Tag: Australia

Marines to order 24-hour stand-downs for flying units in wake of fatal crashes

Marines prepare to board MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island off the coast of Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Feb. 23, 2015. The Marine Corps announced Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, that all its aviation units must cease flying for a 24-hour period within the next two weeks to review safety procedures, following two recent crashes that killed 19 servicemembers.

WASHINGTON —  Marine Corps aviation units must cease flying for a 24-hour period within the next two weeks to review safety procedures following two recent Marine crashes that killed 19 troops, the service’s top general ordered Friday.

Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine commandant, has ordered aviators to review “the fundamentals of safe flight operations, standardization, and combat readiness” during the “operational reset,” said Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokeswoman for the Corps.

“The intent is for flying squadrons to review selected incidents which occurred enterprise-wide and study historical examples of completed investigations in order to bring awareness and best practices to the fleet,” she said.

Unit commanders will determine when to conduct the stand-downs. Neller’s order instructed commanders to conduct the pause when it will not interrupt training or combat operations.

Fifteen Marines and a sailor were killed in the July 10 crash of a KC-130T tanker-transport aircraft into the Mississippi Delta. Three additional Marines died Saturday in the crash of an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft just off the coast of Australia.

The Marines on Wednesday announced they had determined the Ospreys were safe to fly following inspections and a preliminary investigation into Saturday’s crash. In that incident, the Osprey crashed into the deck of the USS Green Bay as it was landing on the amphibious transport dock before crashing into the ocean about 18 miles off the coast of Queensland.

The three Marines killed are believed to have been trapped inside the aircraft as it sank, officials said. Twenty-three others aboard the aircraft were rescued.

In the July crash, the KC-130T appears to have broken up in mid-air before it crashed to the ground leaving two debris trails each stretching more than a mile long, an initial investigation found. All of the personnel aboard the plane were killed.

The Marines grounded its entire fleet of 12 KC-130T aircraft following the incident.
Safety stand-downs of individual airframes or for particular units are not uncommon.

Last August, the Marines ordered a similar stand-down for all F/A-18 Hornets aircraft following several crashes of the fighter jets. The Marines also temporarily grounded AV-8B Harrier and Osprey aircraft in Japan last year following non-fatal wrecks.




Royal Navy Merlins complete five-month stint aboard FS Mistral

FS Mistral, French Navy Landing Helicopter Dock Ship

A group of Royal Navy sailors and marines together with two Royal Navy Merlin Mk3 helicopters spent the past five months deployed aboard the French helicopter carrier FS Mistral during its Jeanne D’Arc mission.

FS Mistral, together with frigate FS Courbet, embarked Royal Navy personnel in March for a deployment that took the force as far east as Japan and Guam, as far south as the northern coast of Australia, with visits to Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Djibouti.

Commenting on the deployment, UK’s armed forces minister Mark Lancaster said: “From fighting Daesh in the Middle East to jointly operating in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, our enduring defence partnership with France is stronger than ever as we work together to tackle global threats.

This deployment has demonstrated the ability of our world class Royal Navy and Royal Marines to operate alongside our French allies and international partners as Britain delivers on its commitment to global maritime security.”

Merlin Mk3 of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), landing on the FS Mistral LHD Ship

Throughout the deployment, UK personnel worked closely with international partners to strengthen defence cooperation in the region. British troops participated in the first ever four-part maritime exercise involving France, Japan, the UK and US, where as part of a week-long practice assault, the two Merlins moved 330 troops from the four nations to and from the island of Tinian.

UK troops also met with the Vietnam People’s Navy in Ho Chi Minh City to compare national maritime operating procedures and exchange experiences, and during a port call to Egypt, British forces took part in a cross-decking exercise alongside French and Egyptian Armed Forces.


USS Ronald Reagan set to dock in Brisbane

A flagship American aircraft carrier is set to dock in Brisbane on Sunday and give its crew of thousands a chance to explore the Queensland capital.

The USS Ronald Reagan – which is 333m long and houses more than 3000 sailors – is expected to dock at the Port of Brisbane about 10:30am.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, commissioned in 2003, is visiting the river city as part of this year’s Talisman Sabre war games.

