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Is Science Fiction holding us back?

SpaceWarfare-SWGMBBy Rory Colthurst, Conference Producer, Defence IQ

When I began investigating the state of the directed energy market for our Directed Energy Systems event, one thing that struck me from the outset is the inevitable comparisons to science-fiction. Something about laser beams and microwave weapons seems to strike a chord with our collective conscious, stirring up nostalgic memories of Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate …basically any TV show with “Star” in the title.

This raised an interesting question though – are these associations actually holding back the wider adoption of directed energy technology? After all, there’s a certain stigma in being seen to be chasing ‘a pipedream’ based on fantasy. Militaries are often portrayed as being highly conservative organisations, opposed to radical change. Helicopters were once sneered at, as were tanks before them – the same attitude can be seen throughout the history of warfare in fact! So is there any danger of this scepticism slowing down the rate of technological advance?

I posed this question to a number of people active in the directed energy field, and to a number of military officers as well. Their responses were unexpected, but it was fantastic to hear their enthusiasm for such a fascinating technology that’s full of potential.

The unanimous response was yes, militaries are conservative by nature but, if you demonstrate something works they will back you all the way. Of course, this is exactly what eventually happened in the case of helicopters and tanks – their utility was soon proven and their adoption was widespread, and today they are ubiquitous and still in demand.

Directed energy systems have been on the cusp of this breakthrough for some time, but it seems we’re finally seeing the years of effort coming to fruition. The U.S. Navy has the Maritime Laser Demonstrator deployed on the USS Ponce at this very moment, while Boeing & Rheinmetall also have functioning systems that are highly impressive. On the microwave side of things, Boeing again has made massive progress with the CHAMP while Diehl BGT continues to make advances with High Power Electro Magnetic technology. All of these companies and many more are going to be presenting the results of their latest tests at the annual Directed Energy Systems conference, taking place in London over the 28th-30th January 2014. If you’d like to learn more, then take a look at the brochure and the website before registering your place now, or contact our enquiries team at

In addition to this, we will also be exploring the potential misuse of directed energy. Yael Shahar from the Institute for Counter Terrorism will be leading a workshop examining possible scenarios and the defences available. This is not to be missed, so book now!

F-35 vs F-18: It’s child’s play

Breaking a complex problem down to its lowest common denominator is often an effective method for solving said problem. In the case of the F-35, what if a child were given a toy F-35 to play fighter planes with his brother, who has 3 F-18 Super Hornets? Well, funny you should ask…

The ‘Thousand Ship Navy’ is dead in the water, says former Expeditionary Warfare Chief


Back in the early part of 2007, the idea of the Thousand Ship Navy (TSN) was being thrown around circles of naval commanders like the answer to a particularly tough riddle.

Based largely on the notion that no single navy could “go it alone”, allied and partnered freedom-loving nations – along with commercial shipping companies and merchant vessels – were being eyed to meet tomorrow’s challenges by effectively merging together into a seafaring power so massive and unstoppable that Poseidon himself would slink off into the Mariana Trench and hide among the barnacles with all those other terrifying looking fish monsters.

In the words of many U.S. Government and Navy speakers, this was a concept that was “gaining traction” and for a while it seemed as though the sun setting over the horizon of our glistening oceans promised more than just another day ahead.

Of course, a few mere months later, the liquidity crisis hit and strategic budget folders landed on defence ministerial tables across the Western world. The bottom had fallen out – not just on the economy but also on the naïve suggestion that military growth would be able to continue unimpeded on a global scale.

The following year, as if to rub salt into the wound, Russia announced plans to increase production of both nuclear and conventional weapon systems – including 14 new warships – all while openly flirting with Cuba and Venezuela for fresh ties. To lump another problem into the mix, China also announced its intentions to expand its naval presence and began construction of an aircraft carrier, the first of several now being planned by Beijing.

china-cuba-relations“And our fusion cuisine shall destroy all other delicious competition.”

The U.S. had already been witnessing a decline to its fleet volume over the preceding seventeen years, dropping around 46 per cent of its ships since the Gulf War as a result of going largely unchallenged at sea for so long.

