on station. It is also meant to learn the lessons of deployments so far, and will no doubt also take account of the major changes that have been imposed on the programme.

The recent major machinery problems of the USS Fort Worth on forward deployment in Singapore probably have not helped the LCS’s cause. And one way or another, the LCS programme will face considerable further upheaval as a result of the changing strategic environment in the maritime domain. But just as the DoD is moving away from the original LCS concept of a more affordable, more universal surface combatant in favour of more high-end capability, US allies like France and the United Kingdom are curtailing plans for high-end frigate platforms, the FREMM and Type-26 designs respectively, in order to pursue cheaper, lighter vessels to sustain or even enhance fleet sizes.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of the United States’ defence policy, military capabilities and defence economics, displaying key forces by role and equipment inventories.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Military Balance Recap: Middle Eastern defence-spending increases

At the launch of The Military Balance 2016 on 9 February, Giri Rajendran, IISS Research Associate for Defence Economics, talks about defence-spending levels in Middle Eastern countries.

‘The Middle East is getting harder and harder to assess,’ he says. It’s already an opaque region and it’s getting more so. From 2011 onwards till 2014 spending was increasing; in 2015 it’s decelerated quite considerably. However, a lot of countries have considerable sovereign reserves to fall back on, as well as generally low debt levels.

Watch the full launch on the IISS YouTube channel.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of Middle Eastern defence economics, and displays defence economics for regional states.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Ben Barry: Conflict in Iraq and Syria

Ben Barry, IISS Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, talks about the recent situation in Iraq and Syria, highlighting that in Iraq, according to the United States, Islamic State has lost a third of its territory in comparison with its high point of September 2014. It has been slow work, partly because of the need for the US to build up the conventional capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. In Syria, US-supported Arab and Kurdish forces have made progress, however the Syrian government – which was losing ground and manpower – has received Russian air support, enabling it to hold territory and even to push back.

Watch the full launch on the IISS YouTube channel.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of the conflict in the Middle East, as well as Iraq’s and Syria’s military capabilities, including key forces by role, equipment inventories and – for Iraq – defence economics. It also features Islamic State’s observed equipment holdings.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Tom Waldwyn: China’s surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea


By Tom Waldwyn, Research Analyst for Defence and Military Analysis

China’s construction activity on features it occupies in the South China Sea has in recent years attracted increasing scrutiny internationally. In a briefing to the United States Congress in late February 2016, Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, commander of US Pacific Command, said that China is engaged in ’destabilizing militarization of the South China Sea’. Beijing’s activity there has so far consisted of testing new facilities and a gradual deployment of assets to Chinese-occupied features.

Earlier this month, satellite imagery was released reportedly showing two surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries deployed to the northwest corner of Chinese-controlled Woody Island, part of the Paracel Islands chain, on 14 February. It is believed that the deployment consists of long-range Hongqi-9 (HQ-9) missiles, which are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Deployment of this kind of weaponry has aroused concern not least because of the view in Washington that China is pursuing anti-access/area-denial capabilities with a view to its territorial claims in the area. However, in a statement Beijing refuted the threat posed by the missile systems.

The HQ-9 is believed to have a maximum engagement range of 200 kilometres, but the missile would only be able to engage medium- or high-altitude non-manoeuvring targets at that range. The ability to accurately identify and target aircraft is dictated by fire-control radar. The HQ-9 system is known to be able to deploy with a variety of different radars, but it is not yet possible to determine which has been deployed to Woody Island. 

It is also unclear whether the batteries are part of an existing PLAAF unit or an entirely new formation, or whether they are a permanent deployment or part of an exercise. Previous Chinese military deployments in the South China Sea, including to new features and air strips, have almost exclusively been the preserve of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its air-force arm, the PLANAF. However, the HQ-9 deployment raises the possibility that PLAAF aircraft could begin to regularly operate from these islands.

Before the news of the HQ-9 deployment, defences on Chinese-occupied Paracel and Spratly islands had been minimal. The majority had anti-aircraft guns and marine detachments, but this began to change in 2015 as the PLAN began testing a number of capabilities. For example, in May, according to US officials, China deployed two motorised artillery pieces to the South China Sea.

More significant has been the testing of new and improved airfields. In October 2015, the PLANAF demonstrated the ability to deploy two J-11 combat aircraft to the refurbished and expanded airfield on Woody Island as part of an exercise. This ability appeared to be tested again in February 2016 with the reported deployment of around ten J-11 and JH-7 combat aircraft, again to Woody Island. It is not yet clear whether this latter deployment is permanent and questions remain as to how quickly it was carried out and for how long such a deployment could be sustained for.

Significantly, in January 2016 two Chinese civilian airliners flew to Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands and landed on its new 3km-long runway. The ability to use this runway – which is over twice as long as the next largest in the Spratlys – for larger aircraft gives Beijing a number of possibilities for the future supply of and deployments to Fiery Cross Reef.

However, this period still saw PLAN and China Coast Guard vessels make regular calls to the Paracels and Spratlys. Moreover, the HQ-9 has long been a feature of China’s military presence in the region. The new Type-052D destroyer and its predecessor the Type-052C are armed with the missile. Of the former class, the first three have entered the South Sea Fleet and each destroyer has 64 vertical launch tubes each capable of holding the HHQ-9 naval variant of the missile (although it would be unlikely that a fully fitted-out Type-052D would be armed solely with SAMs). In contrast, a land deployment of two HQ-9 batteries would consist of at most 32 launch tubes. This all indicates that China’s defensive and offensive capabilities in the South China Sea are currently derived from maritime-based platforms as opposed to land- and air-based ones.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of China’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Military Balance Recap: Russia's new Armata tank

At the launch of The Military Balance 2016 on 9 February, Ben Barry, IISS Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, talks about Russia’s new T-14 Armata main battle tank.

‘Assuming Armata is successfully developed and enters service, Western land forces should be very concerned,’ he says. Russia’s long history as an armoured-vehicle manufacturer has resulted in the development of a new tank with advanced technical capabilities, which could reduce the effectiveness of Western anti-tank systems and infantry.

Watch the full launch on the IISS YouTube channel.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of Russian defence policies, military capabilities and defence economics, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. It also includes a thematic text on ‘Armoured fighting vehicles: renewed relevance; technological progress’.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Military Balance Recap: North Korea’s military capability development

At the launch of The Military Balance 2016 on 9 February, Nick Childs, IISS Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, talks about the significance of North Korea’s nuclear tests and recent rocket launch.

‘A large part of the elements of this are to do with political messaging,’ he says. These actions can be seen as a further assertion of the current leadership’s abilities, and ability to retain power. However, Pyongyang’s capabilities in mating a rocket capability with a nuclear warhead capability continue to be challenged by technical difficulties.

Watch the full launch on the IISS YouTube channel.


The Military Balance 2016 displays the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s key forces by role and equipment inventories.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Tom Waldwyn: China’s new Type-052D destroyer

Tying into a new equipment graphic in The Military Balance 2016, Tom Waldwyn, IISS Research Analyst for Defence and Military Analysis, talks about two key systems on China’s new Type-052D (Luyang III-class) destroyer, and the advantages conferred by them.

The graphic analyses the ship’s key propulsion, missile launcher, radar and gun systems; displays deployed missile ranges; and provides comparisons with Japan’s Akizuki-class and India’s Kolkata-class destroyers.

Watch the full launch on the IISS YouTube channel.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of China’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Joseph Dempsey: China's increasing inroads into the African defence market

China Africa defence blog

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online

The Military Balance 2016 features a colour graphic showing China’s continued inroads into the African defence market, based on observed military equipment now in African inventories. Currently, more than two-thirds of the countries on the continent operate equipment of Chinese origin, with at least ten new operators emerging within the last decade. In addition, the types of equipment now being imported are increasingly diverse and sophisticated.

This mirrors the advancements in China’s own domestic defence industry, which continues to narrow the technological gap with Russian and Western counterparts. A legacy of copying and subsequent improvement of obsolete Soviet-era systems, including the MiG-21 (PRC J-7) combat aircraft and T-54 (PRC Type-59) main battle tank, have given way to more modern and capable indigenous products.

China’s defence manufacturers are progressively outward-facing, with equipment now marketed, and potentially developed, purely for the export market. Though the People’s Liberation Army remains a principal customer and some advanced technology may be retained domestically, China has demonstrated a relative willingness to proliferate with less political restraint than competitors, as illustrated by the delivery of armed CH-3 unmanned aerial vehicles to Nigeria. Whilst the comparative capability of Chinese equipment has been questioned, some types may be appropriate for the threat levels and robust operating environments faced by many African armed forces – as well as being more in line with available budgetary allocations.

Chinese exports are also now filling a growing void in the African defence market once filled, in the post-Cold War era, by cheap surplus Soviet-era systems from the inventories of former Warsaw Pact states. With these stockpiles increasingly limited and obsolete, the accessibility and affordability of new Chinese equipment presents an attractive proposition when compared to second-hand alternatives or the products of Western defence companies, which are focused primarily upon high-end user requirements and can be correspondingly costly.

China is also capitalising on an emerging regional requirement for patrol vessels, as maritime security and offshore resources become an increasing priority. Chinese shipyards have both the experience and capacity to meet these demands, with Chinese defence industry already identified as the top naval exporter to Africa.

However, China’s growing position in the African defence market reflects the broader growth of Beijing’s influence and investment on the continent. Indeed, a significant proportion of imported Chinese equipment – manufactured by state-owned industry – represents government-to-government agreements often enabled by Chinese loans or agreed as part of wider infrastructure investment packages.


The Military Balance 2016 features a full colour graphic showing Chinese arms sales to Africa; tables displaying selected arms procurements and deliveries; and analysis of China’s and African states’ military capabilities, including key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Giri Rajendran: NATO, Europe and the 2% of GDP target

NATO European Defence Spending Graphic blog

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

Last week was a busy one for Europe’s defence policymaking and defence-industrial community, with NATO’s latest defence ministers’ meeting convening on 10–11 February and the annual Munich Security Conference on 12–14 February. Firmly on the agenda was the growing threat that both state and non-state actors pose to European security, as well as the level of resources on which armed forces in the region are able to draw to meet these challenges.

The Military Balance 2016 – released last week – contains analysis and graphics illustrating the scale of the budgetary challenge faced by the European members of the Alliance. As shown above, only four of NATO Europe’s 26 members – Estonia, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom – presently have defence-budgetary allocations that meet the 2% of GDP target set by the Alliance. The importance of this target was reaffirmed during NATO’s Wales Summit in September 2014, where states allocating resources below this level agreed to ‘aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade’.

As highlighted in the Europe defence-economics section of the current edition of The Military Balance, since the Wales Summit, some states – particularly in Europe’s east and north – are now registering real increases in defence outlays. The United States is also looking to boost its Europe-focused defence allocations. The quadrupling in proposed funding for the European Reassurance Initiative to US$3.4 billion in the FY2017 defence budget will mean that, if the budget is passed by Congress, the US will soon be the fifteenth-largest defence-spending power in Europe.

Nonetheless, as shown in the graphic above, for the remaining 22 NATO Europe states, the average percentage of GDP allocated to defence was just 1.1% – these countries would need to raise their collective outlays by nearly 45%, or just under US$100bn, to meet the target. Given the ongoing fiscal pressures faced by Europe as a whole, such a commitment to defence seems unlikely, even in the face of heightened regional threat perceptions.


The Military Balance 2016 features both regional and country-by-country defence-economic analysis, accompanied by explanatory maps, graphs and charts.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Military Balance Recap: NATO’s strategic policy towards Russia

At the launch of The Military Balance 2016 on 9 February, Bastian Giegerich, IISS Director of Defence and Military Analysis, talks about NATO’s approach to Russia following the failure of the European strategic partnership with Moscow.

In the run-up to the Warsaw Summit, ‘we will see a much bigger focus on deterrence,’ he says. NATO will try to solve the concurrency challenge of balancing geography, with simultaneous threats in its East and South, and balancing core tasks such as collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

Watch the full launch on the IISS YouTube channel.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of European and Russian defence policies and military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Ben Barry: Modernising the British Army’s Armoured Fighting Vehicles

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare

The Military Balance 2016 contains an assessment of modern armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), examining significant technology developments in key AFV manufacturing states. It concludes that the combination of firepower, protection, mobility and capacity means that a wide range of tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles will continue to play key roles across the spectrum of combat, notably high-intensity land combat, and particularly in urban areas.

The book determines that the relevance of AFVs has increased in light of the fighting in Ukraine and NATO’s resulting Readiness Action Plan. They are also playing a major role in the complex linked wars in Iraq and Syria, and have been deployed in strength by the United Arab Emirates to Yemen.

The Military Balance 2016 also analyses the United Kingdom’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which lays out plans to increase UK military ambition, capability and readiness. The SDSR has implications for the UK’s armoured-warfare capability, which is being modernised by upgrading existing vehicles and procuring new ones.

As a result of the previous 2010 SDSR, British Army armoured forces are smaller than at any time since 1939. They now consist of three armoured infantry brigades, each with an armoured cavalry regiment, a tank regiment, two armoured infantry battalions and a mechanised infantry battalion, supported by armoured engineer and artillery regiments (where, in this context, the British term ‘regiment’ means battalion-sized units of cavalry, tanks and engineers).

The Ajax family of armoured reconnaissance vehicles has been specifically developed for British armoured cavalry. It is a heavy (approximately 40 tonnes) tracked armoured vehicle, resulting from a high level of protection. It also has a powerful commander’s sight and vehicle computer. Its main weapon is a new Anglo-French-designed 40mm cannon that uses new ‘cased–telescoped’ ammunition – a revolutionary design that greatly reduces the internal volume occupied by the gun and ammunition. It is also designed to fire programmable, multi-role ammunition – the first British gun to do so.

General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the British Army, has placed considerable emphasis on Ajax as a fully digitised surveillance and reconnaissance platform able to play a key role not only in conducting conventional manned ground reconnaissance, but also as the centrepiece of a new concept for ‘land joint strike’.

The British Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicle has successfully performed in both British interventions in Iraq, and in the Balkans and Afghanistan. It has received no less than six incremental upgrades, which took the vehicle to the limit of its stretch potential. The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme is intended as a comprehensive plan that updates almost all of the vehicle, apart from its hull and running gear.

The range of upgrades to Warrior includes better internal protection and a variety of improved sights. Particularly significant is a completely new turret with new sights and electronics. The current 30mm cannon is to be replaced by the same 40mm gun to be fitted to Ajax. The Warrior upgrade is one of the most ambitious contemporary armoured-vehicle-upgrade programmes, if not the most ambitious.

But there is a capability gap. Modern armoured forces require large numbers of armoured ‘utility’ vehicles in supporting roles. These include command vehicles, ambulances and mortar carriers. The army currently uses a mixture of obsolete 1960s-vintage FV432 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and some of the protected patrol vehicles purchased for the Afghan war.

The importance of this requirement has increased since the SDSR announcement that the British Army will form two ‘Strike Brigades’. These will incorporate Ajax, but the main combat power will be mechanised infantry travelling in a new wheeled APC, currently termed the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle. This long-standing project is likely to be accelerated and for this reason it is probable that an existing ‘off the shelf’ wheeled AFV will be used, to meet both the APC and support-vehicle requirements.

It is anticipated that to allow the formation of two new strike brigades, one of the three existing armoured infantry brigades will be re-roled. This will probably reduce British front-line Challenger 2 main battle tank numbers to less than 150. However, limited upgrades to these are planned with the ‘Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme’. This appears to have the lowest priority and budget of all of the UK’s AFV modernisation plans. It will likely improve fire control and electronics, but there does not appear to be the funds to upgrade the vehicle’s firepower.

Furthermore, Challenger 2 uses a 120mm rifled main gun. The only other countries that use this gun are Jordan and Oman. The German-manufactured Leopard 2 and US M1 Abrams tanks, which represent the majority of NATO’s modern tank fleet, use a common 120mm smoothbore gun, with consequent benefits of interoperability. The large number of users has the effect that ammunition costs are reduced, in contrast to the less abundant UK ammunition. Many analysts question whether the UK can afford to continue with this increasingly expensive option.

Just over 100 years after the first prototype British tank appeared, the British Army’s infantry and reconnaissance AFV capabilities are all due to be significantly improved over the next decade. But its tanks appear to be a lower priority. This puts the UK out of step with many of its key NATO allies. It may also reflect the 2015 SDSR assessment that a major war with Russia is unlikely.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of the United Kingdom’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics, as well as an essay on ‘Armoured Fighting Vehicles: renewed relevance; technological progress’

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Ian Keddie: Type-26 and beyond - Future frigates

By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

The United Kingdom’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), released in November, announced that eight Type-26 frigates would be built for the Royal Navy (RN). The Type-26 ‘Global Combat Ship’ is intended to replace the Type-23 in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role. However, the SDSR also noted that another five Type-26s originally planned would instead be replaced with a cheaper alternative, described in the document as a ‘new class of lighter, flexible, exportable general purpose frigate to complement the Type-26’. The SDSR considers this variant as a cost-effective way of increasing, by the 2030s, the RN’s fleet of principal surface combatants (destroyers and frigates) beyond the current 19 hulls.

However, in order to deliver a new warship that remains capable and flexible but cheaper than the Type-26, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will need to carefully consider future capability requirements. 

The Type-26 is expected to be almost 150 metres in length, displace 6,800 tonnes and feature a variety of vertical launch system anti-air and anti-surface missiles. It will also have significant capacity for embarking troops and mission-specific equipment. These eight vessels are planned as high-end warfighting frigates, capable of all mission types, in all environments. Conversely, their high cost might make them too valuable for low-tempo or littoral-security operations, while their limited numbers will restrict the type’s reach. The second batch of five Type-26s were not intended to be fitted with expensive ASW equipment, but the 2015 SDSR goes further, seeking more savings in equipment, personnel and running costs.

Although this new general purpose frigate remains in the pre-design phase, some features can be anticipated. Describing it as a frigate implies a minimum displacement of around 3,000 tonnes, larger than an offshore-patrol vessel, such as the UK’s River-class. A hangar for at least one Merlin-sized helicopter is likely, whilst minimum offensive requirements for a vessel of this type are generally accepted as an anti-surface-missile capability, limited air defence, limited ASW and a medium-calibre gun. However, reducing both the initial procurement outlay and overall running costs, whilst still attempting to meet these baseline capabilities, will be a tall order.

Some previously proposed designs give an indication of possible design parameters for a new class of frigate. The MoD published a 2012 joint concept note called ‘Future “Black Swan” Class’ as a possible solution for the mine countermeasure, hydrography and patrol capability requirement. Though this concept appears to have been diluted in the transition to a revised mine countermeasure and hydrographic capability, certain aspects could influence the general purpose frigate requirement. 

BMT, the firm responsible for designing the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, produced a concept for a general purpose light frigate, calling this Venator-110. This concept has seen renewed interest since the 2015 SDSR was released. The Venator draws comparisons with the US Navy’s (USN’s) Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS); both are of a similar size and were touted as solutions to the increasing size, cost and dwindling numbers of frigate-class vessels.

However, the USN reversed its procurement plans for the LCS concept in 2015 and is seeking smaller numbers of an upgraded LCS to be known as the Small Surface Combatant. This will include heavier weapons and additional sensors. Meanwhile, the RN’s general purpose frigate is planned to include a smaller crew complement with more restricted offensive weapon options than the Type-26.

Comparing existing concepts and vessels such as the Venator and the LCS could be a starting point for the UK in developing the general purpose frigate, giving careful consideration to lessons learnt and capabilities offered, but it remains difficult to predict the full range of tasks that navies will be required to undertake in 20 or 30 years’ time. Nonetheless, the UK’s plan to increase hull numbers in the navy, as set out in the 2015 SDSR, has good strategic reasoning; even the best warship cannot be in two places at once. But at the same time as the RN is looking to pare down its future frigate numbers in order to increase the size of the overall fleet, the US is planning to add more capability to its ships at the expense of numbers. Meanwhile, the USN will speed up the development of new surface-warfare weapons for its surface fleet as part of the ‘distributed lethality’ concept. Providing new weapons will sharpen the LCS’s teeth, a solution which may yet see it become a capable, high-intensity vessel for the twenty-first century. Should both programmes play out as now planned, it could result in ships that are both remarkably similar and meet the true definition of frigate.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of the United Kingdom’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Giri Rajendran: Russia and China drive global defence-spending increases in 2015

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

The Military Balance 2016released today – contains both raw data as well as text and graphical analysis highlighting ongoing trends in the global defence economy. Key findings in the present edition include the degree to which Russian and Chinese defence spending has driven global increases in the past year, India’s overtaking of France in the global ranking and, lastly, the fact that Asia now spends nearly US$100 billion more on defence than NATO Europe.

The publication’s annually updated graphic of the top 15 defence budgets around the world indicates that China and Russia have maintained their overall rank of second and fourth place respectively. However, the double-digit real increase in the Russian defence budget in 2015 meant that it dominated global defence-budget increases last year, accounting for around one fifth of all real global-spending increases in 2015, a fact illustrated by other graphics in the book. Total Russian defence spending is estimated to have risen to above 5% of GDP in 2015, principally to fund its ambitious armament-procurement programme, but also due to the inclusion of previously omitted state-guaranteed credits in response to financing concerns over Western financial sanctions. China also accounted for a considerable proportion of global real increases (just under one fifth), after the country announced yet another double-digit budget increase in 2015 – continuing a long-running trend of nominal double-digit increases seen each year since 2000, with the sole exception of 2010.

More broadly, Asian defence spending rose again in 2015, as countries continued to acquire capabilities across a broad spectrum of military equipment, from surface and sub-surface naval platforms to upgraded regional air power, combined with a heightened emphasis of investing in expeditionary capabilities and air mobility. The pace of Asian defence-spending increases has been considerable: having overtaken total NATO European defence-spending levels in 2012, Asia now spends nearly US$100bn more on defence than the European members of the alliance. This is illustrated in this year’s top 15 defence budgets graphic, where increased Indian allocations mean that it swaps place with France – previously the world’s sixth largest defence-spending nation. Although this trend has been accelerated in part by exchange rate effects – the euro has seen a considerable depreciation against the dollar over the past year – it is nonetheless illustrative of the continuing re-orientation of defence-spending dollars towards emerging markets in the global south.

However, the pace of this re-orientation may be slowing, particularly due to fiscal constraints faced by the resource-intensive economies of the Middle East and Latin America. For example, the pace of defence-spending increases in the Middle East is estimated to have decelerated considerably relative to the double-digit levels regularly seen after the Arab Spring began in 2011, as the precipitous decline in oil prices adversely affected fiscal balances in the region. Meanwhile, the end of the global commodities ‘super-cycle’ has reduced fiscal space (reduced room for budgetary manoeuvre) in Latin America, leading in 2015 to a contraction in real defence outlays. With an uncertain medium-term outlook for global energy and commodity markets, countries in both regions are likely to face increasing pressure to reduce state expenditure, including defence allocations.

By contrast, 2015 saw a degree of defence-budgetary stabilisation in Europe for the first time since the 2008 financial crash. Real outlays – which had been declining by an average of around 2% annually since the crisis – stabilised in 2015, with concern over Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and terrorist attacks in France likely preventing further budgetary cuts in many states. Indeed, some states, particularly in Europe’s east and north, are now registering real increases in defence outlays. Despite this, Europe’s share of total global defence outlays continued to decline in 2015.


The Military Balance 2016 features both regional and country-by-country defence-economic analysis, accompanied by explanatory maps, graphs and charts.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

Nick Childs: China and India - Indigenous carrier comparison

Vikramaditya blog.

By Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

At a news conference on the last day of 2015, China’s Ministry of National Defence confirmed one of its worst-kept secrets: construction is under way on the country’s second aircraft carrier, and its first to be produced indigenously. Official details remain scarce, but point to a ship that is a cautious evolution of China’s first carrier, the Liaoning. This vessel was originally intended to see service in the Soviet Navy as the Varyag and was acquired from Ukraine when only partially completed.

A spokesman for China’s defence ministry described the new carrier as a vessel of 45,000 tonnes, making it roughly the same size as the Liaoning. He said it will have a conventional power plant and a ski-jump for short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) aircraft operations, and an air group that will, again like the first ship, include J-15 fighters.

However, given that the Liaoning was originally laid down in 1985, the new ship will inevitably include technical advances. This could include the ability to support a slightly larger number of aircraft. The Military Balance 2016 assesses that the Liaoning has the capacity for 18–24 J-15s and 17 helicopters of various types. But it would still be a long way short of the scale of US Navy aircraft carriers, with their 90,000-tonne displacements, nuclear power-plants, and ability to sustain intensive air operations at greater range and with larger payloads due to their use of the catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) technique.

Nonetheless, China’s evolutionary approach means that it will be able to field an indigenous carrier, and learn from the experiences of operating the ship and an air wing, more quickly than if it had adopted a more ambitious approach, such as implementing a significantly different design. It will also give the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) a two-ship force of carriers with similar capabilities, possibly by the end of the decade. These would provide further significant lessons for the likely development of more capable ships during the 2020s.

The experience of India has underlined the challenges that can be faced when states first build their own aircraft carrier. But while the new INS Vikrant has suffered significant delays and difficulties, the 36,000-tonne ship should now be completed by the end of 2016, ready for commissioning during 2017.

The Indian Navy also went down the route of acquiring an ex-Soviet carrier, but in its case a smaller Kiev-class vessel originally designed only for short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft and helicopters. This was then extensively converted in Russia to become a STOBAR-capable ship, the Vikramaditya. The Military Balance records a more limited capacity for this ship compared to the Liaoning – 12 MiG-29K aircraft and six helicopters. But the Indian Navy’s longer record of carrier operations with ex-UK Royal Navy vessels, first the previous Vikrant and then the Viraat (finally to be decommissioned during 2016), suggests that the Vikramaditya currently possesses more operational potential than the Liaoning. The Chinese defence ministry asserted that its first indigenous carrier has been designed independently in China. In contrast, India’s new Vikrant has been developed with significant outside assistance. While it remains a STOBAR design, its characteristics are significantly different from those of the earlier ships, with an estimated capacity of 30 aircraft and helicopters. At the beginning of 2015, India and the US announced an agreement on the development of aircraft-carrier technology, as the Indian Navy moves ahead with plans for a significantly more capable ship of 60,000 tonnes, with nuclear power and CATOBAR capability, to be completed by the early 2030s.

There are many other facets to aircraft-carrier operations, including aircraft development and procurement, air-group training, and the deployment of supporting capabilities like surface and subsurface combatants to produce carrier task forces. Chinese and Indian carrier capabilities are likely to shadow each other as they develop in the coming years, although India’s history of carrier operations means that the Indian Navy will be more experienced in meeting some of these requirements.

In China, the Liaoning, which has been very much a training and experimental platform, will develop into an operational asset, particularly when joined by the second carrier. It has been described in the 2015 report by the US Office of Naval Intelligence as a ‘starter carrier’. Additionally, US assessments suggest Chinese vessels will be for some time limited primarily to fleet air defence, without a significant power-projection capability. But the experience of the UK Royal Navy with its small Invincible-class STOVL carriers in the 1990s and early 2000s showed that even these, properly operated, can have a limited and useful strike potential in many scenarios. Chinese and Indian capabilities will remain far below those of the US for the foreseeable future. But the introduction in the near future of their new ships will give them considerable capability for independent long-range operations, which is sure to have significant strategic effect.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of China and India's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics, as well as global naval and maritime forces.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order

Douglas Barrie: Russia and anti-access/area-denial capabilities

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

During the Cold War, the sheer size of Warsaw Pact conventional forces was a particular concern for NATO. Now, as NATO planners face a changed relationship with Moscow, they are increasingly concerned by the quality of Russia’s modernising military, as underscored by data in The Military Balance 2016. Despite budgetary pressure, all services of the Russian armed forces continued to receive new and upgraded conventional equipment during 2015.

Following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, assessment of Moscow’s military modernisation and its introduction and deployment of improved conventional systems has been increasingly accompanied by voices within NATO cautioning that an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy was not just a consideration for the Asia-Pacific or the Gulf regions. As well as Crimea, the Baltic region is vulnerable or suited – depending on perspective – to such an approach. Senior NATO officials, including General Philip Breedlove, the supreme allied commander Europe, and General Frank Gorenc, commander allied air command, raised concerns over A2/AD in a European context during 2015.

During the year, Russia continued to take delivery of new combat aircraft and upgraded long-range bombers as well as long-range surface-to-air missiles, cruise missiles and coastal-defence missiles. Russia’s air-defence forces were continuing to re-equip with the Almaz-Antey S-400 (SA-21 Growler) long-range anti-air missile system as 2015 ended. Meanwhile, some 9K723 Iskander-M units also began to receive and train with the 9M728 (SSC-7) cruise missile as an adjunct to the 9M723 short-range (500 kilometre) ballistic missile originally deployed in the Iskander-M system.

The S-400 has been deployed in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and the Iskander has reportedly been included as part of exercises there, though not on a permanent basis. During 2015, Moscow considered deployment of the Iskander to Kaliningrad as a response to NATO’s ballistic-missile-defence programme, which is designed to defend against limited ballistic-missile threats from the Middle East. When taken together, the S-400, ballistic and cruise versions of Iskander, along with the 3K55 Bastion (SSC-5 Stooge) coastal-defence missile system (a unit of which has already been deployed in Crimea), would constitute valuable elements of what the US terms an A2/AD capability.

The S-400 system can utilise a number of medium- and long-range surface-to-air missiles. The longest-range variant of the 48N6 family of missiles is reported to have a maximum range of 200km. An even longer range missile, the 40N6, has been in development and testing for some considerable time. State testing of the missile may have been completed early in 2015. The Bastion coastal-defence system uses the NPO Mashinostroyenia 3M55 rocket/ramjet-powered high-speed missile, the export variant of which has a range of just under 300km.

However, at least some of these systems were in the development or requirement stage at the end of the Cold War, and capabilities now associated with A2/AD could in fact be found in Soviet-era military doctrine. As a result, it is possible to consider that the acquisition of these types of weapons – enabled by the increase in military expenditure – is in keeping with Russian military thinking, and from Moscow’s perspective remains consistent with a defensive policy. Of course NATO has to take such capabilities into account, not least as a key element of NATO’s assurance and adaptation measures is based on the ability to rapidly reinforce its Eastern members, but it is nonetheless important to recognise the continuity in Moscow’s approach.


The Military Balance 2016 features analysis of Russia's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics, as well as an ‘equipment analysis’ graphic of the Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February. Print copies are available to order.

The Military Balance 2016 Wall Chart


The Military Balance is an authoritative assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide.

Included in the print edition is The Military Balance Wall Chart. The focus in 2016 is ‘Gulf Region Missile Defence’, showing defensive and offensive missile systems, combat air assets and illustrative radar-detection fans and missile-range indicators.

Displayed states include Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The United States’ principal regional missile-defence and air assets are also shown.

The map is accompanied by text detailing key aspects of the region’s missile-defence coverage.

Map features include:

  • Selected short- and medium-range silo-based and mobile missile systems
  • Missile-defence systems, including Patriot PAC-2/-3 and Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), together with notional engagement zones
  • Radar systems, such as Ghadir/Sepehr and TPY-2, and selected notional detection ranges
  • US regional ballistic-missile-defence assets
  • Selected Iranian, Gulf Cooperation Council and US air bases and aircraft such as the MiG-29 Fulcrum and F-16 Fighting Falcon
  • Infographic showing selected ballistic and cruise missiles, and interceptors, by size and operating nation, including Shahab-3, Storm Shadow and SM-3-IB/IIA, among others

Text boxes include:

  • Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles
  • Iranian airpower and air defences
  • US Navy ballistic-missile defence vessels
  • Interceptors: PAC-2/-3 and THAAD
  • Selected GCC air power
  • Options for active defence

The Military Balance Wall Chart is also available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request

New features of The Military Balance 2016


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide – available in both print and electronic format. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking and an indispensable handbook for anyone conducting serious analysis of military affairs, whether in defence industry, government, armed forces, academia, consultancy or media.

In The Military Balance 2016, launched on 9 February, opening essays examine developments in armed conflict and military capability, including ‘Armoured fighting vehicles: renewed relevance; technological progress’, analysing the development of modern armoured vehicle design, including defensive systems; ‘China’s ballistic missiles: more systems; improved designs’, examining China’s strategic-weapons sector and the related defence industry; and ‘Deterrence in cyberspace’, which considers the challenges involved in deterring the actions of others in cyberspace, and suggests ways of generating deterrent strategies that may work in the cyber domain.

A Comparative Defence Statistics colour graphics section displays headline figures for defence economics and selected trends in land, sea, air and defence industry. The Military Balance 2016 includes the following graphics:

  • Top 15 defence budgets 2015
  • 2015 top 15 defence and security budgets as a % of GDP
  • Planned global defence expenditure by region 2015
  • Planned global defence expenditure by country 2015
  • Real global defence spending changes by region 2011–15
  • NATO European defence spending in 2015 – meeting the 2% of GDP target
  • Composition of real defence spending increases 2014–15
  • Composition of real defence spending reductions 2014–15
  • China’s defence exports to Africa: observed new deliveries by type, 2005–15
  • Key defence statistics for China, France, India, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, including headline numbers of key military capabilities and active and reserve personnel
  • Western Europe: the dramatic decline in combat battalion numbers, 1990–2015
  • Tactical combat aircraft: Russia’s planned and projected fleet in 2020
  • Numbers of naval platforms capable of firing land-attack cruise missiles: 1989–2015

Regional and select country analyses assess the major developments affecting defence policy, military procurement and defence economics in North America, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Specific country analysis this year includes Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Syria, South Africa, Ukraine, the UK, the US and Yemen.

Within the regional chapters, maps and tables further assess select defence issues. For instance, ‘equipment analysis’ graphics detail selected key equipment, including Europe’s Meteor Air-to-Air Missile, Russia’s T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank and China’s New Type-052D Destroyer. These contain diagrams informed by analysis, facts and figures, and exemplify the broader work carried out within the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme.

Detailed A–Z entries by region list national military organisations, headline personnel numbers, equipment inventories and relevant economic and demographic data, and there is information on selected national arms procurements and deliveries at the end of each regional chapter. Additional data sets detail by region military exercises conducted during 2015 and comparative defence spending and personnel numbers by country, and there is a non-state armed groups section showing observed equipment holdings for select groups, such as Hizbullah and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).

The Military Balance Wall Chart this year assesses ‘Gulf Region Missile Defence’, detailing defensive and offensive missile systems in the region, as well as selected notional radar-detection fans, combat air assets and notional missile-range indicators. Selected states include Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, while principal regional US missile-defence and air assets are also displayed. The map is accompanied by text detailing key debates over regional missile defence and aspects of Iran’s military capabilities, plus an infographic showing selected ballistic and cruise missiles, and interceptors, by size and operating state.

The Military Balance Wall Chart will be available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request. 

‘Amid continuing conflict and broadening insecurity, The Military Balance provides essential facts and analysis for decision-makers and for better informed public debate.’ Dr Robert M. Gates, former US Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence

‘Because military affairs are inevitably clouded in fog, the IISS Military Balance is an essential companion for those who seek to understand.’ Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary-General of NATO

'The Military Balance is the unique and vital resource on which informed public debate of the world's armed forces is founded. Up-to-date figures and information on defence budgets, procurement totals, equipment holdings, and military deployments are presented clearly and succinctly. In the area of defense information, where nationally produced fictions often masquerade as facts, The Military Balance is the internationally recognized source of record.' William S. Cohen, former US Secretary of Defense

The Military Balance 2016 was released on 9 February 2016. Print copies are available to order.

Henry Boyd: UK expands air operations against ISIS

Tornado

By Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

On 2 December, the House of Commons voted to widen the scope of the United Kingdom’s combat operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). After the parliamentary vote, the first attacks on targets in Syria by manned UK aircraft – on ISIS oil installations – took place in the early hours of 3 December. The UK has previously carried out a single strike mission in Syria, in August 2015, when an RAF unmanned aerial vehicle killed three individuals near Raqqa, including two British nationals. Prime Minister David Cameron said this was ‘an act of self-defence’ and that the target of the mission, Reyaad Khan, was ‘seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the West, including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain’.

While the UK’s contribution remains limited in comparison to other countries, such as the United States and France, it was welcomed by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who noted that: ‘The United Kingdom has been a strong member of the Counter-ISIL [ISIS] coalition since it began in September 2014, making significant contributions to air operations, including through airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in both Iraq and Syria.’

However, while the US, France, and now the UK, have all increased their deployed forces, commitments of aircraft by other coalition members have proved impossible to sustain over time, and have either been reduced in scope (The Netherlands) or withdrawn (Belgium and Denmark). Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reaffirmed his commitment to withdrawing Canada’s air assets from the campaign as well. A potential German deployment of Tornado aircraft for reconnaissance missions has received cabinet approval and will likely be put to parliament on Friday 4 December.




The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Douglas Barrie, Joseph Dempsey and Mark Cazalet: Russia Pursues Cruise Control in Syria

23 Nov Blog 1

Kh-101 low-observable cruise missile deployed from Tu-160 Blackjack (Russian MoD)

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace; Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online; and Mark Cazalet, Research Assistant, Defence and Military Analysis

For the first time during combat operations in Syria, Russia has used two types of air-launched cruise missile; the Kh-101 long-range low-observable cruise missile and the Kh-555 (AS-22). Both weapons are designed and manufactured by Raduga, the Dubna-based firm that is part of Russia's Tactical Missile Corporation (KTRV).

This was the second series of cruise-missile attacks on Syrian opposition forces. The first, delivered on 7 October by Russian navy surface ships in the Caspian Sea, used the Novator 3M14 Kalibr NK naval cruise missile. Ekaterinburg-based Novator has since the late 1970s developed naval cruise missiles, while Raduga has been the source of tactical and nuclear cruise missiles for the air force.

23 Nov Blog 2

Kh-555 cruise missile deployed from Tu-95MS Bear (Russian MoD)

On 17 November, five Tu-160 Blackjack and six Tu-95MS Bear strategic bomber aircraft flown in from Russia were used to launch the Kh-101 and Kh-555 missiles respectively. The Kh-101 is a conventionally armed 'stealthy' long-range missile, which has entered service only in the past few years. The Kh-555 is a modification of the older Kh-55, with the nuclear package replaced by a conventional warhead, and the guidance system improved to provide greater accuracy.

The Russian defence ministry said 34 cruise missiles were launched against 14 targets. These included weapons-storage sites that would, the ministry suggested, have been more difficult to attack had cruise missiles not been used. The targets were in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces, according to the ministry. Photographs were circulated on social media showing the wreckage of at least two Kh-101s that appear to have malfunctioned or been brought down.

Further cruise-missile strikes have since followed, included a demonstration of range by a pair of Tu-160 aircraft on 20 November. Flying a circuitous route in excess of 13000 kilometres, they circumnavigated Europe before flying over Syria and returning though a more direct and established Iraq, Iran and Caspian Sea corridor. On the same day, replenished Caspian Sea vessels also launched 18 3M14 Kalibr NK cruise missiles into Syria.

Russia already has significant tactical air power based in Syria in support of the Assad regime. Along with the Tu-160 and Tu-95 aircraft, however, a further 14 Tu-22M3 Backfire medium bombers and eight Su-34 Fullback aircraft were deployed as part of the strike package. The types of ordnance employed with the last two types remains unconfirmed, however footage released by the defence ministry showed both types fitted with free-fall bombs, including the FAB-3000, a 6,000lb-class weapon, dropped from a Tu-22 M3 aircraft.

Development of the Kh-101/102 family began no later than the mid-1980s, with the design intended as a successor to the Kh-55 nuclear-armed cruise missile. The Kh-102 is the nuclear variant, with the Kh-101 carrying a conventional warhead. While the exact range of the Kh-101/102 has not been made public, it is believed to be in the order of up to 5,000km, a considerable increase on the 2,500km range of the Kh-55.

23 Nov Blog 3

Kh-101 being loaded onto Tu-160 Blackjack (Russian MoD)

The Kh-101 and the Kh-555 use GLONASS satellite navigation, likely coupled with some form of terrain-referenced navigation and a terminal guidance capability. The last may well be electro-optical, but the imagery of the Kh-101 released by Russia's defence ministry did not show any obvious electro-optical aperture near the nose of the missile as per the Kh-555, although this could be covered by a fairing until the final phase of the engagement.

Given its increased range, the Kh-101 is unsurprisingly also larger than the Kh-55 and will not fit in the internal bay of the Tu-95MS. Instead it is carried externally, with two per pylon up to a total of eight missiles. By comparison, the Tu-160 can carry up to 12 Kh-101/102 missiles, six on each rotary launcher in its two weapons bays.

