30 September 2015

Think Tank: (Australia) A rolling build of twelve future submarines (part 1)

Royal Australian Navy Collins class Submarine
Peter Briggs

It’s time to review the arguments for 12 next generation submarines; the more so because eight seems to be the conventional wisdom of the day!

Any consideration on this subject should start with why Australia requires submarines. Submarines offer the Government unique options in dealing with the increasingly challenging maritime environment in our region, where the presence of overt ADF assets is likely to be seen as escalatory and these assets will be at risk if safety catches are off.

The arguments for 12 long range-submarines (part 2 here) were accepted in the 2009 and 2013 Defence White Papers. Both DWPs also concluded that our geography requires a large submarine with long range/endurance and large payload. Our strategic environment hasn’t changed for the better.

The Northwest Pacific is the strategic focus of the Asian Century. Based on this transit distance—a not unreasonable for Australian submarines—12 submarines is the minimum force size to enable Australia to sustain one deployed (in a demanding but practical cycle) and provide one operational submarine available for other tasking.

AUS: First refuel for RAAF KC-30A refueller to F-35A

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has completed the first fuel transfer with the air refuelling boom from a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to a US Air Force (USAF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base in California. A total of 59 contacts were conducted of which five contacts transferred 43,200 pounds of fuel during the four hour sortie.

Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC, described the trial as a significant step in the development of the KC-30A’s capability.

“Our KC-30A is an essential force multiplier. Mid-air refuelling is critical to ensuring global reach for our aircraft, our people and our equipment,” Air Marshal Davies said.

USA: Pentagon - U.S. Forces Conduct Airstrike After Taliban Take Kunduz

By Lisa Ferdinando 
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 29, 2015 — U.S. forces conducted an airstrike today on the outskirts of Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan that was taken yesterday by Taliban forces, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said today.

The airstrike was a "force-protection strike conducted by a fixed-wing manned aircraft" to eliminate a threat to coalition and Afghan forces in the area, Cook told reporters.

"We strongly condemn the attacks in Kunduz, and stand with the Afghan people in our commitment to Afghanistan's peace and security," he said.

USA: Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken Travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel next week to Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China, October 5–10, to discuss key political, economic, and security issues with a wide range of government officials and non-governmental experts. This is his second trip to Northeast Asia and third to the Asia-Pacific over the last 9 months.

On October 5, Deputy Secretary Blinken will meet with senior government officials in Tokyo to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan alliance and discuss a wide range of shared interests. While in Tokyo, the Deputy Secretary will also meet with business leaders, students, young innovators and entrepreneurs to highlight the importance of innovation to the United States and Japan.

USA: Inaugural U.S.-India-Japan Trilateral Ministerial

On September 29, United States Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the inaugural U.S.-India-Japan Trilateral Ministerial dialogue with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York. Representing a quarter of the world’s population and economic production power, the three countries highlighted their shared support for peace, democracy, prosperity, and a rules-based international order.

The three Ministers highlighted the growing convergence of their respective countries’ interests in the Indo-Pacific region. They also underscored the importance of international law and peaceful settlement of disputes; freedom of navigation and overflight; and unimpeded lawful commerce, including in the South China Sea. They reiterated their support for ASEAN centrality in the multilateral political and security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region and emphasized the importance of the East Asia Summit as the premier leaders- level forum for addressing key political and security issues of the region.

News Story: Chinese naval expert denies PLA joining fight against ISIS

Chinese Warships (File Photo)
A Chinese naval expert has denied reports that the People's Liberation Army is sending a team of "military advisers" to Syria to assist in the fight against the the Islamic State jihadist terror group.

Over the weekend, several media outlets have picked up a report from the Lebanon-based news website Al-Masdar, which cited a Syrian army official as stating that a Chinese naval vessel is on its way to Syria with dozens of military advisers on board.

"The Chinese will be arriving in the coming weeks," the unnamed official is quoted as saying, adding that the military advisers will later be followed by troops.

The report claims that the ship has passed the Suez Canal in Egypt and is making its way through the Mediterranean Sea. Once they arrive in Syria the Chinese advisers will be joining Russian personnel in the Syrian port city of Latakia, the report added.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: New Zealand Defence Force Review Highlights Weaknesses

By Nick Lee-Frampton

WELLINGTON — The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has responded to a government agency's review requested by its top officer by forming several new committees to address areas found in need of improvement.

New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force  Lt. Gen. Tim Keating welcomed the performance improvement framework (PIF) review, released Sept. 24 by the State Services Commission. Keating apparently requested the review to help the NZDF test its thinking about how to meet the challenges of the next four years.

