Sea, air and land updates

U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division wait to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during an air assault mission in the Al Jazeera Desert, Iraq, on March 22, 2006.

Sea State

The Friday before last, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews announced that the panel overseeing the competitive evaluation process for Australia’s future submarine project will be headed by Professor Donald Winter—a former secretary of the US Navy. Many look at the process with a skeptical eye, suspecting that it’s already favoring Japan over the German and French contenders, but Andrews maintains that all three bidders will be treated ‘fairly and equally’.

Meanwhile, The Australian has reported that French contenders are considering a ‘strategically important’ collaboration with Japan as both nations prepare to bid. At last week’s G7 conference, French President Francois Hollande and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared their relationship was strengthening—with a possible trip to France on the books for Abe in October.

And finally, if you thought catapults were purely weapon systems of the Middle Ages, think again! Watch a video of the US Navy testing its next-generation catapult—to be used for launching fighter jets off aircraft carriers—here. While it’ll still be some time before the system is tested with actual aircraft, this is the first time a steel sled weighing the same as a fighter jet has been used.

Flight Plan

Last Friday, China’s defence ministry confirmed its fourth test of a new hypersonic-capable strike vehicle with advanced manoeuvering capability that’s able to evade missile defences. It’s believed that the vehicle can only be countered by an extended-range version of the US Army’s Terminal High Altitude Areas Defense missile defence system. Some Chinese analysts have interpreted the timing of the test as an expression of Chinese strength in the lead-up to meetings with US military leadership on the South China Sea.

In drone news, Breaking Defense’s Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. discusses the impending swarm of small, less-sophisticated drones, and the challenges they present to detection and defences. There seems to be no fool-proof solution. Jamming, despite being the best option, risks interfering with civilian phones and other communication devices. Kelley Sayler from the Center for a New American Security also discusses these issues in her recent report on the proliferation of drones and the implications of new capabilities on the strategic landscape.

Finally, if you missed Defense One’s video on the progress of the US air war against ISIS, it’s definitely worth a watch. The video maps the 3,800 airstrikes that have occurred since August 2014 in Iraq and Syria, and reveals how little the US-led air war has actually achieved.

Rapid Fire

American involvement in Iraq in the fight against Islamic State is set to increase. 450 more US personnel will be sent in non-combat roles to train the Iraq army. This move will increase the American presence in Iraq to 3,550. The decision has been slammed by Senator John McCain who called it a ‘Band-Aid’ response.

Conspiracy theories continue to surround the US military training exercise Jade Helm 15, which is purportedly a plan for the US Government to invade Texas. For those still confused about how such a seemingly innocuous training operation incited such fervour, Peter Storey gives an overview of its rise to fame at Cicero magazine. Ultimately, he argues that such training operations will be more common in the future due to the rise of military operations in urban terrain.

For the tech junkies, word has it that the US Army is developing a mobile arm exoskeleton for firearm aim stabilisation (MAXFAS). The prototype is currently immobile but the goal is to attach a lightweight motor so that the gear can be used in the field.