RAF Typhoon In Romania Scrambles To Intercept Russians For First Time

An RAF Typhoon based in Romania has scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft flying over the Black Sea for the first time.

The jet, operating out of Mikhail Kogalniceanu Air Base, was launched after Russian TU-22 bombers were spotted heading south near NATO airspace.

The Typhoon monitored the Russian Tupolevs whilst they flew over the Black Sea, close to the Romanian border, but they did not come into visual contact with each other.

NATO had tracked the aircraft before identifying them as Russian.

As soon as it was determined that they were flying close to NATO airspace, the Typhoon jet was scrambled to shadow the bombers.

Wing Commander Lewis Cunningham, Officer Commanding 3(F) Squadron said:

“It worked as we would have expected it to. We took down the details, ran to the aircraft and I took off within the prescribed timeline. It’s satisfying. We spotted that there was something happening and then very quickly the ‘phone call came and we were running out of the door.”

For the past three months, four RAF fast jets have been deployed on the frontline to Romania as part of NATO’s Air Policing mission.

They have been sent to bolster the alliance’s air defence along its eastern flank and to intercept any aircraft that strays into NATO airspace.

Source: Forces Network.

European firms clash with US over pipeline

Sanctions bill could force European giants, including Shell, to pull out of project or face US ‘scarlet letter’

Several leading European companies will be forced to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia or face crippling sanctions under US legislation. Berlin and Brussels have threatened retaliation if Washington presses ahead with sanctions agreed in Congress over the weekend.

A RAFT of top European companies will be forced to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia or face crippling sanctions under draconian legislation racing through the US Congress.

Berlin and Brussels have threatened retaliation if Washington presses ahead with penalties on anything like the suggested terms, marking a dramatic escalation in the simmering transatlantic showdown over America’s extraterritorial police powers.

A consortium of Shell, Engie, Wintershall, Uniper, and Austria’s OMV, is providing half the €9.5bn (£8.5bn) funding for the 760-mile pipeline through the Baltic Sea to Germany. “This is a spectacular interference in internal European affairs,” said Isabelle Kocher, the director-general of Engie in France.

The wording of the US legislation is so broad that it could sweep up dozens of other companies in different ways. “The measures could impact a potentially large number of European companies doing legitimate business,” said the European Commission.

An internal note by the Commission said the EU should “stand ready to act within days” if the US imposes sanctions unilaterally without first securing some degree of consent from the European side.

Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline, OGZPY Nord Stream Map, Gazprom.

Hubertus Heil, general-secretary of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), called the bill a naked attempt by “America-first” forces to seize market share for coming deliveries of US liquefied natural gas. “It is an attack on the basic principle of free trade. Europe must give a strong, united answer to this,” he said.

The House and Senate in Congress reached a deal on the Russian sanctions over the weekend, with slight changes to the text.

The White House has signalled that Donald Trump will not veto the bill, even though it locks in a hostile relationship with Russia for years to come.

The text calls for close consultation with European allies before the sanctions trigger is pulled, but said nothing about the EU itself. Washington sources say this was deliberate.

The Nord Stream project is bitterly opposed in Poland, where it is seen as a sweetheart deal between Berlin and the Kremlin at the expense of allies – and is known as the Molotov-ribbentrop pipeline. It brings no new gas to Europe. It merely switches supply from existing pipelines through Poland and Ukraine, depriving these countries of strategic leverage.

It is hard to see how Brussels can forge ahead with meaningful retaliation when the EU itself is bitterly divided, especially if it was seen to do so at the behest of Germany and Austria. A showdown with the US over this particular issue would deepen what is already a dangerous line of cleavage. It would further undermine emotional and political consent for Nato in Washington at a time when the security guarantee is already coming under scrutiny.

The original draft of the US bill, passed last month by 97:2 in the Senate, captured the mood of anger in both the Democratic and Republican Parties over the Kremlin’s attempt to subvert US democracy through cyber-warfare.

Section 232 of the bill states that entities continuing to take part in the “construction of energy export pipelines” – or merely providing services,

equipment and technology – will be vulnerable to sanctions.

