The US Department of Defense has confirmed that the USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea on 30 January, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels. According to the official statement from the US Navy, the operation was an exercise in innocent passage aimed at challenging the ‘excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands’. You can read initial analysis of the latest US operation from Ankit Panda over at The Diplomat and Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. over at Breaking Defense.
The Russian Navy is planning to order six new Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines for its Pacific Fleet. The Kilo-class submarines are considered one of the quietest submarines in the world, and are sometimes called ‘black holes’ for their ability to seemingly disappear. Russia’s new Lada-class diesel-electric submarines are expected to be even stealthier, but extensive delays mean that the second and third Lada–class subs won’t be delivered until 2019.
We Are The Mighty have shared a list of the top five US battleships of all time. Included is the USS Missouri, which was the last US battleship to be decommissioned (in 1992). For the history buffs out there, it was also host to the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945.
It wouldn’t be Flight Path without us checking out the ongoing drama surrounding the US F-35 program. In that vein, David Axe at The Daily Beast takes a look at how the quest to create the world’s most expensive jet has somehow backslid even further, with new delays in the stealth fighter jet’s 8 million lines of computer code. Problems with the coding mean that the plane won’t function, and it’s expected that problems and bugs in the 3F software will push back the original software testing schedule by another year—from July 2017 to at least August 2018. This means that more than 500 of the jets may be built before the program’s combat assessment is complete.
Japan has unveiled a test model of its first indigenous fifth-generation stealth fighter, designed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. You can get the lowdown on the fighter—the ATD X-2 or ‘ShinShin’—from Defense World here. James Simpson over at War is Boring takes an in-depth look at the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s announcement that the X-2 prototype will make its first test flight this month and suggests that the X-2 is essentially a halfway point toward a sixth generation fighter—and as such, may never become a frontline war plane. Take a look at the article here.
In previous decades, a phrase like ‘AK-47s are being manufactured in Florida’ might have been spoken in a similar tone to ‘when hell freezes over’ or ‘when pigs fly’. After all, the iconic Russian assault rifle, first manufactured in 1949, has been the weapon of choice for almost every enemy force faced by the US since the Vietnam War. The rifles have actually been manufactured in Pennsylvania since June 2015 as a way of circumventing US economic sanctions against Russia. But Kalashnikov USA has recently announced that it will be relocating to sunny Florida in the coming months.
In a piece for The New York Times, former US Army Captain and author Matt Gallagher reflects on his interactions with US special operators. Gallagher notes the trend toward special operators in the US military—while overall the number of enlisted personnel has decreased in recent years, Special Ops personnel have risen from 45,600 in 2001 to 70,000 today. He argues that the secretive nature of Special Operations creates problems for public awareness of ‘armed violence carried out in our name’.
General Joseph Votel, the chief of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) stated in a memo to US Defense Secretary Ash Carter that Special Ops are getting too much public exposure. General Votel has been nominated to take over CENTCOM (Central Command), and hence Middle East operations, in the near future.