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Welcome to this century

Global [NATO]

Things move a little slowly at Nato, but the ­organisation has finally noticed that the world has changed over the past 20 years and it is now in the process of clearing a new Alliance Maritime Strategy (AMS) for launch later this year, changing the focus of Nato’s navies.

The current naval strategy was drawn up at the height of the Cold War in 1984 and focuses on protecting western Europe and North America from a Soviet threat. Collective defence remains a central tenet of the new AMS but it now reflects the fact that piracy, terrorism and smuggling are considered greater threats today to Nato member states’ economies and way of life than an invasion of Europe.

In essence, it moves the alliance from principally static territorial defence to tackling maritime security across the world, even if it is well away from the North Atlantic.

“The important lesson that we’re getting is that working together [with non-Nato nations] is the new way of doing our business of security and defence,” says Admiral Luciano Zappata. Maybe it’s time the organisation changed its name.

NATO’s new navy thinking:

  1. Missions: NATO is already running Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean and anti-piracy Operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa, but the new strategy formalises the role.

  2. Aims: To work with non-NATO countries in troubled areas around the world and help train local navies to run better security operations.

  3. Weapons: The new AMS also states that NATO will “provide a sea-based ballistic missile defence capability”, which was unthinkable in the days of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Turning corners

South Korea [WEAPONS]

The pray-and-spray firing technique beloved of gangsters in Korean cinema may be about to change, now that South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development has created a weapon able to aim at targets around corners. The system, based on the Israeli Corner Shot concept, mounts a 9mm pistol and small digital camera in front of a hinged handle, which lets the user take aim from behind cover, while looking at a little colour screen on the pistol grip. It’s nowhere near as cinematic as standing in the open blazing away but Korean special forces tell Monocle that it is a lot more effective.

Business boom

Global [ARMS TRADE]

Arms-producing companies are doing a roaring trade according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s new top 100 listing (up $39bn in 2008). Few are doing as well as Navistar, a US manufacturer of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), which burst into the list at 20th place, after its sales increased by 960 per cent.

App attack

USA [TECHNOLOGY]

Darpa, the US military’s technology agency, wants to catch up with the smartphone world by building an apps marketplace for its troops, whose current handsets (left) are stuck in the 20th century. Darpa is asking developers for proposals on how their products could be adapted for military uses such as language translation and logistics tracking.

Access granted

Ukraine [TRAINING]

Ukraine’s new pro-Russian president couldn’t have been elected at a better time for the Russian Federation Navy (RFN). The thaw in relations between the two countries has allowed Russian fighter pilots to return to Ukraine’s Novofedrovka airfield, which has facilities for pilots to train for aircraft carrier operations. The airfield was ceded to Ukraine at the break-up of the Soviet Union and when Ukraine closed its doors to Russia two years ago, the RFN was only able to train its fast-jet crews on its sole aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, when it was at sea. Now Russia can take it out of operations for a badly needed refit.

Aircraft overhead

Global

About a quarter of military spending last year was on aircraft; around $10bn (€7.4bn) was spent globally. About the same sum was used to buy ships ($3.5bn/€2.6bn), missiles ($3bn/€2.2bn) and armoured vehicles ($2.7bn/€2bn) combined.

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