Sino–US relations remain tense as Washington has reportedly sent a warship within 12 nautical miles of two artificial built islands in the South China Sea. A US defence official told Reuters that the patrol was carried out by the USS Lassen Destroyers near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago. For more information on the US–China dispute in the South China Sea, read Mercedes Page’s recent post here on The Strategist.
The US voyage to the Spratly Islands comes a week after China hosted a visit by 27 senior US Navy officers to its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Chinese officials said the US Navy officers were visiting as part of an annual bilateral exchange and they held discussions on ‘exercise management, personnel training, medical protection and strategies in carrier development’.
In London, Britain’s nuclear submarine industry has been warned by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon not to repeat the delays and cost overruns of the Astute hunter-killer program when it builds the Royal Navy’s new Trident missile submarines to replace the Vanguard-class submarine currently in service. The Vanguards are armed with Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles and form part of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent.
And finally, We are the Mighty has listed its ‘6 best weapons designed to kill submarines’. Check them out here.
Swedish and Brazilian government and industry officials will meet in November to discuss a US$4.7 billion plan to buy Gripen NG g multirole aircraft. Under the deal, Sweden-based Saab will deliver 28 single-seat and eight two-seat Gripen NG between 2019 and 2024.
Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing to cancel the country’s planned order of 65 F-35 jet fighters. While a final decision hasn’t been made, a cancellation could see unit costs increase by US$ 1 million apiece, affecting other F-35 partners, including Australia. The eventual replacement for Canada’s ageing CF-18s isn’t clear, although commentators have argued in favour of the Super Hornet since well before the election. Other potential replacements include the Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon—all of which are European platforms.
In other acquisitions news, the US Air Force is in the final stages of awarding the contract for its future long range stealth bomber. Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are competing for the US$ 80 billion contract to build 100 next generation bombers, which a capped unit cost of US$800 million including R&D. A decision is expected by the end of the year.
A piece at Defense One discusses the risks to global security posed by nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, but the threat isn’t as obvious as you might think. A few weeks ago, four Russian cruise missiles crashed in Iran, killing a number of (civilian) cows. Those missiles were of a type capable of housing nuclear warheads, and a 2007 incident in the US shows how easy it can be to mix up nuclear-armed and conventional cruise missiles. If Russia had mistakenly launched a nuclear-armed missile, and it crashed in Iran, Iran could have had either a nuclear weapon or a large surplus of overcooked roast beef.
ANU’s Hitoshi Nasu has weighed in on the ‘killer robot’ debate with a piece over at The Drum, arguing that AI technology will be essential in future missile defence platforms. Back in July, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk were among 1000 signatories to an open letter warning against the development of ‘autonomous weapons.’ Nasu proposes that AI-enabled platforms will be not only legal, but indispensable in both missile defence and cyber warfare.
Last but not least, Israel is producing a prototype armoured vehicle called the Eitan. The plan is to design a vehicle that’s cheaper and lighter than existing Namers and M113, which could therefore be produced en masse.