Sea, air and land updates

Sea State

The US Department of Defense released its
annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments on Friday, drawing particular attention to China’s actions in the South China Sea. The Pentagon review detailed that China had reclaimed more than 3200 acres of land in the Spratly Islands over the past two years, and alleged China was using ‘coercive tactics short of armed conflict’ in order to advance its interests in the region. The report also estimated China’s military spending in 2015 at more than $180 billionapproximately $40 billion more than China’s official defence budget. In response, China’s defence ministry expressed ‘strong dissatisfaction’ with the report, and had severely damaged trust between the two countries. The National Interest has an in-depth analysis of the report, while VICE takes a look at China’s response.

Hidden underwater drones may be the next frontier in naval warfare. The US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is developing Upward Falling Payloads, giant 15-foot high pods that would allow the US Navy to deploy UAVs to provide surveillance or potentially house weapons systems. The pods would be pre-positioned on the ocean floor, where they would enter hibernation to be released at any time. Once released, it would use a buoyancy collar to move rapidly to the surface. DARPA is currently working on Stage 3 of the project, which will include sea demonstrations. On the topic of UAVs, a newly released report from the US Department of Defense has found that 41 hand-launched drones purchased by US Special Operations Command failed military tests and may not be able to meet mission requirements.  

Flight Path

In F-35 news this week, US Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain is looking to disband the F-35 joint program office after the F-35 reaches full-rate production in 2019. McCain argues that the devolvement of the program to the individual services would help ensure the proper alignment of accountability, but a source familiar with the issue said the decision fails to take into account the international aspect of the program. Speaking of the love-it or hate-it Joint Strike Fighter, Vice News is looking at the innovations and problems of the F-35 in a three-part series. Part I—released this week—looks at how and why the jet will be used, based on talks with some US Navy F-35 test pilots.  

Keeping the debate alive over the future of the A-10, two new articles look at the proposed retirement of the Warthog and come to different conclusions. A blog post over at On Strategy and War argues that the time has come to retire the A-10, as the main reason to keep it—to provide Close Air Support—is outweighed by the platform’s inflexibility. From a different perspective, this piece published for the Modern War Institute argues that the A-10 should be retained for its CAS role, which can’t be replaced by the F-35.

Must see: footage has appeared online showing a sneak preview of Russia’s new counter-UAV weapon—the Surface-based Precision Elimination of Aerial Robots, or SPEAR. Watch the new SPEAR technology in action here.

Rapid Fire

With a track record that includes inadvertently shipping live anthrax, the US Department of Defense military laboratories are under scrutiny again thanks to a recent report which revealed DoD was ‘risking dangerous lapses in biosafety practices’ in their laboratories. Evaluating the biological safety and security implementation, the DOD is now in the process of altering the management of its laboratories.

The US Army will now be equipping its light infantry units with the Saab 84mm Carl-Gustaf M3E1 Multirole Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS). Starting with the Army Rangers in 1989, the M3 had been initially limited to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), but will now be the standard issue tactical support weapon for light infantry with a full material release in late 2016—all brigade combat teams will be given twenty seven launchers, which is roughly equates to one per platoon. Check out an M3 in action here.