The design of the Kh-101/102 had originally included the possibility of using an unducted turbofan engine mounted at the rear of the fuselage. Russian experts have previously suggested that this design variant of the missile was ground-tested on a radar cross-section range during the mid-1990s. One advantage of this design approach was greater fuel efficiency – and thus range – but the option was not pursued, most probably due to the immaturity of the engine design.

Raduga opted to return to the approach taken on the Kh-55. The engine is housed internally within the missile for carriage on the rotary launcher and only deployed using a trapeze-type mechanism during release from the rotary launcher or pylon.


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Douglas Barrie: US LRS-B - bomber decision, but design still under wraps

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

On 27 October 2015, it was announced that Northrop Grumman (NG) had won the US$80 billion, 100-aircraft contract to build the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) dual-capable Long-range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), which is intended to fulfil both the conventional and nuclear strike roles.

The Pentagon's selection of NG provides the company with the assurance of a very high-value, relatively high-volume military-aircraft programme, assuming that the near-inevitable protest from the rival bid (a Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture) fails, and that production numbers don't take the kind of tumble that befell the B-2 bomber, the Northrop predecessor to the LRS-B project. However, for the moment at least, the US will continue to retain all three companies as its military aircraft prime contractors.

The LRS-B requirement remains nearly completely classified, but is widely reported to be more conservative than the previous Next-Generation Bomber (NGB) project. The NGB was shelved in 2009 by then-defence secretary Robert Gates amid concern as to whether it could be delivered within the timescale required. A notional in-service date of 2018 had been mooted at what, even for the Pentagon, was an affordable unit price, enabling the purchase of the required number of aircraft.

Considerable risk-reduction work was undertaken by the rival LRS-B bidders prior to source selection. This was intended partly to provide assurance to the Pentagon regarding the maturity of the design and to prove that the aim of fielding the selected design in the mid-2020s was achievable. The bomber’s anticipated initial operational capability is 2025, a further indication that considerable work had already been undertaken prior to selection, given that developing a new design from paper to entry into service in only a decade would entail an exceptionally high risk, something the US Department of Defense appears keen to avoid.

The assumption is that both bids were based on tailless flying-wing designs, perhaps with a narrower chord outer wing than the B-2 to provide increased endurance. Lockheed Martin's Polecat intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrator and NG's still-classified RQ-180 ISR UAV may have contributed to their respective design approaches. The LRS-B project was managed by the air force's Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for managing a number of highly sensitive and compartmentalised projects, including the RQ-180.

The LRS-B programme is intended to form a core element of the USAF's ability to operate in highly contested airspace against a peer or near-peer competitor. The design will almost certainly have broadband signature management – to reduce detection by threat radar systems – coupled with infra-red suppression and radio-frequency emission control to further enhance survivability. It remains unknown whether the aircraft will be fitted with active stealth systems to complement passive very-low-observable technology. The LRS-B will be complemented by whichever weapon is selected to meet the USAF’s Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) cruise missile requirement, which is expected to enter service by no later than 2030. Both subsonic and high-speed design options were under consideration to replace the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile.


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Tim Huxley: Japan’s P-1 leads defence export drive

Kawasaki Blog

By Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS-Asia

Thanks to the Japanese embassy in Singapore and the Republic of Singapore Air Force, together with my colleagues William Choong and Alex Neill, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Paya Lebar air base for a briefing on the Kawasaki P-1 maritime-patrol aircraft (MPA). Two P-1s from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) Air Development Squadron 51 were making a refuelling stop in Singapore on their way home to the Atsugi naval air base after taking part in the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford in Gloucestershire, England.

We were impressed by the capabilities that the aircrew explained to us, and particularly struck by the P-1’s capacity for not only maritime patrol using a variety of advanced sensors – including its Toshiba Active Electronically Scanned Array radar system – and anti-submarine warfare (ASW), but also for anti-surface warfare using Harpoon and other anti-ship weapons launched from external hard-points. The P-1’s capabilities are clearly a huge advance on those of its predecessor in Japanese service, the P-3C, and place it in the same league as the only roughly equivalent platform on the international market, the Boeing P-8A Poseidon, which is in operational service with the US and Indian navies and the Australian air force. Meanwhile, in 2013 the first P-1s were delivered to the JMSDF, which has an ultimate requirement for 70 of the aircraft to replace the existing P-3C fleet by 2027.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japanese government and industry sources claim – sotto voce – that the P-1 is a more capable, if more expensive, platform than the P-8. They point to several important features of the aircraft:

  • Unlike MPAs such as the P-3C, P-8 and, indeed, the Nimrod formerly used by the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF), the P-1’s design is not based on the airframe of an airliner. Rather, it was designed from the beginning as a dedicated platform for maritime patrol and ASW. Specifically, its low wing loading provides better manoeuvrability and stability in low-altitude and low-speed flight.
  • Like the P-3C and Nimrod – and in contrast to the two-engine P-8 – the P-1 has four engines, meaning that it can complete its mission even if one fails; four engines also enhance operational survivability. Its new high-bypass engines are notable for their fuel-efficiency and quietness, characteristics which increase the P-1’s operational effectiveness.
  • The aircraft’s operational radius of more than 1,300 nautical miles is 1.2 times that of the P-3C and better than that of the P-8.
  • The P-1 is the first operational aircraft anywhere with a fly-by-light flight-control system (that is, one using fibre-optic cables); this has the advantage of reducing the risk from electromagnetic interference.
  • The P-1 has a large bomb-bay for ordnance, comparable in size to the Nimrod’s and considerably larger than that of the P-8 as well as the P-3C.

However, it would take a full technical and operational assessment, of the type that only a well-funded national defence-technology agency could provide, to assess the significance of these features, let alone the likely operational effectiveness of the P-1’s mission systems.

The P-1s were in Singapore as part of a drive by Tokyo to market the aircraft internationally. As one of the world’s most technologically advanced MPAs, the P-1 has credible export prospects. With the Abe administration’s relaxation in 2014 of a self-imposed and near-complete ban on defence exports, in force since 1967, it has become possible for the government in Tokyo to promote the sale of Japanese-made military equipment internationally. Beyond the obvious contribution to Japan’s overall export performance, a particular potential benefit for the government would be to help reduce the unit costs of procurement for Japan’s own armed forces. Defence exports could also be useful for strategic reasons, as they could cement important security relationships while also enhancing interoperability with friendly countries’ armed forces. In July 2014, Japan’s defence ministry announced the sale of parts for Patriot air-defence missiles to the US, and of sensor-related technology for air-to-air missiles to the United Kingdom. Japan’s defence industry also has advantages in the maritime sphere, and there has been much discussion regarding the possible sale of advanced and highly-capable Soryu-class submarines to Australia.

But who are the potential customers for the P-1? The UK is clearly a priority market. Remarkably, the UK relinquished its operational maritime-patrol aircraft in 2011 following the previous year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). However, the RAF has kept core expertise alive through Project Seedcorn, under which a small number of MPA aircrew have maintained their skills through long-term attachments to other ‘Five Eyes’ nations’ operational squadrons. It is widely anticipated that the next SDSR, due to be published in late 2015, will call for the restoration of at least a minimal MPA capability for the RAF, probably based on a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft. Given the strength of US–UK defence relations, and the lack of other high-performance MPA platforms in the international market, until last year it was widely assumed that the default option for any future British MPA procurement would almost certainly be the US-built Boeing P-8, now in service with not just the US Navy but also in Australia and India.

However, Tokyo’s revised attitude towards arms exports has significantly widened the UK’s MPA options, while the UK–Japan Defence Equipment Cooperation Framework signed in July 2013 provides for the transfer of defence technology between the two countries and could facilitate industrial cooperation in relation to the P-1. Government-to-government talks on the possible sale of P-1s reportedly began in January 2015, and the presence of the two P-1s at RIAT in July was evidently part of Tokyo’s promotional effort. While at Fairford, the JMSDF demonstrated the P-1 to a potential customer that, while not officially identified, was almost certainly the RAF.

There are also potential openings for P-1 sales elsewhere in Europe. For example, Italy, a stopping point on the P-1’s journey back to Asia, needs a new MPA platform to replace its old Breguet Atlantic aircraft. However, as a new entrant into the market, Japan will have considerable obstacles to overcome, particularly in the face of competition from the US, a close ally, established defence-industrial partner and reliable major traditional defence-equipment supplier to the UK and other European countries.

These factors may be rather less influential in Asia, however, particularly because of the weaker security and defence-industrial relationships between many regional states and the US. In some cases, Japan may be willing to transfer used equipment, including naval vessels and P-3C MPAs, to Southeast Asian states with constrained defence budgets such as Malaysia and the Philippines. However, there may be particular opportunities for the P-1 in Vietnam, which is actively upgrading its maritime capabilities in the context of its major territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, and is looking for a more capable MPA. Vietnam remains under a partial arms embargo by the US, despite the latter’s intent to expand bilateral security relations. Singapore is also intent on enhancing its MPA and probably also its airborne ASW capabilities, and probably has a medium-term plan to replace its existing Fokker 50 aircraft in those roles. But given the growing intensity of Singapore–US security relations, and the established preference for US aircraft, a decision by the city-state to buy P-1s would be surprising.

Diverse factors go into defence procurement decisions, including not only the relative capabilities and costs of competing options, but also defence-industrial and strategic considerations. Taking all these factors into account, marketing the P-1 successfully is a major challenge for Tokyo. But, as the aircraft’s international tour last month demonstrated, Japan’s government is now willing to make strenuous, if low-profile, efforts to promote the country’s defence products.


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Giri Rajendran: Crunching the numbers on MENA defence spending

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

Defence spending in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is among the world’s highest when measured as a proportion of GDP. Using that measure, The Military Balance 2015 notes, MENA states account for eight of the top 15 global spenders on defence and security for which figures are available. A recent article in The Economist has also highlighted this. 

This situation is in stark contrast to NATO, many of whose European members struggle to meet the 2% of GDP target for defence budget allocations required by the Alliance.

Higher budgetary allocations in the MENA region reflect the heightened sense of insecurity that prevails there – from ongoing domestic-security concerns in the wake of 2011’s Arab Spring to regional fears over the rise of ISIS and other non-state armed groups, and mistrust between GCC states and Iran over perceived attempts to establish regional hegemony. Higher defence outlays also reflect the legacy of high commodity prices, particularly oil and natural gas.

However, as The Military Balance 2015 also points out, budgets in the MENA region are some of the least transparent in the world, due to ‘a combination of bureaucratic opacity, limited legislative oversight and the use of off-budget funding in some states’. This means that defence-budget information is often released under highly aggregated categories, with little insight into the actual distribution of funding (e.g. on military personnel, equipment procurement, allocations to the various armed services).

Saudi Arabia is one of the MENA states with plans to further boost its military spending. However, Riyadh’s defence and security budget includes funding for the interior ministry under the same budget line as the ministry of defence. Elsewhere, the figures released are incomplete. The United Arab Emirates, for example, only releases information on a small fraction of its defence budget. In some cases, no defence-budget information is provided at all.

It is important to consider external sources of regional military financing. For example, the United States provides Foreign Military Assistance to states in the region – most notably Israel and Egypt. Meanwhile, Gulf states have provided funds to assist the procurement activities of less well-off armed forces, such as Lebanon’s, in recent years. These figures, where known, are included in The Military Balance, but are not included in the graphic published in The Economist article mentioned above. On top of all this, actual resource allocation towards military activities in war-torn countries such as Syria, Libya and Yemen are nearly impossible to measure.

These are some of the factors that are taken into account in The Military Balance when evaluating MENA budgetary data. When credible, official figures are used as the best publicly available information. But defence-budget analysis is a complicated process, and there are particular challenges inherent in making these assessments for the MENA region. This imperfect reality should be borne in mind when drawing conclusions about this troubled and non-transparent region.

Tom Waldwyn and Douglas Barrie: European defence-industrial consolidation and the Nexter–KMW merger

Leopard Tank blog.

By Tom Waldwyn, Assistant Research Analyst for Maritime Forces and Defence Industry and Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Europe has long struggled to restructure a defence-industrial base that remains predominantly national, with the land-systems sector particularly fragmented. However, on 29 July 2015, Europe’s two main land-systems companies by market share, France’s Nexter and Germany’s Krauss Maffei-Wegmann (KMW), said they had agreed the terms of a merger.

On 27 July 2000, Europe’s six main defence-manufacturing countries – France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom – had inked ‘The Letter of Intent (LOI) Framework Agreement Treaty’, intended to reshape the continent’s defence industry and ‘create the political and legal framework to facilitate industrial restructuring’. Put bluntly, Europe was faced with overcapacity and reduced demand in the defence sector, with the US industry also looking to further muscle into the market to offset its own downturn. The US defence industry consolidated in the 1990s, and there has been renewed merger and acquisition activity over the past year. Notably, on 20 July, United Technologies Corporation announced that it had reached an agreement to sell Sikorsky Aircraft to Lockheed Martin for US$9 billion.

In Europe, however, political rhetoric proved difficult to reconcile with reality. In the intervening years since the treaty was signed there has been limited progress in fulfilling the LOI’s ambition of creating a ’more competitive and robust European defence technological and industrial base in the global defence market’. Domestic concerns have also stymied such efforts in the past. EADS’s 2012 plan to merge with BAE Systems foundered on German national concerns and a failure to fully lay the political groundwork in Berlin for the proposal. The Nexter–KMW amalgamation seems initially better placed, despite considerable challenges with deconflicting current programme timelines and how to manage differing approaches to the export arena.

Only weeks before the merger terms were announced, the German government signed off on a strategy paper intended to support the national industrial base. Significantly, as part of a ten-point plan, it also supports greater ’Europeanisation’ of the national defence-manufacturing sector to help address overcapacity.

KMW and Nexter Systems will each take 50% of the shares, and the venture will be based in the Netherlands. The new company will be known as KANT (Krauss-Maffei Wegmann And Nexter Together). Whilst these two companies both manufacture similar product lines, there are significant historical differences between the two, as well as different approaches to defence exports between France and Germany that could create difficulties in the future. France is keen to exploit the maximum export potential of its defence products, but German companies face greater domestic political constraints on such dealings. Whether the two countries will be able to compromise in this area in the future remains to be seen.

The companies have also experienced differing levels of commercial success. Nexter’s Leclerc main battle tank (MBT) has not been a success internationally, with orders coming in from only the United Arab Emirates. KMW’s Leopard 2, however, has been sold to 15 countries around the world. KANT is expected to begin working on a successor to the Leopard 2, often referred to unofficially as ‘Leopard 3‘. According to German media, the Leopard 2 is expected to begin leaving service in 2030, by which point a successor would need to start being delivered.

It seems unlikely that this merger will affect existing orders for the two companies, although some may prove an awkward fit for KANT. For example, a recent €330 million contract given to Nexter to extend the service life of the French armed forces’ Leclerc MBTs beyond 2040 would see the Leclerc being retired after the planned introduction of the Leopard 2 replacement.

Both countries already have a series of ongoing armoured-vehicle programmes at various stages of progress. The joint consortium of Nexter, RTD and Thales (called ‘GME’), signed a contract with France at the end of 2014 to supply almost 2,000 Griffon and Jaguar reconnaissance and APC vehicles to replace the VAB and the AMX10RC respectively. Germany is already taking deliveries of the Boxer APC from the ARTEC consortium, of which KMW is a member. France has almost finished taking delivery of the VBCI armoured infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV), whilst Germany has only just begun receiving the Puma. With such varying production stages, the development and sale of new AIFVs or reconnaissance and APC vehicles could prove challenging.


The Military Balance 2015  is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research.

Giri Rajendran: The UK - meeting the 2% NATO target

George Osbourne (Photo: Crown copyright/Treasury)

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

In his Summer Budget, announced earlier today, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, committed to protecting UK defence spending over the course of the next parliament – pledging that the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) budget would rise by 0.5% above inflation each year until FY2020/21. This means that, for the rest of the decade, the UK will likely continue to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP towards defence.

This level of resourcing is higher than many analysts had expected, given the scale of government-wide budgetary consolidation required. It will be important to establish whether these higher funding levels are achieved through the actual allocation of additional resources to the MoD, or whether they represent the reallocation of funding previously included under other budget lines (such as war pensions or peacekeeping missions). If this is the intention, today’s announcement may be more nuanced than it first appears.

Nonetheless, the government’s attempt to be seen to protect defence spending is clear: electoral commitments in the Conservative Party manifesto released earlier this year had pledged that significant elements of the defence budget (such as personnel levels and equipment-procurement funding) were to be effectively ring-fenced if the party were elected. It also stated that the continuous-at-sea Trident nuclear deterrent would be retained, with a new fleet of four ‘successor’ ballistic-missile submarines built, and that both new aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – would be brought into service.

Despite the improved budgetary outlook, other challenges for the MoD remain, as argued in a recent Strategic Comment. These include the need to rebuild readiness (including in the area of high-intensity expeditionary combat operations), to reassess critical-mass requirements for both personnel and platforms (particularly for the navy and air force, respectively), and to re-establish gapped capabilities (e.g. maritime patrol).

Nonetheless, the budget increase comes amid a broader picture of rising defence outlays in many parts of Europe seen over the past year and it ensures that the UK will remain one of only four European members of NATO (including Greece, Estonia and Poland) to meet the 2% target. Today’s announcement forms an important backdrop to the forthcoming UK Strategic Defence and Security Review scheduled to be undertaken later this year, and will help guide the UK’s level of strategic ambition in coming years.


The Military Balance 2015  is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. 

Douglas Barrie & Henry Boyd: Latest Russian missile announcement belies modernisation plans

Russian missiles.

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace, and Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

The opening of an arms fair is always a good platform for announcing defence-equipment orders, even if they are not always quite what they seem.

Russian President Vladimir Putin took such an opportunity at the Army-2015 Expo, held near Moscow on 16–19 June, to trumpet the impending delivery of more than 40 new missiles to Russia’s strategic forces (RSVN) in 2015. Given the tensions between Moscow, Washington and several European capitals, Putin’s proclamation was always going to receive wide media coverage. Only six months previously, however, the Russian president had claimed that the RSVN would in 2015 receive more than 50 new missiles.

Russia is in the midst of a long-planned and much-publicised nuclear-forces recapitalisation. By the mid-2020s, the land, sea and air weapon inventories of the country’s strategic triad are due to have been revamped. This modernisation programme will see ageing systems withdrawn from service and replaced, although it has not always run smoothly.

While Putin did not specify the nature of the now – apparently – 40, rather than 50, missiles to be introduced into the inventory this year, these are likely a mix of the 3M30 Bulava (NATO designation: SS-NX-32) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and the RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod. 2) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The former is intended for the Borey-class of ballistic-missile submarine, while the latter is being deployed on land both in road-mobile and silo configurations.

One possible breakdown of the revised 2015 figure is that the order includes one boatload of the 3M30. The Borey-class Alexander Nevsky, the second of the class to be handed over to the Russian navy, now reportedly has a full complement of 16 Bulava SLBMs. Bulava production for this year may be destined for the Vladimir Monomakh, the third of the class, which officially became part of the fleet at the end of 2014.

RS-24 ICBMs, being used in part to replace the RT-2PM Topol (SS-25 Sickle), could be used to bring RSVN units already converting to the type up to full strength. Units at Nizhny Tagil, Novosibirsk and Kozelsk are likely recipients, with the last being silo-based.

Alongside the RS-24, the RSVN is also slated to receive two further missile types in the coming years. The Sarmat heavy liquid-fueled ICBM will replace the SS-18 Satan, while the RS-26 Rubezh will provide Russia with a light road-mobile missile. The latter is nearing service entry with initial delivery possibly within the next 12 months.

As such, Putin’s recent comments on nuclear-forces recapitalisation did not reflect any change in long-term approach. What has changed, however, placing his comments against a much darker background, is the state of relations between Russia and NATO.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Russia's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Joseph Dempsey: Enter Armata - Russian armoured fighting vehicle modernisation

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online 

Russia’s Victory Day parade on 9 May 2015 will include the much-anticipated appearance of three new armoured vehicle platforms. Images of the previously unseen heavy tracked Armata, the lighter tracked Kurganets-25’ and the wheeled Bumerang platforms have emerged amid parade preparations, though turrets and weapons stations have been kept literally under wraps until now, the week of the parade.

Their debut comes midway through an extensive Russian rearmament programme with an ambitious original goal of ensuring 70% of equipment is ‘modern’ by 2020. For the army this means replacing a diverse range of armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) based on Soviet-era legacy systems. Some upgrades of older platforms will contribute to this target, but so will wider adoption of new platforms intended to become the mainstay of Russian armour in future decades.

These three new platforms are designed as a basis for a range of types and variants performing distinct roles in respective weight and mobility classes. Within these platform ‘families’ the basic chassis and drivetrain are shared, as are other components and subsystems. Some cross-platform commonality will also exist, for example the observed Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) variants of each platform utilise the same KBP produced Epoch Almaty remote turret. This increased level of standardisation could deliver benefits in terms of vehicle manufacture, maintenance and operation.


Armata presents the most ambitious programme, comprising a ‘unified’ combat platform that would be the basis of Russia’s latest Main Battle Tank (MBT). This type, designated T-14 (Object 148), would be the first all-new Russian MBT to enter service since the T-80 some 40 years ago. Since then, Russia has relied primarily on T-72 family updates, including the T-90. Reports and available imagery indicate the T-14 represents a revolutionary design with the 125mm smoothbore main gun placed in a remotely operated turret. Whilst increasingly common on other AFV types, no MBT with a crewless main turret has entered operational service to date. The 1960s Soviet decision to adopt the autoloader system, contrary to Western convention, coupled with more recent advances in remote weapons stations, removed the prerequisite for a crewed tank turret. This design shift has potential advantages in terms of crew protection and survivability. The crew could be better isolated from on-board combustible materials, with armour concentrated around a smaller crew compartment, potentially saving weight and space elsewhere. The remotely operated turret also features a further Remote Weapon Station (RWS) with a 7.62mm machine gun. Also evident on the recently revealed multi-faceted outer turret is an Active Protection System (APS) designed to intercept and neutralise incoming projectiles before they make contact with the vehicle. The characteristics and capabilities of this suspect ‘hard-kill’ APS are unknown but Russia has developed similar systems in the past, namely Arena and Drozd. A new lighter type of armour has been reportedly used on the T-14, which also features removable armoured side skirts with rear bar/slat armour seen increasingly on Western armoured vehicles.

The Armata based T-15 (Object 149) heavy IFV will also feature in the parade. Russia has experimented with the tracked heavy IFV concept following losses of the lighter BMP series IFVs in Afghanistan and later in Chechnya, but has yet to field any operationally. The T-15 uses the Epoch Almaty remote turret armed with a 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and four 9M133 Kornet Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) launchers. The same APS featured on the MBT variant has also been incorporated, albeit in a reconfigured arrangement. This front engine variant, evident from the exhaust and drive sprocket relocation, may cast some doubt on the unified’ platform credentials of Armata, but will provide troop-carrying capability and rear access.

The 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) will also be based on the Armata platform; the 2S35 turret and 152mm gun has been observed for some months. Yet to be seen integrated on the Armata chassis, it is currently mounted on a modified version of the vehicle it is intended to replace, the 2S19 Msta.

Other variants of the Armata platform are reported to be under development or under consideration, including Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) and Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL) variants.

Kurganets-25 is expected to fulfil an initial tracked Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and IFV requirement with at least two differently armed variants expected on parade. The APC variant (Object 693) has a RWS with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, whilst the more heavily armed IFV variant (Object 695) features the Epoch Almaty remote turret and incorporates an APS. On entry into service, it would begin to replace the elderly BMP-1, BMP-2s and eventually newer BMP-3s, though other variants are again anticipated.

The amphibious wheeled (8x8) Bumerang is projected as a BTR-80 series replacement operating in the APC and IFV roles with additional combat and combat support variants expected to follow. Like Kurganets-25, the APC variant has the 12.7mm RWS and the IFV variant the Epoch Almaty remote turret. In a departure from previous BTR designs it features a front-mounted engine enabling troop ingress at the rear of the vehicle, in contrast to the more exposed side access seen in the BTR series.

Despite their scheduled appearance at the Victory Day parade, these platforms have yet to enter operational service. Only about a dozen of each variant are thought to currently exist, so they could represent pre-production examples for evaluation purposes. If the platforms are accepted, it remains to be seen what combination of platforms and variants will be ordered. Also uncertain is Russia’s ability to finance and mass produce them within required timeframes, with President Putin’s 2012 intention of at least 2,300 new tanks by 2020 remaining ambitious. Instead, the continued procurement of interim vehicles such as the T-72B3 MBT and BTR-82 IFV may continue for some years to come.

For more information on defence technology, follow Joseph Dempsey on Twitter.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Russia's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Tom Waldwyn: Renewing Trident

HMS Vigilant (Photo: MOD/ Crown copyright)

By Tom Waldwyn, Assistant Research Analyst for Maritime Forces and Defence Industry

With the award of a contract in late March 2015, the United Kingdom has now allocated almost £1 billion (US$1.3bn) toward replacing its Vanguard-class ballistic-missile submarines – even though the final go-ahead for the programme has yet to be given.

The Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) so-called 'main gate' decision (the finalising of the design and the number to be acquired) is not due until 2016, and with a General Election now days away it was perhaps to be expected that, for factors including its likely cost, the question of the nuclear deterrent would become part of the debate. The main political parties have begun to outline their proposals for the future of Trident; the name of the ballistic missile but often used as a catch-all term for the UK’s nuclear capability.

Vanguard submarines; Trident missiles
Trident II D5 (UGM-133A) is a three-stage, submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile (SLBM) produced by Lockheed Martin. This missile is only operated by the United States’ Ohio-class and the UK’s Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and was first reported deployed in 1990. Each Trident II D-5 missile carries a maximum of 12 MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-Entry Vehicles), reportedly containing 100 kiloton warheads, is guided on a ballistic flight path by an astro-inertial guidance system and has a maximum range of approximately 12,000km.

There are currently four UK-built Vanguard-class SSBNs in service with the UK’s Royal Navy; the first of these was commissioned in 1993. Four boats is the minimum required in order for at least one to be on patrol at all times, with two in port and one undergoing maintenance, thus providing what the Royal Navy terms a ‘Continuous At Sea Deterrent’. Based at HMNB Clyde at Faslane, Scotland, each Vanguard-class boat has 16 vertical launchers capable of housing Trident II D5 missiles and on operations could carry no more than 48 warheads. However, the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) said this would reduce to 40 warheads per deployed submarine, with the number of operational missiles reducing to no more than eight per boat.

Currently, the UK leases its Trident missiles from US stock and would need to do so again for the American-designed Trident replacement. This arrangement began in 1963 with the Polaris Sale Agreement, which was then amended in 1982 to cover Trident. Overall, missile stocks are stored at the US Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia though the UK’s leased missiles are stored at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot in Coulport, close to Faslane. The UK’s warheads are believed to be based closely on the US W76, with the design assembled and then mated with the fissile material by the Atomic Weapons Establishment at its facility in Burghfield, near Reading, following the supply of non-nuclear components from the US. The service life of both US and UK Trident II D5 has been extended until 2042, at which point it will have to be replaced. The US has made no formal announcement about a Trident missile replacement.

'Trident renewal' and potential costs
What is often in the UK referred to as the 'Trident renewal' is in fact three separate but related issues: the replacement of the Vanguard-class SSBN, the eventual replacement of the Trident II missile and the replacement of the UK’s present stock of warheads. The immediate focus is on replacing the four Vanguard-class boats with a new class of SSBNs.

The oldest Vanguard-class submarine was commissioned in 1993 and, according to the last Strategic Defence and Security Review (p. 39), the class is due to leave service in the late 2020s. Thirty years of service will see much of the equipment, systems and even the hull either out of date or in a deteriorating condition, even after the five-year life extension which was agreed in 2007 pushing back the decommissioning of HMS Vanguard to 2022.. A successor class SSBN would need to start entering service in the late 2020s.

Any successor to the Vanguard-class would likely be built to house the American-designed Common Missile Compartment (CMCs). In October 2014, General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a US$83.7m contract for elements to support the manufacture of CMCs for the Ohio-class SSBN replacement. According to the announcement, ‘this contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (30 percent), and the government of the United Kingdom (70 percent), under the foreign military sales program.’ It is presumed, therefore, that this UK reference relates to the UK’s Vanguard-class successor. CMC design will need to take into account successors to the Trident II D5, which could start entering service ten to fifteen years after the Vanguard successor. An MoD decision to proceed with manufacturing a new SSBN would almost certainly require buying into the missile replacement with the US Department of Defense, as with the Trident and the Polaris missiles.

At present a main gate decision on the number of new SSBNs to be constructed ’would be required around 2016,’ according to the 2010 SDSR. However, three contracts have already been awarded to companies for various stages of design work:

  • May 2012: £328m for first design contracts to BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines, Rolls-Royce and Babcock.
  • October 2012: £315m to BAE Systems for ongoing design work.
  • March 2015: £257m to BAE Systems in for the final phase of design work.

In July 2013, the UK government published the Trident Alternatives Review, in which the estimated future costs for four SSBNs with Trident was contrasted with a variety of alternative options – such as reviving air-launched delivery options, a mix of submarines with submarine-launched cruise missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The whole-life cost of four SSBNs, that is the total amount to be spent over the entire lifetimes of the submarines, plus missile renewal, warheads and infrastructure was reported as just under £20bn (US$32.2bn). However, the study caveats that it only has 50% confidence in this figure and that it does not include VAT or running costs. A 2007 report, using pound-sterling values from that year, entitled The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: The White Paper, estimated annual running costs for Trident-armed nuclear submarines at £1.5bn (US$2.7bn).

Vanguards subs & Trident Missiles

Bastian Giegerich: European defence - strategy, strength and weakness

By Bastian Giegerich, Director of Defence and Military Analysis

Around Europe, governments and experts alike are trying to make sense of the dramatic changes in Europe’s security environment to its east and south. For some governments, reflections on this changing environment form a key element of national security and defence strategy reviews. For example, Germany plans to publish a new white paper on security and the future of the German armed forces in 2016, and the United Kingdom will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review following the May 2015 elections. The EU, meanwhile, is mulling a new European security strategy.

These days, however, strategic thinking in Europe takes place within a fiscally constrained environment: that resources available for defence are finite has become all too apparent. This thinking also takes place in an environment dominated by the unpredictability of security threats and risks that might confront European nations. Indeed, as argued by experts at a 13 April workshop held in Berlin to inform the drafting of the German 2016 white paper, there has been a convergence between the risks associated with military strength and the application of conventional armed force and the risks arising from weaknesses and state fragility. Gone are the days when challenges could be addressed methodically and in sequence; more complex challenges must now be tackled at the same time. However, concurrency is harder to attain when budgets are constrained and capabilities are in decline. Defence planners, therefore, once again face the conundrum of attempting to create and maintain the right capabilities both for current and future challenges.

Within this context, it is apparent that there are four basic strategies from which policymakers have to choose. The first would be to try and prepare for all scenarios, but it is clear that the money required to provide full-spectrum capabilities is not currently available in Europe. The second option would be to try and specialise, creating a force posture and capabilities optimised to meet particular threats. However, a volatile security environment makes this a high-risk strategy: making the wrong judgements could leave little time to adjust in the face of unanticipated threats. The third approach would be to muddle through, formulating ad hoc responses to problems as they arise, though the long cycles of capability generation and provision that characterise defence planning are among the factors that would make this unsustainable in the long run. The fourth strategy would be to aim for defence-planning assumptions that take some calculated risk, for example regarding the ability to sustain a certain capability on deployment for extended periods of time, but in general aiming for a set of capabilities that was sufficient for most contingencies – in other words, flexible and scalable capabilities better able to adapt to a highly uncertain future security environment. This latter strategy has the benefit of being both achievable and at least mitigating the risk of getting it wrong, but it does require countries to decide on priorities, balance the sustainability and scope of their capabilities, and think systematically about cooperation.

While European nations will have different security priorities, depending on particular national circumstances and strategic cultures, they could do worse than agreeing on a set of indicators from which priorities are derived. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, after the Berlin workshop, offered five points that could form part of a discussion about priorities: the geographical proximity of threats; the intensity of these threats; their specific impact on nations; their impact on partners and allies; and their centrality to the canon of values that underpin the Euro-Atlantic security order. Indeed, as national security and defence reviews progress, linking conversations on these possible priority areas to the multinational EU and NATO level could help to generate a European ‘security-risk register’. It would not be without its pitfalls, but such a register could help European nations to think more systematically about categorising threats to their security and the relative importance of these threats – and, importantly, doing so together. Devising such a register would help to mitigate the risk of choosing the wrong strategy, particularly if any categorisation of security risks to Europe was accompanied by a realistic examination of the type and amount of capabilities needed to best address them. In turn, this should impel consultation, and perhaps agreement, on a broad division of labour whereby European nations together create a set of capabilities that is both broader and deeper than can be achieved at the national level: more robust capabilities could be the result.

Tom Waldwyn: Ukraine’s navy – one year after the seizure of Crimea

Ukraine Navy

By Tom Waldwyn, Assistant Research Analyst for Maritime Forces and Defence Industry

The Ukrainian navy has been much reduced over the past 13 months. In February 2014, Ukraine’s naval headquarters were at Sevastopol; one year later they had been moved to Odessa, with only one principal surface combatant and seven patrol and coastal combatants (down from ten). With the annexation by Russia of Crimea, Ukraine lost the bulk of its naval forces.

Crimea Naval Facilities Map.

Losses in Crimea began on 2 March 2014 with the defection to pro-Russian forces of navy chief Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky. Though he went, Berezovsky failed to persuade any of his officers to join him and naval personnel elsewhere on the peninsula largely remained loyal to Kiev. Then, on 6 March, Russian sailors scuttled ships, including the decommissioned Russian Kara-class cruiser Ochakov (pennant number: 707), in the channel connecting Lake Donuzlav with the Black Sea, blocking Ukrainian vessels at their base at Novoozerne. On the same day, the flagship of the Ukrainian Navy, the frigate Hetman Sagaidachny (U130), arrived in Odessa, by then flagged as naval headquarters.  The ship had recently completed its deployment to NATO’s Ocean Shield and the EU Naval Force’s Operation Atalanta counter-piracy missions, both operational in the Gulf of Aden, offshore Somalia.

Despite an attempt by Ukrainian forces to tow one of the scuttled ships and lift the blockade, by late March the majority of Ukraine’s Crimean naval bases and associated vessels had either surrendered to or been boarded by Russian forces. The last vessel to hold out in Sevastopol was the command ship Slavutich (U510), which was boarded on 23 March. In Novoozerne, the Natya-class minesweeper Cherkassy (U311) was taken over two days later, ending Ukrainian control of naval assets on the peninsula.

While some Ukrainian naval vessels, such as the Foxtrot-class Zaporizhya – Ukraine’s sole submarine – were absorbed into Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the majority were returned. However, in mid-April 2014 Moscow halted the repatriation of materiel due to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine Navy Table.

Despite the loss of both shore infrastructure and hulls, Ukraine was in September 2014 still able to send eight ships to participate in the multinational naval exercise Sea Breeze 2014. Meanwhile, in early 2015, the Hetman Sagaidachny conducted joint drills with the US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Donald Cook in the Black Sea. Whilst Sea Breeze 2014 focused on ‘maritime interdiction operations, communications, search and rescue, force protection and navigation’, according to NATO, Ukraine’s participation indicates that the Ukrainian Navy retains some capability in its littoral areas. Moreover, Ukraine co-organised the exercise with the US.

Though its forces are much depleted, Kiev maintains an aspiration to develop its naval capability. In an early April 2015 speech in Odessa, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko said that Ukraine aims to modernise its navy to NATO standards. This is reflected by moves to broaden its defence imports and exports, training and alliances with other nations following the collapse of the country’s relationship with Russia. Kiev has for some years maintained contacts with NATO forces related to exercise participation, and mission participation in the counter-piracy realm.

However, in early 2015 Russia retains control of some of Ukraine’s naval assets, and their fate remains unclear. As well as the Foxtrot-class boat, the Russians still control two of Ukraine’s three Grisha-class corvettes and one of two Pauk-class patrol craft. A number of auxiliaries are also assessed to be still in Russian hands, as well as the minesweeper Cherkassy. Many of the former Ukrainian Navy vessels are in ‘poor condition’ and so service in the Russian Black Sea Fleet would be unlikely. The administration in Crimea has even allocated two warships for museum use. Amid these reports, and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, the return of these vessels to the Ukrainian Navy becomes a more remote prospect.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Ukraine's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Douglas Barrie: Iran’s 'indigenous‘ cruise-missile design underscores Kh-55 heritage

Iranian Soumar cruise missile.

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Some 14 years after illegally acquiring at least six Raduga Kh-55 (NATO reporting name: AS-15 Kent) cruise missiles from Ukraine (China at the same time acquired six Kh-55s through the same Ukrainian sources), and in the wake of reports that it was developing cruise-missile technologies, Iran revealed the result of its efforts for the first time in early March 2015. The Soumar cruise missile closely resembles the Kh-55, though there are some external differences.

Taken at face value, the unveiling of the Soumar marks a step-change in Iran’s ability to develop and manufacture a long-range cruise missile. The presentation of the Soumar, however, raises as many questions as it answers, at least in the public arena, as to the nature of the programme, the missile’s maturity and its potential performance.

Iran appears to have a number of cruise-missile development efforts underway, with the Soumar possessing the longest range of these. Tehran’s long-range cruise-missile programme was previously associated with the name Meshkat, and this type is more than likely related to the Soumar. The 2013 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report produced by the US National Air and Space Intelligence Center identified the Meshkat as a 2,000km cruise-missile programme, with systems intended for ground, maritime and air platforms.

However, it is a ground-launched cruise missile that Iran has chosen to show first. The Kh-55 design was intended for air launch, with the missile entering the inventory of the Soviet Union in 1983. It provided the Soviet air force with a nuclear-armed stand-off weapon for its Tu-95MS Bear long-range bomber force. The missile entered service with the Tu-160 Blackjack in 1992.

Design differences

The most obvious external difference between the Kh-55 and the Soumar is the addition of a solid-rocket booster for ground launch. The booster is also fitted with four lattice fins to provide initial post-launch stability. Lattice fins have been employed previously on Soviet ballistic, anti-ship and air-to-air missile designs. The Soumar has three suspension lugs, two on the upper section of the fuselage and one on the booster. Along with the wings, which are recessed in the fuselage prior to launch, the missile’s triangular tail control surfaces would seem also to fold. The vertical tail would otherwise block the missile from being secured to the launch-canister suspension rail. The rear control surfaces also appear to have mass balances at their root, a feature not required on the original Kh-55.

So far, Iran has not released any imagery of sub-component manufacture or final assembly of the missile; nor have any details been released regarding the guidance systems used by the Soumar or its terminal accuracy. The Kh-55 used inertial and digital terrain-contour matching. This uses a digital terrain map of the planned route to compare with the actual terrain and to allow the flight profile to be modified as required. Accurate digital terrain-elevation data is a key element of this navigation approach. Kh-55 accuracy was also driven by its nuclear payload, and as such would be less stringent than that required for a missile armed with a conventional warhead.

It remains a matter of conjecture whether Iran has at any point had external support in developing sub-systems for the Soumar. China has had a close relationship with Iran concerning the provision of a range of tactical anti-ship missiles, while there has been a relationship between Iran and North Korea regarding ballistic systems.

The only launch footage released so far shows the missile being slant launched from a vehicle, followed by the separation of the solid propellant booster motor. There was no imagery of the missile in the cruise or terminal phase of any test.

While many of the details surrounding Iran’s Soumar long-range cruise missile are unclear, what remains readily apparent is Tehran’s desire to bolster its capabilities in this arena. Coupled with Iran’s ballistic-missile inventory, the Soumar would complicate considerably regional missile-defence requirements.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Iran's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Douglas Barrie: Russian strategic-bomber upgrade indicates new cruise-missile deployment

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Although lately British focus has been on occasional pictures of the Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bomber (NATO reporting name: Bear) in the UK flight-information region, an arguably more significant image of the Bear flying over Russia has recently also appeared.

The aircraft has been photographed fitted with four sets of large-weapon pylons between the engine nacelles. The pylon design is not new, and has been seen on Tu-95MS test aircraft for nearly two decades. What is different, however, is that the Bear pictured – ‘Red 10’ – does not appear to be a test aircraft but rather most likely an upgraded airframe from a frontline unit. The image is stated to have been taken at Engels, the main base for the Russian air force's long-range aviation fleet. Previous images of test aircraft used in the programme to develop a cruise-missile capability on the Bear, including ‘Red 317’, were either from the Zhukovsky flight-test research centre on the outskirts of Moscow or taken at the air force’s test centre in Akhtubinsk in southern Russia.

