Merchant warships – modern East Indianmen

By Steve Wills

The East Indiaman was an iconic vessel from the age of “fighting sail” that combined the features of a robust, long-range cargo ship with the weapons of a frigate-sized combatant. One source defines these vessels as, “large, strongly built vessels specifically designed by the great trading companies of England, France and Spain for the long and dangerous passage to the Far East. They were, as a type, powerfully-armed and carried large and well-disciplined crews.”1 John Paul Jones’ famous flagship USS Bonhomme Richard was such a vessel, formerly of the French East Indies Company. The great mercantilist trading companies of the age of sail are long gone, but the idea that a heavily armed merchant ship might again more fully participate in naval warfare has new credence. Continue reading

New forms of operational planning for commanding the seas

Lt. William Maloney, ship’s aircraft handler, uses the ship’s 3MC announcement system from flight deck control aboard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). (U.S. Navy photo)
By Bill Shafley*

Sea Control operations require a delicate balance of protecting the hunters and releasing the hounds. Strike Group and subordinate staff’s tactical planning, general thinking, and day-to-day operations are biased toward the defense of a High Value Unit.

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Fighting for sea control in the next war

HMS Queen Elizabeth
By Lars Wedin*

The sea is growing ever more important. Conflicting interests make it a prime domain for future wars. Historically, securing command of the sea and exercising sea control has been an overall naval strategic objective and a prerequisite for the carrying out of other naval missions. Since the end of the Cold War, the West has been able to exercise Sea Control when so needed without having to fight for command of the sea.1 This comfortable situation is now going away – and it has already disappeared regarding a potential conflict with China. Continue reading

Sea control at the tactical level of war

By LT Adam Humayun, USN*

From the dawn of naval war through the mid-twentieth century, sea control served political ends only indirectly. A force that exercised sufficient control of waterways could bombard, assault, withdraw, and feint from the sea, but could not (unless fighting an island enemy) produce war-ending consequences, absent victory on land.1 Continue reading

Japan is back in the Bay of Bengal

By David Brewster*

The eastern Indian Ocean has become contested waters. The competition for position between China, India and the US is becoming ever more pronounced. But some recent developments indicate that Japan also intends to become an important security player in the region. Japan is back in the Bay of Bengal. Continue reading

PNG: new friend versus old, APEC and polio

By Annmaree O’Keeffe*

The condemnation of China last week by Nauru’s President Baron Waqa at the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting may have been bolstered by Taiwan’s substantial investment in that tiny Pacific nation of 13,000 people. Nauru is one of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But the outburst was timely and apposite. China’s growing influence in the Pacific – including through the exponential increase in its aid investments – has been the topic of extensive analysis and commentary. The latest instance of China’s expanding engagement in the region is its mooted investment in the upgrade of a multi-use port for Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Continue reading

India’s navy: between carriers and patrol boats

Indian Navy airlift at a flooded area in Kerala.
By Prakash Gopal*

Last month, the Indian Navy conducted the largest ever disaster relief and rescue operation under its Southern Naval Command, part of an effort to rescue thousands of people affected by the devastating floods that ravaged the coastal state of Kerala. Known as Operation Madad, the navy led a multi-agency effort that rescued close to 17,000 people over 16 days, and deservedly earned many accolades for its efforts. Continue reading

Are we being played in the Pacific?

By Fergus Hanson*

If you were trying to design a low-cost strategy to constrict the operational horizon of an important US ally in the region, China’s ploys in the Pacific wouldn’t be a bad model to examine. China has been talking a big game in the Pacific. It’s been reported as looking to fund a major regional military base in Fiji and scoping Vanuatu for a military base of its own. And it apparently has plans to refurbish four ports in Papua New Guinea, including the strategically significant Manus Island. Continue reading

SIA says no further AE1 inquiry needed

Last known image of AE1,9 Sep 1914.
The following is a public statement from the President of the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA), Mark Sander, saying that SIA has considered the release of a report today (14 September 2018) which explains why HMAS AE1, Australia’s first submarine, was lost and does not consider that a fresh inquiry or investigation into its sinking is needed. Continue reading

Kakadu 2018 underway – including China

Australia’s largest multilateral naval exercise, Kakadu 2018, is underway, with China participating for the first time. The RAN’s fleet commander, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, stressed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in his speech at the launch of the exercises. Canberra’s decision to invite Beijing, despite its ‘aggressive’ behaviour in the South China Sea, runs counter to the US decision to exclude China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific exercise held in Hawaii in July. Continue reading