Sea, air and land updates
An Explosives Detection Dog sits at the ready before an operation with the commandos of the 1st Commando Regiment in Southern Afghanistan.

Sea State

HMS Artful, the third of seven new Astute class nuclear attack submarines for the Royal Navy, was delivered by builder BAE to begin trials on 13 August. The 7,400 tonne boats are 97 metres long and can launch land-attack cruise missiles as well as Spearfish torpedoes. The United States Navy is under pressure to lower its anticipated order of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 due to budget constraints. The Navy is expected to order 12 of the F-35C variants each year, instead of the current plan to order an annual number of 20 of the stealth jets during the 2020s.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are set to stage naval drills in the Sea of Japan from the 20–28 of August which will include training for a beach landing. A Chinese squadron has departed from the port city of Qingdao and is headed to Vladivostok in Russia to take part in the naval exercises in the Peter the Great Bay. According to Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun the purpose of the drills were to ‘further enhance their capabilities of jointly coping with maritime security threats’.

Flight Path

The United States and allies conducted 22 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 24 hours over the weekend, according to the Coalition Joint Task Force. Reuters reported that fifteen strikes took place near Bajii, Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi, Sinjar, and other areas in Iraq and were coordinated in conjunction with the Iraqi government. The airstrikes hit Islamic State buildings, tactical units, and equipment. In Syria, airstrikes struck targets in Hasaka, Aleppo, and Kobani, destroying tactical units, bunkers and fighting positions. Read the full media release on the strikes from the US Department of Defense here.

RAAF personnel are poised to begin flying deadly American Reaper drones over Syria, with the announcement that five people are now embedded in the United States Air Force’s 432nd Operations Group and are performing operational duties as remote pilots and sensor operators. This move extends Australian air force operations against the Islamic State from Iraq into Syria for the first time. Over in The Australian, ASPI’s executive director Peter Jennings asks what Australian airstrikes in Syria could achieve that would make a meaningful difference. Rodger Shanahan over on the Lowy Interpreter greeted calls for the RAAF to bomb Syria with the sceptical response, ‘Australia should bomb Syria because…?’

Finally, over in The National Interest James Hasik asks the ultimate ‘what if’ question: what if the US Air Force had long ago dropped the F-35A? For his answer check out the article here.

Rapid Fire

The Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) military exercises are beginning this week in South Korea (ROK). The annual exercise is designed to prepare US and ROK militaries for the possibility of an all-out attack by North Korea. Australia, New Zealand and five other states are participating under the auspices of the United Nations Command. Surprising no-one, North Korean (DPRK) officials have condemned the exercises as ‘little short of a declaration of war’.

In a previous post, Rapid Fire covered the news that US personnel in Ukraine were exposed to the significant power of Russian signal jamming technologies. The US Army is reportedly now testing its ability to operate anti-air and missile defence hardware against an opponent with advanced electronic warfare capabilities. The exercise produced some 70 terabytes of data, and will soon become an annual affair.

IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly recently discussed the Russian T-14 MBT with some armour experts, interrogating the tank’s supposed ‘invisibility’ to radar and thermal detection. In short, the experts are extremely sceptical, especially concerning the tank’s substantial infrared signature when moving or firing.

Finally, Australian SAS Corporal and Victoria Cross recipient Mark Donaldson attended the launch of a painting depicting the six Australian dogs killed in action during the Afghanistan War. Corporal Donaldson spoke about the loss of his ‘best friend,’ Devil, one of the dogs in the painting, saying ‘I think it is extremely important that dogs are as recognised as we are as Australian soldiers.’