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Highlights Of OEWatch For May 2020

May 31, 2020

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. OEWatch’s May issue is longer than average at 89 pages divided among five sections spanning Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, MENA, Africa, and Latin America. Editorial duties are shared among Tom Wilhelm, Karen Kaya, and designer Thomas Tolare with input by a large pool of contributing writers.

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What Does The USA Mean By “Peace Through Strength”?

May 29, 2020

USS Theodore Roosevelt. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In a scathing document released a week ago the Trump administration laid down its new rules for dealing with China. Titled United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China and 16 pages long, the People’s Republic is singled out as an economic competitor; a military rival; and an authoritarian state bent on subverting liberal democracy. Each of these challenges are detailed along with four strategies the US government at large will pursue to deter its main geopolitical adversary in the long run. While the four strategies elaborated by Washington, DC, are crafted like slogans, e.g. “Promote American Prosperity,” only one of them should give Beijing pause.

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Japan Is Preparing Its Cyberwarfare Defenses

May 28, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Many aspects of Japan’s national security priorities for this year haven’t received enough attention. These can be found in the public document Defense Programs and Budget of Japan – Overview of FY2020 Budget Request (available for download here) and the parts that deal with cyber matters are worth exploring. Japan’s national security is now being geared to face imminent threats from its neighbors, with China foremost and a lesser risk presented by North Korea. In its latest budget request the defense ministry (MOD) wants the SDF to have the resources for cross-domain operations. Found on page 6 of the document is the full scope of their ambitions.

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COVID-19 Is Accelerating The China-USA Cold War

May 26, 2020

On May 20 the Trump administration and the Department of Defense (DOD) released a 16 page report titled United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China that explained the reasons behind the new cold war reshaping global order. The report made it explicitly clear the US has no intentions to undermine or replace China’s government. Instead, four strategies are being readied to blunt China’s unstoppable rise. These are needed to roll back three challenges posed by China to US hegemony: unfair trade practices, an authoritarian system that subverts liberal democracy, and a dangerous arms race.

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Armored Cars: Minotor Service Cayman

May 25, 2020

Via BelTechExport.

Since it was unveiled by the vehicle manufacturer Minotor Service the Cayman has become symbolic of Belarus’ emerging status as an arms exporter. Even if records of its foreign sales are vague the seven ton 4×4 is already in service at home alongside other protected trucks. A lot of commentary about this vehicle traces its origins to the Soviet vintage BRDM scout cars but the Cayman has little in common with its supposed ancestors. In form and function it’s closer to the German-made Fennek recce vehicle albeit with fewer modular features. The main selling point of the Cayman is its unique status as a vehicle whose parts are made exclusively in Belarus.

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Chinese Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarines Are A Growing Menace

May 22, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

The report titled China Naval Modernization: Implications For US Naval Capabilities published by the Congressional Research Service in April made for sober reading. In its concluding remarks the author pointed out a “substantially reduced US advantage” in overall naval strength and predicted the Chinese navy may “draw even with or surpass” its main rival in the Asia-Pacific. This is supported by open source data on the PLAN’s expansion driven by its new battle force ships. An understated detail from the same report is China’s gradual ascent to the exclusive quartet of countries that manufacture nuclear-powered attack submarines or SSNs.

The Type 093 or Shang/Shang II-class SSN is the PLAN’s future in subsurface warfare. But so little is known about it (hence the stock image above) that a proper analysis can’t be done at present.

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This South Korean Machine Gun Could Be Going Places

May 21, 2020

Via S&T Motiv.

In October 2019 the South Korean manufacturer S&T Motiv teased its latest military product on its Youtube channel. To stay ahead of trends in small arms design the company updated its well-known lightweight machine gun and rebranded it the K-15. S&T Motiv is the main supplier of small arms to the South Korean military and has seen its fortunes rise as other countries snapped up its assault rifles and machine guns. Its well-known K3 machine gun is a variant of the popular FN Herstal Minimi and is the primary squad automatic weapon for both the ROK Army and the Philippine Army.

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Syrian Civil War: Russia To The Rescue

May 21, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

A new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) provides a broad overview of Russia’s intervention that turned the tide in the Syrian Civil War. Packed with skilled analysis and an abundance of detail, the 116 pages of Moscow’s War In Syria is very useful for either a general audience or serious researchers and is available as a free download. The six main chapters inside it serve as lengthy discussions of Russia’s commitment to its beleaguered ally since the crucial 2015 intervention that saved the Assad regime. The third chapter The Military Campaign gives a chronological account of combat operations organized by Russia that decimated the Syrian “opposition.”

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Japan Is Experimenting On Electromagnetic Artillery

May 18, 2020

Via Japan MOD.

A scheduled visit by Japan’s defense minister to the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA) in March revealed the extent of its R&D as Tokyo raises its military spending. A particular image featuring Defense Minster Taro Kono standing behind an electromagnetic launch device connected to a large power source was taken inside ATLA’s Ground Systems Research Center. No further details were shared about Kono’s impressions on the object but it’s now apparent Japan isn’t getting itself left behind by its neighbors when it comes to exploring applications for rail guns.

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The US Is Furious Over An Expiring UN Arms Embargo

May 16, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

On July 15, 2015, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2231 in accordance with the JCPOA that had just been negotiated between Iran and five world powers. Resolution 2231 was a follow-on arms embargo prohibiting the export of weapon systems to Iran and the sale of the country’s military products anywhere. The resolution terminates on October 2020 or five months from today. While the UN and the JCPOA signatories judged Iran in compliance with the historic accord that halted its work on a nuclear weapon there was no adverse impact on Iran’s domestic military technology. Since 2015 Iran developed some very sophisticated equipment for is armed forces without relying on foreign partners.

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Armored Cars: RIDA Buran

May 15, 2020


A refreshing outlier among today’s armored trucks is the Buran from a Russian automaker that specializes in modified luxury cars. This particular model was unveiled in 2019 and is now being advertised for exports. Its appearance subscribes to the aesthetics for a tough off-road vehicle, which it is, but what really sets it apart are its broad variants. The Buran can fit as many as 10 people–two in the cab with eight passengers behind them–or assume the role of an ambulance without passing for a 15 ton MRAP. In fact, a fully loaded Buran is still lighter than a tactical 4×4 at just 9.8 tons.

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The Philippine Air Force Needs To Level Up

May 13, 2020

The PAF operates a dozen FA-50 lead-in fighters.

The impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated two powerful trends that will shape the 21st century. First is the outsized role of China in world affairs. Second is the relative decline of the United States as an unchallenged superpower whose status depends on overwhelming military strength. The coming months are going to be tense as China and the US try resolving their differences by force, even if it means just moving aircraft and ships into theaters where armed conflict might break out.

This is bad news for the Philippines and its modern history shows why.

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