– Breaking Defense – Is the Littoral Combat Ship a real warship? That question has bedeviled the small, sleek, lightly armed ships for years. Now it’s taken on new urgency as the Defense Department and the Navy both refocus on high-intensity, high-tech warfighting against “great powers” — i.e. China and Russia.
– USNI News – 280 Marines serving with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis-Response Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF) are set to return home to Camp Lejeune, N.C., later this week after a six-month deployment to Spain and Italy.
– Defense News – Pakistan’s naval modernization program appears stalled, with no discernible progress being made on efforts to modernize and expand the surface and sub-surface fleet. This comes amid moves ensure the security of the deepwater port of Gwadar, and fears of mass obsolescence vis-a-vis arch rival India.
– CNN – The past two months have been anything but smooth sailing for the U.S. Navy’s newest class of warship, the littoral combat ship. Troubles for the ships, which cost around $360 million apiece, began in December, when the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), broke down off the East Coast and had to be towed 40 miles to a naval base in Virginia…Just a month after the Milwaukee mishap, its sister ship, the USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), is tied up at a dock in Singapore with what the U.S. Pacific Fleet calls “a casualty to the ship’s combining gears.”
– The Australian – Serious doubt that Washington will be willing to provide the US Navy’s most advanced combat systems to Australian submarines if they are built by Germany or France is emerging as a trump card for Japan in the three-way battle to construct the new boats.
– Reuters – The U.S. military has stepped up discussions on converting its Aegis missile defense test site in Hawaii into a combat-ready facility that would bolster American defenses against ballistic missile attacks.
– AP – The Navy is launching a carrier strike group to be powered partly by biofuel, calling it a milestone toward easing the military’s reliance on foreign oil.
– USNI News – Chinese officials claim to be on “ high alert against Japan’s attempt to poke its nose in the issue of the South China Sea,” following an interview published Sunday in which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for the international community to “raise its voice” against Chinese encroachment.
– Foreign Policy – Our intrepid reporters tried to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in the East China Sea. They ended up igniting a war in Asia.
– Wall Street Journal – Robert D. Kaplan writes that if you look at any map of Europe from the Middle Ages or the early modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, and you will be overwhelmed by its dizzying incoherence — all of those empires, kingdoms, confederations, minor states, “upper” this and “lower” that. It is a picture of a radically fractured world. Today’s Europe is, in effect, returning to such a map.
– US Naval War College Review – It is possible for a competitor or potential enemy to use systemic American vulnerabilities to wage a campaign of misinformation and legal challenges to reduce US military and antisubmarine-warfare readiness. In particular, this article focuses on how adversaries could use environmental lawfare covertly to wage war against the use of active sonar during testing, training, and operations. Allowed to proceed unchecked heretofore, this use of undersea lawfare may already be providing potential adversaries an inexpensive way of reducing the antisubmarine-warfare capabilities of the US Navy and its allies. This article is intended to stimulate action by warfighters and policy makers to identify, assess, and address this threat.
– Foxtrot Alpha – Arguably Israel’s most critical military capability is their small but very deadly submarine fleet. Beyond being able to stealthily spy on enemies, insert operatives onto foreign shores and wreak havoc on enemy ships on a whim, they represent Israel’s “second strike” nuclear deterrent. Now Israel has received its fifth such vessel, the Rahav.
– New Yorker – On the border of ISIS territory, Iraqi civilians fight for their survival. A look at the difficult situation on the ground inside Iraq today.
– USNI News – One year ago, Navy surface warfare leaders announced a new concept, distributed lethality, that promised to add more fire power to all manner of Navy vessels and operate them in a way that would spread thin enemy defenses. Now, those officers can report a great deal of analysis and work to improve the usefulness of weapons, and they promise even greater advances in 2016.
