Tag: Jets

Russian Aerospace Force to get over hundred aircraft in 2017

Russian Sukhoi Su-35S Multi-role Heavy Fighter

Russia’s Aerospace Force will get over 70 aircraft and helicopters, as well as more than 40 air defense missile systems until the end of this year, Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Viktor Bondarev told Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Friday.

“Over 70 aircraft, more than 40 air defense missile systems and about 70 radar stations will arrive for Aerospace Force units until the end of the year,” he said.

Russia’s Aerospace Force has already received about 50 new aircraft this year: Sukhoi Su-34, Su-35S, Su-30SM, Yak-130 planes, Kamov Ka-52 combat helicopters, Mil Mi-8 AMTSh and Mi-8MTV-5-1 military transport helicopters and also over 20 standby and alert radar stations, the commander said.

Russian Sukhoi Su-34 Multi-role Attack Aircraft

“Besides, the industry is finalizing and delivering satellites, military carrier rockets and radars characterized by the high degree of their readiness for ensuring a closed field of missile attack warning.

Let me note that special attention during the planning of the Aerospace Force’s hardware upgrade was paid to constant alert units and formations where armament and military hardware had considerably used up their potential,” Bondarev said.






Russian jets scrambled four times in past week to intercept foreign aircraft

Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, August 11. /TASS/. Russian aircraft were scrambled four times during the past seven days to intercept foreign planes near Russian borders, the Russian Defense Ministry said in its weekly infographics published on Friday.

According to the ministry’s data, 12 foreign aircraft conducted air surveillance near the Russian borders in the reported period.

“Any violation of the Russian airspace was prevented,” the ministry said.
The ministry also said that the Russian military conducted one inspection in the United States under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

On the Russian territory, a joint mission under the Open Skies Treaty was conducted jointly by the United Kingdom and Norway.




Marine drills involving over 2,000 troops take place in Russia’s West

Vladimir Rodionov/TASS

KALININGRAD, August 10. /TASS/. More than 2,000 marine troops participated in tactical drills involving a marine brigade and the 11th Army Corps of the Russian Baltic Fleet, which were held at the Khmelyovka training range in the Kaliningrad region, Fleet Spokesman Roman Martov told TASS.

“The drills were aimed at training the skills of seizing coastal areas and driving the enemy forces out of them,” he said. According to the fleet spokesman, the exercises involved more than 2,000 troops, as well as over 100 pieces of military hardware, including 20 warships, boats and supply vessels, 12 planes and helicopters from the Baltic Fleet’s naval aircraft units.”

The Russian Federation enclave of Kaliningrad

Besides, tanks, the Akatsiya self-propelled howitzers, Grad multiple launch rocket systems and Shilka self-propelled antiaircraft guns, as well as other military hardware, was also used during the marine drills. At the same time, the Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft and Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters performed missile attacks on the simulated enemy’s positions. A Mil Mi-8 transport helicopters delivered a marine assault group to the drills site, while an air assault group arrived in an Antonov An-26 transport aircraft.

Baltic Fleet Su-24M/MRs from the 4th Independent Naval Assault Aviation Regiment – Chernyakhovsk Air Base contribute to the amphibious landings.

“During the exercises, ships carrying marine assault groups trained to suppress the simulated enemy’s coastal strongpoints and honed the tactics of military activities behind enemy’s lines, which particularly involve marine assault groups.

To create an environment close to that of an actual military operation, more than five tonnes of various simulated munitions were used.





US may deploy 7 fighter-jets in Lithuania during Zapad drills – president

Pilots with the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons fly alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

VILNIUS, Jul 31, BNS – The United States may station seven fighter-jets in Lithuania for the time of the large-scale Russian-Belarusian war games Zapad 2017 this fall, President Dalia Grybauskaite said in Tallinn on Monday.

“We expect as many as seven jets, almost double in the nearest future,” Grybauskaite told Lithuanian journalists during the meeting of her Baltic counterparts with US Vice-President Mike Pence in the Estonian capital.

US fighter-jets should arrive in Lithuania in late August or early September for the NATO air-policing mission.

The NATO air-policing mission is currently conducted from Lithuania and Estonia by four fighter-jets in each country.

