Sea, air and land updates

U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Mills, Security Forces rifleman attached to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, secures his eyes and ears as Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a controlled detonation of a Taliban-planted improvised explosive device found on a road in Shinkai, Afghanistan, Oct. 8. ANA soldiers detonated the IEDs after being trained by PRT Zabul on proper controlled detonation techniques. Mills is deployed from Charlie Company, 182nd Infantry Division, Massachusetts National Guard.Sea State

The Commander of the US 6th Fleet has warned that Russia is a growing maritime power capable of putting ‘nearly all NATO maritime forces at risk’. In an article for the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings, Vice Admiral James Foggo III detailed a new era in US–Russian submarine warfare, calling it ‘the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic’. The author drew comparisons between Russia’s submarine posture today to that which existed between the Allies and Germany during WWI and WWII, and between the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War. He believes that Russia is stepping up its submarine operations in order to form an ‘arc of steel’ from the Artic to the Black Sea. The article comes in the wake of a number of improvements to Russia’s diesel-electric engine and nuclear-powered submarine capabilities.

Eat your heart out, Iron Man. The US Navy unveiled the ‘next generation’ system for its diving community last weekhigh-tech dive helmets. The Divers Augmented Vision Display is a high-resolution, see-through head-up display that’s built into the helmet in order to expand situational awareness and increased accuracy in navigation. The system overlays what the diver is seeing with real-time informationincluding sector sonar, diagrams, images, text messages and videos. Divers are scheduled to conduct in-water simulation testing in October, after which time the system will be used for ship husbandry, underwater construction and salvage operations. The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at the helmet, and other applications of augmented reality, here.

Flight Path

The South China Morning Post reported last week that China is preparing to announce an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, dependent on the regional security situation and particularly on US military presence in the region. The US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that Washington would consider an ADIZ a ‘provocative and destabilising act’. But some experts doubt that an ADIZ is imminent; Emeritus Professor Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy has suggested that China doesn’t currently have the military capability to enforce a SCS ADIZ. The South China Sea has been the stage for aerial incidents between China and the US in the past, as we’ve reported previously. Over the weekend, US Pacific Command Chief Harry Harris said that unsafe incidents involving Chinese fighter pilots are ‘rare’ and an outlier in China’s generally positive behaviour.

The future of strategic bombers received some attention last week. At Defense One, a new article looks at the proposal of an unmanned option for the B-21, arguing that the uninhabited option should be incorporated from the outset to increase the US military’s operational flexibility and could save money. This piece from Breaking Defense argues that the US Senate Armed Services Committee shouldn’t attempt to create a fixed-price contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber on the grounds that it would risk delays and cost growth. And a new article over at The National Interest compares American and Russian strategic bombers, concluding that American strategic aviation has the advantage from a quantitative perspective, but Russian bombers are better equipped.

Rapid Fire

The Syrian Army is making significant advances towards Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital, after Russian forces conducted heavy air strikes on the neighbouring eastern areas of Hama province on Friday—the first time that Syrian government forces have entered Raqqa province since August 2014 when they were forced out by Daesh forces. It’s the third significant assault on Daesh in the last week, with Iraqi troops advancing on Fallujah in central Iraq and Syrian militia closing in on northern Syrian town of Manbji.

Hearing loss is a significant concern for armed forces, with over 60% of all soldiers concluding their service in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering hearing damage due to noise exposure. The US military are addressing that concern by providing their troops with the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAOS, a hearing protective system that dampens ‘explosive noise, but can enhance whispers’. Costing US$2,000 each, deployment of the TCAPS began in 2014; there are now 20,000 devices in the field. You can check out a video detailing the TCAPS system here.

In a notable first for military healthcare injectable sponges were used for the first time last week to stem the bleeding of a gunshot victim. A ‘sizable cavity’ had been made in the left thigh of a US soldier, whom a surgical team had struggled to stabilise until they applied the sponges. The XSTAT, manufactured by RevMedx, releases several small sponges into the wound, which then rapidly increase in size to stem the bleeding within 20 seconds. While the XSTAT was authorised for field use in 2014, only now has it been utilised.