“Our purpose is about preparing for combat," Keating said in a news release. "I am committed to ensuring the New Zealand Defence Force, as a force for New Zealand, continuously finds ways to be better at what we do.”

Read the full story at DefensNews

Editorial: India and the US Sign $3 Billion Deal for New Attack Helicopters

AH-64E Apache attack helicopter
By Franz-Stefan Gady

The recently signed contract also includes a new fleet of transport aircraft.

This week, Indian and U.S. official signed contracts for the procurement of 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters in a deal estimated to be worth $3 billion the Business Standard reports.

The spokesperson of the Indian Defense Ministry, Sitanshu Kar, tweeted from his account this Monday: “Contracts for purchase of 15 #Chinook and 22 #Apache Helicopters signed.”

India’s Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS), a government body headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and responsible for military procurements, approved the purchase in the previous week, after more than ten (some sources say 13) American price validity extensions, which stipulate that the American defense contractor Boeing would sell the military hardware at the price agreed upon in 2013.

Final approval of the purchase had been stalled since that time due to differences over U.S. offset obligations – under India’s Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP) any foreign company has to invest part of the total purchasing price back into the country. The current contract will have a 30 percent offset clause, according to local media reports.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Indonesia Eyes Military Budget Boost to Fund New Equipment

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Boost would reverse an earlier proposed defense budget cut for 2016.

Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the Indonesian legislature had agreed to a proposal to boost the country’s defense budget in order to fund new purchases following earlier cuts being mulled.

According to ANTARA News, Mahfudz Siddiq, the Chairman of Commission I of the House of Representatives (DPR), said on September 25 that he had agreed in principle to a proposal advanced by Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu to increase the military budget by Rp37 trillion. Around Rp30 trillion of that amount, Siddiq said, would be used to purchase military equipment, with the rest going to other areas like troop welfare.

The development is not surprising. Indonesian legislators, including Siddiq himself, had expressed deep concern when it was revealed earlier this month that Indonesia may be cutting its 2016 defense budget (See: “Why is Indonesia Set to Cut its Military Budget for 2016?”). As I wrote then, some had expressed concerns that it might affect the purchase of important new hardware for Indonesia, including Su-35 jets and submarines from Russia (See: “Indonesia to Buy New Submarines from Russia”).

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US, Vietnam Eye Deeper Coast Guard Cooperation

By Prashanth Parameswaran

America’s Coast Guard chief expresses interest in boosting ties.

The head of the U.S. Coast Guard has expressed interest in deepening cooperation with Vietnam, local media outlets reported last week.

According to the People’s Army Newspaper, Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, made the comment during a September 21 meeting with Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, the deputy chief of the general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army.

The areas reportedly being considered include information sharing, delegation exchanges, and training.

As I have noted before, the United States and Vietnam have been looking to strengthen their security relationship as the two sides commemorate the 20th anniversary of the normalization of their ties this year (See: “What’s Next for US-Vietnam Relations?”). In line with a 2011 memorandum of understanding, U.S.-Vietnam defense cooperation has been proceeding in five areas: high-level dialogues; maritime security; search and rescue; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and peacekeeping.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Japan's Military Gets New Rules of Engagement

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The United States and Japan are also working on a new joint action plan for the defense of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense is in the process of updating operational rules of engagement for the members of the Japanese Self-Forces (JSDF) deployed abroad, The Japan Times reports.

The revision of the JSDF’s operational code of conduct is a direct result of new security legislation recently passed by the Upper House of the Japanese Diet that includes the right to collective self-defense.

According to The Japan Times, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani held a committee meeting this Monday to discuss details and, among other things, initiate a new training plan to ensure JSDF personnel will be familiar with the new rules of engagement.

What is clear already is that the scope of JSDF operations abroad will widen significantly. For example, during UN peacekeeping operations, Japanese blue helmets will now be allowed to come to the rescue and support troops of other peacekeeping contingents and can engage in “normal” military security operations such as patrolling and vehicle inspections at checkpoints.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Abe Outlines Why Japan Should Join the UN Security Council

By Shannon Tiezzi

In his speech before the UN General Assembly, Abe made the case for Japan to join the UN’s major decision-making body.

The United Nations General Assembly’s general debate headed into its second day Tuesday. After speeches by U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday, it was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s turn today. In his speech [PDF], Abe presented Japan’s vision for the United Nations, ending with a plea for Tokyo to take up a seat on the Security Council (UNSC).

“Japan seeks to become a permanent member of the Security Council and make a contribution commensurate with that stature,” Abe declared.

