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10 Jul 20. Rising Dragons: China’s Fighter Development Comes of Age. China’s military aviation industry today much advanced from that which relied on exports, although top-line engine production still holds it back. The formation flight of five stealthy fifth-generation J-20 multirole combat aircraft over the Chinese capital of Beijing during the military parade commemorating the 70th year of the People Republic of China’s (PRC’s) founding on 1 October marks a watershed in indigenous fighter aircraft development.
It can be hard to believe that China’s military aerospace industries have advanced from reverse-engineering Soviet/Russian third- and fourth-generation aircraft to being one of only three nations – the two others being Russia and the United States – to be capable of developing and manufacturing aircraft of this class today.
Like many other contemporary military industrial powers, China’s goal for its nascent aerospace industry in the 1950s was eventual self-reliance and subsequently global exports. However, without an aviation history to base this on, it attempted to lay the foundations by acquiring foreign aircraft and subsystems, initially from the Soviet Union and re-engineering these to address knowledge gaps.
However, these early efforts were derailed by the isolation imposed by the Cultural Revolution and the subsequent freeze in Sino-Soviet relations. As a consequence of this unfavourable trinity of political chaos, underfunding and limited access to new foreign technology, earlier indigenously produced platforms and subsystems often suffered from long lead times in research and development (R&D) and poor quality control.
Since the early 1990s it has been apparent that China’s political and military leadership were displeased with the country’s inability to produce world-class products. In 1999 China reorganised its then 440,000-strong pool of state-employed aerospace engineers into two large corporate conglomerates, placing most military and large aircraft development in the Aviation Industry of China (AVIC) 1 and tasking AVIC 2 with development of trainers and helicopters, with the goal of spurring greater domestic competition. AVIC, however, turned out to be a monolithic bureaucracy that exercised control over still existing aircraft and component companies. As a result, redundancy became particularly acute.
Sweeping structural and financial reforms that followed changed the landscape of China’s military aviation industry. In 2008 and 2009 AVIC 1 and 2 were consolidated into present-day AVIC, with around 420,000 employees and 100 commercial and military aviation-related companies.
Since 2009, the corporation has brokered partnerships with local governments across China to improve its own capabilities as well as to spur private innovation. It has also imported high-precision and technologically advanced machine tools, electronics, and other components that can also be used in the production of military aircraft.
Reforms are focused on the adaptation of dual-use technologies for military purposes and accelerating capabilities through indigenous research and development programmes. Finally, government-led initiatives will also aim to enhance its presence in international markets, particularly in traditionally Western or Russian-dominated ones, to supply local industries with greater access to both dual-use technologies it requires and create additional funds that can be channelled towards defence R&D.
A notable aspect of the Chinese aviation industry is the close collaboration between the civilian and military aviation sectors, and the potential for commercial advances to fuel developments in the military sector. China’s defence industry has benefited from integration with China’s rapidly expanding civilian economy and science and technology sector, particularly elements that have access to foreign technology. Progress within individual defence sectors appears to be linked to the entwinement of each – through China’s civilian economy – into the global production and research and development R&D chain.
“China has invested heavily in new materials to enable lighter stronger airframes and that allow higher temperatures needed for high performance engines,” Colonel Fan Yang, a researcher at the PLA National Defense University, told AMR.
“[For example] the initial composite materials developed for use in the J-10 were tested by a foreign-sourced laboratory to ensure sufficient strength and durability,” Colonel Fan said, noting that domestic expertise composite material fabrication had grown due to concurrent activities in the commercial sector such as airline component production work that Airbus and Boeing had set up in China. An ability to build large composite material airframes and skin of satisfactory strength had contributed greatly improve China’s ability to produce stealthy fifth-generation aircraft designs, as well as modern, efficient civil and military transports.
Finally, several financial initiatives launched by the CCP government have allowed state-owned firms to tap on resources from other companies, internal funds, and foreign investment for product development. Analysts point to the FC-1 Xiaolong /JF-17 Thunder project, which was jointly developed by AVIC’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) subsidiary and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and subsidised by Pakistani funds. The collaboration was reasonably successful, with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) procuring Block I and II single-seat JF-17 and two-seat JF-17Bs, while securing exports to Nigeria and Myanmar. Azerbaijan and Iran have also expressed strong interest in the type.
The Chinese fighter aircraft sector has made some remarkable advancement over the past 20 years. For example, CAC’s J-10 Menglong (Vigorous Dragon) programme conceived in the 1980s can be considered the most important domestic fighter project of the past two decades, representing a watershed moment for indigenous aerospace industry – even if Russian and Israeli assistance was suspected – when it entered People’s Liberation Air Force (PLAAF) service in 2003.
While deliveries of the J-10A have proceeded at pace over the intervening 10 years, deliveries of the initial model ceased around 2013 following the rollout of the improved J-10B, which has been provided with a strengthened airframe featuring a redesigned chin intake aimed at reducing weight and detectability, as well as a more powerful Russian-made Salyut AL-31FN Series 3 engine offering around 134.4kN of thrust.
