Global SITREP for Wednesday, 03 January 2024 – Forward Observer

Global SITREP for Wednesday, 03 January 2024

Good morning, and welcome to the Global Situation Report for Wednesday, 03 January 2024. 

  1. NAVY ADDRESSES AIR DEFENSE COST EXCHANGE RATIO WITH LASERS: The U.S. Navy recently released a report to Congress on the progress and purpose of Solid State Lasers (SSLs) for close-in air and surface defense.
  • Firing a laser costs between $1 and $10, depending on the engine fuel cost and the laser’s wattage. Combined with the effectively limitless magazine depth, this would tip the Cost Exchange Ratio in the defender’s favor.
  • Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers cannot power SSLs due to the SPY-6 radars’ extra electrical demand. At least three older destroyers and one Littoral Combat Ship are already outfitted with working SSL prototypes.
  • Lasers are limited to one-mile engagement ranges and cannot shoot down anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) at this time.

Why It Matters: The Navy is combining the capabilities of all the lasers currently under test and has rapidly fielded one design already. While it may not be ready for war with China, these lasers are capable of killing small boats and drones. The Navy is likely to seek rapid fielding of these systems to counter threats in the Red Sea, freeing up more conventional weapons for a potential war in the Pacific. – J.V.

  1. TURKEY REPORTEDLY THWARTS ISRAELI KIDNAPPING PLOT OF HAMAS AGENTS: On Tuesday, Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) arrested 33 members of the Israeli Intelligence Service who were attempting to identify and capture “foreign nationals residing in [Turkey].”

Why It Matters: Turkey previously promised harsh consequences for Israeli agents hunting down Hamas officials in Turkish territory. Iran has also boasted of the disruption of Israeli intelligence operations since the October 2023 Hamas attacks. Meanwhile, Israeli officials announced the death of a senior Hamas official killed in a drone strike in Hezbollah-controlled Beirut, Lebanon, confirming that Israel has indeed ramped up international targeting of Hamas. – J.V.

  1. SHIPPERS DELAY RETURN TO RED SEA ROUTES: Maersk and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd decided yesterday to continue their pause on Red Sea cargo routes after a Houthi naval attack against a Maersk ship over the weekend.  
  • “An investigation into the incident is ongoing, and we will continue to pause all cargo movement through the area while we further assess the constantly evolving situation,” Maersk said in a statement.
  • Hapag-Lloyd said its ships would continue to sail around Africa’s southern tip until at least 09 January, and then the company will decide whether to re-route its ships through the Red Sea.

Why It Matters: We’ve long warned about potential supply disruptions that could lead to a surprise return of inflation. Shipping companies’ trips around South Africa are burning an estimated 500,000 more barrels of oil per day – about 0.5% of daily global oil consumption – and costing companies an additional $1 million in fuel for every trip between northern Europe and Asia. So far, there has been no interruption of Middle East oil production, but if conflicts in the region were to accelerate, consumers would face higher import prices and prices at the pump. – H.B.

  1. CHINA: COAST GUARD WILL PATROL SENKAKUS FOR FULL YEAR: China announced it would send the Coast Guard to patrol the Senkakus every day in 2024 to assert its sovereignty over them.

Why It Matters: The Chinese Coast Guard is the primary belligerent in the South China Sea and will now be patrolling other contested islands northeast of Taiwan. Last year, the Chinese briefly occupied an uninhabited island in the Senkakus. China appears to be pushing the primary contested areas past Taiwan to envelop Taiwan. Both the Senkakus and the islands in the South China Sea belong to treaty allies that could end up with us joining a prematurely started war. – J.V.

  1. INDIA, UAE KICK OFF INTER-BRICS MILITARY EXERCISE: Army personnel from India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) kicked off a two-week-long military exercise called Desert Cyclone 2024.
  • The inaugural exercise between the two countries is focused on urban combat operations. Infantry elements from both countries will establish a surveillance center in support of cordon and search operations.

Why It Matters: This appears to be a counter-terror military exercise as both sides grapple with Islamic extremist groups. More importantly, however, both are members of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) economic alliance. There have been some fears that BRICS, or parts thereof, could become a military alliance. Those fears are mostly unfounded, but we should expect to see a lot more security cooperation among the expanding BRICS alliance. – M.S.

THAT’S A WRAP: This does it for today’s edition. Thank you for reading. If you know folks who would also like to receive this email, would you please forward it to them? We appreciate you spreading the word. – M.S.

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