Thursday, December 31, 2015

Full medical assistance for soldiers and policemen

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 1): Full medical assistance for soldiers and policemen

Soldiers and policemen who get wounded in action or while in duty should get full medical assistance from the government, the vice chairman of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety said.

Rep. Scott Davies S. Lanete (3rd District, Masbate) said the hazard and combat pay being received by wounded policemen and soldiers is pittance consider the danger they face in the line of duty.

According to Lanete, the members of the PNP stationed in dangerous zones only receive a hazard pay of PHP240 per month and a combat pay of PHP340 a month while soldiers who are assigned to dangerous areas received a combat of only PHP240 per month.

“Although laws are already in place to provide financial assistance to wounded uniformed men while on duty, these laws are not adequate to help and alleviate their physical, mental, psychological and financial sufferings,” Lanete said.

Lanete filed House Bill 5933 or the proposed “Medical Combat Pay Act,” which provides that the medical assistance shall cover all expenses necessary to the immediate care and recovery of the wounded uniformed men including their post-care and recovery.

All wounded policemen and soldiers shall be entitled to the medical combat pay the moment they are admitted in a hospital or medical clinic.

Likewise, they are entitled to continuing medical assistance until such time a qualified physician declares them fully recovered, both physically and psychologically.

Chinese navy now imposing security zone over Spratlys

From the Philippine Star (Jan 1): Chinese navy now imposing security zone over Spratlys

China’s continuing aggressive behavior in the disputed region fell short of an official declaration that Beijing has established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, similar to what it did over the East China Sea in November of 2013. STAR/File photo

China has imposed a security zone over its occupied areas in the disputed Spratlys archipelago in the South China Sea, challenging a Philippine military plane flying a doctor and chaplain to Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island last Sunday.

Filipino pilots, however, ignored the threats and maintained their course to land their Islander plane on the island town, according to Fr. Joey Sepe, military chaplain of the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom).

“This is for God and country despite the repeated radio threats and challenges from the Chinese navy on our plane to go away,” Sepe posted on his Facebook account.

Sepe and a military doctor were among military officials dispatched by Wescom to Pag-asa Island to attend to the spiritual and medical needs of the islanders as well as the 46 student volunteers who sailed and landed in the island town last Dec. 26.

The student group Kalayaan Atin Ito pitched camp in Pag-asa in a symbolic stand against China’s claims to most of the region.

China’s continuing aggressive behavior in the disputed region fell short of an official declaration that Beijing has established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, similar to what it did over the East China Sea in November of 2013.

According to a senior military official, the Chinese navy has constantly challenged Philippine military planes patroling the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, a large part of which is being claimed by Beijing as an integral part of its maritime domain.

Recently, the Chinese navy also warned and tried to drive away an Australian military plane while on freedom of navigation patrol over the contested region but was ignored, just like what the US planes and warship did while sailing or flying over the area.

Military sources said China’s active air and maritime monitoring in the disputed region are no longer ship- based but through radar domes installed in most of the man-made islands.

China maintained it has no intention of militarizing the region, saying the artificial islands it built on former obscure maritime features in the region are all for civilian and peaceful purposes.

Sepe stressed the islanders in Kalayaan are Filipinos and the island belongs only to God and the Philippines and if there’s one who should leave the area, it must be the Chinese.

“This is our land, these are our Filipino people. They belong to God and they belong to the Philippines. So, China you go away, not us,” he said.

While in the island, Sepe held religious services among the islanders as well as the 46 student volunteers of the KAI movement.

After officiating the delayed mass for Christmas at the island’s rundown chapel for civilian residents, military and Coast Guard personnel, Sepe also baptized five children born in the island, with the Wescom officials, including him, acting as godfathers.

The military, on the other hand, defended the KAI in its visit to the island town.

Taiwan recently opposed the group’s visit, calling it “illegal” and which could impair the peace and stability in the region and infringe on what it called sovereignty.

Navy may have Indon-made ship delivered by June 2016

From Business Mirror (Jan 1): Navy may have Indon-made ship delivered by June 2016

THE Philippine Navy is confident it can have its first strategic sea lift vessel (SSV) from Indonesia at least before President Aquino leaves office next year as the construction of the ship is more than 70-percent complete.

A navy official said the construction of the vessel is moving at full speed as the contractor, Indonesian state-owned ship building company PT PAL, is moving to meet its May 2016 deadline for the delivery of the first ship.

“We are confident we can have our first SSV before our Commander in Chief will pass the baton to his successor. We will remember him as the President who spearheaded the capability upgrade of not only the Navy, but the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP],” he said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) has ordered two SSVs from PT PAL through a contract worth P3.8 billion signed last year, after the state-owned Indonesian company bagged bidding held on November 18, 2014.

The two SSVs would be the second, if not the most, important ship acquisition by the Navy under the Aquino administration, following the purchase of two former US Coast Guard Cutters, one which is now the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, currently the Navy’s flagship.

Aquino said the Navy intends to get frigates as his administration, will give a total of at least P83 billion in modernization money to the AFP which will extend up to 2017 or beyond his term.

As of this year, the administration has already given the military nearly P60 billion worth of assets and equipment, including those whose contracts have been signed, foremost of which was a squadron of South Korean-made brand new FA-50 lead in fighter jets, two of which had been delivered.

However, Aquino will no longer be around when the frigates, which are also being looked upon to be sourced out from South Korea, are delivered. No less than Navy Chief Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad attended the keel laying of the second SSV in Indonesia in June when he was still the vice commander of the Navy.

The second SSV is contracted to be delivered in May 2017.

The keel laying of the first SSV was made several weeks earlier.

The SSVs will serve as the Navy’s floating command center, while carrying out their main purpose as military sealift and transport vessels.

PT PAL said the two SSVS will be armed with 76 mm and 25 mm guns, whose supplier the Philippine Navy will decide.

2015, a productive but difficult year for the Bangsamoro peace process

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 1): 2015, a productive but difficult year for the Bangsamoro peace process

According to the 1998 book, Democracy and Deep-Rooted Conflict: Options for Negotiators, published by the Institute for Electoral Democracy and Assistance, “the overriding determinant of whether a peace agreement will endure is the extent to which the parties to the conflict continue to be motivated to avoid a return to bloodshed.”

