29 February 2016

Think Tank: (Australian) DWP 2016 - the future Army

Lachlan Wilson

The new Defence White Paper outlines spending of up to $80 billion on land combat and amphibious warfare out to 2025–26. In terms of equipment modernisation, the plans have focused on greater protected mobility, situational awareness, aviation, firepower, and force sustainability. Those improvements are intended to enhance and broaden the armed forces combat and non-combat capacity.

These are the key proposals that the Army will procure and advance over the next decade:
  • An agile procurement system for infantry soldiers that will allow for the continuous upgrade of key infantry weapons systems, personal equipment, and force protection
  • New combat reconnaissance, infantry fighting, and protected mobility vehicles
  • Upgrades to extend the operational lifespan of the M1 Abrams to 2035
  • New armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aircraft
  • The acquisition of a long-range rocket system by mid-2020 that will provide long-range fire support up to 300km to supplement the ADF’s current artillery capability
  • Logistic enablers to aid the amphibious operations involving the newly acquired Canberra Class ships
  • The re-establishment of Riverine Patrol capabilities, with a fleet of lightly armed boats for river and estuarine operations marked for delivery near 2022
  • Special operations forces will receive a boost in wide range of capabilities which include high-end close combat capabilities, force protection, enhanced command and situational awareness networks, the acquisition and improvement of specialist transportation systems, and an armada of light reconnaissance and attack helicopters

Think Tank: (Australian) DWP 2016 - five key questions

Ross Babbage

The new Defence White Paper is an advance on many fronts. Its appreciation of the changing security landscape is accurate, its logic is mostly clear and it contains a government commitment to spend significantly more, for at least the coming decade.

However, the more I examine the detail in this White Paper, the more concerned I become. Several key challenges deserve closer consideration. Let me touch on five.

My first question is whether the White Paper proposes an adequate response to the more demanding security environment that seems to be in store for the 2030s.

It rightly points out that in the 2030s China’s defence spending is likely to exceed that of the US and that Beijing’s military investments will be concentrated overwhelmingly in East and Southeast Asia. The speed, scale and asymmetric nature of PLA development and Beijing’s confrontational behaviour are already transforming the regional security outlook.

Meanwhile, Washington has been responding to international security challenges with great caution, hesitancy and inconsistency. One consequence is that while China’s defence spending has quadrupled in the last decade, American defence spending has increased by a total of only 12%.

AUS: HMAS Melbourne returns from Middle East

HMAS Melbourne 2013 (Image: Wiki Commons)
After five successful narcotic seizures in the Middle East and 203 days away from home, Royal Australian Navy frigate, HMAS Melbourne was welcomed back to her homeport of Sydney today.

Around one thousand family and friends joined the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN, to welcome the ship’s company home from duties as part of Operation MANITOU.

Minister Payne said the 223 men and women on board have made their families and Australia proud.

Melbourne made a significant dent in the profits of smugglers running drugs for terrorists,” Minister Payne said.

“The frigate seized 977 kg of heroin valued at approximately $390 million. Removing these drugs from circulation curtails funding to terrorists.”

USA: Boxer ARG, 13th MEU Arrive in 7th Fleet Area of Operations

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Craig Z. Rodarte

In this file photo, USS Boxer (LHD 4) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) operate in the Pacific earlier this month. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Craig Z. Rodarte) >>

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) team began operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, Feb. 27.

"The BOXER ARG, 13th MEU team has trained hard and is ready to enter the complex 7th Fleet operating area," said Capt. Keith Moore, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 1. "This is a vibrant, diverse and vital region of the world with immense importance to global security. I am looking forward to making new friends as we work with our regional partners to improve cooperation and readiness."

While forward deployed to 7th Fleet, the ARG/MEU team will participate in exercise Ssang Yong 2016, work to strengthen ties with allies, deter conflict and conduct operations in support of the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy.

USA: USS Ashland Completes South China Sea Patrol

From Expeditionary Strike Group Seven/Task Force 76 Public Affairs

Sailors aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) raise the ensign while navigating the waters of the South China Sea. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Kelsey L. Adams) >>

SOUTH CHINA SEA - Amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) conducted a routine patrol in international waters of the South China Sea Feb. 26 after participating in exercise Cobra Gold 16.

