Thursday, October 20, 2016

Duterte and Xi Jinping Agree to Reopen South China Sea Talks

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, agreed on Thursday to resume direct talks on disputes in the South China Sea after years of escalating tension, a sign of warming relations with Beijing.

The announcement came during Mr. Duterte’s state visit to China, as he repeatedly sought to distance the Philippines from the United States, a treaty ally. Mr. Duterte, speaking to business leaders shortly after meeting with Mr. Xi, openly declared a “separation from the United States.”
Duterte in his remarks to the business forum on Thursday, suggested that the separation would extend to the “military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost.”

He continued, “I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow, and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin.”

Friday, October 14, 2016

US military needs $1 trillion to refurbish?

According to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), the cost to replenish a worn out military after 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq – as well as other military operations, such as Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria – would be about $1 trillion over the next decade.

Part of the $1 trillion would be to replace all the equipment destroyed (sometimes lost or even left behind) in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the peak of U.S. military operations in those two countries, one estimate was that $17 billion-plus worth of military equipment had been destroyed, used up, or worn out yearly by those wars.
U.S. soldiers stand guard near a U.S. F-22 stealth fighterAlso a factor in the $1 trillion price tag is the so-called readiness crisis, otherwise known as the hollowing out of the military.

Part of this is shortages of equipment for troops based at home because that equipment is being used for overseas military operations. For example, at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, there is an F-16 squadron with 30 pilots but only four flying aircraft.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank

The M1 Abrams is an American third-generation main battle tank. The M1 Abrams entered U.S. service in 1980 and is the principal main battle tank of the United States Army and Marine Corps, and the armies of Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Iraq.

Three main versions of the M1 Abrams have been deployed, the M1, M1A1, and M1A2. In 2000, costs for the tank were upwards of US$5 million a vehicle.
The gas turbine propulsion system has proven reliable in practice and combat, but its high fuel consumption is a serious logistic issue. (Starting the turbine alone consumes nearly 10 US gallons of fuel).

The engine burns more than 1.67 US gallons per mile (60 US gallons (230 L) per hour) when traveling cross-country and 10 US gallons (38 L) per hour when idle.
The United States Army and United States Marine Corps have received over 8,100 M1, M1A1 and M1A2 tanks combined.


Produced1979–8519841986–921992 on1999 on
Length32.04 ft (9.77 m)
Width12 ft (3.7 m)
Height7.79 ft (2.37 m)8.0 ft (2.4 m)
Top speed45 mph (72 km/h)41.5 mph (66.8 km/h)42 mph (68 km/h)
Range310 mi (500 km)288 mi (463 km)243 mi (391 km)
Weight61.4 short tons (55.7 t)62.8 short tons (57.0 t)67.6 short tons (61.3 t)68.4 short tons (62.1 t)69.5 short tons (63.0 t)
Main armament105 mm M68 rifled120 mm M256 smoothbore
Crew4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Monday, October 10, 2016

The AGM-114 Hellfire missile

One of the most advanced U.S. missiles was unintentionally shipped to Cuba in 2014. The Hellfire missile was supposed to be sent to Europe for a training mission.

The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed for precision strikes, usually against high value targets. It was originally developed under the name Helicopter Launched, Fire and Forget Missile, which led to the colloquial name 'Hellfire' It equips, among other weapons platforms, the U.S. military's Predator drones.

Shipping such a sophisticated weapon to a communist dictatorship with which the U.S. at the time didn't have diplomatic relations and has been under U.S. embargo for a half-century would be among the worst mistakes of its kind in U.S. military history.
The U.S. doesn't know what Cuba did with the missing missile and U.S. officials also don't know whether the mistake was an innocent shipping error, or something nefarious.

The weapon costs at least $ 100,000.

The UAE's AH-64D Apache is one of four types that can fire AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
On May 18, 2016 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) suggested the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had used large numbers of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles during its military operation in Yemen when it said on 13 May that the State Department had approved an Emirati request for another 4,000 missiles. The DSCA said the 4,000 AGM-114R/K missiles were estimated to be worth 468 million and will be delivered in increments of at least 1,000 missiles over the next three years.

The AGM-114K has an armour-penetrating warhead, while the AGM-114R is a multipurpose missile that combines the AGM-114K's anti-armour capability with the blast/fragmentation effect of the AGM-114M and the thermobaric effect of the AGM-114N. The UAE would use the missiles to "strengthen its homeland defence".

Saturday, October 8, 2016

US Military Drone Program - UAV

As of January 2014, the U.S. military operated a vast number of unmanned aerial systems (UAS): 7,362 RQ-11 Ravens; 990 AeroVironment Wasp IIIs; 1,137 AeroVironment RQ-20 Pumas; and 306 RQ-16 T-Hawk small UAS systems and 246 Predators and MQ-1C Grey Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.

The military role of unmanned aircraft systems is growing at an unprecedented rate. MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles have been used as platforms for hitting ground targets. Armed Predators were first used in late 2001 from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, mostly aimed at assassinating high profile individuals. Since then, there have been many attacks taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Their roles have expanded to areas including electronic attack, strike missions, suppression or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, and combat search and rescue. UAS range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, with aircraft ranging from less than one pound to over 40,000 pounds.

