Sea, air and land updates

Sihanoukville port

Sea State

China and Cambodia held their first joint naval training exercise last week, with three Chinese warships docking in Sihanoukville port on 22 February for a five day visit. 70 Cambodian sailors and 737 Chinese counterparts participated in simulated rescue activities and emergencies at sea. Following the exercises, Vice Admiral Tea Vinh, commander of the Royal Cambodian Navy, and Rear Admiral Yu Manjiang, Chinese naval commander, discussed the potential for Beijing to supply Cambodia with warships to defend its maritime territory. The two countries have been strengthening their bilateral defence ties over the past few years, with China now the largest donor of military aid to Cambodia. The Diplomat has an analysis of these developments here.

RAN looks set for a major recapitalisation after the 2016 Defence White Paper was released last Thursday. 12 future submarines, nine anti-submarine warfare frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels form the centrepiece of the plan to regenerate Navy, as the Turnbull Government seeks to create a future force capable of maintaining stability in the Asia–Pacific. In response, China has expressed serious concerns regarding the Paper’s remarks on the South China Sea, with China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying the country strongly disagreed with Australia’s criticism of its land reclamation activities.

Flight Path

Late last week, US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber, designated the B-21. The designation signifies that the LRS-B is the first bomber of the 21st century. The contract was awarded last year to Northrop Grumman over Lockheed Martin and Boeing, with the US Government Accountability Office recently denying a Boeing protest over the contract. The selection process and cost-reimbursement contract of the new LRS-B did generate some dissenting views, but if you’re still sceptical, have a look at this recent article from War on the Rocks which outlines three reasons why work on the B-21 is ready to begin without changing the contract type.

The bomber will need a name (like the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit) and Secretary James has asked the public for suggestions. Check out some of the choicer suggestions (like ‘Money Pit’ and ‘Bad Guy Make Go-Away System’) and find out how you can have your say here.

A video using 360 degree immersive cameras to show a US pilot’s perspective as he takes off in an F/A-18 Super Hornet from an aircraft carrier has recently been released. You can drag the camera around to view every direction and can even look down at the pilot’s controls.

Rapid Fire

In conjunction with the second anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia last Friday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced plans for a ‘substantial enhancement’ of its military capacity around the Black Sea and the Kherson Oblast, which borders Crimea. Poroshenki’s call to arms, that began with ‘Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of the Ukrainian state and the country-criminal will be forced to return the loot’, follows on from Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov’s statement that Ukraine would be preparing a special unit of the National Guard for their impending return to Crimea.

The US Army has patented a new ‘limited range projectile’ that self-destructs upon reaching a set distance in order to limit collateral damage should it fail to hit its designated target. Members of the US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Centre designed the projectile so that when fired a pyrotechnic substance inside the bullet ignites a reactive material that causes the bullet to become aerodynamically unstable once it reaches a particular distance.

And finally the 2016 Australian Defence White Paper has unveiled details about Australia’s investment in land combat and amphibious capabilities to 2025–26. See a brief summary of the future Army on The Strategist here and read about why Army’s current (and soon to be upgraded) M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks are still champions of the battlefield here.