2015 World Naval Operational News Highlights

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?