This year’s event also appeared to draw the interest of Chinese military forces, after a spy ship was spotted “in the vicinity” of the activities.

“The Chinese vessel has remained outside Australian territorial waters but inside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Coral Sea,” a defence department statement said on Saturday.

“The vessel’s presence has not detracted from the exercise objectives.”

This year’s event, which is the seventh of its kind, is scheduled to run until late July, with the majority of the training exercises to take place in near Rockhampton.

Source: 9 News.


Chinese Navy spy ship rattles Talisman Sabre war games off Queensland coast

A high-tech Chinese spy ship has been spotted off the Queensland coast monitoring joint military exercises between Australia and the United States, in what Defence officials have described as an “unfriendly” and “provocative” act.

The ABC can reveal the Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) vessel from the People’s Liberation Army was sighted by the Defence Force in international waters during this month’s Talisman Sabre war games.

The Type 851 Dongdiao-class AGI vessel is fitted with advanced communications systems designed to eavesdrop on other militaries.

“The Chinese vessel has remained outside Australian territorial waters but inside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Coral Sea,” the department said.

“Exercise Talisman Sabre is currently taking place in the vicinity. The vessel’s presence has not detracted from the exercise objectives,” it added.
Euan Graham from the Lowy Institute said the deployment of the vessel was an alarming development.

Type 851 DongDiao-class Surveillance Vesel PLAN. AGM AGI.

“I’m personally not aware of any publicised appearance of an AGI off the Australian coast before,” he said.

“Coinciding with the joint exercise with the United States — clearly that sends quite an unfriendly message.”

Senior Australian military figures also told the ABC China’s actions were provocative and sent an unfriendly message.

“At the moment what we see is a double standard where China picks the areas of the Law of the Sea that it likes and refuses to implement those that it doesn’t,” Dr Graham argued.

“I think it can only expect that to come back as a message in force from Australia and other countries.”

The Defence Department said Australia respects the rights of all states to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters in accordance with international law.

Just days ago the Defence Force hosted a senior Chinese PLA General in Australia on a so-called “goodwill” visit.

During the trip, General Wei Liang “exchanged views on regional security issues” including the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Source: The New Daily.

Alaska-based Bushmasters trade extreme cold for Australia’s tropical heat

Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division prepare to air assault into battle during Talisman Saber drills at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Australia, Sunday, July 16, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia — One hundred and fifty U.S. troops more accustomed to training in Alaska’s extreme cold found themselves trudging Down Under in the tropical heat this week.

The Bushmaster Company, part of the Fort Wainwright-based 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, are in Australia for the monthlong, biennial Talisman Saber drills. More than 33,000 Australian and American troops are participating in the exercise, which has an imaginary foe with capabilities that mirror those of major military powers such as China and Russia.

“Everything’s cold-weather based in Alaska; here it’s totally different. It’s a 180-degree change,” 1st Lt. John Hannon, the company’s executive officer, said during a recent march at Queensland’s rugged Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

The unit usually moves across the battlefield in Stryker armored personnel carriers but didn’t bring the vehicles to Australia, Hannon said.

“We will air assault into the battlefield and block a main avenue of approach,” the 27-year-old Bronx, N.Y.-native said of the training.

Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division protect a landing zone during Talisman Saber 2017 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Australia, Sunday, July 16, 2017.

During downtime, the Alaska-based troops took photographs of wallabies — smaller versions of kangaroos — and steered clear of deadly snakes and spiders they encountered in the field.

Part of the training involved hitching rides in New Zealand army trucks and Australian Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles. However, the drivers took their time to avoid booby traps placed by opposing forces.

Senior Airman Gilbert Garza, 26, of Houston, a tactical air controller from the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron who was attached to the company, stayed upbeat during the slow drive through the bush. Spending time with Australian “truckies” made him appreciate the help of his allied partners, he said.

“It’s good to build that coalition bond. They have their methods [of doing things]. You show them ours and see what jives,” he said.

Sgt. Nicholas Dugger, a forward observer from 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery attached to the company said he felt “patriotic,” about working with the Australians.

“It’s really cool to see how their army operates … and how they [learn] things from us,” the 25-year-old from Fort Wainwright said. “They do a pretty solid job.”

