Sea, air and land updates

A Marine Corps official revealed on Thursday that all-male ground combat teams outperformed their mixed-gender counterparts in nearly every capacity during a recent infantry integration test.

Sea State

In an effort to tackle the worsening European refugee crisis, the UN Security Council is considering allowing European naval forces to intercept boats arriving from the Middle East and North Africa. If the proposal is accepted, European military personnel will be able to search vessels and send asylum seekers to Italy for processing, before seizing and destroying the boat. The resolution is tipped to be adopted this month, and will focus on the smuggling routes off the coasts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

On 12 September, India and Australia began their first ever bilateral maritime exercise, ‘AUSINDEX-15’, off the east coast of India at Visakhapatnam. Australia is undertaking the joint exercises with two RAN ships, HMAS Sirius and HMAS Arunta, as well as one Collins-class submarine, HMAS Sheean. The week-long drill will include a harbour phase of briefings and professional interactions, followed by a sea phase of fleet manoeuvres, gun firings and coordinated anti-submarine exercises.  This move is part of concerted efforts towards increased defence cooperation between Australia and India, as outlined by the Framework for Security Cooperation announced in 2014.

The Indonesian government has announced plans to bolster its security architecture around the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said that Indonesia will build a port and strengthen its weapons systems in an effort to ‘be prepared’ for escalating regional territorial disputes.


Flight Path

Australia’s Air Task Group (ATG) conducted its first mission against Islamic State targets in Syria on Friday night. Two RAAF F/A-18 Hornets, a KC-30A refuelling aircraft and an E7-A Wedgetail participated in the mission. No weapons were released in the first sortie. ATG missions are part of Operation OKRA, which is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the fight against Islamic State.

Pakistan made its first acknowledged operational strike with an armed aerial drone last week. The strike killed three high profile terrorists in the Shawal Valley. The Pakistani-developed Burraq armed UAV reportedly showed a ‘higher than expected level of sophistication.’ Although this was the first acknowledged operational strike by a Burraq drone (confirmed on Twitter by Major General Asim Bajwa), the drone had been tested in live combat earlier this year.

The first F-35 to take flight outside the US had its maiden flight in Italy last week. Italy’s Cameri Air Base is Europe’s only Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility for the F-35. The facility will complete assembly and check-out of 90 F-35s for Italy, as well as part of the Netherlands’ order of 37. Japan is the only other F-35 partner establishing a domestic FACO facility, which is currently under construction in Nagoya.


Rapid Fire

A Marine Corps official revealed on Thursday that all-male ground combat teams outperformed their mixed-gender counterparts in nearly every capacity during a recent infantry integration test. During the Marines’ Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, the teams—which involved around 400 Marine volunteers—simulated integrated rifle, weapons, mechanised and artillery units trained to infantry standards. The research findings arrive at a pivotal time, when Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford is preparing to make a decision regarding the integration of female troops into combat roles currently closed for women.

Russia has called for the US to cooperate alongside its forces in Syria, amid reports that it’s planning to send an anti-aircraft missile system to the region. Western officials said the anti-aircraft system would be operated by Russian troops rather than Syrians. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was sending equipment to assist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, tensions have flared on the China–India Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladkah after the People’s Liberation Army established a hut 1.5km inside the LAC. The Indian Army and a joint patrol of para-military forces responded by demolishing the hut, leading to a stand-off between the two countries. Indian officials said that attempts for a flag meeting—a conference held at the border—were unsuccessful as the Chinese officials chose not to attend. The stand-off took place in the same area where PLA troops pitched camps in April 2013, which led to a three week dispute.