Indeed, much of Abe’s speech read like a cover letter for Japan’s bid to gain permanent membership in the UNSC. “Japan has a history of supporting nation-building in a variety of places,” Abe said. “Now more than ever, Japan wishes to offer that wealth of experience, unstintingly.”

Abe noted that Japan had been an active donor of humanitarian assistance. He also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to support assistance projects across the world, from helping Serbia and Macedonia deal with the current refugee crisis in Europe to building water and sewage systems in Iraq. As a specific example of Japan’s impact on the personal level, Abe cited the case of a mother who, when fleeing the violence in Syria, brought with her a notebook provided by Japan for recording her infant’s health information.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Putin to Visit Tokyo as Japan, Russia Restart Peace Talks

By Shannon Tiezzi

An Abe-Putin meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA again raised hopes for a peace treaty between Japan and Russia.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama took oblique (but obvious) aim at each other over the Syrian civil war in their respective speeches before the United Nations General Assembly. Putin and Obama also held a tense (though “surprisingly very frank,” according to the Russian leader) meeting Monday afternoon. While all eyes were on those tensions, Putin also held a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – a much more friendly encounter.

Abe and Putin met on the sidelines on the UNGA in New York on September 28. The meeting was expected; on September 25, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that he believes “frank exchanges of views will take place between the two countries’ leaders,” particularly “regarding the peace treaty negotiations, that is, in particular the territorial issue.”

Japan and Russia never formally signed a peace treaty to end World War II, thanks to a lingering territorial dispute over what Russia calls the Kuril Islands and Japan calls the Northern Territories. The then-Soviet Union annexed the islands in the final days of World War II.

When he assumed the office of prime minister for a second time in late 2012, Abe was determined to see movement on the territorial dispute, which would allow for a peace treaty to be signed between their two countries at long last. But diplomatic efforts fell victim to the larger geopolitical situation. After the Russian annexation of Crimea and continued military involvement in eastern Ukraine, Japan felt obligated to support U.S. sanctions on Moscow. That, in turn, poisoned the well of what had been promising signs in Japan-Russia relations. After meeting ten times from 2012 to 2014, Abe and Putin didn’t hold their eleventh meeting until yesterday.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: With Kunduz Under Siege, Afghanistan Is Again at a Crossroads

By Sanjay Kumar

The fall of the important northern city of Kunduz spells trouble for Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Yesterday, the Northern Afghan city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban. This is some of the worst news to emerge from Afghanistan since the of the 14- year old conflict between the Taliban and the western-backed Afghan national government.

In 2001, Kunduz was the last Taliban bastion to fall to the Northern Alliance, symbolizing the final liberation of the country. The recapture of the city demonstrates the resurgence of the Taliban. It is a signal that the insurgents are no longer just lurking in the background, but have the capacity to take the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) head on.

The fall of Kunduz coincides with the one year-anniversary of the National Unity Government under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani. The new regime was elected on the promise to improve security throughout the country, but the loss of Kunduz will undoubtedly deal a major blow to the prestige of the new government.

“The fall of Kunduz was a failure of both national and international leadership. Unfortunately, the government in Kabul is not taking responsibility for it. I am sure it will impact the National Unity Government very deeply,” says Kabul-based political expert, Haroon Mir, in an interview with The Diplomat.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Afghanistan Can't Afford to Lose Kunduz to the Taliban

By Ankit Panda

What does the fall of Kunduz tell us about the state of the Taliban and the Afghan government?

As I write this, Afghan security forces are battling Taliban militants for control of the city of Kunduz, the fifth largest city in Afghanistan and the first major urban center to fall to the insurgents in the 14 years since the U.S. invasion in December 2001. Reports emerged that the city had fallen to the insurgents late on Sunday night and, for the moment, the actual situation is uncertain.

Late on Tuesday, there are conflicting reports that the Taliban have managed to seize control of most of Kunduz airport from Afghan commandos. NATO has reportedly also conducted air strikes against Taliban positions in Kunduz, setting back their efforts somewhat. Though much remains unconfirmed about the tactical situation on the ground — more on which can be gleaned from The Diplomat‘s interview with an eyewitness in the city — the fall of Kunduz has broader significance that merits consideration.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Citing Iran, South Korea’s President Urges UN to Focus on North Korea

By Catherine Putz

The division of the Korean peninsula, Park said, is the “the last remaining vestige of the Cold War.”

President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly debate yesterday, cited the Iran nuclear deal completed this summer in urging the international community to focus on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. In addition, she highlighted the need for regional cooperation in northeast Asia.