After the truck ride, the U.S. troops loaded into U.S., Australian and New Zealand helicopters and flew into a landing zone that was soon under attack from an opposing force armed with light armored vehicles and cannons.

Garza coordinated air support, and within minutes AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were blasting away at the enemy vehicles.

“You feel like you’re in a movie — there’s literally nothing like being an infantryman,” said one of the Bushmaster soldiers, Pfc. Carmen Volpe, 25, of Albany, N.Y.

After Talisman Saber winds up, the Bushmasters will head to Thailand and then Japan for further training, Hannon said.

Source: Stars and Stripes.

US and Australia test hypersonic missiles that fly at a mile a second

A successful hypersonic test flight took place in South Australia last week amid US concerns about China and Russia’s hypersonic weapons capabilities.

The US has been testing hypersonic aircraft missiles that could fly at a mile per second.

It has collaborated with Australia to research and pilot weapons able to fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound – anywhere from 3,836mph up to 7,700 mph.

The latest phase of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation  (HiFIRE) programme included at least one successful hypersonic flight at Woomera testing range in South Australia.

 The round of experiments concluded on 12 July, confirmed Australian defence minister Marise Payne.

BAE Systems Australia said in a statement that “the successful flight trial [was] the most complex of all HIFiRE flights conducted to date”.

The $54m joint initiative involves the US Air Force, Boeing, the Australian Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Group, BAE Systems Australia, and the University of Queensland.

Both Russia and China are building hypersonic glide vehicles, US Air Force General John Hyten recently told a Senate hearing, according to The Washington Examiner.

US Navy Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, told a Congress hearing in May: “I’m concerned about Chinese and Russian hypersonic weapons development, and I expressed those concerns in the right places. What we can do is to develop our own hypersonic weapons and improve our defenses against theirs.”

A hypersonic missile could fly 1000 miles in less than 17 minutes. Though many ballistic missiles can fly faster, the typical arc trajectory of such missiles makes them more easily detectable by early warning satellites, according to The Drive. The Pentagon has developed ballistic missile interceptors able to knock such weapons off-course mid-flight, and so mitigate their threat.

But hypersonic weapons are much less easy to track. Prototype designs rely on a booster such as a rocket motor to get the craft up to speed, before a high-speed jet engine takes over. Its smooth and flat flight path is much harder to track than that of a ballistic missile. These prototype crafts may also have the capability to change direction mid-flight, which makes interception much harder.

Developing a hypersonic missile system would enable the US to conduct short-notice or no-notice enemy strikes, the capability for which is a powerful deterrent alone.

The HiFIRE project, which initially included NASA, launched more than eight years ago.

Source: The Independent.


DOD Warrior Games opens with US, UK, Australian athletes

U.S. Army, By Shannon Collins, DoD News, Defense Media Activity, 5 July 2017

As comedian Jon Stewart and Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, announced the official opening of the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games yesterday, medically retired Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sarah Rudder walked-in a hand torch at Soldier Field, where it was passed between teams, ending with medically retired Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Hamilton using it to light a flame for the games.

About 265 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, U.S. Special Forces Command, United Kingdom and Australian Defense Force are competing here in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball July 2 through July 8.

Throughout the evening, celebrities including Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and Stewart offered the athletes praise for their resiliency and thanks for their service.


About 10,000 people attended the opening ceremony. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a video message.

“On behalf of all Chicagoans, I’m proud to welcome you to the 2017 Warrior Games in the most American of American cities,” he said. “We are thrilled to host our brave heroes and their families here for the Department of Defense Warrior Games. This year marks the first time the DOD games are being held off of a military base, and there’s no place better to kick off the games than right here in Chicago, a city that loves sports at Soldier Field, named in honor of our veterans, our military and their families,” Emanuel said.

“Tonight, we honor 265 wounded warrior athletes who have trained for months on end, overcoming the odds to compete for gold in several sports,” the mayor said. “For the next week, I encourage you to cheer on these inspiring athletes as they demonstrate their courage and resiliency all across our city and while you’re here, I encourage you and your families to visit Navy Pier, which trained sailors for two world wars and explore the remarkable culture Chicago has to offer and all our beautiful neighborhoods. Thank you warriors for your service and sacrifice. Enjoy Chicago and the Warrior Games.”

