Holy lands sown with Australian sacrifice.

IN Monty Python’s classic Life of Brian, People’s Front of Judea leader Reg asks accusingly, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

It was supposedly part of Reg’s cunning plan to have Judeans rise up against the Roman oppressors, though his followers were having none of it.

Frustrated, Reg responds, “Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the freshwater system, and public health … what have the Romans ever done for us?”

“Brought peace!” yells an interjector.


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Holy lands sown with Australian sacrifce | Australian Defence History, Policy and Veterans Issues (targetsdown.blogspot.com)

Defence capability and the ‘not used since Vietnam’ critique.

By Roger Shanahan

One of the most used quotes in support of the argument that the Australian Defence Force has no need for tanks in future structures is that they’re surplus to requirements because, in part, they haven’t been deployed since the Vietnam War. This is an oft-repeated line run by commentators in two of our major newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. It is also a factoid employed in articles hosted by SBS and a range of other media outlets.

At its heart though, it is a nonsensical argument. If we were to use the ‘hasn’t been employed since Vietnam’ as the metric for the utility of defence platforms, there are a whole raft of other ones whose continued relevance would be open to discussion.

An anniversary marked this week provides a particularly good example of why the Vietnam metric is so lacking in intellectual rigour. Seventy years ago, on 27 March 1953, was the last time an Australian military aircraft was involved in air-to-air combat. If the half-century since an Australian tank fired a shot in anger is considered Exhibit A in the case against them, what are we to make of the seven decades and billions of dollars that we’ve spent on an air-to-air combat capability that we’ve never had to use?

And taking the ‘use it or lose it’ argument to its logical conclusion, what should the general public think about the eye-watering cost of our new nuclear submarines come April when it will be 108 years since a Royal Australian Navy submarine last launched a torpedo in anger? Yes, you heard correctly—108 years.

Of course, I’m not questioning the utility of submarines or combat aircraft or tanks as part of a robust ADF. Rather, this is an appeal to those who seek to influence public debate to avoid the pitfalls inherent in declaring capabilities obsolete simply because they were last used in the Vietnam War. Australian artillery hasn’t fired a shot in anger since Vietnam (although Australian gunners served with UK gun batteries in Afghanistan), yet the US’s use of artillery to support the Syrian Democratic Forces in defeating Islamic State in Syria and the difficulties in keeping up the supply of ammunition to Ukraine shows how critical tubed artillery remains on the modern battlefield.

Time alone doesn’t consign a capability to the scrap heap. Technological advances may do so, or the nature of conflict itself. But often those facts are only known once a conflict has commenced and the adversaries’ capabilities become known. This is why predicting the obsolescence of a capability is so difficult, and why the various sages who seek to do so would do well to buttress their arguments with a deeper level of analysis about scenarios in which capabilities are, or are not, likely to be used. Of all the arguments as to why a capability is no longer required, the temporal distance from the last time it was used is often the weakest.

So, when the defence strategic review is published and the impact on the defence budget of the AUKUS submarine project is better understood, it would be good if the commentariat could discuss the pros and cons of various capabilities that the ADF may require in the future without referencing the Vietnam War. Some capabilities, after all, retain their utility regardless of when they were last used.

US Air Force plans to request 72 fighters every year

By Stephen Losey

Photo: An F-15EX Eagle II takes flight for the first time out of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on April 26, 2021. (1st Lt Savanah Bray/U.S. Air Force)

For the first time in recent history, the U.S. Air Force this year directly asked Congress for the full complement of 72 fighters it says it needs in its next budget request. And the general in charge of planning for the service’s future said Thursday this won’t be the last time.

Top Air Force leaders have said for years that it needs to buy at least 72 new fighters each year to both modernize its fighter fleet and lower the age of the average plane. If it doesn’t bring on that many new fighters annually, generals warn, the service won’t have enough new aircraft to replace aging and retiring fighters, such as the F-15C.

But that goal has long been out of reach. For years, Congress has approved fighter procurements that are below the Air Force’s desired goal, sometimes significantly so, and the service hasn’t asked for everything its leaders say it needs.