The pylons in question are associated with the Raduga Kh-101/102 dual-capable long-range cruise missiles. Though circumstantial, this is an indicator that this family of weapons may finally, after near three decades of development, now be in service in frontline units.

The Kh-101/102 are designed to replace variants of the Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile. The Kh-102 has been developed to replace the Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) as the air force's primary nuclear weapon. The Kh-101, meanwhile, is a variant of the missile that is fitted with a conventional payload. This is a likely replacement for the Kh-555, developed to provide a conventional stand-off land-attack capability. The Kh-555 is based on the air force’s nuclear Kh-55SM cruise missile, with the nuclear package replaced and an improved guidance system. Claimed ranges for the Kh-101/Kh-102 vary from 2,700km to 5,000km.

Unlike the Kh-55, the Kh-101/102 is thought to be too large to fit into the Bear's internal weapons bay on a rotary launcher, with the aircraft therefore limited to carrying the large cruise missile externally. Test aircraft have been seen being used to carry eight size-and-weight-representative mock-ups of the missile with two on each of the four twin pylons. The missile will also form a key element in the inventory of the Tu-160 Blackjack bomber; in the case of the Blackjack, the weapon can be carried internally on rotary launchers. Tu-95 and Tu-160 units are based at Engels.

Work on the replacement for the Kh-55 began likely in the late 1980s, with test rounds of the Kh-101/102 design available by the latter half of the 1990s. One option pursued for the original design was the use of an unducted prop-fan engine. This approach, however, was dropped in favour of a conventional turbofan engine, likely as the result of development issues with the propulsion unit. The Kh-101/102 programme has also been hampered by inadequate funding at various points in its development, reflecting wider problems with defence R&D and procurement in Russia during the 1990s and the early part of this century.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Russia's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Saudi Arabia - Selected Military Capabilities

On the morning of 25 March, Saudi Arabia’s armed forces – leading a coalition of neighbouring states – began airstrikes on targets in Yemen in support of the beleaguered de jure administration of President Hadi. It is reported that key objectives include targets associated with the rebel Houthi group as well as forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saudi military forces had previously engaged Houthi targets in Yemen in 2009. For years, the IISS Military Balance has assessed Saudi Arabian military capabilities, and the table below summarises select air assets of the Royal Saudi Air Force that could be utilised in air operations.

Ian Keddie: Western European shipbuilding in 2015

Shipyard.

By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

As Western European states reduced defence spending after 2008, many armed forces, including the French, Italian and British navies, saw some orders cancelled and equipment numbers reduced. In some cases, procurement attention was focused on equipment geared towards the land-dominated conflicts that followed 9/11, principally in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maritime procurements involved long lead times, smaller orders and complex designs, resulting in delays or cancellations. Recently, however, increased activity in Europe’s shipyards may indicate an upswing in its defence shipbuilding sector.

The shipbuilding industry across Western Europe has tended to rely heavily on domestic defence orders to ensure a steady stream of work to maintain an indigenous manufacturing capability. Since the start of 2014, shipbuilding activity has maintained a considerably higher tempo. Domestic programmes have been confirmed, and a number of foreign orders have been placed or fulfilled. Among the major European naval shipbuilders, such as France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, a significant number of vessels have been built for both domestic and export markets.

Updates in European Shipbuilding 2015.

Indeed, the range of naval shipbuilding projects underway over the last 12 months represents a significant increase over previous years. Economic growth, domestic military requirements and changes in political climates have all contributed to an increase in orders. However, as the table above demonstrates, a significant number of European shipyard projects are foreign orders, for patrol vessels in particular. While the relatively low cost of these vessels makes them attractive to nations with developing naval forces, construction of such types can also prove a useful way for shipbuilding nations to maintain construction capacity in the face of lean domestic order books.

In the UK, for example, the decision to construct three new River-class Batch 2 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) was seen as key to sustaining industrial capacity in the gap between the completion of the Type-45 destroyer and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and the start of construction on the Type-26 Global Combat Ship. The ‘No’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum allowed the UK government to press ahead with the OPV programme and was followed by a January 2015 announcement of a 25-year shipbuilding plan that would see a new, complex warship built in Glasgow every two years.

This situation is not unique to the UK. Patrol vessels are also prominent in the order books of French shipyards, with orders under way for Senegal, Mozambique and Saudi Arabia, as well as for French naval operations in the Caribbean. However, these OPV orders have been overshadowed by the two Mistral-class vessels ordered by Russia, which remain undelivered due to the Ukraine crisis.

The nature of European naval shipbuilding is unlikely to change over the short- to medium-term. It remains a sector reliant upon a large manufacturing skill-base and, unlike in the aerospace sector, the consolidation of resources is not so easily achieved across multiple locations, particularly across countries. Whilst many European countries increasingly share common requirements for naval vessels, there is little evidence of any willingness to forego domestic capability and suffer job losses in regions with historic shipbuilding facilities. This limits the level of inter-European shipbuilding cooperation that can be achieved; thus on a European level, the sector remains fragmented.

However, consolidation could still occur at a national level, as seen in the UK with the end of naval shipbuilding at Portsmouth. The yards may be busier, but there are fewer of them. This in itself may bring challenges for governments, notably if yard capacity does not meet future fabrication requirements or indeed if governments no longer regard it as necessary for all naval vessels to be built domestically. These factors may make it more acceptable for European orders from traditional shipbuilding states – particularly relating to hull builds – to be fulfilled overseas and may, paradoxically, be a driver for greater cross-border defence-industrial consolidation or, at a minimum, greater cooperation in the sector.


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.



James Hackett: The Military Balance – equipment continuities over time

Plane comparison.

By James Hackett, Editor of The Military Balance; Senior Fellow for Defence and Military Analysis

Those of us who work on The Military Balance, like our readers, look for patterns and trends in our data.

Sometimes these can relate to ways in which states are developing their defence forces, prompted perhaps by the outcome of defence reviews; these might lead to changes in the number, or role, of military organisations. Sometimes trends can relate to equipment. For instance, are countries prioritising the procurement of certain capabilities, or gapping or cutting particular categories of equipment? For some states, this could lead to substantial changes in equipment categories and equipment numbers.

These shifts are particularly apparent when comparing books over time, and are more profound the further back one looks. So it is perhaps paradoxical that when comparing copies of the Military Balance fifty years apart we see distinct patterns of continuity, as well as patterns of change.

For instance, the latest Military Balance, published one month ago, is over 500 pages long. Fifty years ago, The Military Balance 1965–66 ran to only 48 pages. When one compares the 1965–66 book with the 2015 edition, much is different. The US combat-aircraft fleet in 1965 was dominated by aircraft, like the F-101B Voodoo and the F-106A Delta Dart, that have long since been retired.

However, a substantial range of equipment appears in both the 1965 and 2015 editions.

This is true of many land systems, including the Soviet-designed T-54/-55/-62 main battle tanks, and also some naval equipment. However, it is particularly pronounced in aerospace, which is perhaps surprising given the great extent to which air forces have otherwise modernised over the past half century.

For air forces, the equipment that has remained in service for the last fifty years includes some familiar types. J-5 combat aircraft, derived from Soviet-designed MiG-17s and described in The Military Balance 1965–66 as an ‘obsolescent type’, are still flown in North Korea. Meanwhile, MiG-21s are still fairly ubiquitous, even if many have been upgraded. China’s current H-6 bomber is a derivative of the Soviet Tu-16 (designed in the 1950s), while the prototype of Russia’s Tu-95 Bear was first flown in 1952.

But this does not just relate to Soviet-designed equipment. The US Marines’ CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter is only now being replaced by the MV-22 Osprey, despite having had its first flight back in 1962. The U-2 high-altitude surveillance aircraft, meanwhile, which first flew in 1955, was recently reprieved from retirement and will likely be flying for some years yet. Other US-origin types appearing in both books include the P-3 Orion, C-130 Hercules (first flight: 1954), KC-135 (first flight: 1956) and of course the B-52 Stratofortress, which first flew in 1954, with the -B variant entering service in 1955. The current variant is the B-52H, the last of which was delivered in 1962.

What does this tell us about military equipment? After all, most of the 1965-era equipment has been retired, as have other types introduced since then – so why have certain types survived?

For some of the equipment above, the answer lies as much in the defence policies that national armed forces are there to fulfil, and how – and how much – nations use their military equipment. If equipment is rarely used, or is rarely tested against modern types, this could reduce the requirement for replacement, particularly if this equipment was designed to be robust and easily repaired. Conversely, heavy use can stress an airframe such that its life-span can either run out or run down more quickly than planned, leading to faster equipment attrition. However, if the equipment is too mission-critical to replace, this could lead to modernisation or incremental upgrade rather than full-fleet replacement. Additionally, some types will still be in service simply because replacing them was deemed too expensive, or because of difficulties in finalising the requirements for a replacement programme. Perhaps more prosaically, continued service might also stem from competent maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) regimes as well as repeated airframe, engine and systems upgrades that can extend service life.

For the U-2, the platform’s persistence and payload flexibility have proved vital to its continued place in the inventory. The same can be said for the C-130. The versatility of this airframe has been a central driver of its continued development and expansion. However, the fact that the Hercules is in service so widely might also lead customers to prefer upgrade rather than replacement, as this has the additional benefit of minimising changes to MRO regimes and logistics chains. For example, it was only last week that the US Air Force’s oldest C-130 (an HC-130P) was retired – after 52 years’ service – to storage in Arizona. Meanwhile, two weeks earlier, a 1962 vintage B-52-H took a step closer to service reintroduction by taking its first flight after seven years parked at the same storage site.

Indeed, perhaps the airframe is now less important than back in the early days of these programmes when, at least for bombers, transports or tankers, they were seen as a principal means of transporting materiel and delivering munitions over long distances. The adaptability of airframe designs in terms of expansion capacity has proven vital to programme longevity, while payload flexibility and the ability to modernise aircraft systems as well as mission packages – including weapons – increasingly justify a continued place in inventories.

These legacy designs often demonstrate that flexibility, with old designs upgraded to carry the latest systems. The Tu-95 (designed in the 1950s) was pictured on the cover of The Military Balance 2013 carrying a mock-up of Russia’s advanced Kh-101/Kh-102 cruise missile, while for a time the B-52 was the only US strategic bomber fitted with a rotary cruise-missile launcher; the B-52 has also been used as a launch platform for new technical developments, such as in hypersonic propulsion.

The longevity of these designs derives, of course, from a combination of these factors. While there are new programmes or designs underway for aircraft including transports, tankers and bombers, it is unlikely that these older types will be retired en masse. For a start, there are quite simply a lot of aircraft in each category, so replacing them is expensive and would take time. Additionally, their utility as ‘payload platforms’, coupled with the ability to modernise them, means that upgrade plans persist. For instance, plans to re-engine the B-52 are being explored. The aircraft is, according to the Pentagon, expected to remain in service until 2040.

So, while it might seem anachronistic for these older types to exist in modern air forces, this might in fact persist into the future. It is not inconceivable that readers of the Military Balance could in 2040 be looking at aircraft inventories in which some types are approaching 90 years since the design first flew. 


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.



Tom Waldwyn: Asian naval exports to Africa on the rise

Modi at Barracuda Commissioning Ceremony

By Tom Waldwyn, Assistant Research Analyst for Maritime Forces and Defence Industry

On 12 March 2015 India successfully completed its first warship sale as Mauritius commissioned MCGS Barracuda into coastguard service at a ceremony attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The 74m-long, ship, with a full-load displacement of 1,350 tonnes, was ordered in 2012 for US$58.5 million and built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) in Kolkata, West Bengal. 

Whilst India has sold some second-hand ships to African countries before, this new-build sale is significant, and India’s defence industry hopes that this will be the first of several orders. GRSE is already in competition with other international shipbuilders, such as Spain’s Navantia and South Korea’s STX, as it bids to construct two frigates for the Philippine Navy. This contract has the potential to be five times larger than the one now concluded with Mauritius and illustrates that whilst India may be reliant on other countries for defence materiel, it has ambitions to greatly expand the potential of its defence industry.

Asian naval exports to Africa.

On the other side of the African continent, another Asian power is doing business with a country that seeks to enhance its maritime patrol capability. Following the completion of sea trials in late December 2014, the first Chinese-built Centenary-class Offshore Patrol Vessel NNS Centenary was delivered to Nigeria and commissioned in February 2015, along with NNS Okpabana (ex-USCGC Gallatin, Hamilton-class), NNS Prosperity (ex-IRL L E Emer, Emer-class) and a 38m patrol craft, NNS Sagbama, believed also to be from China. The second Centenary-class ship, NNS Unity, was christened at Wuchang Shipyard, again in late 2014, and will be completed at Port Harcourt Shipyard in Nigeria. These two vessels have an Oil Support Recovery System that would enable them to assist in containing any oil spill in Nigerian waters should such an incident occur on one of the oil rigs located offshore.

Through this deal, Nigeria has sought to increase its domestic shipbuilding capability, in support of a planned fleet upgrade. Cameroon has also ordered Chinese-built patrol craft. Two 60m vessels were inspected by Cameroon’s Minister of Defence, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o in Qingdao, in April 2014, and satellite imagery released online suggests that the ships have now been delivered

As well as these new vessels, The Military Balance 2015 assesses that there are currently 25 Chinese-origin vessels in service with African navies and coastguards. This makes China by far the biggest Asian naval exporter to African states, followed by Taiwan with six vessels currently in service with African navies. As China continues to secure defence export contracts and as the domestic shipbuilding capability in countries such as India matures, there is greater potential for competition between Asian countries for African naval contracts.


The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.



Ben Barry: Prospects for the United Kingdom's armed forces in 2015 and beyond

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare

As is detailed in The Military Balance 2015, the UK is still the fifth biggest defence spender in the world, and it remains the second biggest spender in NATO. In addition to this, as Ben Barry notes, the British armed forces continue to uphold a reputation for professionalism and effectiveness.

But, the 8-9% decrease in the UK military defence budget as compared to 2009 figures has led to a 20-30% reduction in conventional capability. Moreover, there remain significant capacity gaps, such as maritime patrol aircraft, thus diminishing Britain’s ability to track foreign submarines.

The British defence services, as examined in an essay on UK defence policy in The Military Balance, do demonstrate a reduction in capabilities but also reflect a well-balanced service across the board. Although the navy is currently without carriers, it does boast NATO’s second most capable amphibious force in regards to the Royal Marines and amphibious shipping. The Royal Air Force maintains a balance between combat support (such as air-to-air refuelling and transport), intelligence gathering, and combat. Furthermore, the British Army has engaged in a radical programme of restructuring that in many respects has made it more capable, proportionately, than before the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The Military Balance 2015 features key defence statistics for the UK, as well as analysis of the UK’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. 

James Hackett: Deepening defence ties across the Pacific

By James Hackett, Editor, The Military Balance and Senior Fellow for Defence and Military Analysis 

Debate at the inaugural IISS Cartagena Dialogue has seen much focus on the growing commercial and political ties between the states on either side of the Pacific. Cooperation is increasing, and this mounting trans-Pacific relationship can also be seen in the defence realm. Though these associations are slight compared with the intensity of US defence relations with the Asia-Pacific, they have nevertheless been expanding.

China’s defence relations with the region, which have increasingly attracted attention, are an important element of its interaction with Latin America and should be viewed in the context of Beijing’s broader regional commercial and economic considerations. These defence ties range from military-to-military contacts including limited training activities and ship visits, such as the Peace Ark’s Caribbean voyage in 2011, to defence diplomatic initiatives like the China-Latin America High-Level Defense Forum (the second iteration of which took place in July 2014). It is significant that the People’s Liberation Army sent a small delegation to the IISS Cartagena Dialogue this weekend.

Sales of military materiel are a key component of China’s defence relations. Some regional states operate Chinese defence equipment, including Venezuela with its K-8 trainers and Y-8 transport aircraft, and Bolivia with its MA-60 transports, K-8s and H425 helicopters (delivered in 2014). However, following the visit to China of Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner in February, during which discussions covered cooperation on civil nuclear power as well as areas including trade in technology, agriculture and commodities, there was renewed focus on China’s defence sales. This was spurred by reports that Argentina was exploring the acquisition of Chinese naval vessels and that Argentina’s air force might look to consider Chinese combat aircraft, possibly the FC-1, and maybe even J-10s, to replace its ageing fleet. Such a move would be closely watched in London, not least for any sign of which – if any – guided weapons such a deal might include.

But China’s defence ties are not the only dimension to this developing trans-Pacific cooperation. Defence sales by South Korea are also far reaching, and possibly more so in terms of the technological and defence industrial benefits that the recipient countries intend to derive from these relationships.

Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd sold the KT-1P training aircraft to Peru in 2012. The plan is for four of the aircraft to be built in South Korea and the remaining 16 in Peru, at a new factory in Las Palmas. The first KT-1P flew at the Las Palmas airbase in October 2014 and the first aircraft built in Peru is expected to fly soon. KAI hopes that the Peruvian contract will provide an entry point for sales of the aircraft across the region. In September 2014, meanwhile, Peru’s SIMA shipyard began building the first of two Korean-designed Buque Multipropósito vessels (Landing Platform Docks) for Peru’s navy, with teams arriving in December as part of an agreement with Daewoo, for the supply of equipment for the design and construction of the ship.’ It was reported that the vessel design was related to the Makassar-class LPD designed for Indonesia.

Colombia also has broad, and indeed historical, defence ties with South Korea. Colombia despatched troops to South Korea in the early 1950s during the Korean War and the Colombian contingent lost hundreds of troops in action – a sacrifice that is remembered and appreciated in the Republic of Korea. There are, as Colombia’s President Santos noted in his keynote remarks at the IISS Cartagena Dialogue, deepening economic ties between the two states, with an FTA now waiting for approval from Colombia’s Constitutional Court. Meanwhile, institutional defence and security contacts have also strengthened in recent years: a bilateral working group on defence ties first met in 2010, and an information sharing agreement concerning transnational crime was signed in 2011. In October 2014, a former South Korean corvette entered service with Colombia’s navy as the ARC Nariño.

Defence industrial ties also extend to the manufacture of military materiel. South Korea’s STX Offshore and Shipbuilding in early 2013 won a contract to build two patrol and coastal combatants, launched in mid-2014. Colombia’s COTECMAR shipyard itself built a third vessel in the class, the ARC Punta Espada, which was launched in late October 2014 and entered service in February 2015. This took place, fittingly given the context of the Dialogue, in Cartagena, further demonstrating not only the increasing proficiency of the defence industrial base in some states but perhaps also future export potential for regional defence industries. For most, markets will remain national or regional at best; but for some the hope will likely be that markets could be international: Brazil’s Embraer, for instance, has built and exported globally for years, with Asia a growth target market, particularly for civil aviation. These developments serve to highlight the growing ties that exist between defence industries, and defence establishments, on both sides of the Pacific.



This post is part of our content accompanying the IISS Cartagena Dialogue: Trans-Pacific Summit, which runs from 6-8 March 2015 in Colombia. You can follow the latest mentions of the Dialogue, or contribute your own, on Twitter via #IISSCartagena. Inquiries can be sent to cartagena@iiss.org.

Cartagena Dialogue

Kathryn Morisy: Continuity and Change: The Nature of Future Armed Conflict

By Kathryn Morisy, Events Administrator, IISS-US 

In October 2014, the US Army released the Army Operating Concept (AOC), ‘Win in a Complex World,’ which describes the future of armed conflict and the ways in which the US Army will adapt and prepare. On 19 February, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and Deputy Commanding General for US Army Training and Doctrine Command for Futures, spoke in an IISS-US Policy Makers Series lecture on both the AOC and the future of armed conflict. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Eliot Cohen, the Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

McMaster explained that the AOC ’describes how army forces will have to operate in the future’ by addressing ‘the problem of future armed conflict through the lens of both continuity and change - continuity in the nature of war and changes in the character of conflict.’

According to McMaster, the political nature and human element of conflicts have remained consistent throughout history. War is waged to ‘achieve sustainable political outcomes’; the US Army's role is to both ‘provide foundational capabilities to the joint force’ and to ‘consolidate gains – particularly political outcomes.’ McMaster explained the importance of developing upfront a political and diplomatic strategy to address both ‘internal and external political dynamics’ which can help to move a conflict toward a ‘sustainable outcome consistent with ...vital interests’ after the initial conflict is over.

The human element refers to the millennia-old reasons that individuals engage in conflict: ‘fear, honor, and interest.’ In addressing these long-standing motivations, McMaster said that the army must be cognisant of the rationale of not only the enemy but also the civilian population in order to develop a fuller understanding of ‘what is driving conflict’.

Ultimately, ‘war is uncertain’, and the future of conflict can be difficult – if not impossible – to predict. Conflict has and always will be a ‘contest of wills’ in which it is necessary to develop soldiers who are ’resilient, who can operate in...uncertain environments’ and who form 'cohesive teams’. McMaster explained that the US Army is ‘endeavoring to institutionalize the lessons of the last 13 years of war’ and has seen success in terms of ’doctrine…combat leadership…and the philosophy of mission command – which is decentralized operations based on mission orders.’ In order ‘to deal with complexity ... complexity ... [the army must have] trust up and down [its] chain of command" and McMaster emphasized the work done by the army in "challenging and bringing out the best in young men and women" both in preparation for peacetime operations and future complex environments.
’ and McMaster emphasised the work done by the forces in ‘challenging and bringing out the best in young men and women’ in preparation for both peacetime operations and future complex environments.

While the fundamental nature of conflict may remain the same, many of its characteristics are constantly in flux. McMaster acknowledged that in the future threats and adversaries will change, and so will the technology available to address these challenges. As conflicts develop and their characteristics change, the army will have to continually self-assess and apply new ‘lessons learned’ to its training, education, and doctrine. 


The Military Balance 2015 features a chapter on ‘Hybrid warfare: challenge and response’; analysis of regional defence and security developments, including North America, Europe and Russia; and detailed entries on NATO members’ military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance 2015  is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. 

Ben Barry: Analysing the conflict in eastern Ukraine

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare

As the crisis in Ukraine has unfolded it has become increasingly apparent that there is a military disparity between the Ukrainian forces and the Russian forces assisting the pro-Russia separatists. According to Ben Barry, this incongruence is due to a combination of factors including corruption, modernisation, and defence expenditure.

Ukraine’s defence expenditure, compared to Russia’s, has been at a consistently low level. This has precluded any substantial modernisation within the forces. As Barry points out, the Russian military has enjoyed eight years of sustained extra investment that has facilitated a programme of thorough modernisation. The result is that Russia’s forces are decidedly more capable than Ukraine’s. 

As well as in their superior tactical planning, the Russian’s advantage has been demonstrated in the way its forces have been able to use more effective artillery fire and their ability to rapidly mobilise for the so-called ‘snap exercises’, including deployment by rail at great strategic distances across Russia. Consequently, whenever they have come to face Ukrainian forces they’ve been able to achieve significant tactical overmatch.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of both Russia and Ukraine’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. It also features an essay on ‘Hybrid warfare: challenge and response’, which pays particular attention to Russia’s activity in eastern Ukraine.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. 

Douglas Barrie: Chinese military aircraft developments in 2014

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force continues to recapitalise its combat-aircraft fleet, improve the capabilities of its special-mission aircraft and work on a considerably greater airlift capability.

At least six of the heavy fighter design Chengdu J-20 development aircraft have already been built, four of which were flown for the first time during the course of 2014. The J-20 prototype flew for the first time no later than 2011, and the pace of the programme is accelerating. A projected operational entry into service at around 2020 still seems likely.

There has been steady progress on the Chengdu J-10B, a development of the original J-10 that was first flown in 2008 but has yet to enter operational service. There are now indications that the first unit has been formed and will likely enter service at some point in 2015.

2014 marked the Zhuhai Air Show debut of the FC-31, a multi-role medium combat aircraft developed by Shenyang. So far only a single prototype has been publicly shown; the project is following a markedly different development path to those normally taken by state-funded projects. The full extent of any state support or interest in the programme currently remains a matter for conjecture.

Additionally, after a first flight at the end of 2013 there are now two Shaanxi Y-20 heavy transport aircraft – roughly analogous to the Ilyushin IL-76 Candid – in flight test.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of China’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. 

Joseph Dempsey: Boko Haram's armoured fighting vehicles


By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online

The long-running insurgency of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria has attracted increasing attention in recent years. Audacious incidents, such as the kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014, and the failure of the Nigerian armed forces to adequately stem the tide of insurgent activity, coupled with Boko Haram mounting attacks in Nigeria’s neighbours, culminated in early 2015 with wider acknowledgement that this had now become a regional issue: armed forces from Chad, Niger and Cameroon more formally joined in military action against the group. 

The last year has also seen Boko Haram adopt new weapons. Hitherto, Boko Haram has tended to employ lightly armed and highly mobile forces to conduct its operations, in many ways typical of contemporary insurgent groups. Its forces are in the main informal motorised infantry units consisting of militia armed with assault rifles, light machine guns and/or rocket propelled grenades, both supported and transported in unarmoured ‘technicals’; pick-up trucks with improvised heavy weapons mounts.

However, during 2014 there has been increasing evidence that Boko Haram possesses a number of armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) types captured from the Nigerian security forces, ranging from small, lightly armoured protected patrol vehicles, possibly to a limited number of main battle tanks (MBTs). Consequently, Boko Haram’s gains, not limited to AFV captures but also small arms and other equipment, represent Nigerian army losses, with substantially more government military materiel likely written off during the course of combating the Islamist insurgency.

Attrition levels are hard to assess but Nigeria has embarked on a significant procurement programme in recent years, which may indicate both that government forces are sustaining equipment losses at a rate requiring frequent replenishment and that the significant challenge posed by Boko Haram now demands additional, better quality equipment for Nigerian forces. Recent purchases have reportedly included a number of more advanced AFVs, with T-72 MBTs and BTR-4E infantry fighting vehicles procured from Ukraine and ex-Hungarian T-72 MBTs via a Czech defence company. At least four of the latter T-72s were observed prior to despatch by cargo aircraft, substantially quicker than standard shipping and at greater cost, potentially demonstrating the urgency placed on the order.

A full and current inventory of Boko Haram’s captured equipment is hard to gauge, with limited evidence often focused on equipment that has subsequently been recaptured by government forces; there is less visibility on equipment that may still be operated by the group. Whilst serviceability of this equipment is likely questionable, there is evidence that Boko Haram has operationally deployed AFVs, particularly armoured personnel carriers (APCs). Significantly, these deployments have, on at least one occasion, extended beyond Nigeria’s borders with a former Nigerian Army APC involved in an attack on a Cameroon Army outpost in the border town of Amchide in November 2014. There have been several indications that Boko Haram has captured MBTs but there is limited evidence of use, beyond a reported encounter with a T-55 in September 2014 and the recent recapture by government forces of one of Nigeria’s British-built Vickers Mk.III Eagle MBTs.


Although AFV types have been observed in use with Boko Haram, the overall quantity may be limited. Nonetheless, Boko Haram’s increasing use of AFVs – particularly MBTs – poses a challenge for both Nigerian forces and those of neighbouring countries who are increasingly involved in the conflict. Indeed, Nigeria’s recent procurement of MBTs as outlined above and the deployment by Chad and Cameroon of upgraded Chinese wheeled 105mm tank destroyers can be seen as a response to Boko Haram’s growing use of better protected military vehicles in its operations.


The Military Balance 2015 details ‘observed equipment holdings by type’ for select non-state armed groups, including Boko Haram, and features analysis of Nigeria's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research.


Alexander Nicoll: NATO - posture and developments in 2014

By Alexander Nicoll, Senior Fellow for Geo-economics and Defence

The Military Balance has its origins in the Cold War standoff between NATO and the former Soviet Union, and as the 2015 edition discusses, the past year has seen NATO in some senses return to its origins. A new Cold War is not the aim, as Alex Nicoll explains, but the events of 2014 engendered a reappraisal of both NATO’s own role and capacities in a new security climate and of Russia as its neighbour. 

A year ago NATO was preoccupied with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the establishment of the non-combat Resolute Support operation. The end of that longstanding combat mission led NATO to think in terms of shifting its focus away from such active roles towards a position more aligned with preparedness for contingencies that may emerge around the world. But the crisis in Ukraine changed the picture fundamentally. 

Ukraine represents a combustible situation right on the borders of Europe, and the specifics of the conflict have forced NATO to change the assumptions it had been making about itself and about the rest of the world. For some time Russia was presumed to be NATO’s strategic partner, a position seemingly enshrined by positive and proactive relations between the two dating back to the years immediately following the end of the Cold War. These had provided the basis for many of the concepts and doctrines NATO has built upon since. Now, events in Ukraine have meant that NATO, and the whole of Europe, has had to revise its perception of Russia. 

This extends to both the perception of what sort of entity Russia is and to what exactly Russia has been doing in Ukraine. The tactics employed in eastern Ukraine have pushed NATO to rethink its responsive capabilities, and to look towards adapting in order to deal with crises that may arise in the future.


The Military Balance 2015 features a chapter on ‘Hybrid warfare: challenge and response’; analysis of regional defence and security developments, including North America, Europe and Russia; and detailed entries on NATO members’ military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance 2015  is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. 

Douglas Barrie: Russian armed forces' equipment recapitalisation programme progress

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Russia is in the midst of a defence modernisation programme covering all services – land, sea, air and strategic systems. This is by no means the first effort Russia has made to recapitalise across the service domains. However, in the past few years progress has been significantly better than in previous efforts and the current State Armaments Programme has seen much more success in regards to delivery ambitions. 

New aircraft are coming into service: the Su-35S will likely reach an initial operational capability at the end of 2015, plus design work on a next-generation bomber is underway in project PAK-DA, and a prototype may fly in the mid-2020s.

Alongside introducing the Su-35S into service, Sukhoi continues to work on the prototypes of its fifth-generation fighter design, to meet the air forces’ PAK-FA requirements. This aircraft is likely to enter service some time later in this decade, with the ambition to have some 55 delivered to the air force by around 2020.

The army is looking to recapitalise across all of its main lines of armoured vehicles. The Armata, effectively a next-generation tank, may this year be displayed publicly for the first time ever. Similarly, the navy is beginning to take delivery of new classes of submarines. These have been long promised, but developmental and manufacturing issues have caused setbacks.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Russia's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 was released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.

Douglas Barrie: Russia’s revised military doctrine – developments in 2014

Strategic Forces 55th Anniversary.

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The Russian government published a new Military Doctrine on 26 December 2014, in a revision of the previous 2010 version. Given the deterioration in relations between Moscow and the West after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the subsequent conflict in Ukraine, the revised document was notable perhaps more for its comparatively measured tone and less for any revelatory content. However, it provides an insight into the government’s security concerns and the means by which Russia’s leadership intends to address them.

NATO encroachment remains a key military danger in Moscow’s eyes, as does what it views as the US development of ’strategic non-nuclear precision weapon systems’ and the associated Prompt Global Strike concept. The deployment by NATO of missile defences in Europe is also highlighted again as ‘destabilising’. Russia’s apparent development and testing of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range that breaches the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty could be considered as part of a counter to what the Russian regime views as the ballistic-missile defence threat.

The nuclear deterrent remains the pillar upon which Russia’s security ultimately rests. The country’s strategic triad is now the focus of a recapitalisation programme with new land-, sea- and air-based nuclear-delivery systems either in development or being introduced into service. Further Strategic Rocket Force units converted to the RS-24 Yars road-mobile and silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile (SS-27 Mod 2) during 2014, as reflected in equipment entries in The Military Balance 2015, and the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SS-NX-32) is finally on the cusp of service entry. A missile regiment at Kozelsk in western Russia was the first recipient of the silo-based RS-24, and is part of the strategic arsenal assessed in The Military Balance Wall Chart included in this year’s edition.

The 2014 doctrine includes the notion of ’non-nuclear deterrence‘, which can be viewed as a further response to what Moscow sees as the threat from US long-range conventional precision weapons either in service, in development or being considered as part of the US Prompt Global Strike capability. The proposed merger of the Russian air force and the aerospace-defence force is likely aimed at providing a better integrated air- and space-defence capability to counter the United States’ perceived offensive capabilities in this area.

The air force and air-defence force (PVO) had been separate branches of the Russian armed forces until 1998, when the PVO was absorbed by the air force. The aerospace-defence force, formed at the end of 2011, brought together space with some other elements of air defence, but not air-defence aircraft, which remain in the air force following the absorption of the PVO.

Air- and missile-defence systems continue to be an area of investment for Russia, reflecting defence planners’ concerns over potential vulnerability in this area. The S-500 surface-to-air missile system (SAM) is intended to provide a long-range interception capability against air-breathing threats (aircraft and cruise missiles – including low-observable designs) and against ballistic missiles. Air-defence brigades continue to convert to the S-400 (SA-21 Growler) long-range SAM, with the growing number of units reflected in The Military Balance 2015.

The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Russia's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics, as well as an ‘equipment analysis’ graphic of the Russian Flanker combat aircraft development and detailed analysis of the conflict in Ukraine. It also features a chart of Russia’s Armed Forces showing the geographical disposition of key units of Army, Navy, Air Force and Strategic Rocket Forces, accompanied by text and tables detailing key aspects of Russia’s military modernisation plans, Russian defence spending and a statistical comparison of headline equipment numbers in 1991 and 2014

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February.

Ben Barry: ISIS military advances during Iraq’s Maliki government

 

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare

Regional and international reactions to the great surge of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the summer of 2014 were largely based on questions of how the insurgents had achieved such stunning and speedy ascendency over the Iraqi and Syrian security forces.  Ben Barry, IISS’ Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, sees this as not only a direct result of the actions and failures of both the Iraqi and Syrian governments, but evidence of the impressive tactics demonstrated by ISIS.

Decisions made by governments in both Syria and Iraq engineered the situation ISIS has been able to exploit. Military appointments made by Iraq’s previous prime minister Nouri al-Maliki resulted in political proxies being placed in key roles previously occupied by competent commanders. Additionally, endemic corruption through all levels of the Iraqi force resulted in disunity and thoroughly demoralised soldiers, and crucially, a security force with little loyalty to or faith in its leadership.

Moreover, both Maliki and Syria’s President Assad pursued anti-Sunni policies, leading to the systematic disenfranchisement and increasing oppression of the Sunni minority. This, as Barry explains, has driven many Sunnis back into the arms of violent extremists. ISIS, as a cohesive and effective force, has gained significant legitimacy among Sunni populations in both Syria and Iraq.

Much of this legitimacy comes from the demonstrative proof of ISIS’ capabilities. Barry asserts that ISIS has established itself as the most ‘agile, effective and adaptable’ insurgency of the last decade.  It boasts hardcore fighters and commanders who have a strong grasp of their objectives. As is explained in The Military Balance 2015, ISIS has utilised tactics that include extensive reconnaissance and combined-arms assaults on both Iraqi and Syrian government positions. The potency of these tactics combined with the landscape created by government policies has offered ISIS an opportunity it has been quick to capitalise on.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of Iraq and Syria’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role and equipment inventories. In the opening essay ‘Hybrid warfare: challenge and response’, particular attention is paid to ISIS in Iraq.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 is released on 11 February. Print copies are available to order.



Giri Rajendran: Defence budgets - devil in the detail

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

A regular feature in The Military Balance is the updated graphic of the top 15 official defence budgets around the world. (Figures also include US Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) funding for relevant countries.) There are significant changes in this year’s chart. For instance, after displacing the United Kingdom at fourth position last year, Saudi Arabia has risen this year into third place, above Russia, after sustained increments to the official Saudi defence budget in 2014. Also, 2014 saw India rise to eighth place – above Germany – after New Delhi opted to raise its defence budget following Narendra Modi’s election victory that year, while Berlin opted to cut spending due to procurement delays and federal budget consolidation aimed at reducing public debt levels.

That said, this year’s chart still reflects characteristics common to previous editions, such as the wide differential between US defence outlays relative to other states: the US spends almost as much as the next 14 largest spenders combined, and some 4.5 times more than the official budget of the world’s second largest spender, China.

However, as was pointed out during last year’s launch, arriving at meaningful international comparisons of defence-spending levels is problematic. For example, Russia’s official defence budget has fallen below that of Saudi Arabia, in US dollar terms. This is partly because the rouble has depreciated over the past year due to declining oil prices and economic sanctions: a weaker rouble shrinks the value of Russian defence outlays in US dollars when exchange rate conversions are made using average annual market exchange rates. Similarly, Japanese defence spending levels – in US dollar terms – have fallen substantially in recent years, due to the drastic currency depreciation caused by Japan’s monetary policies under ‘Abenomics’, despite the country’s defence budget actually rising in yen terms.

Additionally, the chart depicts official defence budgets (including US FMA), but countries differ on the precise elements they include under this budget line. The impact of this can be significant: the only official figure on defence spending released by Saudi Arabia is the country’s ‘defence and security’ budget, which includes funding for the Ministry of the Interior as well as the Ministry of Defence; while Russia’s official ‘national defence’ budget excludes some outlays on military pensions, paramilitaries and other military benefits, such as housing and healthcare.

Nor are these the only examples of how budget definitions matter when comparing military expenditure across countries. In recent years, the US has included at least some US$20 billion in defence-related funding under other budget lines, such as disbursements on mandatory spending and through the Department of the Treasury’s budget (both of which fund some military retirement and healthcare costs). And China – which along with Saudi Arabia has one of the least transparent defence budgets in the world – is widely believed to exclude from its official defence budget funding for a significant proportion of its defence-related research and development programmes. The fact that budgetary definitions are often not publicised adds to the difficulty in ascertaining precise disbursements.

Furthermore, the paucity of directly comparable information in the area of defence budgeting – along with movements in exchange rates – complicates assessments of cross-regional defence spending comparisons. The nuances inherent in defence-budgeting practices around the world are analysed in detail in the national, regional and extensive data sections contained in The Military Balance 2015.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of both regional and country-by-country defence economics, accompanied by explanatory maps, graphs and charts.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015  is now available to order.


Douglas Barrie: Russia targets 2015 for Su-35S Flanker operational clearance

SU-35s (Photo: KNAAPO)

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The Sukhoi Su-35S combat aircraft is due to enter operational service with the Russian Air Force in 2015, if the programme runs to plan. This latest variant of the Flanker family will be the air force's premiere multi-role fighter until the fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50 combat aircraft reaches the front line in operational numbers. The Su-35 will complement the T-50, with the two types forming the core of the air force's multi-role fighter fleet in the medium- to long-term. Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, is reported in the Russian press as saying that the introduction into operational service of the Su-35 is one of the defence ministry’s priorities for 2015.

The Su-35 is what the air force and defence industry describe as a ’deep modernisation‘ of the baseline Su-27 Flanker (Su-27P), which entered the then-Soviet inventory in 1985. The main differences between the two are detailed in the ‘Russian Flanker Combat Aircraft Development‘ equipment-analysis graphic in The Military Balance 2015. The equivalent of a mid-life update for the type, a substantial development of the original Su-27P has been planned since the late 1980s but the previous effort, the Su-27M, suffered from a lack of state funding as well as technical limitations. A small number of Su-27Ms were built and tested, but the type never entered service.

The first regiment of Su-35s has already been formed and is flown from Dzemgi Air Base, near Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in effect co-located with the manufacturing site (Komsomolsk-on-Amur Production Organisation, KnAAPO) that produces the aircraft. This location may have been chosen in part to try to ease the traditional teething problems often associated with bringing a new aircraft into service. Su-35 aircraft are also being flown from the air force's tactics and evaluation centre at Lipetsk, preparing the type for its operational debut, while weapons integration and firing trials have been carried out at the Akhtubinsk flight-test centre.

KnAAPO is under contract to produce 48 Su-35s by the end of 2015 as part of the State Armaments Programme to 2020. So far, according to The Military Balance 2015, 25 had been delivered by November 2014. It is anticipated that a further order for a similar number of aircraft could be placed by the defence ministry once the first purchase is completed. The air force's MiG-29 Fulcrum fleet is being concurrently run down, although it appears that a comparatively small number of upgraded versions of the type will be retained.

Up to now, Su-35 weapons-carriage trials have included both air-to-air and air-to-surface systems. It remains to be seen whether the air force will dedicate units equipped with the latest version of the Flanker to either air-to-air or air-to-surface roles, or whether each unit will be multi-role. The first regiment to be equipped with the type, the 23rd at Dzemgi, remains notionally a fighter (interceptor) unit.