Truly, this is the best thing about the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The two parties have not gone back to war. We remain steadfast in upholding the ceasefire and are isolating those groups that continue to foment violence. We are gradually transforming the lives of the people on the ground, nurturing their hopes and dreams for a better future.  And we are so close to putting firmly in place the needed institutional reforms to realize meaningful autonomy and democracy in the Bangsamoro.

However, while the second year of implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) saw important breakthroughs in our Bangsamoro road map to peace, it is evident that it also brought us unprecedented difficulties.

Many will look back at the year 2015 and see the Mamasapano tragedy of January 25 as the monkey wrench that was thrown into the clockwork and set back most of what we have set out to do.

They are right in one sense.  Congressional committee deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) gave way to about three months of televised hearings on the Mamasapano tragedy. Subsequently, hearings on the draft law were colored by the incident, leading to misrepresentations on both the content of the pending bills and on the consultative processes that had been undertaken by the peace panels and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). 

It cannot be denied that many of those running for high offices in the 2016 election were catapulted to the public limelight in these acrimonious congressional hearings. Such has been Mamasapano and its aftermath’s jolting effect on the public’s sensibilities and the political dynamics it generated, in light of the upcoming national elections.

But to say that we have lost the CAB and the BBL because of Mamasapano would not be quite right.

We have not let Mamasapano define the process nor its outcome. Not that we are wishing away the incident, which saw many Filipino lives lost. In fact we believe that only when all facts are fully unearthed, with those directly responsible for the debacle owning up to their mistakes, the incident put in its bigger context, and the judicial process taking its course to extract individual accountabilities from all directly involved without exception, will we find the public understanding better as to why we have persistently, even stubbornly, pursued the CAB and the BBL for the whole nation’s better interest.

2015 Milestones

What have the Bangsamoro peace process and all the people working for it accomplished in 2015?

On the legislative track:

·         Although prolonged and tediously delayed, we have managed to see the respective committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives (HoR) close their committee hearings, produce their amended bills, and move on to the period of interpellation, with the HoR closing this period by the time Congress ended its last session day for 2015 on December 16. We continue to believe that both Houses can and will pass the law before it closes its session in February 2016.
·         The Panel’s Manila and Cotabato offices conducted massive information and education campaigns on the CAB and the draft BBL nationwide, including photo exhibits in 33 colleges and universities, and 20 consultations and media briefings attended by the GPH Panel in Mindanao alone.  With the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Peace Process Offices as co-organizers, we held two whole-day seminars with some 300 members of the regional police and AFP commands in Regions X and XI, on the Bangsamoro peace process. OPAPP’s Bangsamoro Communications Unit also organized 48 press briefings in the course of the year, among other events that it facilitated, for instance, in celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month in September.

On the security components:

·         Under the tutelage of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), we began the ceremonial decommissioning of the combatants and weapons of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). On June 16, President Aquino and top government officials attended the registration of 145 combatants and 75 high-powered and crew-served weapons of the MILF at the Old Provincial Capitol of Maguindanao.  The Secure Arms Storage Area (SASA) now houses the first batch of decommissioned weapons.  The site is guarded by the Verification and Monitoring Teams (VMATs) led by Norwegian experts and supported by personnel from the GPH and the MILF. The IDB – with foreign experts from Turkey, Brunei and Norway -- subsequently conducted site visits to MILF camps/base commands as well as planning sessions in anticipation of the next phase of decommissioning, which shall commence upon the passage of the draft Bangsamoro law.
·         A total of 329 members of the BIAF, AFP, and PNP who would constitute the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs) have undergone retooling and training in three separate batches this year. The first JPST batch of 30 men (15 MILF, 15 AFP/PNP) has been posted and is assisting the VMATs in guarding the SASA.  Other JPSTs will be deployed in critical areas as shall be mutually agreed upon, to assist in conflict-prevention.
·        The GPH’s and the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH or ceasefire committee) and the multinational International Monitoring Team (IMT) addressed 68 complaints of alleged ceasefire violations on the ground, effectively preventing outbreaks or escalation of violence. Due to the work of the ceasefire mechanism, there is only one recorded armed skirmish between GPH and MILF forces this year -- the unfortunate Mamasapano incident -- breaking a three-year record of zero hostilities between the parties. It will be remembered that the joint CCCH and the IMT’s crisis team was the first to enter the scene in Bgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano  in order to restore the broken ceasefire and allow for the retrieval of the dead. The joint CCCH also assisted the Department of Justice, the Commission on Human Rights, the Ombudsman, and the IMT in conducting their respective investigations on the incident. The CCCH also accompanied the relatives of the late PO1 Russel Bilog, a member of the 55 SAC (55th Special Action Company) of the PNP's Special Action Force (SAF), who came all the way from the Cordillera to visit the encounter site in Mamasapano.
The CCCH and the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division also assisted in collecting the weapons seized by MILF combatants in Tukanalipao and returned through the MILF leadership as part of restoring confidence in the peace process. Some 16 weapons were retrieved and turned over to AFP and PNP officials in a press conference held at Camp Awang in Maguindanao last February 18.
·         The AFP and the PNP conducted major operations in Central and Western Mindanao against the BIFF, the ASG and other violent groups, including foreigners allied with international networks like the Jemaah Islamiah. In law enforcement operations (LEOs) conducted in areas with known MILF presence, the GPH and MILF's Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) is tasked to coordinate, monitor and disseminate information among the AFP, PNP, and the MILF-BIAF.
As part of long standing security cooperation and in line with ceasefire and AHJAG protocols, the MILF cooperated in discreet ways such as in information monitoring, serving as blocking force, providing buffer zones, and assisting in key instances in the neutralization of notorious persons like Basit Usman last May.
In major AFP operations against the BIFF from  February to April, the  MILF pulled out its forces to avoid unwanted hostility with government forces.  The AFP-PNP successfully rounded up key leaders like Ali Mohammad Tambako and cohorts in March, and neutralized some 180 men of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Security cooperation between local MILF and AFP/PNP commanders such as in Basilan have likewise led to the successful interdiction of criminal elements belonging to the ASG.  Recently, ways and means to work together in battling the drug menace have been discussed through the mechanisms, in coordination with some LGU officials.
·         As part of the normalization programs, the Office of the President issued Memorandum Circular No. 83 in September creating the National Task Force for the Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (NTF-DPAGs). The Task Force shall focus its operations in the proposed areas of the Bangsamoro and the adjacent Regions 9 to 12. Led by the Department of Interior and Local Governments, the NTF-DPAGs is in the process of finalizing its implementing rules and operational guidelines and drawing up an action plan.  The AFP and PNP also signed the Joint AFP-PNP Memorandum Clarifying the AHJAG Protocol on Prior Coordination in May 2015 as a measure that would avoid lapses similar to the law enforcement operation against Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan conducted in Mamasapano.