In recent months, other U.S. Navy ships have conducted similar operations in the 7th Fleet area of operations including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Preble (DDG 88), the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).

USS McCampbell (DDG 85) completed a similar patrol Feb. 22.

News Story: Australia could launch its own military satellites to observe military movement in Asia-Pacific

Australia is thinking of launching military satellites into space to observe military movement in the Asia-Pacific. Australian Defence Force is considering this bold initiative. Australia is ready to use money on enhanced satellite imagery capability, space awareness systems and radars. The naval communications station will carry a US space surveillance telescope as well. (Source Australia Network)

The recent Austrlian Defence White Paper, released last week by the Turnbull government, says that access to space intelligence will become increasingly important over coming years.

A series of studies would be conducted to evaluate the entirety of the matter to assist and enhance Australia’s satellite capabilities, says the Defence Force official.

Read the full story at Army Recognition

News Story: Japan will sign an accord with Philippines to supply military equipment

Japan will sign an accord with the Philippines to allow Tokyo to supply military equipment to Philippines, the first such Japanese defense pact in the region. A senior Philippine security official said the new pact will pave the way for Japan to sell new military hardware, transfer defense technology, donate used military equipment or provide defense training to Filipino forces.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told The Associated Press on Saturday that the agreement he’ll sign on Monday with the Japanese ambassador in Manila is not directed against any country but aims to address gaps in the underfunded Philippine military’s capabilities.

In April 2014 the Japanese government finally lifted its postwar ban on the export of defense products. Tokyo approved its first arms export this summer — the supply of PAC-2 missile parts to the U.S., which will then sell the completed Patriot missiles to Qatar.

Read the full story at Army Recognition

News Story: Israel has delivered 20 EXTRA surface-to-surface guided rockets to Vietnam for coastal defence

Israeli EXTRA surface-to-surface guided rocket mounted
on a KRaZ truck at a military parade in Vietnam
According the latest SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) data of 2015, Israel has delivered 20 EXTRA Guided rocket SSM (Surface-to-Surface) to the Vietnamese armed forces to be used for coastal defence.

The Extended Range Artillery (EXTRA) is a precision rocket munition developed by IAI MLM and IMI Rocket Systems Division.

The EXTRA rocket munition is being offered packaged in a four-unit pod configuration for land based launchers. It can be installed on high mobility trucks or fixed stations.

Read the full story at Army Recognition

27 February 2016

AUS: Australian support to Fiji expands

HMAS Canberra leaves Sydney
The Australian Government has sent HMAS Canberra to Fiji as part of Australia’s ongoing support to Fiji in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston. This will be the first deployment of HMAS Canberra in support of an Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operation (HADR) overseas.

HMAS Canberra, with approximately 880 personnel, is expected to arrive in Fijian waters from early next week. This will boost the substantial Australian aid effort in Fiji, which is already providing humanitarian relief to over 40,000 people.

HMAS Canberra is carrying Army engineering assets, three MRH-90 helicopters and approximately 60 tonnes of emergency relief supplies including water purification equipment and medical supplies. This capability will assist Fijian authorities to clear debris, restore power, purify water and conduct engineering assessments.

USA: Partner Nations Gather to Plan Pacific Partnership 2016 Mission

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madailein Abbott

Representatives from various nations work together during a Pacific Partnership 2016 panning conference. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Madailein Abbott) >>

SINGAPORE - Members of the Pacific Partnership staff and partner nation representatives gathered in Singapore, Feb. 22-26, for a planning conference to hone details for an upcoming mission slated for the summer of 2016.

Now in its 11th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. This year's mission will be led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, embarked on the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), and will include more than 600 military and civilian personnel from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan.

"This conference provides us an opportunity to plan with our partners and allies and build critical relationships for the upcoming mission," said Capt. Tom Williams, commodore of Commander, DESRON 23. "Pacific Partnership increases readiness, interoperability, and enhances cooperation with our partners across the region. We look forward to executing this year's mission."