Park called on the UN to accord the North Korean nuclear issue the highest priority, “if we are to uphold the integrity of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and live up to the aspirations of humanity for a world without nuclear weapons.” North Korea, Park said, is “the last remaining non-proliferation challenge.” Park did not really comment on the specifics of the Iranian nuclear deal, saying only that a deal was reached and that North Korea should be the focus now. North Korea, for its part, has said it holds no interest in an Iran-style negotiations.

Park went on to state that North Korea’s recent provocations undermine efforts to restart six-party talks on denuclearization. In August, two South Korean soldiers were injured by North Korean landmines in the DMZ. In response, South Korea restarted broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers along the border. Tensions culminated in an exchange of shells. On August 25, the two sides deescalated, meeting in Panmunjom for three days and coming away with an agreement in which North Korea expressed “regret” (but did not “apologize”) for the injured South Korean soldiers and the South stopped the broadcasts.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: 'North to Alaska' - US and Chinese Competing Visions of Maritime Fair Use

Image: Flickr User - Official U.S. Navy Page
By Steven Stashwick

What makes the Chinese transit of the Aleutians provocative to some is an apparent hypocrisy.

In August, China and Russia conducted a large bilateral naval exercise called Joint Sea 2015 II in the Sea of Japan. The exercise concerned some observers for what it implied about a solidifying geopolitical block aligned against the U.S. But its location provided the Chinese with another opportunity – to enter the Bering Sea and then transit unannounced through U.S. territorial waters in the Aleutian Island chain.

Chinese operations in the Bering Sea are believed to be unprecedented, and there are numerous political statements that can be read into the transit, which coincided with President Obama’s historic visit to Alaska. But legally, the Chinese were well within their rights; in fact a right the United States has long defended both for itself and others. What makes the Chinese transit of the Aleutians provocative to some is an apparent hypocrisy. While the U.S. takes a maximalist and institution-based position on the maritime rights of all nations, China is comparatively selective; it enjoys its full maritime rights internationally while routinely attempting to deny similar rights to nations transiting or operating in and near its waters.

In passing through the Aleutians, the Chinese were exercising a treaty right called innocent passage. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [PDF] (UNCLOS), ships may transit the territorial waters of another nation so long as the transit is not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state.” As such, military and government vessels exercising innocent passage are prohibited from engaging in threatening activities like weapons drills, surveillance, aircraft operations, etc. Fueling Sino-US tensions are disagreements about claims and limits under UNCLOS, and special areas like Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ) that are not governed by treaty.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: A Dangerous Game - Responding to Chinese Cyber Activities

By Ryan Pickrell

Those calling for tougher U.S. measures should think twice.

Prior to last week’s summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama, much speculation centered on the possibility of American sanctions against China for state-sponsored, as well as unmanaged private, criminal activity in cyberspace. China has been accused of engaging in state-sponsored hacking, as well as corporate and political espionage. In many political and academic circles, there is a strong belief that the United States needs to punish China for espionage and cyber attacks against government agencies and American companies.

During the meeting between Xi and Obama last week, the two leaders agreed to work together to establish “international rules for the road in cyberspace” and to avoid engaging in state-sponsored criminal activities in cyberspace. Many wonder whether or not China will uphold its commitments; even Obama said, “We will be watching carefully to make an assessment as to whether progress has been made in this area.” He suggested that if China fails to make good on its word, the U.S. may choose to use sanctions to punish China. Many others believe that the time for talk has come and gone, and that disciplinary action is required now. Fair enough, but how will this play out in the long run?

First, calling China out for cybercrime is essentially the pot calling the kettle black. While it is true that China leads the world in cybercrime, the United States is right behind it. Chinese cyber attacks against government agencies and American companies have had seriously devastating effects and warrant a response, but after the leak concerning NSA activities abroad by Edward Snowden and reports of American espionage in other countries, including several allies and long-time strategic partners, the U.S. hardly has the moral high ground, which means that calling out China for its activities in cyberspace is unlikely to generate significant international support or encourage other states in the international system to rally around the banner.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Tinker, Tailor, Hacker, Spy - Why Is China Hacking Norway?

By Benjamin David Baker

Chinese cyber spies have taken an interest in Norway. What gives?

All states spy. Stealing corporate secrets and understanding what other governments are thinking and planning have often been important methods for states to get ahead of their competitors.

This May, the cyber-security company FireEye released a report [PDF] on cyber-espionage aimed at the Nordic states. Some of the report’s key findings were hardly surprising. Russia and China were the two states from which most cyber-attacks originated. Defense/aerospace, energy and high-tech communications are the industries which have been the most targeted by cyber intrusions from these two states. Considering the Nordic states’ advanced, often niche, research and development within these sectors, that’s not surprising.

