Sea, air and land updates

Sea State

Beijing has announced plans to establish a naval facility in Djibouti with the goal of boosting counter-piracy and peacekeeping efforts in the region. Reportedly, the Chinese installation will be located near a US airbase. The outpost will break Beijing’s longstanding policy against building military facilities abroad. Since 2008, China has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the area, sending 21 convoys with a total of 60 vessels into the Gulf of Aden. Until now, Chinese vessels have been reliant on foreign facilities for resupply.

Meanwhile, tensions have heightened on the Korean Peninsula with reports that Pyongyang attempted to conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile test on Saturday. The launch, which took place between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, is said to have been unsuccessful. According to a Korean government official, ‘there is no evidence of the missile taking flight, and only debris from its cover was found, so it is highly likely that the launch was a failure’. The launch comes only three weeks after North Korean President Kim Jong-un declared an extensive ‘no sail zone’ in the waters off its eastern city of Wonan.

While in London, the Royal Navy’s flagship vessel, the HMS Ocean, is set to be decommissioned in 2018 despite a multi-million pound refit. The Davenport-based helicopter carrier and assault ship underwent an AU$135 million upgrade in 2014. The decision to decommission the vessel, which played a crucial role supporting operations in Afghanistan and Libya, was made in the recent strategic defence and security review.

Flight Path

Last week’s Flight Path addressed rumours that the US Air Force was considering buying 72 additional F-15s or F-16s instead of F-35s due to the soaring costs of the F-35 fighter program. These rumours have now been well and truly been squashed, with US Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick declaring that: ‘At this time the Air Force has no plans to acquire 72 new F-15s or F-16s, although the Air Force is always looking at options to be prepared for a dynamic global security environment.’

The Philippines has received the first two of 12 FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter jets this week from Korea Aerospace Industries as part of a US$400 million program signed between the two countries back in 2013. The FA-50s, a light combat derivative of the T-50 supersonic jet fighter, can be used as either a fighter or a trainer aircraft, and will significantly enhance the Philippine Air Force patrol capabilities. It’s not surprising to hear from Philippines Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that among the areas the jets will be posted is Palawan, the Philippines’ closest point to the Spratly Islands. You can watch the Philippine Air Force welcome the jets on YouTube.

Looking north, it looks like our Canadian friends are working on designing a new program to train future pilots. David Pugliese over at Defense News takes a look at the project here.

Rapid Fire

ICYMI, the US Army is using rocket artillery in the war against Daesh in Iraq. Joseph Trevithick reports for War is Boring that over 400 rockets have been fired at Daesh targets from M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) platforms ‘since the middle of summer’. Wesley Morgan echoes this statistic in a report for The Washington Post. However, both pieces also provide interesting details on the platform itself—Trevithick analyses its capabilities and Morgan offers a history of the platform’s use, particularly in Afghanistan.

In other [under] ground warfare news, the Israeli Defense Forces are developing a new urban training base which will include subterranean facilities for anti-tunnel warfare. The facility will also include advanced simulators and live-fire training areas.

Animal lovers will be pleased to learn that a new law in the US requires retiring military dogs to be retired on US soil so that the dogs aren’t left overseas and ineligible for military transport. The law also mandates that former handlers be given the first chance to adopt their furry compatriots.

A US Marine Corps combat correspondent has been photographing Star Wars action figures in lifelike military scenes. The Galactic Warfighters project depicts Clone Troopers in a variety of situations including combat, and includes descriptive captions.