A Navy F-5N Tiger II crashed about 25 miles off the coast of Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., at 9:20 a.m local time., the service announced on Wednesday. The pilot of the fighter, assigned to the “Sun Downers” of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111, was recovered by the crew of a MH-60S Knight Hawk. […]
An F-5N Tiger II assigned to the Sun Downers of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 launches from Boca Chica Field in 2014. US Navy Phoro
A Navy F-5N Tiger II crashed about 25 miles off the coast of Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., at 9:20 a.m local time., the service announced on Wednesday.
The pilot of the fighter, assigned to the “Sun Downers” of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111, was recovered by the crew of a MH-60S Knight Hawk. The pilot was flown to a Miami hospital for further treatment, according to a service statement.
“The safety and well-being of our pilot remains our top priority. The cause of the incident will be investigated. More details will be released as they become available,” reads the statement.
In 2017, an F-5II assigned to the Sundowners crashed off the coast of Key West. The pilot was recovered by the Coast Guard following the crash.
The Sun Downers are Navy Reserve’s fleet adversary program fly as an opposition force in air combat training. Pilots train against the Navy, Marine Corps U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard fighter squadrons.
The following is the complete May 31, 2023, statement from the service.
We can confirm that a Navy pilot assigned to a Naval Air Station Key West-based Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 “Sun Downers,” ejected from an F-5N aircraft approximately 25 miles from Boca Chica Field at approximately 9:20 a.m. today. A NAS Key West Search and Rescue crew launched an MH-60S helicopter and rescued the pilot, who is being transported to a Miami-area hospital for further evaluation.
VFC-111 is a Navy Reserve squadron composed of Training and Administration of the Reserve (TAR) and Selected Reserve personnel.
The safety and well-being of our pilot remains our top priority. The cause of the incident will be investigated. More details will be released as they become available.
Hauling goods via transport helicopter to replenish a military unit is a routine assignment. Dangling supplies over a ballistic submarine skimming across the Western Pacific is anything but routine. A pair of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters made a supply run to ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) as it traveled in the Philippine Sea. The vertical replenishment […]
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph McDonnell, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, lowers a package to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) during a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) in the Philippine Sea, May 9, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo
Hauling goods via transport helicopter to replenish a military unit is a routine assignment. Dangling supplies over a ballistic submarine skimming across the Western Pacific is anything but routine.
A pair of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters made a supply run to ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) as it traveled in the Philippine Sea. The vertical replenishment mission marked a rare occasion for Marine Corps aviation to lend its hand to support an Ohio-class submarine.
The “Heavy Haulers” air crews of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 – based at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Calif., but currently assigned to Japan-based 1st Marine Aircraft Wing – conducted the May 9 vertical replenishment mission for one of the Navy’s strategic nuclear weapons-carrying submarines.
”This was the first time that 1st MAW conducted a vertical resupply for an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, delivering critical resources without disrupting maritime security operations,” Maj. Rob Martins, a 1st MAW spokesman in Japan, told USNI News via email.
For the Navy, having the Marine Corps’ heavy-lift helicopters perform resupply missions adds to the network of support for maritime logistics across the vast Pacific. As one of the Navy’s ballistic missile nuclear submarines, the Bangor, Wash.-based Maine spends much of its time submerged during its long undersea patrols. The boat’s operations remain secretive.
“The U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile submarine force has demonstrated yet again that we have the proven capability to work seamlessly alongside III Marine Expeditionary Force to execute our mission, allowing us to remain on station,” Cmdr. Travis Wood, commander of the Bangor, Wash.-based Maine, said in a Marine Corps news release about the mission. “Rotary-wing vertical replenishment such as this allows us to quickly resupply so that we can constantly maintain pressure against any adversary who would wish to do harm to the homeland.”
The recent helicopter resupply mission provided training for the aircrews and showcased another slice of how the Marine Corps’ “stand-in-force” deployed and operating in the Indo-Pacific region would support undersea maritime forces in a potential future conflict. The Marine Corps defines the stand-in force as the Marines operating in the first island chain – stretching from the Japanese islands to Taiwan, parts of the Philippines and down to Borneo – within the range of Chinese weapons.
“It highlights the importance of 1st MAW’s established forward presence, which allows us to seamlessly integrate with our naval partners operating in the first island chain,” Martins said.
The beefy CH-53E helicopter’s three engines give it enough internal and external lift capability, enabling it to carry a light armored vehicle or Humvee from a sling load. The platform’s long-running role as the Marine Corps’ king of external lift will be replaced by the CH-53K King Stallion later this decade. How much cargo a helicopter can externally sling-load depends on several factors, such as load weight, distance to the mission, altitude and climate.
