Ben Morgan’s Pacific Update: A simple explanation of this week’s military and political developments in the Pacific

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Exercise Pacific Skies 2024, European aircraft exercise in the Pacific

On 8 July, Exercise Pacific Skies 2024 starts. Pacific Skies 2024 is a series of exercises involving German, Spanish and French aircraft, practicing deployment to and operating in the Pacific region. The exercise is led by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and is integrated with scheduled US, Japanese and Australian exercises. It finishes with visits to New Zealand and India where the aircraft will join Exercise Tarang Shakti in August.

The exercise focusses on air combat and supporting air warfare far from Europe.  The following combat aircraft are deploying:

  • 12 German Tornado fighters.
  • 12 Eurofighter Typhoons, eight German and four Spanish.
  • Four French Rafale fighters.

The warplanes will be supported by transport and tanker aircraft;

  • Seven A330 tanker aircraft from Germany and France.
  • Nine A420 transport aircraft from Germany.
  • Four small German helicopters.

This force will progress through the following separate activities:

  • 8-18 July – Ex Arctic Defender an air-to-air combat exercise over Alaska.
  • 22-25 July – An exercise involving joint training flights over Japan called Ex Nippon Skies.
  • 22-30 July – Ex RIMPAC, during which the focus will be cooperation with German naval vessels involved in the exercise.
  • 22 July – 1 August – A large multination air combat exercise in Australia called Ex Pitch Black.
  • 7-14 August – Joining in with the Indian led Ex Tarang Shakti, and conducting joint training flights
  • An A420 will also visit New Zealand.

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My assessment is that this exercise is designed to meet a range of outcomes and demonstrates Europe’s interest in the Pacific region.  The first objective is likely to be building relationships. The European pilots, support staff and their leaders will work with colleagues across the Pacific and in India. In the future, if conflict arises these networks provide a basis for the human aspects of joint force inter-operability.

Secondly, the exercise is clearly designed to practice long-range deployment of fighter aircraft. The movement of large numbers of fighter aircraft is called ‘trailing’ and involves a squadron, or squadrons of fighters flying a standard route supported by tankers that refuel them as required. Trailing is a very difficult skill, that requires a high level of planning, training and practice to do well.  However, it allows for the rapid re-deployment of air power and is a key element of modern Western air warfare doctrine.  The US and NATO’s ability to move combat aircraft long-distances quickly has been demonstrated numerous times including in Operation Desert Sheild in 1990, the 2001 Invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and more recently responding to Houthi activity in the Red Sea.

Further, trailing practices the practical skills required for air refuelling, an operational technique that is another characteristic of Western air warfare doctrine.  Air-to-air refuelling allows combat aircraft to stay ‘on station’ for much longer than if they are limited to the fuel they can carry.  This capability allowed NATO and US aircraft to enforce historic ‘No Fly Zones’ over Iraq from 1991-2003, Bosnia in 1993-95 and more recently over Libya.  It also extends the loiter time of attack aircraft, supporting ground troops.

My next observation is that this exercise is designed to practice inter-operability, specifically command and control.  Another feature of Western air power doctrine is the importance of Airborne Early Warning and Command (AWAC) or using large aircraft equipped with powerful radars to ‘look down’ on the air battle space, identify aircraft and manage the air battle.

European air operations are coordinated by a dedicated fleet of NATO AWACs aircraft.  Air combat training without some form of AWACs support is likely to be unsophisticated, therefore the exercises involving simulated combat will probably be supported by US or Australian AWAC aircraft. An opportunity for nations to work together to practice joint procedures.

