Author: richreynolds74

The Baltic Post: The latest military and NATO news from the Baltic region and the United States.

Latvia to buy Stinger air-defense systems from Denmark

RIGA, Aug 21 (LETA) – Last week Latvia signed an agreement with the Danish armed forces on purchase of Stinger air-defense systems, Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis (Greens/Farmers) said in an interview with the Latvian public television on Monday.

He did not disclose the sum of the purchase or the number of the equipment. “The sum of the deal is not too high, but we will get quite a considerable number of weapons,” he said.

The minister said that he is proud of the deal. “It is very important for development of our armed forces […] we will be able to defend our country more efficienctly, if there is such a necessity,” the minister said.

He also said that the air-defense systems might be delivered already this year or early next year.



Ten missing after US Navy destroyer collides with merchant ship off Singapore

USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)

A Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a commercial vessel east of Singapore early Monday morning local time, the Navy said.

There were 10 sailors missing and five injured, the Navy said.

The collision with the merchant ship Alnic MC occurred east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, as the McCain was on its way for a routine port visit in Singapore, the Navy said.

“Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft,” the Navy said, adding that a search and rescue mission was already underway.

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port, according to a Navy statement.

The search and rescue effort was being aided by tug boats out of Singapore, as well as the Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant, Singapore navy helicopters and a Police Coast Guard vessel.

MV-22 Ospreys and SH-60 Seahawks from the USS America are also responding, the Navy said.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted: “This is how crowded the waters are around Singapore where destroyer USS John S McCain collided with an oil tanker.”

Oliver Holmes of the Guardian newspaper re-tweeted Admiral Richardson’s comments:

Malaysia’s navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin tweeted a photo of the damaged ship on its way to Singapore after the collision, and announced that the country was sending ships and aircraft to assist in the search and rescue.


Russian military aviation destroys terrorists’ convoy en-route to Syria’s Deir ez-Zor [VIDEO]

Russia’s air force task group in Syria delivered strikes destroying a large convoy a terrorists’ vehicles, which were heading to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Monday.

“The Russian military aviation eliminated another large convoy of militants from the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia), as they were heading to Deir ez-Sor, where international terrorists are trying to re-group and set up their last stronghold in Syria,” according to the ministry.


VIDEO: Khmeimim airbase, Syria, summer 2017

“Bombers and military aviation from the Russia Aerospace Forces destroyed over 20 off-road vehicles equipped with large-caliber weapons and grenade launches, as well as armored vehicles, including tanks, and heavy-load trucks carrying ammunition,” the ministry said.

“Over 200 militants were also eliminated.”

The Russian Defense Ministry added that throughout August militants had been trying to concentrate their forces in the province of Deir ez-Zor, while the Russian air forces and Syrian government troops were ousting them from the south of Raqqa province and the west of Homs province.



U.S., Coalition Continue Strikes to Defeat ISIS in Syria, Iraq

U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve with a combination of surveillance flights and kinetic strike missions, enabling Iraqi Security Forces in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Leah Agler)

Aug. 20, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria yesterday, conducting 15 strikes consisting of 24 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of yesterday’s strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of six engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed 10 ISIS oil-storage barrels.

— Near Raqqa, five strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed three fighting positions.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes consisting of 18 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Qaim, a strike destroyed an ISIS supply cache.

— Near Beiji, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle.

— Near Rawah, three strikes destroyed two ISIS headquarters, a weapons cache and a staging area.

— Near Tal Afar, four strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed seven rocket systems, two command-and-control nodes, two mortar systems, a vehicle-borne-bomb factory, a supply cache and a front-end loader.

Other Recent Strikes

Additionally, officials today announced the results of 26 strikes consisting of 38 engagements conducted in Syria and Iraq on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 for which the information was unavailable at the time of yesterday’s report:

— Near Raqqa on Aug. 17, three strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed a fighting position.

— Near Raqqa on Aug. 18, 20 strikes engaged 14 ISIS tactical units, destroyed 14 fighting positions and damaged a tunnel entrance.

