Sea, air and land updates

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)

Sea State

The US Navy’s John C. Stennis Strike Group has been dispatched to the South China Sea this week. According to the Navy’s 7th Fleet, the group transited the Luzon Strait on 1 March and has been carrying out routine operations in the eastern half of the South China Sea. The strike group consists of Nimitzclass carrier USS John C. Stennis, two Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers, two cruisers, and a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser. Captain Greg Huffman, commanding officer of the carrier, said a number of PLA-N vessels had been shadowing the group, including ships that he hadn’t seen during his previous deployment to the region in 2007.

The UK’s Royal Navy is sending RFA Mounts Bay, equipped with a team of Royal Commandoes, to the Aegean Sea to assist a NATO mission tackling human trafficking and illegal migration. The vessel, currently waiting for diplomatic clearance in Crete, will undertake surveillance and reconnaissance tasks to assist NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 in providing information to Greece, Turkey and Frontex—the EU’s border agency.

Graduates from Norway’s Royal Naval School in Stavanger have performed an impressive flash mob of Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ at their passing out ceremony last week. Don’t believe me just watch…the video here.

Flight Path

Debate continues over the fate of the USAF’s A-10, with many simply unable to accept its proposed retirement in 2022. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been robustly questioning the decision, last week declaring that the US Air Force has ‘nothing to replace it with’ and that claims it can be replaced by F-15s and F-16s are ‘disingenuous’. At Defense One, Major Benjamin Fernandes of the US Army has published his views on why retiring the A-10 makes no sense.

The drama over the dogfighting ability of the F-35 began last year when War is Boring leaked a review of the jet by an unnamed test pilot, which criticised it as ‘sluggish’ and ‘substantially inferior’ to vintage F-15E fighter-bombers. Last week, a blog published by Norwegian test pilot ‘Dolby’, available in English on The Aviationist, has stirred up the debate once again by contradicting the criticisms made last year by defending the dogfighting capability of the F-35. Dolby concludes that, in his experience, the low speed high angle of attack capability of the F-35 makes it easier for the pilot to maintain the offensive role and effectively employ weapons than in an F-16. We’ll be grabbing our popcorn and hoping for some more public reviews as the Joint Strike Fighter approaches operation.

Rapid Fire

The largest ever military drills on the Korean Peninsula began this month, with the joint US and North Korea exercises serving as a counterpoint to Pyongyang’s recent antagonism. Involving 15,000 US soldiers, double the number from preceding years, the parallel exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle began on 7 March and will conclude 30 April. In lieu of this, the South Korean government has increased its recruitment efforts, even calling upon ex-servicemen to strengthen its military.

For some ocular delight, Business Insider Australia has complied a series of incredible photos taken by the Australian Army. Sourced from official photos released on the Australian Department of Defence website, the images range from displays of the fearsome firing capacity of the M1A1 Abrams to snaps of Australian troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And now for something completely different: last week Indian Army officials demanded that their new recruits strip down to their underwear prior to undertaking a mandatory entrance exam. The unusual request was in response to some of the extreme measures that new recruits have taken in order to cheat on their tests, with some even concealing headphones and microphones in their clothes.