However, there was also quite a lot of activity aimed at acquiring classified government and military memos and emails. While this is to be expected from Russia, considering its position vis-à-vis NATO (of which four out of the five Nordic states are members, Sweden being the exception), it’s interesting that Beijing is showing an interest in a region from which it is so far removed.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Interview: A Philippine Perspective from the Middle of the South China Sea

A view of a Chinese vessel taken from a convoy the
mayor was in on the way to Pag-asa in October 2012
Image: Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon
By Prashanth Parameswaran

The Diplomat talks with Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon about governing an area in the middle of the South China Sea disputes.

Eugenio “Jun” Bito-onon is the mayor of Kalayaan municipality, which comprises six islets controlled by the Philippines in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the islands are claimed by several other countries including China. These islets include Pag-asa Island, which houses nearly 200 inhabitants. During his recent visit to Washington, D.C., Bito-onon spoke with The Diplomat’s associate editor Prashanth Parameswaran about his perspective on the South China Sea. An edited version of that interview follows.

Much has been written about China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and its impact on claimants like the Philippines over the past few years. You have personally had encounters with Chinese warships in the South China Sea. Can you tell us a bit about your experience, and how that has informed your view on the issue and China’s role in it?

I have had several experiences with Chinese vessels at sea. One incident happened on October 8, 2012. This was during the maiden voyage of the MV Queen Seagull, a wooden hull cargo and passenger boat owned and operated by Kalayaan municipality. The MV Queen Seagull had set sail from Puerto Princesa City port for a routine delivery of supplies to Pag-asa Island, and it was joined by three other boats in Bancalaan Island, an island located at the southernmost tip of Palawan.

After the convoy had passed by Second Thomas Shoal and stopped to take shelter at Sabina Shoal due to inclement weather, we departed from Lawak Island early on October 8 a few hours before dawn. When we had passed Likas Island (West York Island) for about an hour while heading west to Pag-asa, the boat captain in the MV Queen Seagull spotted a fast approaching vessel heading directly for it.

When the radio operator informed me and mentioned that the approaching vessel had not responded to calls, I immediately said that it must be a Chinese vessel with a crew not comprehending English. When I came out of the cabin, I discovered that it was a warship, silver gray in color with bow number 995 heading northward. I shouted for anybody with a camera to take pictures and video footage and someone successfully did it, with the pictures indicating a date and time of October 8 at 13:00 hours (the picture is shown above). I used this evidence in my report to the Western Command and the National Security Administration, and I also told the story to local radio and friends in the national media.

Though I had initially thought that the warship was just passing by on its way to China, at 16:00 hours, with just an hour left to Pag-asa, it crossed our convoy again between the third and last boat. I noticed that it slowed down and was lying tow within viewing distance left of our convoy. Meanwhile, to the right side of our convoy, a wide reef 5-9 kilometers from Pag-asa Island was billowing with smoke coming from the exhaust of numerous Chinese diesel-engine sampans used to dig giant clams, which I also took pictures of from a distance. It dawned on me that if these boats were to be apprehended, a repeat of the Scarborough Shoal incident would occur. It would be a tough job to drive and prevent them from destroying the coral reef.

In August 2014, I took Asahi Shimbun and Asahi TV to Second Thomas Shoal. While approaching the southern part of the feature at 8pm, we were suddenly blocked and harassed by a Chinese coast guard vessel. We were streamed with strong search light and blared with horn. But our boat captain prevailed by going around the rear part of the big boat until we got into the shallow area and the lagoon.

There were several other experiences as well. But all of them led me to believe that what I have read and heard about China’s aggression is related to its dream of taking the whole of the South China Sea in disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which she is a signatory. I am made to believe that the oil and gas in the Reed Bank is its main target of China after learning that the Department of Energy has extended the exploration contract of Forum Energy for another three years because of China’s harassment.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

29 September 2015

Think Tank: Sea, air and land updates (29-SEP-2015)

Alice Slevison, Mercedes Page and James Mugg

Sea State

Competition between the three contenders for the replacement of the Royal (Australian) Navy’s Collins-class submarines has started to heat up with Japan now revealing its willingness to build the submarines in Australia despite previous reports to the contrary. The three contenders have been asked to submit their plans to the CEP for an all-Australian submarine build, an all-overseas build, and for a part-overseas and part-Australian build.

The Polish Navy is planning to purchase three submarines armed with cruise missiles by 2023, and the Polish Defense Ministry has announced its willingness to undertake a joint procurement with Norway. The Norwegian Ministry of Defence decided in December 2014 that their Ula-class subs would be replaced in 2020. Similarities between the future submarine requirements of both countries, make Norway a natural industrial partner with Poland according to Norway’s Ministry of Defence.