On the socioeconomic components:

·         The Task Force Camps Transformation (TFCT) underwent a seminar on area development in July and planned appropriate projects for the communities in the six MILF camps in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte that were previously acknowledged by government. This was followed by community consultations and technical site validation for the solar power and water systems and hanging bridges that will be put up in these areas. The TFCT also facilitated the School-based Support Program for 18 public elementary schools in the vicinity of the camps as a supplement to the Department of Education’s annual staging of the Brigada Eskwela at the beginning of the school year.
·         The Joint Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) was convened. With the assistance of the Department of Social Work and Development and other government agencies, several follow-up activities were held for the decommissioned combatants to ensure the delivery of the socio-economic and capability-building package to each decommissioned combatant.   In September, a joint seminar with the panels, the TFCT and the TFDCC on best practices in integrated post-conflict, community-based normalization programs was held with international experts providing examples of best practices. Held in Davao, the seminar was sponsored by the World Bank.
·         Launched in February 2013, Sajahatra Bangsamoro closed in November 2015, with most of its social and livelihood components in place, and with a few remaining items pending completion. As of December 2015, through the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program, some 25,000 beneficiaries were provided with Philhealth services; three of 10 barangay health stations constructed; four of 10 ambulances already distributed; two day-care centers completed and seven more in different stages of construction; more than 13,000 children benefited in 253 feeding centers upon completion of the feeding cycle; 1,025 persons graduated from TESDA’s vocational–technical courses; 1,084 students awarded with scholarships from the Commission on Higher Education in 2015; 44 madaris received assistance from the Department of Education to help standardize their teaching curriculum and improve school facilities; some 11,000 persons availed of the DSWD’s cash-for-work program; five of 10 target sites have been provided by the Department of Agriculture  with farm inputs or machineries; several kilometers of farm-to-market roads and fish landings were constructed in different remote places in the region; and 800 hectares are at various planting stages under the DENR’s greening program.

On other equally important components:

·         The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission led by a Swiss expert conducted 210 ‘listening process’ sessions and engaged local experts. On December 15, it completed its report to the Panels, along with recommendations on how to address the legitimate grievances, correct historical injustices, address human rights violations and marginalization in order to achieve justice and reconciliation.
·         The Third Party Monitoring Team led by former EU ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald has released five quarterly reports and 14 exit letters from 2013 detailing the progress in the CAB’s implementation.
·         The two parties signed various protocols in joint meetings facilitated by Malaysian Tengku Ghafar and in the presence of the International Contact Group made up of representatives from Japan, United Kingdom, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah and the Community of Sant E’gidio. These documents include the Protocol on the Implementation of the ToR of the IDB (29 January 2015), the TFDCC Terms of Reference (31 May 2015), and the Second Protocol on the Implementation of the Terms of Reference for the IDB.  All these documents were a product of careful thinking on how to make the mechanisms functional in order to achieve the objectives laid out in the CAB.
The parties also renewed the mandate for another year of the IMT, AHJAG and the Civilian Protection Component of the IMT.

Personal Note

The year 2015 was for me a series of polar opposites. Several petitions remain lodged in the Supreme Court against the FAB, the CAB and even the draft BBL.  For the first time in my life, I faced lawsuits, along with scores of others involved in the negotiations.

Thankfully, the flimsy case of treason lodged against the GPH and MILF panels, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and the BTC has now been dismissed by the Manila prosecutors’ office for lack of merit, and is awaiting clearance in the Office of the Ombudsman.

As a public servant, I fell victim to malicious slurs in social media. I grappled with sexism, the occupational hazard faced by all women in public life. Although it has been said many times that one in public office must be thick-skinned, there is no reason why we should not seek to raise the ethics bar in public discourse.

At the same time, the work we have managed to achieve along the line of peace negotiations and mediation have been recognized by various local and international institutions.  I have been honored with the opportunity to seat beside strong women around the world who have aimed high in order to remove once and for all the glass ceiling that has kept most women behind the men in the realm of politics. I am heartened by the fact that a lot more women are on the front lines to take part in the urgent work for community and world peace.

The goodwill, commitment and perseverance of the men and women who work with our team, my fellow-panel members: former agriculture secretary  Senen Bacani, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao, as well as GPH-Joint Normalization Committee Chair Zenonida Brosas; our counterparts in the MILF team led by Chair Mohagher Iqbal, our international partners, our colleagues in the security sector of all ranks, the young and creative people in our panel secretariat and Cotabato offices, my tireless friends in civil society organizations, and the people of all faiths and hues with whom we have engaged in dialogue have been the constant source of inspiration.

As for the MILF, we continue to challenge each other to measure up to our respective accountabilities and commitments. In rising to the tasks before us, we have fortified our confidence in the process.

This is not to say that everything is perfect when in fact things are not. At the level of national politics, we need to build on the public’s trust in the process. On the ground, we face all kinds of troubles and potential sparks but are very thankful that our ceasefire mechanisms and third party monitors as well as local government officials, are able to respond and prevent further escalation of local-level tensions.

I acknowledge the wisdom and maturity of the MILF leaders for staying on the peace track despite the disappointments and challenges. Other less determined peace partners would have been less discerning, and more impulsively be shouting out war chants in view of the delays in our road map. We pray the leadership will be able to keep in line its mass members. We continue to collaborate in strengthening our joint mechanisms, and building mutual trust and confidence among and between our respective organizations.

We take heart in improving survey results that show we are recovering lost ground as to public approval on the draft law.  In the prospective core territory of the Bangsamoro, the sentiment of the people is loud and clear: they want the BBL and this one big chance to leapfrog their way to peace and development in their daily lives.

