Think Tank: Sea, air, land and space updates (1-Aug-2017)
Jack Viola, Eliza Chapman, Jacqueline Westermann and Harley Comrie
This year’s parades and celebrations for Russia’s annual Navy Day had a distinctly global feel. Events were held across Russia, and even at the Syrian port of Tartus. The celebrations aim to ‘revive the tradition started by Peter the Great’. The main event was held in St Petersburg, and included three Chinese ships. Those ships had recently conducted joint live-fire drills with their Russian counterparts in the Baltic. In response to Western concerns about the drills, Chinese news agency Xinhua has said the West needs to ‘take a chill pill’.
The Indian government has released a request for information (RFI) to six international companies as part of a program to build six new submarines. India’s comptroller and auditor general recently released a damning report (PDF) on the state of the country’s navy. Of particular concern was the state of its submarines, which the report claims were fitted with only one periscope due to bureaucratic failings, severely diminishing their effectiveness. The RFI comes amid heightened tensions with China arising from its increasing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.
A German Army Tiger helicopter crashed in Mali last week, killing both UN peacekeepers on board. A representative for the German Armed Forces said that the cause of the crash isn’t yet clear, but that nothing indicates that it was targeted by opposition forces. UN peacekeepers have been in Mali since the 2013 election, seeking to eradicate extremism and violence.
Last Friday, the F/A-18F Super Hornet became the first aircraft to successfully take off and land on the USS Gerald R. Ford. President Trump had commissioned the aircraft carrier the week before, when he used the opportunity to send a message to his country’s adversaries, saying ‘America is coming, America is coming strong’. The trial involved the use of the new electromagnetic launch system, the advanced arresting gear system and a host of other new technologies.
The ADF has announced a series of constraints placed on the operation of the new MRH-90 Taipan helicopters from the navy’s amphibious vessels. The aircraft have been shown to be vulnerable to ‘blade sail’ in certain wind conditions. Blade sail refers to uncontrolled and potentially destructive movements of the blades when the engine is being started or shut down. To counteract those effects, the landing docks will be turned into the wind at the appropriate time, and the helicopters themselves will make use of rotor-brake systems.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has turned 90, celebrating with a military parade in Inner Mongolia that displayed the latest weapons and highlighted China’s combat-readiness. President Xi, as head of state, head of party and commander-in-chief, celebrated his two-million-strong army. Xi’s speech praised the PLA and its increasing importance in the world.
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, has signed a decree that authorises the deployment of the armed forces within the state. Alongside members of the National Public Security Force and Federal Highway Police, 8,500 soldiers are supposed to assist in fighting rising crime in Rio de Janeiro.
Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, outgoing US Army Europe commander, has urged the EU to create a ‘military Schengen zone’. Like its civilian equivalent, the proposed zone would allow troops and equipment to move quickly across Europe, without clearing customs or border checks.
Good news from Afghanistan: trained by international troops, including ADF personnel, another class of officers has graduated from the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul. Pictures of the graduation ceremony, including the new officers’ proud Australian mentors, were uploaded by the Australian Army.
The ADF has released a new ad campaign. With videos featuring current members’ stories, the campaign aims to encourage more diversity in the Australian military.
The US Missile Defense Agency’s test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system resulted in another success last weekend (video). That’s a 100% success rate in 15 tests for THAAD, which is good news for US allies that might be in the market for theatre ballistic missile defence—though THAAD won’t help against ICBMs like the Hwasong-14 that North Korea tested last Friday. In response to North Korea’s test, the US and ROK armies conducted a joint demonstration of their own surface-to-surface missile-launching capabilities(video). The US has been noticeably escalating its military activities in East Asia recently, in response to North Korea’s missile program.
The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a minor league baseball team based in Oregon, will have an August game interrupted by a total solar eclipse. A three-day eclipse festival, NASA livestream, and special uniforms will help the Volcanoes and their fans celebrate the rare event. In ancient Korean mythology, eclipses are thought to be an attempt by fire dogs to steal the sun. The Volcanoes will be hoping to steal some bases instead.
Jack Viola, Eliza Chapman, Jacqueline Westermann and Harley Comrie are research interns at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user J Lippold.