China’s ambiguous claim to the South China Sea, approximately demarcated by a series of hash marks known as the “nine-dashed line,” faced objections from an expanding number of parties over the past two weeks. While a challenge from the United States came from an unsurprising source, actions by Indonesia and Vietnam were unexpected in their tone and timing. Read More
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Last week Brunei hosted an important but little-noticed exercise in its portion of the island of Borneo. The multinational event sponsored by and held in conjunction with the second meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) and was the first of its kind. The group focused on boosting interoperability among the participants’ medical and disaster response capabilities. But as important was the mix of participants included countries better known for tense maritime stand-offs than working together. Read More
The standoff between the Malaysian armed forces and followers of the Sultanate of Sulu, who three weeks prior invaded the Malaysian province of Sabah, Borneo, escalated Tuesday. Read More
A dramatic three-week standoff on the island of Borneo claimed its first lives Friday, as Malaysian security forces exchanged gunfire—possibly using mortars—with the so-called Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu.Early reports indicate that 10 to 12 sultanate forces, two Malaysian police commandos, and the owner of a house taken by the sultan’s followers were killed in the battle, with further injuries on both sides. Read More
In June, Wisconsin engineer Michael Guslick made headline news when used a 3D printer to fashion a working firearm modeled on the AR-15. Although it was later revealed that he had only printed the weapon’s receiver assembly, those in the Sea Services would do well to pay attention as the technology of 3D printing has the potential to affect a broad swath of the way the Navy and Marines do business. From naval architecture to logistics to the delivery of emergency medical care, the possible effects of 3D printing are far-ranging and profound.
At its most basic, 3D printing—or additive manufacturing—is about starting with nothing and using base materials to build up to a finished product. Most models use nozzle jets to spray the base materials layer-by-layer, not unlike the way inkjet printers create color photos on a sheet of paper. That contrasts with the traditional technique of subtractive manufacturing—starting with large blocks of the base material and whittling them down through various processes to get to the end product. According to an article in The Economist, that traditional route typically cuts away and wastes up to 90 percent of the base material—a cost made all the more dear when using high-grade metals for military components, such as titanium for aircraft. In the same article, The Economist reported that researchers at European aircraft manufacturer EADS, demonstrating the use of titanium powder to print the same parts, used just 10 percent of the raw material.
Smart defense companies already have begun to incorporate additive manufacturing into their production lines, and not only for the cost savings. If a printer is large enough the manufacturer can print components as a whole rather than requiring further assembly later. That allows designers to create both intricate internal structures to develop extremely strong parts, and more rounded shapes for system components such as ducting and piping, which increase system fluid-flow efficiency and eliminate unnecessary system volume. It also removes the need for brackets and flanges for handling and for surfaces to bolt or weld the pieces together. For those very reasons the Navy is already using “a number of printed parts such as air ducts” in F/A-18s. It is also for those reasons that the long-term trend will likely be toward larger 3D printers that can take on greater portions of the overall job. The shipyard of the future may well be an enormous printer.
The first is a tiny new facility in the region just south of the disputed maritime border with North Korea — or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — established in 1953 by the United Nations Command as the Northern Limit Line (NLL). In late June, ROK announced the construction of an installation for up to 100 troops, featuring a small dock, barracks, and training grounds on the island of Baengnyeong. Baengnyeong is one of five islands west of the Korean peninsula in the area that saw the sinking of the ROK Navy (ROKN) warship ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772) by North Korea in 2010, killing 46 South Koreans. While the islands are not themselves claimed as part of North Korea’s own Inter-Korean Maritime Demarcation Line, they are often targeted as the outposts upholding the NLL; the DPRK in 2010 shelled another of the islands, Yeonpyang, killing four.
A short time later, Syria allegedly engaged a second Turkish aircraft. According to a statement on Monday from Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, a Turkish CN-235 searching for the wreckage of the RF-4 came under fire by Syrian forces who ceased when warned by the Turkish military. As the wreckage of the craft was reportedly found Sunday, it is unclear when the plane came under fire or what shot at it.
Turkish and Syrian planes and coast guard vessels continue their search as the F-4’s crew has yet to be found. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said Friday, “Regarding our pilots, we do not have any information, but at the moment four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there.”
How Turkey responds is of great interest to the region. Turkey invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaty, calling on member nations to assemble in Brussels for a meeting of the North Atlantic Council earlier today at which Turkish officials presented their version of events. As expected, the outcome was one of condemnation but no immediate military response. Following the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed solidarity with Turkey and condemned the shoot-down “in the strongest terms.” NATO also released a statement with unanimous endorsement calling the incident, “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.”