8. The US military unveiled its latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird, a helicopter drone which utilizes a 1.8 gigapixel color video camera. These UAVs are scheduled to begin operations in Afghanistan as early as May of this year.
7. A deal between the South Korean government and Northrop Grumman for RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs has been placed on hold after disagreements over costs and delays in getting formal US government approval for the sale.
6. During the same week, South Korea finalized a purchase with Dassault Aviation for two Falcon 2000 reconnaissance aircraft. These aircraft will enter service around 2017 and will be the replacement for South Korea’s aging RC-800 (Hawker 800) aircraft.
5. Russia handed a Nerpa class nuclear-powered attack submarine to India on a ten-year lease for $920 million.
4. Beidou, China’s version of America’s Global Positioning System, becomes operational. China becomes the third nation to develop its own satellite navigation system, after the United States and Russia. Analysts worry that this satellite system will be used to strengthen China’s growing military capabilities.
3. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presented on Jan. 5 the results of the Pentagon’s strategic review of U.S. roles and missions worldwide in an era of budget cuts. The news conference outlined how the U.S. will posture its military to address current and future challenges: its reduction of military personnel, its plans for increased flexibility and deployability, and a refocus onto the Asia-Pacific region.
2. The Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Wednesday, January 04, 2012 that Iran planned to hold more military exercises right after its 10-day drill in the Persian Gulf. In another escalation in rhetoric, Iran also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz should an American aircraft carrier return to the Persian Gulf. The U.S., which keeps a carrier in or near the gulf at all times, shrugged off the threat.
1. The European Union agrees to embargo Iranian oil, while China has decreased its orders from Iran by more than half this month. China and the EU are Iran’s largest and second largest purchasers of its oil, respectively. These recent turn of events have increased the price of oil to nearly $114 per barrel.
1. Western oil firms remain in Iraq even as the US exits. Iraq has a goal of raising its oil production capacity to 12m barrels per day by 2017, which would place it in the top echelon of global producers. Recently, BP and CNPC finalized the first new oil contract issued by Baghdad for the largest oil field in the country, the 17 billion barrel super giant Rumaila field. ExxonMobil, with junior partner Royal Dutch Shell, won a bidding war against Russia's Lukoil (and junior partner ConocoPhillips) for the 8.7 billion barrel West Qurna Phase 1 project. Italy's Eni SpA, with California's Occidental Petroleum and the Korea Gas Corp, was awarded Iraq's Zubair oil field with estimated reserves of 4.4 billion barrels. Shell was the lead partner with Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, winning a contract for the super-giant Majnoon field, one of the largest in the world, with estimated reserves of up to 25 billion.
2. Iraq: Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel that the U.S. military will continue limited counterterrorism training with Iraqi forces at up to 10 camps around the country beyond the end of the year. Panetta left open the possibility for continued negotiations with Baghdad over a force presence there. The Pentagon chief also pointed out that the United States has some 40,000 troops in the region, including in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
3. Iran: Iran has begun uranium enrichment at a new underground site built to withstand possible airstrikes. One of the scientists working in the uranium enrichment project Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, was also assassinated this week in a car blast. These recent events, along with the positioning of a new aircraft carrier strike group in the Arabian Sea (and another on the way to the region) continues to increase the tension in the region.
4. A rotor-wing UAV makes its debut in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is testing a revolutionary new drone for its arsenal, a pilotless helicopter intended to fly cargo missions to remote outposts where frequent roadside bombs threaten access by road convoys. The craft have flown 20 transport missions since the inaugural flight on Dec. 17. They have delivered nearly 18 tons of cargo, mainly thousands of Meals Ready to Eat and spare parts needed at the forward operating bases.
5. The popularity of the unmanned aircraft continues to soar, and its relevance is only predicted to continue to grow. UAV missions in the military already include deploying missiles and bombs, performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks, making cargo drops and more. Combat air patrols by UAVs grew 660 percent from 2004 to 2009, according to the Air Force. When President Obama rolled out his new military strategy earlier this month, he proposed more emphasis and resources on UAVs.
6. China’s Pipelines in Myanmar In order to meet energy demands in its resource-crunched eastern, southern and central parts, China is constructing oil and gas pipelines in Myanmar, almost reaching to the seashores of Bay of Bengal. Currently, the CNPC, in agreement with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and the Myanmar state security forces, is engaged in laying a 982 km (620 miles) long crude oil pipeline from Kyaukpyu Port on the western coast of Arakan State linking Kunming after entering the border city of Ruili in Yunnan Province of China at a cost of US $2.5 billion. Concurrently, they are also constructing another gas pipeline, capable of delivering 12 bn cm of natural gas per year, from Shwe Gas off the Arakan coast up to Kunming. At the same time, a deep underwater crude oil unloading port and oil storage facility is being constructed at Maday Island (Arakan Coast) to serve as terminus for the tankers coming from West Asia and Africa.
7. US Military to Help Build South Sudan. The United States military is joining efforts to help build the newly independent nation of South Sudan. U.S. Defense officials say they are dispatching five officers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Marines starting January 13 on the orders of President Barack Obama. The United States has been boosting its military assistance to Africa in recent months. In October, Obama announced the deployment of about 100 troops to Uganda and other parts of Central Africa to help armies in the region battle the Lord’s Resistance Army guerrilla group.
8. The Marine Corps is slowly increasing its mission objectives in the African continent. The 180 members of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) are serving in the Trans-Sahel region of Africa, stretches across the center of the continent’s north along the Sahara Desert. The unit has also deployed farther east, in countries such as Djibouti. SPMAGTF-12 will rotate out of Italy in the spring, and 3rd Force Recon will take over the command element. Rotations for fiscal 2013 “are being sourced,” Winnacker added. While not expected grow to the level of a 2,300-member Marine expeditionary unit, the SPMAGTF could add Marines in order to be “as relevant as possible.”
(for the Week Ending January 20, 2012)
5. Government and African Union forces began a heavy offensive early on Friday against insurgent strongholds on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu, trying to drive the Islamic militants they have long battled out of the city, officials and witnesses said.
Both U.S. and French special forces are believed to be helping with guidance and intelligence, while keeping low profiles.
4. China’s top energy group and its partners Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to push ahead with plans for a $12.6 billion refinery and petrochemical complex in east China which is likely to start before similar rival facilities.
The project, which includes a 400,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery and a 1.2-million-tonne-per-year ethylene complex, is one of several joint-ventures that China, the world’s second biggest energy consumer, hopes will provide the fuel for its expanding economy.
3. Israeli leaders held talks with the top U.S. military commander, General Martin Dempsey, following the postponement of a joint exercise that was to be the biggest ever for the two allies.
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he stressed common interests and the important partnership between the U.S. and Israel in his meetings with Israeli counterpart Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. He was also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
2. France suspended its training operations in Afghanistan and threatened to withdraw its entire force from the country early, after an Afghan wearing an army uniform shot and killed four French troops Friday and wounded others.
1. Major powers seeking to negotiate an end to Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons on Friday signaled their openness to renewed talks with Tehran but diplomats said the powers remain divided on their approach.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the group, issued a statement making clear that a diplomatic path remains open to Iran despite tougher sanctions and fresh speculation of a military strike on its nuclear facilities.