Sea, air and land updates

Sea State

Breaking: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced France’s DCNS as the winner of RAN’s $50 billion future submarine contract during a surprise visit to Adelaide this morning. The construction of the 12 conventionally-powered submarines, based on France’s nuclear-powered Barracuda-class will be based in Osbourne, South Australia, and will generate an additional 2,800 jobs.

Russia’s new hypersonic cruise missile is likely to go into serial production in 2018, four years ahead of schedule, according to a Russian defence industry source. The 3M22 Zircon hyper cruise missile, capable of speeds of Mach 5.0 to Mach 6.0, is currently completing tests which are due to finish in 2017. It’s expected the Kirov-class Admiral Nakhimov will be the first Russian warship to be equipped with the new missile, when returns to service in 2018 at the conclusion of a modernisation process.

Tensions between China and Indonesia are once again at risk of escalating, after the Indonesian navy detained a Chinese trawler allegedly fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. The incident comes only weeks after a Chinese-owned fishing vessel was caught operating close to Natuna islands. The vessel was intercepted on 22 April in Aceh, northwest of Sumatra, after Indonesia received information that the ship was wanted in Argentina. The boat, which had been fishing illegally in Argentine waters in late February, has been taken to a naval base in North Sumatra for investigation.

Russia has found the dolphins it’s been looking for. Following up from our post last month, Russia has announced Moscow’s Utrish Dolphinarium as the winner of the Ministry of Defense’s contract to supply five dolphins to the Russian military. The dolphinarium will supply three males and two females by 1 August. As we’ve previously mentioned, both the US and Soviet Union used dolphins for military purposes during the Cold War.

Flight Path

Last week, the US Armed Services Committee asked the US Air Force to work out how much it would cost to restart production of its F-22 Raptor, five years after the last stealth fighter came off the assembly line. The request was spurred by a growing perception of weakening US air superiority due to adversaries closing the technology gap. Defense One has looked at what it thinks it would take to restart F-22 production, including finding the money, reengineering the plane and finding a place to actually build it. The editorial team at Breaking Defense don’t think it would be a good idea—it would divert lots of money, time and expertise from the F-35 and B-21 programs and would take a few years before new F-22s would roll off the production line.

There’s been plenty of discussion about the new US future bomber, the B-21. A report released last week by the US House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces has directed the USAF to submit an assessment by February next year estimating the number of B-21 bombers needed to meet combatant commander requirements. Independent testimony suggests the number needed would be between 174 and 205, almost doubling the magic number of 100 that has been touted to date. Whilst final numbers will take a while to determine, the USAF has said that it won’t make the B-21 contract value public, claiming that doing so would make it easier for adversaries to work out the aircraft’s range and weapons payload.

We’re sad to say that the future of Flight Path’s favourite blimp, the JLENS, doesn’t look good. The House Armed Services Committee chairman’s mark of the fiscal 2017 defence policy bill came out last week with huge slashes to the blimp program’s funding—down to a mere US$2.5 million compared to the requested $45 million. Thanks for the memories, JLENS.

Rapid Fire

The third rotation of Australian troops deployed to Iraq—including the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR)—are undergoing pre-deployment training near Adelaide prior to heading off to train Iraqi troops to fight Daesh as a part of the international Building Partner Capacity (BPC) training mission. For your ocular pleasure, an ABC team attached a 360-degree camera to the rifle being used in combat exercises.

Australian war veteran support groups utilised Anzac Day celebrations on Monday to highlight not only servicemen and women who have died fighting for the nation, but also the increasing number of soldiers who have taken their lives at home. In the last 20 years there have been more deaths of serving and retired Australian soldiers from suicide than on the battlefield. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been recognised as the cause for many of the suicides.

And if you’ve ever wondered about the accuracy of Hollywood war battle scenes, the Task & Purpose blog have put together a short list of the ones that get the optics right.