U.S. Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, complete a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) with the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741) in the Philippine Sea, May 9, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo
While the CH-53E can travel more than 600 miles on a tank of fuel, its refueling probe stretches its legs and reach much farther.
The helicopter’s in-flight capability enables it to conduct a wider range of missions supporting the “stand-in-force” poised against adversaries in a future conflict in the Indo-Pacific region. In that scenario of the service’s Force Design 2030 modernization plan – which is driving much of the service’s current training focus – SIF units in the first-island chain would operate in the range of Chinese missiles, the place where fighting on land, at sea and in the air would be the most likely.
“The intricacies of seamlessly sustaining the force through naval integration and aviation-delivered logistics is a testament to our adaptability, readiness, and ability to project power within the Indo-Pacific,” Col. Christopher Murray, who commands Marine Aircraft Group 36 in Okinawa, Japan, said in the 1st MAW news release.
As interoperability goes, it’s not every day that Marines get to work closely with the Navy’s boomer fleet. On March 27, 2022, Marines from Task Force 61/2 trained with the surfaced guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN-729) near Souda Bay, Greece, to launch and recover their inflatable, combat rubber raiding craft. On Feb. 2, 2021, Force Reconnaissance Marines and an MV-22B Osprey with Japan-based III Marine Expeditionary Force joined together for an integration exercise off Okinawa with the guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSG-726).
The following is a May 22, 2023, Congressional Research Service report, Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number […]
The following is a May 22, 2023, Congressional Research Service report, Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report
Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number of defense acquisition programs. Compared to the standard or default approach of annual contracting, MYP and BBC have the potential for reducing weapon procurement costs by a few or several percent.
Under annual contracting, DOD uses one or more contracts for each year’s worth of procurement of a given kind of item. Under MYP, DOD instead uses a single contract for two to five years’ worth of procurement of a given kind of item without having to exercise a contract option for each year after the first year. DOD needs congressional approval for each use of MYP. There is a permanent statute governing MYP contracting—10 U.S.C. 3501 (the text of which was previously codified at 10 U.S.C. 2306b). Under this statute, a program must meet several criteria to qualify for MYP.
Compared with estimated costs under annual contracting, estimated savings for programs being proposed for MYP have ranged from less than 5% to more than 15%, depending on the particulars of the program in question, with many estimates falling in the range of 5% to 10%. In practice, actual savings from using MYP rather than annual contracting can be difficult to observe or verify because of cost growth during the execution of the contract due to changes in the program independent of the use of MYP rather than annual contracting.
BBC is similar to MYP in that it permits DOD to use a single contract for more than one year’s worth of procurement of a given kind of item without having to exercise a contract option for each year after the first year. BBC is also similar to MYP in that DOD needs congressional approval for each use of BBC. BBC differs from MYP in the following ways:
There is no permanent statute governing the use of BBC.
There is no requirement that BBC be approved in both a DOD appropriations act and an act other than a DOD appropriations act.
Programs being considered for BBC do not need to meet any legal criteria to qualify for BBC, because there is no permanent statute governing the use of BBC that establishes such criteria.
A BBC contract can cover more than five years of planned procurements.
Economic order quantity (EOQ) authority—the authority to bring forward selected key components of the items to be procured under the contract and purchase the components in batch form during the first year or two of the contract—does not come automatically as part of BBC authority because there is no permanent statute governing the use of BBC that includes EOQ authority as an automatic feature.
BBC contracts are less likely to include cancellation penalties.
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its escorts are operating off the coast of Guam awaiting the call to assist in disaster relief ashore, two Navy officials told USNI News. Last week, Nimitz was dispatched to aid civil authorities if requested in a defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) after Super Typhoon Mawar passed near […]
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on May 26, 2023. US Navy Photo
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its escorts are operating off the coast of Guam awaiting the call to assist in disaster relief ashore, two Navy officials told USNI News.
Last week, Nimitz was dispatched to aid civil authorities if requested in a defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) after Super Typhoon Mawar passed near Guam with 140 miles per hour and waves up to 30 feet high, according to the National Weather Service.
There’s been widespread destruction across the island, including power and water outages across the U.S. territory that’s home to 150,000. The territory’s leadership has formally petitioned the Biden administration for federal assistance.
Until civil authorities formally request aid, the carrier is assisting by providing communication assistance to the island, according to a Navy official.
It’s the worst typhoon to hit Guam since Typhoon Pongsona made landfall in 2002.
