US Navy works with allies to expand use of unmanned vessels in Middle East

Special US Navy works with allies to expand use of unmanned vessels in Middle East
The US Navy has expanded its partnerships with 34 countries in the region, with Egypt last year becoming the latest. (AFP/US NAVY)
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Updated 12 May 2022

US Navy works with allies to expand use of unmanned vessels in Middle East

US Navy works with allies to expand use of unmanned vessels in Middle East
  • Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said: ‘I would describe our efforts as being focused in two main areas: one, strengthening partnerships, and two, accelerating innovation’
  • In February, the US and its allies conducted the world’s largest unmanned naval exercise, called IMX 22, in the Middle East; about 60 countries took part

WASHINGTON: The US Navy is enhancing its security operations in the Gulf and the Middle East regions, one of its commanders said on Wednesday, through the use of unmanned vessels that utilize artificial intelligence technology.
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet, in Bahrain said during a briefing, attended by Arab News, that the main focus of American naval operations in the region is to strengthen partnerships with regional allies and expand the use of innovative military systems.
“I would describe our efforts as being focused in two main areas: one, strengthening partnerships, and two, accelerating innovation,” he said
The US Navy has expanded its partnerships with 34 countries in the region, with Egypt last year becoming the latest, he added.
Cooper said the recent formation of the new, multinational Combined Task Force 153, one of four Combined Maritime Forces, aims to improve security in the Red Sea, Bab El-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden. It will also help foster better working relationships between the US and its partners within its area of operations, which is critical to regional security.
The US navy is looking to expand, in cooperation with its allies in the region, the use of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence within its fleet to improve security capabilities, he added. To help achieve this, Cooper said he established the new Task Force 59 last September.
“Integrating new, unmanned systems with artificial intelligence puts more eyes out on the water that we simply have not had in the past,” he said.
The US Navy deployed unmanned systems in Bahrain and Aqaba, Jordan, last year, Cooper revealed. In February this year, the US and its allies conducted the world’s largest unmanned exercise, called IMX 22, in the Middle East. About 60 countries took part.
Cooper called for greater cooperation between regional naval allies in efforts to utilize new technologies that can help improve security and stability.
“I believe that we are on the cusp of an unmanned technological revolution and this calls for regional navies to work together more closely,” he said.
Cooperation between the naval forces of the US and Saudi Arabia is extensive, he added, highlighting in particular the Saudi role and leadership within task forces established by the US navy and its partners in the region.
“Over a period of years, the Saudis have commanded multiple task forces within the Combined Maritime Forces,” he said. “In fact, this summer there will be a Saudi leader of Combined Task Force 150, which leads our maritime security operations in the North Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. So we’re very excited about that.”


Rwanda says international community not helping Congo crisis

Rwanda says international community not helping Congo crisis
Updated 06 December 2022

Rwanda says international community not helping Congo crisis

Rwanda says international community not helping Congo crisis
KIGALI: Rwanda’s foreign minister has accused the international community of exacerbating the crisis the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east, after Washington pressed Kigali to end its alleged support for rebels in the restive region.
In a call to Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said foreign support for armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must end, “including Rwanda’s assistance to M23.”
Rwanda has denied repeated US-backed accounts of support for the M23 rebel group, an allegation also made by independent experts for the UN who found that Kigali was aiding and abetting the group.
The mostly Congolese Tutsi group resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, setting off a crisis in eastern DRC.
Rwanda’s foreign minister, Vincent Biruta, said Kagame and Blinken “had good discussions... but differences in understanding of the issue remain.”
“The wrong and misguided approach of the international community continues to exacerbate the problem,” Biruta said in a statement late Monday.
“External interference and dictates” were undermining regional diplomatic efforts to solve the problem, he added.
Rwanda has repeatedly put the blame for DRC’s crisis with its government in Kinshasa, and accuses the international community of turning a blind eye to its support for FDLR, a Congo-based rebel group pitted against Kigali.
Biruta said “the security concerns of Rwanda need to be addressed, and where others may not feel obliged to, Rwanda is and will continue to do so.”
“M23 should not be equated to Rwanda. It is not Rwanda’s problem to solve,” he added.
Talks between DRC and Rwanda in the Angolan capital Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23 but Kinshasa has subsequently accused M23 of massacring civilians despite the cease-fire.
The agreement should have also have been followed by a pullout by the M23 from territory it had seized, but this has not happened.
A separate peace initiative in Nairobi between East African officials and various rebel factions active in eastern Congo — but not the M23 — has been under way for over a week.