It is almost suicidal for any company with global operations to ignore this threat. Shell, Engie, and others have listings on the New York stock exchange, as well as assets in the US sphere of influence.

An elite cell at the US Treasury has perfected the art of “the boa constrictor’s lethal embrace”, as the creator of the unit described it. The method is to cut off the lifeblood of offenders by using America’s hegemonic control of the world’s dollarised financial system.

A “scarlet letter” under the US Patriot Act can bring a company to its knees even if it operates outside the United States.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attended an emergency meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, in Moscow, over fears that U.S. sanctions may hurt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.. Credit line: Profimedia.com.

The sanctions bill does not automatically impose penalties. This will require an executive order by the White House, but the president is under such political pressure over Russia that he may be constrained to act.

“Nobody wants to end up on the wrong side of a sanctions list. The mere prospect is enough to shut down financing even if the power is never actually used,” said Professor Alan Riley from the Institute for Statecraft.

While the language covers all pipelines – and could embroil Washington in a conflict with Beijing over Russiachina deals – it is obvious that the real target is Nord Stream 2.

The text states explicitly that the project damages the security of energy supply in Europe – rather than enhancing it as claimed by Berlin and Brussels – and it is an open secret on Capitol Hill that the purpose is to shut down Nord Stream 2 once and for all.

Thierry Bros, from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, says US pressure would ultimately backfire. “They can make life difficult for European companies, and it is China that will profit as usual. But there are lots of ways round this,” he said.

“The Commission is starting to understand that it must bite back. Do we decide our own energy policy in Europe or do we let Washington decide,” he said.

Yet Germany’s passion for the venture is peculiar. Nord Stream 2 will double flows through four pipelines together in shallow Baltic waters – less than 20 meters deep in places – increasing the share of EU gas imports vulnerable to terrorist attacks and drone strikes. It creates a “Straits of Hormuz” risk.

The sea is littered with unexploded ordinance from the two world wars. Nord Stream 1 was briefly closed in 2015 when the Swedish navy discovered a mine nearby.

Fears of LNG gas arriving from America make no sense either. It is precisely this source of global gas supply that has broken the Kremlin’s monopoly in Europe and forced Gazprom to slash prices.

Ian Bond, a former British ambassador in the Baltic states and now at the Centre for European Reform, said conspiracy theories that Washington is trying to push its own exporting agenda as an energy superpower makes no sense. The pipeline adds no extra gas. It reroutes gas. “It is nonsense. From the Russian perspective Nord Stream 2 has always been a purely political project,” he said.

Source: The Daily Telegraph.

German minehunter Sulzbach-Rosenberg joining NATO mine countermeasures group

German Navy’s Frankenthal-class minehunter FGS Sulzbach-Rosenberg will be joining NATO’ Standing Mine Counter Measure Group 1 (SNMCMG1) operating in the Baltic and North Seas, the German Navy has announced.

The minehunter is set to depart its home port of Kiel, Germany, on July 28 to spend the following five months with the NATO maritime group.

Sulzbach-Rosenberg is expected to formally join the SNMCMG1 in a ceremony scheduled to take place in the Latvian city of Liepaja on July 30. The ship will be joining its Latvian, English and Dutch counterparts to form the backbone of the group.

SNMCMG1 Flagship, Latvian MCM command and support ship LVNS Virsaitis.

Led by Corvette Captain Pierre Limburg, the minehunter’s 45 strong crew will be taking part in a number of international exercises including Open Spirit, Joint Warrior and Northern Coasts

Throughout its deployment, the ship will be home to a five-man diving team from Lithuania.

SNMCMG1 is currendly led by Latvian Commander Gvido Laudups from aboard the support ship Virsaitis.


Russian-Chinese naval drills in Baltic Sea to enter active phase

Russian-Chinese naval exercise Joint Sea-2017 in the Baltic Sea will enter into the active stage on Tuesday, the Baltic Fleet’s spokesman Roman Martov told TASS.

Russian and Chinese ships participating in the drills are leaving the Baltiysk base for designated areas in the Baltic Sea, he said. On Tuesday the personnel will practice artillery fire at surface and air targets.