“Most of Guam is dealing with a major mess that’s going to take weeks to clean up,” Landon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said last week.
The strike group deployed on Dec. 3 and has been operating in the Western Pacific since Dec. 16th, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.
Nimitz deployed with Carrier Air Wing 17 embarked, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60). It’s unclear which of the strike group’s escorts are operating nearby.
Meanwhile, USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and are headed east toward the West Coast, officials confirmed to USNI News. The Pentagon had considered also dispatching the Makin Island ARG top support potential humanitarian relief operations on Guam, but has elected instead to send the ARG closer to the U.S.
Makin Island, USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23) left San Diego on Nov. 9.
USS George Washington (CVN-73) is back at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., after passing Navy acceptance trails following its mid-life overhaul, USNI News has learned. The carrier left HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding for sea trials following the completion of its almost six-year-long refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) that set the ship up for another 25 years […]
USS George Washington (CVN-73) returning from sea trials on May 25, 2023. HII Photo
USS George Washington (CVN-73) is back at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., after passing Navy acceptance trails following its mid-life overhaul, USNI News has learned.
The carrier left HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding for sea trials following the completion of its almost six-year-long refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) that set the ship up for another 25 years of service. The multi-billion RCOHs are typically scheduled for four years.
“Getting our warship redelivered and back out to sea to take its place as the premier CVN in the world’s greatest Navy is a direct result of the tenacity and grit displayed by our warfighters,” Capt. Brent Gaut, Washington‘s commanding officer, said in an HII statement.
“To our incredible sailors, contractors and shipyard workers: I am proud of you, and I sincerely hope you feel an extreme sense of pride as well, especially in light of our once-in-a-lifetime achievement.”
HII has pinned the delays on a variety of factors, including financial uncertainty in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, growth work as a result of the condition of the ship, cannibalization of GW parts for other carriers and workforce delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The carrier was forward-deployed to Japan from 2008 to 2015 before entering the availability on Aug. 4, 2017.
“Redelivering George Washington to the Navy is the end result of incredible teamwork between our shipbuilders, the CVN-73 crew, our government partners and all of our suppliers,” Todd West, Newport News’ head of in-service carrier programs, said in a statement.
The redelivery follows an exhaustive investigation into quality-of-life issues for ships in overhaul that revealed the carrier’s crew had some of the toughest living conditions in the Department of Defense. Nine sailors assigned to the carrier from 2017 to 2022 died by suicide, which led to the investigation.
Following the delivery, George Washington and its crew will now prepare to return to Japan and relieve USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the current forward-deployed carrier.
USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) has been at Newport News in the midst of its own RCOH since May 2021.
Philippine defense officials visited Palawan last week to inspect new sites that will host U.S. forces as part of the defense pact between the two countries. The Philippine delegation, led by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Andres Centino, visited the province’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement sites, which are designated Philippine military bases, […]
Gen. Andres Centino AFP speaking at the Bautista Air Force in Palawan
Philippine defense officials visited Palawan last week to inspect new sites that will host U.S. forces as part of the defense pact between the two countries.
The Philippine delegation, led by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Andres Centino, visited the province’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement sites, which are designated Philippine military bases, but allow U.S. access. This access comes in the form of pre-positioning equipment, construction of facilities, and hosting American troops.
Centino visited three sites, including two located on Balabac. The island was announced as the location for one of the four additional EDCA sites last month and is the only EDCA site directly adjacent to the South China Sea.
While the island lacks major facilities, – it only hosts a small naval and littoral monitoring station – plans to upgrade Balabac to better accommodate Philippine and U.S. troops include the construction of the 3-kilometer-long Balabac Military Runway and a series of projects at Naval Station Narcisco Del Rosario.
Balabac’s New Air Base
LOOK: AFP chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino inspects the ongoing construction of the Balabac Military Runway in Palawan.
Construction started on the Balabac Military Runway prior to the island’s selection as an EDCA site, with state media reporting that construction on the air base began in 2019. The runway is also meant to be dual use between civilian and military aircraft, similar to EDCA projects at Mactan–Benito Ebuen and Antonio Bautista Air Bases.
Progress on the runway has been slow, with a lack of funding pushing back the completion date of the project. This issue seems to have been resolved with the Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways’ TIKAS program, which uses public funds to construct military infrastructure. As of this recent visit, the latest projection for the runway’s competition is by March 2024 with a cost of around $3.1 million.