In terms of radar and avionics, the J-10B has also benefited from a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) version of the original mechanically scanned KLJ-3 radar developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET), an electro-optical targeting suite comprising an infrared search and track (IRST) and laser rangefinder, as well as a rear-aspect missile approach warning system (MAWS).
The J-10B seen at Airshow China 2018 with its impressive complement of armaments. (JR Ng)
The latest variant of the J-10 is the J-10C, which made its maiden flight in December 2013 and features a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar of unknown designation, improved avionics including a new datalink for the PL-15 beyond visual range anti-air missile (BVRAAM), and increased use of composite material in the airframe. The type entered service in April 2018.
In November 2018, a J-10B testbed equipped with the indigenously developed WS-10 engine with a thrust vectoring control (TVC) module from AVIC’s Shenyang-based Liming Aero-Engine Company was revealed to the public for the first time during the biennial Airshow China exhibition.
The WS-10 engine is a derivative of the model used to power the Shenyang Aircraft Company’s (SAC’s) J-11B fighter aircraft, a reverse-engineered copy of the twin engine Russian Sukhoi Su-27. The TVC nozzle has reportedly been developed not just for late model J-10 aircraft, but also as part of the new WS-15 engine program that is destined for the J-20.
Ultimately, more than 600 J-10s are expected to enter service with the PLAAF to eventually replace earlier models of the CAC J-7 fighter-bombers, which entered service in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Simultaneously, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) has apparently moved beyond its troubled twin-engine J-11B air superiority fighter programme, which is essentially derived from reverse-engineered technology from imported and locally assembled Russian Sukhoi Su-27 airframes to fielding the advanced J-16 strike fighter. The latest incarnation features substantial improvements including a reduced radar cross-section (RCS), a strengthened airframe and an improved AESA fire-control radar, as well as a new flight-control system, glass cockpit and the Liming WS-10B engine.
A new electronic warfare (EW) variant of J-16, known as the J-16D, was first sighted in December 2015. Featuring a shorter nosecone believed to house an AESA radar and large wingtip pods with vertical antennas, as well as the removal of the IRST and cannon for additional EW mission equipment and ventral antennas, the type is expected to enter service by around 2020.
Known as the Weilong (Mighty Dragon), the twin-engine CAC J-20 was the first of the Chinese fifth-generation military aircraft developments to be officially acknowledged when a prototype completed a 21-minute maiden flight in January 2011, a revelation that had been carefully timed with the visit of then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The baseline J-20 is a single-seat multirole fighter featuring canards for increased manoeuvrability and low-observability features such as twin, outward-canted, serrated edge landing gear doors, and an internal weapons bay. The J-20 is also equipped with a chin-mounted electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) that appears to be comparable to the one found on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft are believed to have been fitted with the domestic WS-10B engine, although conflicting reports have also suggested that these LRIP aircraft feature a heavily modified version of the Russian 99M2 (AL-31FM2). However, it is known that serial production J-20s will be equipped with the domestic WS-15 engine that is believed to offer TVC and super-cruise performance.
Running concurrent to the development of the J-20 is the FC/J-31, or Shen Fei (Falcon Eagle). Although the existence of ‘another’ fifth-generation aircraft had been rumoured for more than a decade, it was not until late 2012 that the first images of what was later to become known as the FC/J-31 were published.
These images showed the single-seat FC/J-31 to be considerably smaller than the J-20, suggesting that it might make up the ‘low’ end of a ‘high-low’ fifth-generation capability mix with its larger stablemate. The general design characteristics of the FC/J-31 – low aspect-ratio wings and tailplanes of trapezoidal planform; chined fuselage, with forward-swept engine intakes; outward-canted twin vertical fins; and internal weapons carriage – are fairly typical of today’s crop of fifth-generation fighters, and indicate at least some degree of stealth.
As with the J-20, the FC/J-31 is a twin-engined design and is also currently powered by Russian turbofans (Klimov RD-93s) with an indigenous Chinese powerplant expected to be fitted for production-standard aircraft.
The chief weakness of China’s military aerospace industry remains its aero-engine sector, particularly its inability to mass-produce reliable high-performance turbofan engines to support contemporary and future aircraft developments. For example, the maiden flight in 1998 of the J-10 is thought to have been delayed by nearly two years, in part due to redesign work necessary to accommodate the Russian-made AL-31FN engine, rather than the intended domestic WS-10 engine.
However, even as the prospect of continued dependency on Russian engines remains likely for the near future, Chinese efforts into advancing indigenous jet engine technology is increasing. Most notably is the establishment of the state-owned Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC) to address long-standing domestic capability shortfalls in commercial and military aero-engine development and production.
China has invested heavily in fighter engine development for decades and appears poised to make long-awaited breakthroughs. (JR Ng)
AECC was was formed by merging related AVIC subsidiaries, including AVIC Aero-Engine Controls, AVIC Aviation Engine (formerly Xian Aero-Engine Corporation), Sichuan Chengfa Aero Science and Technology, as well as unlisted companies such as the Liyang Aero-Engine Corporation and Liming Aero-Engine Manufacturing Corporation. It had a registered capital of $7.6 billion and a staff strength of approximately 96,000 workers during its inception.
