China maintains a fleet of three ships designed to monitor space objects and ballistic missile tests. The Yuan Wang 5 class carries its tracking radars amidships. The first two ships in the class, Yuan Wang 5 and Yuan Wang 6, have been upgraded with S- and X-band radars, while the Yuan Wang 7 remains equipped with three E/F band and G-band radars. The latter is also fitted with improved communication and control, safety and information and logistics support capabilities. These are the third generation of Chinese space monitoring ships, each of which has carried the Yuan Wang name.
The Yuan Wang 5 class (at left) features a flight deck and hangar at the stern that can accommodate a single medium helicopter. Yuan Wang 6 has been equipped with a large mission control hall on two decks. The ships are powered by two diesel engines, which support a range of 20,000 nm at a cruising speed of 12 knots. In October, Yuan Wang 6 concluded the longest deployment to date for the class, during which she sailed into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is developing a twin-boom variant of its Anka medium-altitude, long-endurance uncrewed aerial vehicle. The Aksungur (gyrfalcon) is intended for day and night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and strike missions. It is powered by a pair of domestic engines, which support a 12-hour endurance with a 1,650-pound payload; 24 hours with a 330-pound payload; or 40 hours in a ferry configuration. The ground-control system is also compatible with the Anka.
The Aksungur (right) made its first flight in March 2019 after 18 months of development. Testing has continued, with an endurance record of 49 hours being set in September 2020. Later that month, the air vehicle demonstrated an endurance of 28 hours while carrying a full munitions load of 12 MAM-L smart micro munitions. The program has been privately funded so far, with no potential customers reported. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, TAI officials indicated that they were prepared to hold customer demonstrations in 2020.
Pakistan has developed a family of ground-launched cruise missiles, including a submarine-launched variant, that can be fitted with nuclear warheads. The Hatf-7, also known as "Babur," missiles were developed in response to India's cruise missile programs. Development was reportedly bolstered by reverse-engineering Tomahawk cruise missiles recovered by Pakistan in 1998. The missile is vertically launched and carries a 990-pound warhead, including 10 kt or 35 kt nuclear weapons.
The Hatf-7 (at left) missile has a reported range of up to 310 miles, while the upgraded Babur-1B offers a range that has been estimated at up to 620 miles. The Babur-III submarine-launched variant is the first submarine-launched cruise missile developed by Pakistan. Launched from the sub's torpedo tubes, it has a range of around 280 miles. The Babur-III was first test-fired in January 2017 from an underwater platform. Later tests involved underwater launches and engaging a simulated target.
Sweden Updates Maritime Intel Capabilities
There is a nautical flavor to this month's records, including Sweden's new Artemis-class signals intelligence ship as well as Germany's Oste-class, Romania's Emil Racovita-class and Russia's Yuri Ivanov-class intelligence-gathering vessels.
Several air defense systems have been made current, including the widely used 35-mm GDF from Switzerland; the U.S. Portable Search and Target Acquisition Radar (PSTAR); and the French RA20S and RAC air defense radars.
U.S. Renews Focus On Great Power Conflict
The updating of the USA record has been completed, with the latest on U.S. defense programs and organization outlined in the USA Overview. Other order of battle updates include Benin and Mongolia.
Vaccines Offer Hope For End Of Pandemic
Perhaps the most important global development in December was the initial certification of new vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Andy Oppenheimer provides a rundown of the vaccines and how they work as well as the hurdles remaining to distribute and immunize populations in his report, "Ending the Pandemic."
Australia has spent much of the last two decades trying to chart a "middle path" between its security ally in Washington and its major trading partner in Beijing. This policy appears to have collapsed this year amid a run of Chinese protectionist measures against Australian goods and Canberra's efforts to limit Chinese influence domestically. Weapons Editor Brody Ladd has the story in "The Perils of Doing Business With China."
One of the issues that has soured the West on China has been its treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority in the western Xinjiang province. Evidence has gradually leaked out about massive concentration and work camps where Beijing has been imprisoning as many as 2 million Uighurs. Nations Editor Kevin Ivey delves into the issue in "Nightmare in Xinjiang."
Finally, as the Biden administration prepares to take power in late January, there are any number of hotspots that could become the new president's first challenges. Reuben Johnson looks at two of these possible problem areas -- Belarus and Taiwan -- in "Crises in the Making."