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif
Updated 06 December 2022

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif
  • Tuesday’s blast happened near Sayed Abad Square

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: A roadside bomb killed seven petroleum company employees aboard a bus in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a provincial police spokesman said.
“The bomb was placed in a cart by the roadside. It was detonated as the bus arrived,” said Asif Waziri, of the Balkh police department in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Although the Taliban claim to have improved security across the nation since storming back to power in August last year, there have been scores of bomb blasts and attacks — many claimed by the local chapter of the Daesh group.
At least 19 people were killed and 24 others wounded earlier this month by a blast at a madrassa in Aybak, southeast of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Waziri told AFP Tuesday’s blast happened around 7:00 am (0230 GMT) near Sayed Abad Square in the city.
He said six people were injured in the blast.
Further details were not immediately available, and there has been no claim of responsibility.


Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings

Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings
Updated 06 December 2022

Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings

Beijing no longer requires COVID test results to enter supermarkets, buildings

BEIJING: China’s capital Beijing no longer requires people that enter supermarkets and commercial buildings to show negative COVID-19 tests on their mobile phones, the city government said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, the city still requires negative test results to enter Internet cafes, schools, bars, KTV lounges, indoor gyms and elderly care institutions.

 


North Korea orders new artillery firings over South’s drills

People watch a report on North Korea's artillery firings, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea 05 December 2022. (EPA)
People watch a report on North Korea's artillery firings, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea 05 December 2022. (EPA)
Updated 06 December 2022

North Korea orders new artillery firings over South’s drills

People watch a report on North Korea's artillery firings, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea 05 December 2022. (EPA)
  • Some of the shells landed in a buffer zone near the sea border
  • South Korea and the United States have also stepped up military drills this year

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea’s military says it has ordered frontline units to conduct artillery firings into the sea for the second consecutive day in a tit-for-tat response to South Korean live-fire drills in an inland border region.
The statement by the North Korean People’s Army’s General Staff came a day after the North fired about 130 artillery rounds into waters near its western and eastern sea boundaries with South Korea in the latest military action raising tensions between the rivals. An unidentified North Korean military spokesperson said the planned artillery firings Tuesday were meant as a warning to the South after the North detected signs of South Korean artillery exercises in the border region.
The South Korean army is conducting live-fire exercises involving multiple rocket launching systems and howitzers in two separate testing grounds in the Cheorwon region, which began on Monday and continues through Wednesday.
North Korea’s military said Monday that it instructed its western and eastern coastal units to fire artillery as a warning after it detected dozens of South Korean projectiles flying southeast from the Cheorwon region.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said those North Korean shells fired fell within the northern side of buffer zones created under a 2018 inter-Korean agreement to reduce military tensions and urged the North to abide by the agreement.
It was the first time North Korea has fired weapons into the maritime buffer zones since Nov. 3, when around 80 artillery shells landed within North Korea’s side of the zone off its eastern coast.
North Korea has fired dozens of missiles as it increased its weapons demonstrations to a record pace this year, including multiple tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile system potentially capable of reaching deep into the US mainland, and an intermediate-range missile launched over Japan.
North Korea has also conducted a series of short-range launches it described as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets in an angry reaction to an expansion of joint US-South Korea military exercises that North Korea views as rehearsals for a potential invasion.
Experts say North Korea hopes to negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength and force the United States to accept it as a nuclear power. South Korean officials have said North Korea might up the ante soon by conducting its first nuclear test since 2017.