According to official statements, AECC is responsible for the design, development, production, and support of military and commercial aircraft engines with a core focus on fixed-wing platforms although it will also support rotary aircraft engines as a secondary function.
The company launched a dedicated research institute, the Aero Engine Academy of China (AEAC), in December 2016. Based in Beijing, the new academy will lead the company’s R&D efforts and support nationwide efforts in aero-engine production.
AVIC said in a statement that the AEAC will accelerate domestic development of aero-engines and related technologies.
“This will be achieved through integrating [indigenous] aero-engine R&D capability, enhancing related manufacturing technologies and providing AECC with strong technical support,” the company stated.
Earlier this year, AECC announced during its supply-chain conference held in Jiangsu province from 20-21 May that it had grown its ability to source, build, and support aircraft powerplants by outsourcing component manufacturing to privately owned enterprises. The move is line with the CCP government’s desire to expand local private-sector participation in manufacturing commercial and military aero-engines
“In the past year the outsourcing of components continued to grow, quality control processes were effectively introduced, performance evaluations continued to be strengthened, and communication channels between AECC and its suppliers were smoother and more efficient,” the AECC said in a statement made through the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).
Further plans are underway to deepen private-sector integration into national aero-engine supply chains and develop approaches to enhance production efficiencies and product quality.
“The [ultimate] goal is to stay on course on supply management, actively promote domestic supply-chain production and integrate military-civilian resources, and provide our armed forces with quality products and services,” Colonel Fan noted. (Source: AMR)
10 Jul 20. ‘Stoking the fire’: Griffith analyst slams Indo-Pacific arms race. As part of the $270bn dished out to defence over the coming decade, Australia will join the region’s accelerating missile race. But as the Griffith Asia Institute’s Tanya Ogilvie-White explains, this might not necessarily be a good thing.
While the recent 2020 Defence Strategic Update (DSU) and Force Structure Review (FSR) has been lauded on many fronts, some have levelled criticism against its acquisition of long-range missiles. Writing in the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter, Dr Tanya Ogilvie-White makes the case that the move will “stoke an uncontrolled fire that is engulfing the region’s strategic landscape.”
Admittedly, one of the more striking features of the DSU was the plan to amass not just long-range missiles and complex munitions, but also hypersonic weapons. Many have long made the case that it is high time for Australia to acquire hypersonic missiles, arguing that the concentrated effort needed to develop long-range strike capability represents one of the best returns-on-investment in the business.
The next arms race?
Yet some argue that the development of hypersonic missiles represents the next arms race. Japan has previously stated that it hopes to have deployable hypersonic weapons tested by 2025 – and other middle powers similar to ourselves, including France and India, also have active hypersonic development programs. And while the DSU might bring talk of hypersonics into the mainstream for the first time, Australia has been upfront about its plans to explore the capability for some years now.
The Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program, conducted jointly between DSTO and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), looks to test a fully-operable Mach 8 scramjet; while the technology hasn’t spilled over into the defence sector just yet, it seems only a matter of time.
Writing in The Interpreter, Dr Ogilvie-White argues (as the DSU itself warns) that while hypersonic weapons will make it possible to strike targets more rapidly, accurately and lethally from afar, they also “reduce decision times, make military miscalculation more likely and increase the consequences of strategic error”.
Moreover, she makes the case the case that these characteristics – taken together with dual-use missile deployment – “erode rather than reinforce … stable deterrence”. In a way, she seems to frame recent developments in terms of Cold War history; though it’s worth bearing in mind that modern long-range strike capability threatens to upend strategic calculations. Russia, on its part, has cast nuclear-armed hypersonic craft as a potential hedge against US anti-ICBM capability.
In yet more clear terms, Larry Wortzel, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, once said that China’s hypersonic strategy has been “deliberately targeted at upending the tenuous strategic stability that has been in place since the end of the Cold War”.
In a way, it is impossible to frame recent developments in terms of history – because no direct parallel exists. With much of the strategic update aimed squarely at China, it makes more sense to look closely at developments in Chinese capability to evaluate the steps our policymakers should be taking in response. These include advances in long-range strike capability outside of the hypersonic space, such as Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force missiles (including the DF-26).
Fanning the flames
Strangely enough, Dr Ogilvie-White argues that an uptick in Australian capability could actually be aimed at quelling tensions in the regions. As she puts it, “a fourth (unspoken) reason for announcing the plan could be to signal to Beijing that it is time to stop the current missile arms race and engage in serious arms-control dialogue”.
This follows failed attempts to engage China in trilateral talks with the US over the extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and decades of argument in Washington whether arms-control leverage can be achieved through flexing military muscle. As is all too often the case in deterrence theory, it can be difficult to say with certainty – though with a combination of relatively strong economic growth and regional uncertainty have long spurred gains in defence technology in the Indo-Pacific.
Dr Collin Koh Swee Lean, of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, recently made the case that an “arms race” has been long underway in the undersea domain. To that end, he argues that while the increase in the size and sophistication of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) “does play a significant role spurring the equivalent build-ups by at least some regional countries, such as Japan, there are a few other drivers”.