Grybauskaite said the Baltic states were happy with the US guarantees that go beyond words.
In her words, more US troops and equipment will be deployed in Lithuania during Zapad 2017.

Officials in Lithuania are mainly concerned over the actual number of troops involved in the exercise and the scenario or training.

The US already increased the presence of its air-policing jets in Lithuania in early 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.


Russia’s military drills near NATO border raise fears of aggression

WASHINGTON — Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer, one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Vladimir V. Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War.

The troops are conducting military maneuvers known as Zapad, Russian for “west,” in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The drills will feature a reconstituted armored force named for a storied Soviet military unit, the First Guards Tank Army. Its establishment represents the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that so much offensive power has been concentrated in a single command.

The military exercise, planned for many months, is not a reaction to sweeping new economic sanctions on Russia that Congress passed last week. So far, Russia has retaliated against the sanctions by forcing the expulsion of several hundred employees in American diplomatic posts in the country.

But the move is part of a larger effort by Mr. Putin to shore up Russia’s military prowess, and comes against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive Russia. Beyond Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in support of the Trump campaign, which has seized attention in the United States, its military has in recent years deployed forces to Syria, seized Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine, rattled the Baltic States with snap exercises and buzzed NATO planes and ships.

Even more worrying, top American military officers say, is that the maneuvers could be used as a pretext to increase Russia’s military presence in Belarus, a central European nation that borders three critical NATO allies: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

“The great concern is they’re not going to leave, and that’s not paranoia,” Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the United States Special Operations Command, told a national security conference in Aspen, Colo., in July.

Peter B. Zwack, a retired one-star Army general who was the American defense attaché in Moscow from 2012 to 2014, said: “First and foremost, the messaging is, ‘We’re watching you; we’re strong; we’ve learned a lot; don’t mess with Russia.’”

Western military officials caution that the United States and Russia are not on the brink of war. But they expressed concern that the heightened Russian military activity could lead to unintended confrontations.

For this installment of the Zapad maneuvers, a Cold War relic revived in 1999 and held again in 2009 and 2013, Russia has requisitioned enough rail cars to carry 4,000 loads of tanks and other heavy equipment to and from Belarus.

Distribution of Russian, Belarussian and NATO forces in Eastern Europe.

The Russians already have about 1,000 air defense troops and communications personnel stationed in Belarus, and logistical teams are surveying training sites there. By mid- August, advance elements of the thousands of Russian Army, airborne and air defense troops that are to participate in the exercise are expected to arrive. The rest of the force is expected to reach Belarus by early September ahead of the Zapad exercises, scheduled for Sept. 14 to 20.

The United States is taking precautions, including sending 600 American paratroopers to NATO’s three Baltic members for the duration of the Zapad exercise and delaying the rotation of a United States-led battle group in Poland.

U.S. 173rd Airbourne arrive in Poland.

“Look, we’ll be ready; we’ll be prepared,” said Lt. Gen. Frederick B. Hodges, the head of United States Army forces in Europe. “But we’re not going to be up on the parapets waiting for something to happen.”

In 2014, Russia’s stealthy forays into eastern Ukraine and its rapid capture of Crimea were seen as skillful exercises in “hybrid warfare,” a combination of cyberwarfare, a powerful disinformation campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops and local proxy forces.

But there is nothing subtle about the tank-heavy unit at the heart of the coming Zapad exercise.

The First Guards Tank Army, made up mainly of forces transferred from other units, including elite motorized and tank divisions near Moscow, has an extensive pedigree. The unit battled the Germans during World War II on the Eastern Front and eventually in Berlin before becoming part of the Soviet force that occupied Germany. In 1968, it participated in the invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring.

After the end of the Cold War, the unit was withdrawn to Smolensk, near the border with Belarus, before being disbanded in 1998. But it was reconstituted by Mr. Putin to give the Russian military more offensive punch and present a visible demonstration of Russian power.

“That name was chosen for a reason,” said Philip M. Breedlove, a retired four-star Air Force general who served as NATO commander. “It sends a very clear message to the Baltics and Poland.”

In addition, the Russians have fielded a new motorized division near Smolensk, close to the border with Belarus, which could be used in conjunction with the tank unit. In combination with the highly mobile tank army, that force has about 800 tanks, more than 300 artillery pieces and a dozen Iskander tactical missile launchers.