Ex Pacific Skies indicates that NATO countries retain an interest in the Pacific region and are willing to invest in large and sophisticated exercises to ensure that if they deploy to the region they can work easily with the US and Australia.  Voice of America (VOA), recently interviewed Stephen Flanagan a RAND corporation academic who served as an advisor in the Obama Whitehouse. The interview was about NATO’s forthcoming 75thsummit (that will be attended by Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand) but highlights NATO’s interest in the region.  VOA reported that Flanagan’s assessment is that “NATO doesn’t play a major role in Indo-Pacific security, but that NATO and its allies are recognizing an increased need to take limited steps for cooperation in the region.”  Additionally, the article noted that NATO’s interest in the Pacific needs to balance with its existing commitments, so the alliance does not over extend itself. Ex Pacific Skies is probably an example of this approach, not basing forces in the region but practicing the skills to do so if required.

The article also noted that Japan is worried about security in the region and is keen to increase NATO’s presence.  In my opinion, NATO’s activity in the Indo-Pacific is likely to increase and is a trend worth studying because it will certainly influence security and stability in the region.

This link provides some more informationhttps://www.bundeswehr.de/en/organization/german-air-force/pacific-skies-24-

Here is a link to the VOA article – https://www.voanews.com/a/indo-pacific-ukraine-to-drive-talks-at-nato-summit/7685481.html

US Marine Corps new Amphibious Combat Vehicle

III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) received its first batch of new Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV). III MEF is based in Okinawa and these vehicles replace the older LVTP 7 tracked amphibious vehicle.  The LVTP 7, was a large and cumbersome vehicle but provided excellent service for many years including during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The ACV represents a developing trend in armoured vehicle procurement, as militaries start to favour large wheeled armoured vehicles.  Modern wheeled vehicles have excellent mobility and can move long distances with less mechanical support than tracked vehicles. However, the current generation are very large. For instance, the Boxer infantry fighting vehicle that is entering service with the UK, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands is approximately eight metres long, nearly four metres high and weighs 36 tonnes but carries only eight infantry soldiers. The ACV is a similar size, approximately nine metres long, around three metres high and weighing about 32 tonnes but carries 13 infantry soldiers.

This trend towards large vehicles is driven by experience in Afghanistan.  The vehicles are high to accommodate ‘V’ shaped hulls that protect the passengers from mines. Extra armour adds weight and size to this generation of vehicles.

There is no doubt that the ACV is a capable vehicle with excellent protection.  It swims well, can travel fast on land (up to 100kmph) and has a wide variety of weapon options.  However, a question needs to be asked about the size of the ACV within Pacific employment contexts.  People that have visited the South West Pacific or South East Asia will understand the difficulty of moving vehicles this large around.  Narrow roads, overhanging trees and lots of canals, rivers and streams will limit the deployment of large vehicles like the ACV. Tactically, this allows an opposition force to carefully target defiles or avoid engaging in areas that these vehicles can reach.  This trend is worth watching and learning from, procurement of armoured vehicles is expensive so learning from other nation’s experiences is very important.

Tonga’s Armed Forces Leadership Centre opens, part funded by New Zealand

This week, New Zealand Minister of Defence, Judith Collins travelled to Tonga to participate in opening the nation’s new Armed Forces Leadership Centre.  She is also visiting the National Disaster Risk Management Office to discuss how the New Zealand military supports emergency management training and disaster relief.

The centre is partly funded by New Zealand’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence.  It is a good example of New Zealand building relationships with its Pacific neighbours. New Zealand has a long history of working with the nations of the Pacific and activities like this build upon this legacy.

​Melanesian update

A regular update on the Pacific’s least reported trouble spot; Melanesia.

Fiji receives Bushmaster armoured vehicles from Australia

Last month, Australia delivered 14 Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles to the Fiji Defence Force.  Bushmaster is an armoured 4 X4 truck that is designed to protect its occupants from small arms fire, improvised explosive devices and mines. It has been used successfully in Afghanistan and in Ukraine.

Delivery of these vehicles provides a significant increase in capability for Fijian land forces.  The nation has never had armoured vehicles and although these vehicles are not state of the art, they are certainly popular around the world. Bushmaster is simple to drive and maintain, large enough to carry ten soldiers and is small enough to negotiate narrow roads.  Fiji contributes significantly to UN peacekeeping missions and these vehicles provide a useful new capability.