He points to the desire to copy other countries, a trend towards fleet modernisation, as well as status – “for some countries, acquiring a submarine equates to being in the ‘club’ – one that brings prestige because operating and maintaining a submarine capability becomes testament to the country’s financial and technical prowess”.
As one of the world’s most developed nations, Australia has never struggled with self-image. Yet it might be worth remaining conscious of the soft power pull that many regional partners, including India, Indonesia and Vietnam, are actively seeking out through swelling their submarine fleets. (Source: Defence Connect)
10 Jul 20. The fundamental flaw in the ‘Defence of Australia’ strategy and constantly rehashing it. It has formed the basis of Australia’s defensive doctrine since the 1980s, but the Defence of Australia doctrine leaves the nation dangerously exposed to the whims and capabilities of our regional partners, as we hedge our bets on a belief of “their security is our security”.
Australia as both a continent and a nation is unique in its position, enjoying relative geographic isolation from the flash points of global and regional conflagration of the 20th century, which reshaped global history in the most calamitous manner since the fall of Rome.
Blessed with unrivalled resource wealth and industrial potential, the nation has been able to embrace vastly different approaches to the nation’s strategic role and responsibilities, with the most dynamic shifts occurring in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The experience of direct threat to the Australian homeland served to dramatically impact the nation’s strategic doctrine, alliances and force structure in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, resulting in not only a shift towards the US as strategic benefactor, but also an interventionist policy of ‘Forward Defence’.
‘Forward Defence’ enabled Australia to take a more direct, engaged hand in regional security affairs – where it sought to actively deter aggression and hostility in Malaya during the Konfrontasi and communist aggression in Korea and Vietnam as the domino theory mimicked the war-time advances of Imperial Japan.
However, this doctrine was short lived as increasing domestic political unrest in response to the nation’s costly involvement in the Vietnam conflict saw a dramatic shift in the nation’s defence policy and the rise of the “Defence of Australia” doctrine.
The doctrine advocated for the retreat of Australia’s forward military presence in the Indo-Pacific and a focus on the defence of the Australian continent and its direct approaches – deferring true regional security and engagement in favour of dependence upon the broader US strategic umbrella, ironically something the doctrine was established to limit.
Instead, the Defence of Australia doctrine established the ‘sea-air gap’ and the ‘warning time’ concepts as the primary focus for Australian defence acquisition, force structure planning and capability development – often with a dramatic hindrance on Australia’s capacity to respond to regional contingencies.
Architect of the 1986 Review of Australia’s defence capabilities and the supporting 1987 Defence White Paper: The Defence of Australia, which have served as the continuing foundation for the nation’s defence posture, Professor Paul Dibb has entered the conversation surrounding the release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan.
More of the same?
In his piece ‘Is Morrison’s strategic update the defence of Australia doctrine reborn?’, Dibb articulates the overlapping similarities between the Prime Minister’s recent announcements, the 2016 Defence White Paper and the original 1986 review, stating:
“Last week, Morrison noted that the 2016 defence white paper gave an equal weighting to Australia and its northern approaches, south-east Asia and the south Pacific, and operations in support of the rules-based global order.
“He now emphasises that his government has directed Defence to prioritise the Australian Defence Force’s geographical focus on our immediate region, which he said is the area ranging from the north-east Indian Ocean through maritime and mainland south-east Asia to Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific.
“That is precisely the area described in the 1986 Review of Australia’s defence capabilities as Australia’s area of primary strategic interest, encompassing south-east Asia and the south Pacific. So, at least in terms of strategic geography and force structure priorities, Australia is now returning home to the defence of Australia.”
Perhaps most interestingly, Dibb adds, “Morrison made it clear that we cannot allow consideration of contingencies outside of our immediate region to drive the ADF’s force structure to the detriment of ensuring that we have credible capability to respond to any challenge in our immediate region.”
However, the most important and perhaps most glaring question to ask is how, if it all, have any of Australia’s major defence acquisition, force structure reviews and capability development programs over the last 20-to-30 years ever shifted our focus from the region and continental defence?
It wasn’t until the delivery of the Canberra Class LHDs that Australia had the beginnings of a true amphibious expeditionary capability for the first time since the retirement of the HMAS Kanimbla and HMAS Manoora, which saw extensive service during East Timor and highlighted the need for an enhanced expeditionary capacity.
Another example is the Air Force’s C-17 heavy airlift aircraft, which served to provide a major capability increase for the ADF, but didn’t seriously detract from the nation’s overall focus upon homeland defence and the ‘sea-air gap’.
Building on this, the ‘sea-air gap’ prioritises Australia’s ‘control’ and, as the Prime Minister highlighted, ‘area denial’ of key maritime and aerial choke points at critical junctions, however it based Australia’s capacity to implement such a strategy upon the capacity and willingness of regional partners to intervene.
Your security is our security, or is it?