Navy Chief Petty Officer Robin Elkington, Australian Defense Force, said the Australian team has felt welcomed by the American forces and by the people of Chicago.

“The Warrior Games is all about recovery and rehabilitation and eventually reintegration into our services and back into our normal lives. It’s beautiful and brilliant to see,” Elkington said. “I hope it really continues and that we can continue to be strong as allied nations. [The support is] sensational. I can’t thank first of all the American services individually and collectively and the city of Chicago as a whole enough. They have made us feel very welcome, and I’d really like to thank the people of the United States of America for having us here for this event. It’s wonderful.”

Elkington hinted that Australia has a strong team for the games. “If we’re not on top of the medal tallies, I’d be very surprised,” he said.

Stewart took selfies with each of the teams, along with Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard, and Grammy award winner Sam Moore, from the “The Blues Brothers” fame, sang “God Bless America” and “Soul Man.”


Kelly Clarkson opened the concert with “My Life Would Suck Without You” and told the crowd, “I’m excited and honored to be here. Thank you so much for your service. We are super honored. When I was told about Warrior Games, I was so inspired, and I’m just so excited to be a part of this and just thank you so much for having us here.”

As she readied the audience for “Piece By Piece,” she was overcome with emotion as she told the athletes, service members and veterans in the audience, “Y’all are real heroes; y’all are real heroes.”

Blake Shelton closed the show and told his fans, “Happy Independence Day weekend! I hope you’re not going to get tired of me celebrating these military people I see out here in the audience tonight and their families. Thank you so much.”

“The men and women that serve and protect this country on a daily basis allow the rest of us the freedoms we enjoy,” Shelton said earlier. “I’m proud to be part of this event and root these heroes on to victory at this year’s Warrior Games.”

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Curtis Krenzke, a tactical air control party specialist from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, competing for Team Socom, said he loves Clarkson’s song, “Stronger” and appreciated the support from the singers.

“Blake and Kelly are like the elite of the elite, just like Socom is,” he said. “U.S. Special Operations Command isn’t just one service; it’s all the services combined, and it’s the tip of the spear for all of our branches. We’ve got people like Blake and Kelly coming in and performing for us; they’re the elite for singer-songwriters. It’s amazing to have them come here and perform for us.”

Medically retired Army Sgt. Christy Gardner, who served as a military police member, was excited to hear Shelton perform “God Gave Me You.” “It’s meant a lot to my family over the years through rehab and everything,” she said.


Jon Stewart attended the DOD Warrior Games last year and said he enjoys being back again. “I’m honored to be back again,” he said. “I get a great inspiration from these athletes not because they’re superheroes, but because of how human they are. They’re just like you and I, but when faced with circumstances beyond their control and difficulties beyond their control, they have a choice to make and they made a choice not just to survive but to thrive, not to be content with the ordinary but to fight for the extraordinary. You can’t always choose the battle. Sometimes the battle chooses you, but you can always choose the fight you bring to the battle, and it’s the fight that these fine athletes bring every day to achieve what they’ve achieved.”

Stewart said he’s also inspired by how the athletes draw strength from their teammates and how they are there for each other.

“What’s most inspiring to me about these athletes is the joy and inspiration they take from their teammates, the strength they get from their teammates, the uplift, knowing their brothers and sisters have their backs at all times, knowing their families and caregivers have their backs at all times, that is the strength and inspiration that provides the foundation for these athletes to achieve all they can.”

Medically retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Josh Lindstrom, a former Green Beret with Socom, appreciated Stewart’s sentiments.

“I’m excited to be in the company of people who can withstand the types of adversities this crowd has faced and still participate in games instead of giving up,” he said. “I’m happy to be around them. Team Socom is going to do how we traditionally do [this week], which is better than anybody gives us credit for.”

Gardner said she enjoyed what Stewart said as well.

“Jon Stewart was amazing, and it’s great that he humanizes us and humanizes the event as well, thinking about what we’ve been through and how far we’ve come but also that we’re just people just like everybody else,” she said. “Oh, and Team Army’s taking it home this week.”