USA: Assistant Secretary Russel Travel to The Republic of Korea and China

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel will travel to Seoul, February 26 for consultations with ROK officials on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues. He will then visit Beijing February 27 – March 1, where he will meet with Embassy staff and engage in routine consultations with Chinese officials on matters of mutual concern, including the DPRK.

News Story: Australia should treat China's strategic intentions correctly - FM

BEIJING, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Thursday urged Australia to treat China's strategic intentions correctly to promote mutual trust.

Spokeswoman Hua Chunying's comments at a regular news briefing came after a recent Australian Defense White Paper contained "negative" remarks on the South China Sea issue and China's military development.

China is displeased with the relevant remarks, Hua said, noting that China has repeatedly defined its stance to Australian officials through various channels.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Australia to double defence spending over next 15 years

by Matt Walsh

CANBERRA, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Defence White Paper has shown that Australia will almost double its defence spending within the next 15 years in order to keep up with what it called the "unprecedented transformation" occurring in the Indo-Pacific region.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said the Australian government is set to raise the annual defence budget from 23.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2016/17 to 42.5 billion by 2025/26 - in line with its promise to raise defence spending up to 2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2023.

Dr Amy King, from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, told Xinhua the White Paper was a measured response to the "modernization" of military forces in the immediate South East Asian region.

The paper, released this week, outlines the major investment in the defence department on the grounds that "Asia's defence spending is now larger than Europe's".

Read the full story at Xinhua

NOTE: The “2016 Defence White Paper” Link in the above was added by PacificSentinel for clarity & context.

News Story: China slams U.S. admiral's South China Sea remarks

BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- China on Friday slammed the remarks of a top U.S. admiral on the South China Sea and urged U.S. officials to stop playing up the situation.

"We have noticed that this official is busy making comments on the South China Sea -- sometimes in the U.S. Congress, and sometimes in the Defense Department -- which has given us the general impression that he intends to smear China's legitimate and reasonable actions in the South China Sea and sowing discord. He is finding an excuse for U.S. maritime hegemony and muscle-flexing on the sea," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

"We hope the official will stop playing up the situation and stop seeking publicity in the region," Hong said.

Hong's remarks at the routine press briefing came in response to comments by U.S. Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry Harris on Thursday. Harris said he was concerned about the possibility that China might declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, but the U.S. side would ignore such a designation.

Read the full story at xinhua

NOTE: The “China to secure 'de facto' control of S. China Sea: US admiral” Link in the above was added by PacificSentinel for clarity & context.

News Story: S. Korea completes key $806 mn naval base

South Korea has completed a major naval base on the southern resort island of Jeju, the navy said Thursday, a project that sparked fierce protests by residents and activists.

The $806 million base, completed after six years of construction, will provide the navy with a deep sea port in the south.

South Korea is surrounded by sea on three sides -- the west, east and south -- and the base will grant its navy quick access to the eastern and southern parts of the East China Sea for the protection of the country's trade routes, naval authorities said.

It will also serve as home for quick strike forces that can be dispatched against enemies who could bypass frontline navy forces deployed in the western and eastern sea to invade the country.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: China to secure 'de facto' control of S. China Sea - US admiral

Woody Island, in the Paracels Group

China is on its way to securing "de facto" control of the South China Sea, a top US admiral warned Thursday, amid growing unease over Beijing's continued military build up in the contested waterway.

By building air bases and hardened bunkers on tiny islands, some of which are reclaimed from the sea, and by installing sophisticated radar and missile defense systems, China has shown it is determined to achieve military primacy in the region, Admiral Harry Harris said.

Beijing's claims to almost all of the South China Sea are widely disputed and the body of water has long been viewed as a potential flashpoint.

"If China continues to arm all of the bases they have reclaimed in the South China Sea, they will change the operational landscape in the region," Harris told Pentagon reporters.

"Short of war with the United States, China will exercise de facto control of the South China Sea."

Harris, who heads up the US Pacific Command, visited the Pentagon after several hearings in Washington at which he warned lawmakers about the pace of China's maritime militarization.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

26 February 2016

Think Tank: DWP 2016 - the future RAAF

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet
Ashleigh Sharp

The 2016 Defence White Paper emphasises the importance of a potent strike and air combat capability for the defence of Australia and its national interests. Over the next decade, Defence has committed to invest between $44.2 and $56.1 billion in key air capability developments. 

