Sea, air and land updates

A Reaper MQ-9 UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) based at Creech Air Force Bace, Nevada, USA prepares for a training mission over the west coast of America.

Sea State

Last week Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a new $89 billion domestic shipbuilding program, which includes the continuous build of surface warships in Adelaide. Here on The Strategist, Andrew Davies and Mark Thomson called the proposed plan ‘bold on two fronts’ and have questioned the soundness of a continuous build program. On the other hand, Peter Jennings welcomed the decision to create a ‘larger and more capable surface fleet’. Strategist contributor Sam Bateman thinks we should take a broader view, and over at The Interpreter James Goldrick considers some of the misconceptions of Australian naval shipbuilding.

Last week the US Navy detailed plans for its new Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II program. Over at The National Interest Zachary Keck reports that a 2017 start date will see the program replace the USN’s Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon with a more sophisticated anti-ship missile. Keck reports that the program is allegedly being motivated ‘being motivated by the growing anti-ship missile gap between the United States and countries like China.’ Watch the announcement here.

Maritime disputes in the South China Sea were front and centre at the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week. When asked whether China would halt land reclamation activities in the contested region, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi replied, ‘China has already stopped. You just take an aeroplane to take a look.’ Despite Wang’s remarks, Bonnie Glaser over at the CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative points out that China actually hasn’t stopped construction or militarisation of existing land features.


Flight Path

On Thursday, Spain announced its plans to purchase US drone technology. In exchange for $27 million, Spain will become the lucky owner of four General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers that can fly for 24 hours straight and reach altitudes of 45,000 ft. This procurement plan will make Spain the fifth European nation to acquire US drones, along with Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.  However, Spanish officials have emphasised that their operational interests are limited to the drones’ reconnaissance capabilities, despite the Reaper’s capacity to carry bombs and missiles.

The US carried out its first airstrike on Islamic State from within Turkey with an unmanned drone on Tuesday. Turkey had previously limited the US to surveillance flights only from the Incirlik Air Base, but as of last week Operation Inherent Resolve has the green light to operate armed sorties from this strategic vantage point. The US further increased its Turkish presence on Sunday, bringing in six F-16s and 300 air personnel to support the Combined Joint Task Force against IS.

Last week, India’s Su-30MKI Flanker fighter planes took on top-notch RAF Typhoon FGR4 fighters in Within Visual Range (WVR) dogfight exercises in Lincolnshire, England. The Russian-designed jets’ manoeuvrability allowed the Indian Air Force to wipe the floor with the British pilots, achieving a resounding 12-0 victory. Check out a video about the joint air combat operations here.


Rapid Fire

Russia’s inaugural International Army Games, held just outside of Moscow, will come to a close at the end of this week. The two-week event is a show of Russian military might in a period of isolation and souring relations with the West, and have provided a stage for Russia to showcase its sizable arms industry. 16 nations have been invited to partake in the Games, including traditional Russian allies, regional neighbours and states with foreign policy agendas palatable to Russia.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has used the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki as a platform to renew his commitment to the three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory. This comes after nationwide criticism of his failure to address the issue of Japanese nuclear capabilities at the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing three days earlier.

Last week, Thales announced that it was about to begin to supply the Australian defence forces with F90 assault rifles under a new $100 million contract. Two versions will be delivered, a standard rifle with a 20-inch barrel, and a carbine with a 16-inch barrel. Vice-president of Thales Australia Armaments Kevin Wall said, ‘our soldiers deserve the best possible equipment and the F90 delivers on all counts’.