Russia’s counter-sanctions: What you need to know

Mikhail Metzel/TASS

TASS Russian News Agency, 2 July 2017

On June 30, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the decree “On the renewal of certain special economic measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation.”
In 2014-2015, Russia imposed restrictions in response to foreign sanctions against it due to the situation in Ukraine. They stipulate a ban for importing some types of agricultural products from the US, EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Ukraine, Albania, Liechtenstein, Montenegro and Iceland. The order of June 30, 2017, renewed these special economic measures until December 31, 2018.

Context: sanctions lists

Starting from March 2014, due to the situation in Ukraine, a number of countries and international organizations, including the US, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland and other countries imposed sanctions against Russia. In particular, lists of sanctioned Russian individuals and legal entities appeared. The restriction measures stipulated a travel ban and an account freeze. In addition, the so-called sectoral sanctions were introduced: the assets of the sanctioned companies were not frozen, but restrictions on mid-and long-term crediting were imposed instead.

In the summer of 2014, Russia responded with similar lists of persons whose visits to Russia were considered undesirable. On May 31, 2015, some foreign mass media reported that the Russian side had passed on to the Moscow mission of the European Union a list of official persons banned from entering the country. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not promulgate the list. According to some sources, it included 89 European politicians.

Special economic measures

On August 6, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the decree “On the application of certain special economic measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation.” The next day, on the basis of the presidential order, the Russian government banned the imports from the US, the European Union, Norway, Australia and Canada of cattle meat, pork, poultry meat and by-products, salty, dried and smoked meat, shellfish, molluscs and other water invertebrates, milk and milk products, vegetables, edible root crops and tuber crops, fruits and nuts, sausages, and milk-containing products based on vegetable fats.

The list was updated on August 20, 2014, and June 22, 2015: specialized lactose-free milk products, salmon and trout fry, as well as young oysters and mussels were removed from it. This was done because it appeared impossible to substitute these imports on a full scale.

According to the official web site of the Federal Customs Service, in 2013 Russia imported around $8.35 bln worth of these products from the above-mentioned countries, which is around 2.5% of the total imports ($317.8 bln).

Extending the list of countries

On August 13, 2015, the Russian government extended the list of countries that were banned from importing to Russia agricultural products, raw materials and food supplies by adding Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Ukraine (sanctions against it came into effect on January 1, 2016) on the list. These countries had previously joined the European sanctions against Russia. In 2014, they supplied $656.2 mln worth of sanctioned products (5.9% of their total exports to Russia).

Russia did not impose any retaliatory economic measures against Switzerland and Japan, that had joined the anti-Russian sanction regime back in 2014.

Subsequent events

The list of sanctioned products has been updated six times since August 2015. Food supplements were removed from this list on September 16, 2015, and some fry and young oysters and mussels, on March 1 and October 22, 2016. On May 27, 2016, poultry meat, beef and vegetables for infant food production were allowed to be imported to Russia. On September 10, 2016, salt was added to the list, but the amendment of May 20, 2017, specified that the ban did not include salt for dietary supplements and medical products.

On June 29, 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed an order to renew special economic measures until the end of 2017. On July 1, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a corresponding resolution.






Five Eyes alliance stress ‘more timely and detailed’ information sharing to detect terrorists

The Star, By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, 30 June 2017

Public security ministers and attorneys general from Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand gathered in Ottawa for two days of closed-door talks that wrapped up Tuesday.

Security and justice officials from the Five Eyes countries plan to explore “more timely and detailed” information sharing to detect terrorists and extremist fighters.

Daesh and its affiliates will continue to attack soft targets in public spaces — underscoring a need for better data exchanges to address the threat, the partners said in a joint communique issued Wednesday.

Attorneys general and ministers for public security and immigration from Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand gathered in Ottawa this week for two days of closed-door talks.

“Throughout these discussions, we affirmed that building public trust within our countries is required to move forward on national security issues,” the communique said. “Enhanced safeguards and greater efforts to promote transparency are critical in this respect.”

The sessions followed a rash of deadly attacks in Britain that highlighted the international alliance’s concerns about the threat of homegrown extremism and the backlash it can provoke.

