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.

Monday, September 12, 2016

China, Russia launch South China Sea naval war games

The Chinese and Russian navies launched eight days of war games in the South China Sea on Monday in a sign of growing co-operation between their armed forces.

The "Joint Sea-2016" manoeuvers include ships, submarines, ship-borne helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, along with marines and amphibious armoured vehicles who will conduct live-firing exercises.
Joint Chinese-Russian drills have become increasingly common in recent years -- this week's exercises are the fifth between the two navies since 2012. Russia has been the only major country to speak out on China's behalf in its demand that the U.S. and other countries stay out of South China Sea arguments.

Russian news outlets said 18 ships, 21 aircraft and more than 250 marines would take part in the drills. The ships include destroyers, cruisers, a Russian battleship, amphibious warfare ships and supply vessels. China's navy would contribute 10 ships, including destroyers, frigates, amphibious ships, supply vessels and submarines, along with 11 fixed-wing aircraft, eight helicopters, 160 marines and amphibious armour.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Seoul threatens to reduce Pyongyang 'to ashes'

South Korea has measures in place to reduce Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, "to ashes" if Kim Jong-un's regime shows any signs that it is planning to carry out a nuclear attack. "Every Pyongyang district, particularly where the North Korean leadership is possibly hidden, will be completely destroyed by ballistic missiles and high-explosive shells as soon as the North shows any signs of using a nuclear weapon", a source in the South Korean military told the Yonhap news agency.

"In other words, the North's capital city will be reduced to ashes and removed from the map". Tensions are once again high on the Korean Peninsula, two days after North Korea carried out its fifth underground nuclear test.

Epicenter of the nuclear test is about 2 kilometers from the North Portal tunnel
The blast, at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear proving grounds, was initially detected as a magnitude-5 earthquake but subsequently confirmed as Pyongyang's largest-ever nuclear detonation. Within hours, North Korean state media announced that the test had been a success and demonstrated the regime's ability to mount nuclear warheads on strategic ballistic missiles.

South Korea has chosen to make it clear that it is ready and able to act should it conclude that a nuclear attack is imminent.
South Korea intends to use domestically produced surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, the most advanced of which - the Hyunmoo 3 - has a range of more than 600 miles.

The South Korean military is developing another version of the missile, with greater range and payload.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Obama warns China over South China Sea

US President Barack Obama warned Beijing Thursday it could not ignore a tribunal's ruling rejecting its sweeping claims to the South China Sea, driving tensions higher in a territorial row that threatens regional security. The dispute has raised fears of military confrontation between the world's superpowers, with China determined to cement control of the strategically vital waters despite a July verdict that its claims have no legal basis.

"The landmark arbitration ruling in July, which is binding, helped to clarify maritime rights in the region," Obama told Southeast Asian leaders.
Obama's emphasis on the ruling being legally "binding" attracted an immediate reaction from China, which has argued the United States has no role to play in the dispute.

"We hope the US can take an objective and just attitude with respect to South China Sea issues," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.
The Philippines released photos on Wednesday it said showed renewed Chinese island-building activity. The Chinese ships were at Scarborough Shoal, within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone that China took de-facto control of in 2012. If China does build an island at Scarborough Shoal, it could lead to a military outpost just 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the main Philippine island where US forces are stationed. Obama warned Chinese President Xi Jinping in March not to build at the shoal.
Analysts have said Chinese island-building at Scarborough Shoal could trigger a military confrontation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte calls Obama a “son of a bitch”

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanity-laced remarks against US President Barack Obama, calling him a “son of a bitch” has spoiled his maiden appearance in the international stage as head of state. The comments prompted Washington to call off a bilateral meeting.

Duterte has bristled repeatedly at criticism over his “war on drugs”, which has killed about 2,400 people since he took office two months ago, and on Monday said it would be “rude” for Obama to raise the question of human rights when they met. Such a conversation, Duterte told reporters, would prompt him to curse at Obama, using a Filipino phrase “putang ina” which can mean “son of a bitch” or “son of a whore”.
It soured Obama’s last swing as president through a region he has tried to make a focus of U.S. foreign policy, a strategy widely seen as a response to China’s economic and military muscle-flexing. He said in a speech as the summit got under way that his push to make the United States a key player in Asia-Pacific was not some “passing fad”.