The fiscal 2024 budget proposal released in March broke that trend by directly asking for money to buy 48 new F-35As and 24 F-15EX Eagle IIs.

And in an online forum hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, said that won’t be “a one-time thing” — a sign of how the service is changing its strategy for budget planning.

“This year, for the first time since I’ve been in this business, there are 72 new fighters in the Air Force’s budget,” Moore said. “We’re super excited about that. … I certainly think you’ll see it again.”

Expectation vs. reality

Typically in recent years, the Air Force has not asked for everything it wants in its base budget request and included some desired items in an unfunded priorities list.

For example, the FY23 budget request originally asked for 33 new F-35As and 24 F-15EXs — 57 in all. The service asked for seven additional F-35As as part of its $4.6 billion wish list that year.

Congress eventually approved a total of 43 F-35As, along with 24 F-15EXs, for a total of 67 fighters.

But the Air Force is shifting away from that approach as it tries to more reliably plan for future needs, Moore said.

“Some of the things we’ve talked about over the last several budget cycles are now a part of the base budget,” Moore explained. “They’re not a part of the unfunded priorities list, they’re not a wish list. Seventy-two fighters is a great example.”

The Air Force’s $2.5 billion wish list for FY24 was a little more than half the size of the previous fiscal year’s list, and did not ask for any additional fighters.

It asked for more than $633 million to accelerate the delivery of the Boeing E-7A aircraft that will replace the E-3 Sentry, and nearly $64 million to buy a dozen conformal fuel tanks for the F-15EX, which will extend their range and weapons capacity.

But while the Air Force wants to make it a trend to ask for 72 fighter, Moore said some of this depends on Lockheed Martin’s ability to build F-35s.

“As we reach what we believe is a sustainable fleet size in what we need in the F-15EX, we’ll have to see what capacity is available in the F-35 world, or whatever else it may be that we look at,” Moore said. “Right now, it’s predicated on the fact that we have two hot fighter production lines, and that will be the case by the middle or the end of the” Air Force’s spending plan over the next five years.

The service now plans to buy a total of 104 F-15EXs, with the final 24 scheduled to be requested in FY25. Air Force budget documents show the service expects to request 48 new F-35s each year through FY28.

Moore said the defense-industrial base also has limitations, including lingering supply chain and workforce issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, that would make it hard to bring on more than 72 fighters per year.

“We will bring on advanced capabilities at the max rate we can,” Moore said. But “the defense-industrial base can only support so much procurement.”

Moore also said the budget proposal shows how the Air Force intends to update its fighter fleet with future capabilities — some of which are still being designed — to be able to counter China in a possible future war.

Moore said the Air Force’s plan to retire 32 block 20 F-22A Raptor fighters would save roughly $2.5 billion over five years, which would be steered toward the sixth-generation Next Generation Air Dominance platform.

“It is crystal clear to us that in order to get into the early to mid-[20]30s with a force that can win, we have to get to a sixth-gen fighter, and that’s NGAD,” Moore added.

While those F-22s earmarked for retirement are fifth-generation fighters, Moore said, they aren’t combat-capable and never will be without a significant investment. Updating them with modern communications systems, electronic warfare capabilities and weapons would take about a decade to get started, cost about $3.5 billion and take Lockheed Martin’s already short-staffed engineers away from the F-35 program’s block 4 modernization effort.

“That is a trade to us that doesn’t make any sense at all: to upgrade aircraft a decade from now at great expense, while impacting the F-35 block 4 at the same time,” Moore said. “We don’t think that’s a viable course of action.”

Moore also said focusing on research and development investments is a top priority for Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.

In a sign of how important Kendall sees this effort, the Department of the Air Force’s proposed budget for research, development, test and evaluation would rise nearly $5 billion to $55.4 billion in its FY24 budget proposal — a nearly 10% increase, and most of the department’s proposed total budget increase of $9.3 billion.

That wave of R&D is crucial, even if some of those programs don’t end up going into procurement.