This week, Centino also described the air base as “very strategic,” highlighting the need to detect foreign and friendly vessels transiting between the South China Sea to the west and the Sulu Sea to the east.
The Balabac Strait has been used by both Chinese and U.S. naval vessels, with Chinese ships sailing through the 50-kilometer-wide chokepoint in 2019. U.S. vessels have also used the strait to access the South China Sea, most notably with the transit by the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in 2020. Projection of maritime domain awareness capabilities from the air base was heavily emphasized in a May 17 Philippine military press release, which stated that the runway will allow for aircraft to “detect intrusions in the strategic maritime routes.”
Other projects found on the DPWH’s awarded contracts page show further investments relating to the air base, including a command and control building. A Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief warehouse, barracks for personnel and other facilities are to be constructed as part of future EDCA projects.
Naval Base Developments
Naval Station Narcisco Del Rosario
The delegation also visited Naval Station Narcisco Del Rosario, which is located on the other side of the island from the airfield. The base can only accommodate smaller Philippine Navy patrol boats, but during Centino’s visit, a more ambitious plan called for the construction of a causeway and pier.
This infrastructure could accommodate larger vessels and amphibious transports, as evidenced by the diagram of the project depicting a frigate or destroyer-sized ship as a reference for the scale of the pier.
Other notable projects at the naval station include a beach ramp and staging area, which Centino said would allow for easier access to construction materials for future EDCA projects.
Like the runway, the naval station’s projects began before EDCA and are funded by the Philippine government. The projected completion date for the beaching ramp and pier are 2024 and 2026 respectively, with both totaling around $5.5 million.
Naval Station Narcisco Del Rosario’s upgrades will allow for a closer port for Philippine vessels to sortie out to the South China Sea compared to their current port at Puerto Princesa.
A similar project in the province is being undertaken by the Philippine Coast Guard for a Vessel Support Facility in Bataraza on the southern tip of Palawan. The PCG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with local authorities last summer for the land on which this future base will reside. In a September media release, the PCG stated that the South China Sea adjacent facility “will serve as the Forward Operating Base to support Coast Guard vessel operations in their area of responsibility.”
The delegation also visited completed EDCA projects at Antonio Bautista Air Base, one of the five original sites designated in 2014. Centino viewed an ammunition warehouse, aviation fuel storage, and a command and control center.
Centino told the press that Philippine forces were using the facilities and that American forces can access them if necessary. U.S. Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force conducted a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration drill at Antonio Bautista during Balikatan 2023.
Renewed Security Ties
A 14th Fighter Squadron pilot prepares to taxi an F-16 Fighting Falcon before a flight during exercise Cope Thunder at Clark Air Base, Philippines, May 11, 2023. US Air Force Photo
This year, Washington has committed to the transfer of six patrol boats, including two of the former Navy’s Cyclone-class Patrol Ships, and three transport aircraft. The Philippines has also shown interest in many American systems, such as F-16 fighter jets, HIMARS and Javelin, to modernize its own military.
The two countries established bilateral defense guidelines last month during Marcos’ official state visit to Washington. These guidelines aim to modernize the alliance, with a focus on countering grey-zone tactics and reiteration that an attack in the South China Sea will activate mutual defense commitments.
Joint Task Force – Red Hill will hold two open houses this week for the Hawaii service member community and residents as it works to gain back trust ahead of its planned defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, now slated to begin in October. The joint task force recently released a second […]
A contractor at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) conducts rewiring repairs in Halawa, Hawaii, May 9, 2023. US Navy Photo
Joint Task Force – Red Hill will hold two open houses this week for the Hawaii service member community and residents as it works to gain back trust ahead of its planned defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, now slated to begin in October.
The joint task force recently released a second supplement to its original plan to defuel Red Hill following a November 2021 leak in which fuel contaminated the drinking water. The supplement moves the expected defueling timeline up, with defueling beginning as early as October, if the plan is accepted by the Hawaii Department of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense, according to a joint task force press release.
Under the accelerated timeline, defueling of the tank mains, the flowable tank bottoms, surge tanks and pipelines will start in October and conclude in January 2024, according to the second supplement to the Joint Task Force – Red Hill’s original June 30 plan laying out how it would defuel Red Hill. The plan was denied by the Hawaii Department of Health due to lack of specificity, resulting in the joint task force producing multiple supplements.
The timeline for defueling has continued to accelerate, and while supplements did not previously include a starting time, defueling was slated to end by July 2024. The new timeline pushes the end date up by six months.
The Hawaii Department of Health is currently reviewing the plan, according to a news release from the state agency.
