Tag Archives: world

Japan’s Aging Air Force

18 Oct

Japan faces a big dilemma. It’s two main adversaries in the region, Russia and China, which Japan has several territorial disputes with, have already begun developing the next generation of combat aircraft and have begun massive modernization efforts while Japan has been operating the same fleet primarily made up of 200 F-15s since the late stages of the Cold War. It’s fleet is becoming older and increasingly more expensive to maintain. Finally, after a decade of shrinking defense budgets, the JASDF is getting a big budget with money for upwards of $8 billion worth of air power. While originally eyeing the American F-22 Raptor, Japan has had to look elsewhere due to the ban on exports imposed by the US Congress, which is a shame because I think that if any US ally needs a shot at getting the F-22 it’d be Japan. They need it. Instead, Japan will choose from 3 different aircraft. They are:

The F-35 Lightning II

The F/A-18 Super Hornet

And the Eurofighter Typhoon

Not bad choices. Any one of these aircraft should fair very well against most of what the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans have to throw at them. Japan has currently set aside funding for 40 planes but that number is certainly going to  rise significantly in the face of Russian and Chinese rearmament. They’re likely to choose one of the American fighters due to their military alliance with the US and they already work closely with the American military which uses the same parts and equipment so cooperation would be easier. If Japan wants to maintain stability in the region then investing in its power projection capabilities is paramount and this new fighter deal will go a long way to achieve that end.

Australia: Strength of a Middle Power

6 Oct

Australia has a relatively small but highly capable military in relation to its population size and economic strength. The Australian Defense Force’s abilities are augmented by its close ties with major powers like the US and the UK. In fact, Australia recently signed a defense pact with the US, putting it on the same level as the UK, which would give Australia access to America’s most advanced military technology and allow US forces almost unrestricted access to Australian bases. In addition to being designated as a major non-NATO ally, Australia also has other defensive pacts with New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Australia is widely believed to have the most capable air force and navy in the South-East Asian region and it has highly respected light infantry and frigate groups that are well suited to peacekeeping missions, however the small size of the army and aging equipment limit unaided participation in high intensity warfare far from Australia’s shores and relegates it to a support role during most international actions. Despite some limitations, the ADF is well suited for its role in domestic security and counter-terrorism efforts. It has also proven itself time and again to be a steady and true ally with tens of thousands of capable soldiers who have a proud history of service. See the links for some of Australia’s contributions.

Australia in:

World War 1, World War 2KoreaVietnam1st Gulf War

 

Active Duty Military: 59,000

Reserve Military: 22,000

Standby Reserves: 22,000

GROUND FORCES

  • Tanks: 59
  • APCs/IFVs: 1,861
  • Towed Artillery: 303
  • MLRSs: 36
  • Mortars: 1,000
  • AT Weapons: 500
  • AA Weapons: 100
  • Logistical Vehicles: 12, 495

AIR POWER

  • Total Aircraft: 374
  • Helicopters: 100

NAVAL FORCES

  • Merchant  Marine Vessels: 45
  • Submarines: 6
  • Frigates: 12
  • Patrol Craft: 14
  • Mine Warfare Craft: 6
  • Amphibious Assault Craft: 8

Reduction of the US Military

4 Oct

In March of 2012, the army is beginning a 5 year program in which it plans to cut at least 50,000 soldiers through the use of accession cuts, buyouts, retirements, fewer promotions and voluntary and, as a last resort, involuntary separation. 22,000 short-term positions that were created as part of the troop surge in Afghanistan will be the first on the chopping block, followed by 27,000 positions that were part of the Grow the Army campaign. These cuts will bring the number of active duty members of the army down to 520, 400 by Sept. 30 2016 if everything remains on schedule. However, as the military budget gets squeezed more and more, further manpower reductions will be increasingly necessary. Despite the reductions, army officials have stressed the need to retain as many experienced soldiers as possible to maintain acceptable levels of combat effectiveness.

The Marine Corps’ manpower will also be reduced from 200,000 down to approximately 186,000 and their much anticipated Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, plagued by missed deadlines and cost overruns, is likely to be canceled. Some cuts will likely face tough opposition in Congress. Among them include proposals to increase health-care premiums for military retirees, reduction in the use of contractors, cutting and consolidation of bloated intelligence networks with overlapping responsibilities, freezing of salaries of civilian Defense Department employees and reduction of 100 general officer positions. If cuts are deeper than expected then the number of F-35s on order may also need to be reduced and older Cold War era fighters like the F-15 and F-16 will have to remain in service longer, decreasing the effectiveness of American air power in future conflicts.

After the financial crisis hit, Robert Gates correctly assumed that the time of endless money for defense spending was over and encouraged the military to find cuts before they were imposed by the government. Even though the projected military budget for the 2012 fiscal year is $13 billion less than they anticipated, it’s still a 3% increase from the previous year and growth of the budget is not expected to flatten out until 2015. The 2012 budget is currently estimated to be $553 billion, not counting the hundreds of billions of dollars required for operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Pentagon has identified nearly $180 billion worth of cuts to be made over the next 5 years but only about $78 billion will go towards paying off the deficit while the rest will be “reinvested” into the services.

