Sea, air and land updates

MH-60R in flight

Sea State

The Taiwanese Navy will procure eight to ten MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters in a US$700–800 million deal  under the US Foreign Military Sales program, with a letter of acceptance expected in 2016. The Seahawks, which are designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers, will replace the current MD500 Defender helicopters, which were originally procured in 1980.

For an all-encompassing update on China’s muscle flexing in the South China Sea and its intentions to become a global maritime power, have a look at the video of The Aspen Institute’s panel discussion on the topic. Featuring PACOM’s Admiral Harry B. Harris, Bonnie Glaser from CSIS, author Gordon Chang and Time’s Massimo Calabresi as moderator, the panel touches on a range of interesting questions, from whether missiles located on the built-up features in the South China Sea could harm US shipping interests, to the likelihood of military confrontation between the US and China.

And finally, as well as participating in the competitive evaluation process for RAN’s future submarines, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is increasing its efforts for the SEA 5000 campaign. A brochure for the Blohm + Voss MEKO A-400RAN frigate design—first made public at ASPI’s Future Surface Fleet conference earlier this year by the company’s Senior Vice President, Rear Admiral Jonathan Kamerman—has now been printed.

Flight Path

Turkey last week approved the use of Incirlik Air Base by US forces for coalition strike operations against the Islamic State. The move is set to improve operational efficiency by reducing travel time and enabling longer duration flights and larger payloads.

Last week also marked a significant shift in Turkey’s campaign against the Islamic State, when it launched airstrikes against IS and PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) targets in Syria and Iraq on Friday. While Turkey has attributed its decision to a natural response to the growing threat at its borders, others suggest it’s just as much about the Kurds carving their own state in northern Syria.

Still in the Middle East, Israel has given its 16 surplus Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to Jordan, in order to bolster its neighbour’s border defences against the Islamic State. The deal was approved by the US and is part of its wider effort to build up Amman’s military capabilities against IS.

In helicopter news, it looks like Lockheed Martin’s recent $9 billion purchase of Sikorsky Helicopters from United Technologies might be a gamble. The Economist writes that the helicopter business is on the decline after a decade of booming sales. This is attributed to a combination of low demand from the oil-and-gas industry, declining defence budgets and the development of advanced drone substitutes.

Rapid Fire

Iraqi troops trained by the US-led coalition have been deployed for the first time. An estimated 3,000 soldiers from the Iraq army have taken up positions around Ramadi, with progress reportedly being made to reclaim the city.

The US has also been training troops in Ukraine. Currently around 300 US soldiers are training members of the Ukrainian National Guard in western Ukraine who operate separately to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence. This program is set to expand later this year, with plans to begin also training front line soldiers.

Last Thursday, leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine agreed that preliminary accords to extend a pull-back of weapons in eastern Ukraine should be signed quickly. This will include tanks, small weapons systems and heavy artillery. All this comes alongside General Mark Milley—the next chief of staff of the US Army—telling a Senate Armed Services Committee last week that Russia is currently the ‘number one threat’ to the US.

With drones becoming ever more popular, the US Army has developed mechanisms to take them down. Specifically, the Army is looking at using its EAPS system designed to counter rockets, artillery and mortars against UAVs. A truck-mounted chain gun fires projectiles that can be course-corrected in flight, eventually exploding into shrapnel which destroys the drone.