China delegated three ships for participation in the exercise – the destroyer Hefei, frigate Yuncheng and supply vessel Lomahu.

Chinese Type 052D Missile Destroyer Hefei conducts live fire drills with its Type HPJ38-130 mm naval gun.

The Russian Navy is represented by two corvettes – Steregushchy and Boiky – and the salvage tug SB-123. Different phases of the exercise will involve multi-role deck helicopters Ka-27, tactical frontline bombers Sukhoi-24, military transport planes Antonov-26 and helicopters based on the Chinese ships.

During the active phase of the exercise to be held on July 25-27 Russian and Chinese sailors will practice joint anti-sabotage, anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense measures and assistance to a ship in distress.

Source: TASS Russian News Agency.



Polish F-16s and The Air War Against The Islamic State: REPORT.

Polish Air Force F-16 Jets Log More than 1,500 Hours in Support Of Operation Inherent Resolve Against Daesh.

Little is known about the missions carried out by the Polish Air Force F-16 Block 52+ combat aircraft deployed to the Middle East in support of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

According to the report issued by the Polish Altair.com.pl media outlet, the four Polish F-16s, that are restricted to the reconnaissance role using the DB110 recce pod, have logged more than 1,500 hours of flight time.

The F-16 operations in Kuwait, carried out by the Polish Air Force within the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), are supported by 150 military.

Interestingly, according to the Polish officers deployed in theater, quoted by Altair, while conducting their sorties, the Polish F-16 pilot also got a chance to encounter some non-coalition aircraft: this, undoubtedly, contributes to the amount of combat experience gained during the Kuwaiti deployment, even though, at least officially, the Polish fighter aircraft do not carry ordnance other than the air-to-air weaponry required for self-defense purposes. Indeed, at least according to the few photos recently released by the U.S. Air Force, the Polish F-16s carry 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM and 2x AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, two drop tanks along with the DB110 recce pod and the Sniper XR targeting pod.

A Polish air force maintainer looks on as an F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to taxi for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

Notably, throughout the recent period we have observed a major spike in activities undertaken by the Polish Air Force, with the F-16 platform. Not only were the Łask Air Base pilots deployed to Kuwait in a reconnaissance role, but beginning on May this year, a detachment of Polish F-16 jets from the Poznan-Krzesiny Air Base were deployed to the Baltic to take over the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing duties so far usually assigned to the Polish MiG-29 aircraft from either the Malbork, or the Minsk Mazowiecki Airbase.

A Polish air force pilot performs preflight checks in an F-16 Fighting Falcon before taxiing for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

This may be due to different reasons.: maybe the Polish Air Force looks to transition most of the combat duties to its modern assets, or this is a mere political gesture, showcasing the involvement of the most modern Polish aircraft abroad, in order to flex some muscles.

Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that the Polish, domestically based, F-16s are currently stationed at the Krzesiny AB, while Łask Air Base undergoes runway maintenance works, with the strip being extended to accommodate a C-5 Galaxy aircraft: according to the rumors, Łask is going to become a major NATO hub on the Eastern Flank.

A Polish air force maintainer looks on as an F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to taxi for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

Source: The Aviationist.

BALTOPS 17 Roundup:

What A Modern Beach Landing Operation In The Baltic Region Would Look Like:

BALTOPS 2017 was the largest military exercise organized in the Baltic region this year. The operation was held by the STRIKFORNATO (SFN) command, with Poland acting as the host nation.

More than 40 vessels have entered the ports of Stettin and Świnoujście on Jun. 1, with some of them being accessible to the visitors. Three days later, the aforesaid units sailed out, where the sailors perfected their interoperational abilities.

The whole operation ended up on Jun. 18, in Germany. The BALTOPS has taken place regularly, in the Baltic Sea region, since 1972. Initially, the operation only involved the NATO forces; beginning in 1993, members of the former Warsaw Pact were also invited to participate, Poland being no exception in that regard.

Since 1993 BALTOPS has become a part of the Partnership for Peace program. Currently the operation has a multinational profile and places a particular emphasis on training in the areas of gunnery, replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), radar tracking & interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.