In my opinion, despite all its bluster, the military still doesn’t understand how dire the economic situation is. If the US defense budget returns to 2001 or 2002 levels, it will not be a death blow to the military like all these officials say it will. They are addicted to cash, whether they are willing to admit it or not. The government needs to get tough and make honest cuts in spending. Every dollar spent on the military is a dollar not being spent to pay the national debt, which is far more sinister and dangerous for the US than any jihadist.

Russia’s Rearmament

3 Oct

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic depression, Russia’s armed forces have been in a steady decline for the last two decades, plagued by poor training in their conscript-based  military, outdated equipment, corruption, lack of funding and international embarrassment by its poor performance in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. But the Kremlin is breathing new life into its army by giving it a bigger budget, investing in new technology, changes in training and a much needed restructuring. Despite some groundbreaking ideas, Russia’s rearmament has encountered many obstacles and there are many old guard generals and politicians voicing their opposition to the “westernization” of the armed forces. Even in the face of intense criticism and the global financial crisis, Russia is still pushing ahead.

Moscow’s leadership is currently planning to abolish the WW2 era “mobilization” army which was designed to produce soldiers as quickly and cheaply as possible to fight in the million-man battles of the Eastern Front. Troop levels are expected to fall from 1.2 million to around one million active duty soldiers with a sizable reserve force and the military will spend much more money per soldier to bring their standards in training and equipment into line with other major powers. Most of the soldiers being laid off are part of the bloated officer corps. 37,000 alone were fired in 2009 for failing to meet the new standards. Russia has a fascinating phenomena called “phantom” divisions, which are pretty much officers who have no soldiers to command and do no actual work but reap the benefits of a high ranking position. Despite the decrease in manpower they are not expected to close any far-flung facilities or dismantle unused weapons systems. Even with these manpower reforms, government officials have time and again reneged on their promises to end conscription, a major grievance of the civilian population.

Russia has long been a leading arms producer of the world and is currently developing several new weapons systems including a joint venture with India to produce the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA stealth fighter. With a projected $650 billion to spend on modernizing the military, Russia is currently planning on procuring at least 150 new ICBMs, an advanced early-warning radar network, a fleet of supersonic Tu-160 strategic bombers, 600 other warplanes, 1,000 helicopters, 35 corvettes, 15 frigates, 20 submarines (of which 8 will be of the new nuclear Bulava class), at least one aircraft carrier, 2 French-made helicopter carriers, drone aircraft, French FELIN infantry combat suits and foreign small arms among other things. Whether Russia can ensure the funds go to where they are supposed to go is another thing. And the vast majority of industries that supplied the Soviet Union’s military industrial capacity during the Cold War have long since closed down after the budget cuts of the early 1990’s so it remains to be seen if their economy is capable of supporting a growing war machine.

Russia has come quite far in recent years in regards to its modernization efforts but there is still much improvement that needs to be done in order to turn its military into a world-class fighting force. Here are just a few examples of internal issues they are currently facing:

  • Corruption within all aspects of Russia’s military establishment is a critical issue that must be addressed. The chief military prosecutor has claimed that 20% of Russia’s entire military budget is stolen every year. However auditors have put the actual number at 40%.
  • The hundreds of thousands of soldiers being laid off will likely have no other opportunity for work with unemployment at 10%. Many are concerned that, like after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the jobless soldiers will have no other choice but to join the infamous Russian Mafia.
  • Soldiering is an unpopular career for the most part and authorities often employ questionable tactics when recruiting.
  • Sexual abuse and forced prostitution of young recruits by older soldiers is also fairly common.
  • Conscripts who finish their time at a young age are often unable to continue their education and receive no help from the government which greatly diminishes their chances of earning a prosperous living.
  • Treatment of soldiers by their superiors is often brutal and inhumane. There was even a case of soldiers being fed dog food to save money.
  • Russia’s military industrial complex is spinning out of control, with weapons developers exercising considerable sway in determining national policy, causing many alarmed analysts to claim that the MIC problem in Russia is far more dangerous than in the US. Interesting report on Russian MIC here.

As we can see, there are many serious problems that, if go unresolved, will result in not only instability in the military but in the rest of the population. It’s in Russia’s best interest to take care of these things so the rest of the military modernization can move along as smoothly as possible. You can’t raise the ultimate warrior on Kibbles n’ Bits.

Pakistan: Asia’s Wild Card

20 Sep

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just now becoming socially conscious then chances are you’re aware of the precarious situation Pakistan finds itself in. Attacked from outside by Afghan insurgents and besieged from within by terrorists and rebels, it has somehow endured since 1947, albeit with several coup d’états. It has quickly gone from being America’s closest ally in the War on Terror to one of its most hated enemies and has nearly become a global pariah due to internal struggles and an unwillingness by its leaders to crackdown on religious extremism.