— Near Tal Afar on Aug. 18, three strikes destroyed 24 ISIS roadblocks, two vehicle-borne-bomb factories, an ISIS headquarters, an ISIS command-and-control node and a fighting position and suppressed three mortar teams.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

An Australian F/A-18A Hornet from No. 1 Squadron, part of Operation OKRA — engaging Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — which comprises six RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets, six RAAF F/A-18A Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.


RAPTOR pod on Tornado aircraft provides key intelligence capability in Iraq war

Panavia Tornado GR.4 ZG713 123 carrying a Raptor pod

Canada has contributed CP-140 aircraft to conduct surveillance missions for operations against the Islamic State in Iraq. The aircraft, have among other things, conducted battle damage assessments. Other nations have also provided intelligence-gathering assets.

But it is interesting that according to Department of National Defence documents much of the tactical intelligence-gathering was done by one asset – the Raptor pod on the Tornado aircraft. No coverage period was noted in the DND documents, however, but it appears to be within the first years of the air campaign.

Here is what the Royal Air Force has written about the reconnaissance airborne pod for Tornado:

“RAPTOR, which is built by the Goodrich Corporation, is a new stand-off electro-optical and infrared (IR), long-range oblique-photography pod fitted to the Tornado GR4.

Reconnaissance Airborne Pod Tornado (RAPTOR) pod

Here is what the Royal Air Force has written about the RAPTOR system:

“The RAPTOR system can create images of hundreds of separate targets in one sortie. The stand-off range of the sensors allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily-defended areas to minimise its exposure to enemy air-defence systems.

The images received by the pod can be transmitted via a real-time data-link system to image analysts at a ground station, or can be displayed in the cockpit during flight. The imagery can also be recorded for post-flight analysis. The RAPTOR system can create images of hundreds of separate targets in one sortie; it is capable of autonomous operation against preplanned targets, or it can be re-tasked manually for targets of opportunity or to select a different route to the target. The stand-off range of the sensors allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily-defended areas, to minimise the aircraft’s exposure to enemy air-defence systems.

The RAPTOR pod contains a dual-band (visible and IR) sensor, which is capable of detecting and identifying small targets from either short range or long range and from medium or high altitudes, by day or by night. The optical sensors gather high-resolution, motion-free images of extraordinary detail. The optical images are supported by IR imagery that can reveal differences in the shape, composition or content of objects from their thermal signatures. Daytime IR also offers superior haze-penetration in poor weather conditions, while the night time imagery can reveal details such as the fuel levels in storage tanks. The aircraft weapon systems officer controls the RAPTOR system using a real-time cockpit video display, enabling verification of target acquisition, and the conduct of tasks such as battle-damage assessment, or recording the images on digital tape for further in-depth, post-operation analysis.


The Energy Crisis Developing between Russia and the United States may do more to incite Military conflict than Drills and Exercises

Russia currently  has a grip on the European gas market, which it uses to bully its close neighbors and shush any major European states that push back on its geopolitical ambitions. U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas – LNG, it follows, will break Russia’s stranglehold. It is a cheaper and more reliable alternative. In turn, Russia will either lose market share or compete by lowering its prices.

Russia depends heavily on its energy exports. In fiscal year 2008, oil and gas revenues reached a peak, accounting for half of the Russian federal budget. However, since the global financial crisis hit the country in 2009, the Russian economy began to run fiscal deficits. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 Russia ran budget deficits representing -0.02%, -0.7% and -0.6% of GDP, respectively. The exception was the year 2011, when the Russian budget incurred a 0.8% of GDP surplus.

Low oil prices and a collapse in domestic demand and imports as the economy fell into recession decimated fiscal revenues in 2015. In fact, the impact of low oil prices on Russia’s fiscal revenues raised questions about the country’s long-term economic prospects as well as fiscal sustainability. With the decline of energy prices and the Russian government’s dependence on energy revenues to fund its budget—revenues from oil and natural gas represented around 52% of the Russian budget—forced the Russian government to rethink its fiscal policy. The Finance Ministry announced in early September 2015 that it had decided to suspend the fiscal rule—a law designed to limit government spending.