Diplomats say strains with longtime ally the Philippines could compound Washington’s difficulties in forging a united front with Southeast Asian partners on the South China Sea.
After Washington called off Tuesday’s bilateral meeting between Obama and Duterte in response, the Philippines issued two statements expressing regret.

Duterte has repeatedly poured scorn on critics, usually with curses. He lambasted the United Nations after it criticized the surge in killings and he turned down a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In May, he called Pope Francis a “son of a whore”, and called U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg a “gay son of a whore”.
"I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina, I will swear at you in that forum,"

"Who is he (Obama) to confront me?" adding that the Philippines had not received an apology from the United States for misdeeds committed during its colonization of the country.
An arbitration court in The Hague in July invalidated China’s territorial claims in the South China after a case was brought by the Philippines, a ruling Beijing refuses to recognize.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Obama Forced To Exit From ‘Ass’ Of Air Force One

Under usual protocol, the president gets his own fancy staircase rolled up to the front of Air Force One in order to exit. The Chinese wouldn’t have that on Obama’s trip to Hangzhou for the G20 summit—and there were no stairs waiting for him upon landing.

Obama eventually had to walk off of the plane from the rear without his special set of stairs, while a member of the Chinese welcoming delegation yelled at White House photographers that “they needed to leave.” Analysts say it looked suspiciously like a deliberate slight intended “to make the Americans look diminished and weak”. Obama got similar treatment during his first trip to China in 2009

South China Sea: Obama urges Beijing to abide by ruling before G20

US President Barack Obama has urged China to abide by its obligations under an international treaty in its activities in the South China Sea. He made the comments during a "candid exchange" with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Hangzhou before the G20 summit, the White House said.

Chinese media reports on the meeting between Mr Obama and Mr Xi made no mention of any discussion about the South China Sea. Last week after a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Laos, all mention of the landmark July ruling by an international tribunal that rejected China's vast claims to most of the South China Sea was avoided, even the mentioning of China by name.

Friday, September 2, 2016

China opens a school on contested South China Sea island

Sansha City Yongxing School, a newly built Chinese primary school and kindergarten in the South China Sea, welcomed 29 new students on Sept. 1.

It is “China’s southernmost school,” according to state broadcaster CCTV. But according to an international tribunal’s ruling in July, the island—also called Woody Island—isn’t part of China. The island is part of the Paracel Islands chain, called Xisha by China, which Vietnam also claims sovereignty over.
The 4,000-square-meter school’s fall semester opening day was reported by several Chinese media outlets. The school cost over 36 million yuan ($5.4 million) to build. Eight teachers are assigned to the 21 students in the kindergarten, and all of the students are children of soldiers and staff stationed on the island. There are around 1,443 residents on Sansha Island.
The first class for the students was a geopolitical class that focused on China’s ownership of the sea. Teacher Tang Hualing led the young students to repeat after her: “China has undisputed sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and its neighboring sea areas.”

Both Tang and her husband are teachers at the school, and their son is enrolled there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Japan raises military spending as tensions rise in South China Sea

Japan’s military is demanding a record high defence budget to buy new fighter jets, missiles, missile interceptors, submarines, and to station troops and amphibious assault craft to defend against the growing threat from China and North Korea. The newly appointed defence minister, Tomomi Inada has formally requested 5.17 trillion yen (£38 billion) for the 2017 financial year to strengthen Japan’s military resources.

Assuming it is approved by Japan’s Diet, it will be country’s biggest defence budget ever ... a 2.3 percent boost.
One of the biggest portions of the military budget, about $1 billion, would go on upgrading Japan’s PAC-3 Patriot surface-to-air missile defense systems.

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer Kurama.
The Japanese military also wants to develop a new submarine with advanced surveillance capabilities, work with the US on next-generation missile interceptors, station a 2,000-strong mobile amphibious unit near Nagasaki, and dispatch extra personnel in the Philippines and other Asian nations.