AAV-7 (LVTP-7) Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
Polish Marines dismount from a BMP-1.

This year, the operation involved forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the United States (here we are also referring to the vessels of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1).

The Polish Navy was involved in the BALTOPS operation for the 27th time this year. The main naval component of the Polish Navy detached to take part in the operation included five minesweepers (ORP Dąbie, ORP Mielno, ORP Wicko, ORP Mamry, ORP Wdzydze), Lublin-class minelayer-landing ships: ORP Gniezno and ORP Kraków; and a submarine, ORP Bielik.

Polish Navy Landing Ship ORP Gniezno 822.

The whole operation was staged in the Baltic Sea area, within the naval training ranges of the Polish Navy, as well as within the naval and land portion of the Central Air Force Training Range, also located in the coastal region of Ustka.

On Wednesday, Jun. 14 the beach in Ustka became an arena, within which one of the most important portions of the exercise took place – a landing operation carried out by the task force group involved in the event. The main forces landing on the Polish beach included the 1st Battalion of the 23rd US Marines regiment, utilizing AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft. The whole operation was supported by 8 vessels, including two Polish minelayer-landing ships hailing from the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla.

Nonetheless, the landing operation would not have been complete without involvement of the coalition’s air assets. The landing was preceded by a CAS (Close Air Support) simulation involving the USAF B-52 and B-1B bombers, two Polish F-16 jets, German Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as V-22 Osprey. Notably, due to the humid air over the Polish coast, clouds of condensation and vapor cones have been clearly visible on the surfaces of the participating aircraft.

Siły Powietrzne F-16C Block 52+

The red force simulation has been provided by a mechanized company of the Polish 7th Coastal Defense Brigade.

The whole operation was supervised by the commander of the 6th Fleet and STRIKFORNATO, Vice-Admiral Christopher Grady, along with Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral P. A. McAlpine. Poland was represented by the Deputy General Commander of the Armed Forces, Division General Jan Śliwka, and by Rear Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański – Deputy Inspector of the Navy, along with Brig. General Wojciech Grabowski.

Source: The Aviationist.

Pentagon: Chinese fighters intercepted US Navy spy plane

Two Chinese fighter jets performed a dangerous intercept of an American spy plane Sunday over the East China Sea, forcing the Navy EP-3 reconnaissance jet to maneuver to avoid a mid-air collision, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

The American pilots deemed the interaction with the Chinese J-10 jets “unsafe and unprofessional” after one of the fighters flew underneath the American plane at a high rate of speed before slowing down and pulling up into the EP-3’s flight path, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. The Navy aircraft’s collision detection warning sounded and the pilot took “evasive action” to avoid the Chinese jet.

PLAAF Chengdu J-10A

The incident occurred late in the morning Sunday in international airspace, about 90 miles south of Qingdao, a Chinese port city north of Shanghai, Davis said.

The J-10 that performed the unsafe maneuver, essentially “cutting off” the American plane, flew within about 300 feet of the EP-3, a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity.

Davis said interactions with Chinese military aircraft are rarely unsafe.

“There are intercepts that occur in international airspace regularly,” Davis told reporters at the Pentagon. “The vast majority of them are conducted in a safe manner. This was the exception, not the norm.”

The incident followed two similar intercepts of American military aircraft by Chinese fighter jets in May.

Two Chinese J-10s performed an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of a Navy P-3 Orion over the South China Sea on May 24. One of the fighters maneuvered within 100 feet of the American plane off the coast of Hong Kong in that incident, the Pentagon said.

On May 18, Two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets intercepted an Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix, known as a “nuclear sniffer” plane, over the East China Sea. In that incident, one of the planes maneuvered with about 150 feet of the American plane, flying inverted above the WC-135, Pentagon officials said.

Source: Stars and Stripes.


Finnish Navy: Largest nuclear sub in the world passes Finland

The world’s largest submarine, the nuclear-powered Dmitriy Donskoi is cruising through the Baltic, on the way to Kronstadt. It’s arrival coincides with a week-long Russian-Chinese joint naval exercise beginning in the Baltic Sea on Monday. Russian officials say that some ten military vessels and about a dozen aircraft and helicopters from Russia and Chinese militaries will participate in the drills.