That is more tanks than NATO has in active units deployed in the Baltic States, Poland and Germany put together, not including armor in storage that would be used by reinforcements sent from the United States, noted Phillip A. Karber, the president of the Potomac Foundation, who has studied Russian military operations in and around Ukraine.

“There is only one reason you would create a Guards Tank Army, and that is as an offensive striking force,” General Hodges said. “This is not something for homeland security. That does not mean that they are automatically going to do it, but in terms of intimidation it is a means of putting pressure on allies.”

Mr. Karber cautioned against exaggerating the First Guards Tank Army’s capability, noting that not all of its units were fully manned and that some of the most modern tanks earmarked for it have not arrived.

“There is only one reason you would create a Guards Tank Army, and that is as an offensive striking force,” General Hodges said. “This is not something for homeland security. That does not mean that they are automatically going to do it, but in terms of intimidation it is a means of putting pressure on allies.”

4th Tank Brigade of the 1st Guards Tank Army. The Russian 1st Guards Tank Army has been reactivated in Russia’s Western Military District.

But if fully deployed into Belarus, he said, it will be a powerful offensive formation and a way for the Russian military to rapidly project power westward, which is all the more important for Moscow. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant that Russian forces lost Belarus and Ukraine as buffers.

“Just the presence of the First Guards Tank Army near the Polish border would put NATO on the horns of a dilemma,” Mr. Karber said. “Does NATO reinforce the Baltics or defend eastern Poland? NATO does not have enough forces to do both in a short period of time. It adds to the political pressure Russia can bring to bear to keep the Baltic nations and Poland in line”.

The Russians have also announced that the First Guards Tank Army will be the first formation to receive the T-14 Armata tank, a new infantry fighting vehicle, as well as advanced air defense and electronic warfare equipment.

A more immediate concern, however, is whether Russia will use the Zapad exercise to keep Belarus in line. Belarus has long worked closely with Moscow, and its air defense units are integrated with Russia’s to the east.

But with friction between the nation’s autocratic president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, and Mr. Putin have come reports that Belarus is reluctant to host more Russian forces permanently.

As part of the maneuvers, units of the First Guards Tank Army are expected to establish a forward command post in western Belarus, and to hold exercises in training areas near Brest, on the Polish border, and Grodno, near Poland and Lithuania.

Russian officials have told NATO that the maneuvers will be far smaller than Western officials are anticipating and will involve fewer than 13,000 troops. But NATO officials say the exercise is intended to test Russia’s contingency plans for a major conflict with the alliance and will also involve Russian civilian agencies.

“We have every reason to believe that it may be substantially more troops participating than the official reported numbers,” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said in July.

Adding to the concern, the Russians have yet to agree that international observers can monitor the Zapad exercise. American officials have long said that monitoring is important, given the difficulty of Western intelligence in determining whether Russian military activity is merely an exercise or a preparation for an armed intervention.

At least two battalions of First Guards units, or some 3,000 armored troops, are expected to participate in the Belarus maneuvers. The total number of Russian troops, security personnel and civilian officials in the broader exercise is expected to range from 60,000 to as many as 100,000.

The question NATO officials are asking is whether all of the troops and equipment in Belarus will leave.

Said General Hodges, “I am very interested in what goes in and what comes out.”

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.



UPDATE: Poland takes lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing, supported by Spain [VIDEO]

Poland took the lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission on Tuesday (2 May 2017), succeeding the Royal Netherlands Air Force at Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania. Spain will replace the German Air Force in supporting the mission from Estonia’s Ämari airbase.

Poland took the lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission on Tuesday (2 May 2017), succeeding the Royal Netherlands Air Force at Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania. Spain will replace the German Air Force in supporting the mission from Estonia’s Ämari airbase.

Ejército del Aire F/A-18C.

The Polish Air Force will carry out the mission with four F-16 fighter aircraft, while the Spanish Air Force is deploying five F-18 fighter jets.  Poland has now led the mission six times, while Spain is also a regular contributor.

