– Defense News – Amidst the audio-visual assault of the CES show floor, there was a trend in consumer robotics that I think is worth following: underwater robots are here, and plentiful, and will likely only get better and cheaper in the years to come.
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– Defense News – The manta is a fascinating creature, and so it should come as no surprise that the manta also makes a fascinating body for an underwater robot.
The ten most significant naval news stories / trends / themes this year included:
- The lack of any meaningful progress towards creating a 355 ship fleet for the US Navy. How much longer will the US Navy continue to be over-tasked and under-resourced, and what will be the consequences?
- The tragic collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain and the root causes of those collisions. How could the training of these ship’s crews been allowed to lapse to such a shocking degree, and how will the US Navy ensure that such a lapse will not happen again?
- The loss of the Argentinian Navy submarine San Juan. Are modern submarines too complex for small navies to operate safely?
- The opening of the Chinese Navy’s first overseas base in Dijbouti. Is this the first concrete naval step in China’s One Belt and One Road Initiative?
- The Philippines folding to Chinese pressure over their claims to territory in the South China Sea, despite have the weight of a UN tribunal behind them. Who’s next?
- The announcement by both France and the United Kingdom of mini naval pivots to Asia in order to counter the Chinese Navy’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea. Why has it taken them so long to realize they have interests in the Pacific as well?
- The standing up of formal amphibious capabilities by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy. Why is the United Kingdom, at the same time, considering standing down the Royal Navy’s formal amphibious capability?
- The effect of BREXIT on the United Kingdom’s defense procurement and operations. How will it change the size and architecture of the Royal Navy’s fleet?
- The newly identified Russian threat to undersea communication cables. Are these Internet fiber optic pipes a new maritime center of gravity that NATO needs to plan on defending?
- The increasing Russian military strength in the Arctic which is backing up a clear strategy for the region. Can the West articulate a counter-strategy and resource it?
– View From Olympus – William Lind notes that one of the more curious aspects of the current U.S. military is its institutionalization of failure. We have lost four Fourth Generation conflicts: Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq (which is still very far from being a real state), and Afghanistan, where we are fighting but not winning. In response, we keep doing more of the same, more perfecting of our ability to put firepower on targets. If war could be reduced to that, we would be the greatest, military on earth. But it can’t.
– New Yorker – The former Marine Corps general spent four decades on the front lines. How will he lead the Department of Defense?
– US Naval War College Review – What is the role of coast guards in the realm of territorial disputes? Until ten years ago or so, few policy makers in East and Southeast Asia had to grapple with this question, because regional navies, not coast guards, were the central actors asserting sovereignty in disputed areas.
– CIMSEC – The threat of Russian ground invasion has been the primary occupation of Baltic military establishments. All three countries nevertheless have significant coastlines on the Baltic Sea with the accompanying maritime security and defense concerns. These include search-and-rescue, exclusive economic zone security, combating smuggling, the threat of amphibious assault, and hostile submarines. The focus on land threats, expense of naval combat platforms, and limited resources have so far prevented the countries from acquiring or maintaining significant naval capabilities. What follows is an analysis of each Baltic State’s respective naval capabilities followed by trends in their combined missions and activities.
– Lexington Institute – A look at the opportunities afforded to NATO by its naval base at Souda Bay in Crete.
– BBC – Nato ships are being deployed to the Aegean sea to deter people-smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.
– Defense News – Israel’s Elbit Systems unveiled on Monday a prototype of what it claims is the world’s first unmanned system for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions.
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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?
– The Atlantic – The Pentagon worries its rigid personnel system is driving away the officers it will need for the conflicts of the 21st century.
– BBC – The EU is beginning a new operation in the southern Mediterranean to intercept boats smuggling migrants.
– Esquire – After fourteen years of being immersed in the bloody wars of our era, C.J. Chivers came home..
– USNI – In the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, released days before the September 11 attacks, the Department of Defense announced a shift in approach—one that had been trickling through DOD since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Billed as “a new defense strategy and an associated risk management framework,” the emerging addition to the defense planning lexicon was a “capabilities-based approach.”
– USNI – NATO may be best known for its protracted counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, or for its current efforts to shore up defenses in Eastern Europe with air and ground exercises. But moving forward NATO must also consider its role in the global maritime domain, as it is central to the twin security challenges of an increasingly aggressive Russia and a crumbling Middle East order that the Alliance faces right now.
– Real Clear Defense – On Monday EU foreign and defense ministers resolved to use naval power to go after human trafficking at its sources in North Africa. A tidal wave of refugees has crashed on European shores in recent years as tens of thousands of people flee armed strife and economic upheaval in Africa and the Middle East. The Mediterranean Sea has become a conduit for what Germans call a Völkerwanderung, a mass migration across the frontiers of civilization. Large-scale movements of Germanic tribesmen brought havoc to the Roman Empire in its dying days, giving rise to the term. European leaders hope deploying a forward maritime strategy will spare the European Union a Roman fate.
– BBC – EU foreign and defence ministers are expected to approve a mission to destroy the boats used by people-smugglers operating in war-torn Libya.
– USNI News – Ships on the high seas can largely be split between two major caregories, merchant ships that connect countries through commerce and national navies formed to ensure that trade continues to flow. However, in the margins between those two broad groups are fleets that have sought to influence international policy and politics independent of a national flag — non-state navies.
– Center for a New American Security – An examination of the value of directed energy weapons and a series of recommendations for how the U.S. can invest in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner to further mature this important technology.
– BBC – When nuclear-powered submarines reach the end of their lives, dismantling them is a complicated and laborious process.
– War is Boring – Starting in the 1960s, the world’s leading navies experimented with a new kind of warship. Heavily-armed and sporting huge flight decks for helicopters, the vessels were hybrids—not quite cruisers, not quite aircraft carriers. Ungainly and in many cases conceptually flawed, the helicopter cruisers nevertheless represented an important leap forward for naval technology. Today’s assault ships—arguably the most useful warships afloat—owe much to the helicopter cruisers that preceded them.