In Paris, French President François Hollande has announced that Egypt will purchase two Mistral warships that France had originally built for Russia before halting the sale after the Russian annexation of Crimea. French government sources claimed that Egypt will pay US$1 billion for the warships, with a ‘significant’ amount of the finances emanating from Saudi Arabia. Since 2014 Egypt has ordered 24 Rafale fighter jets from the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, as well as a Fremm frigate and four anti-submarine Gowind-class corvette from French shipbuilder DCNS. Analysts have indicated that the increasing number of Egyptian armament deals with France is representative of Egypt’s desire to decrease its reliance on US defence capabilities.

USA: US, Bangladesh Navies to Strengthen Maritime Partnerships During CARAT

From Task Force 73 Public Affairs

In this file photo, USNS Safeguard arrives in Chittagong in 2014 for CARAT. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Cody Histson) >>

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - The 5th annual exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh will commence with an opening ceremony at Naval Base Issa Khan, Sept. 30.

Continuing through Oct. 4, CARAT Bangladesh 2015 will feature five days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security priorities, develop relationships, and enhance cooperation between the U.S. and Bangladesh navies.

"Our partnership with the Bangladesh Navy continues to mature and flourish through our routine engagement and strong relationships we’ve developed with our partners,” said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73. "These relationships enable CARAT to remain a credible venue to sharpen skills, share knowledge, and conduct maritime security cooperation in this important region."

USA: Ronald Reagan Strike Group Air Defense Exercise Improves Mission Readiness

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) underway
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III, USS Chancellorsville Public Affairs

USS CHANCELLORSVILLE, At Sea (NNS) -- Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) conducted an air defense exercise (ADEX) Sept. 23 - 24, in the training ranges in the Guam operating area.

The objective of ADEX was to protect the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) from any simulated airborne threats that the ship may encounter out at sea. This evolution is the first time that the strike group has gotten to work together in this type of environment.

Participants of the two-day ADEX comprised of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88), Ronald Reagan along with their embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and other squadron entities. 

News Story: India Seeks Global Transfer of Technology To Build MCMV

INS Kozhikode, a Pondicherry class minesweeper
(Image: Wiki Commons)
By Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI — India's Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL) is looking for international companies with the technology the state-owned company needs to build 12 mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) for the Indian Navy.

GSL, which was awarded the $5 billion noncompetitive contract in 2014, has floated a global expression of interest (EOI) from companies willing to transfer the technology  to build the vessels to the Indian shipyard.

Such a move could push the cost of building the ships in India higher compared with those built overseas, analysts here said, but the absorption of the technology would, in the long run, allow India to build more MCMVs.

A GSL executive  said the company hopes for a good response to get the  technology it needs from overseas. The EOI was sent to South Korea's Kangnam, Italy's Intermarine, Spain's Navantia, US-based Lockheed Martin, Germany's Thyssenkrupp and two Russian shipyards, he said.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: China may rent amphibious assault ships from Egypt - Russian media

China may be able to rent two French-built Mistral-class amphibious assault ships for the People's Liberation Army Navy from Egypt, after Cairo reached an agreement with Paris in August to purchase the vessels, reports the Moscow-based Russian Agency of International Information.

Originally, the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships were constructed for Russia according to a contract signed between the two nations back in 2010. Both vessels were fitted with Russian combat systems. Last year, France refused to deliver the warships after the Russian occupation of Crimea. Since then, various navies around the world have expressed their interested in buying the orphaned amphibious assault ships.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: US to relocate 30,000 marines to counter China in S. China Sea

US Marines come ashore during an exercise
In the face of China's growing presence in the South China Sea, the United States Marine Corps is moving ahead with plans to eventually place nearly 15% of the service's personnel in Hawaii and beyond, reports Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet.

Citing a report from South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo, it is noted that the 190,000-strong US Marines Corp specializes in expeditionary warfare and is typically mobilized for regional conflicts or the rapid delivery of combined-arms task forces with the US Navy.

Experts believe the aim of of relocating nearly 30,000 marines is to reduce America's reaction time in the Asia-Pacific and form a key part of US president Obama's "Asia rebalancing" strategy.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: U.S. admiral signals wider role for powerful Third Fleet in Western Pacific

Admiral Scott Swift (Image: Wiki Commons)
Reporting by Tim Kelly in TOKYO. Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Dean Yates

A top U.S. admiral wants the powerful Third Fleet to expand its engagement in the Western Pacific region from its headquarters in San Diego by operating more closely with the Japan-based Seventh Fleet to focus on areas with the "greatest instability".