After coming to power in 2012, Abe overturned a decade of defense cuts and steered the country away from its post-World War Two pacifist stance by pushing for a larger role for the military.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

China wary ahead of Hangzhou G20 Meeting

Marco Polo lauded Hangzhou as “the world's most magnificent and noble city”
Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province, has undergone a major face-lift in the past year in preparation for hosting China’s first G20 Summit, set to take place this weekend. For China, the international economic forum presents a rare opportunity for the country to take on a high-profile leadership role in reshaping the global economic agenda. Even hundreds of factories in Hangzhou and the surrounding areas have been ordered to suspend operation until after the G20 to ensure that the meetings take place under clear blue skies.

Clouds on the horizon relate to the U.S. and other Western countries bringing up contentious non-economic issues such as the South China Sea dispute, potentially frustrating China’s G20 agenda.
There is an intense domestic political need in China to demonstrate strength on territorial issues. The arbitration court in the Hague invalidated most of China’s claims in the South China Sea in its decision. Japan has repeatedly urged all parties to abide by the ruling, angering Beijing.

As Asia’s two biggest economies, Japan and China have become embroiled even though Japan has few direct claims in the South China Sea outside of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Friday, August 26, 2016

F-35 is 'not on a path to success': Damning test report warns

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been described as the 'most expensive weapon in history,' and with a price tag of $400 billion for 2,457 planes, the fifth-generation fighter has been plagued with issues. It appeared the tide had turned earlier this month when the U.S. Air Force declared an initial squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35A fighter jets ready for combat. Now the Pentagon's director of operational testing has slammed the planes readiness.

Michael Gilmore stated the F-35 is 'not on a path toward success but instead is on a path toward failing to deliver the plane's full combat capabilities on time.' Gilmore also said the plane is 'running out of time and money' to address deficiencies.
Complex software capabilities 'are just being added' and new problems requiring fixes and verification testing 'continue to be discovered at a substantial rate,' Gilmore wrote. The Pentagon's F-35 program office said it remained in negotiations with Lockheed over long-delayed contracts for the next two batches of F-35 jets, deals worth about $15 billion.

To become battle ready, at least a dozen individual F-35 must demonstrate their ability to drop bombs and shoot down other planes. Each jet must be upgraded to a specific software package, and plugged into the complex logistics cloud that manages maintenance.
The problem is with what the Department of Defense officials call the 'brains' of plane, also known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). It is designed to support operations, mission planning and to spot any maintenance issues with the vehicle. It also allows pilots to plan missions and look back at their performance.

Recently, problems with its software system grounded the entire fleet. A DoD commissioned plan found that schedule slippage and functionality problems with ALIS could lead to $20-100 billion in additional costs. So far, the software has been so flawed that maintenance crews have been unable to use it at all. The report says a lack of testing done of the software will mean it's not ready for its deployment by the Air Force in August and the Navy in 2018.
It was reported that Canada could withdraw from the F-35 stealth fighter jet program on short notice by paying a little more than $300 million U.S. In 2006, Canada agreed to participate as a partner at a cost of US$551 million. That did not commit the government to buying the aircraft, although it provided inside data about the project and a chance for domestic aerospace firms to bid on F-35 work.
Canada’s liability would be around US$313 million – the difference between what it had already contributed and what was remaining of the original US$551 million commitment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

North Korea submarine fires ballistic missile into Japan's DIZ

The KN-11 missile was launched from waters near Sinpo and flew about 500km (300 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan, a US official said. Japan's PM said it fell inside Japan's Air Defence Identification Zone, calling it a "reckless act".

Wednesday's launch appears to have been its most successful test yet of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). SLBMs are of particular concern because of the mobility of submarines and the ease with which launch preparation can remain undetected.
The launch coincided with a meeting of foreign ministers from Japan, China and South Korea in Tokyo. The three regional powers agreed to "urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint regarding its provocative action, and to observe the UN Security Council's resolutions" - a rare agreement between them.
North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests to date but despite its claims, it is not yet believed to have the ability to mount a nuclear device onto a warhead.

Pyongyang has been angered recently by several high profile defections, including its deputy ambassador to the UK, Thae Yong-ho.