Think Tank: Sea, air, land and space updates (18-Jul-2017)
Jack Viola, Eliza Chapman, Jacqueline Westermann and Harley Comrie
The US Navy released a request for information (RFI) last week seeking proposals for a new guided missile frigate. Its previous plans for a new frigate were based on modifying the current littoral combat ships. But the RFI for the new replacement program, designated FFG(X), calls for a bigger crew and more guns, which the current hulls may not be able to deliver. That could mean a whole new design and a new ship in the seas.
The Chinese Navy has conducted a live-fire drill in the Mediterranean Sea. The Chinese flotilla was on its way to join in exercises with the Russian Navy in the Baltic. According to the China Daily, the flotilla ‘fired several rounds’ during a drill that ‘was aimed at honing crew members’ skills in attacking small targets’. The second phase of the exercises, planned for September in the Sea of Japan, will include ‘an amphibious assault component’.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens when you try to kill a submarine with a nuclear depth charge, War is Boring and Operation Wigwam have some answers.
Another hypersonic missile test was conducted in Woomera last week by the joint Australian and US program known as Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE). The $54-million program seeks to advance the design of hypersonic aircraft and missiles, which have the potential to evade air defence systems while travelling at speeds above Mach 5.5. Little detail is known about last week’s test flight, but Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne has labelled it ‘the most complex of all HIFiRE flights conducted to date.’ The program’s four major contributors are the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group, the University of Queensland, the US Air Force Research Laboratory, and the Boeing Research Group.
In other aviation news, China has again ruffled the feathers in Tokyo by sending six H-6K bombers into the Miyako Strait. While the aircraft didn’t enter Japanese airspace, Japan scrambled fighter jets in response, however the exact number remains unknown. China’s Ministry of Defense didn’t pull any punches in its retort, saying that Japan ‘should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it’. China conducted exercises of a similar nature late last year, and the ministry’s strong language suggests that this won’t be the last time it sends bombers to the waters surrounding the southern Japanese territories.
The renewed focus on the future of space technologies and capabilities has prompted an interesting article calling for an update to the 50-year-old Outer Space Treaty. In its current state the treaty fails to address modern challenges such as increased militarisation and space debris. That seems understandable: President Lyndon B. Johnson couldn’t have envisioned such issues when he signed the treaty in 1967—ten years before the first theatrical release of Star Wars (though only a year before the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey).