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Highlights Of OEWatch For September 2019

September 20, 2019

Each month the US Army’s think tank the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) publishes its open source OEWatch magazine as a free download on the APAN Community Network. The latest issue runs a hefty 74 pages with generous coverage on each of its five sections. Editorial duties are shared among Tom Wilhelm, Karen Kaya, and Thomas Tolare with broad input by a large pool of contributing writers.

The Eurasia section, being preoccupied with Russian military topics, offers a trove of entries. Found on pages 4 and 5 are short updates on new air defense weapons. It turns out the shoulder-fired 9K333 Verba MANPADs can be used as part of an integrated network, meaning targetting data is fed to the operator. This is the latest proof of how far ahead Russia’s anti-aircraft systems are compared to NATO. A troubling assessment of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile is on page 9 where it’s described as a “weapon of vengeance” for annihilating the enemy after a nuclear war.

Running more than 20 pages, the Eurasia section makes it clear Russia is still busy with modernizing its armed forces (new types of equipment are featured on pages 10 to 12), securing its Arctic claims, and building a solid relationship with China. The Indo-Pacific section that follows is just as rewarding for OEWatch devotees. Three back-to-back entries spanning pages 23 to 28 pore over Chinese weapon programs, including the PLA’s newest light tank and a mysterious amphibious hovercraft. On page 25, however, is a welcome entry on China’s premier stealth fighter. According to the author the J-20 is meant for a specific offensive role targetting aerial early warning and refuelling aircraft. This should give the US Navy and its regional allies pause.

The Middle East, North Africa section acknowledges Turkey’s growing role in the Middle East. There isn’t a conflict where it’s not involved in some way. But a short analysis on page 47 reveals a worrying development. It turns out China is ready to export its artificial intelligence (AI) expertise to at least two Gulf states, Qatar and the UAE. The implications are hard to discern but its impact on enhancing the power of two middling monarchies can’t be ignored.

The Africa section brings few surprises except on page 62 is a small news item about the UAE’s plans for a military base in Niger. This is more proof of the Emirates’ boundless ambitions outside the Arabian Gulf. Aside from its role in beating back the Houthis in Yemen, where it established a logistics network in the Arabian Sea, the Emirates also bankrolled Sudan’s fallen dictatorship and is trying to shape Libya’s future. Now that it wants a military footprint in Niger, this could be a sign of its role as a bulwark against ISIS and an ally for failed and failing states.

The Latin America section touches on the usual problems but a recurring trend in previous OEWatch issues is Colombia’s transition to peace. On page 69 is a speculative entry on the fringe terror group the ELN or “National Liberation Army” that may or may not be a proxy for Venezuela and another short article on page 71 takes stock of the FARC peace deal. This month’s issue is crammed with detail and comes highly recommended for its multitude of entries.

OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers should download their own copies and find content that’s most relevant to their curiosity and interest.

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