We find strength in the unflinching efforts of civil society organizations, leading personalities and groups in the Christian churches, the academe, the women and peace advocates, and the diplomatic community, our supportive legislators especially the leaders of both Houses, the Cabinet and various government agencies, and certainly the President, to promote understanding of the cause, and taking action to bring forth the BBL.

Altogether, we shall continue to carry on in order to get to our destination sooner than later.

NDF/NDF-Mindanao: 402nd Brigade CO Purisima behind death threats against journalists

NDF-Mindanao propaganda statement posted  to the NDF Website (Dec 29): 402nd Brigade CO Purisima behind death threats against journalists

Photo by Asian Correspondent

The NDF-Mindanao strongly denounces AFP Col. Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the 402nd Brigade based in Surigao del Sur, for using the notorious Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group to threaten the lives of journalists who were assigned to cover the CPP’s 47th anniversary celebrations.
By allowing criminal paramilitary groups to issue death threats against members of the press, Col. Purisima has made the mass media a veritable target of state terrorism. This is not only a grave affront to the integrity of the press but an act in outright contempt of press freedom. It violates media people’s right to life and free expression as well as subvert their duty to inform the public, which is a tenet held inviolable even by the 1987 Constitution.

Since Col. Purisima took over the 402nd Bde by mid-2015, direct terror attacks against peasant and Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte have escalated. Under his command, extra-judicial killings perpetrated by his troops and paramilitary groups have intensified, such as the Tabugol murders on August 28, the Han-ayan massacre on September 1 and the killings of two barangay captains. With communities brutally terrorized, thousands have been displaced in the short time that he had held his post, such as those from the 5 towns of Surigao del Sur and from Agusan del Sur. And, reports have it that Purisima’s troops also raped a blind woman in Tago sometime in October.

Apart from these vile acts of terror, Col. Purisima has now conspired with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), a government-run news ‘media’ agency, and the ANAD, a group formed by the swindler Alcover and the dreaded criminal Palparan, to engineer a brazen deliberate attack against the mass media, guests and the people to discourage them from attending the 47th CPP anniversary celebration in any part of Caraga.

This terrorism is akin to tactics used during Martial Law, later developed and used to the hilt with bloody results even under Corazon Aquino and the regimes that came after. Under BS Aquino III, this is part of Oplan Bayanihan’s brutal methods to suppress intensifying people’s dissent and to render the revolutionary movement irrelevant.

In spite of the Purisima-Magahat-Bagani threat, however, journalists from major cities in Mindanao and even from as far as Cebu were not easily dissuaded from covering the CPP’s anniversary celebration held somewhere in Agusan del Norte. They simply refused to surrender the integrity of the press to the whim of Col. Purisimaís thugs and criminals.

For this, the NDF-Mindanao and the entire revolutionary forces commend members of the press for remaining steadfast in upholding their rights and duty. As journalists, they have displayed an uncommon audacity that will ensure, for years to come, the preservation and defense of press freedom.

Col. Purisima’s vile death threats also targeted CPP’s invited guests and the masses in general. But, despite this, the people also refused to cower in fear, that is why the CPP’s 47th anniversary open celebration in Northeastern Mindanao Region was a success, with more than five thousand people in attendance, and a considerable number of guests graced the event. In other guerilla fronts in NEMR, Party Anniversary celebrations were also successful, and so with all the celebrations in other parts of Mindanao.

Over the last two weeks of December alone, AFP units in Caraga have also repeatedly violated their own ceasefire declaration, which began Dec. 23, 2015 and ends Jan. 3, 2016, by launching military operations in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga and in other municipalities in Surigao del Sur reinforced by cannon fire and by the Phil. Air Force’s indiscriminate bombings. On Dec. 18, five days before their ceasefire declaration, AFP troops burned down houses in Km. 16 also in Brgy. Diatagon.

We call on the people of Mindanao to stand united in vehemently condemning the AFP 402nd Brigade’s Col. Purisima in particular and the US-Aquino III regime in general for brazenly using elements of notorious paramilitary groups, who are in fact wanted criminals, to suppress, with impunity, press freedom and other basic civil liberties. #

(sgd) Ka Oris

Multirole Naval Platforms of the 21st Century. Naval Arms Race and Regional Conflicts

From Global Research (Dec 30): Multirole Naval Platforms of the 21st Century. Naval Arms Race and Regional Conflicts (By Brian Kalman and Igor Pejic)


Image: USS Stethem

An apparent trend in many navies of the world today is the fielding of multi-purpose vessels along the lines of the traditional LHD platform, but with added capabilities. It appears that in an age of increasingly asymmetrical warfare or limited conflict, both highly modernized and developing navies are acquiring these vessels. These multi-use vessels are being built to provide their nations a power projection capability that is well suited to the likely asymmetrical nature of modern conflict. These vessels can respond quickly to both natural and man-made disasters, providing peace keeping troops, relief supplies, hospital facilities, water purification and helicopter rescue and evacuation. They can also respond quickly to a localized military threat, bringing a significant fighting force to bear in a short interval of time.

In an age of increased state sponsored terrorism these vessels can act as effective offshore command and control stations for anti-terrorism operations. They can accommodate and facilitate the insertion of special operations forces both via air and sea. They can support special operations teams once in the field with air support, up to date reconnaissance, logistical support, and emergency extraction in short duration. In light of the flexibility inherent in these vessels and the power projection capabilities they possess they are a force multiplier in a modern conflict.


The many varied nations of the world that have maritime borders operate navies of equally varied composition and capability. From the imperial monolith of the United States to the small island nation of the Philippines or Taiwan, all such nations must maintain navies to ensure their defense, access to trade, relief in events of natural and manmade disaster and to protect their national interests. Regional powers such as India, China and Japan have different security interests and strategies, and their naval composition and capabilities reflect these realities.

China and India are growing in influence and are accordingly investing in modernizing their navies in order to protect expanding interests and to facilitate power projection capabilities. Russia finds itself in similar circumstances, and has spent decades rebuilding a viable and capable naval arm that more apply reflects its proud naval heritage. Japan has found that it must increasingly rely more on itself to ensure its defense in a region of potential adversaries that possess increasingly more capable navies and ballistic missile forces. The offensive military strategies of both the United States and NATO are fueling the decision of many nations to start new building programs, whether they are allied with these institutions or are their targets. China and Russia are reacting to an ever more obvious strategy to contain and control their national growth.