One would think that now, more than ever, a united naval group would be the ideal solution to a divided and deficient alternative. Yet, in the midst of an economic crisis, the prospect of being called out to operations for extended periods of time and to take up duties at the drop of a hat is not one that appeals to commanders or bean counters alike. Add to this the fact that even scraping together those few navies willing to pitch in would still leave the force short of a grand, considering the decline of ship numbers across the board.

Still not fully deterred, the U.S. Navy – led by Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, the poster boy for TSN – hoped to leverage India as a regional partner to help entice Russia and China into the operational concept and keep the dream alive. But Defence Minister A.K. Antony had other ideas and in 2011 emphatically shot the notion down, stating that India would not join a multinational force unless it was mandated by the U.N. or unless limited to small-scale dedicated cooperation. For those counting at home, this would be the final nail.

At this point, the powers that be began to play down the idea of even needing such a ubiquitous force in the 21st Century. Most notable amongst them was President Obama who clashed with Mitt Romney (remember him?) on the issue during a televised debate last year. Romney, as we barely recall, made mutterings of building the Navy back up to at least 350 ships, comparing the dwindling size to  levels not seen since 1917. Obama saw that ball coming and hit it out of the park as far as viewers and analysts were concerned, simultaneously launching “horses and bayonets” into the popular lexicon. The suggestion that modern technology could fill the gap was one that a young generation could readily identify with (because what can’t technology do for us these days?) and, regardless of fact or matter, made Mitt look like the old man on the sea.

old_sailor“Corporations and sailors are people, my friend.”

This month, Major General (Rtd) Harry Jenkins, a former Assistant Chief of Staff for C4I Director and the Pentagon’s Chief of Expeditionary Warfare Division (N85), and the man who literally co-wrote the ‘book’ on TSN for the Navy told Defence IQ that for now, TSN is in a watery grave.

“I think it was a good scheme, but the realities today are that there probably are not enough ships afloat in anybody’s navies to do that,” said Jenkins.

That said, something of the philosophy of the concept is – and could continue to be – useful on lower-key task force missions.

“Whatever you’re going to do in this area as part of that concept would be to bring together various navies of the world regionally. A good example would be the navies that conduct counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and that area. You see the same thing where partner nations have gotten together along the Straits of Malacca and making sure that sea line stay open.

“Those operations are going to continue but the idea of trying to tie everybody together is pretty hard.”

As economies march to a slow recovery, Jenkins believes the future will provide an opportunity to see “a subset” of TSN take effect but will be largely reliant on the region in question.

“Some areas have a lot of naval capabilities [locally], others don’t have as much. A good example would be the Western African states…So while there are bits and pieces of what we called the Thousand Ship Navy out there, I don’t see that coming together at all globally unless we have a major confrontation somewhere.”

 Barack-Obama-Hillary-Clinton-Afghanistan-Strategy-Meeting“So that’s fifteen to five in favour of war with Australia… Time to put Abbott’s little boat blockade to the test.”

What has arisen as an alternative to fielding a huge conventional naval force is the focus and expenditure seen on more numerous amphibious assets, where tactics have shifted to the protection or takeover of targeted areas of bottlenecked waters and island chains. Such a strategy has been picked up on universally and everyone from Japan to Iran is aware of just how much control can be leveraged by simply dominating the vital lanes, effectively hitting the world in its pressure points instead of trying to club it into submission over twelve rounds.

In the past few years, the number of nations that have invested into fresh amphibious platforms seems endless, including (to name just a few) Australia, Algeria, Chile, China, the Republic of Korea and Japan – the latter of which having announced in its recent defence review that it is now on a mission to dramatically expand its marine capabilities in light of Pacific tensions.

Vince Goulding, Director of the USMC Warfighting Lab’s Experiment Division previously described this investment as “critical”.

“With fiscal realities, we need to look at what force brings the most bang for the buck, and amphibious forces allows you to operate in all three domains. They’re the only forces that offer you that. Other forces typically require infrastructure ashore to accomplish their mission,” said Goulding.

“They’re not an intrusion on a nation’s sovereignty while they’re waiting for a crisis to occur. I would say their future is very bright if people open up their intellectual apertures of what the real required capabilities for our respective nations will be in the future.”