 


Ukraine warns of emergency blackouts after more missile hits

A satellite image shows bomber aircraft at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2022

Ukraine warns of emergency blackouts after more missile hits

A satellite image shows bomber aircraft at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters
  • Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday

KYIV: Ukraine warned there would be emergency blackouts once again in several regions as it repaired damage from missile attacks it said destroyed homes and knocked out power, while Moscow accused Kyiv of attacking deep inside Russia with drones.
A new Russian missile barrage had been anticipated in Ukraine for days and it took place just as emergency blackouts were due to end, with previous damage repaired.
The strikes, which plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness with temperatures below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), were the latest in weeks of attacks hitting critical infrastructure and cutting off heat and water to many.
At least four people were killed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that most of some 70 missiles were shot down.
“In many regions, there will have to be emergency blackouts,” he said in a late Monday video address. “We will be doing everything to restore stability.”
The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Moscow has been hitting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure roughly weekly since early October as it has been forced to retreat on some battlefronts.
ZAPORIZHZHIA REGION CASUALTIES
In the Zaporizhzhia region, at least two people were killed and several houses destroyed, the deputy head of the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said.
Reuters video showed two bodies covered with blankets lying next to a damaged car in the village of Novosofiivka, some 25 km east of the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.
“Both of my neighbors were killed,” Olha Troshyna 62, said. “They were standing by the car. They were seeing off their son and daughter-in-law.”
Missiles also hit energy plants in the regions of Kyiv and Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, Odesa in the south and Sumy in the north, officials said. Kyiv was one of the regions to be suffering from the most blackouts, according to Zelensky.
Ukraine had only just returned to scheduled power outages from Monday rather than the emergency blackouts it has suffered since widespread Russian strikes on Nov. 23, the worst of the attacks on energy infrastructure.
But Ukraine’s largest private energy provider, DTEK, on Monday reported having to disconnect one of its facilities from the power grid, limiting power and heat supply, in what it said was the 17th Russian attack on one of its sites in the last two months.
Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday.
Russia has said the barrages are designed to degrade Ukraine’s military. Ukraine says they are clearly aimed at civilians and thus constitute a war crime. Moscow denies that.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory from its pro-Western neighbor.
DRONES
Russia’s defense ministry on Monday said Ukrainian drones attacked two air bases at Ryazan and Saratov in south-central Russia, killing three servicemen and wounding four, with two aircraft damaged by pieces of the drones when they were shot down.
Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks. If it was behind them, they would be the deepest strikes inside the Russian heartland since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official, reported unmanned drones struck two bases hundreds of miles inside Russia. The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory and at least two planes were destroyed at one of the bases and several more were damaged, the newspaper reported.
“The Kyiv regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, made attempts to strike with Soviet-made unmanned jet aerial vehicles at the military airfields Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, and Engels, in the Saratov region,” the Russian defense ministry said.
It said the drones, flying at low altitude, were intercepted by air defenses and shot down. The deaths were reported on the Ryazan base, 185 km (115 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat International shared images it said showed burn marks and objects near a Tu-22M aircraft at the Dyagilevo air base.
The Russian defense ministry called the drone strikes a terrorist act aimed at disrupting its long-range aviation.
Despite that, it said, Russia responded with a “massive strike on the military control system and related objects of the defenses complex, communication centers, energy and military units of Ukraine with high-precision air- and sea-based weapons” in which it said all 17 designated targets were hit.
Kyiv’s forces have demonstrated an increasing ability to hit strategic Russian targets far beyond the 1,100 km-long frontline in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Saratov is at least 600 km from the nearest Ukrainian territory. Russian commentators said on social media that if Ukraine could strike that far inside Russia, it might also be capable of hitting Moscow.
Previous mysterious blasts damaged arms stores and fuel depots in regions near Ukraine and knocked out at least seven warplanes in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any of the blasts, saying only that they were “karma” for Russia’s invasion.
“If something is launched into other countries’ air space, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to (their) departure point,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted, tongue in cheek, on Monday.