Wires Brief: Trump muddles invasion of Venezuela; Israeli soldiers suffer phone hacks from Hamas; China sets lasers to stun

5 July 2018 – Cambridge, UK

by Robert Grayston

United Kingdom

The UK has started talks with Sweden about joint jet fighter development. A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said, “The combat air strategy will be launched to ensure Britain maintains a world-leading combat air capability.” This announcement comes after the Franco-German joint fighter programme to which the UK was not invited, despite involvement with its key developers.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said that the US/UK ‘special relationship’ is at risk unless the UK commits to additional defence spending. In a letter sent to his British counterpart Gavin Williamson, Mattis said “It is in the best interest of both our nations for the UK to remain the US partner of choice,” implying that the UK should exceed the NATO spending target of 2% at a time when armed forces funding in the UK is a difficult topic for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Europe

Russian military research is turning to blockchain to help in the theatre of cyber warfare. A dedicated research laboratory will be launched, with a team of information security specialists who hope to improve detection and prevention of cyber-attacks.

A report to the French National Assembly has revealed that France’s military exports fell in 2017, down by over 50% on 2016. Although a significant decrease, it is a return to historic levels, which have been otherwise skewed by large contracts for Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft.

MEPs have endorsed the foundation of a new fund to boost innovation in EU defence. The €500 million budget will be available for 2019-2020, and includes eligible areas for development such as remotely piloted systems, satellite communications, and cyber security.

North America

American President Donald Trump has demanded that NATO allies spend more on defence or face the withdrawal of US military forces. He sent letters to the leaders of several NATO countries, including to Angela Merkel of Germany in which he said, “Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their spending commitments.”

It has emerged that President Trump suggested an invasion of Venezuela to advisors during a meeting about diplomatic responses to the South American country. Aides were surprised by his suggestion and he was persuaded not to follow through with a military solution, after he had consulted with several Latin American leaders who said a US invasion would not be welcome.

Raytheon have won a contract to design a vehicle-mounted laser system which could eliminate projectiles such as rockets and artillery shells. The vehicle in question is not designed for front-line combat and the lasers are not intended to be used as offensive weaponry. Once the design process is over the army intends to put out to tender a $130 million development contract for the laser system.

Africa

Islamist militants attacked an African military taskforce base in Mali, leaving at least six people dead. The base is used by G5 Sahel, a cooperative operation by forces from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania to help combat Jihadist elements in the Sahel region. The attack comes a month before the Malian presidential election.

Middle East

Iran has threatened to block the Straits of Hormuz, prompting a response from the United States which mentioned military involvement. The situation has arisen out of the USA’s imminent sanctions on Iranian oil, with a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer saying, “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”

Turkey is to sell four corvettes to Pakistan, with a statement from Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli saying the deal is “the largest defence export of Turkey in one agreement.” So far four corvettes have been commissioned and a fifth is under construction. The corvettes will fulfill several roles including anti-submarine duties, reconnaissance and air defence.

Israeli soldiers have had their phones compromised by the militant group Hamas after accessing various apps. Two dating and one World Cup app were made available on the Google Play store and filled with malware to steal personal data, as well as access cameras and microphones. Around 100 members of the Israeli Defence Force are believed to have downloaded the apps.

Asia-Pacific

Australia’s $195 billion defence modernisation initiative is being used to foster closer ties with European powers in the current climate of US unpredictability. A lot of new Australian equipment such as frigates, submarines and armoured vehicles will be German, British and French technology. “If US leadership is going through a turbulent phase then it makes sense to have greater industrial engagement with Britain, Germany and France,” said Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

A Chinese firm has supposedly developed a handheld laser weapon system. Although detractors have doubted its capability, the company has posted videos showing the device in use where it successfully sets fire to several different objects. Skeptics remain unconvinced, with one tech industry website stating, “Such a laser may prove incapable of even popping a balloon.”

Japan is to purchase Lockheed Martin systems for its latest missile defence, according to an anonymous Japanese Defence Ministry official. Two Aegis Ashore batteries will be deployed by 2023 to help upgrade its current defence against possible Chinese or North Korean attacks. Lockheed officials have yet to officially confirm the news.

Social media wires

The Canadian contingent to Mali is preparing for its deployment.

Iraqi cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi has played a concert for “peace and co-existence” amid the ruins of Mosul.

 

Feature photo –S-125 Pechora-2M in Caracas, Venezuela on 5 March 2014 during the commemoration of Hugo Chavez’s death – Wikimedia, 2018

The Wires Brief is a weekly breaking news report incorporating wire service news and social media updates. DefRep can not verify the authenticity of social media reporters nor the accuracy of social media updates.

Robert Grayston is DefenceReport’s marketing coordinator and occasional contributor. His most recent experience has involved security policy work for a member of the Shadow Defence team in the British Parliament. He can be emailed at rgrayston@defencereport.com