Fiji patrol boat recovered

RFNS Puamau, the Guardian Class patrol boat donated to Fiji by Australia that was stuck on a reef near the Lau Islands has now been refloated.  It is being towed to the island of Ogea for a full damage assessment.

‘Soft power’ being exercised in Melanesia

In my opinion this week provided more examples of the ‘soft power’ battle between the US, its partners and China. Both sides working hard to leverage existing relationships and financial aid to acquire influence.  Two examples of diplomatic ‘soft power’ this week are:

  • Vanuatu’s new Presidential Office built with Chinese financial ais opened this week. Hu Chunhua, Vic Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, visited Vanuatu to hand over the new building.
  • New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters visited Solomon Islands this week to open a new airfield in Western Province built with funding from New Zealand and Australia.

9 COMMENTS

  1. “….in order to prevent war in Europe two super blocs developed. Us the French and the Russians on one side. And the Germans and Austro Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies each acting as a deterrent to the other, that way there could never be a war…..
    …..there was a tiny flaw in the plan.”
    Rowan Atkinson

    “What was that, Sir?” Hugh Laurie

    “It was bollocks” Rowan Atkinson

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGxAYeeyoIc

  2. “22 July – 1 August – A large multination air combat exercise in Australia” Ben Morgan

    Australia, AKA ‘Airstrip Two’

    “Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England, or Britain” George Orwell

    Things Orwell got wrong; the timeline and the location.

    From Wikipedia the online encyclopedia

    Oceania

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_geography_of_Nineteen_Eighty-Four#Oceania

    …..It is stated that Oceania formed after the United States merged with the British Empire.
    …..The state is composed of “the Americas, the Atlantic Islands, including the British Isles, Australasia and the southern portion of Africa”

    Winston considers the geography as now stands:

    [E]ven the names of countries, and their shapes on the map, had been different. Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England, or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London.[10]

    …..Oceania is made up by provinces, one of which is “Airstrip One”, as Britain is now known.

    ….each province of Oceania feels itself to be the centre of affairs, and it prevents them from feeling colonised

  3. Things Orwell got right

    The two minutes of hate

    From Wikipedia the online encyclopedia:

    The political purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is to allow the citizens of Oceania to vent their existential anguish and personal hatred toward politically expedient enemies….

    ‘Lock them up’, ‘Lock them up’, ‘Lock them up’

    Compilation: ‘Lock them up’ Chants at Trump Rallies

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ASOqzI7yoA

    ….the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.[3]

    The question is; On the second Trump presidency, will Ben Morgan and the NZ military establishment recoil in horror at the Orwellian nightmare come true?

    Or, blindly follow into a war with ‘Eastasia’?

  4. Things Orwell got right

    The two minutes of hate

    From Wikipedia the online encyclopedia:

    The political purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is to allow the citizens of Oceania to vent their existential anguish and personal hatred toward politically expedient enemies….

    ‘Lock them up’, ‘Lock them up’, ‘Lock them up’

    Compilation: ‘Lock them up’ Chants at Trump Rallies

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ASOqzI7yoA

    ….the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.[3]

    The question is; On the second Trump presidency, will Ben Morgan and the NZ military establishment recoil in horror at the Orwellian nightmare come true?

    Or, blindly follow into a war with ‘Eastasia’?

  5. In 1969 Joseph Allen “Country Joe” McDonald asked the American people;
    “What are we fighting for?”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3W7-ngmO_p8&t=2s

    In 2024 Ben Morgan tells us;
    ‘What we are fighting for,
    Is the International Rule of Law’

    In fact, ‘What we are fighting for is Western hegemony in the Pacific.
    Ben can only get away with the lie that we are fighting for the International Rule of Law, by blatantly ignoring the flagrant breaches of International Law by ‘our side’ in Gaza.

