The 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue ran over the weekend, and maritime security issues featured prominently in the wake of escalating tensions in the South China Sea. In his keynote address, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter drew attention to developments in the region, stating: ‘The United States is deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea’. Australia’s Defence Minister Kevin Andrews echoed these sentiments, without naming China explicitly, by saying that ‘Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the South and East China Sea’. Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo, however, deemed China’s actions to be ‘justified, legitimate and reasonable.’
The Weekend Australian’s defence supplement contained plenty of information for those keeping up with the ADF’s two ‘mega-projects’: the Future Submarines and Future Frigates. Read Brendan Nicholson’s piece on RAN’s plans to train and equip to ‘fight serious sea battles far from the nation’s shores’, discussion from Kym Bergmann, Julian Kerr and Geoffrey Barker on the international design contenders for SEA 1000, and ASPI’s Andrew Davies on what sort of navy Australia needs, where he makes the case for corvettes as an adjunct to larger warships.
To that end, the Indonesian Navy test-fired an Exocet anti-ship missile from a Bung Tomo-class corvette for the first time last Thursday. The Indonesian Navy released a pointed statement after the successful launch:
‘We hope that the successful test firing of the missile will be a deterrence to both state and non-state actors who intend to violate Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty’.
Last Tuesday the USS WASP amphibious assault ship test launched six F-35Bs in the lead up to their operational debut in July. The test flights were piloted by marines; it was the first time six F-3Bs completed simultaneous sorties. You can watch the footage here at Aviation Week (short take off at the 2’00”,vertical landing at 2’45”).
The utility of the West’s fifth generation F-35 fighters might soon be tested with the arrival of Russia’s own fifth generation Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA fighter jet in 2020. The Commander of the Russian Air Forces, Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev recently claimed Russia’s fifth gen fighter can neutralise the stealth capability of an enemy plane and will be able to engage targets such as the F-22s and F-35s.
Turning to the Asia–Pacific, it seems the F-35’s stealth capabilities could also be challenged by China’s new Devine Eagle (Shen Diao) drone. Last Friday, hazy images of China’s 18-metre-long high-altitude ‘stealth hunting’ drone were released online. The twin-fuselage tandem-wing aircraft is said to able to detect stealth aircraft and warships at long ranges using a combination of radar wavelengths, and is expected to strengthen China’s A2/AD capabilities.
The debate continues on the role of coalition forces in Iraq. US GEN Raymond Odierno, the US Army Chief of Staff, argued last Thursday that while the US shouldn’t deploy combat troops to fight Islamic State, there’s the possibility of advisors accompanying Iraqi forces onto the battlefield. These remarks were echoed by former Australian Chief of Army, LTGEN Peter Leahy who’s unconvinced that Australia should be heading into direct combat. Leahy argues instead that we should expect more from the Iraq army. However this opinion isn’t universally shared, with ASPI’s Peter Jennings advocating an ‘advise, assist and accompany’ role for Australia
Paul McCleary at Foreign Policy has an analysis of the shortcomings of Iraq commanders compared to commanders of Islamic State. The article highlights an imbalance not only of military skill but also of commitment to the fight.
Finally, UN Women have launched a pilot project tackling gender-based violence in armed conflict, in conjunction with the Centre for UN Peacekeeping in India. The two week course will train female military officers to address and prevent gender-based physical and sexual violence, and will also aim to resolve the gender imbalance currently found in UN peacekeeping missions.