In February 2013, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham stated that 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. UAVs. In 2012, the USAF trained more UAV pilots than ordinary jet fighter pilots for the first time.

MQ-9 Reaper - US$16.9 million (2013)

Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk - US$131.4M (2013)

MQ-9 Reaper pilot, left

Friday, October 7, 2016

Philippines Suspends Patrols With U.S. in South China Sea

The Philippine defense chief said Friday that he had suspended participation in any joint patrols with the U.S. of the disputed South China Sea, the first concrete sign of a crack in the military alliance following the election of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Since taking office June 30, Mr. Duterte has caught U.S. officials and his own military off guard with seemingly off-the-cuff pronouncements with potentially far-reaching strategic implications. His aim, he said, is to loosen ties with the U.S. and give his Southeast Asian country a more “independent” foreign policy, with “new alliances” with China and Russia.
The Philippine military was still out of the loop. Asked about the president’s statement last week that he wants to end all military exercises with U.S. forces, Mr. Lorenzana said his department was still awaiting an official directive. “We heard it on TV,” he said.

Duterte has said he wanted the patrols halted to avoid antagonizing Beijing. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. spelled out the president’s position more explicitly in a Wednesday Facebook post entitled “America has failed us.” It was time for the Philippines to free itself from the “shackling dependency” on the U.S.—which ran the Philippines as a colony until 1946, he wrote.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Aircraft Carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

With weeks to go, the Navy's most-expensive aircraft carrier is on track to miss the service's November delivery deadline. That's the latest slip for the $12.9 billion USS Gerald R. Ford. The carrier was originally expected to be delivered in 2014 but has been beset by delays, cost overruns and technological problems with unproven, untested systems.

In June and again in July, two of Ford's electricity-generating main turbines experienced issues. As of August, the Ford was 98 percent complete. The shipbuilder had turned over 98 percent of the ship's compartments and 91 percent of the overall shipboard testing was finished. "We continue to look for opportunities to get Gerald R. Ford to sea as soon as possible,"
The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Pentagon’s largest and most advanced aircraft carrier, is two years late for delivery, $2.9 billion over budget, and is “not fit for combat.” It is the most expensive warship ever built, coming in at $12.9 billion.

Right this minute the ship can’t launch and recover aircraft, can’t mount a defense, and can’t transport bombs around the ship. In other words, the core functions of an aircraft carrier cannot be met. The Pentagon is hoping that it will all be fixed and delivered before November.

"As delivery of (Ford) approaches later this year, my concerns about the reliability of these systems remain and the risk to the ship's ability to succeed in combat grows as these reliability issues remain unresolved"
Some argue the US military budget has far less to do with defending the United States than it does to further enrich entrenched military contractors. Politicians are under intense pressure to push weapons systems that produce “jobs” for their districts. An example is the disastrously expensive F-35 fighter that is built in 45 states and several foreign countries.

Last October, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester expressed serious concerns about the reliability of key systems on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Prompt Global Strike - Hypersonic Glide Missiles

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a United States military effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour, in a similar manner to a nuclear ICBM.

Such a weapon would allow the United States to respond far more swiftly to rapidly-emerging threats than is possible with conventional forces.
Possible delivery systems for PGS warheads include:

1) a rocket similar to existing ICBMs, launched from land or via submarine
2) an air- or submarine-launched hypersonic cruise missile
3) a kinetic weapon launched from an orbiting space platform

The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) is a demonstrative long-range glide vehicle capable of flying within the planet's atmosphere at hypersonic speed. This capability will ensure the US can attack high-value targets or transient targets at the beginning of a conflict. The AHW technology demonstration programme is managed by the US Army Space and Missile Defence Command (USASMDC) / Army Forces Strategic Command (ARSTRAT).
The AHW is designed to provide a 6,000km range with 35 minute time-of-flight and achieve less than ten metre accuracy. It delivers a conventional payload at medium and global ranges, using a hypersonic glider.

The weapon's high manoeuvrability allows it to avoid flight over third party nations when approaching the target. It employs a precision guidance system to home in on the target.
Russia has been working on the Yu-71 hypersonic vehicle for the last several years. Russia conducted the latest test of its hypersonic missile in February. Russia could produce up to 24 nuclear-capable Yu-71 between 2020 and 2025. Russia is planning to deploy both nuclear as well as conventional configuration.

China has conducted flight tests of a 7,000 mile-per-hour maneuvering strike vehicle, the Wu-14 Hypersonic missile. China was also testing extreme maneuvers of a mach 10 (7860 mph) prototype.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Beijing warns Japan against ‘playing with fire & messing in South China Sea’

China has warned Tokyo against “playing with fire” and joining US-led naval “patrols” and “exercises” in the disputed South China Sea, telling Japan, which is “outside the region”, that it should stop meddling in affairs that are none of its concern. Earlier in September Tokyo announced plans to increase joint military activities with the US in southeast Asia to counter Chinese dominance. The Chinese Defense Ministry warned Tokyo on Thursday that Beijing would not just sit idle and watch the Japanese side with the US.
Yujun also accused Japan of interfering with Chinese affairs around the disputed waters. “Japan, as a country outside the South China Sea region, has always been attempting to mess up the South China Sea situation and trying to gain interests from the troubled waters,” the spokesman stressed.