The RAAF’s current air combat capability is built on a fleet that combines 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets and 71 F/A-18A/B Hornets with six E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control platforms and five KC-30A multi role tanker transports.

Below are the key platforms which the RAAF will acquire and develop over the next decade: 

Think Tank: DWP 2016 - the future RAN

Dione Hodgson

The 2016 Defence White Paper represents the most ambitious plan to regenerate Royal Australian Navy since World War II—at least according to the Turnbull government. The Navy will receive approximately $48.75 billion for defence capability projects over the next decade, allowing the force to conduct challenging warfare operations, meet future operational demands and undertake a range of tasks including patrols, anti-pirate operations, border security and hydrographic survey.

The next decade will be busy for RAN, as the force acquires and develops a range of key platforms. Navy will see:

Think Tank: Army and the 2016 Defence White Paper - Yes…but….

Michael Clifford

Read quickly, one could walk away satisfied with how the Government has dealt with Army’s role and force structure in the recently released Defence White Paper. There are some new and frankly exciting additions to the force structure: Armed ISR unmanned aircraft, riverine patrol craft, replacement for the ARH, a new light deployable helicopter for Special Forces, a medium range air defence system and a long range rocket system. Notably, upgrade programs are included in the investment decisions to properly sustain the current force.

The retention of Phase 3 of LAND 400, the infantry fighting vehicle project, the upgrade of the tanks and the continuation of the protected vehicle programs, battlefield communications, the soldier systems and Phase 2 of LAND 400 will significantly improve Army.

But the overall Integrated Investment Plan is predicated on each element of the plan rolling out on schedule and within budget. A slippage in either will place the Army component of the plan at particular risk.

Think Tank: Matching rhetoric with action: cyber and the 2016 Defence White Paper

Tobias Feakin

The much-anticipated launch of the 2016 Defence White Paper presented the Australian government with an opportunity to set out a clear understanding of how it views the current and future cyber threat environment. It was also a chance to answer questions about what kind of defence force and capabilities will be required to respond to such threats, and how much government is prepared to invest to make its vision a reality.

During Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s opening remarks, he mentioned ‘cyber’ a number of times, stating that Australia faces the threat of ‘increased malicious cyber activity’, that as a nation Australia needs to be ‘more resilient in cyberspace’, and that the White Paper will ‘considerably strengthen our cyber capability’. Clearly ‘cyber’, as an area of defence capability, was viewed as an important focus point, and rightly so. Turnbull’s words are re-enforced by the White Paper itself:

‘The security environment of the future, both in peacetime and during armed conflict, will feature increased threats from offensive cyber and spacebased capabilities…State and non-state actors now have ready access to highly capable and technologically advanced tools to target others through internet-connected systems and we are seeing greater use of offensive cyber operations. This trend is likely to continue.’

Think Tank: Twelve Future Submarines: a long, circuitous journey

David Feeney

After two prime ministers, three defence ministers, three assistant defence ministers and two parliamentary secretaries—and a 12 month delay—we welcome today’s release of the Defence White Paper.

We also support the Government’s decision to deliver on its promise of Defence funding to 2% of GDP. This keeps faith with Labor’s commitment for 2%, and Bill Shorten’s commitment to support any realistic and practical proposal to achieve that target.

The Turnbull Government is now telling Australians that it intends to support the acquisition of twelve Future Submarines.

It’s been a tortured road. In 2013, then-Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, pledged to support Labor’s resolve to build an expanded submarine fleet, and to build it in Adelaide. If the Liberal Government had stopped there, they would have saved all of us a lot of pain and unnecessary costs.

Instead, in early 2014 the Liberal Government began exploring ‘Option J’, the acquisition of our Future Submarines from Japan. Tony Abbott’s ‘Captain’s Call’, suspected to be a result of discussions between him and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meant breaking another election commitment, and abandoning the Australian submarine enterprise, which has been centred in Adelaide since the 1980s.

