October's top stories: Camp Bastion hand over, Ukraine cluster munitions

The UK handed over Camp Bastion to the Afghan National Army, the US was assessing claims that the Islamic State has man-portable air-defence systems in its weapon arsenal, and the Human Rights Watch alleged that the Ukrainian security forces fired cluster munitions in populated areas in Donetsk. Army-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from October.


Camp Bastion

UK military concludes operations at Camp Bastion

The UK handed over control of Camp Bastion to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The Regional Command (South-west) has ceased combat operations in Helmand, with a ceremony at the Bastion-Leatherneck complex, paving the way for the final security transfer to the Afghan military.

The UK has had a military presence in Afghanistan since October 2001, following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. Since then, 453 UK soldiers have died in the 13-year mission.

US assessing claims of anti-aircraft weaponry in IS stockpile

The US began an assessment regarding claims that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has anti-aircraft missile systems such as man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADs) in its arsenal, the US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

The German foreign intelligence agency, BND, reported that IS has MANPADs, which can shoot down low-flying aircraft, primarily helicopters.

The US State Department is also evaluating claims that IS militants have used the system to target Iraqi aircraft.

US announces additional humanitarian aid for countries hosting Syrian refugees

Refugees

The US Government announced an additional $10m in humanitarian assistance to the countries hosting more than three million Syrian refugees.

Announced by the US Population, Refugees and Migration secretary Anne Richard at an international conference on the Syrian Refugee Situation - Supporting Stability in the Region, in Germany, the aid is expected to help address many needs.

Specifically, the funding will be used to improve schools, buy textbooks and supplies, build health clinics, support staff from local communities, and also improve and extend water and sewer infrastructure.

UK sends additional soldiers to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) deployed a new military contingent to Freetown, Sierra Leone, as part of its efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The contingent includes 150 army personnel, mostly medics from 35 Squadron, 5 Medical Regiment of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and soldiers from the Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment and 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The soldiers will run the Ebola Training Academy in Sierra Leone and teach local health care workers and hygienists how to protect themselves from infection and how to prevent it in others.

Ukraine used cluster munitions during conflict, says HRW

Munition

The Ukrainian security forces fired cluster munitions in populated areas in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk earlier this month, an act that may amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed.

In a document prepared after a week-long investigation in eastern Ukraine, HRW alleged that cluster munitions were extensively used in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in more than a dozen urban and rural locations.

The organisation blamed the Ukrainian forces for several cluster munition attacks, citing evidence at the impact site that indicated that the munitions came from the direction of government-controlled areas south-west of Donetsk.

Vladimir Putin orders troop withdrawal from Ukrainian border

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian soldiers to return to their permanent bases, following the completion of military exercises in the southern Rostov region near the Ukrainian border.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement: "The minister reported the commander-in-chief that the summer season for military training at the ranges of the Southern military district was over.

"After hearing the report, Putin ordered to start the withdrawal of the troops to their permanent stations."

India conducts second developmental trial of Nirbhay cruise missile

Nirbhay

The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) test-launched its Nirbhay subsonic cruise missile from the integrated test range at Chandipur in Orissa, India.

The domestically manufactured missile reached a height of 800m and took a sharp turn towards the Bay of Bengal, Zee News reported.

An unnamed official was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying: "Flight details will be available after data retrieved from radars and telemetry points, monitoring the trajectories, are analysed."

The test represents the second developmental trial of the nuclear-capable missile.

Undertaken from the same location in March 2013, the first had to be terminated mid-way, as the missile deviated from its intended path.

GD to start LRIP for USSOCOM's GMV 1.1 programme

General Dynamics (GD) Ordnance and Tactical Systems announced it will enter low-rate initial production (LRIP) on the US Special Operations Command's (USSOCOM) ground mobility vehicle (GMV) 1.1 programme.

The move follows a receipt of notice that USSOCOM reached a milestone C decision on the programme, and will see the company manufacturing and delivering 72 vehicles to the USSOCOM by 2016.

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems lightweight vehicle programmes director Tim Neaves said: "This is a significant accomplishment for our GMV 1.1 team."

Sikorsky unveils first S-97 Raider helicopter

Raider

Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled the first of two S-97 Raider helicopter prototypes, which are being offered for the US Army's Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) programme, at its facility in Florida, US.

The launch signalled the start of activities in the programme's test flight phase and a significant step toward demonstrating the new and first armed reconnaissance rotorcraft featuring X2 technology, which is designed for military missions.

Sikorsky president Mick Maurer said: "Military rotorcraft fleets need maximum performance and increased capabilities to achieve their objectives."

China test-fires 10,000km-range Dongfeng missile

China successfully tested a new variant of its 10,000km-range Dongfeng missile, which can reportedly reach most of the US and European cities.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) launched the missile from the Wuzhai missile and space test centre, which is also known as the Taiyuan satellite launch centre, in Shanxi province.

According to the South China Morning Post, the test of the mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) demonstrates to the world that China is reinforcing its nuclear deterrent.

UK Army's Watchkeeper UAS conducts first flight in Afghanistan

Watchkeeper

The UK Army's Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft system (UAS) successfully completed its first operational flights from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

Manufactured by Thales UK, it provides force protection for UK soldiers, as they prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "Watchkeeper is the first unmanned air system developed and built in the UK to become operational and will be a significant surveillance and reconnaissance capability for the army for years to come."