Since 2004, seventeen Allies have participated in 44 rotations of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing. The mission is a standing peacetime activity, helping ensure the integrity of the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The next scheduled rotation is foreseen for September.

Source: youtube.com and NATO.

NATO, Russian troops rattle swords along hundreds of miles of borderland

Tens of thousands of troops are on the move from the Baltic to the Black Sea, as NATO and Russia open up a series of massive military exercises the size of which the continent hasn’t seen since the Cold War.

Both sides claim the drills, which involve aircraft, warships, tanks and artillery, are purely defensive in nature. But it is clear the exercises are also meant to show off new capabilities and technologies, and display not only the strength of alliances, but how swiftly troops and heavy equipment can move to squash a threat at the frontier.

The most ambitious undertaking on the NATO side is Saber Guardian 17, a series of over a dozen distinct battle drills being carried out by 25,000 troops from 20 countries moving across Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The scenario presented to ground commanders is that a technologically advanced land force has pushed into NATO territory and is threatening the alliance as a whole. The drills include air defense tests, live fire tank engagements, long advances by armored columns, fighter planes and helicopters supporting ground movements, electronic warfare, and airdrops.

General Pavel also visited the NATO enhanced Air Policing Mission and observed the US-led multinational exercise Saber Guardian 17.

“Deterrence is about capability, it’s about making sure that any potential adversary knows that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary,” U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told reporters during the exercise. “What escalates tensions is when we look weak, not connected, not prepared, that is what invites aggression.”

But increasing military capability doesn’t have to mean war, he added. “The Russians only respect strength, so if we demonstrate cohesion, if we demonstrate that we are together, that we are prepared, then I think we don’t have to worry.”

The general’s blunt comments underscore the planning for Saber Guardian, which doesn’t name Russia as the adversary, but clearly has the Kremlin in mind.

Task Force War Eagle under the command of 1st Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment crossed the border from Romania to Bulgaria July 18, 2017 for the Dragoon Guardian convoy to continue on for more Saber Guardian 17 exercises. JENNIFER BUNN/U.S. ARMY.

The scenario revolves around an incursion into NATO territory by a militarily advanced enemy intent on seizing the economic assets of Black Sea countries. A battle featuring 5,000 NATO troops at the Cincu training range in Romania saw U.S. Apache and Romanian helicopters coordinate with artillery on the ground, U.S. Abrams tanks, and 650 vehicles in support of a large infantry movement to halt the advance.

The U.S. is planning to spend about $23 million on the sprawling Romanian base in order to conduct even larger, more complex battle drills there in the future.

On the other side of the deterrent fence stands Russia, which is preparing to surge as many as 100,000 troops into the field in a series of drills dubbed Zapad, or “West” in the coming weeks.

The Kremlin claims about 12,700 troops will be active in Belarus and Russia for Zapad. But experts and NATO officials say Moscow is more likely to conduct a series of engagements that will swell those ranks by tens of thousands. Under the Vienna Document agreement of 2011, foreign observers must be present for any exercise that exceeds 13,000 troops.

By coming in under that number while conducting several other large drills at the same time, Moscow can avoid the presence of observers and control the narrative of how its troops performed.

But NATO is wary.

Given that Russia used a massive military exercise in 2014 to obscure its incursion into Crimea, and invaded South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008 during another exercise that covered troop movements, the alliance is keeping a close eye on Zapad.

Russian army invading Crimea, Ukraine.

“From previous experiences related to previous exercises, we have every reason to believe there may be substantially more troops participating than the official quoted numbers,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said recently when asked about Zapad.

“We don’t consider this year’s Zapad exercise in itself to be a direct threat to [NATO] or a cover for an attack,” added Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for defense policy at Estonia’s Ministry of Defense during a conference in Washington on July 11. “But we have to keep in mind that the Russians have the nasty habit of hiding their actual military endeavors behind exercises.”

The last Zapad, in 2014, focused on displaying how quickly Russia could move forces from one part of the country to another, and illustrated how the Kremlin underplays the number of troops involved in its intertwined military drills.

Moscow claimed about 22,000 troops took part in 2014, but outside observers later concluded that up to 70,000 were involved, once all of the smaller but related exercises were added up.