By 2020, the United States could be sending roughly 80 billion cubic meters of LNG to Europe a year—about two-thirds of the volume that Russia exported to Europe in 2015 and just under a third of Europe’s entire gas consumption, which is 400 billion cubic meters per year (450 billion cubic meters, if one includes Turkey). It is no wonder that conflict seems imminent.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline construction project will be implemented in due time despite new US sanctions, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday 18 August.

“As far as the Nord Stream 2 is concerned, in terms of US sanctions, much will depend on uncertainty the law contains and requiring clarifications. Considering that European nations are interested in gas supplies from Russia over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as well subject to their declining production and consumption growth, we are confident this project will be implemented within the intended timeframe. At least its implementation continues,” Novak said.

Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline vanishes into the Baltic Sea, which is full of unexploded naval mines from two world wars.

On August 2, US President Donald Trump signed the bill envisioning tougher sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The new measures allow fining European companies for participation in joint energy projects with Russia, particularly in Nord Stream – 2 and Turkish Stream.

In an effort to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Russia has completed an energy deal with Iran. Iran can start deliveries of oil to Russia under the “oil-for-goods” program within the next month, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters on Friday.

“We are finalizing the last details of regulatory documents. I think I will respond to your question within one month,” Novak said confirming that supplies can start by the end of that term.

Moscow and Tehran may shortly agree upon conditions for sale of 100,000 oil barrels per day by Iran for Russia, Novak said earlier. Supplies can be either physical or swap-based, he added. Purchases will be made within the framework of the “oil-for-goods” deal.


Iran’s major oil and natural gas fields

Russia has turned to the Arctic to solve it’s energy crisis.  Russia’s Arctic development comes as its oil production increases despite a more than two-year long supply glut and plunge in prices.  But it also comes as the country’s oil fields mature.

Mikå Mered, managing partner at Polarisk, a consultancy specializing in polar issues said that Russia’s onshore oil and gas fields “are depleting and depleting fast.”

“If you are the Russian government today and if you want to keep having your oil and gas, you need to start developing offshore Arctic oil and gas fast,” he said.

The Wilson Center, a Washington-based independent research group, said in a recent report on Arctic drilling that Russia needs these new fields if it is going to maintain oil production levels of at least 10 million bpd by 2020 and beyond.

Russian oil company Gazprom Neft, the country’s fourth largest oil producer, said that four wells were now in production at the northern Prirazlomnoye field after two more were successfully started. The Prirazlomnoye field is an Arctic offshore oilfield located in the Pechora Sea, south of Novaya Zemlya, Russia.

Production from an ice-resistant offshore rig perched in the Pechora passed 43,980 barrels of oil per day (bpd), the company said. Full field development plans call for 32 wells. In March, the company said that it had reached a milestone with production of its 10 millionth barrel of oil at the field, while it revised its production schedule higher to 35 million barrels.

Russia is serious about developing the Arctic. Russia has four nuclear icebreakers with three under construction. Russia also possesses 37 Diesel-powered icebreakers with four under construction. The most powerful fleet in the Russian Federation, the Northern Fleet is based in Severomorsk on the coast of the Barents Sea along the Kola Bay 25 kilometers (16 mi) northeast of Murmansk. The Fleet consists of the flagship Kuznetsov, an aircraft carrying cruiser, heavy cruisers, cruisers, frigates, corvettes, SSBNs and SSNs plus many amphibious assault ships, hovercraft and Fleet aviation assets.

In 2012 the Russian Air Force decided to reopen Graham Bell Airfield as part of a series of reopenings of air bases in the Arctic. A major new base, named the Arctic Trefoil for its three lobed structure, was constructed on Alexandra Land. It can maintain 150 soldiers for 18 months and has an area of 14,000 square meters.

Russia’s Arctic Trefoil military base. Spending on Russian military bases abroad will be increased this year by more than $8.81 million.

In 2017, Russian president Vladimir Putin visited the archipelago to protect Russia’s interests in the Arctic.

The depletion of resources in Russia, sanctions from the United States and increasing tension along NATOs Eastern Flank have meant that Russia is developing new oil and gas facilities in the Arctic, initiating deals with Iran, which will benefit the economies of both countries, and forging ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

The big issue for the Russian Federation is whether they can compete with the United States. Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Amsterdam are gearing up for an excess of imported U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas. Will Russia be able to compete?