Think Tank: Today’s order - subs with the lot

Andrew Davies

The single biggest headline story from today’s White Paper launch—one that has already appeared—is the scale of the future submarine project. Design and construction is costed at a whopping figure of ‘over $50 billion’. Even allowing for that being expressed in out turned dollars over the period 2018–2057 (according to the new Integrated Investment Program), it’s still over $30 billion in today’s money, effectively putting paid to earlier implausible claims when the German bidder TKMS suggested that they could build the fleet of 12 for $20 billion.

For those who have been following this story for years, the number is close to ASPI’s 2009 estimate of $36 billion, based on the historical trends when significant capability thresholds are crossed. So it’s also another piece of evidence that recent attempts to rein in ambitious requirements haven’t been successful. An earlier pointer was the size of the French company DCNS’s proposal in the form of their 4,500 ton Shortfin Barracuda concept—a displacement 50% greater than a Collins class submarine.

It appears that we’re shooting for the moon again, a conclusion reinforced by the recurring language of a ‘regionally superior’ submarine in both the White Paper and at today’s launch. Just what that means isn’t clear. After all, Australia’s future submarines will find themselves in waters patrolled by nuclear attack submarines operated by China, India, Russia and the US. A diesel-electric boat can aspire to being stealthier or better networked, but it’ll always be outclassed by a nuke in terms of speed and endurance.

Think Tank: Tiger, Tiger, not so bright

Andrew Davies

There was a new acquisition project that was given a lot less prominence than the big ticket naval items in today’s White Paper launch. In the paper’s paragraph 4.56, we find this:

‘The Government will replace the 22 Tiger Armed Reconnaissance helicopters with a new armed reconnaissance capability from the mid-2020s.’

It’s certainly to the point, but a more accurate—if slightly wordier—way of putting it would be this:

After almost a decade of effort and a $2.03 billion project budget, the Government has decided to give up trying to integrate the Tiger helicopter into Army’s emerging C4ISR architecture, let alone the wider ADF. We’ll try something else instead. (Now, where’s the FMS catalogue?)

Think Tank: The 2016 Defence White Paper, China and East Asia - the end of an illusion

Benjamin Schreer

The strategic narrative of Australia’s new Defence White Paper contains some interesting new aspects. One is the expression of much greater concern about the emerging maritime order in East Asia and China’s growing willingness to alter the status quo. In fact, the document reflects the end of the illusion in Canberra that somehow China will continue to accept the (predominantly) Western rules-based maritime order.

The previous two Defence White Papers had quite different things to say about China. The Rudd government’s 2009 version used fairly strong language on China’s evolving security challenge for the regional order. The Chinese reportedly weren’t amused. Four years later, the Gillard government markedly toned down the rhetoric, noting that China’s military modernisation was to be expected of a growing major power. It’s reasonable to assume that just like the US-administration of Barack Obama, the Australian government at the time still had hopes that China would emerge as a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in maritime Asia.

However, since then China has made abundantly clear that it doesn’t accept the established rules in maritime East Asia. Evidence for a growing assertiveness includes Beijing’s unilateral declaration of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone in November 2013 which drew a strong response from the Abbott government; the creation and militarisation of artificial structures and disputed islands in the South China Sea (SCS); and attempts to coerce its smaller Southeast Asian neighbours into accepting its massive claims within its so-called ‘nine-dash line’.

Think Tank: Force structure in the 2016 Defence White Paper

Malcolm Davis

A key aspect of the new Defence White Paper is significant enhancement to ADF force structure. In previous White Papers, a list of four principal tasks has shaped Australian military strategy. In the new White Paper, those four tasks have become three ‘strategic defence objectives’ (see paragraph 3.3), with once again, the defence of Australia as the first; securing maritime Southeast Asia and the Pacific the second; and contributing to stability across the Indo–Pacific region and protecting a rules-based global order the third.

In this sense, the boost to the ADF’s joint maritime expeditionary capabilities is apt for the emerging strategic outlook where the ADF’s traditional military–technological edge is more openly contested. The commitment to acquire twelve future ‘regionally superior’ submarines is emphasised as the centrepiece of the ADF’s emerging force structure. The new boats will be acquired under a rolling acquisition process beginning with the down-select from the Competitive Evaluation Process this year, with the first submarines entering service by the early 2030s. The acquisition of the new submarines will be complemented with a review of evolving strategic circumstances and developments in submarine technology in the late 2020s which will consider the case for other specifications, though it’s unclear exactly what that means.