Whatever number of troops ultimately take part, Moscow is “going to very actively signal what they can and cannot do militarily,” said Olga Oliker of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And the fact that Russia often conducts nuclear exercises in conjunction with conventional movements adds an extra element of uncertainty for NATO and the West.

This year, “I’m looking to see what Kaliningrad’s role is in the exercise, and what supporting and concurrent exercises are being held in Belarus and Kaliningrad,” the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, Oliker said.

Three Chinese warships are slated to arrive in Kaliningrad in July 21 to take part in a series of drills with the Russian navy and air force.

Chinese warships are en-route to the Baltic Sea.

The upcoming week’s worth of activities will include anti-submarine and anti-ship operations, and practice between the two nations communicating and coordinating while fighting. “The main aims of the exercise are to increase the efficiency in cooperation of the two fleets to counter threats to security at sea, [and] train compatibility of the crews of Russian and Chinese combat ships,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The naval activity in the Baltic comes months after NATO established new brigades in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, beefed up by prepositioned American tanks and heavy armored vehicles.

In June, the U.S. Air Force also sent B-1 and B-52 bombers to Europe to participate in the massive BALTOPs exercise with Baltic allies, which included 50 allied ships running through a series of defensive maneuvers to protect NATO’s northern flanks.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army deployed a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in Lithuania for use in yet another NATO wargame, marking the first time the system has been brought to the Baltic region where Russia enjoys a robust air and missile defense capability. The deployment is temporary, U.S. officials cautioned, but officials in Lithuania are looking at purchasing the system. Romania recently committed to a $3.9 billion deal for seven Patriot missile defense systems in July.

Closer to Russia’s borders and Crimea is another NATO exercise related to Saber Guardian, dubbed Sea Breeze 2017. The 12-day naval exercise currently underway in the Black Sea is co-hosted by the U.S. and Ukraine, and features the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Hue City and the destroyer USS Carney, which join 16 other countries in the Odessa-based undertaking. American surveillance plans and a team of Navy SEALs are also participating.

The naval exercises will be closely watched by Russian forces, who are active in the Black Sea, and have vastly improved their surveillance capabilities in Crimea. Over the past year, Russian aircraft have repeatedly buzzed American warships and aircraft in international waters in the Black Sea, drawing protests from Washington.

In February, an armed Russian aircraft buzzed the USS Porter, and in May armed Russian jets came within feet of U.S. surveillance planes operating over the waterway.

Source: Stars and Stripes.

Russia took a jab at NATO on Twitter for close calls in the skies over Eastern Europe

BALTIC SEA: A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a high speed run (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The contentious exchanges between Russian and NATO aircraft above Europe carried over into cyberspace early on Friday.

“6 interceptions of @NATO recon planes on our borders last week,” The Russian embassy in the UK tweeted Friday morning.

“Transparency, provided for by Open Skies Treaty, not enough?” the tweet concluded.

 Russian aircraft and their NATO counterparts have had numerous encounters in recent months, especially in the skies over the Baltics, where both forces are highly active.

The Open Skies Treaty, which Russia and the US are party to, “is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them,” according to the US State Department.

Moscow claims that 20 foreign aircraft, six of which were intercepted, flew close to the Russian border this last week, but would not provide additional details about the alleged incidents, according to Newsweek. But Russia also admitted that NATO planes didn’t stray from international airspace.

The Lithuanian Defence Ministry, however, also says that NATO jets intercepted Russian IL-20 aircraft in two separate incidents on July 4 and 7.

A Russian fighter jet flies near a US Air Force plane, June 2017. US Air Force.

A Russian spokesperson told Newsweek that those two incidents were a “necessity, not luxury unlike what is done by NATO,” adding “We mind our legitimate business.” A NATO spokesperson also told Newsweek that “allies and NATO routinely fly reconnaissance aircraft over Central Europe … This is done in a safe and professional manner and in accordance with international law.”

 Russian and NATO jets and ships have been playing a game of cat and mouse in Eastern Europe over the last few years.

Between March 2014 and April 2017 there have been 97 midair confrontations between Russian and western aircraft, according to western officials and advocacy group Global Zero. That was more than two-thirds of all air interceptions in the world during that period. Russian aircraft are usually the ones executing unsafe interceptions.