“We are encouraged by the updated Red Hill defueling timeline,” Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said in the release. “Moving up the timeline is a testament to the continued work by DOH and the community to push the Joint Task Force to move quickly and safely to defuel Red Hill. We will carefully review this submission to ensure that the updated timeline and plan can be executed safely without any further risk to the environment.”
Between 100,000 to 400,000 gallons of fuel could remain in the tanks after the defueling, according to the supplement. The joint task force is expected to submit additional supplements for dealing with the leftover fuel.
The plan does not specifically address where the fuel will go once it is removed. According to the supplement, it will be moved to “approved defense fuel support points.”
The supplement includes a number of worst-case scenarios in terms of leaks during defueling with the steps the joint task force would take in the situation.
As an example, one of the most likely releases LEAKS? could happen in the tank gallery during defueling, which would happen from a pipe rupture, a failed repair or a valve failure. If a leak were to happen, the joint task force would use Aqueous Film Forming Foam retention pumps to recover up to 20,000 gallons of the leaked fuel within seven minutes, according to the supplement.
Joint Task Force – Red Hill is currently in the third phase of the defueling plan, during which it is making necessary repairs before defueling can commence. As of May 15, 220 out of 253 repairs have been completed, with 120 repairs submitted for third-party validation and to the Hawaii Department of Health, according to the task force’s dashboard. Repairs are slated to conclude May 31.
In addition to the two open houses on May 23 and 24, the Joint Task Force will hold a National Environmental Policy Act public meeting on June 15. The Department of Health will also hold an open house on June 5.
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) pulled into the Japanese port Sasebo Friday as the G-7 conference began in Hiroshima, on Friday according to a Navy statement. Fleet Activities Sasebo also welcomed destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) to the base. The remaining ships in the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group consist of cruiser USS Bunker Hill […]
Navy Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 13, 2023. US Navy Photo
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) pulled into the Japanese port Sasebo Friday as the G-7 conference began in Hiroshima, on Friday according to a Navy statement.
Fleet Activities Sasebo also welcomed destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) to the base. The remaining ships in the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group consist of cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) and destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60).
The other ships in the CSG have been operating in Philippine Sea while Paul Hamilton transited the Strait of Hormuz Friday with U.S. 5th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, French Vice Adm. Emmanuel Slaars, Joint Commander of the French Forces Deployed in the Indian Ocean and U.K. Royal Navy Commodore Philip Dennis, U.K. Maritime Component Commander aboard, according to the U.S. Navy. The transit by senior commanders comes as the 5th Fleet and partner nations increased their naval patrols the Strait of Hormuz in response to Iran’s recent seizures of merchant vessels.
The U.K. and Japan signed a new agreement on Thursday called the ‘Hiroshima Accord’ which will enhance U.K.-Japan economic, security and tech collaboration as part of U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Japan and attendance at the G-7 summit, according to a release from Sunak’s office. The U.K. also announced the deployment of the Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Pacific in 2025.
“The U.K. will confirm today that its Carrier Strike Group will return to the Indo-Pacific in 2025, following its maiden voyage to the region in 2021. The fleet, comprised of an aircraft carrier, her escorts and her aircraft, will work alongside the Japanese Self Defence Forces and other regional partners to help defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” reads the statement.
The statement did not specify which carrier. The Royal Navy’s second carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R09) is undergoing repairs after a failure in in tis propulsion system last year leaving HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) to fill in.
This week U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace told Parliament Prince of Wales, “will be back in full service in the autumn.”
While in Japan, Sunak will confirm new U.K.–Japan defense cooperation, including doubling UK troop numbers in upcoming joint exercises and agreeing to a formal Consult Clause, whereby the U.K. and Japan commit to consult each other on important regional and global security issues and consider measures in response.
The Hiroshima Accord, signed by Sunak and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Thursday, stated that the two countries “are determined to strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law, and to uphold the principles of the U.N. Charter including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth sails from Portsmouth on Sept. 7, 2022. UK Royal Navy Photo
The U.K. and Japan also called on China to act as a responsible member of the international community and that both countries had serious concerns over the situation in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and strongly oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion anywhere in the world.
The defense portion of the Hiroshima Accord agreed for the two countries to maximize the opportunity provided by the Global Combat Air Programme to future proof the combat air sectors of the two countries and strengthen the defense industrial base of both countries through shared expertise and collaboration. Prior to signing the accord, Sunak toured Japan destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) at Yokosuka Naval Base as part of his itinerary and spoke to the media, giving a preview of the Hiroshima Accord.
