Sea, air and land updates

Sea State

At last week’s MAST Asia 2015 conference on maritime defence and security technology in Yokohama, it became apparent that Japan’s two largest defence manufacturers—Mitsubishi and Kawasaki—are awaiting the Japanese government’s lead on two high profile opportunities: SEA 1000 and the Indian submarine Project 75I. The conference also included a number of forums on technologies, operations and tactics of Future Submarines, and an exhibition Japan’s first post-WWII arms.

Back in Australia, the first of the Hobart-class AWDs will be launched this Saturday in Adelaide. Watch here for aerial footage of the ships being built from March this year.

Speaking of destroyers, Russia’s Krylov State Research Center has been busy with the development of a new class of destroyer for the Russian Navy. The new design—Project 23560E—will be exhibited at the International Maritime Defence Show 2015 in St Petersburg during July, so stay tuned for more info.

And finally, following the 9 May underwater test-fire of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, photos published by North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper show an ecstatic Kim Jong-un. And he’s got much to celebrate: Kim has provided his military with a ‘world-level strategic weapon’ that has South Korean military officials worried about regional stability.

Flight Path

What’s the difference between a B-1 and B-52 strategic bomber? US Defense Department’s Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security David Shear confused the two last week when he announced that the supersonic B-1 would be deployed to Australia. The confusion triggered fears of conflict escalation between China and the US over the South China Sea and was later dismissed as an error by Shear.

The US Air Force has announced that it’s learning lessons from the hypersonic X-51 test vehicle to develop a high-speed strike weapon, with the long-term plan being the fielding of hypersonic missiles.

Reflecting an ongoing trend favouring long-range strike capability, the US Navy has revealed it’s working with Lockheed Martin to integrate its new autonomously guided Long Range Anti-ship Missile onto an F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft. The new technology, with an unclassified range of 200 nautical miles (and even longer classified range), will allow the Super Hornet to strike maritime targets at longer ranges. The capability has been tested on a B-1 bomber and is expected to be integrated onto the F-15 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Lastly, US military scientists have invented miniature drones that resemble your standard paper plane. Named the ‘Cicada’, the palm-sized drone can provide weather readings, eavesdrop on operations and, with on-board seismic and magnetic sensors, potentially detect vehicle traffic or submarines.

Rapid Fire

Senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf (not to be confused with the Filipino insurgent group of the same name) was reportedly killed during a US Special Forces raid Friday night in al-Amr in south-eastern Syria. The mission shows a willingness to place boots on the ground, despite the Obama administration vowing publicly that it wouldn’t commit ground troops to either Iraq or Syria. Colum Lynch and Sean Naylor at Foreign Policy ponder that the greenlight given to the mission, its success, and the potential for a series of similar ground force missions.

Meanwhile, US Army veterans have raised their hands to join the fight against ISIS. ‘Veterans against ISIS’ is a group of 24 ex- Rangers, Marines and soldiers currently training before heading to Syria to fight alongside other local militias. The US military and White House have discouraged the practice but, unlike in Australia, it’s not illegal for Americans to fight overseas.

Turning to our region, WSJ’s blog ‘Japan Real Time’ provides a useful backgrounder on proposed changes to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces policy. In short, the changes will allow the SDF to aid allied foreign militaries and offer logistical support only if the SDF operate in accordance with UN charters and in circumstances deemed necessary to sustain Japan’s peace and security.

Lastly, The Christian Science Monitor discusses the top five most talked about techs from the Pentagon’s recent ‘lab day’. The top techs include a Batman suit and facial recognition binoculars.