Enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan increased by nearly 37% in first quarter of 2021

by Gabriel Dominguez

As US and coalition troops begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban continues to intensify, with the first three months of the year seeing a sharp increase in the number of enemy-initated attacks (EIAs) compared to the same period last year.

In his latest quarterly report to the US Congress, US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko quoted the Pentagon as saying that while the number of EIAs registered between 1 January and 31 March decreased by approximately 10% compared to the previous quarter, it increased by nearly 37% compared to the same quarter in 2020.

In this context the SIGAR noted in his 30 April report that the number of casualties incurred by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) during these three months was “substantially higher” than during the same period last year, although the figure was “slightly lower” than that registered between October and December 2020.

Afghan security officials inspect the scene of bomb blast in Kabul on 7 March that killed and wounded several civilians. The high levels of violence during the first quarter of this year have resulted in a considerable increase in the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan compared to the same period in 2020 (Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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USMC stands up first operational CH-53K unit

by Gareth Jennings

A CH-53K King Stallion (foreground) and a CH-53E Super Stallion (background) are staged during a redesignation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, on 24 January. The squadron received its first CH-53K King Stallion, and the ceremony signified the beginning of the US Marine Corps' modernisation from the legacy CH-53E to the CH-53K in support of the expeditionary warfare vision for future-force employment. (US Marines)

The US Marine Corps (USMC) has stood up its first operational unit for the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, the service announced on 15 January.

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, North Carolina, has been formally redesignated as the first fleet CH-53K unit, trading in its CH-53E Super Stallions.

“The CH-53K will allow the quick massing of combat power, agile manoeuvre, resilient logistics, and predictive maintenance, and be used in the Marine Corps' execution of expeditionary advanced base operations, a key component of the commandant of the [US] Marine Corps' force design,” the USMC said.

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IAV 2022: Dragón IFV spearheads Spain's Army 35 transformation programme

by Nicholas Fiorenza

The first seven Dragón IFVs will be delivered in 2022. (Spanish MoD)

Janes learned details of Spain's Dragón infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) programme at the International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) conference held in London from 24 to 27 January. The IFV was described as the spearhead of Spain's Army 35 and as the most representative of that transformation programme.

Based on Spain's experience with improvised explosive devices in Lebanon and Afghanistan during the past couple of decades, an important emphasis of the programme is protection, with the IFV featuring NATO Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4569 levels covering light armoured vehicles.

The 33-tonne vehicle has a speed of more than 100 km/h and a range of 500 km. It is air-transportable by A400M.

The Dragón will be armed with a Bushmaster II 30 mm gun, with ammunition including airburst munition, plus a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun. The tank hunter version will be armed with Spike LR2 missiles. A decision on whether the turret will be manned or unmanned is expected in 2023.

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NATO bolsters enhanced air policing mission

by Gareth Jennings

Two of the F-16s that Denmark is contributing to NATO's enhanced air policing mission. (NATO Allied Air Command)

NATO has bolstered its enhanced air policing (eAP) mission, with nations providing additional aircraft as concerns over Russian military action in Ukraine grow.

The alliance announced on 26 January that US Air Force (USAF) Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles and Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons were being dispatched to Estonia and Lithuania respectively to supplement the current Baltic Air Policing mission.

“[USAF] F-15s have landed at Amari Air Base, Estonia, [on 26 Janaury] and [RDAF] F-16s will arrive at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, [on 27 January] to bolster the forces already deployed under the long-established NATO Air Policing mission,” NATO Allied Air Command said. “Danish F-16s will arrive in Siauliai to work alongside the Polish F-16s that deployed there on 1 December 2021 to conduct Baltic Air Policing. The US F-15s landed at Amari to integrate with the current detachment of Belgian F-16s; both detachments will execute the enhanced Air Policing mission.”

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As US and coalition troops begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the fighting between Afghan gove...

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