Sea, air and land updates

Image courtesy of Flickr user Airwolfhound

Sea State

Tensions are mounting between China and Indonesia after an Indonesian naval vessel fired on a Chinese fishing boat near the Natuna Islands last Friday. Indonesia’s navy said it fired warning shots at several Chinese vessels fishing illegally in its waters, but told Reuters there were no injuries. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying refuted those claims on the ministry website, stating that the Chinese coast guard had rescued an injured fisherman from a damaged boat, and Indonesia had detained another vessel with seven people on board. It’s unclear whether Indonesia is still holding the vessel and its crew. This is the third such incident in the area this year between the two countries, fuelling tensions caused by China’s inclusion of part of Indonesia’s EEZ near the Natuna Islands within its ‘nine-dash line’.

The US Navy’s ‘Great Green Fleet’ entered the Mediterranean Sea last week, in order to conduct military operations and demonstrate the importance of alternative energy. USN’s bio-fuel project is aimed at cutting its oil consumption, but also comes with security benefitsnamely ensuring that the US and its allies aren’t vulnerable to disruptions of fuel supplies. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus highlighted Russia’s threat to cut off Ukraine’s fuel supply as an example of that vulnerability, and emphasised that the approach would make the Navy a better war fighter. USS Dwight Eisenhower is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, while its accompanying strike group uses Italian bio-fuels.

Flight Path

Last week, the US Air Force won a victory in its efforts to keep the new B-21 bomber contract price secret, with the US Senate passing a defence policy bill without requiring the contract value to be made public. Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, wrote about the decision on War Is Boringurging USAF leaders to release the contract value for reasons of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

Is it time to get rid of the Air Force? That’s the question being asked this week on Reuters’ War College podcast. Professor Robert Farley from the University of Kentucky argues that the American armed forces should undergo a bureaucratic reorganisation and return to a time when air forces were integrated solely through the Army and Navy—stating that the USAF is a ‘bureaucratic wall’.

Some people get really excited over aircraft. A new article from Popular Mechanics has looked at why the F-22 Raptor is such a badass plane, citing its stealth and speed, with lots of cool pictures and videos to back up the claim. And last week, speaking on the future replacement for the A-10, the US Air Force Chief of Staff compared the desired capability to the convenience and flexibility of a soft drink vending machine. General Mark Welsh said he wants a ‘flying Coke machine’ where you could ‘put your quarter in and you get whatever kind of firepower you want when you want it’. Does it come with a diet option?

Rapid Fire

In response to an ‘increasingly unpredictable’ Russia, Norway will undertake its largest military upgrade since the conclusion of the Cold War. According to its new Defence White Paper—presented to the Norwegian Parliament last week—Norway will increase its defence budget to 7.2 billion kroner (US$19.7 billion) by 2020. The military spending plan will see investments made to improve situational awareness capabilities as well as bolster intelligence. However, that will also see cuts to improve internal efficiency, including the closure of 11 military bases.

NATO is also concerned about Europe’s defences against Russia, with military planning being undertaken to reinforce a 64-mile region on the Polish border that neighbours the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. If a conflict with Russia were to occur, it’s been suggested that forces from Kaliningrad could effectively cut off Baltic States from the rest of the NATO forces in less than 72 hours. In response, forces from Poland, the US and 20 other NATO allies undertook a 10-day defence exercise last week. However, those actions have been met with criticism from Germany’s Foreign Minister, who suggested such manoeuvres could further inflame tensions with Russia.

Eurosatory 2016the international land and air-land Defence and Security exhibition—was held last week in Paris. With over 1,500 exhibitors from across the globe, IHS Jane’s 360 features a series of articles detailing some of the highlights.