The Finnish Defence Forces confirmed that the nuclear submarine Dmitriy Donskoi passed by Finland in international waters of the Baltic on Monday. The sub is powered by nuclear reactors and has a capacity to carry some 200 nuclear missiles.

The Dmitriy Donskoi, cruising from its home port in the White Sea, is reportedly headed towards St. Petersburg in order to participate in a naval parade this weekend. The vessel is so large that in the relatively shallow Baltic Sea it is unable to navigate completely underwater, offering a spectacle to anyone watching the water as it passes.

The Dmitriy Donskoi’s route from Severodvinsk and Severomorsk to Kronstad outside St. Petersburg.

The vessel arrives in the region at a time of heightened readiness thanks to joint Russian-Chinese naval exercises dubbed ‘Joint Sea’. The manouevres will last one week, but precisely where in the Baltic they take place remains unknown.

Russian authorities say that some 10 military ships and about 12 aircraft and helicopters from both Russia and China will participate in the drills. Three of the vessels are Chinese, one of which is a modern, missile-equipped flagship.

The Joint Sea war games mark the first time China has sent naval vessels to participate in naval exercises with Russia. Compared to other military drills, the exercises are relatively small but pundits say the exercises are designed to send a political message to the west.

Some observers say the exercises are a way of Russia and China signalling to western countries and NATO that they would be formidable opponents.

Source: yle uutiset.

Two NATO Ships Arrive at Odessa Port Ukraine

Two NATO military ships arrived at the Ukrainian port of Odessa. This was reported on Facebook from the press center of the Ukrainian Navy.

The two ships are the British HMS Duncan (D37), a Type 45 guided-missile destroyer, which is equipped with the Sea Viper air defence system, with a 48-cell Sylver A50 VLS, carrying a mix of up to 48 Aster 15 missiles (range 1.7–30 km) and Aster 30 missiles (range 3–120 km). In addition the Duncan carries 2 × quad Harpoon launchers for anti-ship strike missions.

HMS Duncan (D37)

The Turkish frigate ‘Yildirim’ was also in attendance.

The Yildirim is a Yavuz-class frigate, outfitted for anti-ship duties and carries 2 Mk 141 quad-pack Launcher for 8 x RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, 1 MK 21 Guided Missile Launching System for 16 x RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles, 1 × 5 inch /54 gun and 2 × 3 12.75″ Mk.32 torpedo tubes in triple mountings.

The planned visit includes official meetings with the Commander of the Ukrainian Navy and representatives of the Ukrainian authorities. The ships will be open for citizens of the city and visitors and there will be drills with Ukrainian marines.

Source: Novinite Ukraine.


Baltic leaders call for permanent surface-to-air missile deployment

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite on 20 July backed calls for the permanent deployment of the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air, air defence, and anti-missile systems to the Baltic states, local media have reported.

“The speed of response to an airborne threat may be crucial. Therefore, it would be appropriate to have such weapons in the Baltic region,” Grybauskaite explained.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskait.

The calls follow Poland’s signature of a memorandum on 6 July to buy the Patriot missile system from the US. The Baltic states currently only possess short-range air defence systems.

Grybauskaite emphasised that the move would ensure greater security for all nations in the area.

Source: IHS Janes.

BREAKING NEWS: Man with chainsaw injures five in rampage through Swiss town

At least five people have been injured in an attack in the Swiss town of Shaffhausen.

Two of them have been seriously injured according to police in the town in Switzerland.

The man with the machete is said to be on the run and people are being barricaded into shops.

In a webcast by Swiss newspaper Blick, a spokeswoman said police were searching for the suspect.

One shopkeeper said that a man had been seen on the streets with a chainsaw.

Schaffhausen Old Town

A cordon has been set up in the Old Town part of Schaffhausen with people being evacuated from shops and apartments.

Police have confirmed that an operation was underway but declined to give further details.

Source: METRO.