Sea, air and land updates

A RAAF Base Darwin Air Movements Section member marshalls in a No. 33 Squadron KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft as it delivers 190 personnel from the Townsville-based 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015.Sea State

The two-week long Talisman Sabre exercise began on Sunday, with 40 Japanese personnel joining Australian, New Zealand and American forces for the first time. John Lee, a China specialist from the University of Sydney, was quick to note the message that the Allies are sending to their Chinese counterparts by including Japan in the training exercises. For a slightly different take, have a look at opinions from ASPI’s Andrew Davies and ANU’s John Blaxland here. This year’s Talisman Sabre will focus on ‘the planning and conduct of mid-intensity and high-end’ warfare.

Senior Captain Zhao Yi, a professor at China’s National Defence University, has warned India about the dangers of believing that the Indian Ocean is part of its ‘backyard’. The comes in the wake of the release of the PLA’s White Paper, which highlights that the PLA’s navy will be enhanced for ‘open seas protection’. Zhao argued that the possibility of regional clashes can’t be eliminated unless India changes its rhetoric. India’s concern over China’s push into the Indian Ocean has been spurred by a number of events, including when Chinese submarines popped up in Sri Lanka last year and Pakistan last month.

The Diplomat has run a piece outlining the construction timeline of Russia’s new naval facility, the Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base. According to Admiral Viktor Chirkov, the Russian Navy’s Commander in Chief, Russia’s Borei-class submarines will have a new home by 1 October.

Flight Path

Ever wondered what a war between China and the US would look like? Peter W. Singer and August Cole’s new fictional novel Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War does just that. The most interesting aspect of the hypothesis relates to America losing its technological advantage to rising Chinese innovation. Two notable aspects contributing to the US’ technological decline are aircraft carriers and over-engineered and over-promised aircraft. According to The Economist, the authors hint at the need to spend more money on dogfighting drones and weapons—like laser beams—that can engage faster than missiles. For more, you can listen to a War on the Rocks podcast with the authors here.

Speaking of dogfights, aviation wonks have been in overdrive since a leaked report found the F-35 Join Strike Fighter is incapable of beating the F-16 in a dogfight. The test pilot found the F-35 had limited energy manoeuvrability (making it ineffective for killing or surviving attacks) and an over-large mobility limiting helmet. Despite the critique, proponents of the F-35 have reiterated that it was never designed for dogfighting scenarios, and rather, it was designed to overcome rival aircraft at a medium- to long-range distance. While some argue the goal of aerial combat is to achieve victory then avoid potential counterattack, critics point out that there’s no way to guarantee a future air war without dogfights.

Rapid Fire

Brookings recently hosted the first ‘Brookings Debate,’ with experts seeking to answer the question: should the US put boots on the ground to fight ISIS? A before and after poll of the audience indicated that while few opinions changed, those that did switched to the ‘no’ camp.

Critics of the US plan to open all combat roles to women in 2016 argue that even if roles are opened there won’t be enough interest to warrant the change. Australia could be a strong case for this argument as despite opening all its roles to women in 2011 to encourage a more gender inclusive environment, women still constitute only 14% of the Australian Defence Force. Dr Megan McKenzie, author of Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight, argues that simply opening those roles to women isn’t sufficient to support gender equality and that more directed strategies need to be devised, such as targeting a cultural change in leadership roles.

Finally, International Business Times looks into the ‘Caliphate Army’ of Islamic State and the role of its so-called Special Forces Division. The elite unit is reportedly made up of 4,000 troops, many of whom are foreign fighters and selected for their previous combat experience.