The past fifteen years has seen the United States and its allies engage in numerous military invasions and interventions in the Middle East. All of these operations have utilized strike aircraft, special operations forces and armed and unarmed UAVs as force multipliers. These force multipliers have allowed for successful prosecution of offensive operations while reducing the conventional military forces required, as well as reduced the duration of operations. The success of such operations in localized, low-intensity conflicts is especially evident. Warships that can provide a platform to transport and support small, combined arms units of strike aircraft, helicopter assault or amphibious assault infantry or marines, special operations units, and reconnaissance and attack UAVs are seen as an essential tool in prosecuting the low intensity conflicts of the future.

It is quite evident with minimal research to find that every nation with a significant naval footprint in the world is investing in new multirole vessels. These vessels come in a number of different forms and can be built to particular specifications. The military operations of the past decade and a half are influencing the naval strategy of many nations with the backdrop of two major geo-political centers of tension: the South China Sea and Syria. Conflict or future conflict in these areas will require the forces engaged to utilize these new and flexible tools of power projection in order to prevail.

The Multirole Naval Platform

There are a number of different designs that fit into the category of the Multirole Naval Platform (MRNP). Some of these designs optimize flexibility and provide a balance of command and control, strike aircraft, air and amphibious assault, or cargo space while others are designed to maximize the effect of only one or two of these capabilities. For example, the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) is very flexible, with helicopter and amphibious assault capabilities, ample cargo space and medical facilities for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations and even accommodation of VSTOL strike aircraft. The Helicopter Dock Destroyer (DDH) is aviation-centric, with no amphibious capability. More space is allotted to aircraft and the fuel and armaments they require. The Landing Platform Dock (LPD) is a smaller version of the LHD in many respects, being under 20,000 tons displacement. These vessels are a good alternative to the LHD when the nation lacks the operational or economic ability to maintain the larger LHD, or the vessels will most likely be operating in shallower or more confined waterways. Greater speed and smaller size (stealth) are also benefits of this design. The Landing Ship Tank (LST) is designed to transport and land a combination of infantry and tanks or other heavy vehicles. They may also possess a small number of aircraft for reconnaissance, support and air assault.

Landing Helicopter Dock LHD

The LHD is the most balanced, and thus flexible of all of the MRNP designs. The LHD is the largest design, requiring the dimensions and space to accommodate a large number of aircraft, troops, light and heavy vehicles, cargo and amphibious assault craft. As a result, the displacement of these vessels is usually between 25,000 and 40,000 tons. A good examples of an LHD are the HMAS Canberra L02, USS Wasp LHD1 and SPS Juan Carlos I L61.

Juan Carlos I LHD
Juan Carlos I LHD

These vessels have to be large enough to accommodate the following features:
  • Large flight deck to allow helicopter assault operations and or humanitarian support/evacuation.
  • Large internal aircraft hangar deck.
  • Heavy/light vehicle deck. Often doubles as a cargo deck.
  • Floodable well deck for the launching and recovery of landing craft, LCACS and/or amphibious vehicles.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 500 and 2,000 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.
Landing Platform Dock

The LPD is a well-balanced multirole vessel; however, on a smaller scale than the LHD. It has comparable flexibility, but at a much smaller scale it lacks the power projection capability of the LHD. It has a small aircraft component, a smaller troop carrying capacity, and less long term self-sustainability. They are designed to provide more amphibious capability than air assault. It is of smaller dimension and displacement than the LHD, coming in at between 8,000 and 20,000 tons. Although their smaller size limits the scope of their operations, they gain the benefit of being able to operate more easily in littoral waters and are less costly to build and maintain. They have a shallower draft and smaller dimensions that lend to them being more suited to more constricted coastal waterways.

San Antonio Class LPD
San Antonio Class LPD

The vessels of the LPD pattern possess the following characteristics:
  • A flight deck that allows for limited helicopter assault and or humanitarian support/evacuation.
  • Small internal hangar deck.
  • Heavy/light vehicle deck.
  • Floodable Well deck for the launching and recovery of landing craft and LCACs.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 200 and 1,000 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.
Helicopter Dock Destroyer

The DDH is a relatively new adaptation of the MRNP. The DDH abandons all amphibious capabilities in favor of aircraft assault and aerial strike capability. The only two nations to build and operate DDHs are the United States and Japan. The JMSDF operates three DDHs currently, with a fourth vessel to enter operation in 2016. The United States has only one DDH, the USS America with another the USS Tripoli slated to be commissioned in 2018, if construction and sea trials go according to plan. Although the USS America and USS Tripoli are designated LHAs, they lack the amphibious capabilities of all other LHAs before them and should not be categorized as such. The displacement of a DDH ranges between 19,000 and 46,000 tons.

The Japanese DDHs lack a well deck and all space that would be devoted to amphibious equipment is utilized to support helicopter operations. These vessels act as command vessels in the JMSDF Escort Fleet Flotillas, are loaded with ASW helicopters and other ASW countermeasures along with a full complement of helicopter assault troops. The larger Izumo class DDHs have a large enough flight deck and internal hangar space to equip them with fixed-wing VSTOL aircraft, most likely the F-35B, if so decided in the future. The smaller Hyugaclass DDHs have both been used in HADR operations over the past few years in response to an earthquake and a major hurricane, where their helicopter support and evacuation capability proved of benefit.

Rendering of America Class LHA equipped with F-35B VSTOL strike aircraft
Rendering of America Class LHA equipped with F-35B VSTOL strike aircraft

The notable characteristics of the DDH are as follows:
  • Very large flight deck that can accommodate medium and heavy helicopters and VSTOL strike aircraft and UAVs.
  • Large internal hangar decks to service aircraft.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 300 and 1700 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.
The USS America LHA6 has proven to be a controversial topic amongst the US Navy and Marine Corps. Many see the vessel as a small aircraft carrier and do not see the need for such a vessel for the USMC. The USMC’s traditional role as an amphibious force should not be abandoned, and the flexibility exhibited by the force of LHAs and LPDs already operated by the force offer far more flexibility to USMC expeditionary forces than theAmerica Class vessels. Why remove a tool from your toolbox? The USMC has traditionally relied on the US Navy to provide aerial strike capability when so required, and the US Navy has ten aircraft carrier strike groups in service. It has largely been accepted that the USS Tripoli LHA7 will be the last vessel in this class to lack a well deck, with all other vessels in class being redesigned to allow for amphibious operations.

