Reuters, 25 March 2015
The Pentagon released its annual Freedom of Navigation report on March 23rd, in which it outlines the 19 countries that the US Navy (USN) challenged over their maritime claims. US policy since 1983 has been to challenge claims that could be interpreted as excessive under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This policy aims to uphold the principle of freedom of navigation, generally by sending USN ships and planes into areas that countries try to restrict. Iran was one of the two most-challenged countries (the Philippines was the other), mainly over restrictions on passage through the critical Strait of Hormuz and foreign military activities in Iran’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Nine of the 19 countries challenged by the USN in 2014 are in the Indo-Pacific, including American allies such as South Korea and the Philippines, as well as China, though none of the USN’s challenges were related to China’s South China Sea claims.
The 2014 Freedom of Navigation report can be accessed here.
Channel News Asia, 26 March 2015
Philippines Foreign Minister announced on Thursday that Manila will resume repair and construction work on disputed islands in the South China Sea (SCS), including to an airstrip on Thitu Island (known as Pagasa in the Philippines). Last October, Manila halted its SCS work and called on other SCS claimants to do the same, as per the 2002 China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Declaration of Conduct (DoC), which condemns the alteration of the status quo; Manila has concluded, however, that resuming its work would not violate the DoC. There was also concern about whether the Philippines’ SCS efforts would undermine its case against China with the International Court of Justice, in which Manila is seeking to have Beijing’s SCS features ruled as non-islands, but this was apparently dismissed. Manila’s announcement further advances a regional island reclamation race, as China is significantly building up at least five reefs in the SCS, and other SCS claimants, such as Taiwan on Taiping Island, are improving their facilities.
Reuters, 25 March 2015
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) commissioned the new helicopter destroyer IDS Izumo (DDH-183) on Wednesday, the first of two Izumo-class DDHs to be procured for the JMSDF. Izumo is 248 metres long – about 20 percent longer than the JMSDF’s Hyuga-class DDHs – allowing it to carry up to 28 aircraft, though only seven anti-submarine and two search-and-rescue helicopters are planned for its initial air detachment. Although Izumo has no launch or recovery systems for fixed-wing aircraft, it could potentially host vertical-takeoff-and-landing planes, such as the F-35B, and Tokyo has already committed to buying 42 A-variant F-35s.
United States: “Navy planning to get its own V-22 Osprey fleet”
Stars and Stripes, 24 March 2015
The United States Navy will procure is own variant of V-22 tilt-rotor Osprey planes to replace 1960s-era C-2A carrier onboard delivery (COD) planes. The V-22 was reportedly chosen based on being the quickest and most cost effective way to acquire the next generation of COD planes. The Navy’s version of the Osprey will be the same as the Marines’, except with an extended-range fuel system and high-frequency radio. Development of the Navy V-22s will begin in 2016, production is set for 2018, and the first eight of 44 planes will enter service beginning in 2020. Ospreys already operate off aircraft carriers, and Navy pilots already train alongside their Marine counterparts, which should make the V-22 induction fairly smooth.
Guardian, 20 March 2015
Several proposals have been presented to the European Commission to address increased clandestine migration across the Mediterranean. An Italian proposal has suggested outsourcing maritime surveillance to Egypt and Tunisia, with the EU to fund and train the North African navies in search-and-rescue missions. Under this proposal, migrants would either be returned to their countries of origin or taken to the country responsible for conducting the rescue mission. Another proposal has been to establish and finance European asylum-processing offices in North Africa and the Middle East to provide safer modes of entry for asylum-seekers. While proposals have been made, officials in Brussels emphasize that no decisions have been taken at this exploratory stage, though there is some urgency to the process as regional instability continues to prompt people to seek asylum, and as regional security agencies find themselves stretched in their capabilities.
Naval Technology, 23 March 2015
The eight-day, US Africa Command-sponsored Obangame Express 2015 exercise is underway in the Gulf of Guinea, as 23 countries from Africa, Europe and North and South America practice maritime domain awareness, information-sharing, and tactical skills to counter regional illegal activity. More specifically, operators will train boarding, search-and-rescue, casualty response and radio communication skills. The Gulf of Guinea region has seen a rise in piratical attacks in recent years – the International Maritime Bureau reports seven actual or attempted attacks so far this year, and 30 in 2014 – even as other areas, such as off the Horn of Africa, have calmed.
Hindu, 24 March 2015
The Indian Navy commissioned three new Immediate Support Vessels (ISVs) on Tuesday, bringing the Eastern Naval Command to its full complement of six ISVs. The vessels, designed by UAE-based Abu Dhabi Shipbuilders, are armed with heavy machine guns, state-of-the-art radar-navigational equipment and are capable of conducting day and night surveillance in high seas or coastal waters. The induction and deployment of the ISVs are part of India’s ongoing efforts to bolster coastal security and provide protection to offshore assets from asymmetric threats.