The Military Balance 2015 features an ‘equipment analysis’ graphic of the Russian Flanker combat aircraft development and detailed analysis of the conflict in Ukraine. It also features a chart of Russia’s Armed Forces showing the geographical disposition of key units of Army, Navy, Air Force and Strategic Rocket Forces, accompanied by text and tables detailing key aspects of Russia’s military modernisation plans, Russian defence spending and a statistical comparison of headline equipment numbers in 1991 and 2014

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Joseph Dempsey: North Korean indigenous coastal-submarine footage surfaces


By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online

Footage from North Korea’s state broadcaster, Korean Central Television, provides a rare glimpse of one of the regime’s indigenous submarine types. Whilst imagery of the North Korean Navy’s obsolete Russian Romeo-class submarines, including the Chinese Type-033 derivative, is increasingly available, there are fewer images of Pyongyang’s growing number of smaller indigenous types. Imagery in the public domain has been limited to satellite photos and the recovery of two types by South Korea.

Footage of Kim Jong-un’s December 2014 activities included a visit to a naval base, correlating with a known inspection at Pip'a-got, South Hwanghae Province, on the county’s west coast. Although Romeo-class submarines and surface vessels feature more prominently, an unidentified submarine is visible on several occasions (51:41, 52:19, 52:33, 52:44 & 53:22). Whilst a positive identification cannot be confirmed, this vessel is probably a variant of the indigenous Sang-O series of coastal submarines. Satellite imagery suggests that six Sang-O are regularly based at Pip'a-got, and at least one Sang-O II may periodically also operate from the base.

The initial Sang-O-class, believed introduced in early 1990s, measures 34m in length with an estimated surface displacement of around 275 tons. There are at least two reported variants: one armed with two 533mm torpedo tubes and an unarmed variant optimised for reconnaissance and troop-insertion operations. South Korea recovered an example of the latter in 1996. This vessel, now on public display, is of a similar design to but includes several features on the sail absent on the unidentified observed vessel, suggesting it may represent the armed variant or indeed a further modification.

A further candidate is the larger Sang-O II believed introduced in the 2000s. This type, differentiated by a longer 39m hull, is widely reported as a ‘stretched’ Sang-O, though such lineage cannot be verified. The Sang-O II reportedly incorporates an additional pair of 533mm torpedo tubes and a more powerful engine, however this remains unconfirmed.

The full capabilities of North Korea’s indigenous submarines are largely unknown but consistently assessed inferior to their foreign counterparts. However, indigenous industrial capacity has advanced from the early local assembly of Chinese Romeo-class kits and reported reverse engineering of former Yugoslavian designs toward increasing autonomy. The introduction of the Sang-O-class has been credited with allowing the eventual retirement of the elderly Russian Whiskey-class, whilst the later Sang-O II may gradually replace the remaining Romeos as the primary attack submarine. North Korea has also developed and produced a number of smaller midget submarines and semi-submersible vessels, and demonstrated willingness to export its expertise, including aiding Iran’s own indigenous programme, most visibly in the design of the Ghadir-class midget submarine. Recent reporting has also identified a potential new class of North Korean submarine, their largest design yet, which may represent the development of a ballistic-missile submarine.

On paper North Korea possesses one of the world’s largest submarine fleets, but this inventory consists of obsolete Romeos and smaller indigenous coastal and midget submarines. Deployment of these smaller submerged vessels does however allow the use of unconventional tactics and asymmetric naval warfare. Despite questionable serviceability and limited capabilities, they remain a potential danger, underlined by the 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, attributed to a North Korean-made 533mm torpedo fired from a submarine.

The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of North Korea's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role and equipment inventories.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Emile Hokayem: Syria - Assad regime maintains military superiority

By Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security

After a 2014 characterised by rising concern regarding security in the Middle East, 2015 is likely to see one issue of contention remain unchanged. Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security, believes that after two years of stable support and territorial regains, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is likely to remain in power for several years to come.

Hokayem attributes this staying power to several factors, each part of the regeneration of Assad’s forces as a resilient and cohesive tool in a fight against an increasingly fragmented rebellion.

Ironically, the defections in 2011 and 2012 have left Assad with a collection of strong, loyal units that can be trusted in deployments across the country. The best performing units are often organised along minority lines, including Alawite and Druze units, which means deployment can be strategically based on minority demographics across the country.

A consistent relationship with allies in the region and further afield has contributed to Assad’s staying power. The reliability of support from Russia and Iran especially has meant that quality weaponry has been promptly delivered, contrary to the sporadic sponsorship offered by the rebels’ ambivalent allies in the West and the Arab world. Furthermore, the physical presence of veteran Shia militias from Iraq and battle-hardened Hizbullah fighters alongside Assad’s forces has had a decisive impact on how the conflict has unfolded.

The political flux of the region and the rise of ISIS have added significant complexities to the Syrian situation, and it would be difficult for Assad to regain full control of the whole country. But with his resources, constant friends and a unified army, Assad is likely to enjoy several more years in power.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of regional defence and security developments including ISIS in Syria, and a detailed entry on Syria’s military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Henry Boyd: PLAN development since 2000


By Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

In the last five years the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned more frigates and destroyers than in any comparable period in its history. However, it also now has fewer destroyer and frigate hulls in service than at any point in the last decade.

Successful serial production of Luyang II/III-class (Type-052C/D) destroyers and Jiangkai I/II-class (Type-054/054A) frigates has allowed the PLAN to begin retiring its old Luda-class (Type-051) destroyers and Jianghu-class (Type-053H) frigates, some of which have been in service for over 30 years. By the end of 2015, the frigate component in five out of the PLAN’s six destroyer flotillas (each with an establishment strength of four destroyers and four frigates) will have completed their transition to the Jiangkai-class, relegating older models to service with the lower priority independent squadrons of the East and South Sea Fleets.

Destroyer replacement has been slower. After a test batch in the mid-2000s, serial production of the Luyang IIs and IIIs only began in 2010. Nonetheless, three of the flotillas should still be able to field a complete set of Luyang destroyers by the end of 2016, despite some production capacity likely shifting to the new ‘Type-055’ cruiser now under development, as detailed in The Military Balance 2015.

As a result, the number of hulls and the frigate/destroyer mix of the PLAN surface fleet remains comparable with its 2005 equivalent. However, the vessels themselves have significantly increased in size. For example, a Jiangkai II-class has a full load displacement (FLD) of around 4,000 tonnes, compared to an early series Jianghu of 1,500–1,750 tonnes. The combined FLD of the PLAN’s destroyers and frigates has therefore increased from an estimated 160,000 tonnes in 2000 to around 280,000 tonnes in early 2015. This increase in displacement has come with a commensurate increase in armament quantity. The 61 hulls in service in 2000 had less than 600 anti-ship and surface-to-air missile tubes between them; the current fleet has almost treble that number, with only 20% more hulls.

When complete, the Jiangkai II and Luyang III will respectively represent the largest frigate and destroyer classes built in China to date, both in the size of individual vessels and in the total number of hulls produced. Ultimately, this reflects both the PLAN’s confidence in the vessels’ capabilities and the increasing technological maturity of the shipyards producing them.


The Military Balance 2015 features analysis of China's military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics. 

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

The Military Balance 2015 Wall Chart: Russia’s Armed Forces


The Military Balance is an authoritative assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries.

The print edition of The Military Balance now comes with a Military Balance Wall Chart, replacing the Chart of Conflict, which will be launched with the forthcoming Armed Conflict Survey. The first of these charts focuses on ‘Russia’s Armed Forces’, showing the geographical disposition of key units of Army, Navy, Air Force and Strategic Rocket Forces, including those stationed outside Russian territory, and early-warning radars. The map is accompanied by text and tables detailing key aspects of Russia’s military modernisation plans, Russian defence spending and a statistical comparison of headline equipment numbers in 1991 and 2014.

Map features include:

  • Geographical distribution of units by type
  • Focus boxes for St Petersburg, Moscow, Kaliningrad, Crimea, Vladikavkaz, Novosibirisk, Ulan Ude, Belogorsk, Petropavlosk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok/Ussuriysk region and Central Asia (Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan)
  • Early-warning radar locations
  • Military Districts
  • Military District Headquarters
  • Army headquarters

Other features include:

  • Ground Forces modernisation plans and table of selected equipment programmes
  • Navy modernisation plans and table of selected equipment programmes
  • Air Force modernisation plans and table of selected equipment programmes
  • Strategic Forces modernisation plans and table of selected equipment programmes
  • Army Aviation modernisation plans and table of selected equipment programmes
  • Russian defence-spending trends
  • Russian defence spending 2001–15 graph
  • Forces comparison: 1990–91 and 2014 by equipment type (including Strategic Rocket Forces, Land Forces, Air Defence Troops, Air Force and Navy)

The Military Balance Wall Chart is also available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request.

The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February 2015. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

The Military Balance 2015

Military Balance 2015 New Features

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide, and is available in both print and electronic format. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, and an indispensable handbook for anyone conducting serious analysis of military affairs, whether in the defence industry, government, the armed forces, academia, consultancy or the media.

In The Military Balance 2015, launched on 11 February, opening essays examine developments in armed conflict and military capability, this year including ‘Directed energy weapons: finally coming of age?’, analysing the development and deployment of laser and radio-frequency weapons; ‘Military space systems: US ambitions to secure space’, examining the US use of space, the growing use of space by others and vulnerabilities that some space-faring nations are beginning to address; finally, ‘Hybrid warfare: challenge and response’ considers characteristics of hybrid or ‘ambiguous’ warfare, with a particular focus on Russia’s activity in eastern Ukraine, ISIS in Iraq, and Western responses.

A Comparative Defence Statistics colour graphics section displays headline figures for defence economics and selected trends in land, sea, air and the defence industry. The Military Balance 2015 includes the following graphics:

  • Top 15 defence budgets 2014
  • 2014 top 15 defence and security budgets as a % of GDP
  • Planned global defence expenditure by region 2014
  • Planned global defence expenditure by country 2014
  • Real global defence spending changes by region 2012–14
  • Planned global defence expenditure by country 2014 at PPP exchange rates
  • Composition of real defence spending increases 2013–14
  • Composition of real defence spending reductions 2013–14
  • Changes in the global submarine market since 1990
  • Key defence statistics for China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US
  • Precision attack by guided artillery
  • US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific: vessel deployments 2014–20
  • Latin American fixed-wing aircraft fleets, 1994–2014

Regional and select country analyses cover the major developments affecting defence policy, military procurement and defence economics, in North America, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Specific country analysis this year includes the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Russia, China, India, Japan, North Korea, Myanmar, Israel, Syria, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya and Somalia.

Within the regional chapters, maps and tables further explain select strategic issues. New to this year’s edition, ‘equipment analysis’ graphics detail select key equipment, including the Russian Flanker combat aircraft, the US Zumwalt-class destroyer and the Israeli Merkava IV main battle tank. These contain diagrams accompanied by capability analysis, facts and figures, and showcase the broader work carried out within the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme.

Detailed A–Z entries by region list national military organisations, headline personnel numbers, equipment inventories and relevant economic and demographic data as well as, at the end of each chapter, information on selected national arms procurements and deliveries. Additional data sets detail by region military exercises conducted during 2014, comparative defence spending and personnel numbers by country, and – new in this edition – a non-state armed groups section detailing observed equipment holdings for select groups, such as the Peshmerga in northern Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The Military Balance now comes with a ‘Military Balance Wall Chart’. The first of these is ‘Russia’s Armed Forces’, showing the geographical disposition of key units of the country’s army, navy, air force and strategic forces, including those stationed outside Russian territory, as well as air-defence radar systems. The map is accompanied by text and tables detailing by service key aspects of Russia’s military modernisation plans, plus a graph showing Russia’s defence spending and a 1990–91 vs. 2014 forces-comparison table. The Military Balance Wall Chart is available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request. 

‘Amid continuing conflict and broadening insecurity, The Military Balance provides essential facts and analysis for decision-makers and for better informed public debate.’ Dr Robert M. Gates, former US Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence

‘Because military affairs are inevitably clouded in fog, the IISS Military Balance is an essential companion for those who seek to understand.’ Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary-General of NATO

'The Military Balance is the unique and vital resource on which informed public debate of the world's armed forces is founded. Up-to-date figures and information on defence budgets, procurement totals, equipment holdings, and military deployments are presented clearly and succinctly. In the area of defense information, where nationally produced fictions often masquerade as facts, The Military Balance is the internationally recognized source of record.' William S. Cohen, former US Secretary of Defense

The Military Balance 2015 will be released on 11 February 2015. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Ian Keddie: The US Navy's Small Surface Combatant requirement - towards an improved LCS

LCS ships.

By Ian Keddie, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

On 11 December 2014, then-US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel accepted the US Navy’s (USN) recommendation that its requirement for a future ‘Small Surface Combatant’ (SSC) vessel be based on the existing Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Just six weeks after the decision was made, opinions remain divided among defence professionals. Hagel failed to explain on which of the two LCS designs the SSC would be based, nor did he outline the precise composition of an eventual 52-strong LCS and SSC fleet. Crucially, Hagel also called for an assessment of back-fitting enhancements to the survivability and lethality of the ‘Flight 0+’ LCS vessels already on order by the USN. (Two of the Independence-class and two of the Freedom-class have been delivered.) The navy was required to deliver this assessment by 1 May 2015. This points to a desire among US defence planners to address some of the concerns that have been levelled against the LCS programme.

The LCS has received criticism over a number of its shortcomings, especially survivability and lethality, while the programme itself has seen cost overruns and requirement creep. The perception in the USN is that the LCS was designed for a future operating environment, largely featuring asymmetric and unconventional threats. For naval planners, though, changes in the security and threat landscape have made traditional warship roles more prominent again. The SSC represents an attempt to answer critics by adopting improvements that should allow the vessel to act independently and in a broad range of combat scenarios, unlike the LCS. 

SSC procurement is planned to begin in 2019. To all intents and purposes, the ship will be an LCS with numerous upgrades designed to meet a list of demands from policymakers. The inclusion of improved armour, over-the-horizon anti-surface warfare (ASuW) weapons, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems and 3D air-defence radar could give the SSC key capabilities currently lacking in the LCS. However, the details included in Hagel’s memo did not address the viability of integrating these systems into the hull of a ship of that size. Additionally, questions over manning, performance and space do not seem to have been taken into consideration in the push to ‘upgun’ the LCS into an SSC. If the USN is to create a viable operational mixed fleet from a combination of both classes, a clear distinction needs to be made as to which roles will be fulfilled by each.

Should those LCSs already under contract by the US Department of Defense receive upgrades to survivability and lethality, the line between LCS and SSC will be further blurred; the distinction between the two becoming a matter of which role they are fulfilling at any particular time. According to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the SSC would not be required to perform the mine countermeasures (MCM) mission, leaving that function to the LCS. Greenert stated that: ’There are enough mission packages within the 32 [LCS platforms]’ to undertake the MCM needs of the fleet. He also explained that the confusion over what constitutes a modified LCS versus an SSC is something already being debated in naval circles: ’We don’t have a nomenclature yet.’

When it was first articulated, the vision of a fleet of modular, adaptable and cost-effective littoral combat ships was, no doubt, attractive. Concepts showed mission-specific equipment added or removed at short notice, allowing the fleet to be tailored to particular tasks in a matter of days or weeks. Smaller, cheaper warships could replace large and expensive frigates or destroyers, which typically maintain a larger number of systems and specialist crews. However, teething problems, expensive development and increased demands on the LCS programme ultimately led the vessels to become less modular and less flexible, with adaptability increasingly limited as space was lost to new requirements. It seemed that the LCS fleet would become a static mix of ships, each tasked to specific MCM, ASW or ASuW roles, very occasionally incorporating limited modular systems to undertake a different task.

The SSC class could go some way to reducing the number of tasks the LCS is expected to perform, and the upgrades incorporated into the SSC could give it the scope to carry out more of the roles that would be expected of a larger, traditional frigate or destroyer. The USN may well be able to create a mixed LCS/SSC fleet that is adaptable enough to meet future challenges in a way that was originally envisioned for the LCS concept. The path to achieving this has been far more difficult than initially anticipated and there remain significant hurdles to overcome, the first of which is the selection of an SSC contractor.

Douglas Barrie: The advent of laser weaponry

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

If in the past the advent of laser weaponry was not so much a bright and shining lie as more a case of heady over-optimism, then the US Navy’s recent trials with a modestly powered system may herald, finally, the beginning of their adoption into the wider weapons inventory.

The US Navy has been discussing the results of a series of operational trials with an improved version of its Laser Weapons System (LaWS) deployed on the USS Ponce test ship in the Arabian Gulf from September to November 2014, with the comments positive. The 30 kilowatt-class laser was tested against a representative target set, including a high-speed small boat and an unmanned aerial vehicle, with the targets destroyed with 'near-instantaneous lethality' according to Rear Adm Matthew L. Klunder, the USN chief of naval research.

The development of laser weapons, arguably, is benefitting from a reduced level of ambition overall. Earlier efforts, such as those exemplified by the US ballistic-missile defence projects, looked to develop very high-power systems, that raised numerous operational, logistical and affordability challenges. Re-focusing in the near term the target set from engaging demanding targets at long range to a less challenging one at much shorter range required a far less powerful laser, but offered a considerably greater chance of delivering an affordable operational system.

Approaches by swarms of small fast-attack craft and the potential need to engage intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAVs are credible threats, particularly in the Arabian Gulf. Using a laser to engage these kinds of targets offers the advantage of a very-low cost per shot engagement when compared with using a surface-to-air missile, and also a very deep magazine compared to how quickly a ship would run out of missiles. Lasers, however, will complement rather than replace missiles since for the moment at least they are unable to engage and defeat some targets such as high-speed sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.

The results of the Ponce trials will help inform the Office of Naval Research’s Soild-State Laser Technology Maturation programme, which aims develop the capability to field a system on guided-missile class destroyers in the early 2020s.


 The Military Balance 2015 will include an essay on Directed Energy Weapons development


Douglas Barrie: Phantom image supports Iranian air involvement in Iraq

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The apparent intervention of the Iranian Air Force (IRIAF) in Iraq, providing air support to Iraqi ground forces against ISIS, pays tribute to its ability to keep an ageing fleet of combat aircraft operational. The only type so far identified from imagery is the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, which was delivered to the pre-revolution regime in the early 1970s.

While the IRIAF has F-4 units at four bases – Bandar Abbas, Bushehr, Chah Bahar and Hamadan – it is the last, in the northwest of the country, which is closest to Diyala Province in eastern Iraq and where the air-support missions may have been flown from. The ground-attack missions appear to have been carried out in support of Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces fighting ISIS in and around the towns of Jalula and Sadiyah.

On 3 December, an Iranian official denied that the country had conducted air-strikes inside Iraq, however earlier the US Department of Defense had said it had no reason not to believe the reports of the combat missions being flown.

It is uncertain as to the level of any coordination between the ground and air assets involved in the fighting. So far it is also unclear as to the types of weapons the Iranians may have employed. The IRIAF F-4s can use a variety of unguided and guided bombs; a very early version of the US AGM-65 Maverick short-range air-to-surface missile; and a number of Iranian ‘developed’ air-to-surface weapons. The latter includes the Sattar family of semi-active laser-guided missiles and the Qassed-1 electro-optically guided glide bomb. Both of these of weapons have at least been test-fired from the F-4. Iran originally received over 200 F-4s, of which around 60 remain in service.

Douglas Barrie: Beijing and Moscow's Fighter Export Ambitions

Su-35

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

There were two fighter aircraft débutantes at this year's air show in China, held in Zhuhai from 10–16 November. One was Chinese, and one was Russian; both raise interesting questions with regard to the countries’ respective aircraft export ambitions.

China's self-styled fourth-generation fighter, for the moment called the Shenyang FC-31 (J-31) made its public debut at the show. The aircraft has obvious low-observable airframe characteristics and would make a medium combat-aircraft complement to the Chengdu J-20 heavy fighter that is now in flight testing. So far, however, Beijing has not formally indicated that the J-31 is being pursued to meet a national requirement – or indeed that it is receiving state support.

Meanwhile, the show marked the first appearance in China of the Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker. With Russian president Vladimir Putin meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing before the show, the potential existed for the agreement and announcement of a deal for the long-mooted sale of the aircraft to the Chinese air force (PLAAF). However, while the Flanker’s presence at the event suggested an agreement might be imminent, there were obviously some sticking points that precluded the announcement of a sale during the show. Nor was the following 18 November defence bilateral between Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan in Beijing to provide immediate results.

Technology access, integration issues and hard numbers seem to be at the heart of the delay. Russia had initially hoped to persuade Beijing to acquire a first lot of 48 aircraft, while China wanted to purchase considerably fewer. Current speculation suggests that 24 is the figure now being discussed.

However, with China and Russia appearing to draw closer in terms of aerospace collaboration – the two sides are advancing an ambitious wide-body passenger aircraft programme as the centrepiece of a wider agenda – the atmosphere remains conducive to sealing the deal on the export of the Su-35S.

The latest iteration of the design would provide the PLAAF with a highly capable long-range air-superiority and air-to-surface platform, a valuable backstop to any risk of the J-20 development proceeding more slowly than planned. It would also give China a marker by which to judge its own defence aerospace development. The first sale of the Flanker to China in 1991 was coincidentally for 24 aircraft. The design is now at the heart of the PLAAF's combat-aircraft capability.

The possible export of China's second fourth-generation fighter (in rough terms the equivalent of a Russian or Western fifth generation) is a different matter. Indeed, ascertaining just which nation among China’s present customer base could opt for the J-31 raises a variety of basic questions – not least which nation would be willing to risk such a challenging programme without the support of the manufacturing state’s own air force. There are only a handful of countries, meanwhile, that could take on such a project as an equal partner.

Christian Le Miere: Egyptian naval skirmish highlights maritime insecurity

Egyptian Patrol Boat.

By Christian Le Mière, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

A rare incident in the Eastern Mediterranean this week has highlighted the sustained high levels of maritime insecurity along Europe’s southern coast.

On 12 November, an as-yet unidentified Egyptian patrol craft was involved in a skirmish with four civilian vessels about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Ras el-Bar, Egypt. According to Egyptian military spokesman Brig.-Gen. Mohamed Samir, the patrol craft engaged in a brief naval battle with four small boats, during which five Egyptian sailors were injured and eight went missing. A reinforcement of air and naval units then sank the four boats and arrested 32 individuals.

An Egyptian newspaper claimed that the clash occurred after the patrol craft approached suspicious vessels and was fired upon. It remains unclear, however, whether the individuals involved were Sinai or Gaza militants, traffickers of illicit material or people, or even civilians. It was, however, the first naval clash involving the Egyptian navy since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The attack underlines the high level of insecurity in the Eastern Mediterranean amid the conflicts in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula and ongoing attempts to re-arm Hamas following the 2014 Israel–Gaza war. With the Arab Spring having weakened maritime governance in parts of the region, and instability on land driving record numbers of migrants to attempt the dangerous Mediterranean crossing, maritime security has become a growing concern for littoral states.

The location of the 12 November attack, approximately 50 nautical miles from Port Said and the mouth of the Suez Canal, has also highlighted the importance of maritime security in and near the world’s most strategic chokepoint.  As early as August 2010, a suicide bombing aboard the M Star – a Japanese tanker transiting the Strait of Hormuz – indicated the possibility of attacks on commercial maritime traffic in key Middle Eastern chokepoints. More recently, a September 2013 rocket-propelled-grenade attack on a container ship transiting the Suez Canal signalled the sustained appeal of maritime traffic as a target for non-state armed groups. The crippling of a large vessel in the canal’s vicinity could easily cause immense disruption to regional and global trade.  

In reality, however, such incidents are rare; non-state attacks are much more logistically difficult to carry out at sea than on land, and the probability of any attack successfully sinking a container vessel or tanker is minimal. Nevertheless, the Egyptian skirmish and other events in the Eastern Mediterranean (such as the use of naval commandos by Hamas during the 2014 war) underline the concern among regional states over maritime insecurity, which can be both a symptom of and catalyst for conflict on land.   

Douglas Barrie: Book Review - Brothers Armed: Military Aspects of the Crisis in Ukraine

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

A problem with writing a near contemporaneous account of unfolding events is that any analysis risks being quickly outdated and also inaccurate, as increasing distance begins to offer more information and more measured perception. Brothers Armed: Military Aspects of the Crisis in Ukraine recognises the constraints of immediacy and for the most part deftly avoids the pitfalls; not least by, rather than focusing solely on the conflict, providing detailed assessments on the history of the contested territory and developments in the two key protagonists’ armed forces since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Of the nine essays that constitute the volume, produced by Moscow's Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, only two deal directly with the actual annexation of Crimea. The book also covers the period up until April 2014, prior to conflict erupting in eastern Ukraine. Irrespective of this, however, Brothers Armed provides valuable insight into the military, political and social dimensions behind the present conflict; the travails of the two defence ministries and their armed services as they grappled with structural inertia, the need to reform and repeated funding crises.

Particularly stark is the pace and degree to which the Ukrainian military unravelled, as it proved repeatedly incapable of reshaping its Soviet-era inheritance. 'Neglect and Rot' is an apposite title for a chapter that charts the erosion of what, on paper at least, were – after Russia – the second largest armed forces in Europe in the early 1990s. Ukraine's military inheritance from the Soviet Union is recorded in detail in the preceding chapter. By the time of the Russian invasion of Crimea 'only 6,000 troops of the 41,000-strong army were ready for action ... of the 507 aircraft and 121 helicopters only 15% were airworthy and in good working order' and the country's air defences were also rickety'. The military was for the most part incapable of carrying out combined operations, and there was 'a lack of coordination between the individual branches of the armed forces'.

The book is also unsparing in highlighting the problems of the military reform process in Russia, that: 'until the arrival of Anatoly Serdyukov [as defence minister] in 2008 the government had been unable to identify effective solutions to the key challenges facing the armed forces'. Underlying the repeated reform failures from 1992–2007 was the inability to grasp that a 'mobilisation-centric' army was 'increasingly ill-suited to Russia's new military–political objectives'. Not until the aftermath of the 2008 Georgia campaign did the defence ministry launch its 'New Look' (Novy Oblik) programme. The successful impact of this effort was evident in the seizure of the Crimea and in the actions of the well-armed 'little green men' who sported no insignia and were at the heart of military activity in the peninsula. As the chapter on the Russian intervention notes: 'It was obvious that the operation to seize the Crimean Parliament was carried out by an unidentified but very professional special task force'. While the improvements in comparison to the Georgia operation are clear, the chapter cautions, with admirable understatement, that what the 'units brought to bear were the cream of the crop of the Russian Spetsnaz and not entirely representative of the state of affairs in the rest of the Russian Army'.

The book concludes even-handedly with a chapter from a Ukrainian academic on what needs to be done if the Ukrainian military is to be capable, in future, of defending the state’s territorial integrity.'The Ukrainian Armed Forces have great potential for improving their capability', the author notes dryly. The country’s future security, however, now depends in considerable part on fulfilling this 'potential'.

H.R. McMaster: Thinking Clearly about War and the Future of Warfare – The US Army Operating Concept

US Army soldier keeps watch on a road in Tarin Kot, Afghanistan.

By Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Consulting Senior Fellow

Difficulties encountered by Western armed forces in recent armed conflicts have stemmed, at least in part, from a tendency to neglect both history and continuities in the nature of war, especially its political and human dimensions. What military and civilian leaders learn from recent experience is important because those lessons influence operational planning and force development. Prospects for learning lessons that acknowledge continuities in the nature of war, however, are dim. This is because four fallacies about future war have become widely accepted; these fallacies promise that future conflict will be fundamentally different from all historical experience and, in particular, from the recent and ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We might call the first of these the ‘vampire fallacy’. This fallacy seems impossible to kill; it goes dormant for a period, but re-emerges just about every decade. In its last manifestation, the vampire fallacy emerged as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in the 1990s. Concepts with catchy titles such as ‘Shock and Awe’ and ‘Rapid, Decisive Operations’ promised fast, cheap and efficient victories in future war. Those who argued that these ideas were inconsistent with the nature of war were dismissed as being wedded to old thinking. Technology would make the next war fundamentally different from all that had come before it, because information and communication technologies had shifted war from the realm of uncertainty to that of certainty. Western armed forces would possess ‘Dominant Battlespace Knowledge’. Under the ‘Quality of Firsts’, forces would ‘see first, decide first, act first and finish decisively’.

The vampire fallacy is much older than the orthodoxy of RMA. It goes at least as far back as strategic bombing theory in the 1920s. Today, it once again promises victory based on even better surveillance, information, communications and precision-strike technologies. The vampire fallacy is based in an important suite of military capabilities, but it neglects war’s political and human dimensions. It equates targeting to tactics, operations and strategy and fails to take into account the uncertainty of war, the trajectory of which is constantly altered by varied interactions with determined and elusive enemies.

The second fallacy can be referred to as the ‘zero-dark-thirty fallacy’. Like the vampire fallacy, it elevates an important military capability, raiding, to the level of a defence strategy. The capability to conduct raids against networked terrorist organisations is portrayed as a substitute for rather than a compliment to conventional joint-force capabilities. Raids, because they are operations of short duration, limited purpose and planned withdrawal, are often unable to affect the human and political drivers of armed conflict or make progress toward achieving sustainable outcomes consistent with vital interests.

The third fallacy may require a little explanation for those of younger generations. In the 1960s on Sunday nights, US families with young children gathered to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The host for Wild Kingdom was Marlin Perkins. Marlin Perkins would introduce the topic of the show, often a dangerous animal, and provide commentary throughout. But Mr Perkins would rarely place himself in a dangerous situation. He usually left close contact with the wildlife to his assistant, Jim Fowler. Under the corresponding fallacy, Western armed forces assume the role of Marlin Perkins and rely on proxy forces in the role of Jim Fowler to do the fighting on land. While it is hard to imagine future operations that will not require Western forces to operate with multiple partners, primary reliance on proxies is often problematic due to variations in capability and the impact of incongruous interests on each party’s willingness to act. The political and human dimensions of war often create what economists and political scientists call ‘principal-actor problems’.

Finally, the ‘RSVP fallacy’ solves the problem of future war by opting out of armed conflict, or at least certain forms of it. The problem with this fallacy lies in its failure to give due consideration to enemies in wars or adversaries between wars. As Leon Trotsky said, ‘you may not be interested in war but war is interested in you’. If Western armed forces do not possess ready joint forces capable of operating at the scale and for the duration required to win, adversaries are likely to become emboldened and deterrence is likely to fail. In the words of the first US president, George Washington, ‘To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace’.

Preparing effectively for war to prevent conflict, shape security environments and, if necessary, win in armed conflict requires clear thinking. Western militaries and their civilian leaders might begin by rejecting fallacies that are inconsistent with the enduring nature of war. As nineteenth-century Prussian philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz observed:

The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish ... the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.


These fallacies persist, in large measure, because they define war as one might like it to be rather than as an uncertain and complex human competition usually aimed at achieving a political outcome.

The first step in thinking clearly about future war is to pay due attention to continuities in the nature of war as well as changes in the character of armed conflict. The new US Army Operating Concept is grounded in historian Carl Becker’s observation that ‘memory of past and anticipation of future events work together, go hand in hand as it were in a friendly way, without disputing over priority and leadership’. The concept establishes the intellectual foundation for US Army force development. It establishes a framework for learning and for applying what the US Army learns across leader development, training, doctrine, organisation, material development and policy. In contrast to the four fallacies, the theory emphasises joint power exercised in coordination with multinational partners and civilian organisations:

Since World War II the prosperity and security of the United States have depended, in large measure, on the synergistic effects of capable land, air, and maritime forces. They have reinforced one another in the conduct of joint operations and together provided options that any one or two services could not provide alone.  U.S. military power is joint power. Trends in threats, the operating environment, and technology highlight the enduring need for ready Army forces operating as part of joint, interorganizational, and multinational teams to prevent conflict, shape security environments, and win in a complex world.


Moreover, the US Army Operating Concept:

  • Considers the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, because conflict, unlike command, cannot be divided into discrete levels.

  • Describes the Army’s contributions to winning, defined as achieving sustainable political outcomes consistent with US vital interests. Recognises that winning may not require fighting, because Army forces shape security environments, reassure partners and deter aggression.
  • Acknowledges the criticality of land forces to deterring conflict because they are capable of compelling outcomes without the cooperation of the enemy.
  • Recognises that decentralised operations in complex environments require adaptive leaders, cohesive teams and resilient soldiers who are committed to the Army professional ethic and thrive in conditions of uncertainty.
  • Emphasises the integration of advanced technologies with skilled soldiers and well-trained teams to maintain differential advantages over enemies.
  • Outlines what US Army forces must do across the range of military operations including:
    • Provide foundational capabilities. Forces integrate joint, government, military and multinational efforts.
    • Develop situational understanding through action. Forces fight, learn and adapt operations in close contact with enemies and civilian populations.
    • Conduct expeditionary manoeuvre. Forces with combined arms capabilities deploy rapidly and conduct operations of sufficient scale and ample duration to achieve strategic objectives. 
    • Conduct joint combined arms operations. Forces manoeuvre and project power across the maritime, air, space and cyberspace domains to ensure joint force freedom of action and deny enemies the ability to operate freely across those domains.
    • Consolidate gains. Forces execute early and effective consolidation activities as a fundamental part of campaign design to enable success and achieve favourable outcomes in the shortest time span.
    • Project national power. Forces deploy and sustain land power with multiple partners.

This blog post is based on an article that originally appeared in Small Wars Journal.

 

Douglas Barrie & Joseph Dempsey: Ukrainian air force capability erodes further

Ukraine aircraft blog

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace and Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine declared on 3 September 2014, should it hold, will provide a welcome respite for the Ukrainian air force and army aviation units, both of which have suffered notable losses of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Arguably, however, as much damage had already been done before fighting began due to years of underfunding, insufficient flying hours and an attempt to sustain an ageing combat aircraft inventory at too large a scale.

As of the implementation of the fragile ceasefire, the air force had reportedly lost the following to hostile fire: at least one Su-24 Fencer and five Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft; two MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters; one Il-76 Candid heavy transport; one An-30 Clank intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft; and one An-26 Clank transport. Rotary-wing losses include a number of Mi-8 Hip utility helicopters from both services and Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters from army aviation. The separatists also claim to have shot down two Tu-143 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles.

Separatist forces have been using a mix of anti-aircraft guns, man-portable surface-to-air missiles, and – reportedly – surface-to-air missile systems such as the 9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher), 9K33 Osa (SA-8 Gecko) and 9K38 Buk (SA-11 Gadfly). The extent to which the Russian military may have provided air-defence radar surveillance for the separatists is not known. Moscow has denied direct involvement, though its claims have rung increasingly hollow.

The annexation of Crimea in a military operation toward the end of February also denied the air force access to almost half of its 90-strong MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter fleet. The 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade stationed at Belbek had an on-paper strength of 46 Fulcrums, but only a handful of these were operational. Some were returned by the Russians in late spring.

The impact of these losses, coupled with a lack of precision-guided weapons and a limited capacity to carry out ISR missions, has reduced the effectiveness and utility of Ukrainian air power, irrespective of the commitment and ability of aircrews. The country has some capacity for independent maintenance and support of its predominantly Soviet-built inventory, however spares support would have previously been provided by Russia. The return of some aircraft to operational service from storage has also been announced by the Ukrainian defence ministry.

While Ukraine therefore has some capacity to replace airframes losses, more problematic is the loss of aircrews. It is probable that the air force was relying on its more experienced pilots, though they are likely to have had very limited flight hours in recent years. Were the conflict to resume, the ministry could be faced with either reducing air operations, or relying on less experienced aircrews, with the associated greater risk.

Even should a long-term cessation of hostilities be agreed, Moscow will likely remain a problem for Ukraine’s air force. Its aircraft and weapons inventories are almost exclusively of Soviet-era origin and it is unlikely that Kiev would be content for this to remain the status quo in the medium-term. Funding a service-wide equipment recapitalisation programme to swap out Soviet-sourced aircraft and associated systems for US or European types would, however, require an investment considerably beyond national budgetary means. Any hope of beginning such a process would depend likely on the largesse, or extended credit, of a donor nation, or nations.

Christian Le Miere: China’s maritime diplomacy in the Persian Gulf

By Christian Le Mière, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

On 20 September 2014, two ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) pulled alongside in Bandar Abbas, Iran. The port call, led by the Type-052C destroyer Changchun, came ahead of joint exercises in the Persian Gulf due to start on 22 September. Changchun is the PLAN’s flagship for its 17th deployment on counter-piracy duties in the Gulf of Aden. This mission, Escort Task Group 150, has been ongoing since December 2008, but this latest iteration in particular is reflective of a number of factors.

Firstly, China’s patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean should not be seen as a temporary phenomenon. Although piracy has declined significantly off the coast of Somalia – the EU Naval Force has recorded no successful attacks this year – China has chosen not to decrease the frequency of its counter-piracy patrols. These expeditions are extremely useful for the PLAN in terms of gaining experience on the high seas, in particular skills such as replenishment-at-sea that are necessary for blue-water operations, and building relationships in the region. In essence, it is becoming increasingly clear that the counter-piracy patrols should be seen as the first tentative step in China’s extra-regional military presence, as China becomes more confident in its increasingly capable military forces.

Secondly, the call reflects China’s military-to-military relationship with Iran. It is the most explicit sign of Beijing’s acknowledgment of this relationship, which has remained relatively covert until now. Iran sent a flotilla to China for the first time in May 2013, marking the country’s naval debut east of the Strait of Malacca. This return visit is an open admission of the relationship between the two countries, which for many years has been built on clandestine transferral of missile technology to Iran as well as Iran’s importance as an energy supplier to China.

Iran’s anti-ship missile inventory derives from its relationship with China. Iran purchased the C-801/C-802 (CSS-N-4 Sardine/CSS-N-8 Saccade) anti-ship weapons in the 1990s and has since also used Beijing as a source for a variety of other anti-ship systems including the Chinese C-701 (Kosar 1 and Kosar 3) and also the Chinese TL-1 (Kosar) as well as the C-704 (Nasr). Iran has also used ties to the Chinese guided-weapons sector to begin to build up its own industrial capacity.

Finally, a naval exercise between Iran and China in the Persian Gulf is a strong message to send to the United States and its allies in the region. It falls far short of a security commitment or guarantee, which Washington is able to offer its Gulf allies, but it highlights the fact that Iran has powerful extra-regional supporters that are willing to provide technology and know-how to reinforce its military capabilities, as well as circumvent Western sanctions on key industries.

This kind of maritime diplomacy is becoming an increasingly used PLAN tactic to exert greater influence, strengthen military and strategic relationships and ensure its presence beyond East Asia. As such, we should expect to see Chinese vessels popping into ports worldwide, engaging in the fine art of signalling, to allies and adversaries alike, a nation’s intentions and capabilities.

Joseph Dempsey: Pro-Russian separatist tank variant supports Russian source

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

Several recent reports have identified Russia as the source of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) and other heavy equipment operated by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, a suggestion persistently denied by Moscow. The apparent sudden and steady flow of MBTs into separatist hands since June 2014 coupled with a recently observed diversity of MBTs suggests some reliance on an external source. The Soviet-era MBTs operated by the separatists have until now represented those that could have been potentially acquired internally within Ukraine, providing a degree of plausible deniability to any suspected third-party supplier. The most recent separatist MBT variant observed, however, is assessed to have been operated only by the Russian Army.

Recently published online footage, reportedly taken on 26 August in Sverdlovsk, Luhansk Oblast, in eastern Ukraine, shows a convoy of military vehicles. Whilst date and location are unconfirmed, the operator of the convoy is apparent: flags associated with the separatist movement are clearly displayed and some vehicles feature bright green areas, a common feature of separatist armour. (Though initially introduced to conceal markings on captured vehicles, the green paint can be used in engagements to distinguish separatist vehicles from those of similarly equipped Ukrainian government forces. Ukrainian forces have adopted white bands for similar identification purposes.)

The mixed convoy includes at least three T-72B1 MBTs but it is the appearance (01:40–01:53) of a lone, more modern T-72 variant that is of particular significance. This variant, distinguished by the prominent Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) arrangement on the turret front, is commonly referred to by Western sources as the T-72BM. It is operated by the Russian Army in large numbers, but crucially it is not known to have been exported or operated outside of Russia. The presence of this variant in Ukraine therefore strongly supports the contention that Russia is supplying arms to separatist forces.