Landing Ship Tank

While traditionally designed to be beached bow-first to discharge tanks and heavy combat vehicles, the LST design has matured to allow for discharge via bow ramp or well deck like the LHA and LPD. Although not really an MRNP due to the limits in its capabilities, more modern LSTs share more in common with the LPD or LHD than in the past. The Navy of the Republic of Korea operates 4 modern LSTs with bow ramps of the Go Jun Bong class, and is currently in the second phase of LST development (LST-II), having designed more capable ships. These vessels usually carry a mixture of tanks, AAVs, and small landing craft as well as support vehicles along with 200 to 300 marines. These vessels lack helicopter assault capability, with only a small helicopter deck fitted.

The JMSDF operates three LSTs; however, their design is more akin to an LPD or LHD, having a stern well deck that houses two LCACs for transporting tanks (up to 10 Type 10 MBTs), vehicles and troops ashore. The Osumiclass vessels also can carry up to eight helicopters for transporting troops or for support and evacuation in HADR operations. Funds have recently been allocated to study the feasibility of refitting these vessels with V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AAV7s for amphibious assault.

ROK Navy Seong In Bong LST685 discharging a K1 MBT
ROK Navy Seong In Bong LST685 discharging a K1 MBT

The LST is usually close in size and displacement to the LPD, though slightly smaller. The bow-ramp LST has a very shallow draft in comparison to its size, due to the requirement to beach the vessel bow-first in order to discharge vehicles. Displacement ranges between 4,000 and 14,000 tons. The characteristics of the LST include:
  • A large bow ramp for discharging tanks, vehicles and troops while beached or a well deck for launching amphibious forces and tanks via LCAC or landing craft.
  • Limited aircraft capability.
  • Ability to carry approximately 10 to 12 MBTs and other vehicles.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 250 and 1,000 troops.
  • Limited hospital facilities.
Naval Arms Race in Asia and the Mediterranean

It is obvious to see the benefits of the MRNP with their inherent flexibility, humanitarian support and power projection capabilities. Such vessels would be of benefit to any nation with an extensive maritime border. The benefits are obvious, but why are so many vessels now being built in such a short span of time? These naval building programs are being driven by geo-political developments in two main regions of the globe, the Mediterranean and the Asia-Pacific. This is in direct relation to the wars of regime-change and disruption in the Middle East and the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” and the disputes over contested areas in the East and South China Seas.

When identifying the driving cause, a common denominator is the hegemonic foreign policy of the United States. The wars of regime change that wrought chaos in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and now Yemen and Syria were all spearheaded by the United States and NATO. The result of these operations has been failed states and humanitarian catastrophe for those nations targeted. Syria has been laid waste by a Wahhabist invasion that was created by Saudi Arabia and their emirate allies in conjunction with the United States. The threat of direct military intervention in Syria by the United States in 2014, turned the Mediterranean into the largest possible naval battle ground in recent times.

Nations building/acquiring MRNPs in the Europe/Mediterranean:

France: 3
  • 3 x Mistral Class LHDs built between 2004 and 2012.
Spain: 3
  • 1 x Juan Carlos I Class LHD, 2 x Galicia Class LPDs built by Navantia recently acquired (2010 to present).
Russia: 2 (planned)
  • 2 x Mistral Class LHDs built by France and sold to Egypt. Sold to Egypt in 2015. Now seeking 2 x LHDs of indigenous design and manufacture.
Turkey: 1
  • Building 1 x LPD based on Juan Carlos I Class of Spanish shipbuilder Navantia starting 2015.
Egypt: 2
  • Recent purchase of 2 x Mistral Class LHDs from France in 2015.
In East and Southeast Asia the reality of a resurgent China, a nation that can trace its civilization back for over five thousand years, has been met with open hostility on the part of the United States.

Apparently, the U.S. government believes that China should be allowed to expand its economic power, but not its military ability or geo-political influence. In an attempt to hamper Chinese expansion in these areas, the United States has decided to aid China’s potential adversaries at every turn. Nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines, wary of any Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and with equal claims to islands and oils and gas fields there, have been on the receiving end of U.S. support and even military assistance.

Nations in Asia building/acquiring MRSVs:

India: 1 (of 4)
  • Acquired 1 x Austin Class LPD from the U.S. in 2007. Plan to acquire a total of 4 x LPDs of a new design by 2020.
China: 4 (of 12)
  • 4 x Type 071 Class LPD built between 2007 and 2015, with 2 more being constructed. Plans to build 6 x LHDs have been in the works since 2005.
Japan: 7
  • 2 x Hyuga Class DDH and 2 x Izumi Class DDH built between 2006 and the present. 3 x Osumi Class LST built between 1998 and 2003.
South Korea: 1 (of 2)
  • 2 x Dokdo Class Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) built between 2007 and the present. The second in class planned to handle VSTOL strike aircraft. A newer LPX design is also in the planning stage.
Indonesia: 4
  • 4 x Makassar Class LPD built between 2007 and 2011.
Philippines: 2 (of 4?)
  • 2 x LPD being built on the Makassar Class pattern in Indonesia. Delivery planned between 2016 and 2017. The Philippine Navy may decide on a total complement of 4 such vessels.
United States: 30 (of 34)
  • This includes 9 x San Antonio Class LPDs built of a planned 12 total vessels between 2006 and the present, as well as 1 x America Class LHA built of a planned 2 total vessels between 2015 and the present.
(It is important to note that the United States is building more new MRNPs than any other nation in this analysis by a wide margin. These new vessels will be added to the older class of LHDs and LSDs that were built and commissioned between 1985 and 2002.)

Geopolitical Flashpoints

There are a number of territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and a number of other nations. These disputes are ostensibly matters of exerting sovereignty over historical territories; however, the likely presence of oil and natural gas and highly prized fishing rights are of far greater importance. The same issues are at the root of the dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands.