Given that the new boats won’t be entering service until the early 2030s, any need to shift gears and change direction so late in the program would only resonate with later builds in the out-years of the project. That capability will need to encompass network-centric capabilities if it’s to fully enable the boats to employ unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and use deployable acoustic arrays as part of a complete Theatre Anti-Submarine Warfare capability.

Think Tank: The ‘come-as-you-are’ war

Rod Lyon

There’s a dominant motif that runs through the strategic assessment underpinning the latest Defence White Paper and, despite what China might think, it’s not containment. It’s uncertainty. Australia is beefing up for an uncertain world. Beneath some reassuring words about growing regional prosperity and the US rebalance lies a set of deep uncertainties—about the resilience of the current regional order; about the magnitude, scope and timing of possible challenges to that order; and about the ease with which strategic competition might spiral more easily into conflict in coming decades.

That’s why the government hasn’t reneged on its earlier commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Indeed, it’s brought forward that commitment by three full years, from 2023–24 to 2020–21. Attracted as it must have been by the prospect of reaching a budget surplus earlier than now, the government’s opted instead for a measured expansion of Australia’s defence capability.

In the 2013 Defence White Paper, the Gillard government depicted a regional security environment that bore hallmarks of both cooperation and competition. Today’s White Paper signals a judgment—see para 1.6—that the Asian security environment has become more competitive and less cooperative in the intervening years. Moreover, the risk of further slippage in that direction can’t be ignored—and muscling up takes time.

Think Tank: The Defence White Paper - politics, policy and posture

Allan Behm

Modern Defence White Papers are notoriously difficult to craft. As public documents, they’re fragile vehicles that are expected to carry a number of heavy loads.

They must be accurate enough in their scan of the strategic environment to provide a sense of what might occur without offending regional sensibilities. They must be comprehensive enough in their force structure prescriptions to keep the various defence tribes happy, yet provide an indication of where priorities lie. They must press enough national security buttons to keep external stakeholders happy, without so attenuating the focus on national defence responsibilities that the document turns into a kind of security policy blancmange. And they must accommodate the politics of the day without appearing to be partisan.

Yesterday’s White Paper accommodates these competing expectations competently, and certainly with greater assuredness than its two predecessors (2009 and 2013). Defence Minister Marise Payne claims that ‘the 2016 Defence White Paper is the most rigorous and comprehensive in Australia’s history’. In truth, it isn’t so different from its forerunners. It’s just as conventional and, perhaps in consequence, just as fragile, with a bit too much hyperbole covering for perplexity in the face of largely irresolvable problems.

Think Tank: Japan’s vision for the East Asian security order

Image: Flickr User - Official U.S. Navy Page
Author: Ryo Sahashi, Kanagawa University

The regional order in East Asia is in flux. The relative decline of US power in Asia has led to new challenges. The principles, rules, norms and methods for managing the international agenda are being questioned. The willingness of the United States to maintain an active role in East Asia, alongside the behaviour of China and key groupings such as ASEAN will define the future of the region. How these key actors respond to the changing security environment will be crucial in determining the future of the security order in East Asia.

So, what does this mean for Japan?

Japan today seems to be the strongest supporter in the region for maintaining a US-led order in both the security and economic realms. After the short tenure of former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, who served from September 2009 to June 2010, Japan lost its desire to be an architect of the regional order. Instead, Japan has focused on integrating its Asian policy with its bilateral relationship with the United States.

USA: Pacom Commander - Rebalance to Asia-Pacific ‘Being Realized’

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 25, 2016 — The U.S. military’s strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is “real and being realized,” the commander of U.S. Pacific Command told Pentagon reporters today.

After testifying before House and Senate committees this week, Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr. said he appreciated  “the opportunity to go on the record about America’s rebalance,” adding that it cannot take place quickly enough in his area of responsibility, which covers 36 nations and half the globe.

The rebalance to the region comprises four components, he said: economic, political, military and diplomatic.