The first separatist MBTs observed were identified as T-64BV, a variant constituting the majority of the Ukrainian army MBT fleet. It was therefore initially assumed that they, like separatist armoured vehicles before, had been captured in engagements with government forces or through access to known army depots within contested areas. However, on 14 June NATO published strong evidence that these MBTs had been supplied by Russia. Although the T-64BV was withdrawn from Russian active service, the IISS assesses that a significant quantity remains in storage. It is therefore feasible that a number of T-64BV, surplus to current Russian requirements, could have been reactivated and supplied to separatist forces. IISS analysts estimate that between 12 June and 16 July over 40 T-64BV were acquired by separatists.

In recent weeks, increasing evidence of other MBT types and variants in separatist operation has been observed, including further T-64 variants, multiple T-72B1s and even limited evidence of access to a T-80 variant. Unlike the T-64BV these MBTs are not believed to be in current Ukrainian service, but still exist within country, either in storage or undergoing refurbishment for export purposes.  Similarly these MBTs exist in Russian storage facilities, and in the case of the T-72B1 also in current active Russian Army service.

The introduction of the T-72BM variant provides the separatists with a more advanced platform than the previous MBTs observed, and if employed effectively in numbers represents a greater threat to Ukrainian government armour in the region. However, to take full advantage of its attributes requires personnel with sufficient training and experience to effectively maintain and operate its systems.


A panel, including former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, will discuss 'The International System and the Ukraine Crisis' in the first plenary session of the 2014 IISS Global Strategic Review

The annual IISS members conference will  be held in Oslo from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 September at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel. The theme will be 'Geopolitical Risks and Geo-economic Opportunities.'

GSR Outline Agenda

Douglas Barrie & Henry Boyd: Russian cruise missile goes off-range

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is shown an Iskander (SS-26 Stone) transport-erector-launcher during a visit to the 26th Missile Brigade at Luga.

By Douglas Barrie, Senior for Fellow for Military Aerospace, and Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

Recent imagery released as part of official coverage of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to the 26th Missile Brigade at Luga (around 135km south of St Petersburg) shows an Iskander (SS-26 Stone). The transporter-erector-launcher is seen with a launch container for a cruise missile, most likely from the Novator Design Bureau, rather than the short-range ballistic weapon originally deployed by the system. The US government has previously expressed concern that a potential cruise-missile-equipped Iskander, sometimes referred to as Iskander-K or R-500, might be a breach of the 1987 US/USSR Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The inclusion of a cruise missile as part of the Iskander system may have been in part a Russian military response to NATO’s ballistic-missile defence initiative. Prior to the latest imagery from Luga, however, there was no open source evidence to suggest that it might be introduced into service. Previous imagery of the cruise-missile Iskander, as opposed to the short-range ballistic missile version, has been limited to the test-range at Kapustin Yar, near the border with Kazakhstan, and to a mock-up vehicle at Moscow defence shows. The short-range ballistic missile variant is capable of being fitted with both conventional and nuclear payloads.

The Iskander-K entered the flight test programme no later than 2007, and may possibly have been ready for deployment for several years. The missile itself may be a version of Novator’s 3M14 (SS-N-30) cruise missile. The 3M14 is offered for export as part of the Klub missile system, with a claimed range just below the 300km Missile Technology Control Regime threshold. A domestic variant for the Russian Navy, however, reportedly has a range far in excess of this. The INF lower range threshold is 500km, while the upper one is 5,500km. Were the Iskander-K to have a range comparable to that of the Russian Navy version of the 3M14, then it would likely be well above 500km.

The potential cruise-missile enabled Iskander is not the only Russian system which risks being in violation of the INF. The RS-26 Rubezh ballistic missile now in development may have an operational range that places it within the upper INF threshold, although its theoretical maximum range would be above the 5,500km limit.

Whilst the bulk of Iskander deployments have been, to date, on Russia’s European borders, the first unit to receive the RS-26 will reportedly be the 29th Guards Missile Division, located in Irkutsk, Siberia. This suggests that the Rubezh may have been developed with China’s modernising and modestly expanding missile arsenal as much in mind as the West’s missile-defence projects.


Joseph Dempsey: Pro-Russian separatist access to medium-range surface-to-air missiles

BUK

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online

On 18 July 2014, in a White House statement on the crash in eastern Ukraine of Malaysian airlines flight MH17, US President Barack Obama stated what many already suspected. He said that the evidence indicated the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside Ukraine. Obama did not comment on the question of intent, rightly pointing out that this was too early to ascertain. In general, information about this incident remains sketchy, and there is a contested information environment surrounding many activities in this conflict. However, it has raised further questions about the military capabilities of combatants in this conflict, particularly the pro-Russian separatists and their access to military equipment.

These forces have been known to operate short range infra-red guided SAM (surface-to-air) 
systems, assessed to be man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADs) but more recently at least one example of a self-propelled 9K35 Strela-10 (Sa-13 Gopher) SAM has been observed. However none of these systems are capable of engaging an airliner at the cruising altitude, some 33,000ft, at which it was reported that MH17 was hit. 

However, the 9K37 Buk (SA-11 Gadfly) is a sophisticated medium-range radar-guided SAM system, more than capable of being used to engage an aircraft flying at 33,000ft within the correct operating parameters. 

Prior to 17 July 2014 IISS analysts had seen limited evidence of the self-propelled Buk launcher in separatist hands. Whilst images on social media have been noted which claim to show Buk, the actual date, location, ownership and/or operational status could not be verified.

On 17 July 2014, the day Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, further imagery reportedly showing a Buk launcher in separatist hands emerged. A growing library of imagery shows a lone launcher either self-propelled or travelling on a low-loader trailer. Where indicated the location of these images was reportedly Snizhne in eastern Ukraine. Whilst the date and location of other imagery cannot be verified, IISS analysts have geo-located one video showing a self-propelled ‘Buk’ launcher travelling southbound on a road out of Snizhne. Although the precise location of any potential missile launch or impact is unknown this particular location is approximately 15-20km south-east of the reported primary crash site of flight MH17.

Variants of this Buk SAM system are operated within both the Ukrainian Army and Russian Army.  Although it has been widely alleged that Russia has transferred main battle tanks, armoured vehicles, multiple rocket launchers and potentially other supplies across the border to separatist forces, there has been no evidence of transfer of medium-range SAM systems.

Open source information suggests that there are historically two installations in eastern Ukraine that operate Buk, just to the north of the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk respectively. These are both in contested areas and it is feasible that separatist forces may have had access to these sites at some point in the conflict. The status of any Buk equipment that remained there during the conflict is unclear. However when Ukrainian forces recaptured the city of Sloviansk in early July an unarmed Buk launcher was sighted being withdrawn from the area by Ukrainian forces, suggesting that some may have been left at these sites when government forces earlier withdrew.

It is important to note that the Buk system is significantly more sophisticated compared to types previously operated by the separatists and requires specialist training to operate. It is therefore assessed that for the separatists to operate this type effectively they might have made use of personnel originally trained during service with Ukraine’s armed forces, or personnel trained elsewhere by forces that operate the Buk family of SAM systems. 

Joseph Dempsey: Iraqi's latest Su-25s come from Iran

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online

Following on from an initial delivery of Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft from Russia, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced a further delivery had been received on 1 July 2014. Although the source of this latest delivery of Su-25s has not been officially commented upon, it is the conclusion of IISS analysts that these latest examples originate from neighbouring Iran.

Iran has recently pledged military assistance to Iraq to help combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) insurgency. The extent of this offer and any current uptake by the Iraqi government has not been made public but the delivery of these aircraft may provide the first evidence of direct military aid.

Iran maintains a small fleet of Su-25 aircraft operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Ironically the majority of these aircraft are former Iraqi Air Force assets, with seven Su-25s having sought refuge in Iran during the First Gulf War. Contrary to Iraqi wishes, these aircraft were retained and later brought into Iranian service along with three additional Su-25UB combat-capable two-seat trainer variants procured from Russia.

The conclusion that these new aircraft are from Iran is based upon the following analysis of available open-source information:

Iranian Su-25s have been assigned a narrow range of six-digit serial numbers, all with the prefix ‘15-245x’, with the last two digits repeated on the aircraft nose. Noted serial numbers on operational aircraft include [15-24]51, 54, 55 and 56, with the Su-25UBs assigned 57, 58 and 59 respectively. Whilst the full serial numbers are not present, the three individual examples identified on a video posted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence each feature two-digit numbers on their nose. Two are coded ‘51’ and ‘56’, whilst ‘58’ is visible on the sole Su-25UB, correlating with identified Iranian numbering.

The camouflage scheme visible on the three aircraft is also identical to that currently applied to Iranian Su-25s, a scheme not adopted by any other operators. Attempts to conceal original operator markings are also apparent, with evidence of key positions being painted over. This includes the location of Iranian roundels on the side of the air intakes along with a large proportion of the tail fin normally occupied by a full serial number, the Iranian flag and the IRGC insignia.

Comparison of Iranian and Iraqi SU-25s

Comparison of Iranian and Iraqi SU-25s (tail)

It is also noted that these aircraft are externally in much better condition relative to that of the recently delivered Russian Su-25s thought to be drawn from storage. In addition, those from Russia were disassembled and airlifted to Iraq, whereas these appear to have flown in, a premise supported by the addition of wing-mounted fuel tanks on each aircraft.

Although these aircraft were likely delivered to Iraq by Iranian pilots, it is unclear who will now be responsible for crewing and maintaining them. Given this recent apparent growth in their Su-25 inventory, it seems increasingly unlikely that Iraq retains the capacity to operate this type of aircraft in any significant number without some level of external support.

Whilst the presence of Iran-sourced aircraft in Iraq is clearly significant, the exact circumstances surrounding their presence and intended use remain unknown, as does the existence of any wider arrangement between the governments of these neighbouring countries to counter the ISIS threat.

Douglas Barrie and Joseph Dempsey: The limitations of Iraqi air power

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace and Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst, Military Balance Online

If the last few weeks have brutally exposed shortcomings within the Iraqi Army and security forces, the limitations of its nascent air force in dealing with Islamic State of Syria and al-Sham (ISIS) insurgents have been known for considerably longer. Combat operations against ISIS in 2013 resulted in the death and injury of a number of Iraqi aircrew and helicopter losses from ground-fire. This situation was not deemed by Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq at the US State Department, to be ‘sustainable’. Although efforts have been underway for some years to address the state of Iraq’s air capabilities, the pace of the insurgent campaign has precluded the fulfilment of its equipment ambitions.

Attack helicopters from the US and Russia as well as US combat aircraft are on the procurement list, and deliveries of Russian attack helicopters and US F-16IQ fighter/ground attack aircraft are underway. The first F-16IQ was handed over formally in the US at the beginning of June 2014, with the first three or four to be delivered in country by the end of the year. US Congressional opposition to the sale of 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters had been overcome at the end of January 2014.

Faced with the rapid progress of ISIS, the Maliki regime has scrambled to bolster its very limited air power as part of efforts to counter ISIS gains, which have been compounded by the initial poor performance of the Iraqi Army. The government quickly secured the sale of at least five second-hand Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft from Russia, possibly drawn from storage at Kubinka Air Base near Moscow (see below).


Prior to delivery, an Su-25 at Kubinka Air Base in Russia, complete with Iraqi tail marking.

Hardware deliveries began on 28 June, but just how quickly and effectively and for how long Iraq can press the ageing airframes into service remains unclear. Nor indeed is it presently clear who will crew the aircraft. Although there may remain some within Iraqi ranks with experience of the Su-25 from the Saddam Hussein regime, they will not have flown combat missions for some years. Maintenance of these aircraft will likely depend on external support.

Iraq has previously relied upon a handful of air force Cessna AC-208B Combat Caravan combat-capable turboprop aircraft (see below) and a large number of army helicopters in engaging ISIS forces. AC-208B operations have been hampered by the reported recent exhaustion of Iraq’s limited stock of Hellfire laser-guided missiles. Rotary-wing assets have suffered significant losses, including at least one recently acquired Mi-35M Hind.

Cessna AC-208B Combat Caravan
The AC-208B Combat Caravan/Hellfire missile combination was used extensively, at one point reportedly exhausting the missile stock

The Su-25 is capable of carrying a variety of unguided rockets and bombs as well as the Kh-25ML (AS-10 Karen) laser-guided air-to-surface missile – presuming Iraq has also sourced, or retains, these munitions – and is also fitted with a twin-barrelled 30mm cannon. The aircraft was designed to be robust and able to sustain damage from ground fire. Along with anti-aircraft guns, it is likely ISIS also has some man-portable air-defence missiles.

If it can be operated effectively, the Su-25 would prove a useful asset in engaging concentrations of ISIS forces, such as the convoys of soft-skinned vehicles (at least some of which were fitted with heavy weapons and anti-aircraft guns) used during ISIS’s capture of Fallujah at the beginning of January 2014. The aircraft would be of less utility in countering small groups of insurgents dispersed in an urban environment, where ground combat would be required to dislodge a determined adversary.

Ben Barry: Iraq - from insurgency to counter-insurgency and back again

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare

The recent rapid eviction of Iraqi government forces from much of Ninewa and Anbar provinces by the jihadi insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is a bitter blow for the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. It is uncomfortable news for many in the US, including President Barack Obama’s national security team and US veterans of the Iraq War, as progress made in training and equipping Iraqi forces over the previous decade has seemingly been for nought.

Al-Qaim, Tal Afar and Ramadi – key terrain over the previous decade
In 2004–6 the US strategy for the Iraq War was one of rapid transition to Iraqi security forces. President George W. Bush said ‘as the Iraqi forces stand up, we will stand down’. But in central Iraq and greater Baghdad US forces struggled to contain the rising Sunni/al-Qaeda insurgency and the rise of Shia militias.

In Anbar Province the US Marines applied the principles of counterinsurgency (COIN) to ‘clear, hold, [and] build’ in the border town of al-Qaim. This approach was also successfully applied in Ninewa Province by the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment to the town of Tal Afar. These successes were complemented by a sustained attack by US Special Operations Forces (SOF) on insurgent networks in the Euphrates Valley. A year later, the 1st Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division successfully applied a similar approach in Ramadi.

Many Sunni tribes were alienated by the harsh and heavy-handed regime imposed by al-Qaeda and changed sides. The ‘Anbar Awakening’ created a campaign tipping point, as did the January 2007 replacement of the US transition strategy by a surge of additional US troops to protect the population, with the aim of creating sufficient security and space for reconciliation and political progress. Using tactics honed in al-Qaim, Tal Afar and Ramadi, reinforcing US brigades were used to counter the Sunni/al-Qaeda insurgency, deploying to Sunni areas in Baghdad. This reversed the deteriorating security situation.

Once Baghdad was relatively secure, the US forces switched their attention to the towns outside the capital, known to the US military as the ‘Baghdad belts’, and into Diyala Province. There was heavy fighting around Baquba, but by 2009 Iraqi forces were competently and confidently holding the areas cleared during the surge, large numbers of Sunni insurgents had switched sides and al-Qaeda was reeling from the precision attack on their leaders and networks by US and Iraqi SOF. Al-Qaeda was on the ropes. The US had developed the Iraqi security forces into an effective COIN force that commanded a degree of national respect.

Operation Iraqi Freedom ended in August 2010 and was replaced by a ‘train, advise and assist’ mission, Operation New Dawn. US/Iraqi negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement to cover long-term support to Iraq by US forces failed, mainly because of overwhelming opposition in the Iraqi parliament. All US troops were withdrawn by mid-December 2011.

ISIS – from Syria to Iraq and back again.
Over the next three years, Maliki greatly consolidated his power, a process chronicled by Professor Toby Dodge in his book Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism. This included marginalising and persecuting key Sunni and Kurd politicians and a toxic combination of discrimination, deliberate neglect and heavy-handed repression of an increasingly disenfranchised Sunni minority.

Maliki also centralised control of security by directly assuming ministerial authority for the armed forces, police and intelligence agencies. Tried-and-tested police and army commanders were replaced by less capable but politically loyal proxies. This greatly reduced the effectiveness of the security forces as well as their impartiality. Despite possessing large amounts of US military equipment, the army and police were rendered less effective by endemic corruption.

In the meantime the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq took up arms against the Assad regime in Syria. Rebranding itself as ISIS, it carved out territory from the central town of Raqqa to the Iraqi border. As well as imposing its brutal version of Sharia Law it sought to achieve a measure of stability in the towns it controlled, generating revenue through tax raises, kidnapping and black market trading of oil and looted antiquities.

ISIS rebuilt its networks in the increasingly discontented Sunni communities across western and central Iraq. As documented in its two ‘annual reports’, it used bombings, assassinations and guerrilla-style attacks on Iraqi security forces. It also mounted sophisticated propaganda, including well-edited videos on YouTube and a highly effective Twitter operation to garner international jihadist volunteers, financial donations and support from Syrian and Iraqi Sunnis.

In early 2014, ISIS seized Fallujah, from which it was not dislodged. Over the following months, it gained an increasing advantage over the Iraqi government forces around Mosul. Iraqi senior commanders’ precipitate self-evacuation from the city seems to have triggered a widespread rout, resulting in the disintegration of the Iraqi 2nd Division and badly damaging three other divisions. Tikrit fell quickly afterwards as did Tal Afar and key border crossings from Iraq to Syria and Jordan.

In the short term, ISIS will probably seek to keep up pressure on Baghdad and its ‘belts' to buy time to further develop its political and military control of the urban areas it has captured. This would be done with the aim of better withstanding and countering attacks by Iraqi government forces, but also to cement economic control, as it has done in the Syrian town of Raqqa, to augment its already considerable revenue stream.

Reversing ISIS
In the short term, the Iraqi government’s aim will be to stop the ISIS offensive. Provided that the government maintains sufficient political stability, the Shia areas of greater Baghdad should be successfully held. But simply blocking advancing ISIS columns of fighters in pickup trucks will not be sufficient. It will be just as important to tackle ISIS networks in the remaining Sunni areas in and around Baghdad.

The imminent threat has triggered the mass mobilisation of Shia militias in support of the Iraqi government. Unsurprisingly, recent credible media reports from Baghdad and Baquba suggest that extrajudicial killings of Sunnis have increased and that Iraqi government forces defer to the more powerful militias.

The recent attacks on Tikrit by government forces and Shia militias suggest that the Iraqi authorities are seeking to restore their authority. Whilst the regime probably can concentrate troops and militias for some offensive operations, it is likely that the combination of highly motivated ISIS and Sunni fighters and the extensive use of roadside bombs would make such operations both slow and costly. Direct urban assaults or attacks by air and artillery would probably result in significant civilian casualties and collateral damage, further alienating the Sunnis and eroding regime legitimacy outside Iraq.

Displacing ISIS will require a COIN approach. But whether the Iraqi political and security leadership has the capacity to apply the patient, careful and nuanced approaches of the previous decade’s successful COIN operations is uncertain. And it is not clear that there are sufficient numbers of capable Iraqi army and police units left to subsequently hold any areas cleared of ISIS. Widespread employment of Shia militias in such operations, many with scores to settle with the Sunnis, would be an option fraught with risk of escalating reprisals, furthering ISIS’ apparent aims of kindling a second Sunni/Shia civil war.

President Obama stated on 19 June that ‘we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it. If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.’ The US has refocused its intelligence-gathering systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles, against the insurgents. It has deployed Special Forces to better assess the situation and has set up joint operations centres in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan. This will give it better understanding and intelligence and allow it to develop options for air and missile strikes against ISIS. But such attacks on their own would probably be insufficient to evict ISIS from Iraq, without a COIN counter-offensive by capable Iraqi forces. And successful US strikes on ISIS might remove any constraints on Maliki’s behaviour, whilst giving comfort to both the Iranian and Syrian governments.


Christian Le Mière: Managing unplanned encounters at sea

WPNS 2014

By Christian Le MièreIISS Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security.

Asia-Pacific navies took a small step in confidence-building and safety at sea on 22 April 2014. At the 14th meeting of the biennial Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), the 21 member nations agreed to a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a document that outlines the methods of communication for naval vessels and aircraft that meet unplanned beyond territorial waters.

CUES has been discussed since the 7th WPNS in 2000. At the last WPNS, in Thailand in 2012, China was the only country that rejected CUES; this was because, according to Ding Yiping – deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and presiding chairman of the 14th WPNS – the word ‘code’ suggested a legally binding agreement. CUES is specifically a non-binding agreement that lays out how navies should interact at sea.

This is a region where various incidents, from a Chinese fire-control radar lock-on of a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship and helicopter in early 2013 – admitted by China two months later – to a near-collision between a Chinese amphibious transport dock and the USS Cowpens in December 2013, have raised concerns about the possibility of escalation emanating from poor decision-making at sea. Forging ‘rules of the road’ for interaction is key to preventing accidental conflict, making CUES a significant document. The inclusion of naval aircraft in the agreement also suggests that greater norms and rules should apply to Chinese sorties through China’s Air Defence Identification Zone, announced in November 2013, over the East China Sea (where most of the Chinese aircraft operating are from the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force, PLANAF). 

CUES lays out how vessels and aircraft will communicate by sound, light and flags (which, in reality, has already been agreed through the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs) that applies to all vessels) and by radio (in English, with designated call-signs, and clear procedures for information exchange). This would assist in those instances where communication was absent, such as the radar lock-on incidents, when on both occasions the Chinese vessels did not attempt to open lines of communication, or where communication was poor, such as the USS Cowpens incident, where a Chinese vessel failed to transmit its change of tack and speed, leading to the US naval ship taking evasive manoeuvres (the Chinese vessel subsequently opened bridge-to-bridge communications).

Although the agreement is a useful confidence-building measure and a tentative introduction of rules for interaction among often mistrustful navies, it is, in truth, very weak. There are various omissions that will restrict its ability to prevent tense encounters in the East and South China seas. For a start, it officially applies only to navies, but the majority of deployments to disputed waters and incidents in recent years have involved maritime constabulary vessels. Whether, for example, the China Coast Guard will also abide by CUES is as yet unknown.

Equally, the Code only applies in Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and on the high seas, not in territorial waters. This suggests that it would not need to be followed when vessels are within 12 nautical miles of disputed features in the seas, a factor that could be significant around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, or Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, where China disputes sovereignty with Japan and the Philippines respectively. Operating here, the PLAN could claim that CUES is not applicable because these waters are claimed as sovereign by China.

Finally, and most importantly, the Code does not regulate behaviour in any way, instead suggesting communications protocols for signatory states. This stands in stark contrast to the Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA) drawn up between the US and the Soviet Union in 1972. This not only regulates communications between vessels and aircraft in close proximity to one another, but also states that neither side would engage in, for instance, dazzling by powerful lights or simulated attacks, and will ‘avoid executing manoeuvres embarrassing or endangering’ ships under surveillance. In particular, paragraph six of Article III of INCSEA, which stated that vessels would not aim weapons in the direction of passing ships, would, theoretically, have legislated against the Chinese radar lock-on incidents; such radar-locks could perhaps be perceived as part of a targeting process.

CUES could be seen as the most that could be hoped for at the present time, given Chinese wariness of signing international agreements that may constrain its behaviour. It is a tentative first step in introducing rules of the road for the interaction of navies in the region. This is a process that Japan in particular has been keen to undertake with China, which has, given its historical inability to deploy naval and maritime patrol vessels with any significance beyond its territorial waters, by and large been excluded from the norms and rules built up over decades by navies interacting during the Cold War. The Code may also help defuse any crisis involving vessels and aircraft in the hotly disputed waters of the South and East China seas. However, it is inadequate to entirely prevent fractious encounters at sea, and hence it is likely that further incidents involving Chinese naval and maritime forces will continue to stoke tensions in the region in coming years.


Joseph Dempsey: Russia deploys latest tank variant to Ukraine border

T72B3

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst for The Military Balance

In late March 2014 a number of videos were published online reportedly showing the deployment by rail of Russian Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) to areas adjoining the border with Ukraine. These include an unknown number of T-72B3 MBTs, as identified by IISS analysts. The T-72B3 is the latest update of the venerable, Soviet-era T-72 MBT family, which forms the majority of the active Russian MBT fleet and represents the most common tank type worldwide.

In comparison to earlier T-72B series variants, the T-72B3 incorporates a number of upgrades designed to improve offensive capability. These are reported to include a new fire-control system, a ballistics computer to improve accuracy, and all-weather thermal sights. In addition, the MBT features a new arrangement of Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) on the turret (a key recognition aid).

At least two videos apparently indicate deployment near Klimov on the Russian border with Ukraine, although the precise locations remain unconfirmed. Klimov is in Russia’s Western Military District, within which  20th Army, 6th Tank Brigade, and 6th Army, 138th Motor Rifle Brigade are assessed to be recipients of the T-72B3, making them possible candidates for the role of operating these MBTs. To date, no T-72B3s have been identified in Crimea, though the presence of earlier Russian T-72B and Ukrainian T-64B MBTs has contributed to some observer misidentification. The deployment of T-72B3 to the border, as opposed to another MBT type or variant, may simply reflect the inventories of available units, rather than any specific intent or prioritisation stemming from this platform’s capability.

By the end of 2013 at least 250 modernised T-72B3s had reportedly been delivered to the Russian Army. However total contract numbers and the extent of any 2014 deliveries remain unknown. At least two brigades in the Western Military District and one brigade in the Eastern Military District are assessed to have received this variant, though further deliveries may since have occurred. In all known cases the T-72B3 has replaced the T-80 series MBT in service. It is assessed that the remaining T-80s will also be phased out over time and replaced with T-72B3. Whilst the full extent of the T-72B3 modernisation programme is unclear beyond these replacing T-80s, it does seem to indicate a desire to standardise the Russian fleet towards the T-72 MBT family, providing a degree of proven capability as well as equipment and maintenance commonality.

A previous attempt to standardise the MBT fleet was made in the early 1990s with the T-90, an extensive further development of the T-72. The T-90 incorporated some of the advanced defensive and fire-control features of the more expensive late-production T-80, but due largely to further budget constraints T-90 series production was ultimately very limited. This type now accounts for less than 16% of Russia’s operational MBT inventory. Unlike the new-build T-90s, the delivered T-72B3s are assessed as upgrades of existing T-72s, with those first replacing fleet T-80s likely drawn from stores. Given the large numbers of T-72s available this represents a more cost-effective solution towards standardisation and capability improvement.

The T-72B3 modernisation programme is considered only an interim measure, as the next-generation Russian MBT is long overdue. The as-yet-unrevealed Armata tank is intended to become the standard Russian MBT for future decades. Armata refers to a Common Universal Platform, which will form the basis for the new MBT along with other future Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), intended to introduce a new level of standardisation and commonality across multiple service types.

Additional details on Russian military capabilities including MBT numbers and fleet composition can be found in the Russia and Eurasia chapter of The Military Balance 2014

Giri Rajendran: What now for European defence spending?

Real Global Defence Spending Changes by Region 2011-2013

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

The crisis in Ukraine has caused strategic planners across Europe to sit up and take notice. One question that is already being reflected upon is whether cuts to European defence budgets have gone too far. At the EU–US summit on 26 March, President Barack Obama voiced his concerns over diminished levels of defence spending in many NATO European states, warning that: ‘The situation in Ukraine reminds us that our freedom isn’t free, and we’ve got to be willing to pay for the assets, the personnel, the training that’s required to make sure that we have a credible NATO force and an effective deterrent force.’

In a similar vein, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently argued that, in the current security climate, every ally ‘needs to invest the necessary resources in the right capabilities’. This message was reinforced by his deputy, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, who said: ‘If there was ever any doubt, the crisis now makes clear why we must invest sufficiently in defence and security, and why we cannot just keep cutting our defence budgets every year while others around the world continue to boost theirs.’

European defence outlays have declined significantly since the end of the Cold War. According to NATO data, real defence expenditure per capita in NATO Europe has fallen to just over half the levels seen in 1990, and is down by more than a fifth since 2000. These long-term reductions were accelerated by the 2008 transatlantic financial crisis, as Western states slashed defence outlays further as governments prioritised fiscal consolidation. Data contained in The Military Balance 2014 indicates that Europe (including non-NATO states) collectively now spends only about 1.4% of GDP on defence. This is one of the lowest proportions of GDP spent on defence of any region of the world – the only region that spends appreciably less on defence (as a proportion of GDP) is Latin America. Within NATO, only four out of 28 member states currently meet the Alliance’s 2% spending target: the US, UK, Greece and Estonia. Even Germany – the economic powerhouse of Europe – only allocates 1.3% of GDP to defence, a figure that is lower than the NATO European average of around 1.6% of GDP. This average budgetary allocation in NATO Europe is itself down from around 2.5% of GDP in the early 1990s.

The reduction in European defence spending levels stands in stark contrast to trends in emerging economies. As first identified in The Military Balance 2013, Asian military spending in 2012 overtook that of NATO Europe for the first time in modern history. This is further illustrated in the 2014 edition, which demonstrated that between 2011 and 2013 virtually all the increases in global defence spending occurred in regions other than North America and Europe (see above). Without a near-term return to economic growth in the Eurozone, defence spending levels could fall further in the years to come; for European states, defence on the whole remains a discretionary area of government spending that has to compete with other spending priorities, such as social and healthcare expenditure. Significantly, although Europe still spends around 3–4 times more than Russia on defence, Russian military expenditure in 2013 was more than 30% higher in real terms than it was in 2008, and current Russian plans envision a further real increase in defence outlays of at least another 30% by 2016 – at which point Russian defence outlays are projected to be running at close to 4% of GDP.

Russian actions in Crimea notwithstanding, the Ukraine crisis is in the short-term unlikely to reverse these trends in most European states, many of which will probably remain constrained by broader fiscal pressures. For example, the imperatives of deficit reduction mean it seems unlikely that Europe’s two largest defence spending states (the UK and France) will depart substantially from their existing defence budget trajectories. This will be even truer in Southern Europe, where fiscal austerity has already seen some of the largest percentage reductions in defence outlays on the continent. For example, spending levels in Spain and Italy are already some 20% lower in real terms than they were prior to the crisis, and the Italian parliament is currently considering significant cuts to the purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, in order to further reduce military expenditure.

The exception to this general trend is likely to be Eastern and Northern European states. In several of these countries defence spending levels have been broadly maintained in recent years, and in some cases even increased (for example, in Poland and Norway). It is possible that these states will consider additional budgetary allocations or more innovative ways of delivering (singly or jointly) defence capabilities. Poland is proposing to accelerate its acquisition timetables, while the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Estonia are reportedly reviewing their military expenditure levels in light of now-heightened threat perceptions.

But while these developments may indicate an uptick in defence outlays in Europe’s eastern and northern regions, it remains to be seen whether the Ukraine crisis will reverse the now two-decade-long decline in overall spending levels as a proportion of GDP in Europe as a whole.

Johan Norberg & Fredrik Westerlund: Russia and Ukraine: military-strategic options, and possible risks, for Moscow

By Johan Norberg & Fredrik Westerlund, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI)

A further Russian military intervention in Ukraine would not only be damaging to the security of both Ukraine and Europe. It could also entail significant military-strategic risks for Russia, reducing its military options in other strategic directions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus.

While Russian officials still claim they have a one-million-strong army, it may still face military-strategic overstretch should the Kremlin decide to launch extended combat operations in Ukraine. What are the reasons for this? What military options are available to secure Russia from perceived threats in its western strategic direction? What risks do operations beyond Crimea entail? A closer look at the military-strategic issues is warranted, beginning with the Russian threat assessment and peacetime military posture; however, other Russian rationales for intervention in Ukraine – such as political and economic considerations – are excluded. Our analysis presupposes that Russia expects a large-scale military intervention in Ukraine to be challenged by armed resistance. This could be in either the form of regular Ukrainian armed forces units or, perhaps more likely, irregular military forces using partisan warfare methods; the capabilities of Ukraine’s armed forces, or any capabilities of notional irregular forces, are also not examined here. NATO or another third party force intervention is not likely to be anticipated in the near term by Moscow.

Russia’s military options in Ukraine
According to Russia’s 2010 Military Doctrine, eastward enlargement of NATO is a military danger. Given this view, NATO bases in Belarus or eastern Ukraine would be an existential threat to Russia. EU membership, or even an association agreement, could be regarded by Moscow as a first step towards NATO membership. This could be pre-empted by Russia taking territory by force, thus denying it to NATO. Russia, however, may lack the military forces to secure enough Ukrainian territory as a long-term strategic buffer zone against NATO without taking significant military-strategic risks. Russia’s armed forces are nominally impressive in size, but, based on Russia’s current threat assessments, are spread thinly over the country’s enormous territory in peacetime.

Russian strategic and doctrinal documents reveal a world view that sees military threats and dangers from all directions. Apart from NATO expansion to Russia’s west, instability looms in the Caucasus and Central Asia to the south. Furthermore, Russia’s force posture in the Eastern Military District (MD) clearly shows that China is a military concern, requiring preparations to augment Russian forces there. Although the armed forces are geographically dispersed, Russia can concentrate forces for offensive operations to seize and hold territory but only in one strategic direction at a time.  

For an area the size of eastern Ukraine, the forces Russia can muster for an offensive operation may be enough for it to take territory. The relatively open terrain and the mainly pro-Russian urban population in eastern and southern Ukraine both favour Russia’s regular warfare capabilities. However, Russian planners may still consider the available forces too few to successfully control such a large territory, in the face of Ukrainian armed resistance, in contrast to the operation in Crimea.

The military-strategic goal of a buffer zone could, however, be achieved by a more indirect approach. Russia’s available forces could be used for further destabilisation operations in Ukraine. Prolonged instability would prevent Ukraine joining NATO and serve to weaken the government in Kiev, which could facilitate further Russian piecemeal annexations of Ukrainian territory. How, then, could Russia use military means for such destabilisation operations? There are two main options: the first is to repeat the Crimea operation in other parts of Ukraine; the second is to expand the Crimea operation by occupying southern Ukraine.

Repeating the Crimea operation
Russia has so far used its armed forces against Ukraine in three ways. First, they were used for direct – but semi-covert – intervention to capture Crimea. This prevented Ukraine, and other actors, from intervening by force. Second, a major readiness exercise was held in the Western and Central MDs from 26 February to 7 March. This served as a diversion that hindered Ukraine from focusing political and military attention on Crimea. An early Ukrainian military response in Crimea was likely to have been a Russian military concern. Finally, the stated size of the exercise signalled the potential to intervene on a larger scale, thus putting pressure on Ukraine.

Russia could once more use semi-covert operations and fast-emerging pro-Russia ‘self-defence forces’ to intervene. Continued exercise activities near Ukraine would serve both as diversions and to maintain the threat of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. The latter could also stimulate the migration of non-ethnic Russian populations from threatened areas facilitating, to all intents and purposes, the de facto acquisition of Ukrainian territory. Possible areas where Crimea-style operations could be used to further destabilise Ukraine include key cities in the east such as Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk. Another option could be to secure access to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria by seizing Odessa and its hinterland towards Moldova. That would also facilitate making Transnistria a part of Russia.

Signs of preparation for such operations in those regions could include expressions of separatist aspiration and demands for increased autonomy, in combination with pro-Russia demonstrations receiving wide media coverage in Russia. Increasing unrest would be followed by the forming of ‘self-defence militias’, perhaps bolstered by volunteers primarily from Russia. At the same time, Russia would loudly express concern about the security of its compatriots. This could be used in several locations at the same time, accompanied by Russian troop movements or exercises along Ukraine’s border as diversions. The final step would be the appearance of Russian soldiers without national or unit insignia in the selected area of operation.

It should be noted that these kinds of semi-covert military operations may not conflict with a Russian diplomatic and political effort to achieve the federalisation of Ukraine. Skilfully executed it could, in fact, strengthen the political fragmentation of Ukraine, making a new constitution based on federalism the most viable option for keeping the country together.

Expanding the Crimea operation
Russia could also destabilise Ukraine by expanding the Crimea operation further into Ukrainian territory, citing military-operational reasons. One such reason would be to secure a buffer zone for the newly annexed Crimea. Another would be to secure supply infrastructure for the military units and the population on the peninsula. The latter could be more ambitious and entail securing the area from the Russo–Ukrainian border near Novoshakhtinsk to the Dnieper River near Energodar, down to Kherson and along the coast, holding on to a territory covering up to 100 by 600km (see map). Territorial control would become a substantial task. In addition, although the Dnieper and the Black Sea form a natural border for this area, the line between the Russo-Ukrainian border and the Dnieper, some 300km of fairly open terrain, would have to be defended, even if only against irregular opposition forces. This territory could be contested for years until heavy vehicle and railway bridges over the Kerch Strait were built.

A third, even more ambitious, military-operational reason would be to seize and hold all of Ukraine’s Black Sea Coast, thus securing land communications to Transnistria. Such an operation would entail, at least, control of an additional 300–400 by 100km area.

What would indicate that an expansion of the Crimea operation is in preparation? One indication could be Russian complaints that Ukraine was hindering supplies to Crimea, causing the population to suffer, or preparing to take the peninsula back by force. On the military side, an indication would be a concentration of Russian ground forces able to take and hold such an area (all-arms armies with motor-rifle and tank brigades) supported by air and sea units, on top of those units now deployed in Crimea itself. Another possible indication of preparations for a larger ground operation would be an extension of military service of conscript soldiers in those units.

Holding on to territory would also entail Russia taking economic responsibility for the population and securing law and order. Kiev is unlikely to help with this and local pro-Russian strongmen may be unable to provide security. Russia would then have the option of deploying occupation forces. Interior Ministry troops could be used, but that would mean Russia would be unable to use them elsewhere, for example, in the North Caucasus. Reserves could be called up to man brigades that have equipment in store. Finally, forces from more remote areas such as the Russian Far East, the Kola Peninsula or Kaliningrad could be deployed. All these options would be time-consuming and cumbersome, and involve military-strategic risk-taking. Therefore they would be tell-tale signs that Russia was preparing for a longer or wider operation in Ukraine than the forces currently available could undertake.

FOI Graphic

Map by Per Wikström, FOI. Copyright © Swedish Defence Research Agency FOI.
Click to enlarge

What is available for a further military intervention?
What military assets does Russia have available for operations in Ukraine? It is important to note that land battles are fought by units – all-arms armies, commanding brigades and battalions. Just counting soldiers and tanks does not give an accurate picture. Furthermore, force dispositions, manning levels and strategic mobility need to be considered. The analysis of available forces below draws on a previous FOI assessment of Russian military capability.

The annexation of Crimea has, to a degree, diluted Russia’s overall military capability. Securing Crimea militarily over time requires the reinforcement of the whole peninsula’s air and coastal defences, and ensuring the capability for combined-arms ground operations, primarily for defending the peninsula. A ground force of two motor-rifle brigades reinforced by artillery, air-defence units and attack helicopters would be needed, as well as the command function of an all-arms army. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet lacks the capability to command combined-arms ground operations. These assets would have to be taken from somewhere else in Russia.

Russia’s armed forces continued exercising in western and southern Russia all through March. The exercises kept up military pressure on other parts of Ukraine. Meanwhile, as of late March, Russian forces were busy reinforcing Crimea as well as augmenting and rotating forces. Lighter spearhead forces, such as airborne and special forces, are gradually being replaced by heavier infantry units. This could indicate concern about a Ukrainian military move against the peninsula. It could also be a way to make the spearhead forces available for another Crimea-style operation or to prepare for an offensive northward to expand the Crimea operation. However, this transition to heavier, standard units could also be the normal withdrawal of rapid-reaction spearhead forces, having successfully seized and held their objective.

As of late March, three of Russia’s four MDs had been involved in Ukraine-related activities. The nearby Southern MD has two armies, the 49th and 58th, of which the latter is the larger. There are indications that elements from the command-and-control support brigade of the 49th Army have deployed to Crimea, suggesting a strengthening of the ability to conduct larger ground operations than the previous command-and-control arrangements in Crimea could handle. The 58th Army is assessed to be committed to normal operations in the unstable North Caucasus. Despite the Southern MD nominally having nine manoeuvre brigades (motor-rifle and tank brigades), only the independent 20th Motor Rifle Brigade and one or two more brigades may be spared for operations in Ukraine.

The Western MD has two armies, the 20th (two tank brigades and two motor-rifle brigades; the divisions formed in this army in 2013 are counted as reinforced brigades) around Moscow and the 6th(two motor-rifle brigades) around St Petersburg. The former is the Western MD’s strongest ground-force unit and could be deployed to Ukraine, possibly reinforced by the Western MD’s independent 27th Motor Rifle Brigade. The 6th Army would then be needed as flank protection so that western Russia is not left wide open. Three brigade equipment sets (two motor rifle and one tank) could, as a consequence, be drawn out of stores to replace standing units deployed to Ukraine, although that would require moving personnel or calling in reserves. As noted above, forces from the Kola Peninsula or Kaliningrad will not make a difference in the short run, apart from being able to supply some personnel. However, manning levels of around 60% within the units reduces the number of brigades that can be deployed. In total, the Western MD could make a force equivalent of up to four manoeuvre brigades available for an operation.

