Sea, air and land updates

Old Town Sanaa - Yemen

Sea State

Last week in Sydney, the Royal Australian Navy proudly commissioned HMAS Adelaide, second of the landing helicopter docks (LHDs) built by Spanish company Navantia based on the Spanish Armada’s ‘Juan Carlos I’. Permanently crewed by some 400 navy and army personnel, the amphibious ship can carry an extra 1,000 people for roles ranging from combat missions to humanitarian operations. With a flight deck able to accommodate six medium-sized helicopters or four Chinooks, when it has a full complement of personnel, one naval officer described it like ‘playing a 3D game of chess’.

In New Delhi, the Indian Navy is considering the purchase of additional Scorpène submarines to top up an earlier six-vessel order. Reports indicate that India is steadily cranking up military force-levels and infrastructure in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar Command in a bid to counter China’s strategic moves in the Indian Ocean. Described by India’s Chief of Navy, Admiral Robin K. Dhowan as a ‘very, very important aspect’ of Indian’s defence, the Andabar and Nicobar islands are necessary for India to deploy ships, submarines and aircraft in the area to maintain surveillance of important sea lines of communications.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Competitive Evaluation Process to build its Future Submarine program is heating up with all three competitors issuing their final proposals last week. An expert advisory panel will begin its evaluations and issue findings next year to guide the government’s AU$50 billion selection.

Flight Path

Hours after a historic vote in favour of airstrikes in Syria was passed by the UK Parliament last Thursday, the first two waves of air operations were carried out by RAF Typhoons, Tornados and unmanned Reaper drones against Daesh-controlled oilfields, a major source of the organisation’s funds. It’s worth watching Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn’s speech to the parliament in favour of the air strikes here, which immediately went down as ‘one of the truly great speeches’ heard in the history of the House of Commons.

If you’re stumped trying to work out which next generation fighter to buy for your favourite Asia-Pacific air force this Christmas, you’re in for a treat. The Diplomat has published a handy Holiday Guide: Which Fifth Generation to Buy to help in your deliberations! This handy shopping guide takes care of all your needs, whether you want your fighter as soon as possible or if you can wait a few years, whether you are friends with China or America.

With the turmoil raging in Syria and Iraq, the conflict in Yemen has fallen out of the headlines. With the eight-month civil war showing no signs of abating, Joseph Trevithick over at War is Boring examines the impact of Saudi air strikes which have targeted a large number of Yemeni cultural heritage monuments and sites. The strikes have prompted concern from the US that Saudi Arabia is destroying Yemen’s rich cultural heritage. In addition to destroying many cultural artefacts, Saudi airstrikes have also caused a devastating humanitarian crisis in the country.

Rapid Fire

In the wake of US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s announcement that all combat roles are now open to women, David Barno and Nora Bensahel argue the US military will become stronger as a result. By opening all roles to women, the US military has access to a broader pool of talent, and can therefore employ individuals based on merit, instead of gender. But the news hasn’t been universally well-received, with a survey indicating that 85% of US special operators oppose women serving in special forces units. Congress has 30 days to review the decision before it comes into effect on 1 January, with a unique insight to come from four female members of Congress who served in uniform.

Retired US Navy intelligence officer Malcolm Nance has proposed a strategy for winning the ground war against Daesh. In an interview with War is Boring, Nance argues that the 200 US special operators recently deployed to Iraq and Syria should lead a regional coalition of 2,000 fighters to dismantle the extremist organisation’s logistical infrastructure (transport, outposts and communications) and thereby confine them to their stronghold cities. According to Nance, this would challenge Daesh’s success narrative and improve morale of local anti-Daesh fighters.

The University of Toronto is studying the potential of a new computer-assisted targeting technology, named the ‘automated target detection’ (ATD) system. In a simulated environment, the ATD identifies targets with variable success (50–100%). But the researchers found that soldiers using the ATD were still able to identify targets faster and more accurately. ATD could be developed as a superior alternative to the Combat Identification (CID) system currently used by several NATO countries.