“I've always said the most visible component is the military, because you can see an aircraft carrier, or joint strike fighter, or all of the other things that we're sending out to the Pacific,” he added.

The Navy and Air Force want to have 60 percent of their forces in the region by 2020, and because the Navy’s presence is nearly at 50 percent today, “we’re proceeding apace,” Harris said. “It’s a well-thought-out strategy in my opinion, and I think we’re moving right along at the proper timeline,” he added.

News Report: China's Moves in South China Sea Threat to Peace, Vietnam Says

Woody Island
By Richard Finney

Recent moves by China to place anti-aircraft batteries and radar systems on disputed islands in the South China Sea violate Vietnam’s sovereignty and pose a threat to regional stability and peace, a Vietnamese government spokesman said on Thursday. 

“The status quo is being destroyed,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh told reporters at a ministry press briefing, according to a Feb. 25 report by VietnamNet.

China’s moves have “militarized” the South China Sea and threaten the security of air and ship traffic through the strategically important region, Binh added.

News Report: Australia Warns of Possible Attacks in Indonesia

Australia has issued a terrorism warning for Indonesia, cautioning that terrorists may be in the advanced stages of planning an attack.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs released the warning Thursday, urging travelers to exercise caution when visiting the southeast Asian nation, which includes the resort island of Bali, popular with international tourists.

Australia's warning follows a similar warning it issued on Sunday for Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur.

Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, has been the scene of several terrorist attacks, the most recent on January 14, when explosions and gunfire killed six people. The attack was claimed by the  militant group Islamic State.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: China's South China Sea Actions Have Led to ‘Self Isolation,’ US Defense Chief Says

Carla Babb

PENTAGON—China's actions in the South China Sea have led to "self isolation," galvanizing regional neighbors to turn against Beijing, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Carter told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday that China's "dredging and putting military equipment" on disputed islands in the South China Sea have caused both old U.S. allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, and new allies, such as Vietnam and India, to work increasingly with the United States.

"The reason that these activities are getting notice isn't because the United States is doing something new," Carter said. "We've been sailing in the South China Sea and will continue to sail wherever international law allows."

China claims the majority of the South China Sea as its own, and its territorial claims overlap with those of Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. In recent years, China has embarked on an ambitious project to construct artificial islands in the remote sea that are capable of supporting an airstrip and housing military equipment.

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that China has reclaimed nearly "3,000 acres of military bases" in the South China Sea.

News Story: Bogdan - Australian F-35 Block Buy Still Possible

By Nigel Pittaway

CANBERRA, Australia — The head of the F-35 International Joint Program Office told Australian officials that a block buy across low rate initial production lots 12, 13 and 14 is still possible despite the US services not being able to fully participate.

US Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan was in Canberra to testify at a Senate inquiry into Australia’s purchase of 72 F-35A aircraft to replace its F/A-18A/B Hornet fleet. Prior to the Senate hearing and on the eve of the release of Australia’s defense white paper on Wednesday, he briefed Australian reporters on the Joint Strike Fighter program.

The US has told the program office that it cannot participate in a block buy of jets until at least LRIP 13.

“There is a way that you can start a block buy for the partners and the FMS [Foreign Military Sales] customers in [LRIP] Lot 12, and have the US services join in Lot 13,” he said.

“You won’t get quite as much savings but in fact, most of the savings in that scenario falls to the US services, because they didn’t come in early. So for the partners it’s still a good value proposition and we are still pursuing it.”

Bogdan said the estimated cost to the partners and FMS customers would be between 5 and 10 percent cheaper than aircraft in LRIP 11, despite the delay in US participation and more than US $2 billion in savings across the 14 customers.

“That is a lot of money to save, if you’re going to buy airplanes anyway,” he added.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: PACOM Head Supports Exercises Near China, Talks THAAD

THAAD truck-mounted launcher
By Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — The US will continue to conduct Freedom of Navigation exercises near disputed lands claimed by China in the South China Sea, and will look to do those exercises in new ways going forward, the head of US Pacific Command said Thursday.

Adm. Harry Harris also called Chinese attempts to sway South Korea and the US from placing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula “preposterous” and indicated those complaints would not impact whether the two partner nations agree to install the system.

