Sea, air and land updates
An Afghan Soldier with 3rd Commando Kandak makes adjustments to his mounted night vision device while fellow Commandos and U.S. Soldiers with Special Operations Task Force - South conduct final mission preparation before conducting an operation to remove insurgents from Lam village, Khakrez District, Nov. 14, 2010, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel P. Shook/Special Operations Task Force - South)(Released)

Sea State

Japan is a serious contender to nab the SEA 1000 project, as news broke last week that the country is expected to provide Australia classified data on Soryu-class submarines. Previously, Japan has only ever shared information of this level of confidentially with its close military ally, the US.

HMAS Newcastle has officially commenced its first patrol as part of Operation MANITOU in the Middle East. Newcastle will contribute to the international security and stability effort which focus on counterterror, counter piracy and narcotics interdiction in regional waters.

A new Chinese submarine simulator has provided clues about the capabilities of China’s Type 095 vessel, which will enter service in two to four years. The Type 095 will potentially be China’s most stealthy nuclear-attack submarine, with ‘rapidly deployable global naval and land attack capability’, and will assist in protecting Chinese commercial and war vessels.

Finally, confused about who’s who and who wants what in the South China Sea? Have a listen to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast this week for a breakdown of rising regional tensions over China’s land reclamation efforts and Southeast Asian reactions.

Flight Path

Continuing last week’s drone theme, the 2015 Unmanned Systems show last week in Atlanta provided a snapshot of future drone technology. For a look at the latest capabilities, Defense One provides a list of nine of the strangest flying robots from the drone show.

Turning to Chinese military capabilities, last Friday, the Pentagon released its annual report on the People’s Liberation Army. Considered by some as the Pentagon’s most detailed assessment of the near and medium term threats, the report highlights China’s plans to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms by 2023, as well as more longer-range UAVs and missiles. The report further confirmed China’s development of technologies designed to counter ballistic missile defence systems, and for the first time acknowledged the existence of the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle—a strike weapon that travels at the edge of space at nearly Mach 10.

Adding to the military armaments in the Asia–Pacific region is the recent US State Department’s approval of the possible sale of 17 Bell-Boeing V-22 B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Japan. The new platforms will be assigned to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s new amphibious unit responsible for recapturing territory ‘without delay in case of any invasion of any remote islands’.

Rapid Fire

Russia’s new super tank the T-14 Armata was put on display last week during a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow. Unfortunately, one of the eight tanks stopped suddenly whilst crossing the Red Square. Initial announcements attempted to play the fault off as part of a training exercise, but other accounts imply that the hiccup was due to human error.

Ashley’s War, a book released last month on women operating alongside Special Forces teams in Afghanistan, has caused a stir in the ‘women in combat’ debate. Its release comes coincides with news that the remaining eight women undergoing US Army Ranger course have failed to complete the first phase. However, they have qualified to redo the first phase of training next month.

After months of delays, moderate Syrian rebels have begun training under a coalition plan to boost efforts against the Islamic State. Ninety Syrians have gone through the lengthy process of recruitment and vetting before training. There will be 450 trainers, of which an estimated 350 are US soldiers; it’s currently unknown which other coalition countries will contribute the rest. Other questions about coalition responsibility to protect once the Syrian force begins conducting ground operations also remain.

On the tech side, BAE Systems have announced that they’re initiating production of an ‘integrated night vision targeting solution’ for ground forces in the field—basically night-vision goggle/weapon sight hybrid. Made under the US Army’s Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III and Family of Weapon Sight-Individual program, the display will merge night vision and thermal imaging for faster target acquisition and engagement.