“The secretary actually is fine with that,” Moore said. “He believes that if we don’t do the research and development now while we have time on our side, when the time comes that we need to put things into procurement, there’ll be nothing to procure because the research and development won’t have been done yet.”



White House releases after-action reviews on Afghanistan withdrawal.

Photo: Families walk towards their flight during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 24, 2021. (Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/Marine Corps)

The documented lessons learned from the Afghanistan withdrawal became publicly available for the first time on Thursday with the White House’s release of its after-action reviews.

The review places significant blame on the Trump administration for its handling of the Afghanistan war and drawdown agreement with the Taliban, which the Biden administration ultimately decided to abide by, according to a 12-page summary posted to the White House’s website.

The complete, classified version of the after-action review was provided to lawmakers on Thursday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a briefing.

The first page of the report offers a roundup of actions taken in Afghanistan by the previous administration, including drawing down the U.S. personnel presence from 10,000 troops to 2,500, signing an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw by May 1, 2021, and pressuring the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters from prison.

“As a result, when President Biden took office on January 20, 2021, the Taliban were in the strongest military position that they had been in since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country,” according to the report.

The Biden administration announced in April 2021 that all troops would be withdrawn from the country by that September, having negotiated with the Taliban to hold off beyond the originally agreed upon May 1 date. But it wasn’t until months later that a coordinated effort began to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies, including those who worked in some capacity with the U.S. government and had applied for special visas.

“Ultimately, the Administration made a decision to engage in unprecedently extensive targeted outreach to Americans and Afghan partners about the risk of collapse,” officials wrote in the report. This effort, the report continued, included “numerous security alerts and tens of thousands of direct phone calls and messages to U.S. citizens in particular to leave Afghanistan, but to not broadcast loudly and publicly about a potential worst-case scenario unfolding in order to avoid signalling a lack of confidence in the ANDSF or the Afghan government’s position.”

Despite their attempts to avoid creating a panic, the Taliban’s advance on Kabul on Aug. 14 destroyed any chance of an orderly drawdown.

What happened next — during the second half of August 2021 — cascaded into a frantic evacuation of more than 120,000 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, culminating in an August. 25, 2021, suicide bomber attack at the airport’s main gate. The following day, an errant U.S. strike on what was suspected to be another ISIS target killed 10 civilians, including seven children.

The Biden Administration has acknowledged that its top intelligence officials did not correctly anticipate how fast the Taliban would seize control of Afghanistan as U.S. troops prepared to withdraw, nor did they realize that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces would crumble under Taliban pressure as quickly as they did.


In times past

Subsequent to the signing of the Korean Armistice on July 27, 1953 while serving in HMAS MURCHISON in the Gulf of Siam during a SEATO exercise with US 7th Fleet at approximately 1600 hrs at and to the embarrassment of our anti-submarine screen; [HMAS MURCHISON was not serving in the A/S screen] some 200 yards on our port quarter; a Russian Submarine surfaced. [Lord only knows how long she had been in the midst of the fleet]  Her Captain, opened the hatch, waved and crash-dived.

Along with a couple of other RN frigates we were ordered to engage the submarine. For the next 3/4 weeks, steering by ASDIC, we chased that boat all over the Gulf dropping hand grenades at predetermined intervals.

I am sure that we could have been torpedoed numerous times.

Ralph Wollmer

Vietnam War – NVA v VC Tensions

By Ernie Chamberlain

I’ve attached a possible article for your VETERANWEB site  – on: “NVA v VC Tensions during the Vietnam War”. As indicated at the top of the item, I sent copies to the AWM, AAHU etc last year – which were well-received.

As you’re aware, none of my books or articles have been commercial – ie for sale, all have been “complimentary”.

