May 11, 2021
Putin is looking abroad for an enemy as he feels the heat at home, Pentagon orders small Israeli drones for indoor special operations, Spain seeks to unify industrial base for missile systems, US deploying B-52s, F/A-18s to protect troops withdrawing from Afghanistan amid high levels of violence.
HERE ARE THE TOP INDUSTRY AND WORLD STORIES
Putin is looking abroad for an enemy as he feels the heat at home (Business Insider)
• Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kiev on Thursday as part of a new push from the Biden administration to show support for Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s recent military action on the border.
• Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and emphasized the US’s commitment to the country.
• Washington is “actively looking at strengthening even further our security cooperation and our security assistance,” Blinken said, adding that while most of the Russian troops deployed to the border had been withdrawn, “significant forces remain.”
• “We are monitoring the situation very, very closely,” Blinken said alongside Zelenskiy, according to Reuters. “And I can tell you, Mr. President, that we stand strongly with you, partners do as well. I heard the same thing when I was at NATO a couple of weeks ago and we look to Russia to cease reckless and aggressive actions.”
• Blinken’s visit to Ukraine is no doubt a calculated response by the Biden administration to Russia’s deployment of nearly 100,000 troops along the shared border last month.
• While Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to unwind that deployment a few weeks later, it drew international rebuke and led to weeks of uncertainty and heightened tensions worldwide.
• It’s this tension that led President Joe Biden to send the seasoned diplomat to Kiev.
• Blinken, who was deputy national security advisor from 2013 to 2015 and deputy secretary of state from 2015 to 2017, is no stranger to Putin’s antics. He played an important role in the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the aftermath of the Ukrainian Revolution in early 2014.
Pentagon orders small Israeli drones for indoor special operations (Defense News)
• The Pentagon has awarded Israeli company Xtend a contract to deliver dozens of small unmanned aerial systems for use indoors and in urban environments by special forces in the Navy, Marine Corps and Army.
• The department ordered the Skylord Xtender in partnership with the Israeli Defense Ministry. Xtend did not provide the value of the contract.
• The system is one of several drones produced by Xtend, which also makes the Skylord Griffon UAV meant to destroy other drones — a capability recently demonstrated at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The system is already operational with Israeli special forces.
• Xtend describes its products as “optimized for the urban warfare challenges, including Close Quarters Battle (CQB) counter drone (C-UAS) interception counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) missions, and subterranean (Sub-T) operations.”
• Xtender is designed for indoor use, which is an issue many drone operators are facing as they seek to penetrate buildings while not risking the lives of troops in an environment where IEDs may be present or enemies could be hiding.
• The Xtender provides situational awareness using 3D video and navigation as well as gesture control and artificial intelligence, according to a video by the company.
Spain seeks to unify industrial base for missile systems (Shephard News)
• Consolidation in the Spanish missile systems sector was non-existent before the arrival of the SMS initiative.
• Escribano Mechanical & Engineering announced on 10 May that it has joined forces with GMV and SENER Aeroespacial to establish ‘a relevant industrial player in the missile systems sector’ with the SMS initiative.
• The partnership agreement aims to address ‘the needs of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces, and represent national interests in international cooperation projects’, Escribano added.
• CEO Angel Escribano said the company would apply its experience in guidance and navigation of intelligent munitions, and it will also include vision technologies in the visible and IR spectrum.
• He added that consolidation in the missile systems sector was ‘previously non-existent’ in Spain.
• SMS was established in March 2021 to consolidate the Spanish defence industrial base and national technological expertise in missile systems and high-performance guided munitions.
• SENER Aeroespacial has experience in European missile and rocket programmes such as Taurus, Meteor, IRIS-T/IRIS-T SL and RBS 70.
US deploying B-52s, F/A-18s to protect troops withdrawing from Afghanistan amid high levels of violence (Janes)
• The United States is deploying additional military aircraft to bolster protection for US and coalition troops making their final withdrawal from Afghanistan as the fighting between Afghan government troops and the Taliban continues at a high level.
• “To maximise force protection, we have bolstered our security with additional firepower. The SECDEF [US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin] has directed six additional B-52 long-range strike bombers and a package of 12 fighter-bombers, F[/A]-18s, postured to offer contingency support,” US Army General Mark A Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), said during a 6 May briefing.
• Moreover, Austin, who also took part in the briefing, has “extended [the presence of] the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group” in the Middle East to help cover the troop pullout, which is set to be completed “no later than September”, added the general.
• “We came in with our allies and we will depart with our allies, shoulder-to-shoulder, and together we are all going to execute a fully co-ordinated, synchronised retrograde in good order,” said the JCS chairman, adding that so far the pullout is going “according to plan”.
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WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
Cautious goodbye kiss to Covid curbs (Telegraph)
• Boris Johnson last night signalled an end to “government edicts” on Covid and told people to start using their common sense after England recorded no deaths from the virus for the first time since last summer.
• The prime minister confirmed that the biggest easing of restrictions would go ahead as planned on Monday with people allowed to hug friends and family for the first time in more than a year.
• Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve inside, pupils can ditch masks in schools, theatres and cinemas can open again and hotels welcome overnight guests back. Care home residents will be able to have five visitors instead of two.
• Johnson also confirmed that compulsory social distancing was likely to end next month, as reported by The Times, promising an announcement within three weeks.
• Urging people not to “throw caution to the wind”, Johnson began handing risk judgments back to individuals as the government aimed to replace public health law with guidance. Four deaths were reported yesterday in Wales and none in the other three home nations, the first time this had happened in England since July 31.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
Hitachi told to pay compensation bill for rail chaos (Telegraph)
• Ministers are demanding that Hitachi picks up the multi million-pound bill for passenger compensation after some of Britain’s busiest rail lines were hit by mass cancellations due to faulty trains.
• Passengers endured a third day of significant disruption on intercity services to the north and west as investigators continued their probe into the threat of faults on Hitachi trains. Two InterCity 225 trains built in the early 1990s will be brought back into service later this week by LNER, the state-owned east coast main line, in response to the problems.
• The Government said the Agility consortium that owns the trains and is led by Hitachi must “fully compensate the taxpayer”.
• Thousands of passengers are in line to claim refunds. Telegraph analysis of pre-pandemic revenues indicates the daily cost is between £1m and £2m.
• The cancellation of rail franchising last September by Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, means taxpayers – rather than operators – would typically be on the hook to refund customers.
• However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We expect those who have the contractual performance and train availability obligations, including Agility Trains, to fully compensate the taxpayer. We are currently assessing options to ensure taxpayers do not bear the burden.”
• Whitehall officials and industry leaders are reviewing options to find replacement trains in case the fault cannot be fixed quickly.
• Prior to the pandemic annual revenues at Great Western Railway and LNER were £1.4bn and £782m respectively – equivalent to a combined £6m a day.
• With passenger volumes running at roughly 30pc of pre-crisis levels, this means as much as £2m each day may need to be refunded. Given that the revenues include some non-intercity services, the figure is likely to be lower, but could still be in excess of £1m.
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