In two recent speeches that received little media attention, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift questioned the need for an administrative boundary running along the international date line to demarcate operations for the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific and the Third Fleet to the east.

In an early sign of a shift in strategy, U.S. naval officials said Third Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Nora Tyson rather than her Seventh Fleet counterpart would represent the U.S. Navy at the Japan Fleet Review on Oct. 18, a display of Japanese naval power held every three years.

"I would not be surprised to see more of Vice Admiral Tyson operating forward as part of this concept development process," Swift said in a speech on Sept. 7 during a visit to the Seventh Fleet headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan.

Any change would not mean the relocation of headquarters or home ports, but would allow the two fleets to work together in "areas with the greatest instability", Swift said, without elaborating.

Read the full story at Reuters

Editorial: Is the World Paying Attention to Afghanistan Anymore?

Image: Flickr User - U.S. Department of State
By Catherine Putz

The U.S., China, and Afghanistan held a high-level meeting in New York City ahead of the UN General Assembly debate.

As world leaders flocked to New York City over the weekend to participate in the annual UN General Assembly debate this week, the United States, China, and Afghanistan co-chaired a high-level event on Afghanistan. A senior state department official, giving a background briefing to the media after the event, was asked if it was really just a “let’s pat ourselves on the back kind of meeting.” He replied that it wasn’t, saying in a somewhat convoluted fashion that the parties gathered were still paying attention to Afghanistan.

Remarks from Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were public, but journalists were not present for statements delivered by Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, as well as statements from the ministers of foreign affairs of Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Australia, Kazakhstan, and Norway.

Rabbani opened the event by lavishing praise on Kerry and Wang for their “friendship and continuing commitment to the stabilization, reconstruction, and development of Afghanistan.” The meeting, Rabbani said, “marks a unique opportunity to discuss issues of crucial importance in the context of our continuing efforts to realize an Afghanistan that stands in peace, security, and prosperity.”

The real issue is attention. In 2012, international donors gathered in Tokyo and pledged $16 billion in aid over four years. Next year, donors will gather again–but Afghanistan is buried by a whole host of development and security priorities from Syria to the South China Sea, from Ukraine to Iran. The attention span of world powers and pocketbooks is fickle, especially when it seems few gains have been made and held.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Thailand's Military Needs to Boost its Amphibious Capability

HTMS Angthong (LPD 791) of the Royal Thai Navy
By Grant Newsham

The country needs a more robust capability. Here’s how it can achieve it.

As Indo-Pacific nations build up their naval power, submarines, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, jets, and frigates get the most attention. However, an underreported but significant regional trend over the last five years is widespread interest in amphibious capabilities.

Japan and Australia have created rudimentary amphibious forces, and New Zealand is working to develop one. Malaysia has publicly stated it wants a Marine Corps and even the small, remote Maldives has established a Marine Corps.

Apart from this, Asia also already has a number of Marine Corps or amphibious-capable ground forces. The ROK Marine Corps is one of the oldest and most capable, though largely tied to the Korean peninsula. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a large Marine Corps, and as the PRC pursues its territorial expansion strategies it understands the value of amphibious forces and is rapidly building new amphibious ships.

The Indonesian Marine Corps is expanding, while the Philippine Marines are working to upgrade their force. India has amphibious-capable forces, even though they lack adequate funding and focus, and Singapore is looking to improve its amphibious capabilities. Bucking the trend, the competent Taiwan Marines have been pared down in recent years – to the point where they may eventually be ineffective.

The Royal Thai Marine Corps (RTMC) has a long history and can conduct amphibious operations. It has performed superbly in the south against separatist insurgents, and made important contributions to winning the nearly 30-year long Communist insurgency. However, the RTMC can make even greater contributions to Thailand’s national security and to regional security as well. The RTMC is indeed a neglected strategic asset, but to understand why, one first must understand why amphibious capabilities are important.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: India Wants Its New Armed Israeli Drones Fast

Image: Wiki Commons
By Ankit Panda

India is speeding up its plans to acquire armed Israeli drones.

India is speeding up its plans to purchase unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) from Israel, according to recent reports. As The Diplomat recently reported, the Indian government approved the procurement of ten Israeli Heron TP UCAVs for the Indian Air Force in a deal valued at $400 million earlier this month. The plan to purchase armed drones from Israel was originally conceived of in 2012. The new plans to accelerate the purchase of Israeli Herons comes a few short weeks after Pakistan announced that, for the first time ever, it had used its indigenously designed Burraq drone to strike at terrorists on its own soil.