The central premise of Defence of Australia as it was established by Dibb and has subsequently been refreshed by the Prime Minister is its focus on two interconnected assumptions:
- Our regional partners, particularly emerging powers like Indonesia, India and Vietnam will always be benign actors and at least consider Australia’s interests and investment in the post-Second World War order above their own geo-strategic, economic and political interests and ambitions; and
- These same nations and more broadly, regional partners like Japan, South Korea and the US will have the capacity and will to intervene on our behalf, acting to stabilise the broader regional security environment.
These dangerous assumptions fly in the face of the Prime Minister’s own stated objectives for Australia’s defence capabilities moving forward, namely to “shape, deter and respond” as it materially fails to reshape the Australian Defence Force beyond the Force Structure first identified in the original 1986 and 1987 documents.
This is something Dibb at least in some part recognises, stating, “Australia’s security environment is described in the 2020 defence strategic update as being markedly different from the relatively more benign one of even four years ago, with greater potential for military miscalculation.
“This could conceivably include state-on-state conflict that could engage the ADF where Australia’s interests are threatened. Accordingly, Defence must be better prepared for the prospect of high-intensity conflict.”
Recognising this, Dibb admits that significant consideration needs to be given to expanding the size and capability of the ADF, stating: “Much more thought needs to be given to planning for the expansion of the ADF and its capacity to engage in high-intensity conflict in our own defence — in a way that we haven’t previously had to consider.”
While both the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure do identify a greater need for a credible Australian deterrent capability, particularly in the form of long-range strike missiles, including the potential for yet-to-be developed land-based hypersonic missiles, it fails to address the underlying force structure and capability constraints.
In light of this, can it be reasonably and legitimately argued that the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the Force Structure Plan represent a “new defence paradigm”, or is it a case of more of the same? (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Jul 20. Defence Industry and Innovation Programs report released. On Wednesday, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price announced the release of the 2018-19 Defence Industry and Innovation Programs Annual Report. The paper drills down into the progress of the government’s three key innovation programs, covering some $120m earmarked for research contracts.
The 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement laid out three central investment initiatives:
- Centre for Defence Industry Capability;
- Next Generation Technologies Fund; and
- Defence Innovation Hub.
Over the life cycle of these programs, they are expected to represent a combined $1.6bn investment in Defence capability through growth in Australian defence industry and innovation.
These initiatives help facilitate hundreds of individual research programs, including the Australian-United States Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (AUSMURI) and the Emerging and Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium (EDTAS).
The 2018-19 report provides details of the progress and achievements of these key defence industry and innovation programs.
Speaking to a press conference in Canberra, Minister Price said that over $120m in research and innovation contracts were awarded to industry, universities and publicly funded research agencies over the course of the year.
Australian businesses also received over $15m in Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority (SICP) funding and $2.3m in Capability Improvement grants.
“Three years on, the government’s $1.6bn investment in these programs is enhancing Defence capability by unlocking the creative potential of Australia’s industry and innovation sector,” said Minister Price.
“Importantly, our investments through the Defence Innovation Hub have created more than 200 Australian jobs since the program’s launch in 2016.
“I am encouraged to see how Australian businesses, particularly small businesses, are thriving, innovating and delivering state of the art technologies.”
The paper details not just funds awarded, but also proposals – stating that over 1,900 bids were received for Defence innovation programs. (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Jul 20. Japan unveils timeline for indigenous fighter jet program. Japan has created a timeline for the development and fielding of its locally made next-generation fighter jet, with serial production set to start at the beginning of the next decade.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense presented the draft development plan for the fighter program to a group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday, which showed that full-scale production is due to begin in 2031.
The ministry added that the prime contractor for the program will be selected by early next year, although it could happen as soon as October 2020. This is to allow for the basic design for the airframe and engine to be launched before the end of the current Japanese fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2021.
The next step would be the production of the first fighter prototype, which is planned to begin in 2024, with flight tests earmarked to start in 2028 following finalization of the design and production plans.
The new fighter is slated to replace about 90 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries F-2 fighters, which are due to be phased out in the mid-2030s, as its replacement is to be formally introduced into service in 2035. Japan previously said the new fighter will be stealthy and interoperable with the U.S. military.
Japan has researched and developed fighter technology over the past decade, including work on stealth designs and materials, active electronically scanned array radars, and afterburning turbofan engines.
In addition, the U.S. ally also conducted a series of test flights of a locally designed and built fighter technology demonstrator between 2016 and 2018 in order to validate its work. The country used the data gleaned from the test program to further refine its indigenous capabilities.
Despite these efforts, the country is still the largest customer of the American Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, with plans to eventually operate 157 F-35s, including 42 of the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35B variant. These will be used to equip the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s anti-submarine helicopter destroyer Izumo, which is being refurbished to accommodate F-35B operations. (Source: Defense News)
07 Jul 20. Nimitz, Reagan Demonstrate Unmatched Commitment to Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Force are conducting dual carrier operations in the South China Sea, July 6.
The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan strike groups conducted several exercises and operations to strengthen warfighting readiness and proficiency in an all-domain environment. Integrated operations included air defense exercises, tactical maneuvering drills, simulated long-range maritime strike scenarios, and coordinated air and surface exercises to maintain combat readiness and maritime superiority.