Best wishes, Ernie


VietnamTensions NVA v VC VETERAN WEB Apr 2023

UK’s Aircraft Carrier Warns Chinese Submarine that is hunting them in South China Sea

China Panic!: UK's Aircraft Carrier Warns Chinese Submarine that is hunting them in South China Sea – YouTube

A Chinese attack submarine stalking the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier was ‘beaten to the draw’ after being detected by HMS Queen Elizabeth. The tense encounter took place as the mighty £3.2 billion warship sailed with her battlegroup on her maiden mission to the Far East. Dramatic footage, revealed for the first time today, shows the Russian-built boat being caught red-handed lurking beneath the waves, attempting to shadow the state-of-the-art carrier. But the Kilo-class sub was promptly sent packing by Queen Elizabeth’s battlegroup, with one sailor declaring: ‘We beat them to the draw; 1-0 for Queen Elizabeth.’

AUKUS will ‘stop China destroying world order’: US Navy Secretary

Picture: Joe Biden and Anthony Albanese shake hands over the AUKUS deal. Picture: Getty Images.

By Adam Creighton

Two of the most influential figures in the US Navy have cast the AUKUS security pact as a bulwark against Chinese and Russian attempts to “change the world we live in”, in remarks at a private dinner in Washington that included Ambassador Kevin Rudd and President Biden’s top adviser for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell.

In an apparent confirmation of Chinese and Russian accusations the three-nation military alliance, which has undertaken to equip Australia with at least eight nuclear powered submarines by the 2040s, was aimed at Beijing and Moscow, US Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro said AUKUS was critical to stopping China from “destroying the world order”.

“Having been born in Cuba I personally understand what communism is all about, and it is indeed the threat of China and their destruction of the world order that we are committed to as three nations to defeat in every possible way,” he said in a speech on Monday evening (Tuesday AEST) before a group of mainly Australian defence industry representatives.

China and Russia have repeatedly condemned the AUKUS pact as a destabilising, NATO-like alliance that could undermine global nuclear non-proliferation rules, given the promised transfer of US nuclear propulsion technology to Australia as part of the submarine deal.

Neither prime Minister Anthony Albanese nor President Joe Biden, in their remarks in San Diego last month alongside UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, where the three leaders unveiled how Australia would acquire nuclear submarines, mentioned China as a justification of the landmark deal, which emerged in September 2021.

“The months and the years ahead will not be easy, unquestionably there will be many challenges, technical challenges, financial challenges, political challenges,” Mr del Toro told a group dining in the Beaux Arts splendour of the Cosmos Club ballroom in Washington.

“But I am so confident that we will overcome them and put national security of not just our three nations, but indeed the entire world, in a better place to deter China, and Russia and any other adversary who wishes to contest us”.

The dinner organised and moderated by Christopher Pyne, who led a business and political delegation to the US to support the AUKUS deal, featuring Liberal senator James Paterson and Labor MP Meryl Swanson, included extensive remarks by Mr Rudd, which were off the record.

Republican Congressman Rob Wittman, who last year was sceptical the US could accommodate Australia’s requirements given its own needs, told The Australian South Australian shipbuilding yards could one day build submarines for the US navy.

“I want to make sure that we as quickly as possible, get an organic capability in Australia, to build the submarines, we have to do that,” he said in his remarks, pointing out the US’s own submarine inventory was set to fall from 50 to 26 by 2028, ahead of longer term planned increase to 66 “attack submarines”.

The plan unveiled in San Diego entailed Australia’s purchasing used Virginia class US submarines in the early 2030s to fill the looming capability gap as the navy’s Collins Class submarines retire, ahead of construction of a new series of nuclear-powered submarines – dubbed the SSN-AUKUS class – in South Australia.

“Make no mistake about the threat of our lifetime is the Chinese communist party. No two ways about it. It will test every aspect of who we are as nations,” the congressman, also vice-chairman of powerful House Armed Services Committee, said.

Members of the delegation, during the four-day trip to New York and Washington, had to field questions from US congressmen concerned about the prospect of faltering Labor party support for AUKUS, in the wake of former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s blistering attack on the agreement last month, according to Nine newspapers.

“I’ve already been asked by people here about it, who are really interested to know who he speaks on behalf of, whether he has support, and whether it’s a danger to AUKUS,” Senator Paterson told The Age earlier this week.