Russia to move naval drills away from Irish coast

by Tony Roper

The Project 11711 large landing ship Pyotr Morgunov , one of three Northern Fleet large landing ships headed to the Mediterranean. (Michael Nitz)

Russia has agreed to relocate a live-firing exercise that was planned to take place in international waters in the Irish Sea, Moscow's ambassador to Ireland has announced.

The Irish Aviation Authority was originally notified on 21 January of the Russian Navy's plans to carry out the live artillery and missile firing in early February, 240 km southwest of the Irish coast. However, the announcement raised objections from the Irish government and Irish fishing groups.

In a press release issued on 29 January, Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that in response to requests from the Irish government and the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation, it was decided that the exercises would be moved to outside of the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ) “with the aim to not hinder fishing activities by the Irish vessels in traditional fishing areas”.

The Russian Navy has scheduled multiple out-of-area exercises that will continue throughout February across all of its areas of responsibility. To this end, it has been transiting ships from bases to exercise areas since mid-January.

On 26 January the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that a detachment of Northern Fleet ships had entered the Barents Sea to operate in conjunction with the Arctic Expeditionary Group of Forces and Troops. The flotilla was led by Project 1164 Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov, with Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate Admiral Kasatonov and Project 1155 Udaloy-class destroyer Vitse Admiral Kulakov as escorts.

They will likely join with the two Baltic Fleet Project 20381 Steregushchiy-class corvettes, Soobrazitelny and Stoikiy , which departed Baltyisk on 24 January and commenced their transit of the English Channel on 29 January.

Meanwhile, the three Northern Fleet large landing ships of the 121st Landing Ship Brigade (LSB) that were reported as transiting the North Sea towards the English Channel on 22 January – the Project 775M Ropucha-class ships Olenegorskiy Gornyak and Georgiy Pobedonosets , and the Project 11711 Ivan Gren-class ship Pytor Morgunov – did not loiter in the Irish Sea area as had been expected, and have instead headed to the Mediterranean, following the three Baltic Fleet Ropucha-class large landing ships of the Baltic Fleet's 71st LSB, Kaliningrad , Minsk , and Korolev .

They will all join the continuous Russian Navy deployment in the Mediterranean, which currently includes three Project 636.3 Improved Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines – Krasnodar, Novorossiysk , and Rostov-on-Don – the Project 11356 frigate Admiral Grigorovich and the Project 21631 Buyan-M-class corvette Vishny Volochek. The latter is to be replaced by Orehovo-Zyevo, which transited the Bosporus on 21 January, with the Project 12700 Alexandrit-class minesweeper Vladimir Emelyanov following a day later.

The Pacific Fleet's Project 1164 Slava-class cruiser Varyag and Project 1155 Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Tributs, along with the support tanker Boris Butoma, were noted in the Gulf of Aden heading towards the Red Sea and Suez Canal on 26 January, confirming the MoD's announcement that they would be taking part in the joint exercises in the Mediterranean.

In addition to the out-of-area deployments, regional exercises are also taking place around all of the Russian Navy's main bases and areas of operations.

The Northern Fleet's Project 1144 Kirov-class cruiser Pyotr Velikiy carried out air defence exercises at Severomorsk, defending the navy base using its own systems and via data produced by the regional air defence centre of the Northern Fleet. This was in conjunction with multi-ship exercises working on anti-submarine, anti-surface, and artillery tasks in the Barents Sea to establish a defence around the Kola Peninsula bastion.

The same taskings were carried out by the ships, submarines, and aircraft of the Baltic, Black Sea, and Pacific fleets, as well as the Caspian Flotilla, according to multiple press releases by the MoD.

New mortar AMPV variant prototype to make exhibition debut mid-2024

by Meredith Roaten

BAE Systems demonstrated its new counter unmanned aerial systems AMPV during a live fire in Kingman, Arizona. (BAE Systems)

The newly designed 120 mm mortar variant of the Armoured Multi Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) will make its debut at the Association of the United States Army's (AUSA's) Warfighter conference in July 2024, Bill Sheehy, AMPV programme director at BAE Systems told Janes on 30 November.

BAE Systems first told Janes in September that it was delivering the prototype for Patria's 120 mm New Mortar (NEMO) and Kongsberg turret programme in January 2024. The prototype is still on track for first delivery, and the army plans to perform a live-fire demonstration at the July conference to show off its progress, Sheehy said in an interview.

The prototype represents BAE System's first official foray into broadening AMPV configurations, which the company hopes will highlight the flexibility of the platform. The turret is attached to the vehicle using the Ex-MEP (Mission Equipment Package), which can accommodate most remotely operated weapons stations.

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Portugal eyes F-35 buy

by Victor Barreira

With many of its European allies, including Norway (pictured), fielding the F-35A, Portugal is now eyeing the type also. (Royal Norwegian Air Force)

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft could emerge as the next combat aircraft in the inventory of the Portuguese Air Force (FAP).

The Chief of Staff of the FAP, General João Guilherme Rosado Cartaxo Alves, described the F-35A as the preferred choice to replace the Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon on 27 November.

Speaking at the SAE Media Group Military Airlift and Air-to-Air Refuelling conference in Lisbon, Gen Alves said the replacement process must start to prevent a loss of strategic relevance and operational credibility. He also noted that most European allies had already started the transition to the F-35.

The existing F-16AM/BM could extend its operational capability until 2030, however, with increasing levels of obsolescence, he said at the event in late November. Gen Alves confirmed that an acquisition will occur after 2030 as part of the newly established ‘Air Force 5.3' modernisation plan.

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Australia test-fires AS9 Huntsman self-propelled howitzer

by Kapil Kajal

An Australian Army AS9 Huntsman self-propelled howitzer test-fires a practice round at the Proof and Experimental Establishment in Port Wakefield. (Commonwealth of Australia)

The Australian Army test-fired artillery rounds from an AS9 Huntsman 155 mm/52 calibre self-propelled howitzer (SPH) at the Proof and Experimental Establishment in Port Wakefield in late November, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) said in a press release on 5 December.

According to the DoD, this testing – overseen by the Joint Proof and Experimental Unit (JPEU) – was aimed at showcasing the AS9 Huntsman to project stakeholders.

The service fired “hundreds of 155 mm shells” in the drill to verify the ammunition and propellant types, the DoD said.

Nicholas Windridge, master gunner warrant officer from the JPEU, said in the press release that while in-service M777s had maximum ranges of 18 to 22 km, the AS9 could potentially reach up to 60 km.

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