“Reagan’s object is ‘Peace Through Strength,’ and that is exactly what her dedicated Sailors bring to this theater,” said Capt. Pat Hannifin, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. “Committed to our allies and a free and open Indo-Pacific, Reagan brings a flexibility and combat lethality unmatched anywhere in the world. These operations with Nimitz demonstrate that we are but one component of a much larger and equally committed naval force.”
Dual carrier operations provide increased reach, power projection, and continuity of operations, particularly in the air domain. Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, embarked aboard Ronald Reagan, and CVW-17, embarked aboard Nimitz, launched and recovered hundreds of aircraft daily, continually operating around-the-clock. Together, the strike force was able to extend the reach of air superiority, and provide greater security throughout the region.
“Working together with another Carrier Air Wing provides advanced opportunities for our squadrons to conduct high-end training, and increase our warfighting readiness,” said Capt. Michael Rovenolt, commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5. “Our forces provide combatant commanders with significant operational flexibility to respond to regional contingencies.”
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group arrived to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations June 17, and has been conducting routine security and stability operations in the Indo-Pacific.
“Working together with the Ronald Reagan carrier strike group provides advanced, high-end training opportunities that increase our warfighting readiness,” said Capt. Todd Cimicata, Commander, Carrier Air Wing 17. “Dual carrier operations demonstrate unique U.S. capabilities, increase carrier strike force command and control experience, and show our commitment to regional allies. Additionally, our operations reinforce the rights, freedoms, and lawful use of the sea and airspace guaranteed by international law.”
The U.S. Navy regularly conducts integrated strike group operations that demonstrate commitment of presence and stability in the region, as well as training opportunities that increase fleet wide tactical proficiency.
In Nov. 2018, the Ronald Reagan and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Groups conducted combined operations in the Philippine Sea.
In Sept. 2014, the George Washington and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups operated in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
In 2009, The George Washington and Nimitz Carrier Strike Groups operated together in the Western Pacific, and in 2001, the Constellation and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups operated together in the South China Sea.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), CVW-17, the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114).
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), CVW-5, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), and is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/US Navy)
07 Jul 20. China to Supply Four Attack Drones to Pakistan Prompts India to Revive Predator-B Plan. China to supply 4 attack drones to Pakistan, prompts India to revive Predator-B plan. China has already been selling the reconnaissance and strike drone Wing Loong II to several countries in Asia and West Asia.
China is in the process of supplying four armed drones to Pakistan, ostensibly to protect the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s new base at Gwadar port, according to people familiar with the development said on Sunday.
Gwadar, in the highly restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, is described as the crown jewel of China’s $60bn investment in Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan.
The supply of two systems (each has two drones and a ground station) comes ahead of Beijing’s plan to jointly produce 48 GJ-2 drones, the military version of Wing Loong II, designed in China for use by Pakistan’s air force.
China has already been selling the reconnaissance and strike drone Wing Loong II to several countries in Asia and West Asia and emerged as the largest exporter of armed drones. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) arms transfer database, China had delivered 163 UAVs to a dozen-odd countries including Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2018.
Unlike the US that follows an elaborate process to determine and regulate the end-use of its high-end weapons, China has no such qualms.
China’s attack drone, said to be armed with 12 air-to-surface missiles, are currently being used by UAE-backed forces in Libya against the Turkish-backed government in Tripoli with limited success. Four of them were shot down in the last two months in Libya, according to data compiled by non profit Drone Wars UK.
China’s aggressive postures in Ladakh where the two armies are engaged in a standoff that has lasted two months and its supply to Pakistan has prompted India to conveyed to the US its renewed interest in the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) armed Predator-B drone, which not only collects intelligence through surveillance and reconnaissance but also locates and destroys the target with missiles or laser-guided bombs.
The Indian Navy has been in negotiations with the US for its unarmed naval variant, but national security planners feel that due to the prohibitive cost of the UAV, it would be better to have an all-in-one drone rather than separate ones for surveillance and targeting. Also called the MQ-9 Reaper, the armed remotely piloted aircraft is battle-proven in the Iraq, Afghanistan and Syrian theatres with the capability of carrying four Hell-Fire missiles and two 500 pounds of laser-guided bombs.
For the future, Indian private sector companies on the outskirts of New Delhi are in the process of developing medium-altitude long-endurance drones for India. But the capacity to acquire armed drones within the country is some distance away. The Defence Research and Development Organisation also has plans to produce the Rustom drone prototype by the end of this year. (Source: UAS VISION/Hindustan Times)
06 Jul 20. India accelerates weapons purchases in wake of border clash with China. India has accelerated the domestic and foreign purchase of weapons in the wake of a border clash between Indian and Chinese troops.
Sino-Indo relations are suffering after a skirmish with Chinese troops on June 15 in Galwan Valley. India said 20 of its soldiers were killed, as were Chinese soldiers. Chinese officials have not confirmed any casualties.