Between June 2 and June 20, there were at least 35 such interactions between Russian and NATO planes and ships in the Baltic Sea, according to Fox News.

Western officials and analysts believe Russia is doing this in response to conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and other areas. Russia has labelled such accusations “total Russophobia.”

Source: Business Insider Australia.

Taiwan wary as China’s first ‘combat ready’ aircraft carrier sails near its defence zone

Taiwan has cast a nervous eye as China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, along with its convoy, sailed into Taipei’s air defence identification zone early on Wednesday (12 July). The “combat ready” warship was on its way back from Hong Kong where it had made a five-day port call.

The Liaoning left Hong Kong at about noon on Tuesday and entered Taiwan’s defence zone by 2.40am on Wednesday, the island’s defence ministry said. It added that Taipei was closely monitoring the movement of the carrier, and that there was no cause for alarm. The vessel sailed in a northerly direction via the western side of the Taiwan Strait, Reuters cited the ministry as saying.

But it also clarified that it did not detect any abnormal activity in its airspace, although it is not clear when the convoy is expected to leave Taiwan’s air defence zone. Taiwan reportedly scrambled jets and naval vessels to shadow the movement of the Liaoning, according to the South China Morning Post.

“We have conducted overall surveillance and made necessary preparations for [the Liaoning’s passage] in line with the emergency regulations,” a ministry statement said.

It is believed to be the fourth time that the Liaoning has sailed near Taiwan. China considers Taipei as its breakaway province and has always defended the passage of its vessel as routine drills. The Soviet-built vessel had also entered the Taiwan Strait earlier this month when it was en route to Hong Kong.

The Liaoning docked in the semi-autonomous city-state as part of the anniversary celebration to mark 20 years since the Asian financial hub was handed back to mainland China, ending 156 years of British colonial rule. The carrier group conducted an aircraft launch and landing training after wrapping up its visit to Hong Kong, Reuters reported.

The aircraft carrier and its fleet were also open to the public in Hong Kong, with the city’s compatriots learning more about the Chinese military’s accomplishments The Liaoning’s fleet included a number of shipboard J-15 fighter jets and helicopters. Accompanied by two guided-missile destroyers CNS Jinan and CNS Yinchuan, as well as guided-missile frigate CNS Yantai and other ships from its strike group, this was the first time the Liaoning had docked in Hong Kong.

The Liaoning, whose home port is in northern China, left Shandong province on 25 June. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taipei under its control, but since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May last year, Beijing fears the democratic leader may seek independence for the self-ruled nation.

Original article: By Nandini Krishnamoorthy, International Business Times.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful, High Court rules

Royal Saudi Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000-Typhoon.

After seeing secret evidence, the High Court has rejected claims that the Government is acting unlawfully by failing to suspend the sale of UK arms to Saudi Arabia.

The case was brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which says UK fighter jets and bombs sent to the Gulf state have been used in the conflict in Yemen.

The group attacked the refusal of the Secretary of State for International Trade to suspend export licences for the sale or transfer of arms and military equipment and its decision to continue granting new licences.

CAAT said that more than 10,000 people have been killed since 2015 as a Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervenes in the Yemeni civil war and the Government is guilty of “repeated and serious breaches” of international humanitarian law.

But Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting in London, dismissed the campaigners’ application for judicial review, saying the decision to carry on the arms trade was not irrational or unlawful.

The judges agreed that secret evidence, referred to as “closed material”, seen by them but not made public for national security reasons, “provides valuable additional support for the conclusion that the decisions taken by the Secretary of State not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia were rational”.

CAAT said the fighting has created a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80 per cent of the population in need of aid.

But the UK has continued to allow sales, with more than £3.3 billion worth of arms having been licensed since the bombing began in March 2015.

The Government argued there is no “clear risk” that UK licensed items might be used to commit a serious violation of humanitarian law.

Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave were told the Secretary of State for International Trade, who is defending the Government stance, is “relying considerably on sensitive material” the disclosure of which in open court “would be damaging to national security”.

A Government spokesman said: “We welcome this judgment, which underscores the fact that the UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.

“We will continue to keep our defence exports under careful review to ensure they meet the rigorous standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.”

Original article: The Telegraph.