As U.S. Exports Gas to Europe, Russia Digs In

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

As the first shipment of American liquefied natural gas heads to Lithuania, Russian companies are lowering prices, changing sales methods and developing their own LNG facilities

U.S. attempts to export natural gas into Europe’s energy market are facing stiff resistance from the region’s dominant player: Russia.

A tanker is scheduled to arrive in Lithuania next week carrying the first shipment of U.S. liquefied natural gas to a former Soviet republic. It follows a handful of other shipments of U.S. gas to Europe and comes in the wake of widespread predictions that American exports would help break Russia’s dominance of the European energy market.

But Russia is moving quickly to contain the new competition to its largest energy market. Its state-run energy companies are lowering prices, changing sales methods and developing their own LNG facilities. Moscow is also pushing ahead with a pipeline opposed by both Washington and Brussels.

A general view shows Yamal LNG, Russia’s second liquefied natural gas plant, under construction in Arctic port of Sabetta, . REUTERS/Olesya Astakhova

While European governments are eager to reduce Russia’s chokehold, and its resulting political leverage, the region’s consumers are looking beyond politics for the lowest prices. That favors Russia. Last year, Russia exported record levels of gas to Europe, helped by lower prices and falling domestic production elsewhere in Europe.

“We are tracking the situation on the global gas market and the growth of U.S. shale gas production,” Russia’s energy minister, Alexander Novak, said in an interview last month. “Recently we have allocated a lot of efforts to boost our presence on the LNG market.”

Many analysts still expect America’s nascent exports to eat into Russia’s share of the European market, which is currently around one-third. The U.S. shale revolution has unlocked vast energy reserves, and the country is expected to become a net natural gas exporter next year. Since the start of 2016, the U.S. has been exporting gas around the world, from Latin America to Asia.

The prospect of such exports has been welcomed in Brussels, where the European Commission has sought to limit the influence of Russian energy on the Continent by imposing multiple regulations on the operation and ownership of Moscow’s gas infrastructure.

Some lawmakers and officials in Washington have also talked about energy exports to Europe having a geopolitical, as well as commercial, benefit. The U.S. has long criticized what it sees as Russian interference in Eastern Europe.

In July, President Donald Trump told representatives of a dozen European nations that the U.S. is eager to export energy supplies to them.

Poland last month became the first Eastern European country to receive U.S. LNG. Following a meeting with Mr. Trump, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he expects to sign a long-term deal for LNG supplies from the U.S. to reduce its reliance on Russian “blackmailing.”

Lithuania is expecting another shipment in September.

“The arrival of U.S. gas is making Russia nervous. And they should be nervous,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former energy official in the Obama administration.

The European market makes up 75% of Russia’s overall gas exports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It’s an essential industry for Russia, where oil and gas revenues account for more than 40% of the federal budget.

The country’s main advantage is price. Russia’s gas is piped into Europe, a generally cheaper transportation method than LNG, because that gas has to be liquefied, shipped and regasified at arrival. U.S. LNG cost $6.29 per million British thermal units, according to S&P Global Platts data based on an average of cargo coming into Europe in the past year. Over the same period, Russian gas delivered into Germany cost an average of $4.86 per mmBtu.

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

A July opinion poll conducted on behalf of Wintershall, a German company involved in Russian energy projects, found that affordability was the main priority for Germans. The survey also found that only 6% of people in Germany believe that the country, and Europe, should import less Russian gas and more U.S. LNG. Germany imports nearly half of its gas from Russia.

There are signs that Moscow is looking to make its gas exports more competitive. State-owned PAO Gazprom has in recent years been experimenting with auctions, where gas is offered to the highest bidder. That’s a departure from Russia’s traditional model of locking customers into long-term contracts linked to oil prices.

“Energy exports, and gas in particular, have always been Russia’s lifeline and a source of influence in Europe, so they will do everything in their power to hold on to it,” said Agnia Grigas, senior fellow at Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

Russia is building up its own LNG export capacity. A natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula, just above the Arctic Circle, is scheduled to open by the end of this year, and Mr. Novak said Russia is working on other LNG projects.