The war in Syria that has claimed over 250,000 lives and devastated arguably the last secular nation in the Middle East, is another volatile geo-political flash point that has absorbed the efforts of most nations in the Middle East, Russia, the United States and many NATO member states. This is also a conflict centered determining what nations control the flow of oil and natural gas, in this case from the Middle East into Europe, as well as cornering that market as a whole.

The current conflict in Yemen started out as an internal one until Saudi Arabia decided to intervene on the side of the deposed Hadi administration. The Saudis refuse to allow a non-Sunni power friendly to Iran to exist in the region, especially one located on their rebellious southern border region. This conflict has continued to escalate, with numerous allies to Saudi Arabia engaging in airstrikes and naval shelling of the Houthi controlled areas of the country.

The Senkaku Islands

The sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, known as the Daioyu Islands in China, has been in dispute for centuries. China claims that the islands were their territory centuries before they were illegally annexed by Japan at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. Japan asserts that the islands were ceded to Japan as part of the ceding of Taiwan “in perpetuity” at the conclusion of the war.

Japan surrendered Taiwan to the Chinese Nationalists at the conclusion of World War II, who ended up retreating to the Island at the end of the Chinese Civil War and establishing the Republic of China.
The Senkaku Islands remained in limbo as far as their ownership was concerned, until the government of Japan reasserted sovereignty when they purchased three of the islands from a private Japanese citizen in 2012, effectively legally nationalizing them. China responded by creating a new air-defense identification zone over the islands the following year. Japan upped the ante by forming the Amphibious Preparatory Unit (APU) of 700 men (to be expanded to 3,000), a force of marines that could be dispatched by air or sea to respond to any attempts to occupy the islands. The two nations have sent military aircraft over the islands, and Chinese civilian and auxiliary/research vessels have spared with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the islands’ waters. China sent an armed vessel to the waters of the Senkakus for the first time in late December of 2015, resulting in a formal diplomatic complaint from Japan.

Senkaku Islands detail

It is easy to see how Japan’s new DDHs and LSTs could be utilized in responding to further moves by the Chinese to exert their sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. The new APU could be deployed to the islands in short order aboard either an Osumi class LST or Hyuga or Izumo class DDH acting as part of one of four Escort Fleet Flotillas. The large DDHs could be equipped with VSTOL F-35B in such a theoretical future conflict over the islands. China would likely use any number of the six Type 071 LPDs in a fleet of escorting warships to occupy the islands and force the issue. It is; however, unlikely that China would attempt to settle the issue militarily before the larger LHDs it has planned for the PLAN come into service in 2020.

South China Sea Disputes

A detailed explanation of the many interlaced territorial disputes in the South China Sea by all the nations involved is beyond the scope of this analysis. There are two main areas of contention: the sovereignty of the entire South China Sea and its legal status as an international waterway for purposes of uninhibited trade, and the sovereignty of particular island chains and shoals. It is theorized that a great deal of oil and natural gas are in abundance under the seabed in many of these disputed areas. Oil and gas exploration and drilling has been underway for a number of years now, most notably in waters south of Vietnam/north of Malaysia and in waters north of Brunei. In pressing its claims of sovereignty China went as far as anchoring an oil exploration rig within the EEZ of Vietnam in May of 2014. Vietnam has a conflicting claim to much of the South China Sea, including the Spratley and Paracel Islands. Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines also have disputed claims in the area .China has taken the unprecedented decision to construct man-made islands at three locations in the Spratly Islands as well as construction in the Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

China most likely started dredging and land reclamation on the first of three man-made islands in the Spratleys sometime in 2011 or 2012. Construction efforts have steadily picked up pace since 2014 and the small reefs and atolls have morphed into artificial islands of thousands of acres in size. China has been building airstrips and port facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, and both Subi and Mischief Reef are undergoing major reclamation. In addition, China is building a fuel depot on Woody Island in the Paracels. China has fought naval skirmishes with Vietnam over control of the Paracel Islands on two separate occasions, one in 1974 and another in 1988.  China has also constructed military outposts in Scarborough Shoal which is also claimed by the Philippines, the islands clearly located within that nations EEZ.

South China Sea conflicting claims
South China Sea conflicting claims

China submitted a formal claim to the United Nations to virtually the entire South China Sea in 2009, which was rejected by that body as it does not comply with established international law governing the establishment of territorial waters. All nations with conflicting claims protested, along with the United States and Indonesia who hold no claims. The building of artificial islands is obviously either an attempt by China to press their claim by occupying and utilizing these islands, or to militarily exert control over the South China Sea as their long term goal. In order to protect these holdings and to react to any threat from prospective adversaries, a navy equipped with LPDs and LHAs is essential. China undoubtedly had this in mind when it started building six LPDs of the Type071 class and designing the new LHAs. The new LHAs are comparable to the Canberra or Mistral class, but are said to be much larger in size, with a displacement approaching 40,000 tons.

The Philippine Navy has received military aid from both Australia and the United States in the face of greater Chinese resolve to solidify their claims. Australia has donated two fully refurbished Balikpapan Class heavy landing craft (LHC) to the Philippine Navy while the U.S. has announced plans to donate two vessels, a decommissioned USCG cutter and a research vessel. Two LPDs based on the Indonesian PT PAL built Makassar are already under construction and should be delivered between 2016 and 2017.

Makassar Class LPD Banda Aceh LPD593.
Makassar Class LPD Banda Aceh LPD593.

It is easy to imagine a future conflict in the South China Sea where all major parties to the conflict will benefit from utilizing newly acquired MRNPs. Vessels that can land marines or assault troops via landing craft or AAVs complete with armored support, combined with air assault elements and that can provide aircraft to provide ground attack and air superiority cover to the attack force are a tool that both China and those aligned with the United States in this dispute have decided they must have. Any asymmetrical warfare that might take place could be commanded and coordinated from LHAs or LPDs. Special forces can operate from these platforms with insertion and extraction by sea or air, with reconnaissance support from the advanced sensors and information systems onboard as well as from UAVs launched and recovered from their flight decks. If a military confrontation happens, whether a result of miscalculation or by design, these new vessels will likely play a large part. As the United States ratchets up pressure in continuous “freedom of navigation” missions with armed warships and strategic bomber forces, the Chinese will be forced to either respond in kind or back down. Hopefully, statesmanship and compromise will prevail.