– Pakistan Today – While China and Pakistan endeavour to develop Gwadar Port as a commercial hub for the entire region, Pakistan Navy is gearing up to new face challenges and threats which might come its way after the port become functional; the navy has fully operationalised its strategic Jinnah Naval Base near Gwadar Port at Ormara, Balochistan.-
– Reuters – Footage of a North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test released by Pyongyang two days after it announced it had conducted the country’s fourth nuclear test last week was faked, according to an analysis by a California-based think tank.
– USNI News – The 3rd Marine Division is exploring ways to not only put Marines infantry on non-traditional ships but to push those vessels into higher-level military operations.
– The Diplomat – Patrol aircraft set to make transits in key locations along the South China Sea.
– BBC – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have released 10 US sailors held for entering its territorial waters in the Gulf
– Defense News – An interview with Rear Adm. Pete Fanta, Director of Surface Warfare, US Navy.
The ten most significant naval news stories / trends / themes this year included:
- The creation of Chinese “islands” as air and naval bases in the South China Sea. Will the rest of the world tolerate the presence of these new sand castles or will the Chinese be forced to let them wash away?
- The confusing US Navy Freedom of Navigation Exercises in the South China Sea. What exactly was the message the US was trying to send and why did it take so long?
- The modification of Japan’s constitution to allow more flexibility in the operation of its Self-Defense Forces. Will we now begin to see the Japanese regularly operating in the South China Sea?
- The growing arms race in the South China Sea to serve as a counterbalance to Chinese moves there. Can these countries be brought together in an operational alliance against China or is this an impossible geopolitical task?
- Increasingly aggressive operations by the Iranian Navy in the Persian Gulf in terms of convoy escort and harassing merchant ships. Will the US Navy be able to continue to counter them given its ever decreasing fleet size and increasing operational commitments elsewhere?
- The continuation of the Russian Navy’s increased worldwide operational tempo highlighted by the Office of Naval Intelligence’s report. Can this be sustained over time or will the Russian Navy be pushed beyond its operational breaking point?
- The evidence of Russia’s continued concern over the US ballistic missile defense program – the positioning of Russian cruise missile-armed submarines on deterrent patrols off the US coast to conduct decapitation strikes against the US National Command Authority and the development of a new submarine with a nuclear-armed torpedo to destroy port cities. What other new tactics, techniques and procedures will result from this concern?
- The realization by the US Navy that it has shrunk so small it must arm all of its ships with over the horizon anti-ship missiles under the “Distributed Lethality” concept. Can the US Navy quickly acquire such weapons, or will this be another decades-long procurement morass?
- The US Marine Corps declaration of Initial Operating Capability for the F-35B fighter, marking the F-35’s finally coming of age. Or has it? When will the F-35 finally acquire enough software capability to allow it to be truly useful in combat?
- The US Navy’s continued reluctance to push ahead rapidly with acquiring and integrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles into its carrier air wings, thus depriving them of the long-range aircraft they would need in a conflict with China. How long with the US Navy keep its head in the sand in regards to the future of naval aviation?
– Defense News – One of the prime attributes of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers is the design’s 78-megawatt integrated power system, able to switch electrical power between propulsion, sensor and weapon systems. It’s long been touted as the best platform to field new energy-gobbling weapons like rail guns and lasers. A year ago, however, it appeared the first ship that might carry a rail gun to sea might be a joint high speed vessel (JHSV) fitted with a temporary installation. Briefers at naval exhibitions spoke publicly of the plans, and at least one model of the proposed demonstration was on display. Plans for the at-sea demonstration remain in place, officials said, but it’s looking more likely that a test using an expeditionary fast transport (EPF) — the new designation for JHSVs — won’t take place at least until 2017, if at all.
– Time – The recapture of Guzman is the latest and most important in a series of major busts and takedowns by the Mexican marines who, trained by the U.S. military and working closely with American agents, have become an elite force in the nation’s drug war.
– Sydney Morning Herald – The first of Vietnam’s new advanced Kilo-class submarines have begun patrolling disputed waters of the South China Sea, as deterrents to China’s 10 times-bigger navy, Vietnamese officials and diplomatic sources say.
– Congressional Research Service – The latest version of this document, published in December 2015.