The Central MD has two armies, the 41st in the east and the 2nd in the West. The latter was part of the early March readiness-check exercise and is likely to be deployable to Ukraine with one or two manoeuvre brigades fairly quickly. In addition, one brigade directly subordinated the Central MD could also be spared. The Eastern MD is probably too far away and has too few readily available units to be able to provide any significant forces for operations in Ukraine, especially in the short run. Thus Russia would be able to dispatch up to three manoeuvre brigades from the Central MD for an operation in Ukraine.

Among lighter forces the following are assessed to be available: three divisions and one brigade of Russia’s airborne forces (with another airborne division kept as a strategic reserve); four special forces brigades; the Black Sea Fleet Naval Infantry brigade; and up to two more Naval Infantry regiments.

In sum, Russia has the freedom of action to deploy within 10 days the 20th and 2nd armies to command operations in eastern Ukraine, with elements of the 49th Army deploying in Crimea. Altogether, the operation would include some seven to nine manoeuvre brigades and support units such as air defence, artillery and engineers. Each army would have at least two motor-rifle brigades under its command. In addition, up to 30,000 lighter forces are also available.

This sizeable force would nevertheless hardly be enough for securing land communications to Transnistria - by holding on to all of Ukraine’s Black Sea Coast - let alone holding on to eastern Ukraine in the face of Ukrainian armed resistance. However, it would suffice to expand the Crimea operation to create a buffer north of the peninsula and could perhaps be just enough to secure the supply infrastructure over time as well. The bigger the operational area, the more forces will be tied up long-term.

Repeating Crimea-style operations in other parts of Ukraine would initially require mainly light forces for the actual intervention, with heavier infantry units massing on Ukraine’s borders being prepared to follow and secure the areas taken by the light forces. The more places in which such operations are performed, the more forces will be tied up there.

Military-strategic risks associated with a larger involvement in Ukraine
What if Russia was to try to seize and hold eastern Ukraine or push all along the Black Sea coast to Transnistria? If it were using only the resources available today, while expecting armed resistance, this would mean taking a higher risk. If Russia were to commit more forces than three armies, commanding some seven to nine manoeuvre brigades, it could invite military-strategic risks on top of that which might be posed within Ukraine itself. Where should Russia take that military-strategic risk? Whilst the world’s focus is on Crimea and Ukraine, other parts of Russia and its neighbourhood are not all peaceful. Russia’s force commitments include primarily the Caucasus and Central Asia, both volatile regions.

Russia’s armed forces are deployed all across the North Caucasus and in three brigade-size bases in Georgia and Armenia in the South Caucasus. Russia must also be able to uphold its security commitments to its ally Armenia within the framework of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization). The risk of an Azeri-Armenian conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has not gone away. The bases are likely to be tied to their present tasks and their troops unlikely to be sent elsewhere to any great extent. In the North Caucasus, Dagestan and Chechnya are but two areas where forces may be needed. Another problem for Russia in the North Caucasus is the influence of militant Islam, which is also seen in more central parts of Russia, such as Tatarstan. The Southern MD, which encompasses these areas, has the highest readiness in terms of personnel and the proportion of modern equipment. This is where Russia’s armed forces have been expected to have to fight at short notice. One less unit here could perhaps lead to a higher security risk than in other MDs. Furthermore, additional regional instability may arise from adjacent areas south of the Caucasus, in the wider Middle East.

All the former Soviet republics in Central Asia are arguably inherently volatile, for reasons that range from pending succession struggles to corruption and near-state failure. The situations in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in particular could deteriorate quickly. Long before the events of Maidan square in Ukraine, Russian observers noted the risk of events similar to those of the Arab Spring causing instability in Central Asia. Here as well, Russia has commitments under the CSTO to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. With NATO leaving Afghanistan, and China seemingly uninterested in military intervention, the CSTO is the only organisation actively preparing to intervene with military forces in Central Asia.

The CSTO’s military capabilities are essentially Russia’s; both upholding regional groups of forces in Central Asia and the Caucasus and for the rapid reaction element, the Collective Operational Reaction Forces  built primarily around Russia’s 98th Airborne Division and 31st Airborne Brigade – units that have been deployed either to Crimea or to exercises near Ukraine. Nevertheless, the capability of these CSTO forces has not been reduced significantly and furthermore when Russian units from these airborne forces in Crimea have been replaced, it is assessed that Russia will have full freedom of action with them shortly thereafter. However, if they are detailed for an extended operation in Ukraine they will be unavailable for other missions.

In Tajikistan, Russia’s brigade-size 201st Military Base in Dushanbe would likely be able initially to handle disturbances in the country. But prolonged or wider unrest in the region, for example cross-border tensions in the Fergana Valley, may require Russian reinforcements, primarily from the Central MD, which commands operations in Central Asia.

In the west, the potential threat from NATO would not diminish in the event of further Russian military invention in Ukraine. Nuclear and conventional stand-off weapons could provide some deterrence, but they would need to be backed up by ground-force units. In the east, Russian forces’ numerical inferiority to China’s People’s Liberation Army would be accentuated if ground-force units were to be deployed from there to the west.

Consequences for military security
Retaining Crimea would likely require up to two manoeuvre brigades with additional support units. Russia would likely be able to manage such a deployment, but doing so would nevertheless reduce Russia’s ability to handle instability elsewhere, primarily in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

If Russia decides to solve Crimea’s supply problems by securing a land corridor or seizing a larger buffer zone, two to three more armies may be needed, first to push into territory but probably also over time to secure that taken. Most of Russia’s available forces west of the Urals would then be needed. This would weaken not only Russia’s response capability but also its initial capability to handle instability in volatile areas. It would also affect Russia’s balance of forces with NATO and perhaps even with China in the Far East. If Russia gets bogged down in Ukraine, this will affect its long-term ability to handle its military-strategic environment. Such operations, if successful, would leave Russia with freedom of action primarily with its airborne forces, Special Forces, and stand-off warfare assets.

If the forces available as reinforcements in quickly-emerging local and regional wars are reduced by the commitment of Russian forces to Ukraine, the threshold for the use of non-conventional military means might also be lowered. Additionally, in our assessment the Russian concept of nuclear de-escalation, i.e. using a few tactical nuclear devices to deter an adversary from further escalation, is especially worrying in this context.

In conclusion, there are military-strategic reasons for Russia not committing additional forces to an extended operation in Ukraine. The risk of military overstretch is significant if forces get bogged down. Even the less ambitious options outlined, such as repeating Crimea-style operations elsewhere, would tie up a considerable share of Russia’s available forces west of the Urals. However, it should be noted that this may not prevent the political leadership from deciding to intervene on a wider scale. Furthermore, if Russian military planners do not expect any significant armed resistance in Ukraine, the risk of temporarily committing forces for a large-scale invasion may be considered acceptable in view of the prospective gains. However, forecasting the size and duration of military force commitments is difficult, as both the Soviet and NATO operations in Afghanistan and the Russian counter-insurgency operations in Chechnya have shown.

Johan Norberg and Fredrik Westerlund are Senior Researchers at FOI, the Swedish Defence Research Agency

Joseph Dempsey: HMS Astute – a special deployment?

HMS Astute

By Joseph Dempsey, Research Analyst for The Military Balance.

On 20 March 2014 HMS Astute, the lead ship in the Royal Navy’s latest generation of nuclear hunter-killer submarines, docked in Gibraltar. Launched in 2007 and commissioned in 2010, Astute has had an extended and sometimes troubled journey towards operational readiness. The current visit to the Mediterranean is reported to represent the first operational deployment of the boat, during which it is scheduled to traverse the Suez Canal.

Photographs of Astute in Gibraltar show the presence of a cylindrical Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) immediately aft of the sail. This detachable mission module is associated with the covert projection and insertion of Special Forces, specifically the Special Boat Service (SBS). It enables easier access for SBS divers, permits the storage of small surface craft such as kayaks, and enables the deployment of a miniature submersible known as a Swimmer Deployment Vehicle (SDV) whilst submerged. The UK has operated a small number of US-developed SDVs since at least 2005. It is also possible that the module may be further utilised in the deployment of current and future generations of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs).

Although all Royal Navy (RN) submarines have the inherent capacity to deploy Special Forces personnel, their designs impose accessibility and equipment stowage restrictions and may require risking detection through surfacing the boat. The use of a DDS in conjunction with an SDV enables Special Forces to travel quickly over a greater distance whilst staying submerged. It also ensures the host submarine can remain in both physically and politically safer waters.

The United States Navy has pioneered DDS usage for over thirty years, adapting a number of their nuclear submarines to accommodate them when required. An RN-developed version of the DDS was first employed aboard the specially modified HMS Spartan nuclear submarine. With the decommissioning of Spartan in early 2006, just a few years after modification, a capability gap has existed until the operational introduction of the Astute-class.

The provision for DDS carriage and regular deployment of Special Forces was a requirement clearly built into the design of the class and has been tested prior to this most recent deployment. The purposefully large sail features an adaptable rear section that forms a unique, streamlined, semi-recessed DDS housing, improving hydrodynamic properties and potentially reducing detectability. HMS Astute is also the first RN submarine to have more bunks than crew members, allowing accommodation of additional Special Forces passengers.

The last UK Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR 2010) stated the commitment towards significantly enhancing Special Forces capability, and this restored capability can provide an additional covert military option in achieving certain tactical objectives, as well as – more simply – giving more flexibility to Special Forces themselves.

In any emerging crisis, and should the government direct such capability to be employed, Special Forces personnel could be transported to the already-deployed submarine by air. Meanwhile, the SDV, if not already on board, is air-portable and potentially air deployable. The addition of a DDS on the maiden operational deployment of HMS Astute would seem to indicate the importance placed on making such capability available, rather than any immediate intent to employ it. The RN plans to operate a total of seven Astute-class vessels, all expected to be DDS compatible.

Douglas Barrie: US carrier-strike-group ambitions – a UK contribution

CGI Image of the Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier (Photo: Aircraft Carrier Carrier Alliance)

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

If UK Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond had required any reminding as to the level of American interest regarding British procurement ambitions during his visit to the US in the last week of March, he need have looked no further than the Pentagon’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), released earlier in the month.

The QDR outlined what it termed ‘strategically complementary approaches’ for key allies, to maximise their collective military capacity, including coordinating further on ‘investments’. It went on to add that ‘the US is working with the UK to regenerate its aircraft carrier capability in the future, which will enable interoperable use of advanced fighters and allow more flexible options for combined employment of our forces, particularly to project power in key regions of the world.’

The first of the UK's new class of carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is to be named formally on 4 July, but the fate of the second of the class has yet to be determined. Budgetary pressure has meant that so far London has yet to commit to bringing the second ship, HMS Prince of Wales, into service as a fixed-wing-aircraft carrier. Retaining only a single carrier operating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would mean the UK would be unable to have a permanent carrier-strike capability, reducing its utility within a ‘strategically complementary’ framework. Two carriers capable of operating the F-35 would provide greater flexibility and an assurance of availability for power projection, were it required. Hammond reiterated in November 2013 that a decision on whether to bring the ship into service or to mothball it would be made in the UK’s next Strategic Defence and Security Review, due in 2015.

While the US Navy continues to operate 11 aircraft-carrier task groups, funding pressures might lead it to reduce that number to ten, while the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific will place greater demands on the remaining ships. The capacity to ‘plug in’ an available British carrier-strike group built, like those of the US, around the F-35 would provide the US Navy with greater planning flexibility in areas including, perhaps, the Persian Gulf.

Infographic: Russia's Southern Military District

Russia: main land & air force dispositions in the Southern Military District

*Click to enlarge. Numbers accompanying symbols indicate unit designations.

Analysts in the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme have produced a map of Russia’s Southern Military District army and air force bases and force dispositions, following the tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the ongoing crisis in Crimea. Naval and maritime assets are excluded from the map.

This shows forces by size and role indicator and generalised peacetime locations; any movement of units in response to the current crisis is not reflected here, due to the difficulty in gathering reliable information.

Additional detail on regional and international military capabilities can be found in the Russia and Eurasia chapter of The Military Balance 2014.

Southern Military District: Select Equipment

More on the Crisis in Ukraine:

Shiloh Fetzek: UK MoD assesses climate-change risks

RAF Harrier over Akrotiri

By Shiloh Fetzek, Research Analyst for Climate Change and Security

A cache of unpublished MoD climate change risk assessments, recently obtained by Friends of the Earth through Freedom of Information requests, show how the MoD are preparing the defence estate for climate change. An article on the documents in the Telegraph on 21 February highlighted defence assets vulnerable to flooding, in light of recent extreme weather affecting Britain and the call-out of 2,200 service personnel for flood relief.

In the wake of the floods, both Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and opposition leader Ed Miliband identified climate change as an issue of national security for the UK, while David Cameron called it 'one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces' at Prime Minister's Questions on 26 February.

Examination of further Climate Impacts Risk Assessment Method (CIRAM) documents from the cache reveals their assessment of ‘potential threats to MoD sites as a result of projected climate change’, and adaptations to ‘help maintain estate operational capability and capacity’. The detailed risk assessments cover a range of issues, from climate impacts on water and electricity supplies to coastal sites affected by sea level rises and storm surge events.

Locations were redacted to prevent exposing vulnerabilities, but references to a site subject to issues relating to nuclear safety recommended further assessment of 'how rising sea levels could affect the efficiency of drainage and pollution control infrastructure (particularly for the worst-case scenario of high spring tides coupled with storm conditions)'.

Ammunition-processing buildings at two sites were listed at high risk from extremes of temperature and poor drainage. Solutions being considered were 'very expensive & could prove prohibitive' in one case, while in another 'future works to rectify known problems are subject to funding constraints'.

RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, an important base for operations in the Middle East, is 'at high risk from sea-level rise', with the potential for breached coastal defences. Flooding would impact, among other issues, the stability and operability of the antennae array. At the time of the assessment, there were 'no specific management procedures in place to address sea-level rise', although the report recommended developing and implementing an integrated strategy for coastal defences.

The documents show that a thorough risk assessment has been undertaken for the defence estate, and that preparations are underway to adapt UK defence capabilities for climate impacts. However, fiscal constraints are a recurring theme, with budget restrictions affecting resilience and a 'lack of investment in the estate over the years increas[ing] the likelihood of impacts'.

In addition to climate effects on the estate, the documents also address climate effects on operational output and civil contingency missions such as responding to fire, storms, flash flooding and landslides. Security and humanitarian issues, including ‘conflicts and emergency situations exacerbated by climate issues (shortage of water, food availability)’, changing migration flows and increasing organised crime as traditional economic sectors become less viable are listed as risks that could influence future operational output. These aspects of climate impact on the future security environment are addressed in greater detail in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the Development, Concepts and Doctrines Centre's Global Strategic Trends reports.

Climate science provides a robust basis for risk analysis, because the confidence scientists have in the fundamental greenhouse gas–temperature relationship is higher than many other projections risk planners rely on – for example, projections of future oil prices, which are highly sensitive to complex social and political factors. For this reason, incorporating climate risk assessments into defence planning will remain an area of focus for the MoD. The impact that climate change has on both the defence estate and operational capability and capacity remains linked to the MoD’s ability to anticipate these climate effects and devote resources to adaptation. How well they will be resourced for this in an environment of declining defence budgets remains to be seen, but it is likely that cost–benefit analyses around estate vulnerabilities will force some difficult choices.

Henry Boyd: Crimea - photographic records

Russian vehicles outside Belbek Airbase (Photo: https://twitter.com/jamesmatesitv)

By Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis

The identity of the Russian reinforcements deployed to Crimea remains subject to debate. The personnel guarding Ukrainian military and administrative facilities appear to have made a deliberate effort to display no visible unit or organisation markings on their uniforms. The same is not quite true of the vehicles they have been operating, however.

Although it is not possible to draw definite conclusions about personnel and unit identifications solely from examination of their vehicles, a study of available imagery can at least give more detail on their likely origin, especially when the vehicles in question retain their number plates.

Russian military number plates follow a common pattern, with four numbers, then two letters and then two more numbers. These last two numbers are drawn from a list of numeric codes that correspond to the higher level command to which the vehicle is allocated. For example, it would be natural to expect that forces from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and particularly the Fleet’s 810th Naval Infantry Brigade, would be seen on the streets of Crimea in the last few days, and vehicles with Black Sea Fleet registrations, indicated by the numerical suffix ‘90’, have indeed been observed.

But the available open source imagery also points to Russian forces originating from outside the peninsula. In this video, apparently taken in the Balaklava area, a Tigr vehicle can be seen with the plate 0293 KT 21. Whilst the suffix ‘90’ denotes Black Sea Fleet vehicles, ‘21’ is used by forces from Russia’s Southern Military District. The same Tigr has also appeared elsewhere in Crimea, this time with the honorific markings indicative of a Guards unit visible on its flank. If these markings are genuine, and not simply disinformation, then they would indicate the presence of at least one of the Southern Military District’s Guard formations. Cross referencing Guards formations with those formations believed to have been issued with Tigrs, one possible candidate would be the 22nd Independent Spetsnaz Brigade, normally based outside Rostov-on-Don.

More on the Crisis in Ukraine:

James Hackett: Crisis in Ukraine - military dimensions

'Buk' SAM Sytem (Photo: Ukraine Ministry of Defence)

By James Hackett, Editor of The Military Balance; Senior Fellow for Defence and Military Analysis

Ukraine’s armed forces
As noted in the latest IISS Military BalanceUkraine’s armed forces continue to operate mainly Soviet-era equipment, which is in need of upgrade or replacement. Defence spending, however, has remained stubbornly low, consistently around 1% of GDP in recent years; as a result, the services have suffered from inadequate financing and defence reforms have been significantly underfunded. In its 2012 White Paper, the ministry noted that key problems included weakness in defence legislation and insufficient finance, which affected training, readiness and combat capability. The same document also noted the relatively low proportion of defence investment allocated in Ukraine in comparison with global averages.

Procurement targets have been missed and plans to end conscription by 2011 were not achieved. This plan was revived again in 2013, and it was declared that the autumn 2013 draft would be the last for the armed forces, though conscription would remain for Interior Ministry troops. Like Russia, Ukraine aspires to fill many of its personnel slots with contract, rather than conscript, personnel. Ukrainian military sources reported in February 2014 that contract servicemen comprised 69% of the total (other reports placed it at 50% at the end of 2011), while the navy and airborne forces were, according to official sources, wholly composed of contract servicemen. Increasing the proportion of contract servicemen still further was, in tandem with other initiatives including rebooting training regimes, an aspiration of the former defence minister, and formed part of the ministry’s latest defence reform plan ‘to 2017’. Small units of Ukrainian personnel train with international partners, and just under 100 marines took part in the NATO Steadfast Jazz exercise in November 2013.The ground forces have also deployed to Kosovo with NATO’s KFOR. Ukrainian naval vessels, meanwhile, have routinely participated in counter-piracy missions, while rotary-wing aircrew have long been deployed on UN peacekeeping duties.

Aircraft availability and serviceability levels remain low, as do flying hours; the latter are likely half that recorded within the Russian air force. For aircrew allocated to the Ukrainian Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF) in 2009, the 18 hours flown amounted to little over a tenth of the planned total of 160 flying hours. Flying hours were nearly the same in 2011, according to the Defence Ministry’s White Book for that year. Since then the situation has improved somewhat, with JRRF aircrews averaging almost 66 hours a year, though this continues to be far below the standards of capable Western air forces. For example, the NATO target to sustain a high level of combat readiness is considered to be baselined at 180 hours a year, although some air forces of member states now fall below this figure. Meanwhile, in 2013, Russian combat aircrew reportedly averaged 100–120 hours.

Though the Ukrainians have a notional 200 MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker combat aircraft – the majority being Fulcrums – problems with serviceability, and an enforced policy of storing a significant number of airframes, mean the total available combat fleet will be substantially smaller than the overall total. This makes the experience and training of aircrew all the more important. Ukrainian medium- and heavy-lift crews, meanwhile, will have had their flying hours boosted by contract work and attachments on foreign peacekeeping missions, as will some of Ukraine’s rotary-wing pilots; for instance, Ukrainian personnel have long flown attack-helicopter missions in support of the UN’s MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Funding restrictions have also constrained naval ambitions, though the programme to re-equip the fleet with a new class of corvette (the Gaiduck-class) is proceeding slowly. The navy is also attempting to return its one Foxtrot submarine to service condition, after more than a decade of inactivity. However, the future of the navy’s main base at Sevastopol is now uncertain, and Ukrainian military officials have denied reports that some Ukrainian naval vessels departed Sevastopol, stressing that they were blockaded. One issue that will be concerning naval planners in Kiev relates to the frigate Hetman Sagaidachny. As of 4 March, the vessel was reported as having entered the Black Sea after returning from counter-piracy duties; it is currently unclear whether it will attempt to dock in its homeport of Sevastopol or instead head to an alternative port, such as Odessa.

The current crisis
On 2 March, the new authorities in Kiev put Ukraine’s armed forces on full alert in response to the developing situation in Crimea, also beginning a mobilisation process whereby reservists were to report to mobilisation centres. It was reported that each would receive ten days’ training, though the combat effectiveness of recalled reservists will vary according to the time elapsed since their military service ended. The length scheduled for re-training could well be tailored to factors like how current their military skills are, and fitness levels. In any case, recalled reservists may well be assigned to backfill non-combat posts in order to allow currently serving personnel to take up assignments in front-line units. Interior Ministry troops, tasked with infrastructure protection among other duties, were also put on alert.

As evidenced by the recent defection of the newly appointed Ukrainian naval chief in Crimea, and the ongoing blockades of military facilities in Crimea, there is severe pressure on Ukrainian military personnel in Crimea to defect, disarm, or surrender to surrounding Russian troops. However, while blockades against bases and pressure to defect will be affecting morale, it remains unclear what level of resistance remaining Ukrainian forces in Crimea would put up if engaged militarily.

Many of the Russian personnel now deployed in Crimea – particularly those recently arrived – will likely hail from formations with better motivation and combat training than their Ukrainian counterparts in Crimea. This, together with the restrained behaviour of blockaded Ukrainian personnel, is one reason why live-fire incidents have thus far been limited to warning shots. But that should not be taken as meaning that the Ukrainian troops, in static defence, could not inflict losses should hostilities erupt.

The recent political upheaval in Ukraine – and Russian troop movements – will have created uncertainty in Ukraine’s armed forces, and may be exerting downward pressure on morale among forces in Crimea and wider Ukraine, but the reverse could also be true; that the morale of remaining Ukrainian forces could be bolstered by Russia’s intervention. This could also be true of those Ukrainian forces in Crimea that are still loyal to Kiev.

Some units have been reported as defecting, or switching allegiance, though it is too soon to tell whether such moves result more from the pressure units are under than from their particular political affiliation. That some units are still holding out is noteworthy, and if anything increases the risk of miscalculation – not just on the part of frustrated personnel hemmed into bases, but also on the part of those forces surrounding them who, by observed action, seem tasked with ending Kiev’s military presence in the Crimea. In any military confrontation, Russia would likely prevail, but its forces would take losses against troops in organised defensive positions.

By way of reference, the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies estimated that 67 Russian personnel died during the short 2008 war with Georgia. In that campaign, some of Russia’s notable platform losses were of aircraft being used in the tactical role, downed by Georgian air-defence systems. Ukrainian air-defence forces rely on a range of Russian-origin systems, as the Georgians did in 2008 (though the Georgians also have the Israeli Spyder system and reportedly downed one Russian aircraft with a Polish-origin Grom MANPAD) and, while Ukraine’s forces operate the capable 9K37 Buk system, and also the S-300PS, their serviceability and crew training levels are less certain. The current location of these mobile systems is also unclear, but it is unlikely that Russia will be taking chances; it is certainly possible that Russia’s tactical air force Electronic Warfare teams would in recent days have been re-examining the frequencies used by Ukraine’s air-defence surveillance and fire control radars. These wouldn’t be too hard to find as, while systems might subsequently have been modified in Ukraine, they were – like most of Ukraine’s equipment – designed in Russia. 

More on the Crisis in Ukraine:

Ukraine: Main land and air force dispositions

Ukraine: Main land and air force dispositions

*Click to enlarge. Numbers accompanying symbols indicate unit designations.

Analysts in the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme have produced a map of Ukraine’s army and air force bases and force dispositions, following the tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the developing crisis in Crimea. Naval and maritime assets are excluded from the map.

This shows forces by size and role indicator and generalised peacetime locations; any movement of units in response to the current crisis is not reflected here, due to the difficulty in gathering reliable information.

Additional detail on regional and international military capabilities can be found in the Russia and Eurasia chapter of The Military Balance 2014.

Select Ukrainian forces and equipment’

More on the Crisis in Ukraine:

Christian Le Mière: Growing maritime insecurity in West Africa

HMS Portland. Photo: Christian Le Miere

By Christian Le Mière, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security 

On 15 February, a team of IISS staff flew to Nigeria to host a workshop on maritime security in West Africa, aboard HMS Portland, a Type-23 frigate that is currently the UK’s Atlantic patrol vessel.

Maritime security has become something of a hot topic in West Africa, with the Gulf of Guinea becoming the most virulent region in terms of violent attacks on shipping in 2013. Piracy in the region has become not only more prevalent, but also more geographically ambitious, with a tanker being pirated by Nigerians in Angolan waters in January, and then steered up the West African coastline as its cargo was intermittently unloaded.

However, as the workshop demonstrated, it is not just the issue of piracy that is of concern to West African states. Drugs and weapons trafficking is particularly destabilising for countries in the region. While figures are difficult to verify, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) believes the amount of cocaine transiting West Africa has actually fallen rapidly since a high of 47 tonnes in 2007, to reach 18 tonnes in 2010. Nonetheless, drug-trafficking remains a problem: the amount of cocaine seized in shipping containers related to West Africa hit a high of 2,093kg in 2011, from just 128kg two years earlier, according to the UNODC. Further, as the workshop highlighted, narcotics trafficking has had a direct and deleterious effect on state stability and governance in states such as Guinea–Bissau and Guinea. Weapons-trafficking, meanwhile, has the potential to fuel internal conflicts within the region and greatly increase the violent impact of crime.

Maritime insecurity is facilitated by a lack of naval or maritime constabulary capacity among various states of West Africa. While Nigeria has a relatively capable navy, with more than 100 patrol and coastal combatants according to The Military Balance 2014, countries such as Benin have very limited capabilities amounting to just five small patrol boats, while Togo has just two patrol vessels. Thus, international partners such as France have attempted to build capacity in willing nations such as Benin through the ASECMAR (Support Project for the reform of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea) programme, while international organisations such as Interpol seek to build legal and judicial capacity. However, the financial rewards to maritime criminality, whether through oil siphoning at sea or trafficking of illegal goods, remain significant, and without substantially greater regional capability the trend of growing maritime insecurity seems set to continue.

Military Balance Recap: Defence spending - when will China match US?


Giri Rajendran, IISS Research Associate for Defence and Economics, talks about global military spending trends and their implications at the launch of The Military Balance 2014 on 5 February.

‘To some extent, it’s futurology,’ he says. China has been increasing its military spending but it is still a long way off from what the US spends, and for China to achieve parity it must maintain its current growth rates – about 10%  – over the next two decades, which will be a challenge.

Watch the video at the IISS YouTube channel.

Christian Le Mière: Unmanned maritime systems


At the launch of The Military Balance 2014 on 5 February, Christian Le Miere, IISS Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, discussed Unmanned Surface and Underwater Vessels (USVs and UUVs), pointing out that maritime unmanned vessels have ‘lagged behind’ UAVs, to some extent because they haven’t been as relevant to various roles and missions in the maritime fields, but that this could soon change.

Watch on IISS YouTube channel.


Douglas Barrie: Russian strategic aviation

Russian stealth bomber

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Russian tactical aviation is benefitting from the delivery of now reasonable numbers of combat aircraft, but its strategic air arm, by comparison, still has to make do with a trickle of upgraded bombers and an ageing type at the heart of its fleet.

While the air force is receiving new-build variants of the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker in the shape of the Su-35 fighter and Su-34 strike aircraft, and has five prototypes of a fifth-generation combat aircraft in flight test, strategic aviation has received so far only a handful of upgraded Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear long-range bombers. The Military Balance 2014 lists the air force as having 16 Tu-160 and 62 Tu-95s.

A new bomber, the PAK DA, is in the early stages of development, with a low-observable subsonic design favoured. However, sustaining the finance and the industrial base necessary to bring the project to fruition will prove a challenge. A first flight has been suggested by 2017–20, with the type entering service in the middle of the 2020s, but this timetable appears optimistic at best. PAK DA is intended to replace the Bear and Blackjack and also some of the roles presently met by the Tu-22M3 Backfire. The air force is aiming to replace all three types by 2030.

Bomber aviation has always been the least supported of the strategic triad. Efforts to design a new strike aircraft in the 1980s, the Sukhoi T-60S, came to naught as the economy collapsed during the 1990s. This type would have subsumed roles undertaken by the Tu-22M.

The PAK DA programme, led by Tupolev, is being given greater political support. At a meeting in November 2013 to discuss air-force programmes and strengthening nuclear airborne forces, President Vladimir Putin said ‘We need to step up work on the new prospective air complex for long-range aviation PAK DA ... we must start working on the PAK DA and do that actively’.

In the near-term, strategic aviation is being bolstered with the provision of upgraded and, more recently, new cruise missiles. The Kh-555 is a conventionally armed derivative of the Raduga Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) nuclear cruise-missile, while the Kh-101/Kh-102 family provides conventional- and nuclear-armed low-observable cruise missiles. The Kh-101 has been seen carried externally on the Bear for test purposes. So far no imagery has become public of the missile being carried internally on the Blackjack, but this testing is likely either underway or complete.

Development of the Kh-101/102 began in the early-to-mid 1980s, but technical and funding issues significantly slowed its progress. Early design aims to fit the cruise missile with an unducted turbofan, which offers reduced fuel consumption in comparison to a traditional turbojet or turbofan, proved overly ambitious and were dropped in favour of a more conservative propulsion approach. Unducted fan engine technology would have helped to meet the air force's original range ambitions for the weapon, which may have been curtailed.

The Tu-22M3 aircraft is also earmarked for a limited avionics upgrade, while an improved variant of the Raduga Kh-22 anti-ship missile (AS-4 Kitchen), the Kh-32, has been seen during the course of 2013 being carried as part of a trials programme from the Zhukovsky flight test centre near Moscow.

Virginia Comolli: Chart of Conflict 2014 - Women in armed conflict

IISS Chart of Conflict

By Virginia Comolli, Research Associate for Transnational Threats

Each year, the IISS Chart of Conflict provides a comprehensive reference point on conflict, peace-support operations and transnational terrorist attacks, with additional details such as conflict dates and fatalities. Each edition also has a particular analytical focus, and the theme for the 2014 chart is women in armed conflict, assessing the many roles played by women in military forces and the ways conflict affects women.

Over the years, many of the limitations on the roles of women in conflict have lifted, and some tasks that had long been considered the purview of men have become available to women, such as serving in submarines. Even the US Navy SEALs are expected to open their doors to female recruits in 2016, and in the same year front-line combat positions will be open to women in the Australian armed forces. In the latter part of the twentieth century, separate branches for women in many armed forces, such as the Women’s Royal Army Corps, the Women’s Royal Naval Service and the Women’s Royal Air Force in the UK, were disbanded or merged with the main armed services. Women have also been promoted to command active land, sea and air units.

Female active participation is also evident in non-state armed groups; this is not new. Since the start of the civil war in Syria, female fighters have joined the ranks of the rebels while, in early 2013, President Bashar al-Assad inaugurated the first all-female battalion in his armed forces.

Despite trends toward inclusivity and equality, women’s security and rights are severely tested in times of conflict, as they are often victims of violence and displacement. For instance, participation in non-state armed groups can be the result of coercion and the threat of violence, such as outright abduction and assimilation into the ranks, or as human shields.

During the past year, efforts to end the use of rape as a weapon of war have gained more traction. Speaking to the UN Security Council in 2013, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that sexual violence is ‘used to destroy lives, tear apart communities and achieve military objectives, in just the same way that tanks and bullets are’. The sheer number of reported cases in global conflicts gives a sense of the scale of the problem: since the start of the civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1996, over 1.6 million rape cases have been reported. About 55,000 women were raped during the Bosnian conflict in 1992–95 and there were around 2,800 rapes northern Mali in 2012–13 alone.

As the 2014 Chart of Conflict shows, there is increasing recognition of the disproportionate and unique impact of conflict on women and girls as is reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 1325. It will take continued concerted efforts by multinational organisations, governments, peacekeepers and security forces to reduce and prevent the negative impact on women of current and future conflicts.

Included in every copy of The Military Balance 2014, the 2014 Chart of Conflict is also available to buy separately. The Military Balance 2014 and the Chart of Conflict were launched on 5 February.

Douglas Barrie: Anglo-French defence collaboration - aerospace progress

Underside of Taranis

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

London and Paris took another step toward the launch of a European unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator at last week's Franco-British Summit. The fate of the project could have a fundamental impact on the prospects for, and shape of, the European defence aerospace sector.

On 31 January, French President François Hollande met British Prime Minister David Cameron at RAF Brize Norton air base. One outcome of the meeting was a £120 million, 24-month feasibility study into a Future Combat Air System. This builds on a previous 15-month study carried out by BAE Systems and Dassault from mid-2012 that began to explore the potential for a joint UCAV programme. The British and French have nascent requirements for an unmanned combat air system in the 2030s, when the Typhoon and Rafale aircraft reach their out-of-service dates.

Unmanned systems was identified as an area for collaboration in The 2010 Franco-British Defence Co-operation Treaty. Though the treaty was intended to deepen military and defence–industrial ties between the two states, progress was patchy. In part, this simply reflects the ambition of the collaborative effort, but it also reflects shifting political perspectives in London and Paris. The British Conservative-led coalition government has an increasingly vocal anti-European lobby on its backbenches, while President Hollande is more of multilateralist, in vision, than his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. When engaging in collaborative defence procurement, the UK still prefers a bilateral approach. This stems from British exasperation with a number of multinational European projects over the past two decades.

Both London and Paris already have research programmes under way exploring UCAV-applicable technology. France is the lead nation in the European Neuron. This air vehicle demonstrator was first flown in December 2012. The UK-only Taranis was likely flown for the first time in August 2013. The difference in approach partly reflects national preference and partly the level of classification attached to some of the low-observable technology being tested in the respective projects.

The latest phase of the work between BAE and Dassault will take the two nations to a position where they could commit to a full-blown UCAV demonstrator programme that would build on the work carried out under the Neuron and Taranis projects. Progress has remained slow, despite the establishment of a High Level Working Group into UCAV requirements, as neither country is ready to fully commit whilst national programmes are under way. In the case of the Taranis, at least, there are also classified technological developments to consider.

The programme is doubly significant as Europe presently has no crewed fifth-generation combat aircraft in design and development to succeed the three fourth-generation aircraft that will remain in production for the next five to ten years. Research and development work into a low-observable UCAV will help to sustain the expertise required to support any future crewed fifth-generation development.

The summit also has at last apparently cleared the way for the joint procurement of the Future Anti-Ship Guided Weapon (FASGW) Heavy, following the signature of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries. The missile is being developed by MBDA to replace the British helicopter-launched Sea Skua, with the aim of also fulfilling the French Anti-Navire Leger (ANL) requirement to replace the AS15TT. The UK has been pressing France to commit fully to the programme for at least the past 18 months, in part because it needs the weapon to be available earlier than its French counterparts.

The FASGW-ANL is also viewed as being important in industrial terms. It draws together more closely the UK and French elements of MBDA as part of a broader process of cross-border rationalisation of the missile manufacturer’s industrial capacity. MBDA also has Italian and German business units, but the level of integration foreseen for these units lags behind that of its Anglo-French core due to national sensitivities and, in the case of Germany, because national-level guided-weapons consolidation has yet to be achieved.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 was released on 5 February 2014.

Christian Le Miére: Japanese defence forces’ normalisation

Japanese navy

By Christian Le Miére, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

Japan’s military ‘normalisation’ process has been under way for more than two decades. The country’s first overseas deployment of ground troops since the Second World War occurred in 1992, when two 600-strong engineering units were deployed to Cambodia to assist in the UN peacekeeping mission. Since then, Tokyo has deployed more than 8,400 troops and police to locations as diverse as East Timor, Mozambique, Haiti and the Golan Heights, as well as offering non-combat support in Iraq and the Indian Ocean in support of US-led operations.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and in the face of a perceived threat from China, this process is now accelerating. Abe has noted his intention to reform the interpretation of the constitution (although not the actual constitution itself yet) to enable ‘collective self-defence’. It is unclear exactly what this will mean, but it will likely include the ability to assist the US if it is attacked (currently, the mutual-defence treaty only allows Japan to aid the US if American forces in Japan are attacked), as well as enabling further overseas deployments under UN mandate or for peacekeeping. However, there is also debate about whether collective self-defence should be interpreted more liberally, to allow for defence of other allies beyond the US (particularly other Asian countries wary of China) or defence of common goods such as sea lines of communication.

In line with this shift in the role of the Self-Defence Forces, there has been a concerted change in the spending and procurement patterns in Japanese defence. According to The Military Balance 2014, Japan’s defence budget grew last year in nominal terms for the first time in 11 years. The government has also planned for defence spending over the coming year to increase by 2.2%, the largest such increase in 18 years. The country’s first National Security Strategy was released in December 2013 alongside new National Defence Programme Guidelines (NPDG), which noted that over the next five years total defence spending will increase by 5%. This is a small augmentation compared to fast-growing economies such as China, but significant given the recent history of declines in expenditure amid the post-Cold War peace dividend. The NDPG also highlighted the changes in Japan’s force composition and readiness, reducing the number of main battle tanks and howitzers, but increasing the number of rapid deployment forces and introducing an amphibious brigade for the first time. Tokyo also intends to add two new destroyers to its fleet, as well as increase the number of its submarines and maritime patrol aircraft and introduce tilt-rotor aircraft and amphibious assault vehicles.

These changes can largely be seen as a reaction to China’s perceived assertiveness in the East China Sea, particularly around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, but must also be placed in the longer-term context of Tokyo gradually normalising its military posture over two decades. Equally, it is worth noting that Japan’s defence spending as a percentage of GDP remains low in comparison to most countries of a comparable economic size, at below 1%. Thus, while Abe is certainly accelerating the process of military normalisation, Japan will remain constricted in its ability to deploy and use its forces, and there remain significant political barriers to any more rapid spending increases.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 was released on 5 February 2014.

Giri Rajendran: 2013’s top defence-spenders

MB2014 Top 15 defence budgets

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

A popular part of each The Military Balance launch is the annually-updated graphic ranking the world’s top-15 defence-spending states (see here). This provides a snapshot of the relative defence-spending power of major states for a given year. (Note: figures shown indicate official defence budgets.) As can be seen from this year’s graphic, the US alone spends almost as much as on defence as the next 14 top defence spending countries combined, while the top 15 spenders collectively allocate around four times more to defence than the rest of the world put together.

A common temptation with the graphic is to compare which states have moved up or down in the league table relative to previous editions. While such ‘across-time’ comparisons can be done for some states, for others they can be problematic.

This is partly due to the role exchange rates play in making international comparisons. Because most states spend budgetary allocations in their domestic currencies, these have to be converted into US dollar totals in order to enable comparisons across countries. However, the market exchange rates used to make such conversions fluctuate all the time (unless a country operates a fixed or heavily managed exchange rate). This introduces uncertainty over whether an increase or decrease in a country’s defence budget in US dollar terms from one year to the next is the product of an actual increase or decrease in its defence allocations, or merely the result of an exchange rate appreciation, or depreciation.

Obviously, this is not a problem for US figures (where the domestic currency is the US dollar itself), or for countries that operate fixed exchange-rate regimes in relation to the dollar, such as Saudi Arabia. It is less of a problem for states which operate broad exchange-rate pegs with the dollar, such as Israel and China, where exchange rates remain managed within relatively narrow bands. However, across-time comparisons for countries that operate floating exchange rates should be used with care.

For example, in this year’s chart, the UK falls to fifth position (spending US$57 billion) – below Russia and Saudi Arabia – down from third place in the previous year (spending US$60.8bn). While it is true that the UK has been cutting its defence spending levels, this fall to fifth place is partly due to exchange rate effects: if sterling-dollar exchange rates from last week were applied to UK defence spending levels instead, these would rise from US$57bn to US$61.1bn in US dollar terms, above Saudi Arabia and into fourth place. Even without the exchange-rate effect, the fall in the UK’s ranking is not nearly as significant as it might first appear – when the UK was third, in 2012, it was only spending about 1.5% more than Russia in US dollar terms, meaning that a relatively minor currency depreciation or decline in spending levels would produce a fall in its ranking. Furthermore, spending alone is a crude indicator of military capability.

A more striking example is provided by the case of Japan. In this year’s chart, Japanese defence spending falls to US$51bn, down from US$59.4bn in the 2013 edition – a decline of almost one-sixth. In reality, Japanese defence spending is on the rise; the decline is entirely the product of the substantial depreciation in the value of the Japanese yen over the course of 2013 (by around 20%), as a spill-over consequence of ‘Abenomics’. Similarly, the depreciation of the euro seen in recent years has had the effect of depressing US dollar spending totals for France, Germany and Italy.

All of this is to point out that, while the chart provides an excellent starting point for assessing relative defence allocations within a single year, when it comes to across-time comparisons, it should be interpreted with care. The Military Balance 2014 uses a variety of other metrics and graphics to correct for the types of uncertainties highlighted above, which are available here.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 is released on 05 February 2014.

James Hackett: Africa - a year of interventions

African interventions

By James Hackett, Editor, The Military Balance; Senior Fellow for Defence and Military Analysis

African defence and security forms a key analytical segment in the latest edition of The Military Balance. Mali is a central part of this year’s coverage, which analyses the French-led intervention and the recasting of Mali’s armed forces under the guidance of an EU Training Mission. However, durable solutions to the security problems in Mali, in the wider Sahel to the north, will take years to implement.

French intervention in Mali was impressive for its rapid deployment, and also for the tempo of operations. But France’s pre-positioned forces in the region proved vital, as did the accumulated local knowledge of these forces and planners back home. Indeed, France’s operations in Mali – and later in the Central African Republic (CAR) – highlighted that it maintained agile, tough and operationally experienced forces that could deploy quickly; adapt plans and tactics; fuse intelligence, surveillance and strike assets; and work well with regional partners (although international partners, including the US and the UK, also played vital roles). However, there would have been unease across the continent that a former colonial power was the only force in the region able to act with such strength, and at such short notice, even after years of work towards building military capacities and regional standby forces (including rapid deployment capabilities) as part of the African Union’s (AU) African Peace and Security Architecture – mainly the proposed African Standby Forces.

Mali gave added impetus to the desire to create rapid-deployment capabilities in Africa, and the AU proposed in January 2013 an African Immediate Crisis Response Capability, intended to be 5,000-strong.

Nonetheless, any unease would only have been reinforced by France’s move, in December, to rapidly increase its contingent in the CAR, after inter-communal violence there led to a humanitarian crisis. France had long maintained limited numbers of troops in the CAR capital, Bangui, as well as its other continental deployments and bases in Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Mali and Senegal. France also has a maritime presence in the Gulf of Guinea as part of its long-running Operation Corymbe. (Maps in The Military Balance 2014 show the deployment of French forces in Africa as well as selected peacekeeping and security missions in the continent.)

The 1,600 French troops that deployed to the CAR did so as part of a support mission to an AU-led peacekeeping force. African forces deployed in strength (5,000 troops), though with foreign assistance, and for all the problems often highlighted in terms of training and funding, these deployments will lead to substantial operational experience for those continental armed forces on the mission. Meanwhile, combat experience will have developed for other African forces – such as that of Ethiopia (the subject of an extended analysis in the latest Military Balance) as a result of other continental deployments, like the AU’s AMISOM mission in Somalia.

South Africa is also examined in the latest edition of The Military Balance. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) possesses some of the most advanced platforms available on the continent, but it is towards the bottom end of the top ten African contributors to peacekeeping forces. This owes much to a doctrine outlined in the 1996 Defence White Paper and 1998 Defence Review, which suggested that a substantive regional role should be eschewed and led to a major structural reorganisation. However, this position has changed somewhat since the white paper and defence review, and South Africa has in recent years engaged more broadly across the continent. The SANDF engaged in combat operations in the CAR in 2013, where they learnt valuable lessons and proved their ability to engage in hard fighting, and as part of the UN’s intervention force in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country is engaged in producing a new Defence Review, and it is believed this document is an attempt to reassess doctrine and long-term planning. The outcome of this document for policy, procurement and organisation will in part dictate whether it heralds a new role for Sub-Saharan Africa’s most capable armed forces in broader peace and security initiatives on the continent.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 will be released on 05 February 2014. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.


Douglas Barrie: Fickle export market for European fighters continues into 2014

Gripen

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

The year 2013 was a mixed one for Europe’s combat aircraft manufacturers. In December, the United Arab Emirates shelved the option of pursuing a Eurofighter Typhoon purchase, intended as the capstone for a wider defence agreement between the UK and the UAE, and France struggled to ink a Rafale contract with India. However, if the year ended in disappointment for the Rafale and Typhoon teams, it finished on an upbeat note for those involved with the continent’s only other production fighter, Sweden’s Saab Gripen. Saab emerged as the victor in Brazil with the Gripen NG announced, on 18 December, as the winner in Brazil’s long-running F-X2 fighter competition.

This was particularly galling for France’s Dassault. In September 2009, it appeared that the Rafale would be ordered by Brazil, following a visit by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy. However, Brazilian political support for a Rafale deal waned, and it was reported that the air force continued to favour the Gripen. Boeing was the third contender with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, but the US bid was blighted by allegations that the US intelligence community had been intercepting Brazilian government communications.

Brazil and Sweden will now negotiate a deal covering the purchase of up to 36 Gripen NG. Contract discussions will reportedly take around 12 months. The procurement had originally been intended to provide an immediate successor to the air force’s Mirage 2000B/C fleet (comprising ten single-seat C variants and two twin-seat Bs), but delays in making a decision meant this was not possible. As noted in the new edition of The Military Balance, Brazil’s Mirages were withdrawn at the end of 2013. The air-defence role is now again the sole province of the air force’s F-5EM.

However, contract signature should not be taken for granted. Two years after India opted for the Rafale to meet its 126-aircraft Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft requirement, a deal has yet to be signed. Dassault was hopeful that negotiations could be concluded by the end of 2013, but talks have continued into 2014, with some suggestions that the entire package may not be secured until the end of the year. Indian national elections will be held in the second quarter of 2014 and this will inevitably affect the defence procurement process.

Rival fighter-manufacturer Saab will also be watching the outcome of a vote closely, though this time in Switzerland. A national referendum is scheduled for 18 May on the funding proposal for the purchase of 22 Gripen E (Gripen NG) for the Swiss air force.

If 2014 ends with Rafale under contract in India, Swiss approval for Gripen and a contract concluded with Brazil – and BAE Systems finalises outstanding pricing issues with Typhoon in Saudi Arabia and perhaps secures a long-mooted second batch for Riyadh – then the short-term outlook for Europe's fighter-builders is secure. It remains, however, an ‘if’.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 will be released on 05 February 2014. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch


The Military Balance 2014

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide, and is available in both print and electronic format. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policymaking, and an indispensable handbook for anyone conducting serious analysis of military affairs, whether in the defence industry, government, the armed forces, academia, consultancy or the media.

In The Military Balance 2014, launched on 5 February, opening essays examine developments in armed conflict and the world of military technology and doctrine. This year’s ‘Conflict analysis and conflict trends’ essay considers lessons learnt from the ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the role of state and non-state adversaries, commonalities and continuities between modern conflicts, and possible capability requirements. This is followed by ‘Unmanned systems: capabilities develop amid continuing policy questions’. In this piece, the development and deployment of land, maritime and aerospace systems are discussed, as well as the problems of contested airspace, and the future for unmanned systems as a result of developments in autonomous technology. Finally, an essay on ‘Measuring cyber capability’ discusses factors by which we might begin to measure states’ abilities to operate in the cyber domain, and possible indicators of cyber warfare capability.

A Comparative Defence Statistics colour graphics section displays headline figures for defence economics and selected trends in land, sea, air and the defence industry. The Military Balance 2014 includes the following graphics:

• Top 15 defence budgets 2013
• 2013 top 15 defence and security budgets as a % of GDP
• Planned global defence expenditure by region 2013
• Planned global defence expenditure by country 2013
• Real global defence spending changes by region 2011–13
• Real defence spending changes in selected states since the 2008 financial crisis
• Composition of real defence spending increases 2012–13
• Composition of real defence spending reductions 2012–13
• Infantry and soldier modernisation
• Key defence statistics for China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US
• US Army armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) modernisation
• Combat aircraft numbers reduce in European air forces
• Global ‘flat-top’ fleets, 1964–2023

Regional and select country analyses cover the major developments affecting defence policy, military procurement and defence economics, in North America, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Specific country analysis this year includes the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Algeria, Ethiopia and Brazil.

Detailed A–Z entries by region list national military organisations, headline personnel numbers, equipment inventories and relevant economic and demographic data as well as, at the end of each chapter, information on selected regional arms procurements and deliveries. Additional data-sets detail by region military exercises conducted during 2013 and both UN and non-UN global security and peacekeeping deployments.

Our annual Chart of Conflict is updated for 2014. This is a comprehensive reference on conflict, peace-support operations and transnational terrorist attacks, with additional details such as conflict dates and fatality figures. This year the chart focuses on women in armed conflict, with graphs, tables and timelines highlighting the roles played by women in military confrontations and the impact of conflict on the female population. This year’s chart, and previous years’, is available to purchase separately. Bespoke sizes can be accommodated on request.

‘Because military affairs are inevitably clouded in fog, the IISS Military Balance is an essential companion for those who seek to understand.Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary-General of NATO

'The Military Balance is the unique and vital resource on which informed public debate of the world's armed forces is founded. Up-to-date figures and information on defence budgets, procurement totals, equipment holdings, and military deployments are presented clearly and succinctly. In the area of defense information, where nationally produced fictions often masquerade as facts, The Military Balance is the internationally recognized source of record.' William S. Cohen, former US Secretary of Defense

The Military Balance 2014 will be released on 05 February 2014. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Christian Le Miére: Asia’s competition beneath the waves intensifies

JS Hakuryu

By Christian Le Miére, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

At the beginning of January, Vietnam received the first of six Kilo-class submarines from Russia. Previously the Vietnam People’s Navy had only two Yugo-class midget submarines, so the increase in number and size of these boats is a significant capability upgrade for the country’s subsurface fleet. It is such a substantial improvement that an entirely new submarine maintenance and repair facility will be built with Russian assistance at Cam Ranh Bay, a former Soviet and US naval base.

Vietnam is not the only country to have recently upgraded its submarine fleet. In 2009–10, Malaysia became a submarine operator for the first time, receiving two Scorpene-class boats from France. Not coincidentally, Singapore also improved its submarine fleet at around the same time, commissioning two Archer-class (former Vastergotland-class) boats in 2011 and 2013. Indonesia has placed an order for three Chang Bogo-class (Type-209) submarines from South Korea and is in early negotiations for the possible purchase of multiple Kilo-class submarines with Russia. And both Japan and Australia have announced their intention to increase their fleets by six boats apiece (which, for Australia, represents a doubling of the number of its submarines).

Such a wide range of submarines purchases throughout the region – with other countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar also indicating their desire to move into the subsurface realm – raises the obvious question of whether we are seeing an arms race below the waters of East Asia. This depends, to a large extent, on the motivations for these purchases. On the one hand, it is feasible to see the development of submarine fleets as a natural progression into wider-spectrum capabilities for developing countries with fast-growing economies and vast maritime spaces to secure. There are also sub-regional rivalries that may help fuel the motivation for certain purchases: Malaysia, for instance, may well have been galvanised by Singapore’s development of a submarine fleet.

The one major factor behind much of the current spending spree, though, is the rise of China and its naval development. With near-constant double-digit growth in its defence spending for the last three decades, and a focus on the navy since the early 1990s, Beijing has managed to vastly improve its surface fleet (its submarine fleet remains the region’s largest by far, with some 66 tactical subs according to The Military Balance 2014). The only way for smaller and medium-sized countries to compete with this development is to invest in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as anti-ship missile carrying vessels and submarines. While submarines are, tonne for tonne, the most expensive naval vessel you can procure, they also have the possibility of denying large areas of sea to wary surface commanders. The fact that the PLA Navy has traditionally suffered from poor anti-submarine warfare capabilities only exacerbates this unique, clandestine threat.

Given the tense atmosphere around disputed territories in the South China and East China Seas, countries such as Vietnam are clearly investing in A2/AD capabilities to deter and potentially disrupt China’s navy from seizing any disputed islands (as happened in 1974 and 1988). Any submarine purchase by the Philippines would naturally be fuelled by the same desire. Similarly, Japan is expanding its subsurface fleet as it is constitutionally prevented from purchasing offensive military equipment: submarines, being unable to take and seize land, are the perfect way to further augment Tokyo’s denial capacity. Similar motivations may lie behind Australia’s Collins-class replacement programme, while other countries such as Indonesia may simply be updating outdated equipment and attempting to keep up with their neighbours.

There is a clear reactive element to some purchases in East Asia, but there does not yet appear to be an uncontrollable action-reaction dynamic of arms procurements between regional states, as there are a range of motivations for the purchases. Nonetheless, the trend of submarine procurement through Asia, tracked by The Military Balance over recent years, is likely to continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 will be released on 05 February 2014. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Douglas Barrie: China’s hypersonic test - behind the headlines

DARPA

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

In mid-January, the Chinese defence ministry confirmed that it had carried out some form of ‘hypersonic glide body’ (HGB) test on 9 January. Beyond this, however there is little concrete information available, though the glide body was reportedly identified as flying at up to Mach 10.

The nature and extent of the test of what has been called WU-14 are not known outside the Chinese military, the US intelligence community and a few of its key partners. The nature of the US intelligence on the test is also unknown, including whether this was satellite-based or if the RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft was used. The RC-135S has been deployed in the past to provide optical and electronic intelligence on Chinese ballistic missile launches.

Also unknown publicly is whether the test examined only the separation of the glide body from the launch missile and its subsequent fly-out to the lower-altitude cruise phase, or if there was a notional 'target' to examine an end-to-end engagement.

HGBs provide something near the response times of a ballistic missile engagement while offering a different set of targeting challenges to ballistic missile defences. US and Russian interest in HGBs has in part stemmed from examining alternatives to the further development – as part of ballistic missile payloads – of penetration aids and electronic countermeasures that could complicate attempted mid-course and terminal intercepts.

The cruise phase of an HGB is at a far lower altitude than that of a ballistic missile trajectory, thus reducing the radar horizon for detection. Long-range ballistic missile flights have both an endo- and an exo-atmospheric flight path, while a boost glide body can separate from its rocket launcher and remain within the atmosphere for the duration of the flight.

Chinese interest in hypersonics, and in HGBs in this case, should not come as a surprise. A US Air Force report published in December 2000 noted that China was one of a handful of countries with ’well established ... hypersonic R&D‘. (The hypersonic flight regime is generally held to be in excess of Mach 5.)

Chinese efforts to develop a hypersonic glide body follow the footsteps of US projects such as the HTV-2

Challenges faced in developing an air vehicle capable of hypersonic flight include stability, control, aero-thermodynamic heating, materials technology, and guidance. The US has been researching and testing in this area for over 50 years but has yet to deploy a weapon based on an HGB. The US Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon project had a successful test in November 2011, while Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s two Hypersonic Test Vehicle firings were less so.

Assuming the Chinese develop an HGB to the point where such a system could be deployed operationally, the question arises about the roles it might be used for. Potential applications will be influenced by the system’s range and terminal accuracy, as well as the types of payloads Beijing might want to fit onto the weapon.

Were it to be fitted with a nuclear warhead, a hypersonic glide vehicle could provide an adjunct capability to China’s relatively small ballistic-missile strategic arsenal. The Military Balance 2014’s assessment of Chinese intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missile launchers is 66 and an estimated six respectively, though medium- and short-range numbers stand at 134 and 252. Meanwhile, a hypersonic glide body equipped with sub-munitions could provide a potent threat to air bases. Blurring the lines between a conventional and a nuclear delivery system, however, entails considerable risks in terms of managing conflict escalation.

What is clear is that while some commentators have posited a ‘hypersonic arms race’, if there is a race to develop high-speed weapons, then it’s more a marathon than a sprint. . However, as was noted in an essay in last year’s Military Balance (pp. 25-28), the nature of possible future threat environments has led to a redoubling of interest in hypersonics, even if as yet the promise remains unfulfilled.

The Military Balance is the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 will be released on 05 February 2014. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Ben Barry: Is Robert Gates right on British defence?

British army

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Forces

Former US Defence Secretary Roberts Gates has told the BBC that ’with the fairly substantial reductions in defence spending in Great Britain, what we're finding is that it won't have full spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past’.

This was refuted in a subsequent BBC interview by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that the UK had ’a massive investment programme of £160bn in our defence industries, in our equipment‘ and concluded that ’we are a first-class player in terms of defence and as long as I am prime minster that is the way it will stay.

Who is right? The short answer is that they are both right. But the next UK government is likely to face further hard choices about defence capability in the planned 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

The IISS assesses that the 8% defence-spending reduction over five years made in the 2010 SDSR produced a 20–30% reduction in overall UK conventional military combat capability across the three services. The British government decided that its armed forces should do less, reducing the level of strategic ambition. For example, the planning assumption for troops conducting an enduring stabilisation operation was reduced from 10,000 deployed personnel to 6,500. Readiness was also reduced, with more time being allowed for mobilisation and deployment. This allowed the Army to reduce its regular troop numbers by 20% and the transfer of much of its logistics capability to the reserve.

Frontline combat strength was also cut, including the RAF’s Harrier jump-jets and the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, although these are due to be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers at the end of the decade. Some other capabilities were also dropped, including maritime patrol aircraft and the Army’s nuclear, biological and chemical defence regiment.

Gates is therefore right to say that the spectrum of UK defence capabilities has reduced. And if he is seeking to imply that the overall reduction in defence capability means that the UK’s ability to be a military partner to the US has reduced, he is also correct. Officials in Washington are concerned that the United States’ own reductions in military capability will make them more dependent on allies, both politically and militarily, so reductions in British forces will give them no comfort.

But Prime Minister Cameron is also correct to credit his government with investment in defence equipment and logistics support. The UK is continuing to develop and field advanced, modern equipment, including strategic airlift, a new frigate programme, and upgrading its armoured vehicles. It has also found the money to operate equipment and weapons specially procured for Iraq and Afghanistan, such as protected patrol vehicles, that have enduring utility across the spectrum of conflict.

However, this growth in equipment costs makes less money available for training, infrastructure and personnel, as identified by UK Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton: ‘Unattended our current course leads to a strategically incoherent force structure: exquisite equipment, but insufficient resources to man that equipment or train on it. This is what the Americans call the spectre of the hollow-force. We are not there yet; but across Defence I would identify the Royal Navy as being perilously close to its critical mass in man-power terms.’

The 2010 SDSR aspired to the UK forces transforming into a ’Future Force 2020‘. The armed forces have consistently stated that this requires modest, but real, growth in the defence budget from 2015 onwards. The UK treasury does not appear to have agreed to this, and the influential House of Commons Defence Committee and many UK defence commentators have expressed scepticism that defence spending will rise sufficiently, if at all, after 2015 to fully fund Future Force 2020.

The 2015 SDSR will offer strategic choices to a new government. The MoD has already begun an effort to study the key defence issues, however the National Security Council, Treasury and Cabinet office do not yet appear to have given any strategic direction, including financial assumptions, to government departments. Much of the MoD work is re-examining familiar issues including NATO, European defence and regional dynamics. Defence Secretary Hammond identified that key capability issues would include the size of the UK F-35 buy, rebuilding maritime patrol capability and future military cyber capabilities.

If after the 2015 election David Cameron returns as prime minister, he may well find it difficult to sustain the military capability required by the 2010 SDSR without an increase in defence spending. The 2015 SDSR is likely to require further hard choices.

A full assessment of the UK’s defence capability and defence expenditure will be published in The Military Balance 2014, which will be launched at the IISS on 5 February. Print copies are available for pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.   


Henry Boyd: Worldwide active tank strengths

By Henry Boyd, Research Associate for Defence and Military Analysis         

Although counter-insurgency and stabilisation operations have become a priority for many armed forces in the past decade, a small number of states continue to plan for conventional, high-intensity operational contingencies, and retain the equipment to match.

The Military Balance 2014 records approximately 60,000 main battle tanks in active service worldwide (i.e. excluding those in long term storage or awaiting disposal). Of these, over 40,000 are concentrated in the national inventories of just 15 countries: Algeria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, North and South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States and Vietnam. This list includes potential combatants in many of the world’s flashpoint areas, such as the Korean Peninsula and India/Pakistan.

Just under half of the global total is comprised of Soviet/Russian designs, largely as a consequence of Soviet-era production and military aid programmes, and the ubiquitous T-72 remains the most prolific single type with almost 10,000 still in service. China still has the largest active fleet, despite slight reductions resulting from its recent conversion of armoured divisions into new brigade structures.

The Military Balance is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research. The Military Balance 2014 will be released on 05 February 2014. Print copies are available to pre-order and will be dispatched after the launch.

Douglas Barrie: Pakistan’s new UAVs - origins in doubt

Pakistan drone

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

On 25 November 2013, Pakistan’s armed forces announced that two new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had been introduced to service. The official announcement gave scant detail about the systems, beyond stating that the Burraq and Shahpar UAVs were ‘indigenously developed’.

The claim that Burraq and Shahpar are solely the products of Pakistan’s defence aerospace industry should, however, be treated with caution. The Burraq and the Shahpar resemble the Chinese CH-3 UAV. With Beijing being Islamabad’s main partner in terms of defence-industrial collaboration, there was speculation that Islamabad had earlier ordered a number of CH-3 systems from China.

The Shahpar was apparently developed by Pakistan’s Global Industrial and Defence Solutions, a state-owned defence and technology conglomerate. Amongst its other products is the Anza Mk-II man-portable air-defence system (MANPAD), which is generally regarded as a close relative of the Chinese QW-1 MANPAD.

The announcement also provided an indication that at least one of these UAVs might be capable of carrying ordnance. A picture in the press release apparently shows a model, likely the Burraq, carrying two missiles on under-wing pylons, while an illustration visible in the background also shows a missile clearing a pylon on the UAV. The Chinese CH-3 has been test-flown to carry and launch the AR-1 semi-active laser-guided missile, as well as the FT-5 small guided-bomb.

Burraq had previously been associated by some analysts with the Italian Falco UAV, which Pakistan operates in small numbers, but it now seems more likely to be related to a CH-3 type design.

Pakistan has seen both the value and the political risk associated with the use of armed UAVs as a result of US operations in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. However, while tactical reconnaissance UAVs are increasingly common, armed UAVs remain in the inventories of only a small number of armed forces, most obviously the US. The UK and Israel are also among those nations which operate armed UAVs, and other countries are pursuing such a capability. Whether China has introduced an armed UAV into its own inventory has yet to be ascertained, but imagery of CH-3 munition launches show it is pursuing this objective.

Islamabad’s defence relations with Beijing are multifaceted, ranging across the land, sea and air domains. They have not always, though, been transparent to outside observers, and sensitivity over the sale of a weaponised UAV could be part of the reason that the Inter Services Public Relations press release stressed that the two UAV systems were indigenously developed. However, if this assessment of these systems’ origin is correct, it constitutes further evidence of the close, and still developing, defence relations between Beijing and Islamabad.

Oliver Lane: Commonwealth and cooperation

HMS WESTMINSTER CARRIES OUT BOARDING OPS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN/Flickr Royal Navy

By Oliver Lane, Research Assistant, Naval Forces and Maritime Security

It is in unexpected and devastating humanitarian disaster relief operations that the informal network of Commonwealth shows its true advantages. The devastation the Philippines suffered during and after Typhoon Haiyan required a last-minute deployment of HMS Illustrious – which was engaged in counter-piracy duties and due to return to the UK in time for Christmas – a mission that was uniquely enabled by Commonwealth alliances.

Re-roling from counter-piracy stance to an effective humanitarian aid platform thousands of miles away from home inevitably meant a number of logistical problems – such as the acquisition and loading of hundreds of tonnes of aid materiel for distribution in the Philippines. With scant useful British sovereign territory lying between the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia, Commonwealth ally Singapore helped to conduct the largest logistical operation aboard the Illustrious since she prepared for the Falklands War in 1982. Loading 500 tonnes of UK aid-branded materiel including 100 tonnes of rice – half of the entire store available in the whole of Singapore – was achieved with a speed and ease unobtainable at sea and without the full cooperation of a close ally. Upon departing Singapore, the Illustrious met while underway with a ship from another close neighbour, the HMAS Sirius. Unable to reach the Philippines at high speed with the remaining fuel oil aboard, the Australian tanker refuelled Illustrious during the voyage, a complex and potentially dangerous operation which is a recognised naval hallmark of cooperation and inter-operability between nations.

Thanks to allied support the deployment’s challenges were not insurmountable. In reacting to military emergency and humanitarian disaster, responding forces benefit from flexibility and global reach in deployment.

Having completed its unanticipated mission to supply aid to the most remote islands of the Philippines last week, Illustrious is now returning to the UK. Although it was an extraordinary deployment, the lessons of Commonwealth naval cooperation, and the utility of existing inter-operability, was plain to see.

For European militaries facing budget cuts, expeditionary operations, whether humanitarian or not, are an increasingly difficult concept. With a United States that seems increasingly unwilling to underwrite the cost of being a net contributor to European security, this should be a genuine concern. There is logic in seeking closer cooperation with neighbouring European allies and even in pooling and sharing resources. NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability is one such example, but the fact that this scheme focuses on long-range military air transport also reflects the fact that the main focus of many European militaries is beyond their immediate neighbourhood. As such, allies further afield may also be required to ensure sustainment and replenishment of forces overseas.

For the UK, the Commonwealth may help provide such a network. It has long existed as an organisation for mutual benefit in spreading education, health and prosperity, without a direct security or military role. However, the Philippines experience could suggest that there is potential in the Commonwealth being able to deliver a form of humanitarian relief and perhaps other non-warfighting capabilities.

John Drennan: Russia’s persistent Arctic ambitions

Icebreaker

By John Drennan, Research Assistant

Russia is once again engaged in moves designed to increase its military presence in the Arctic. During a meeting of the Defence Ministry Board in December, President Vladimir Putin singled out the region for special mention, noting Russia’s plans to revitalise its military presence there. Earlier, in November, air-defence units and early-warning radar were reported to be deployed just north of the Arctic Circle, while in September Moscow announced that it had decided to refurbish and reopen old military facilities on the New Siberian Islands (offshore northeast Siberia).

While the aspiration to revive a Russian military presence in the Arctic region is not new, the results have been, so far, limited. Establishing an enduring presence in the High North faces practical difficulties, not least those posed by extreme weather conditions. The Russian Ministry of Regional Development released a report on 5 November suggesting that the Russian military would be unable to protect national interests in the Arctic in the event of an attack in the region. However, should Moscow succeed in establishing enduring facilities in the New Siberian Islands, they could give Russia strategic leverage in a region opening up to commercial shipping. In the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which runs the length of Russia’s Arctic coast and with the Norwegian Sea connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, shipping has increased in recent years and international transits have constituted more than half of all voyages in 2012 and 2013.

The deployment to the New Siberian Islands started on 3 September, when a group of ten vessels led by the Kirov-class nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great departed Severomorsk. On arrival, personnel began to lay the groundwork for a military presence that is supposed to include permanent civilian support. The intention is to construct permanent accommodation and communications infrastructure, and to restore the airfield on Kotelny Island. Video of resupply operations at Temp airfield indicated that the conditions were then somewhat basic, with tented accommodation and limited capacity for large-scale aerial resupply. First Deputy Minister of Defense, General Arkady Bahin, indicated that the armed forces would subsequently carry out similar operations in Franz Joseph Land and Novaya Zemlya, though, again, completion of permanent infrastructure amid Arctic weather conditions would not happen overnight.

Nonetheless, these developments are in line with Russia’s new official plans for the region. In 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed an official development strategy for the Arctic through to 2020, which lays out defence provisions to protect the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity. The 2013 strategy is more military-focused compared to the goals articulated in the 2008 ‘Foundations of Russian Federation Policy in the Arctic until 2020 and Beyond’. That document focused on developing coastal security forces to counter transnational threats including maritime terrorism and illegal migration, as well as developing border infrastructure. The 2013 document, on the other hand, called for maintaining combat readiness and mobilisation to ensure the sovereign rights of Russia and, in the case of armed conflict, to ‘repel aggression’.

Russian control of Arctic resources, and by extension the defence of territorial integrity, is connected, in official discourse, to sovereignty concerns. On 3 October, President Putin dismissed the notion that the Arctic is an international waterway, a position held by countries including the US. Over the past year, the government has taken additional steps to implement Arctic 2020 security provisions and to protect Russian sovereignty. In February, Ministry of Defense spokesman Vadim Serga announced that Northern Fleet anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft had started regular patrols along Russia’s northern frontier and beyond. Later, in May, a Federal Security Service representative told RIA Novosti that ‘eleven border protection facilities are to be built in the Arctic, while automated surveillance systems are to be deployed in the area as part of the Russian Federation State border Protection program for 2012–20’. While these facilities could experience delay, like the proposed Arctic motor rifle brigades, the renewed attention to the New Siberian Islands and other military and security initiatives suggests that the Russian government is taking seriously its aspiration to boost its Arctic military presence.

Russia has been a major proponent of a diplomatic approach to Arctic governance through the Arctic Council. However, the decision to reopen the base will allow the armed forces to monitor, and have a stronger presence in, a part of the world that could experience a surge in commercial traffic. Meanwhile, such facilities could provide an important logistics and refuelling hub for ships transiting the region. As such, should Russian aspirations for permanent basing bear fruit, these could fill a gap in logistics infrastructure for commercial activities and accompanying search-and-rescue capabilities in the region. But other states with security and economic interests in the Arctic are wary of a substantially increased Russian military presence, and military developments, including those in the New Siberian Islands, are unlikely to reassure them.

Douglas Barrie: Conventional prompt global strike: another ten years?

DARPA

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

A decade after the US Department of Defense’s first conceptualisation of ‘Prompt Global Strike’, the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) initiative is still at least a further ten years from deployment.

And that is if, according to James Acton, Senior Associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington decides to pursue the capability.

Discussing his latest book Silver Bullet? Asking The Right Questions about Prompt Global Strike at the IISS on 24 October, Acton argued for a wider debate over the merits and demerits of a CPGS system before the Pentagon moves to acquire it. He traced current CPGS research and development back to the 2001 US Quadrennial Defense Review and the subsequent Nuclear Posture Review. The former raised the profile of long-range precision strike weaponry, while the latter suggested that the stable of precision-guided conventional capabilities then in the US inventory could form ‘non-nuclear strategic capabilities’ to support the established nuclear deterrent.

The ‘Global Strike’ mission, of which CPGS is a subset, was allocated to US Strategic Command in 2003, and ’conventional capability’ was loosely defined as the ability to deliver a payload at global range no later than 60 minutes after approval.

However, Acton suggested that the range requirement has been reduced from global to intercontinental. In broad terms, Acton said that CPGS addresses four missions, by providing the ability to counter: the nuclear arsenal of a new proliferator state (e.g. North Korea); emerging Chinese conventional capabilities such as anti-satellite technology; anti-access/area denial weapons systems; and high-value terrorists. The last, Acton argued, is now the least important, in terms of Pentagon justifications for the project.

Technologically, the lowest risk path to a CPGS system would be the adaptation of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The Bush administration had in 2006 intended to fund work examining fitting the Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile with a conventional warhead (Conventional Trident Modification) in 2006. Congress refused to approve funding in the 2007 and 2008 budgets, at least in part due to concerns of ‘ambiguity‘. For example, the US long-range sea- and land-based ballistic missile arsenal is fitted solely with nuclear warheads. Introducing a conventional option would risk a target-state assuming a conventional strike was nuclear, and responding on this basis.

’Target ambiguity‘ was also raised, where a state might determine that its nuclear command-and-control infrastructure was at risk, particularly if its nuclear and conventional ballistic missile command structure is intermeshed (as is believed to be the case with China).

Another concern was ‘destination ambiguity’, as risked by ballistic-missile-launched hypersonic-glide vehicle technology. This is another potential approach to CPGS: a ballistic missile would be used to boost a glide body into a flattened, rather than ballistic, flight-trajectory. The nature of the glide vehicle would give it considerable cross-range maneuverability, potentially making target acquisition uncertain.

The Pentagon’s interest in CPGS, Acton suggested, raises concern both in China and Russia. Given its comparatively small strategic nuclear holding, Beijing considers that CPGS, coupled with US ballistic-missile defences, could put its nuclear deterrent at risk. Irrespective of such concerns, China and Russia are pursuing high-speed long-range conventional strike technologies. Both, for instance, continue to work on hypersonic propulsion technology applicable to cruise missiles, and show interest in boost-glide systems. China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, and its reported work on a terminally-guided intermediate-range ballistic missile, parallel elements of US ambitions for shortened-engagement-time long-range strike.

Acton suggested that the CPGS would likely enhance deterrence, reducing the probability of a conflict; however were conflict to occur, a CPGS system could make its management more difficult. Acton stressed that in Silver Bullet he does not reach any conclusions as to the desirability or otherwise of pursuing CPGS. He does, however, want to see, a range of issues he contends are not yet being discussed to be aired fully before any final decision is made.

Ben Barry: Good news from Helmand

YOUNG CORPORAL DESCRIBES IMPROVING SECURITY IN HELMAND

By Ben Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare

Insurgents in Afghanistan are demonstrating a growing maturity,  according to Brigadier Rupert Jones.

Jones, who recently returned from commanding the 1st Mechanised Brigade, gave a talk at the IISS last week detailing the recent operations in Helmand, the changing role of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there and the future prospects of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Insurgents are shaping a new narrative with two strands; that it is insurgent victories that caused the ISAF draw-down, and that the ANSF would not be able to protect the country when Western troops leave. The tactics have also evolved, with insurgent groups carrying out coordinated offensives and focusing more on targeting key players to maximise media coverage.

These difficult conditions had led to concerns at the start of the fighting season that the army and police would struggle without the help of ISAF. The ANSF were ‘tested, but they stood their ground’. Jones described how the gradual withdrawal of ISAF troops had given the ANSF the freedom to prove their own capabilities. In particular, ISAF commanders have observed far greater cohesion: the various pillars of the ANSF are now working jointly, sharing intelligence and modernising their operations.

Intelligence is an area where the ANSF have been strengthened by the ISAF withdrawal. Although Western forces possessed high-tech equipment that would be missed by Afghan intelligence officers, transferring the reins to them has meant that they can now run intelligence-gathering operations using their local knowledge and contacts, which are far better tools.

This local advantage has also bolstered the success of the Afghan National Police. In Helmand, the majority of police officers are from the province and they are the main providers of day-to-day security for the people in the towns and cities there. Jones reported that the security environment in urban areas has improved to the extent that the police are now providing something approaching normal community policing, and approval ratings of the police force from the local population stand at around 90%.

Overall, Jones was optimistic about the prospects for Afghan security under the ANSF. Crucially, normal activities like agriculture and education are taking place. The Afghan government now has more to offer the average citizen than the insurgents do. With the population of Helmand invested in protecting their regained security, Jones argued the ANSF are more than up to the job of assuming full leadership at the end of 2014.

Watch the discussion meeting.

Douglas Barrie: The only way is down

Gripen (Photo: Saab)

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Bare numbers may be a blunt measure of Europe's diminishing defence capacity, as they do not allow for increases in platform capability and effectiveness, but nevertheless, they do provide a scale for ambition and a gauge of priorities.

The continuing impact of Europe's economic travails on national defence expenditure provided a sober background to discussions at this year's Global Strategic Review. In the air power arena a timely reminder of the challenges facing many European states was provided by the Netherlands’ announcement of its future combat aircraft plans on 17 September.

At least the Dutch are pursuing a next-generation combat aircraft, deciding to stick with the Lockheed Martin F-35. What was notable, however, was the reduced scale of the procurement. Originally up to 85 aircraft were to be acquired, but the initial purchase has been cut to 37, enough to field likely two or three squadrons of the type, depending on squadron size. The government has indicated that more aircraft could be acquired at some unspecified point in the future, if additional funding were to become available.

The air force presently fields four F-16 squadrons, falling to three in 2014 with an operational fleet of 61 aircraft. The type is due to be withdrawn from the inventory around 2023.

Sweden's defence aerospace sector also received a fillip last week, when on 18 September Swiss politicians voted to support the purchase of 22 Gripen NG combat aircraft. The approval process is ongoing, and may result in a national referendum on the procurement.

Along with the 22 aircraft for Switzerland, Saab will manufacture 60 Gripen Es for the Swedish air force (the Gripen E is the Swedish air force designation for its variant of the Gripen NG). As with the Royal Netherlands Air Force, however, aircraft are not being replaced on anything like a one for one basis. The air force intends to operate 100 Gripen C/D models until they are succeeded by the 60 Gripen Es.

While the quality of much of Europe's air power will improve further as new or significantly upgraded types continue to enter the inventory, quantities will carry on declining. Capability may not be dependent on numbers alone, but it remains a dependency.

James Hackett: African security and defence: more plans; limited progress

GSR 2013: James Steinberg

By James Hackett, Editor of the Military Balance

James Steinberg, in his address in the 'Measuring South-South Strategic Networks' session of the 2013 IISS Global Strategic review, highlighted the roles of regional organisations in economic and security development. He cited ECOWAS and the AU in the African context, and said there had been 'success in these areas' through the activities of institutions like these.

Steinberg mentioned the AU and its activity in East Africa, presumably relating to the security realm, and also presumably in the context of the AU's ongoing operation in Somalia. But this mission's current incarnation emerged if not by accident, then also not exactly by design. The AU mission (AMISOM) first deployed in 2007, but made little headway beyond Mogadishu in the years before both Kenya and Ethiopia launched military operations, in 2011. Kenya's contribution was subsequently badged under the AU mission in 2012, resulting in greater capacity in the operational, financial and logistical areas, but also - for the Kenyan contingent - bedding its mission within the wider aspirations of the AU for a political framework for settlement of the long-running conflict in Somalia.

Indeed, some other examples of recent operations indicate that in relation to operationalising military deployments, the picture is also quite mixed. In Darfur, the AU initiated the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS),  but this soon became a hybrid UN-AU mission (UNAMID), enabling the AU troop contributors to access the range of resources available to UN missions. Regional states intervening in Mali were reported as seeking external financial and technical assistance for mission funding and training.  

So while states and multilateral security institutions might have the aspiration to plan and execute missions, capacity is still an issue. The broad objectives set for some of these planned missions, and the envisaged complexity of the deployment packages, can of course also cause delay in generating funding, assets, and in deploying force. Meanwhile, Initial Operating Capability for the long-planned African Standby Force concept has slipped to 2015. 

However, regional and continental institutions have had more success in smaller-scale ad hoc missions, such as the AU-led Regional Cooperative Initiative against the Lord's Resistance Army. Indeed, with its proposal for an interim rapid response capability, after the success of the French-led rapid response over Mali, the AU seems to have acknowledged that its aspirations for more formal institutions might need modification.

Capacity and funding issues that have hindered the practical development of regional and continental assets will likely remain key challenges, but adjusting the broader aspirations might lead to more reralistic caapability development goals for states and institutions.

Douglas Barrie: The limits of airpower

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Air power may look ‘great’ in the mass media, but the view from the ground is often very different, suggested Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Bildt, discussing the vexed issue of the Syrian civil war at the opening event of the IISS's Global Strategic Review argued that a ground presence would also be required in any intervention, rather than an air campaign only, and that given the problems the latter would present, the only option is the ‘diplomatic one’.

Bildt’s comments more broadly revisit the attractions, limitations and the potential misuse of air power – a debate that is as old as the military's efforts to exploit powered flight.

The notion of 'strategic' airpower exhibits a form of exceptionalism, with advocates arguing war in the third dimension can of itself deliver strategic aims, irrespective of the maritime or land environments.

This argument, enshrined in the Allied bombing campaigns of the Second World War, America's Strategic Air Command of the 1950s, and the use of air power during the Vietnamese War in the latter half of the 1960s and early 1970s, overreaches in promising what air power can deliver. It also provides ammunition to those who argue air power is most effective when used tactically.