Russia is also charging ahead with a plan to build Nord Stream 2, a Gazprom project to transport gas into Europe through a 750-mile pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea.

The construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany has become one of the most controversial topics in European energy policy.

A bill signed by Mr.Trump in early August allows the president to impose sanctions on firms backing Nord Stream 2, though it stops short of mandating penalties.

“Unfortunately we are seeing intensifying efforts to use unilateral, unjustified sanctions by a number of countries, including the U.S., to reduce real free-market competition,” said Mr. Novak, Russia’s energy minister.





Russian emergencies ministry plane returns from firefighting mission in Armenia

Il-76 firefighting aircraft. Anton Denisov/TASS

The Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft operated by the Russian Emergencies Ministry returned to its base in the Moscow Region from a firefighting mission in Armenia on Saturday, the ministry’s press service said.

“At 20:00 (Moscow time), the Il-76 aircraft of the Russian Emergencies Ministry returned to the Moscow Region’s airfield of Ramenskoye after successfully completing its mission to extinguish wildfires in Armenia,” the press service said.

Earlier on Saturday, the plane’s crew received medals from Armenian Emergencies Minister David Tonoyan.

A major fire broke out in Armenia’s Khosrov Forest State Reserve (located some 60 kilometers southeast of Yerevan) on August 12, consuming several hundred hectares. The Russian Emergencies Minsitry’s aircraft arrived in Armenia on August 14 following a request by the Armenian government and under instructions issued by the Russian government.

The crew reported that it had successfully completed the mission on August 17. The Russian pilots worked in coordination with the Armenian firefighting and rescue teams.

Thanks to the joint effort, it was possible to protect about 2,000 species of plants in the ancient republican nature reserve Khosrov Forest founded in the 4th century AD by Armenian King Khosrov III, the Russian Emergencies Ministry earlier told TASS.




NATO Maritime Commander and Frigate Group to visit Helsinki

Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1)

Allied Maritime Command Commander, Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, will make an official visit to Finland beginning on 24 August 2017.

The visit will be hosted by the Chief of Finnish Navy, Vice Admiral Veijo Taipalus.

In conjunction with the Commander’s visit, Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) will arrive in Helsinki August 25 for a scheduled port visit as part of the group’s deployment in the Baltic Sea. The group will be hosted by Coastal Fleet.

Finland is one of NATO’s most active partners and a valued contributor to NATO-led operations and missions – it is one of five countries that has enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with NATO.

The leadership discussions and port visit are a practical outcome of Finnish partnership with NATO in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. The Commander’s visit allows for discussions on Finland’s maritime cooperation with NATO and the port visit provides an opportunity for sailors from the group to work with their Finnish counterparts to exchange information and enhance interoperability.

During the port visit, the SNMG1 command team will meet with local civilian and military leadership in Helsinki. The port visit is also a great opportunity for the sailors to enjoy a break from operations.

SNMG1 is currently composed of the NATO group flagship, Norwegian frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup, Canadian frigate HMCS Charlottetown, Portuguese frigate NRP Francisco de Almeida and German tanker FGS Rhön.

Some of the ships will be open and welcome visitors aboard both Saturday 26 August and Sunday 27 August from 13.00 to 16.00. The ships will be at Hernesaari Quay, Helsinki Harbor, Henry Fordin katu 5.

Security measures during open ship

For security reasons, the following is not allowed to be brought on board:

. Large bags, backpacks etc.

. Weapons or dangerous objects

. Cameras, cell phones, tablets, computers etc

All visitors and their baggage may be subject to search before entry.


Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff Visits Finland

General JONATHAN VANCE, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces


General JONATHAN VANCE, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, conducted a working visit to Finland on 16-17 August 2017. The visit was hosted by the commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Jarmo Lindberg.

During his visit General Vance met with the Finnish Minister of Defence, Mr Jussi Niinistö, among others. He was also familiarised with Finland’s military national defence.


Nordic Defence Cooperation Meeting in Helsinki

The Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Jarmo Lindberg


The Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Jarmo Lindberg, and the Director General of the Resource Policy Department of the Finnish Ministry of Defence, Raimo Jyväsjärvi, hosted a defence cooperation meeting in Helsinki on 18 August 2017.