The Heron, built by Israel Aerospace Industries, is a medium-albite, long-endurance UCAV. It has a range of roughly 7,400 kilometers and a maximum continuous flight time of around 36 hours, weather permitting. The UCAV is well-suited for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and is capable of long-range limited strikes as well. The Heron is capable of serving a 1,000 kg payload. The Indian variant will feature air-to-ground missiles. India’s primary use case for the Herons will be for high-risk cross-border covert operations against militants and insurgents. One former Indian Air Force chief, P.V. Naik, notes that “Instead of sending a pilot in a high-risk area, it is best to use an armed drone. The system can also be used for a surprise, sneak attack.”

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka is Tabled

Image: Flickr User - Tom Page
By Taylor Dibbert

After a flurry of diplomatic activity in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka has finally been tabled.

On September 24, the U.S.-led UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution on Sri Lanka was tabled. This would be the fourth HRC resolution passed on the island nation since 2012.

The Sri Lankan government has praised the resolution and it appears that the original idea of passing it by consensus will go ahead as planned.

The resolution calls for wide-ranging reforms and a domestic accountability mechanism with international involvement. Some commentators have stated that what the resolution demands constitutes a hybrid court or hybrid mechanism. Regardless of one’s interpretation, it remains unclear how much international involvement will actually take place and falls short of some people’s demands (especially from ethnic Tamils) for a purely international mechanism – a wish that remains politically infeasible at this time.

Sri Lanka would need to provide an oral update during the HRC’s thirty-second session and a “comprehensive report” during the HRC’s thirty-fourth session (in March 2017).

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Bangladesh on the Brink - Between Terrorism and Democracy

Children wave flags during the Shahbag protests
of 2013. (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Alexandra Stark

The rising tide of Islamist violence in Bangladesh could be a bellwether for South Asia. How should the world respond?

There’s a rising tide of political violence in Bangladesh — one that has gone mostly unnoticed by scholars and analysts. Yet the country presents both a potential threat, as violence by fundamentalist Islamist groups rises, and a prospective model for a democratic, majority-Islamic state. As a battleground over the role of Islam and politics, Bangladesh will be a crucial proving ground for those who see Islam as an inspiration for development, democracy, and peaceful social relations—and those with a fundamentalist vision for society who want to export terrorism to neighboring India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. As a potential bellwether for South Asia more broadly, Bangladesh deserves a second look.

The third largest Muslim country in the world, Bangladesh has a national identity stemming from a heritage of moderate Sunni Islam and a historical tradition of tolerance and pluralism. With a per capita income of just $1,080, Bangladesh is ranked among the poorest countries in the world, yet it has sustained a democratic tradition since independence (although interspersed with several military coups). Bangladesh’s blend of moderate Islam with a secular-oriented, democratic state could serve as a model for the region.

Yet Bangladesh is also threatened by a rising tide of radical Islamist violence that has its roots in both the struggle for independence and a more recent wave of radicalized violence. For a relatively small diplomatic investment, the international community could help to deny radical Islamist groups a safe haven in South Asia and preserve a moderate Islamic democracy, by encouraging a negotiated settlement between the main political parties, working with the government of Bangladesh to root out terrorist organizations before they are able to metastasize, and providing protection for progressive media voices that are increasingly being targeted by terrorists.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Challenges

By Kiyya Baloch

One group is not happy about China’s big investment plans.

The indigenous people of the coastal town of Gwadar – gateway to the much-discussed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – very much have their own opinions when it comes to reaping the benefits from this $46 billion project. As such, concern is rising over speculation that the project will benefit only Chinese interests, with little to offer locals.

“It is a conspiracy to convert the local population into a minority, rather than empowering them,” said Syed Essa Noori, a Baloch Nationalist Party legislator in Pakistan’s National Assembly. Noori cited Karachi as an obvious example the local populace being marginalized in the name of economic development.

“At the time of the creation of the country, Karachi was Baloch-majority. Within a decade, it had turned into a city of migrants, from parts of India as well as from other parts of Pakistan.” The Baloch nationalist fears the same will happen with Gwadar unless safeguards are put in place to guarantee the rights of indigenous Balochs before the massive development kicks off under CPEC.

Asked about the future of Gwadar, Lt. Gen. Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister for States and Frontier Regions, told The Diplomat, “It is uncalled for that Balochs will be converted into a minority when Chinese investment floods the coastal town.” A retired general, Qadir Baloch was elected from Balochistan’s remote Kharan district, representing the center-right Pakistan Muslim League (N). The party, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is claiming credit for opening the floodgates of Chinese investment in Pakistan since coming into power in May 2013, and insists that Gwadar would be a major beneficiary from CPEC, with radical improvements in the economic and social lives of local residents.

Read the full story at The Diplomat