Sea, air and land updates

Image courtesy of U.S. Navy

Sea State

The National Interest has jumped into a time machine to take a look at the world’s most powerful navies in 2030. It suggests that the ‘eastward shift’ in naval power will continue due to decreasing defence budgets in Europe and growing naval interests in Asia, with China and India the big winners. According to the piece, aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines will be the defining factors in naval power in the early-to-mid 21st century. US naval superiority is expected to continueit should reach its 300-ship goalbut may face challenges from competing budgetary demands. The PLA-N will continue to expand its naval forces and may have the world’s largest navy in terms of number of ships by 2030. Russia, suffering a shortfall in funding, may only retain its position due to its ballistic missile submarine fleet.

Future weapons update now: the USN is continuing the development of its new electromagnetic railgun, despite Pentagon officials’ concerns over its cost and viability. The weapona long-term project for the Office of Naval Researchutilises electromagnetic energy to shoot a bullet at speeds up to Mach 7.5 (9,100kph) at moving targets up to 160km away. Pentagon officials have voiced their concern at the cost of the project (it currently stands at more than US$500 million), as well as the railgun’s requirement of 25 megawatts of power, making most vessels unsuitable hosts. Despite that, railgun program manager Tom Boucher said he’s optimistic the weapon would be operationally deployable within a decadepossibly on the USS Zumwalt.

Flight Path

In F-35 news, the USAF is on track to declare initial operational capability of the Joint Strike Fighter between August and December. The software glitches that plagued the fighter a few months ago appear to have been addressed, with operators reporting no shutdowns during deployments this month. On Wednesday last week, Israel received the first of its F-35I Adir—a slightly modified F-35A—and the country is considering purchasing 17 additional JSFs in addition to the 35 already contracted for.

Remember when USAF Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh said he wanted an A-10 replacement that resembled a flying Coke machine? A new piece on The Warzone has suggested that what Welsh means by the cryptic analogy is a new weapon platform that consolidates the close air support (CAS) process into the hands of the Joint Terminal Air Controller—removing the aircrew from the CAS loop entirely. A recent article from War on the Rocks that looks at a different future project, the ‘arsenal plane’ that will function as a ‘large airborne magazine’, argues that the US already has an arsenal plane: the B-52 Stratofortress.

After US Congress slated the JLENS blimp for an early retirement—the same aerostat that gave us the fondly-remembered #blimpgate—missile defence leaders within the US Northern Command are now trying to find another way to address the cruise missile defence gap (PDF) left open on the US East Coast. For Tom Karako, a missile defence analyst at CSIS, a JLENS-like replacement is the only solution: ‘long live JLENS’.

Rapid Fire

After a month long offensive, Iraqi forces have now ‘fully liberated’ Fallujah from Daesh, according to senior Iraqi military commander Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab. The city has been ravaged in the process, with more than 80,000 thousand fleeing the city to camps in 46 degree Celsius heat with inadequate water or shelter. US intelligence officials describe Daesh as being ‘at its weakest point since its rapid expansion’. Plans are now afoot to retake Mosul, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi vowing to raise the national flag in the city.

The Australian Army’s Exercise Hamel 2016 is now underway in outback South Australia. The largest army exercise conducted in the state, it involves nearly 10,000 Australian personnel, as well as troops from the UK, US and New Zealand. The exercise aims to evaluate the readiness of the 1st Brigade, who will be sending two task groups to Iraq as a part of Operation Okra—the ADF’s contribution to the taskforce combatting Daesh.

With  Britain voting to leave the EU last week, questions have been raised about its effect on the country’s national defence and military alliances. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said voting #leave won’t alter the Britain’s role in the alliance and US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter assured the UK that their security ties will ‘endure’ post-Brexit.