The meetings also came as police in Ottawa busily stepped up security measures in anticipation of tens of thousands of people gathering Saturday on Parliament Hill to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.

Although there’s a need to be attentive and vigilant, Canadians can have confidence in their government, police and security agencies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Christinne Muschi/Reuters

“Every year, we step up around Canada Day to ensure that everything is done to keep Canadians safe.”

In order to help prevent “sophisticated and relentless plots,” the five countries affirmed the importance of sharing information among partners on known criminal and terrorist actors, the alliance communique said.

Security officials are worried about the widespread availability of encryption tools and applications that can allow extremists to more easily communicate without their phone calls and texts being intercepted.

Civil libertarians argue the right of law-abiding people to converse in private should not be compromised in the name of fighting terrorism by giving authorities the means to crack encryption or build back doors into security programs.

In a statement Sunday, Australian Attorney General George Brandis said his country planned to lead a discussion at the meetings on the terrorist use of cyberspace.

In its Wednesday communique, the alliance said the ability of terrorists and other criminals to shield their electronic activities through encryption can “severely undermine public safety efforts by impeding lawful access to the content of communications.”

They agreed to a common approach to engaging with communication service providers to deal with online terrorist activities and propaganda, while “upholding cybersecurity and individual rights and freedoms.”

The countries also committed to support a new industry forum led by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.

In addition, they plan to:

  • Look at the role of traditional and social media and community voices in fostering — or discouraging — the radicalization of young people;
  • Share ideas on handling the threat posed by terrorist fighters who return from conflicts abroad;
  • Explore the possibility of joint operations to better tackle human trafficking and modern slavery.



Exclusive: Lockheed nears $37 billion-plus deal to sell F-35 jet to 11 countries

U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II

REUTERS, By Mike Stone, 18 June 2017

Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) is in the final stages of negotiating a deal worth more than $37 billion to sell a record 440 F-35 fighter jets to a group of 11 nations including the United States, two people familiar with the talks said. This would be the biggest deal yet for the stealthy F-35 jet, which is set to make its Paris Airshow debut this week. The sale represents a major shift in sales practices from annual purchases to more economic multi-year deals that lower the cost of each jet.

The pricing of the jets was still not final, though the average price of the 440 jets was expected to be $85 million, the people said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly. A representative for the customers including the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Last week, representatives from 11 F-35 customer nations met in Baltimore, Maryland to discuss terms and toured a Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).

Those nations included Australia, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, South Korea, Britain and the United States. The memorandum of understanding being negotiated between Lockheed and the customers aims to procure 135 or more jets in fiscal year 2018 for delivery in 2020 for about $88 million per jet, the people said.

In the subsequent fiscal years, 2019 and 2020, procurement would ramp up to 150 or more jets per year. The average price in 2019 could be $85 million for the F-35 “A” variant and could drop below $80 million in 2020, the people said. That would mark the lowest price ever paid for an F-35, making this deal an important step in reducing the overall cost of each jet.

The F-35 has been widely criticized for being too expensive, including by U.S. President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials who have criticized the Pentagon’s most expensive program for delays and cost overruns. The memorandum of understanding will guarantee contracts will take place in each successive future year.

This allows the manufacturing group led by Lockheed to take advantage of greater economies of scale, reducing the cost of each jet. They have been working to reduce the cost of the jets through streamlining the supply chain and purchasing materials in bulk.

Recently revised estimates indicate the U.S. Defence Department expects to spend $379 billion, down from $391 billion, to develop and buy 2,443 of the supersonic warplanes through 2039 one of the people said.

The F-35 comes in three configurations, the A-model for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. allies; the B-model, which can handle short take-offs and vertical landings for the Marine Corps and the British navy; and the carrier-variant F-35C jets.

In February, the Pentagon agreed to a deal for the tenth batch of the fighter aircraft and agreed to pay below $95 million per jet for the first time, compared with $102 million in the previous purchase which was the lowest price up until that point. Around that time the Pentagon said the price of a jet could fall 16 percent to around $80 million in future purchases.

