As the final days of 2023 draw to a close, a look back on some of the top articles of the year highlights a global defence space undergoing considerable flux with the twin wars in Gaza and Ukraine shaping much of the narrative,
However, China continues to be at the forefront of geopolitical influences likely to have a significant impact on spending and acquisitions through 2024.
Land domain: Army Technology
Kicking things off in the land domain and a story representative of much of the defence desk’s content is a news article on the awarding to Aerojet Rocketdyne’s metal specialist subsidiary, Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee, a multi-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract worth up to $75m.
The deal will see the company provide the US Army with M829A4 120mm kinetic energy rounds, which are specifically designed for the M1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs).
Clocking in at over 105,000 views, it was among the top land domain stories in 2023.
Maritime domain: Naval Technology
In the naval sector, the most read article of 2023 came in March on the commitment by the US to share highly sensitive submarine nuclear propulsion technology with Australia as part of the trilateral AUKUS programme.
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The AUKUS programme is a multi-tiered endeavour between the US, UK, and Australia to develop a nuclear attack submarine (SSN) capability for the Royal Australian Navy. Part of the programme will see the US sell up to five of its Virginia-class SSNs to Australia from the start of the 2030s, before Canberra would team with the UK in the development of a new design submarine, dubbed SSN-AUKUS, which would produce a common SSN for Canberra and London.
Already an operator of SSNs, the UK is the only other beneficiary of classified US nuclear propulsion knowledge. The US stated that no other states, beyond Australia, would be added to the exclusive list of nations assisted by the US in nuclear propulsion development.
Viewed some 296,000 times on the Naval Technology website, the piece is the highest read article published by the GlobalData defence desk in 2023.
Air domain: Airforce Technology
In the air domain, Airforce Technology carried a piece regarding the Ukrainian security force’s dismantling of two transnational smuggling networks attempting to illegally export components of military aircraft.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) detained several individuals in the operation, which was led by SSU Counterintelligence in an operation spanning Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia. Three dealers, including the mastermind based in Kharkiv, were apprehended for attempting to sell stolen MiG-29 fighter aircraft components worth almost Hrv2.5m ($66,000) to Asian customers.
With Ukraine hard-pressed to counter the ongoing Russian invasion, criminal activity such as this could have a detrimental impact on Kyiv’s military readiness. One of the most popular in Airforce Technology this year, the story has garnered 26,000 views.
All domain: Space
Finally, in space, GlobalData’s defence desk reported in February on the development of an apparent Chinese naval base in Cambodia, suitable to accommodate vessels up to aircraft carrier sized, thanks to its collaboration with satellite intelligence firm BlackSky.
This will be only the second staging facility China has outside of its territory and poses a challenge to Cambodia’s neighbours in the region. In addition, such a facility would allow China further power projection in any future crisis over Taiwan.
Satellite imagery from BlackSky shows the pier extending into waters deep enough to service aircraft carriers, with columns deployed to a length sufficient to moor these vessels.
Reports began to emerge last year that China was leasing a pier on the island of Ream off the coast of Sihanoukville, but the allegations were firmly denied by Phnom Penh, which responded by saying granting access to the base would be in volition of Cambodia’s constitution.
The article has accrued some 64,000 views to date.