Either the big guns will get you or I'll load up the trike with Talibanfan and pay you a visit.
Wednesday, 13 January 2016
HWW: Crowded skies being ignored until an incident needed?
I know that very few pilots are as likely to be as skilled/lucky as Rüdel,
so this is getting ridiculous. Are you telling me all these P3/P8 drivers are
proto-Stuka aces? Fairey Battle v Me262 just about sums it up.
“Japan has decided to
boost its presence in the South China Sea in
2016 with patrol aircraft making transits in key locations along those waters,
sources have told The Yomiuri Shimbun.
According to the newspaper, the defense ministry and the Japan Self-Defense
Forces (JSDF) have decided that Japanese P-3C patrol aircraft returning home
from anti-piracy activities off the coast of Somalia
will make transit points along the way at bases in countries involved in the
South China Sea disputes, including the Philippines
Though the P-3C aircraft have long been involved in anti-piracy operations
off the coast of Somalia,
they usually refuel at bases farther away from the South China Sea, including Thailand. Now,
while outward journeys would remain the same, return trips will prioritize
refueling in countries like Vietnam,
the Philippines, and Malaysia – all rival claimants in the ongoing
South China Sea disputes with China.
Though the step may seem small, if it occurs it will no doubt be
significant. Since the P-3Cs have advanced monitoring capabilities, their
presence at these new locations will mean that they will cover a greater
portion of the South China Sea, where Chinese behavior continues to be a
concern for not just Southeast Asian claimant states, but major powers like the
United States and Japan as well.
More broadly, as the newspaper noted, it would effectively constitute one
way that Japan is
contributing to the protection of freedom of navigation and overflight in its
own way following U.S.
patrols around the artificial islands built by China last year. While joint
U.S.-Japan patrols in the South China Sea have yet to occur, the two countries
have been increasingly coordinating their activities in the area, including by
holding their first-ever bilateral naval exercise in the South China Sea in
October last year (See: “US-Japan Joint Patrols in the South China Sea?”).
In addition, the aircraft, the newspaper reported, could also be part of
broader bilateral defense exchanges in those locations. For instance,
arrangements are being made for a February stop in Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam along
with goodwill exercises. As I reported for The Diplomat last November,
during Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani’s visit to Vietnam, the
two sides had agreed that Japanese vessels would be able to make port calls in
Cam Ranh Bay. However, Vietnamese officials were careful to clarify thereafter
that it would be in the international harbor portion under construction rather
than the naval base itself (See: “Japan Warships Could Visit Vietnam Naval Base Near South China
Sea in 2016”).
The other locations mentioned were Palawan in the Philippines
and Labuan in Malaysia,
both of which are also significant in their own right. For instance, as I have
noted previously, the Philippines is constructing a base in Oyster Bay in
Palawan – located around 100 miles from the Spratly Islands – which could hold
large naval vessels and house operational command posts with radar systems to
monitor the situation in the South China Sea (See: “Philippines Moves Toward New Naval Base in the South China Sea”).
The Philippines and Japan also just carried out their first joint naval
exercises last year and the verdict on the Philippine case against China on the
South China Sea is expected later this year (See: “Japan, Philippines Hold First South China Sea Naval Exercises”).
As for Labuan, which lies off the coast of Borneo, the United States and Malaysia
had been in talks for Kuala Lumpur to host U.S. navy
aircraft – P-8 Poseidon and P-3 Orion maritime surveillance planes – at the
Royal Malaysian Air Force base there. Malaysia
has been increasingly worried about Chinese encroachments into its waters (See:
“How is Malaysia Responding to China’s South China Sea