Indeed, the value of amphibious assets has now grown beyond the traditional role of power projection long associated with them. Among the roles that they have proven integral to undertaking includes maritime interdiction, anti-piracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, all of which were demands once cited by proponents of TSN. This doesn’t even mention the benefits of surveillance range extension, fleet support, mine countermeasures and all number of other vital requirements that these same platforms can be moulded towards. Check out this infographic for a more “dynamic” overview.

The Thousand Ship Navy may never happen. But then again, history may look back on our situation and recognise that if the economic slump taught navies one thing, it’s that it wasn’t the size of the boat – or fleet – that actually mattered.

Involved in amphibious operations or the market providing these solutions? Visit for the opportunity to network with others doing business in this community.

Offshore Patrol Vessels: Sector Report 2013-14

Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) are the fastest growing segment of the Naval Vessels Market. At least 19 countries are known to have a total of 112 OPVs on order and plans for another 190 at a value of over $45 Billion. The total number of OPVs on order has increased by 11% in the last 2 years, while the number planned has also increased – by 27%.

Defence IQ has compiled a Sector Report, outlining which nations currently possess these multirole vessels, which have requirements to be filled and what the likely purchases will be. The full document is available for download here:


What is the total cost of being Iron Man?

It’s a question which we’ve asked ourselves at Defence IQ quite a bit. But now the financial wizards at Money Supermarket have come up with the definitive answer of what it actually costs to be Iron Man.

Clue: you will need a LOT of savings…


Image source: MoneySupermarket;

Game Of Thrones In Real Life

If like us you’re currently hooked on the third season of Game of Thrones, then no doubt you’re excited by the prospect of this weekend’s finale. Yes, believe it or not, ferocious battles, military strategising and political manoeuvering does tend to draw our interest. We like the escapism. After all, a fantasy drama featuring dragons and giants is a million miles from the real world. Right?

One of our followers has contributed this chart, drawing parallels between George R. R. Martin’s characters and real world influencers. A fair assessment?…


Defence IQ’s CABSEC speaker to complete Iron Butt Challenge

iron butt 2Tim Manhire, who spoke at our Caribbean Basin Coastal Surveillance and Maritime Security Summit (CABSEC) on the European Union’s SEACOP programme is taking part in a charity fundraiser – the Iron Butt challenge. As those who met him at the conference may know, he was the lucky recipient of a kidney transplant 9 years ago and a life-long Harley enthusiast. He is taking part in this charity event with his mate Adey, who survived a heart attack.

They will be riding to every Harley Davidson Dealer in England and Wales in a 6 day round trip. The journey starts in Southampton heading for Plymouth and visiting 26 Harley dealers covering over 1500 miles ending back in Southampton. All of the donations will be split 50-50 between their 2 charities.

If you are interested in donating to these two worthy causes, or reading about their personal stories in more detail please visit

Our forthcoming AFSEC conference will follow on from the CABSEC conference that Tim spoke at and will be held in Iron butt challengeCasablanca on the 25-27 February 2014. CABSEC focused on the drug routes out of Latin America, through the Caribbean Basin to North America and Europe.

AFSEC – the African Nations Coastal Surveillance and Maritime Security Summit will look at where these routes make land fall on the other side of the Atlantic and make their way into Europe. The conference will also look at other regional specific issues around transnational organised crime, terrorism and piracy to deliver a high-level strategic summit focused on regional security priorities. If you would like to register your interest for this conference, please email the team at

3 EOD workshops that focus on home grown attacks


During the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, IED attacks on coalition troops climbed to the top of the threat ladder, owing to their prolific presence, their ability to be made easily and cheaply, and their fundamentally effective results.

Along with the drawdown, there is now a realisation that the theatre in which the IED remains a serious threat is anywhere and everywhere. In the months and years to come, homeland security measures will be faced with an increasing need to detect and defeat a device that requires little sophistication to take lives.

The question is whether the lessons and training methods refined in the deserts of the Middle East can be transposed to urban environments and the civilian response teams that often oversee them.

