Sea, air and land updates

Sea State

Last week, 10 US soldiers were held by Iran’s military after their riverine boat drifted into Iranian waters. In order to complete the journey from Bahrain to Kuwait, the two vessels were required to refuel at a meeting point located three miles west of the 12-mile limit surrounding Iran’s Farsi Island. However, the boats strayed from the approved course and ended up in Iranian territorial waters. It’s believed that at least one of the boats had mechanical problems. The release of the naval officer came after 16 hours of negotiations, with Iran’s Naval Commander, Admiral Ali Fadavi, stating that  ‘this trespassing was not hostile or for spying purposes‘ and that the naval officers had been in Iranian territory ‘due to a broken navigation system’.

Last Wednesday, the head of the US Coastguard, Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, announced a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation for the Polar Class Icebreaker Replacement Program. A second icebreaker is important to the Coast Guard’s Arctic strategy, with President Obama last year calling for the US to accelerate plans to buy at least one new heavy icebreaker by 2020. Each ship is likely to cost around US$1 billion. Zukunft has said that the US has a long way to catch up with its number one Arctic competitor, Russia, which has 41 icebreakers and another 14 under construction, in contrast to the US which has the Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has announced its intention to offer the US military use of eight bases, after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a security agreement with Washington. The facilities include the former Clark Airbase and air and naval facilities on the south-west island of Palawan which faces the South China Sea. It’s reported that the Americans are also seeking access to three civilian seaports, including Subic Bay, a former US Navy base.

Flight Path

Pentagon officials have revealed to Defense One that the US Air Force has given up immediate plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane. The A-10, affectionately known as the Warthog, is designed to provide close air support and to withstand enemy ground fire. The postponement of the ageing attack plane is said to be due to its critical role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. For Warthog novices, Business Insider looks at why US soldiers love the A-10 and how it sparks fear in their enemies, complete with pictures and video footage, which you can check out here.

The growing schism between Vietnam and China over the South China Sea looks set to take off into the skies, at least according to an article on The National Interest which looks at Vietnam’s negotiations with American and European manufacturers to purchase a range of new aircraft to replace its ageing Russian-made fleet of fighters. For a different take on the negotiations, Robert Farley at The Diplomat checks out the potential shift in Vietnamese military aviation, and why it matters if the Vietnam People’s Air Force begins flying western fighters.

Quick read: Northrop Grumman has laid out their vision for a sixth generation long-range unmanned fighter with advanced cyber resiliency. DefenseNews takes a look.

Rapid Fire

Robots may soon be raining from the sky, as the US Army begins testing a new robot-assisted parachute system. The aerial guidance unit is designed to allow military cargo-drops into forward operating bases without the use of GPS, instead relying on a camera and custom software to guide the parachute. The desire for a system that doesn’t rely on GPS stems from its limitations, which includes unreliable signal strength in places like the valleys of Afghanistan and the possibility of enemy signal jamming.

The US Army has also approved plans to upgrade its Chinook fleet in the 2020s—specifically the CH-47F and MH-47G variants. While the exact upgrade technologies haven’t yet been determined, they will aim to improve the Chinook’s lift capability noticeably. That’s good news for the Australian Defence Force, as the Australian Army operates seven CH-47F Chinooks, with Defence thinking about boosting the fleet by three.

The Turkish army will soon have a brand new base in Somalia—Turkey’s first military base in Africa. The base is intended as a training facility for Somali troops, many of whom are engaged in the fight against al-Shabaab militants. The news comes on the heels of an earlier announcement that Turkey will be building a base in Qatar.