US Air Force chief supports tying F-35 buy to O&S cost constraints

by Pat Host

A USAF F-35A flies over the Toronto waterfront on 3 Sept 2021 during the 2021 Canadian International Air Show. Proposed US legislation would limit the total quantity of F-35s that could be procured and maintained by the US military services based on O&S cost targets. (US Air Force)

The US Air Force's (USAF's) top officer supports proposed legislation that would limit the total quantity of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) that could be procured and maintained by the US military services based on operations and sustainment (O&S) cost targets.

“The language from Congress is really in line with what we are trying to get done,” General Charles Brown, chief of staff of the USAF, said on 8 September during a conference sponsored by Defense News.

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Malaysia to hold talks with China on AUKUS

by Ridzwan Rahmat

Australia's Collins-class submarines seen here in formation off Western Australia. The country is procuring a fleet of nuclear-powered boats to replace the Collins class, and the move has evoked varied reactions from Canberra's Southeast Asian neighbours including Malaysia. (Commonwealth of Australia)

A Malaysian delegation will visit China to hold talks with the country's leadership on AUKUS and understand the concerns that Beijing may have over the newly announced partnership.

The matter was disclosed by the country's Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in response to a parliamentary question on 22 September.

On 15 September the leaders of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom announced the establishment of a new security partnership known as AUKUS. As part of the partnership, the US and the UK would assist Australia in procuring a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Australia has since clarified that it is looking to procure a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered boats that will be built in-country.

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RN carrier Prince of Wales to complete operational generation on NATO exercise

by Dr. Lee Willett

The RN's second-in-class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wale s (foreground), pictured sailing with sister ship Queen Elizabeth for the first time in the North Atlantic in May 2021. (Crown copyright/UK Ministry of Defence)

The UK Royal Navy's (RN's) second-in-class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is participating in NATO Maritime Command's (MARCOM's) ‘Dynamic Mariner' exercise as a final sea trials phase for certifying its availability for operations.

On completion of operational certification, Prince of Wales will also become the command platform for the NATO Response Force/Maritime (NRF/M) component, which will come under RN operational command for 2022.

‘Dynamic Mariner' is running between 18–30 September, in North Atlantic waters off the United Kingdom; it is taking place in tandem with the second of the UK's bi-annual ‘Joint Warrior' training activities (JW21.2).

Prince of Wales will complete her operational generation under the NATO formation this month, in preparation for her own future global tasking,” Rear Admiral Michael Utley, Commander UK Strike Force (CSF), told a MARCOM media briefing on 23 September.

As well as supporting Prince of Wales'

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Australian nuclear sub decision driven by technology and Chinese assertiveness

by Julian Kerr

Four of the RAN's six Collins-class submarines in close formation while transiting Cockburn Sound in Western Australia. These conventionally powered boats will now be replaced by a fleet with nuclear propulsion. (Lt C Prescott/Commonwealth of Australia)

Australia's far-reaching strategic decision to procure a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with the assistance of the United States and United Kingdom was driven by three convergent situations, according to sources familiar with the background to the surprise 16 September announcement.

These included cost blowouts, delays, and friction in the now-cancelled AUD90 billion (USD68 billion) programme for the design and construction in Australia by French shipbuilder Naval Group of 12 conventionally powered Attack-class submarines to replace the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) six Collins-class boats.

Frustration over issues with the French contract converged with concern over China's rising assertiveness in the South China Sea and a dramatic deterioration in relations between Beijing and Canberra, the sources said.

Most importantly, discreet enquiries triggered by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2020 had ascertained that submarine technology that was not previously available had evolved to a point where a nuclear-powered fleet did not require the support of a civil nuclear infrastructure.

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