Diplomacy

Once called America’s “most allied ally in Asia”, relations have been rocky between both countries since the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War in which the US refused to offer military support. This generated anti-American sentiments in the country which have never abated, despite the billions of dollars that the US has pumped into the country since it’s formation. Relations hit a further snag in 1977 when the majority of aid was cut off following the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Relations peaked during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan when Pakistan was used as a CIA staging area for operations against communist forces.

Throughout the War on Terror, American officials and officers have typically been very loose with lavishing praise on Pakistan for it’s efforts. However, behind closed doors, and more recently in public, it’s a different story. Reports that the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, has been protecting and warning insurgents of impending operations against them are surfacing weekly and American officials have constantly pressed Pakistan to do more in the war but most pleas fall on deaf ears. The situation came to a head with the awesome unilateral assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, just down the road from a major military academy in an upscale neighborhood in a big city. Publicly shamed and internationally embarrassed, Pakistan officials tried to deflect blame from themselves by complaining that their sovereignty had been violated and that they had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s location. Right.

Since then, US-Pakistani relations have been in a downward spiral and despite what officials on both sides are saying, the partnership between the two countries likely won’t survive much longer. Pakistan has distanced itself from America and has made repeated overtures for a possible alliance with China, one of its largest military suppliers. At first China relished the thought of grabbing up a former American ally. However, after several terrorist attacks in China’s far west province of Xinjiang, perpetrated by members of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization that were linked to training grounds in Pakistan by the Chinese government, they took a forceful stance. Now China views Pakistan as a troublesome ally, possibly more trouble than they’re worth. It’s been a disastrous year for Pakistani diplomacy which has only hurt the government’s reputation among the people. Pakistan’s arch-rival is India and the two have fought numerous wars and border skirmishes usually resulting in a stalemate since they have only begun upgrading their outdated militaries in recent decades.

Military

The military senior officers are the ones who truly run Pakistan. In fact, the president’s speeches are even written for him by military officials. Their armed forces are the seventh largest in the world in terms of active troops with 617,000 currently in service and at least 513,000 reservists. Despite being armed with some of the best equipment in the region throughout most of the last half of the 20th century, Pakistan has lost every conventional war it’s fought. Main foreign suppliers are China, the US, France, Russia and Italy. Despite the country’s poverty and constant state of war against insurgent groups not aligned with the military or ISI, Pakistan is making a considerable effort to modernize its military, forming partnerships with other countries, most notably China and Russia, in order to speedily and affordably develop new weapon systems, specifically tanks and fighter jets. Pakistan watches India’s rising economic and military power with a wary eye and seeks to develop a regional alliance to counter their growing strength and influence. While originally seeking closer ties with China, recent events have caused Pakistan to look elsewhere. Perhaps to Russia or Iran in the future.

Pakistan is a declared nuclear power. After losing the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistan lost 150,000 square kilometers of land and millions of citizens to the creation of Bangladesh, a humiliating defeat that left a psychological scar on the leadership. In response to India’s nuclear program, Pakistan began one of it’s own and has since built an estimated 90-110 nuclear warheads. Here’s a look inside the mind of the Pakistani leadership.

If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb? ~ Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1965

Smart and empathetic guy, huh? Just think, if they had invested those billions of dollars required for their nuclear program into infrastructure and education where they would be today. Despite it’s nuclear power status, Pakistan has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has not ruled out a first strike.

Threats

Pakistan faces numerous challenges that, if not addressed and handled carefully, could endanger the stability of south Asia and perhaps the world at large. The civilian government holds no power. The spy agency and the military dominate the country with an iron hand with President Zardari mainly acting as a figure head and mouthpiece for the military. Pakistani Taliban, terrorist networks, and other insurgent groups operate freely in lawless regions outside of the main cities and make regular incursions into Afghanistan to do hit-and-run attacks against ISAF soldiers before retreating into Pakistan where they can’t be followed (usually) and poor education along with little government oversight has led to a sharp increase in the number of radicalized young people who join the rebel groups, creating an endless cycle with little chance of ending anytime soon. The revelation that the Pakistani government was using millions of dollars to lobby American government officials was yet another serious blow to US-Pakistani relations, one that swiftly turned American public opinion against them and in turn, increased the likelihood of a suspension in aid money.

Safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is also a key concern. Several months ago, a handful of terrorists successfully captured a naval base in Karachi from dozens of heavily armed soldiers and held the base for several hours. Boldness on the part of the insurgents and total ineptitude by the Pakistani forces can only lead to a disastrous outcome should a nuclear facility ever be targeted. Support for terrorist organizations like the ones who committed the horrendous Mumbai Massacre have alienated Pakistan even further and may very well lead to the next Indo-Pakistani War in the near future. Damning evidence has also surfaced in recent weeks that Pakistani scientists sold nuclear secrets to the highest bidder. Customers include North Korea, Libya and Iran.

Pakistan is one of the greatest threats to the stability of the world today, right behind North Korea in my opinion. But the sad fact is that although they provide little help in the war in Afghanistan, their support is vital and so they will probably go unpunished. One thing is for sure though. The next time Pakistan needs something from the United States, we won’t be there to help when half the country is under water, the military throws another coup, or they get demolished by India. Regardless, the vast majority of the world will watch their destruction and feel nothing.