US Warship Stayed on Collision Course despite Warning

A U.S. warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship's captain.

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship's captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald "suddenly" steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula's report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald's waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen's Aden harbor in 2000.

Those who died were in their berthing compartments, while the Fitzgerald's commander was injured in his cabin, suggesting that no alarm warning of an imminent collision was sounded.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald's home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.

US, Australia Commence Massive Joint Talisman Saber Naval Exercise

On Thursday, the USS Bonhomme Richard made its way toward Sydney as Australian and US forces commenced their Talisman Saber exercise, the seventh of the large biennial training drills.

According to a Navy statement, more than 33,000 service members from the US and Australia will participate in "high-end warfighting scenarios” designed to “innovatively prepare for regional and global security challenges."

The statement adds that Talisman Saber, jointly sponsored by the US Pacific Command and the Australian Defence Force Headquarters Joint Operations Command, will be mostly sea and land based. It will take place in and around Australia and include “live and virtual training exercises” and amphibious landings.

More than 200 aircraft will be participating, including advanced F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters and tilt-rotor Ospreys, along with 21 ships including the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

"Exercises like Talisman Saber are precisely where we really learn how to take advantage of cutting-edge technology to outpace our adversaries," Adm. Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, said in a US Navy statement saying.

During the exercise’s opening ceremony, Harris said he challenged all branches of the US armed forces to "find new ways to enable our joint and multinational combined forces to be faster, more precise, more cost-effective and most importantly, more lethal."

Speaking of Talisman Saber’s symbolic value, Harris told reporters, "I’m pleased about that message it sends to our friends, allies, partners and potential adversaries … I think this demonstrates the importance of alliances in general and the value of this alliance in particular." On Wednesday, the commander made his third trip to Australia in roughly half a year, telling an audience at Brisbane’s Australian Strategic Policy Institute that Washington takes its relationship with Australia seriously, and that the alliance between the two countries could help stop the spread of jihadist extremist groups. Australia is a global leader in the fight against Daesh, he pointed out.

Australian troops could soon fight extremists in Asia, USA Marine Corps general says

The commander of more than 80,000 US marines in the Pacific is urging Australia to join operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in South-East Asia.

Lieutenant General David Berger is visiting Australia to check on readiness for the Talisman Sabre military exercises off the Queensland and Northern Territory coasts.

He told the ABC the "movement of violent extremist organisations" was a "very real problem" for countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Hawaii-based commanding general of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific said he expected Australian forces could soon join American personnel fighting Islamic extremists in this region.

"Both of us have a long history of being an expeditionary force when needed, so we begin from a common point I think and we've operated alongside for 100 years," General Berger said.

"Regionally where you're looking for stability, where you're looking to reassure other countries that there will be a strong enough force in the region to deter bad behaviour, I think absolutely yes — we would go where asked."

The visiting US general warned that Australia's neighbours would need assistance if they were to successfully stop the threat posed by IS-inspired militants. "I think the potential for it to spread is there, we should not underestimate it," he cautioned. "It's a different kind of a threat than North Korea but it's also a threat that moves in order to survive — it doesn't own a state so it's mobile.

$30 million RAAF Darwin boost

A $30-MILLION upgrade of aircraft facilities in Darwin forms part of the first projects outlined by the US Force Posture Initiative.

The forward work projects involve improving the aircraft maintenance facility and expanding the aircraft parking apron at RAAF Darwin.

More than 200 Territory business were guided through the procurement system of the United States Navy by a team from the Hawaii-based Naval Facilities Engineering Command. NAVFAC is the US Department of Defence organisation responsible for the delivery and management of US-funded military construction projects in Australia. Around $1 billion is expected to be spent as part of the joint Force Posture Initiative, which involves the basing of a 2500 rotational US marine force and a significant air support.

Department of Business chief executive Michael Tennant opened the day telling the group the day was about learning how to engage with the US Department of Defence.

“Today won’t be focused on specific projects, these details will be made available in future briefings,” he said.

“Today is all about working with the US procurement system and follows the event held in late 2016."

To benefit from these opportunities, industry must be prepared to invest the time necessary to learn how to engage in the US procurement system, to gain the necessary accreditations, meet the required Australian and US standards, and follow the processes and procedures required by US Defence or their prime contractors.

“It also requires thinking about how NT businesses might partner with other businesses to grow capability and capacity.”

 

An Australian Defence economic impact assessment released in 2013 estimated that the rotational deployment of just 1100 Marines would increase Gross State Product by $5.6 million in 2014.

US warships might be seen in Darwin Harbour

US warships could soon become a more familiar sight in Darwin Harbour.

US Senate armed services committee chair John McCain has put a stronger US and Australian naval presence to the north of Australia firmly on his agenda during his coming visit to Australia.

Darwin and Perth have traditionally been ports of call for US warships when operating in the Pacific.

Senator McCain, who will meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, will lay on the table the strategy behind Donald Trump’s Asia-Pacific plan to combat China’s behaviour in the South China Sea and how a heavier US and Australian naval presence in the region would achieve “peace through strength” in the region.

He said the US was developing strategies for the Asia-Pacific region which he thought would have a lot to do with future strategic co-operation with Australia.

“I think Australia could play a key role, particularly since we are witnessing a very large investment in an expanded US navy in the decade ahead,” Mr McCain said.

Mr McCain’s comments on an increase in naval forces in the region comes at the same time the US has beefed up its military strength in Darwin. The US has just sent to Darwin the sixth and most complex US marine air ground task force to be deployed to the Territory. Along with 1250 battle ready marines it has a large aviation combat element.