The Defence Acquisition Council on Friday approved a collection of arms procurement projects worth $5.55bn, including domestic efforts worth $.4.44bn. DAC is an apex-level body that falls under the purview of the Ministry of Defence.
“In the current situation and the need to strengthen the armed forces for the defence of our borders, and in line with our Prime Minister’s clarion call for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ [self-sufficient India], the DAC, in its meeting of July 2 held under the chairmanship of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, accorded approval for capital acquisitions of various platforms and equipment required by the Indian armed forces. Proposals for an approximate cost of $5.55bn were approved,” the MoD said in a statement.
Under the approval, India will upgrade 59 of its MiG-29 aircraft and buy 21 more from Russia for about $1 bn. In addition, India will order 12 Russian-made Su-30MKI fighters from the local state-owned company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for $1.53bn.
The government has also approved several indigenous development programs, including ammunition for Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers; an armaments upgrade of BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles; software-defined radios; Nirbhay land-attack cruise missiles; and Astra beyond-visual-range missiles.
The government also approved the emergency purchase of Excalibur artillery rounds for M777 ultralight howitzers from the United States, Igla-S air defense systems from Russia and Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel.
It’s also granted special financial powers that comes with a ceiling of $71.42m to rapidly buy weapons. But these fast-track purchasing programs will still involve a multi-vendor competition. Twenty-five of these procurement programs are for the Army and the Air Force; 10 are for the Navy. The Army is likely to buy ammunition for its T-90 tanks, BMP-2 vehicles, air defense guns, artillery guns and small arms, as well as rockets, missiles and mortars. The Air Force is likely to buy air-to-air missiles, air to-ground missiles, smart bombs, chaffs, flares and precision-guided munitions.
As part of the procurement effort, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar visited Moscow from June 22-25 and met with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and chief of Rosoboronexport Alexander Mikheev.
An MoD official said India requested the immediate supply of spare parts for Su-30MKI fighters, Kilo-class submarines and T-90 tanks, as well as the emergency purchase of missiles and specialized ammunition for Russian-origin fighter jets, tanks, warships and submarines.
Another MoD official said the Indian government plans to sign defense contracts with Russia worth $800m to buy weapons and spare parts.
DAC-approved projects are expected to be awarded within a year, with technology induction starting after about three years. For fast-track and emergency purchases, induction is to begin within a month and be completed within a year. (Source: Defense News)
07 Jul 20. Australia’s ‘new’ defence paradigm? Really? The government’s $270bn investment in the nation’s defence capabilities has been described by many as a major step change towards the nation taking direct responsibility for its regional security interests but, is it really?
At the end of the Cold War, Australia, like much of the victorious US-led alliance, believed that the ‘end of history’ was upon us, that the era of great power competition had forever been relegated to the pages of antiquity, we now know that to be wishful thinking.
Australia embraced the potential and opportunity presented by this new future and the lessons learned during the Cold War, particularly the impact of interventionism and sought to capitalise upon its relationships with ‘great and powerful’ friends like the US to guarantee its security.
However, the rise of the Indo-Pacific, in particular the emergence and in some cases, reemergence of many potential great powers, each with their own conflicting ambitions, economic, political and strategic designs and often ancient enmities are serving to dramatically undermine the balance of power and stability.
The nation’s approach to strategic policy continues to be heavily based upon the formalisation of the Defence of Australia (DoA) policy as identified in the 1986 Dibb report and then enshrined in the subsequent 1987 and 1994 Defence White Papers in particular, with tweaks made in every Defence White Paper to date.
This largely isolationist policy focused entirely on securing the sea-air gap as a strategic “buffer zone” for Australia, enabling the reorientation of Australia’s strategic and broader defence industry posture, which now serves to leave the nation at a critical cross roads as the region continues to rise.
While successive Australian Government’s have sought to evolve the Defence of Australia doctrine, the very premise of the doctrine continues to inform the foundation of Australia’s strategic policy to this day.
Recognising this, Geoffrey Barker has penned an interesting piece titled ‘Australia’s new defence paradigm’, in which he articulates a contradictory view of the nation’s defence posture, at a time when more of the same thinking, based upon a benign regional outlook can be expected to resolve the current challenges.
Barker explains, “It is, as others have noted, a pivotal moment in modern Australian military history. The new policy marks an unambiguous return to the defence-of-Australia policy articulated by Paul Dibb in the 1986 defence review.
“It declares Australia’s intention to acquire major new offensive military capabilities and to use them to put the forces and infrastructure of potential adversaries ‘at risk from a greater distance and therefore influence their calculus of costs involved in threatening Australia’s interests’. That is an essential element of a sustainable defence policy.”
This new geo-strategic reality, is best explained by Paul Dibb himself: “We are now in a period of unpredictable strategic transition in which the comfortable assumptions of the past are over. Australia’s strategic outlook has continued to deteriorate and, for the first time since World War II, we face an increased prospect of threat from high-level military capabilities being introduced into our region.”
In recognising this now brutally apparent reality, is the Defence of Australia doctrine, which abdicated Australia’s forward presence in the region, enough to ensure that Australia’s diverse array of economic, political and strategic interests are protected during a period of mounting geo-strategic competition?