During the G-7 summit, leaders of the Quad partnership, Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. are expected to hold a meeting in lieu of the canceled May 24 Quad summit in Australia. The meeting was canceled due to U.S. President Joe Biden canceling his trip to Australia due to the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations in the United States. While Australia and India are not part of the G-7, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are attending the G-7 summit as guests.
Ships of the People’s Liberation Army Navy completed sailing around Japan Tuesday ahead of the G-7 meeting. A PLAN Surface Action Group did a circuit of Japan while a PLAN Dongdiao class intelligence ship circuited the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom announced Wednesday that it will deploy a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to the Indo-Pacific in 2025 along with signing agreements with Japan on enhancing defense cooperation.
On Tuesday, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense issued a release stating that Dongdiao class intelligence ship Kaiyangxing (796) was sighted at 3 a.m. that day sailing northwest in an area 75 northeast of Miyako Island and passed through the Miyako into the East China Sea. The intelligence ship was shadowed by a Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) P-3C of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa.
Kaiyangxing sailed through the Tsushima Strait on April 29 and on May 5 transited the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the main island of Honshu and Hokkaido, and, on May 8, sailed between Sumisu Island and the island of Torishima, which lies south of Japan’s capital of Tokyo. With its transit of the Miyako Strait, the PLAN ship completed a circle of Japan’s main island of Honshu and Kyushu.
On Wednesday, the JSO said the PLAN SAG comprising of cruiser CNS Lhasa (102), destroyers CNS Guiyang (119) and CNS Qiqihar (121), frigate CNS Zaozhuang (542) and fleet oiler CNS Taihu (889).
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, destroyers Guiyang and Qiqihar along with fleet oiler Taihu were sighted sailing northwest in an area 30 miles southeast of Yonaguni Island and subsequently sailed north between Yonaguni Island and Iriomote Island before sailing east. They were sighted sailing northeast in an area 37 miles southeast of Taisho Island. At 7 p.m. the same day, cruiser Lhasa and frigate Zaozhuang were sighted sailing northwest in an area 68 miles northeast of Miyako Island and continued sailing northwest to transit the Miyako Strait.
The two PLAN detachments then joined up to reform the SAG in an area 50 miles west of Kume Island and sailed northwest into the East China Sea. Destroyer JS Suzunami (DD-114) and training ship JS Kurobe (ATS-4202) shadowed the PLAN ships.
The release noted that the PLAN SAG had sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait April 30, transited west on May 5-6 through La Pérouse Strait, which separates Hokkaido from the Russian island of Sakhalin, and were between Sumisu Island and the island of Torishima from May 11-13. The PLAN SAG completed a circuit of Japan.
PLAN ships routinely sail in the vicinity of Japan though mostly sailing in international waters off Japan and using Japanese straits which are designated as international waterways. The JSO issues regular reports on the movements of Chinese and Russian military ships and aircraft in the vicinity of Japan and its Exclusive Economic Zones with naval and air units shadowing the ships and aircraft of the two countries.
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – What aircraft a Navy pilot could fly might come down to pure genetics – the range of motion of their thumb or how high their eye-line is when they sit. The service tests these and a myriad of other physical attributes to determine who qualifies to fly and […]
A sailor undergoes testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in 2021. US Navy Photo
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – What aircraft a Navy pilot could fly might come down to pure genetics – the range of motion of their thumb or how high their eye-line is when they sit.
The service tests these and a myriad of other physical attributes to determine who qualifies to fly and with what platform they should be paired.
The current guidelines that the measurements are compared to are based on data collected in 1964 before women could be naval aviators and when people, in general, were smaller. While the guidelines have been updated based on Department of Defense data, the Navy now wants to collect its own measurements to provide an updated picture of the physical characteristics of Navy and Marine aviators.
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) aims to collect data from 4,400 na aviators – including women, minority populations and some younger aviation candidates. This data can then go on to help the Navy and industry create equipment and aircraft that will fit aviators better, Lori Basham, principal investigator on the study, told USNI News in an interview last month.
Right now, there are issues with equipment fitting or having enough sizes in stock, including critical items needed for safety, Basham said.
“There’s a lot of different implications,” she said. “There’s the cost implications, their safety and flight implications. I’d say retention, recruitment, all of that is impacted by the work that we’re going to be doing.”
The goal is to be able to provide new requirements that will help acquisition, including new seating, safety gear and even aircraft, Basham said.
The study investigators will take 32 manual measurements from aviators. Then, using the Department of Defense’s standardized anthropometry the researchers can do statistical analysis and matching to supplement.