This polarisation still risks distorting discussions on air power, and how the body politic and the wider public view its value.

Used appropriately, air power offers a flexible tool of great utility, able to act also as a force enabler and a force multiplier for the other two domains. Used inappropriately it can provide a vehicle for something akin to Brownian political motion, giving the impression of executive action, while likely providing no decisive outcome.

 


Christian Le Miere: Coast Guard competition in East Asia

China Coast Guard

By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

In late August 2013, the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) submitted a budget request that would represent a 13% funding increase over the previous year (to JPY196.3 billion/US$2bn). It included funds to expand the JCG’s presence around the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The budget submission includes the construction of ten new patrol vessels and the renovation of two others, plus increasing staff costs to add more than 500 personnel to the existing 12,800 total. Almost all of this budgetary increase is dedicated to the creation of an ‘exclusive group’: an autonomous unit that would patrol and monitor the disputed islands, with the 12 vessels to be based by 2015 out of Ishigaki in Okinawa.

It was notable that on the day the budgetary increase was requested, three Chinese Coast Guard vessels entered the disputed waters claimed by both China and Japan around the islands. While it was the first Chinese patrol near the islands since 16 August, it was the 41st such patrol this year.

These two events reflected the non-military competition between the two countries over this collection of small, uninhabited islands. While military expansion is the topic that often garners most media attention, with Japan launching a large helicopter carrier and China recently beginning construction of its first indigenous carrier, this rivalry is actually played out, on a frequent basis, through the deployment of maritime law enforcement agencies.

While Japan is seeking to expand the JCG, China has reformed its maritime constabulary agencies.  The ships recently seen deployed to the disputed islands sport a new red-and-blue design that differs from the three blue stripes of China Marine Surveillance (CMS) vessels and the all-white livery of the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC). Until recently, ships from both CMS and FLEC had operated in the region. Since 24 July, however, the rebranded ‘China Coast Guard’ (CCG) has been responsible for these deployments.

The announcement of a reformed CCG came in March, at the National People’s Congress. Beijing declared that four of the five maritime agencies that previously had overlapping and often confusing responsibilities for maritime safety and security – FLEC, CMS, the General Administration of Customs and the Maritime Police/Coast Guard under the Ministry of Public Security – would be unified administratively under the State Oceanic Administration. This would create a simpler administrative structure and afford Beijing greater direct control over these disparate organisations. The Maritime Safety Administration would remain separate.  The new CCG is now operational, and is the lead agency for maritime constabulary missions.

The structure of the CCG was clarified somewhat in June when the State Council published new regulations and guidelines (in Chinese). The CCG will be divided between three geographical branches – North, East and South Sea fleets, mirroring the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) – and have 11 local commands. The document continued by noting that the CCG would have 11 functional divisions;* it also detailed a highly precise objective of 16,296 total personnel.

The Military Balance 2013 detailed 360 patrol vessels between the three largest agencies (CMS, FLEC and the Coast Guard), including 16 offshore patrol ships. These vary from retired PLAN frigates to small patrol vessels more suitable for riverine or coastal operations. Importantly, it remains unclear whether all of these vessels will be brought into a new CCG structure, and whether the fleet will be expanded or reduced and simplified. Given the diverse nature of these vessels and the likelihood that there will be redundancies from unifying these four agencies, it may be that some older and smaller vessels are retired, while larger vessels are commissioned to create a true ocean-going coast guard. Currently, the CCG has the ability to patrol waters in the East China and South China Seas regularly, but it pales in comparison with the JCG, which according to The Military Balance 2013 had more than 400 vessels, of which more than 40 were offshore patrol ships and a further 65 were the slightly smaller offshore patrol craft.

It is also unclear whether these vessels will be armed: previously CMS and FLEC were unarmed agencies, but General Administration of Customs and Coast Guard vessels carried small arms. In order to function as a force able to interdict vessels engaged in smuggling and trafficking in coastal waters, it is possible that small arms will be needed on vessels designed for operation in these waters. For those vessels with the capability to patrol neighbouring waters, however, it could be seen as provocative in the short- to medium-term for these to have armament of greater capability than light weapons.

 As we prepare for The Military Balance 2014, a key question concerns the organisation and capability of the CCG fleet. What is more certain, though, is that the rebranded CCG is likely to be seen just as frequently in the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas. While this offers greater opportunity to observe China’s maritime security organisation and motivations, for China’s neighbours the vessels will continue to be an unwelcome sight of Beijing’s assertiveness in the region. If anything, it is possible it will only further encourage the build-up of maritime constabulary capabilities in the region.

*These include the bureaucratic department, strategic planning and economic affairs, island policy and laws, maritime superintendent, environmental protection division, maritime management division, disaster response, science and technology, international cooperation, personnel and finance.

Syrian crisis: Selected military assets in the Mediterranean

Analysts in the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme have produced a map of selected military assets in the Mediterranean, following an increase in tension in the wake of the – reportedly most recent – chemical-weapons attacks in Syria. This does not list in full detail all of the displayed nations’ military assets in the region, or those of regional states themselves. It also does not cover British forces which, although the UK government has indicated it will not participate in any military action, retain a regional presence.

Additional detail on regional and international military capabilities can be found in the North America, Europe and Middle East and North Africa chapters of The Military Balance 2013.

Selected military assets in the Mediterranean

Click map to enlarge

Download the map as a pdf

Christian Le Miere: Plane sailing – aircraft carriers in the Indo-Pacific

By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

In the past two weeks there has been even greater interest in aircraft carrier and maritime air-power development in the Indo-Pacific region, prompted by a handful of events.

India launched the hull of its first indigenous aircraft carrier and is due to take delivery of a much delayed former-Soviet vessel in December, Japan launched a large helicopter-carrier, and imagery emerged appearing to show a section of an aircraft carrier in build in a Chinese dockyard.

Little is more redolent traditionally of naval power projection and the desire for a blue water navy than the development of an aircraft-carrier capability. Yet while the aforementioned vessels represent clear ambitions to enhance naval power, the detailed maritime aims and doctrine of each of the nations has yet to become clear. There is therefore some doubt as to the eventual timing of India and China actually being able to mount carrier-borne operations with the new vessels.

The building of a hull is a fundamental step in the ability to operate a carrier battle group – arguably the most complex of naval operations – but it is only part of the process. India, for example, has just one nuclear-powered submarine currently in service (INS Chakra), potentially limiting the range of any sub-surface protection for a carrier. China, meanwhile, is only now introducing the escorts that might be deemed sufficient for area and point-defence in a carrier battle group.

The combat aircraft complements of China and India’s new carriers are also yet to enter service.  The J-15, an unlicensed copy of the Sukhoi Su-33, is in development, while the Indian Navy only formed its first MiG-29K squadron in May. Both aircraft types appear intended from the outset for air defence and maritime strike. 

Nevertheless, the steps toward developing more advanced aircraft-carrier capabilities are clearly underway. India launched the INS Vikrant on 12 August, its first to be indigenously constructed. The ship is a ski-jump ‘short take-off but arrested recovery’ (STOBAR) vessel, and is likely to enter service no sooner than 2017. In the meantime, India should receive, after a prolonged delay, the INS Vikramaditya, a modified STOBAR former Soviet Kiev-class carrier built in the 1980s. The Vikramaditya is expected to replace the very old INS Viraat, a British Royal Navy Centaur-class vessel built in the 1950s.

It doesn’t stop there: India hopes to have three operational carriers even after the Viraat retires by the end of the decade, with another indigenous carrier planned to be in service at some point in the 2020s. INS Vishal’s design is likely to differ from the Vikrant and may incorporate a catapult (CATOBAR).

Elsewhere in the region, another Soviet STOBAR design and another new indigenous carrier programme appears to be underway. Images that surfaced in early August showed what seemed to be the initial block of China’s first indigenously constructed carrier being built in Shanghai’s Changxing Island shipyard. The hull is likely a modification of the Kuznetsov-class Liaoning that entered service in 2012, China’s first aircraft carrier, perhaps with a catapult trench added. China has not yet disclosed the size of its future carrier fleet, but three vessels would ensure a continuous at-sea presence.

Japan named the first of its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers on 9 August, adding to the two-strong Huyga-class of helicopter carriers in service. The larger size of the Izumos makes them a more capable asset, able to carry 14 helicopters and simultaneously operate five off the deck. There are rumours that the Izumo could be used to operate F-35B short-take off and vertical-landing aircraft.

This spate of news concerning aircraft carriers does not reflect the introduction of a completely new technology to this part of the world. Japan operated a formidable fleet of carriers before and during the Second World War (but has not had a fixed-wing carrier since) and India has operated aircraft carriers continuously since the commissioning of the original INS Vikrant in 1961. Thailand also has a carrier, the HTMS Chakri Naruebet, although she is rarely out of port.

When these new carriers are eventually operational, however, it will be a notable proliferation and expansion of mobile naval aviation assets and power projection capabilities. These are the largest offensive vessels being built and commissioned in Asia today. Meanwhile, other countries are also pursuing helicopter-capable ships: Russia will deploy the first of its Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels to the Pacific Fleet, with an expected in-service date of 2014; South Korea is looking to expand its single Dokdo-class vessel by adding two more from 2014 and Australia is building two Canberra-class landing helicopter docks to enter service from next year.

This indicates a growing desire among Asia-Pacific countries to be able to protect their overseas interests. It also suggests a shift in the region towards power projection capabilities, as more of these countries are increasingly able to afford the expensive warships needed to project a wide spectrum of capabilities beyond littoral waters. China and India now have the second and ninth largest defence budgets in the world, according to The Military Balance 2013.

This may not reflect a naval arms race in the region, but it does seem to suggest simultaneous and symmetric procurement programmes. As these navies increasingly operate in each other’s zones of influence, the possibility of military competition, both in procurement and presence, will naturally increase.

 

Douglas Barrie: High-speed weapons development quickens

Waverider

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Aircraft engine tests are commonplace, so running an air-breathing engine for 240 seconds hardly seems noteworthy. Unless, that is, this engine is propelling an object in excess of Mach 5, some 6,100 kilometres per hour at an altitude of 21km.

The air vehicle in question is the United States Air Force (USAF) X-51A Waverider scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine demonstrator. This is one of the more high-profile projects that are demonstrating renewed interest in high-speed propulsion research.

This success, alongside more mixed results from parallel high-speed research programmes, is helping to focus the Pentagon’s near-term ambitions for hypersonic weapons. The Defence Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) HTV-2 hypersonic glider programme – a contender for the US’s ‘Prompt Global Strike’ concept – was an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful effort. However, there is now the potential that the USAF and DARPA work together on high-speed weapons R&D covering both ‘boost-glide’ and ‘cruise’ designs.

The X-51A reached Mach 5.1 during a test at the beginning of May 2013. This fourth and final flight was deemed a ‘full mission success’ unlike earlier tests, which were only partially successful. (The second and third firings did not result in scramjet ignition.) A B-52H was used as the carrier aircraft for the trials. Following release at circa 15km, a solid-rocket booster powered the X-51A to Mach 4.8 before scramjet ignition. Only four X-51A flight tests vehicles were built, and the firing in May concluded the technology demonstrator programme.

Boeing and Pratt & Whitney (P&W) Rocketdyne were the industrial partners on the X-51A programme. Boeing’s Skunk Works was responsible for the air vehicle design, with P&W developing the SJY61 scramjet engine. This engine uses JP-7, a hydrocarbon-based fuel (as did the SR-71 Blackbird high speed reconnaissance aircraft) rather than the hydrogen fuel previously used for scramjet tests. Sustaining combustion in a supersonic airflow is a key challenge in scramjet design. In ramjet engines, air entering the intake is slowed to subsonic speed, easing the demand of ensuring combustion occurs. Scramjets offer higher velocities starting at Mach 5 and beyond, but require combustion within a supersonic flow. 

Scramjet engines have obvious utility in the development of high speed missiles. Indeed, the X-51A provided a building block for the USAF Research Laboratory’s High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) project. The objective is to begin test flights of a baseline missile design towards the end of this decade. A solicitation for a demonstration was, however, cancelled in May, with the air force stating that it is exploring an 'alternative' strategy.

The HSSW project is intended to provide a missile capable of long-range hypersonic cruise; a system that can engage fixed and re-locatable time-critical targets at speeds in excess of Mach 5. The design should be able to be carried internally on bomber-size aircraft, and externally on fighter-size aircraft.

The development of air-breathing high-speed cruise missiles has been a long-held goal, though interest and funding have been variable over the decades. But this interest exists beyond the United States. Russia, China, and most recently India are pursuing hypersonic research. In Europe, meanwhile, France continues to lead on high-speed air-breathing cruise missile research. (For more on this topic, see the essay on hypersonic missile research in The Military Balance 2013, pp. 25–28.)


Ben Barry: Afghanistan: The beginning of the endgame

Afghan Commandoes

‘For peace to have a chance in Afghanistan’, according to Ben Barry, IISS Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, ‘both the Afghan government and Taliban must feel confident that they can negotiate privately, and that the gap between their positions has narrowed sufficiently that they have some common ground on which to do deals.’

At a discussion meeting at the IISS on Thursday titled ‘The Endgame in Afghanistan’, Barry was hopeful that the prospects for successful negotiations, and a peace deal, could increase after the scheduled 2014 elections when a new president takes over.  

Barry’s assessments and insights on the factors that would influence the future of Afghanistan were informed by his recent trip to Kabul, the centrepiece  of which was observing President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announce ‘Milestone 13’, the beginning of the final stage of the Afghan transition. In this stage, military leadership of the campaign will move from the NATO Joint Command to General Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan Chief of the General Staff.

In his talk, Barry explored the continuing transition of security from NATO to Afghan leadership by 31 December 2014, analysed the progress of the Afghan government’s talks with the Taliban provided an in-depth assessment of the military dimensions of the transition, about which he was cautiously optimistic. However, he conceded that the great question mark was long-term political stability and legitimacy:

‘The Afghan endgame will be increasingly influenced by the political transition which will result from the 2014 Afghan presidential election’, Barry said. ‘I question whether there will be sufficient improvement in Afghan governance and a reduction in corruption to neutralise root causes of the insurgency.’

It was crucial, he warned, that government corruption was addressed so that Western aid to Kabul was not considered a waste, and that both the elections and the new government, after April 2014, were legitimate and credible in the eyes of the Afghan people.

In Barry’s assessment of strategic issues, he concluded that ‘the Afghan Army are probably strong enough to continue to hold the main cities and the key rural areas that were largely cleared of insurgents during the surge … The transition strategy does not require the insurgency to be eliminated, simply that it is reduced to such a level that it no longer poses an existential threat to the state and can be contained by Afghan forces.’

He explained that the challenge from Afghan insurgent groups is their ‘shared strategic objectives’ of expelling the International Security Assistant Forces (ISAF), overthrowing the current Afghan government and, for some groups, restoring a Salafist Islamic regime.  

‘Mounting spectacular attacks in Kabul seeks to shift the narrative in their favour,’ he said, and while he noted that the Taliban seemed to be increasing the intensity and frequency of attacks, he also stated that ‘the ANSF seem to be “holding the ring” against the insurgents, and doing so with far less NATO support on the ground than in previous years. If they can continue to do so for the rest of 2013, they will grow in capability and confidence.’

Barry observed that an important ‘known unknown’ will be the extent to which the Taliban’s narrative – that they are fighting to expel infidels from Afghanistan – will retain its credibility once US and NATO troops increasingly withdraw from combat operations and tactical mentoring.

Meanwhile, talks between the Taliban, Afghan government and the United States, intended to reach some form of political settlement, seemed to suffer another setback. Reports suggested that the Taliban had closed its Doha office after the group’s flag was removed by Qatar officials. The Afghan government and the United States had apparently objected to the flag being raised outside the office. They also objected to a plaque bearing the inscription of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which had been used by the Taliban in the 1990s.

But Barry believes the door has not shut completely. ‘In the short term, it is difficult to see common ground between Karzai and insurgent negotiators,’ he said.   

‘In Kabul, I got a feeling US and NATO countries’ entreaties to the Afghan government are coming close to being seen by many Afghans as hectoring born of political desperation for a clean end to the war.’

However, he said, a new president open to dialogue could be a game-changer. When the new president takes power after the 2014 elections, ‘there will have been a significant reduction in US and NATO combat troops, potentially eroding part of the Taliban’s legitimacy. If the ANSF continue to hold against the insurgents, these factors may create new opportunities for negotiation’.

Listen to the discussion >

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Douglas Barrie: Active engagement

stephen smith

By Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith's Address at the 12th Shangri-La Dialogue included comments on regional improvements in air-warfare capabilities.

Smith noted that the ‘advanced platforms’ introduced included ‘beyond visual range air-to-air missiles’, and cited a number of regional countries as improving their inventories, notably Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Between them, these countries field both Western and Russian air-to-air missiles (AAM). Active radar-guided weapons include the US AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range AAM (AMRAAM) and the Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder). Singapore and Malaysia are AMRAAM operators, while Vietnam and Indonesia are thought to maintain Adder inventories. Malaysia has also acquired the Adder, since it operates Russian as well as Western combat aircraft.

Compared to semi-active missile guidance, active radar-guided missiles offer an advantage in that they don't require the launch aircraft's radar to be used throughout the entire engagement. Once the missile is within acquisition range of the target using its own radar – a notional guide is in the order of ten nautical miles – the launch aircraft can be manoeuvred away from the target aircraft. Semi-active guidance, meanwhile, requires the launch aircraft to illuminate the target until the engagement is complete, exposing it to greater risk in a missile exchange.

The Russian R-77 may have been the prompt for Washington to allow the release of the AMRAAM to selected Southeast Asian states during the first decade of this century. In the region as a whole these systems are joined by China's PL-12, Beijing's first successful attempt – with Russian support in key areas – to develop a medium range active radar-guided AAM. The PL-12 arguably performs better than the basic version of the R-77, and has a crude range advantage over early versions of the AIM-120. The PLA Air Force began to field the PL-12 around 2005. It already operated the R-77 as part of the armament of its Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter aircraft. Improved variants of the PL-12 are also in progress, including increasing the engagement range.

The PL-12, the improvements now in the pipeline, and further Chinese radar-guided missile programmes, are now likely the measure of guided-weapons needs for those acquiring Western radar-guided AAMs in the region, rather than Russia's Adder.

James Hackett: Re-examining space

By James Hackett, Editor, The Military Balance

France's Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, reminded panellists in the Shangri-La Dialogue’s Third Plenary session that space – which had up until that point had not featured in the discussion of military modernisation – was also an important military domain, much like land, sea, air and cyber. 

The Defence and Military Analysis (DMAP) team at the IISS has also been discussing the military benefits of space,  and the increasing emphasis that defence technology places on information sourced from space-based assets, such as timing, location, and guidance data. 

Some states are increasingly perceiving space as just one of the 'contested commons', to borrow a phrase from the United States’ 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. The proliferation of national space ambitions, and national space-based platforms, is well-documented, and many feature in the IISS’s  Military Balance. In recent years there has also been increasing focus on the development and deployment of capabilities designed to deny  or degrade states' ability to use space. These can include anti-satellite systems, micro-satellite operations, directed-energy weapons, and even electromagnetic pulse.  

Increasing access to space, and the spread of space technology, also mean that as the technological playing field levels out, states deploying advanced technologies are investing more to stay one step ahead of possible competitors.

However, it is also leading some states to take stock of their dependence on space. For instance, some recent US Air Force research and technology documents highlight the Pentagon's awareness that many of its systems depend on information from space-based assets. This is leading the Department of Defense to re-examine and reinforce established technologies that could reduce these vulnerabilities in weapons systems (such as guided weapons) possibly suitable for use in contested environments or those subject to anti-access/area denial strategies. Areas being considering include inertial guidance, including technologies like terrain mapping and the miniaturisation of atomic clocks – but there is also a focus on hardening existing technologies to minimise the risk of electromagnetic attack, or threats such as GPS degradation or spoofing. 

Ben Barry: An age of gloom for land forces?

US army

This week, the annual Land Warfare Conference – a joint venture between the British Army and Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) – is being held in London. In his conference paper, IISS Senior Fellow for Land Warfare Ben Barry examines the key land-capability lessons of recent wars, attitudes towards the utility of land forces, and the changes being made to US, British and French land forces.

In the US and NATO countries, the long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ‘eroded confidence in the utility of land forces’, he explains. Some US commentators have suggested that the US rebalance to Asia means that air, maritime, amphibious and special-forces capabilities are of greater use and less risky than land forces, while in the UK, ‘the statements of some politicians, officials and commentators suggest they consider Afghanistan and Iraq to have been so problematic that in most foreseeable scenarios British boots on the ground will not be required’.

Yet there remain many threats from groups that use force on land, for example insurgents in Latin America, Africa and Asia, he explains. ‘In parts of Brazil and Mexico, organised crime and narcotic gangs overmatch police, requiring extensive military support.' Many flashpoints could trigger armed conflict on land, including the Korean Peninsula and India’s borders with Pakistan and China.

‘This has triggered capability enhancements to the South Korean and Indian armies. Meanwhile, Brazil, Russia, India and China and Gulf states are converting part of their growing prosperity into improving their armies, and more UN peacekeepers are deployed on land than ever.’

British and French armies are reducing in size, and yesterday General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the US Army, announced the as part of its planned restructuring from a strength of 570,000 to 480,000 regular troops, the US Army would be reducing its number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 32, although the size of the remaining brigades would increase.

Barry notes that four key NATO forces – the US Army, the ground element of the US Marine Corps and the British and French armies – all seek to retain a combined arms combat, including infantry, armour, engineers and artillery. They also plan to retain the advances made over the last decade, such as precision artillery, air-land integration and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). But these plans, as well as the broader future capability of these armies, depend on budgets being sustained.

‘Given the White House and Congress’s difficulty in agreeing a way out of sequestration and the British government’s continued struggle to contain public spending, the sustained funding of planned UK and US land capability may be at risk,’ Barry concludes.

Read the full paper

James Hackett: Peacekeeping quietly on the agenda

Keynote Address: Nguyen Tan Dung

By James Hackett, Editor of The Military Balance

The Keynote Address of this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, delivered by the prime minister of Vietnam, was eagerly awaited by analysts of regional defence and political affairs.

Regional tensions remain central to discussions at the summit, especially in light of factors such as military modernisation, a lack of strategic transparency and competing territorial claims. However one sentence in particular drew approving nods from the guests on my dinner table. That was the prime minister's statement that Vietnam was to deploy personnel on UN peacekeeping operations for the first time.

In fact this announcement was not new. The UN Assistant Secretary-General for UN peacekeeping operations visited Hanoi in February, when Vietnam's intent to deploy on UN operations was announced. The prime minister's announcement, though, fleshed this out by stating that Vietnamese contingents would include military observers, engineering and medical assets.  Despatching these assets continues the pattern of East Asian states' deployments to UN operations; with limited exceptions these tend to be of engineering and medical units. (Exceptions include Mongolia's two infantry company detachments in South Sudan (UNMISS) and Malaysia's mechanised infantry units in UNIFIL in Lebanon.)

Regional attention to peacekeeping deployments were further highlighted during Indonesian defence minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro's speech in Plenary Session two, in which he referred to Indonesia's construction of a peacekeeping training centre one hour outside Jakarta. As of April 2013, East Asian states deployed 5,072 personnel on UN peacekeeping operations – China: 1,872; Malaysia: 956; Mongolia: 938; South Korea: 614; Cambodia: 369; Japan: 272; Brunei: 30; Thailand: 19; Singapore: 2.

But Vietnam's announcement comes at a time when peacekeeping is changing. The UN is in the midst of a 'New Horizon Initiative' to review peacekeeping, with a focus on capability improvement among other areas.

Early May 2013 also saw the General Assembly adopt the findings of a Special Advisory Group advocating an attempt to re-assess troop reimbursements. Deploying states have in the past had their contingents reimbursed by the UN, and experts have long considered this process in need of review; for instance, do the reimbursement rates match the actual cost to the deploying country? But peacekeeping is changing in other ways too. Speaking on 29 May 2013, UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon said that 'to meet emerging threats and rise to new challenges, United Nations peacekeeping is adjusting its policies to better fulfil its mandates to bring lasting peace to war-torn countries'. 

The announcement that the UN was setting up an intervention brigade for deployment to the Eastern Democatic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the strongest manifestation of Ban's desire. This was to be supported with advanced ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities, though the origin of these platforms, and whether the deploying ground troops would have experience in integrating ISR capabilities, remained unclear. Important also was the likely future UN mission in Mali, a country where there has yet been no peace agreement, and again where UN forces on a new mission would be entering a likely conflict zone. 

The DRC announcement drew some praise, but it could also complicate matters for other UN missions. If UN personnel are taking sides in one conflict, how will that be perceived by belligerents in other conflict-afflicted areas hosting UN missions? Also, the numbers planned for the Eastern DRC force, some 3,000, could have limited impact unless they have flexible and reliable airlift and logistics support; their planned area of operations is substantial.

Then there's the question of 'robust forces', as well as 'robust mandates', phrases often mentioned in the context of UN missions; many of the forces deployed lack the combat capabilities likely required to have real effect should the UN decide to undertake more operations of the type now discussed for the Eastern DRC. As an aside, there has been discussion that the armed forces of some western states, returning from major combat operations in Afghanistan, could see UN deployments as a way of retaining combat experience amidst national budgetary austerity. But there has been little progress in this regard; these forces would have access to a full range of combat, ISR, self-deployment and self-sustainment capacities that such missions often sorely need, but whether states could afford to deploy these is open to question – that is of course, if budget cuts allow them to retain the current wide spectrum of capability.

But perhaps more fundamentally, what does the UN now mean by the term peacekeeping, when the UN is considering intervention forces, and when missions are becoming more and more complex with development agendas and often including civilian staff and law enforcement personnel – the wonderful term 'multi-dimensional' is often used in this regard.

So it's an interesting time for Vietnam to announce participation in UN operations. Of course there's no indication that any Vietnamese contingent would be deployed on any of these 'new type' peacekeeping missions, but Hanoi will doubtless have been appraised of the ways in which the UN sees peacekeeping developing. Hanoi is, though, likely looking for other benefits. Its armed forces will gain useful experience by interacting and operating with partner nations on operations. The financial factors that might have historically interested some contributing countries are probably of little note in this case; likely more important are the signals that this decision sends out – in the region and internationally – about Hanoi's increasing levels of engagement and its desire to strengthen cooperation with international partners. But in doing so, Hanoi, and other states considering deploying forces to UN operations, will have to be mindful that peacekeeping is changing.


Christian Le Miere: An exercise in deterrence

Persian GUlf

By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

Although the Shangri-La Dialogue will hold much of the Institute’s – and international – attention over the coming week, the IISS will remain active on other issues.

Yesterday, the IISS’ Bahrain office held the NATO Gulf Strategic Dialogue, bringing together a range of practitioners and academics, and in just under a week the Geo-Economics and Strategy Programme will run a seminar on Oil, Gas and Maritime Security. 

The timing of these two sessions is not entirely coincidental. Just last week, the US Navy wrapped up its second annual two-week International Mine Counter-Measures Exercise (IMCMEX). Involving participants from 41 different countries, the exercises are essentially a form of deterrent diplomacy.

At its core, IMCMEX aims to demonstrate the compatibility and collaboration of allied forces, including Western nations such as the US, UK and France as well as Persian Gulf allies such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and other friendly forces, from as far afield as Australia and Canada. More than 6,500 servicemen and -women and 35 vessels participated in the seminars and training manoeuvres.

The exercises are also designed to deter Iran from laying mines by demonstrating that such an action would be futile. Previous threats by Tehran to close the Strait of Hormuz have focused attention on this potentially vulnerable chokepoint, but as the Institute has argued in a Strategic Comment on the topic, many tactical options, such as the use of anti-ship missiles or unconventional attacks to sink a tanker in the strait, are unpalatable to the Iranian regime – the former because it may only encourage retaliation along the lines of Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, the latter because it is indiscriminate and would harm Iran’s own oil exports. Perhaps the most feasible way to disrupt traffic in the Gulf – and for which Iran could more easily deny culpability – would be through the seeding of minefields, most likely in the northern Gulf.

IMCMEX is therefore intended to dissuade Iran from the effectiveness of this option, by suggesting that any mines would be rapidly and effectively cleared. It is also aimed at dispelling the notion that mine countermeasures are a weak area for the US Navy, which historically has been the case, and which encouraged it to rely on support from the Royal Navy for mine clearance.

There are also ancillary benefits: the US and other powers can build stronger alliances and greater capacity in the Gulf, still a key strategic area despite the much-vaunted US ‘pivot’ to Asia. Ultimately, however, the primary goal of the very public IMCMEX is to discourage Iranian adventurism, keep the Gulf’s shipping lanes open, and to avoid the expensive convoying and attrition on commercial shipping that accompanied the Tanker War in the 1980s.

The danger of such deterrent exercises is that they may encourage Iran to develop alternative technologies and tactics to disrupt traffic in the Gulf in the medium term. For the present, however, the US and its allies will continue to insist that Iranian mines would struggle to close the Gulf to traffic for any protracted period of time.

Christian Le Miere: China’s new maritime focus ‘not all bad’

Aircraft carrier

China has clearly turned its eyes to the sea in its new defence white paper, which for the first time officially suggests ‘safeguarding maritime rights and interests’ and ‘protecting overseas interests’. The fact that Beijing followed up these words with a naval excursion in March to the James Shoal (or Zengmu Reef), the southernmost point of its extensive claim to the South China Sea, has only increased the nervousness among its neighbours as to what its increasingly dominant presence in regional waters will mean.

But, IISS Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security Christian Le Miere counsels in a new piece for the East-West Center’s Asia Pacific Bulletin, China’s ‘return to the sea’ may not be all negative.

Beijing’s renewed naval focus has prompted a reorganisation of its maritime agencies, ‘merging four of the five “dragons” that have been at the forefront of its ongoing sovereignty disputes in the South and East China Seas’. With a unified command, our senior fellow argues, there is a clearer sense of who to call to ensure disagreements do not escalate. Similarly, Beijing will not be able to disavow the actions of its agencies.

Furthermore, ‘it is possible that China’s increasing strength could be directed towards beneficial outcomes’. Given its desire to ensure the security of shipping, for example, Beijing could be encouraged to assist in policing international maritime thoroughfares. Since its return to the sea is inevitable, encouraging Beijing to subscribe to current international maritime laws may be the best way forward.

Read the full article >

Giri Rajendran: Chinese-US defence spending projections

US China defense spending projections

By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics

In preparing the latest edition of the Military Balance, launched last week in London and this week in the United States, the IISS team behind the book decided to try an experiment. Since the United States and China are the world’s biggest spenders on defence, and China a distant second, we wanted to see when both countries’ defence spending might converge.

We based our projections on several hypothetical scenarios, including one in which the trend rates of defence-spending growth over the past decade in the US and China were to continue, and another in which Chinese defence-spending growth was constrained by an economic slowdown. (Looking at past examples, particularly the 1980s Latin American debt crisis, we assumed that China’s economy would start booming again by 2031.) The US budget sequester was another variable we had to factor in.

The bright red line in our finished graphic suggests that China might begin to spend as much as the US on defence as early as 2025 – provided the 15.6% average annual growth in China’s defence budget since 2001 continues into the medium term, while US defence-spending growth at average rates faces sequestration. However, should annual growth be held at the 10.7% increase officially announced by the Chinese for 2013, convergence might be expected to occur slightly later, perhaps around the mid-2030s.

How would these numbers change if the US rescinded sequestration and reverted to the FY13 budget plan submitted to Congress last year? Our graphic suggests this would delay convergence by around two or three years in each of our Chinese spending scenarios.

If one believes that the 15.6% increases of the last decade are indicative of the Chinese government’s intent, and the current lower levels of spending are necessitated only by the slowdown in general economic activity, then it might be plausible that rapid defence spending growth resumes after 2031, so that convergence could occur before 2050, as depicted here in the other two series of curves included in the graph.

Our graph does not cover the situation where the average annual growth in China’s defence budget fails to return to 15.6% growth after 2031, although this may well happen as the country wrestles with the higher retirement and healthcare costs required by its unusual demographic crisis and the Communist Party faces increasing demands for democratic freedoms from a growing middle class. To plot this scenario, you would need to pivot the relevant red line at its 2031 level, thereby lowering its slope to conclude that convergence is more likely to occur around the mid-2040s or beyond.

Of course, what the graph cannot tell us is when convergence is really going to occur. As one of dozens of graphics in the Military Balance 2013, it is merely a reference tool to provide a degree of insight over when convergence might reasonably be projected to happen. None of its conclusions is inherently right or wrong; they are all based on assumptions. As we say in the book, it features ‘indicative projections based on current trends; and on the balance of probabilities, any convergence is more likely to occur after 2028 rather than before, should it occur at all’.

Christian Le Miere: Why China sent its aircraft carrier to Qingdao

Liaoning arrives at Qingdao

By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

China’s recent announcement that it would base its first aircraft carrier in Qingdao, in the country’s north-east, surprised those who had watched a massive naval base being built from scratch on southern Hainan Island over the past decade and expected that showcase construction project to house the showcase vessel. Hainan’s Yulin base is a complex and modern facility replete with an underground submarine base. But there are other reasons for China to choose instead to base its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, with its North Sea Fleet at Qingdao.

Operationally, there are several units at or near Qingdao, in Shandong province, which could be used to build carrier-strike groups. The 2nd submarine flotilla is armed with Song-class submarines, which could provide subsurface patrol in coastal waters; the nearby 1st destroyer flotilla at Jiaonan could supply modern Type 051C destroyers with 48-cell vertical-launching systems for broad area air defence and new Type 054A frigates; and China’s first underground submarine base at Jianggezhuang, 25 kilometres east of Qingdao, is home to the Type 091 nuclear-powered submarine.

This alone is insufficient reason to base the carrier in Qingdao. Indeed, both the South Sea Fleet at Zhanjiang and the East Sea Fleet in Ningbo (just south of Shanghai) would have ample surface units that could forge carrier-strike groups if necessary. Indeed, these two fleets are equipped with more modern diesel-electric submarines and China’s most modern destroyers (Type 052C/D).

However, there is also a concentration of infrastructure and facilities in the northeast of the country to support the various elements of a complex aircraft carrier programme. The carrier itself was built in Dalian, on the other side of the Shandong peninsula and Bohai Gulf, while the J-15 carrier strike aircraft was developed at Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, north of Dalian. The first naval aviators were also trained at the Dalian Naval Academy. Both Dalian and Shenyang are in Liaoning province, after which the carrier is named.

Overlaying all of these considerations is the political element. By choosing the North Sea Fleet over the East Sea Fleet, China may be trying to avoid further aggravating Japan in the two countries’ ongoing dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Had Ningbo been chosen as the Liaoning’s home port, Taiwan may also have been concerned that the carrier would have had a swifter deployment to its east coast to provide alternative strike options.

Equally, had China chosen to base the aircraft carrier at Yulin on Hainan Island, rival claimants to the Spratly Islands, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, would have perceived an even greater threat from their northern neighbour. At its current location, the Liaoning is 1,000 and 2,500 km more distant from these flashpoints in the East and South China Seas respectively.

China has been keen to impress upon outsiders that its development of an aircraft carrier programme should not be seen as a threat. The basing of the Liaoning in Qingdao is just another part of this narrative.

Ben Barry: Future of the British Army

Soldiers standing on parade Defence Images

The institute’s Ben Barry has contributed to a piece published by the BBC today, asking how recently announced defence cuts will shape the British Army of the future. The restructured force will be cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017, while the number of reservists will double to 30,000.

Brigadier Barry, who left the army in October 2010, calls it the ‘most radical reorganisation for 50 years’.

‘The Army 2020 design [as the plan is called] displays many innovative ideas and structures,’ he writes, ‘reflecting many hard lessons of the Iraq and Afghan wars and the likely challenges of future land operations, particularly fighting “hybrid” enemies and the increasing requirement for urban operations.

‘The Army’s ability to build the capability of foreign armies by partnering and training with them will increase, helping the UK to prevent conflict and get “upstream” of future security challenges.

‘While new armoured vehicles, drones and helicopters are funded, the project relies on successful withdrawal from Afghanistan, and bringing back the weapons, vehicles and equipment there.

‘Increasing the effective strength of the reserves is achievable, but will require new thinking, cultural change in both the reserves and the regular Army and gaining the support of employers. While the regular Army is to contract by 2015, the reserves are not due to reach their full capability until 2018.

‘Decreasing opportunities for adventure and excitement could make it difficult to retain the brightest and best combat-hardened talent and to recruit sufficient new soldiers and officers.

‘Notwithstanding the reduction in size, the reforms have the potential to transform the Army’s remaining capability.

‘Success depends not only on the programme being properly led, managed, resourced and politically supported, but also on the government not committing the Army to new operations that overmatch its reducing size – particularly while it is still fighting in Afghanistan.’

Others giving their opinions on the changes include former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Prof John Gearson from King’s College London Centre for Defence Studies, and Nick Harvey, former Liberal Democrat armed forces minister.

Read the full article at the BBC

Douglas Barrie: Behind the Mali headlines, an issue of airlift

C17

By Douglas Barrie, James Hackett and Henry Boyd, Defence and Military Analysis Programme

Two weeks after sending troops to Mali to repel an advance by Islamist rebels, France has enjoyed much tactical success. French and Malian forces have retaken Timbuktu and Gao, and are now reported to have reached the last Islamist stronghold, Kidal. The main challenges ahead include sustaining these gains, bolstering the Malian military and improving governance.

But these tactical achievements come despite a continuing fragility within some French military capabilities: the limited availability of so-called ‘air platform force enablers’ in general, and a paucity of strategic airlift in particular. This general shortfall afflicts many other European countries, and in the case of strategic airlift is only now being fixed.

France’s armed forces have demonstrated rapid deployment, flexibility and mobility on the ground; they have planned and quickly executed air and ground missions requiring logistics support at distance. However, nearly two years after French forces were heavily involved in operations over Libya, Operation Serval in Mali is also highlighting areas in which France needs assistance.

France’s ability to rapidly deploy combat power has been aided in Serval by units and equipment at France’s African bases, including aircraft at Chad and Senegal. These bases have also allowed France to forward deploy combat aircraft. In the Libya operation, by contrast, France did not deploy ground units in number, and combat aircraft were able to fly on missions either from France’s aircraft carrier, or from airbases in France and Italy.

Given the distances involved in the Mali operation, France’s small fleet of KC-135 tanker aircraft was always going to be stretched, France’s C-160 tactical tanker/transports being of limited range. So, Washington’s agreement on Saturday (26 January) to provide US KC-135s to support the French mission will help French aviation to maintain a high sortie rate. This US support was available from the beginning during the Libya campaign.

Additional capacity has also been welcome in tactical intelligence, where the UK has deployed one of its five Sentinel ISR aircraft to Dakar, Senegal, to assist operations in Mali. Yesterday, London also offered to send up to 200 personnel to West Africa to train forces for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali. Seventy other British personnel are involved in the Sentinel deployment to Senegal, while an additional 40 may be included in the EU military training mission to Mali.

The most obvious concern, however, is airlift. Moving additional troops and equipment from France has highlighted Paris’s – and Europe’s – continuing lack of strategic lift.

In the first week of Operation Serval, France looked to the UK, Europe’s only operator of Boeing C-17s (pictured above), for assistance. It garnered support from Canada and the US for additional C-17 airlift. Private-sector Antonov An-124s were also used. The overall effort was coordinated by the European Air Transport Command which, despite its name, only covers France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. French Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall medium and tactical transport aircraft, as well as a Belgian C-130 and two German C-160s, have also been used. French air force Airbus A340 and A330 passenger aircraft transported military personnel. Intra-theatre air transport includes French Army Puma helicopters, with reconnaissance and fire support provided by Gazelle and Tiger helicopters.

One notable absentee is the A400M, an Airbus aircraft that should revamp Europe’s ability to provide rapid strategic lift in coming years. Although the first serial production aircraft was rolled out in French air-force colours earlier this month, it will not be delivered until mid-2013 – the first of 50 the air force has on order.

The seven-European-nation programme is at least four years late and is substantially over budget, but once it enters the inventories of the partners it ought to finally address a long-standing capability gap.

However, the A400M delay shows how procurement problems could be more than simply a costly embarrassment. That’s because European airlift capacity will also come under increasing strain during 2013–14, with the withdrawal of most combat forces from Afghanistan. In the midst of an Afghan drawdown, London may have found it considerably more difficult to free up C-17s to support the French mission, and large commercial transport carriers may also have been busier.

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