The US intensified warship maneuvering near artificial islands in the South China Sea. Washington argues that sailing and flights over the disputed waters are conducted according to the Freedom of Navigation (FON) which has been part of an American policy under the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention since 1983. China has repeatedly warned against such provocations.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Japan scrambles jets as China warplanes fly through Okinawa strait

Japan scrambled aircraft on Sunday as at least eight Chinese fighters and bombers — and possibly more than 40 — passed through a critical international entryway into the Western Pacific. They used a legal but politically sensitive passage through Okinawa, apparently to send a message to Tokyo.

It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.
China said more than 40 aircraft were involved. They flew between Miyako Island near Taiwan and Okinawa’s main island on the way to “regular” patrols and drills in the Western Pacific, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the massive show of force, which included H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters and tanker aircraft, conducted reconnaissance and early warning exercises, attacks on sea surface targets, and in-flight refueling “to test the air force’s fighting capacity on the high seas.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

F-35 fighter jet catches fire in US

Another F-35A fighter jet caught fire during an exercise in Idaho, the US Air Force has confirmed. An investigation has been launched into what caused the fire, which was located in "the aft section of the aircraft," according to a statement from the Air Force.

No injuries have been reported, but questions are being raised as to whether the fire may have originated in the F-35's F135 engine, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, as was the case in 2014.This is the latest hiccup for the $1.12 trillion project and comes only a week after the US Air Force revealed it was grounding 13 F-35s and was pausing production of 42 more, blaming “improper manufacturing processes.” Poorly built insulation material being used in the construction of the warplanes is said to be “crumbling” into fuel tanks, according to a statement from the US Air Force.

F-35A after the June 2014 fire.

Friday, September 23, 2016

US Experts Advocate Harder Stance Against Illegal Claims In South China Sea

USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols in international waters of the South China Sea as the People’s Liberation Army-Navy guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind.
South China Sea and maritime law experts advocated a tougher stance against illegal Chinese actions, calling for more freedom of navigation operations, possibly with regional allies, that are aimed at Chinese territorial claims.

The experts from the U.S. Naval War College and the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed at a House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee hearing that adherence to maritime law in the South China Sea is important not only for regional security but also for maintaining law of the sea elsewhere on the globe.
China has been building paramilitary forces out of their coast guard and fishing fleets. China operates the biggest fishing fleet in the world, and in the South China Sea Beijing uses these fishing ships as a kind of militia to harass other nation's vessels from accessing vital trade routes and fishing grounds.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a report on China's use of its coast guard as a "second navy". Beijing's inclusion of fishing fleets in its maritime law enforcement push has gone on for years as a kind of open secret. China doesn't publicize its militia in any English language publication, but in domestic internet pages and files, China makes it clear that the fishing vessels have a "militia" function.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Taiwan asks Google to blur images showing new South China Sea facilities

Taiwan's defense ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei's sole holding in the disputed South China Sea.
The revelation of new military-related construction could raise more tensions in the contested waterway, where China's building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States.

"Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities," Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images of Itu Aba. Defense experts said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defense and could be part of an artillery foundation.
Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island and by various other names, is the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The international tribunal’s July 12 ruling that Itu Aba is legally a “rock,” and not an "island" was based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In terms of maritime rights, that means Itu Aba generates a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea around it. The far more valuable designation of “island” produces an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

USAF begins additional repairs on grounded F-35s

The U.S. Air Force will soon begin additional repairs on the grounded F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. The USAF ordered a temporary stand-down of 13 out of 104 F-35s in the fleet due to the discovery of peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks on September 16. Two additional aircraft, belonging to Norway and currently stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, have also been affected.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, said maintenance crews will begin additional repairs next week on the grounded aircraft.
The Joint Strike Fighter program cost has reached nearly $400 billion for more than 2,400 planes. The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 F-35As over 20 years. In a separate briefing earlier in the day, Carlisle said the service has recently halved the number of squadrons expected to be in place in the next decade.

“A lot of things have changed since but in 2010 we estimated by the year 2028 we were going to have 32 F-35 squadrons. But in the 2016 budget we estimate by the year 2028 we will only have 14 … that’s a pretty drastic reduction.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

Japan to join US in South China Sea patrols

Japan is planning on upping its activities in the South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and exercises with regional navies, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said.

Japan would also be giving military aid to countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam as it increases its role in the contested waters of the South China Sea. Inada also welcomed the US's plan to allocate 60% of its Navy and Air Force assets to the Asia Pacific region by 2020.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

F-35B integrated to Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense

An F-35B just carried out a test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.

With this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to an Aegis site that would fire it's own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea. An F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed without firing a shot and risking giving up it's position.
The SM-6 is the missle of choice for Aegis destroyers. It is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles. The SM-6's massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration it doesn't have to.

This capability helps assuage fears over the F-35's limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet's stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane's overall capacity.