Each participant will fill out a survey, which allows the team to gather demographic data and information on flight hours, what aircraft each flies, and whether the service members have struggled to get proper equipment before, Basham said. There will also be pain and injury questionnaires and inquiries to help the researchers look at a pilot’s range of motion.
Each aviator will then have their foreheads, hips, shoulders, hands, and bony parts of the body landmarked, which allows the researchers to have points of reference for each measurement.
By landmarking, which is when one of the researchers marks the bony parts of a body with a black pen, such as the center of the forehead or top of the hip, the anthropometric team can properly measure someone’s hand length or waist and father other measurements.
Each station involves different measurements. One might collect a person’s reach and depths, while another will include head circumference.
Testing equipment at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division. US Navy Photo
There’s also range of motion scanning and a body scanner that produces a 3D virtual model of each person.
It is similar to what aviators go through when they are in flight school, said Lt. Jennifer Knapp, the military liaison for the study. When aviators arrive at Pensacola, they get measured and then receive a report that lists what aircraft they cannot fly, Knapp said.
It can be discouraging, especially for those who had their hearts set on a platform only to find out that they do not qualify, Knapp said. One area that restricts many aviators is weight.
“The ejection seats require a certain amount of weight to be able to effectively get them out of the aircraft, and ensure that they can then go through the safety protocols, survival protocol after they eject,” she said. “So if you don’t meet a certain weight requirement … you then aren’t eligible to fly in certain platforms. That also can include trainer aircraft as well. You’d have to be qualified to train in the aircraft to then go fly the aircraft.”
Unlike what aviators go through at Pensacola, the NAWCAD study will not tell them what they cannot fly. Instead, the researchers will take the data back for analysis.
“It’s just to keep in mind that the population is always changing,” Knapp said. “We have evolved. Humans have evolved since the 1960s. And we want to capture the current picture.”
Knapp’s role in the study is to help the anthropometric team gain access to sailors and Marines.
She hopes to use her own experience of knowing what it’s like to have equipment not always fit perfectly to encourage Marines and sailors to participate.
“So the data from this study will affect so much down to the end user,” she said. “It’s not just to affect industry. It’s not just to affect our partnerships, but it goes to the end user. It’s to ensure that everyone who walks through the door into their squadron has access to survival gear that fits, access to uniforms that fit, boots that fit. And they’re able to get those uniform pieces readily available and get out and do their job effectively.”
A sailor undergoes testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in 2021. US Navy Photo
And it will help future aviators as well, as the data will go on to help inform the Navy, Marine Corps and industry about what equipment needs exist, Knapp said.
Once all the data are collected, the anthropometry team will create a statistics report with percentiles. In anthropometry, percentiles should not be used alone. Instead, different measurements interact, Basham said. For example, someone might not be able to fly a certain platform because of the interaction between thumb tip reach and sitting eye height.
For the report, the team will create a series of multivariate use cases specific to the Navy and Marine Corps today and in the future, she said.
“And then I think it’s really important that we make this available across the DoD, but out in industry as well,” Basham said. “So we need to get them tools that they can use to make their job easier, so they could do a better job for us. So we want to go ahead and build digital human modeling mannequins for all the commercial software packages of our multivariate use cases that we just put out and let industry use.”
NAWCAD’s anthropometric team aims to collect all the data by December 2023 with the report possibly published in March 2024.
The future maritime fight, as Navy officials see it, will involve military forces with a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft, ships and other systems. Some actions will one day involve solely uncrewed platforms. The U.S. Pacific Fleet is testing “fleet-centric” concepts and capabilities with a keen eye on unmanned systems to figure out how would […]
The Seahawk medium displacement unmanned surface vessel steams in the Pacific Ocean during the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Integrated Battle Problem on May 3, 2023. US Navy Photo
The future maritime fight, as Navy officials see it, will involve military forces with a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft, ships and other systems. Some actions will one day involve solely uncrewed platforms.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet is testing “fleet-centric” concepts and capabilities with a keen eye on unmanned systems to figure out how would the fleet connect, command and control disparate uncrewed systems that are operated remotely, semi or fully autonomously.
Integrated Battle Problem 23.1, which ran earlier this month off San Clemente Island and San Diego, Calif., focused on “long-range fire above and below sea, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, and re-constituting intelligence,” according to U.S. 3rd Fleet, which conducted the exercise. The Pacific Fleet joined Naval Air Forces, Naval Submarine Forces and Naval Special Warfare Command “to evaluate unmanned systems and highlight areas for improvement, providing that feedback to unmanned systems programs.”