Credit where it is due
To its credit, the government’s new $270bn plan as identified in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the Force Structure Plan, unlike many others before it puts its money where its mouth is, it articulates what the Prime Minister describes as budgetary certainty and supports the ambitious, ‘big-ticket’ defence acquisition and modernisation programs identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper.
Building on this, the new strategic plans and the associated force structure identify some drastic departures from previous doctrine, something Barker explains, “Particularly impressive is the clear alignment and logical consistency between the revised strategic appreciation and the planned 10-year, $270bn investment program, which includes long-range (possibly hypersonic) missiles, to improve the lethality of the Australian Defence Force.
“Too often in the past, bold strategy assessments haven’t been matched by appropriate spending and acquisition decisions. No longer: this force structure plan, which includes ‘offensive’ cyber space capabilities, and a boosted Jindalee over-the-horizon radar, will concentrate minds in Beijing and reassure allies.”
It is also true to say that while the new policy identifies and responds to the “rapid deterioration in Australia’s strategic environment” over the past decade or so, it fails to adequately adjust the size, shape and structure of the ADF accordingly – particularly as the US continues to flirt with isolationism and, the qualitative advantages traditionally enjoyed by the US and its allies dwindle.
Barker adds, “The new policy recognises and responds to the rapid deterioration in Australia’s strategic environment in recent years. It abandons the dated assumption of 10-year strategic warning time ahead of any major conflict and it calls out China’s so-called grey zone activities.
“Australia has now declared its willingness to confront and to deter Chinese militarisation of the South China Sea, its corrupt interference in Australian life, its disinformation campaigns and its economic coercion. Morrison deserves praise for his courageous stand.
“Of course, the new policy has evolved from earlier defence white papers and updates. But it just as clearly represents a new (or rediscovered) way of looking at the strategic order and finding policy and acquisition solutions that offer new ways of addressing China’s authoritarian arrogance.”
Building on these points, Barker in line with Dibb raises an important question: “But the new policy does raise serious questions. Dibb has already noted that Australia’s new submarines and frigates will not be delivered until the 2030s while the strategic threat is current and real. Can we risk the wait, or do we need to consider some interim capability solutions?”
A basis for expanding the ADF and its capability?
While a contentious issue, expanding the scope and capability of the Australian Defence Force is becoming less a fanciful pipe dream and more a national imperative.
This is becoming particularly evident as the challenges to the nation’s long-term regional and global national interests are challenged by totalitarian regimes and rising Indo-Pacific powers with their own geo-political, strategic and economic ambitions.
“The issue for the longer term is whether we’ve built a sound basis from which to expand the ADF, especially our strike, air combat and maritime capabilities,” Dibb states.
“Having such an expanded force would significantly increase the military planning challenges for any potential adversary and the size and military capabilities of the force it would have to commit to attack us directly, or to coerce, intimidate or otherwise employ military power against us.”
Expanding on this, Dibb highlights the need to clearly identify and articulate Australia’s primary area’s of strategic focus and long-term interests and designs for these regions: “It’s imperative that planning for the defence of Australia, and for operations in our region of primary strategic concern, resumes the highest priority. Re-establishing our foreign policy and defence presence in this part of the world is crucial.”
Somewhat ironically, Dibb’s statements from late 2019 seems to unpick the basis for the ‘Defence of Australia’ policy and its influence for Australia’s enduring defence posture, force structure planning and long-term national security planning, saying: “We need to get rid of the 2016 Defence White Paper’s ill-advised proposition that the defence of Australia, a secure nearer region and our global defence commitments should be ‘three equally-weighted high-level Strategic Defence Objectives to guide the development of the future force’.”
In light of this, can it be reasonably and legitimately argued that the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the Force Structure Plan represent a “new defence paradigm”, or is it a case of more of the same? (Source: Defence Connect)
06 Jul 20. Covid-19: South Africa pushes for Denel reform as PMP operations put up for sale. A joint meeting of the South African Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance and Select Committee on Finance, held on 3 July, has heard how the country’s bleak financial outlook as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is requiring significant action to reduce the economic effect of the disease and associated lockdown, including major reform within state-owned enterprises such as local defence company Denel.
Examining public submissions on the country’s proposed supplementary budget for 2020, representatives from the Treasury noted that South Africa had entered the Covid-19 pandemic at a time when it was already in a weak fiscal position. The result of this had meant that the country was needing to identify pathways out of the forthcoming economic crisis, which ranged from stimulus packages to austerity measures, as the potential threat of a 50% unemployment rate looms.
Proposals highlighted in a presentation by the Treasury also included reforming several of the country’s state-owned enterprises to generate cost savings and capital for the government. The bulk of these organisations had been in an uncertain financial position prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and state support was seen as an added cost burden for taxpayers. Airlines South African Airways and SA Express have been recommended for closure following the failure of business rescue plans, while diamond-mining company Alexkor has also been recommended for closure, with its assets transferred to the state-owned African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation and mining operations consolidated under the single organisation. (Source: Jane’s)
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