    ISTANBUL, TÜRKİYE:

    https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/allow-the-freedom-flotilla-to-sail-under-the-irish-flag

    …..The inspector arrived on Thursday evening. On Friday afternoon, before the inspection was completed, the GBISR, in a blatantly political move, informed the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of the Freedom Flotilla’s ships, one of which is our cargo ship, already loaded with over 5000 tons of life-saving aid for the Palestinians of Gaza.

    In its communication informing us of this cancelation, the GBISR made specific reference to our planned mission to Gaza. It also made several extraordinary requests for information, including confirmation of the ships’ destination, any potential additional port calls, and the discharge port for humanitarian aid and estimated arrival dates and times. It further demanded a formal letter explicitly approving the transportation of humanitarian aid and a complete manifest of the cargo.

    Again, this is a highly unusual move from a flagging authority. Normally, national flagging authorities concern themselves only with safety and related standards on vessels bearing their flag, and are not concerned with the destination, route, cargo manifests or the nature of a specific voyage. Just like when you register your car, the authorities don’t require you to detail to them every place you are going to go with the car.

    …..Israel is showing the world the extent to which it will go to deny Palestinians the aid they need to stay alive, in direct contravention of International Humanitarian Law, UN Security Council resolutions, and two orders of the International Court of Justice. Israel is only allowed to get away with this because we have an international order where law does not apply equally, where people are not valued the same, and where might equals right….

    The US has hijacked international law and is violating its own laws to protect Israel at every turn. A recently-leaked USAID memo states that “famine in Gaza is inevitable,” and that “changes could reduce but not stop widespread civilian deaths.” It also states that the government of Israel does not currently demonstrate necessary compliance with U.S. law required to receive U.S. military aid. Nevertheless, last week, the U.S. Congress passed and Biden signed a $26 billion aid package for Israel. It is this kind of naked impunity, over decades, that has brought us to this point where Israel can carry out a genocide, that includes a public declaration by Israel’s leaders that it is going to deliberately starve children, and not only face no consequences, but also involve a majority of world governments in its crimes….

    https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/allow-the-freedom-flotilla-to-sail-under-the-irish-flag

  6. Ben Morgan continually claims that what the Western nations are fighting to protect, is the ‘International Rule of law’.

    What we are actually fighting for, is to protect Western Hegemony in the Pacific region, against all comers.

    Whether you think Western Hegemony in the Pacific is a good or a bad thing, Ben needs to start telling the truth.

      • I oppose all terror and autocracy. including all the US approved terrorists and autocrats.
        Few countries prefer terrorists and autocrats as much as the US does.

        “If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt.”.

        Extraordinary rendition: a backstory

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/31/extraordinary-rendition-backstory

        ….they were tortured in the countries to which US rendition crews took them. In the words of former CIA agent Robert Baer: “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt.”

        From Wikipedia the online encyclopedia:

        Assassination of Jamal Khashoggi

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Jamal_Khashoggi

        ….Khashoggi was ambushed and strangled by a 15-member squad of Saudi operatives.[6][7] His body was dismembered and disposed of in some way that was never publicly revealed.[8] The consulate had been secretly bugged by the Turkish government and Khashoggi’s final moments were captured in audio recordings, transcripts of which were subsequently made public.[9][6][10]

        A very special relationship: the US and Saudi

        https://www.ibanet.org/article/4175AA70-90ED-4145-B1D7-3CC9A28AC013

        The United States and Saudi Arabia remain strong allies despite significant challenges in recent years, from 9/11 to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the war in Yemen. Global Insight assesses what makes the ties that bind the two countries so remarkably resilient.
        In the aftermath of the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, there was a flurry of reports that the longstanding US–Saudi relationship was entering uncharted territory. A few weeks later, what the Khashoggi murder has come down to is another testament to the apparently unshakable resilience of the 80-year-old relationship between the world’s most vibrant democracy and the Middle East’s largest absolute monarchy.,,,

        You could hardly call the US the a vibrant democracy, when voters have to choose between being ruled by an autocrat, about to be above the law, and a mumbling geriatric president. This is the opposite of vibrant or democratic.

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