The multidomain exercise is the second iteration of an experiment first held in 2021. During the Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21, Zumwalt-class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) provided a base for operations with unmanned surface vessels, underwater vehicles and aerial drones during experimentation with manned and unmanned systems.
But for IBP 23.1, officials wanted to test and operate unmanned systems together and figure out how unmanned systems fit into the bigger warfighting picture.
Among the experiments was launching an aerial drone off an unmanned ship. For that test, a VBAT unmanned aerial vehicle was launched from Sea Hawk, a medium USV belonging to Unmanned Surface Vessel Division 1 in San Diego.
“That’s a more complex scenario to where developing what that (tactics, techniques and procedures) looks like, operating parameters and how you would execute that in a contested environment or a combat environment,” Cmdr. Jerry Daley, the officer in tactical control for IBP 23.1 and USVDIV-1’s commander, said during a media conference call. “That is the next step in the progression of integrating unmanned systems into fleet operations across the continuum, both undersea, on the surface and in the air.”
The exercise “further advanced tactics, techniques and procedures and gave operators more hands-on experience with a longer list – and more diverse list – of systems at sea and in a combat environment,” Daley said. “It was predominantly, if not exclusively, all unmanned systems for this event.”
Integrating tech, platforms
Naval Surface Warfare Center crane personnel load explosives onto a ship deployable seaborne target off the coast of San Clement Island during the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Integrated Battle Problem (IBP) 23.1 on May 3, 2023. US Navy Photo
Rapid technological advances in advanced communications and decision aids since the 2021 exercise “increases the ability to close kill-chains faster with persistent communication, even in a sort of contested environment or a simulated contested environment,” Daley said. Working together with industry and defense entities at testing events like IBP 23.1 “advances that and make us more effective as a team.”
A key objective this year was to increase lethality through experimentation, he said. Participating systems included medium displacement USVs Sea Hunter and Sea Hawk, MANTAS T-38 Devil Ray USV and RQ-20 Puma unmanned aircraft system. An MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicle, built by General Atomics, was used in the exercise, Daley said.
“It brings additional… subsurface to surface warfighting capability to the fleet through its very specific modifications that General Atomics has made to the airframe for the maritime environment,” he said.
The testing during IBP 23.1 takes a page or two from the ongoing work and exercises by Task Force 59, the military’s test bed for unmanned systems in the Persian Gulf region.
Task Force 59 has “done an incredible amount of work integrating systems” from different companies’ unmanned assets, Daley said. “So we are taking that synergy… and focusing them on the PACFLEET objectives of how we want to advanced warfare with unmanned systems and in the development and in the execution.”
Much relies on the willingness of industry partners to work together, he said.
Over 20 organizations participated in IBP 23.1, according to 3rd Fleet. A full listing was not available.
“We are bringing these platforms from multiple companies together specifically to see, one, how they all perform and, two, how they integrate with each other, using some additional tools that we have with other partners during this event,” Daley said.
Along with unmanned systems, the exercise included testing and integrating various sensors, decision aids and operational tools including artificial intelligence “that connect all these systems,” he said. They also experimented with commercial satellites and line-of-sight communications to see how they could integrate into something of a naval intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability, “collecting information in the maritime, that only increases our sort of aperture for what’s in the realm of possibilities. It’s tying in our current tactics, techniques and procedures and incorporating these unmanned systems in a more persistent and scalable way to increase our warfighting capability.”
More work ahead
he Seahawk medium displacement unmanned surface vessel floats off the coast of San Clemente Island during the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Integrated Battle Problem (IBP) 23.1 on May 2, 2023. US Navy Photo
Fleet officials haven’t detailed the next phase of the experimentation.
“We are going to continue to work through the problem sets that the fleets have,” Daley said. “The long-term goal… is to find ways to integrate these unmanned systems across the continuum – subsurface, surface and air – while having the ability to close kill-chains faster, keep them closed longer and be able to operate in a contested environment.”
Officials will determine “what works and what doesn’t work, and that’s what will inform the operational commander at PacFleet to create additional requirements for systems that are evolving and developing to enable the Navy to maintain a competitive edge,” he said.
“We will continue together the lessons learned, evaluate them and exercise in another fleet events these similar types of problem sets we exercised in IBP 23,” he added. “We will continue to iterate, incorporating our corporate partners in industry and, from a larger, holistic standpoint, we will continue to advance how we integrate unmanned systems into fleet operations. We will go out further and for longer and we will continue to increase the complexity as we move forward.”