See the HMS Queen Elizabeth & F-35B Lightning CGI Tour on Defense of the Realm, HERE





The Five Eyes alliance is a secretive, global surveillance arrangement of States comprised of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters(GCHQ), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Beginning in 1946, an alliance of five English-speaking countries (the US, the  UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) developed a series of  bilateral agreements over more than a decade that became known as the UKUSA agreement, establishing the Five Eyes alliance for the purpose of sharing intelligence, primarily signals intelligence (SIGINT). For almost 70 years, this secret post-war alliance of five English-speaking countries has been building a global surveillance infrastructure to “master the internet” and spy on the world’s communications.

What does the Five Eyes agreement say?

Despite being nearly 70 years old, very little is known about the alliance and the agreements that bind them. While the existence of the agreement has been noted in history books and references are often made to it as part of reporting on the intelligence agencies, there is little knowledge or understanding outside the services themselves of exactly what the arrangement comprises.

Even within the governments of the respective countries, which the intelligence agencies are meant to serve, there has historically been little appreciation for the extent of the arrangement. In fact, it is so secretive that the Australian prime minister reportedly wasn’t informed of its existence until 1973 and no government officially acknowledged the arrangement by name until 1999. Few documents have been released detailing the Five Eyes surveillance arrangement. To read the documents available, click here for the National Archives and here for the NSA’s release of the UKUSA Agreement.

National Security Agency Headquarters (NSA), Maryland, USA.

Here’s what we do know: under the agreement interception, collection, acquisition, analysis, and decryption is conducted by each of the State parties in their respective parts of the globe, and all intelligence information is shared by default. The agreement is wide in scope and establishes jointly-run operations centres where operatives from multiple intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes States work alongside each other.

Further, tasks are divided between SIGINT agencies, ensuring that the Five Eyes alliance is far more than a set of principles of collaboration. The level of cooperation under the agreement is so complete that the national product is often indistinguishable.

What’s the extent of Five Eyes collaboration?

Together the Five Eyes collaborated and developed specific technical programmes of collection and analysis. One senior member of Britain’s intelligence community said “When you get a GCHQ pass it gives you access to the NSA too. You can walk into the NSA and find GCHQ staff holding senior management positions, and vice versa. When the NSA has a piece of intelligence, it will very often ask GCHQ for a second opinion. There have been ups and downs over the years, of course. But in general, the NSA and GCHQ are extremely close allies. They rely on each other.”

GCHQ Headquarters, Cheltenham, United Kingdom.

The close relationship between the five States is also evidenced by documents recently released by Edward Snowden. Almost all of the documents include the classification “TOP SECRET//COMINT//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL” or “TOP SECRET//COMINT//REL TO USA, FVEY.” These classification markings indicate the material is top-secret communications intelligence (aka SIGINT) material that can be released to the US, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand. The purpose of the REL TO is to identify classified information that a party has predetermined to be releasable (or has already been released) through established foreign disclosure procedures and channels, to a foreign country or international organisation.

The level of co-operation under the UKUSA agreement is so complete that “the national product is often indistinguishable.” Another former British spy has said that “[c]ooperation between the two countries, particularly, in SIGINT, is so close that it becomes very difficult to know who is doing what […] it’s just organizational mess.”

Despite rumours of a “no-spy pact”, there is no prohibition on intelligence-gathering by Five Eyes States on the citizens or residents of other Five Eyes States, although there is a general understanding that citizens will not be directly targeted and where communications are incidentally intercepted there will be an effort to minimize the use and analysis of such communications by the intercepting State.

Are there any other surveillance alliances?

In addition to the Five Eyes alliance, a number of other surveillance partnerships exist:

  • 9 Eyes: the Five Eyes, with the addition of Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway;
  • 14 Eyes: the 9 Eyes, with the addition of Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden;
  • 41 Eyes: all of the above, with the addition of the allied coalition in Afghanistan;
  • Tier B countries with which the Five Eyes have “focused cooperation” on computer network exploitation, including Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungry, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey;
  • Club of Berne: 17 members including primarily European States; the US is not a member;
  • The Counterterrorist Group: a wider membership than the 17 European States that make up the Club of Berne, and includes the US;
  • NATO Special Committee: made up of the heads of the security services of NATO member countries.