This year’s 7th annual Counter IED conference will be going further to assess the IED in the context of homeland security. Ahead of the conference, a day of interactive workshops will meet some of these issues head on, allowing professionals involved in this domain to both converge and converse openly on the topic.


The first two-hour workshop will explore training and retraining – looking at the broad scope disciplines, processes and capabilities that need to remain fresh as emerging asymmetric threats arrive at our doorstep. Mr Zach Kramer, C-IED SME, JMRC US Army Europe, will lead the discussion.


Following this, Mr Robert Shaw – who has trained ISAF forces and other authorities worldwide – will helm a must-attend session on predicting the future of EOD, assessing how the technologies and countermeasures will likely evolve and advising those involved in the discussion on how to use that information.


Finally, delegates will be treated to a visual walkthrough guide to attacking the network, arguably the key to closing down terrorist actions on a large-scale but also a more convoluted task than diffusing a physical bomb. Professor Caroline Kennedy-Pipe will help delegates address the challenge of crossing national boundaries, linking terrorist cells to organised criminals and ultimately undermining the “tangled web” of modern violent extremism.

Don’t want to miss out? Visit

Alternatively, email or phone +44 (0) 207 368 9737.

Defence Industry Seeking IT Solutions to Match Big Data Needs

Modern defence systems are required to gather, disseminate and store more information than ever before. The challenge of meeting the technology demand in a cost-effective manner is one that is shared by all governments and military organisations.

To solve this problem, military information leaders will assemble in Brussels, to get to grips with the latest strategies and equipment, which will enable global armed forces to assess the rapid increase in digital data.

The Defence IT 2013 conference, taking place in June, will build on the success of Defence IQ’s information technology portfolio, which includes the renowned annual Cyber Defence & Network Security (CDANS) conference. The full Defence IT conference agenda is available to view at

Defence IT 2013 will include key presentations from several EU and UK MoD programme leaders. With the budget for improving IT infrastructure in the European Commission reaching into the billions, Defence IT will provide the platform where government agencies seek to engage with leading solution providers.

Topics under discussion include, enterprise application platforms, Big Data, Cloud Computing, online learning, codification and standardisation. Additionally, the workshop day on 20th June 2013 will focus on the tools and applications required to visualise data and how to develop information systems for situational awareness.

Belgian Minister of Defence, Pieter De Crem, hailed Defence IQ’s CDANS conference as “an exceptional platform to discuss new ideas and initiatives; to identify benchmarks, as well as to coordinate existing capabilities”. A post-show report highlighting key findings of the conference, alongside insight on CNI-targeting malware and regional digital security strategies is available to the Defence IT community at

Further information on Defence IT, including the agenda, speaker lists and topics to be discussed are available online at, where you will also be able to register for the conference.

Notes to editor:

Defence IT will be taking place in Brussels, Belgium between 18-20 June 2013. If you would like a press pass for the conference, please contact Samantha Tanner at or call +44 (0) 207 368 9300.

The Great Libyan Gold Rush

With the official bilateral visit of UK Defence Minister Philip Hammond to Libya last week, there comes the news of the “reborn” nation finally opening up its defence coffers with reports of a $4.7 billion budget approval designed specifically to modernise the rusting armed forces, following decades of underfunding and the overthrow of a paranoid regime.

While the British defence industry is certainly on the books to help begin the rebuilding of air defence infrastructure taken out by NATO two years ago, other nations are also being consulted on delivering rapid upgrades to Libyan forces during this time of vulnerability. Defence IQ confirmed with the Libyan Air Force that consultations with Russia and Italy are underway to provide new trainer aircraft. Meanwhile, the fleet of Libyan C-130s that have been embargoed in the US for over 40 years are finally being discussed, but the Libyans are veering away from the offer to trade them in for a C-130J replacement.

Those involved in air systems would do well to keep their ears open as other ministers book flights to the Middle East over the coming months. A country that once commanded one of the biggest forces in the region wants to return to its old glory, and unlike many nations across the world today with similar dreams, Libya has the resources to make it happen.

Read more on this development.

Interested in the integration of modern military air weapons and systems? Network with decision-makers in London this May at Air Integration 2013.


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