Over the last year the US has conducted two freedom of navigation exercises near islands claimed by China. These exercises, essentially drive-bys by US Navy ships, are designed to show Beijing that the US and its allies in the region regard the territory as part of international waters. Harris indicated that the pace of such exercises could increase in the coming months.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Airbus delivers third and final C295 to Philippine Air Force

C-295 of the Polish Air Force (Image: Wiki Commons)
by Ryan Maass

Airbus Defence and Space has made its third and final delivery of a C295 airlifter to the Philippines Air Force.

The airlifter, capable of carrying a payload of up to nine tons, was delivered to the Philippines following its final assembly in Seville, Spain. The Philippines Air Force will use the aircraft to bolster its transport fleet, and support both military and humanitarian missions.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: Bell, BAE to cooperate on military rotorcraft in Australia

by Ryan Maass

Textron subsidiary Bell Helicopter has signed an agreement with BAE Systems Australia cooperate on military rotorcraft support in Australia.

Under the agreement, BAE Systems will support Bell Helicopter's AH-1Z attack rotorcraft, including maintenance, sustainment and future customer training.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: US Navy to sail more in contested parts of S. China Sea

The US Navy plans to increase "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea as Beijing continues its military buildup in the contested waterway, a US admiral said Wednesday.

The sailings involve a US warship coming within 12 nautical miles of islets claimed by China as a way of rebutting Beijing's assertions of sovereignty.

Since October, the Navy has carried out two such freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, saying the missions are an important way of upholding international law.

"We'll be doing them more and we'll be doing them with greater complexity in the future," Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific Command, told lawmakers in Washington.

"We'll fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows."

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: China, US prepare UN resolution against North Korea

The United States and China made progress Tuesday toward a draft UN sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its recent nuclear tests and push it to the negotiating table.

After talks in Washington, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State John Kerry said the draft was still being "evaluated" by officials before being submitted to the UN Security Council.

But both powers vowed that they would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and expressed confidence the resolution would be strong enough to force Kim Jong-Un's isolated regime to reconsider its strategy.

China wants its neighbor to halt its weapons program -- most recently shown by the January 6 test of an atomic bomb Pyongyang claims was a new thermonuclear device -- and return to six-party international talks.

But Beijing has been more cautious than Washington in its approach, fearing that too severe a response could trigger the collapse of the pariah regime and a political and humanitarian crisis on its border.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: S. Korea dismisses China warning on US missile system

South Korea Wednesday dismissed China's warning that the planned deployment of a US missile defence system could damage ties, stressing that it was to counter "growing threats" from North Korea.

"The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) is a measure of self-defence against growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea," presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-Guk said.

Jeong said the issue would be "decided in accordance with security and national interests," adding that "China will have to recognise the point."

The remarks came after Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong warned Tuesday that installation of the THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula could "destroy" relations between Beijing and Seoul.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

25 February 2016

Think Tank: The 2016 Defence White Paper: good posture

Peter Jennings

A wide brown land needs a big, big defence policy and Australia has received that very thing with this morning’s delivery of the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Conceived in 2013, gestating like a humongous pearl in 2014 and 2015, the 2016 White Paper largely lives up to its self-made claim to be ‘deliberate, rigorous and methodical’. Although a close read occasionally points to the White Paper’s mixed parentage—the words ‘agile’ and ‘innovative’ are salted through the text—this is a document that sets out a clear strategy, a logically-articulated force structure and—can you believe it—a plausible funding plan.

The strategy all hinges on the money. To the extent that any government can commit their heirs and successors, this White Paper locks in a promise to reach a defence budget ‘just ahead’ of 2% of gross domestic product in 2020–21. That’s three years in advance of Tony Abbott’s pledge to reach 2% of GDP in 2023–24. Some decry the value of the 2% target, but it kept both Government and Opposition focused on security at a time when others would have happily ditched the spending promise.

On strategic outlook, the White Paper makes a compelling case for being concerned about a generally deteriorating situation. It does so after a throat-clearing reference to the ‘greater opportunities for prosperity and development’ afforded by generally exciting times. But opportunities for positive excitement can only be realised if prosperity stays underpinned by peace and stability.