Chinese Threaten Japan, Australia Over South China Sea; Time For US FON Ops?

Breaking Defense – What are China’s intentions in the South China Sea? It’s a question intelligence analysts, diplomats and the senior leadership of the United States and its Pacific allies are all asking in the wake of a range of increasingly belligerent and threatening comments and actions by the rising global power. Perhaps most worrying is that the Kyodo News Agency and other Japanese outlets have reported variations of a story that China’s ambassador to Tokyo said in late June that the Japanese Self Defense Force would “cross a red line” if they took part of Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea. “(China) will not concede on sovereignty issues and is not afraid of military provocations,” Cheng is reported to have told Japanese officials.

China’s Expanding Ability to Conduct Conventional Missile Strikes on Guam

CIMSEC – Observers of China’s September 2015 military parade witnessed the surprise introduction of a new road-mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the DF-26, reported to feature nuclear, conventional, and antiship variants and a range of 3,000–4,000 kilometers (km) (1,800–2,500 miles [mi])1—greater than any of China’s current systems except the ICBMs in its nuclear arsenal. This range would cover U.S. military installations on Guam, roughly 3,000 km (1,800 mi) from the Chinese mainland, prompting some analysts and netizens to refer to the missile as the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer” (derived from the term “carrier killer” used to refer to China’s shorter-range DF-21D antiship ballistic missile).2 Combined with improved air- and sea-launched cruise missiles and modernizing support systems, the DF-26 would allow China to bring a greater diversity and quality of assets to bear against Guam in a contingency than ever before.

Asia’s Looming Subsurface Challenge

War on the Rocks – From the 1950s until today, Russia’s dangerous Atlantic submarine force has represented the technological pacing threat for the U.S. Navy in the undersea domain. However, this trend is slowly changing. It will be the waters of the Pacific, not the Atlantic, where the U.S. Navy will be most sorely tested. In his 2016 posture hearing, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris noted that Chinese, Russian, and North Korean submarines constitute 150 of 200 submarines currently in the Pacific. Numbers only tell part of an increasingly ominous story. The trajectory of submarine investments made by these nations — and ten other Asia-Pacific countries — will create a far more dangerous undersea domain in the Asia-Pacific by 2030. Developing the policies and frameworks that will enable effective shaping of this environment must be started before the crisis hits.

China Steps Up Naval Presence Near Key Disputed Island

FreeBeacon – China is building up maritime security forces around a key disputed island in the South China Sea that the Pentagon has warned China not to militarize. According to Pentagon officials, the number of Chinese maritime security vessels near Scarborough Shoal, in the Spratly Islands, has risen sharply over the past several weeks.

Top Marine: No Need To Change Deploying Groups

Defense News – The 2,500-person Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the basic formation of regularly-deploying US Marine Corps units, typically embarked aboard a three-ship US Navy amphibious ready group (ARG) that deploys for six months or more at a time. But the various units that make up the MEU are often called on to carry out missions hundreds of miles apart, even thousands of miles. It’s not unusual that the MEU and ARG, which together train before the deployment to operate as a single unit, split up once in theater to the point where the three ships might not even see each other for months. So does it make sense to continue that MEU/ARG construct? Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Corps, says yes.

RIMPAC Major Step for Australia Ahead of First ARG Deployment

USNI News – The Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise has given the Australian landing force a well-timed opportunity: soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) played a central role in three-ship Amphibious Ready Group operations off Hawaii ahead of conducting ARG operations on their own for the first time ever next year.

F-35B Tactics Evolving As Pilots’ Understanding Of Technology Matures

USNI News – The Marine Corps’ top aviator said the F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter pilots have matured in their understanding of the new platform in the year since the service declared initial operational capability (IOC), pushing themselves to push past planned tactics and create a new way of using the fifth-generation technology.