Chinese Type 071 LPD underway
Chinese Type 071 LPD underway

The War in Syria

The war that has raged in Syria for 5 years now has taken a decisive turn since Russia started its air campaign to aid the Syrian Arab Army in its fight to regain the initiative in the war and destroy the mostly foreign Wahhabist elements fighting the state on behalf of foreign interests. Russia is undoubtedly aiding a longtime ally in a time of desperate need, as well as ensuring its own defense in the long run. Russia has been fighting equally unsavory and illegitimate Wahhabist forces in its own Caucasus republics, and it is reasonable to believe that those forces fighting in Syria, if victorious would turn their sights north toward Russia. They would find willing allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE (all of which are funding and aiding the various terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian state) and Russia cannot allow this to come to pass.

A very defined delineation of adversaries has begun to emerge in this conflict in the form of three distinct blocks. One side is made up of those forces that aim to reestablish the legitimate sovereign state of Syria. They also aim to establish a mutually beneficial logistical route of oil and natural gas transport through their nations to the European market. These nations are Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia. Russia, most importantly seeks to maintain balance.


On another side there are the nations that aim to overthrow the government of Syria and render the nation impotent and malleable to their wishes. They hope to be able to control the groups that they have armed and funded to overthrow the legitimate government in Syria, so that after the war they can leverage beneficial oil and natural gas transit contracts that will allow them to control the transport of oil and natural gas from the Middle East to Europe, while cutting out Iran and Iraq, and undercutting Russian prices. These nations are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

The third side is comprised of nations that hope to continue the destabilization of the entire region to the detriment of Russia and Iran. They would rather see the Saudi alliance gain control of oil and natural gas transit to Europe than the Syria-Iraq-Iran alliance. This forces Russia and Iran to invest resources into fighting regional conflicts, while they continue to militarily surround them and fund internal forces to destabilize them. This side is composed of the United States and NATO.

The Case of the Russian Mistrals

Although the much hyped reason that France reneged on the contract to deliver two Mistral Class LHDs, theVladivostok and the Sevastopol, to Russia was the Russian “invasion” of the Ukraine and the “annexation” of the Crimea. Although the invasion and annexation were the fantasy creation of a concerted western media and White House propaganda campaign, they were just a convenient cover for the real reason that the Mistralscould not be delivered to Russia. The true reason was a very possible, and by September of 2015, real Russian intervention in Syria.

The United States and NATO, at times in coordination with the Saudi Arabia/Gulf emirate alliance, had been deeply invested in the overthrow of the Syrian government since the start of conflict in 2011. Turkey, also a member of NATO, is deeply involved in the conflict for a number of reasons, and due to its geographical location stands the most to lose from a Russian intervention. It became apparent when Russia responded to a very possible direct military intervention by the United States and NATO in 2013 by moving a large number of warships into the Mediterranean, that it wasn’t just the U.S. that had a red line that could not be crossed. Russia was ready for war, but fortunately Russia was able to broker a deal to exchange Syrian chemical weapons for de-escalation. The U.S. administration should have understood at this juncture that Russia would not allow the Syrian government to be overthrown by an unlawful military campaign. If Russia was to intervene as a collapse of the Syrian government seemed likely, the addition of two Mistral Class LHDs to their naval assets could not be tolerated.

Naval variant Ka-52 Alligator landing on Mistral Class LHD during trials
Naval variant Ka-52 Alligator landing on Mistral Class LHD during trials

It is arguable that at least one of the Mistrals, the Vladivostok would be available to take part in Russia’s current operations in Syria. The crew had been training for over a year in preparation for its commissioning in 2014. This vessel would have been a great asset positioned off the Syrian coast, being able to respond to support the airbase in Lattakia or to deliver ground attack support and troop transportation along the entire Syrian coast. It could act as a powerful joint naval/land force command ship and could support aerial operations with a force of reconnaissance UAVs. If need be, Russian marines and Spetsnaz could also deploy from this floating base of operations. It would have been a force multiplier in the region, and would definitely have influenced any calculus on the part of Turkey. It could also have been position in the Black Sea or close to the Bosporus to influence the decision making of the Erdogan regime or to react to any Turkish provocations.

Russia is determined to acquire LHDs or LPDs for the Russian Navy. It has announced with the cancellation of the Mistral deal that it will be asking indigenous ship builders to provide the government with designs for a similar platform to meet the needs of the Ministry of Defense (MoD). It is interesting to note that Turkey signed a contract in May of 2015 with Navantia of Spain to build an LPD based on the Juan Carlos I LHD design. This is the same design that was used as the basis of the Royal Australian Navies newly commissioned HMAS Canberra and soon to be commissioned HMAS Adelaide. Apparently, Turkey will be receiving one of these modern power projection vessels before Russia does. Russia lost a valuable head start when they decided to trust France to honor a basic contract. Apparently two centuries of peaceful relations between the two nations after the defeat of Napoleon mean little to the French leadership of today.

The Yemen Conflict and the Indian Ocean

It appeared, with the overthrow of an illegitimate ruler who gained office in an election where there was only one candidate that Yemen was moving towards stability, after a period of civil war and terrorism. Not long after the forces of the Houthi and Saleh aligned factions forced the Saudi aligned Abd Radduh Mansur Hadi to flee the country in February of 2015, the Saudi Arabian Airforce started bombing the impoverished country. It was clear that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate a predominantly Shia Houthi movement that shares good relations with Iran to take control of the nation that is on their disputed southern border. A coalition of nations under the leadership of Saudi Arabia has since been formed partly due to Saudi inability to prevail militarily and partly to add an air of legitimacy to the illegal Saudi invasion. The Houthis have been able to hold roughly a third of the country, with the other two thirds are controlled by the Hadi government and Ansar-al Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It is interesting to note that the Saudi-proxy terrorist groups have flourished in Yemen since Saudi Arabia started their campaign.

It was announced in September of 2015, that the two Mistral Class LHDs that were denied to Russia were purchased by Egypt. Egypt is a member of the Arab League sanctioned coalition that is engaged in the conflict in Yemen and currently has air and naval assets engaged. It remains to be seen if the conflict will see the use of the two LHDs at some future date. With the Saudi led coalition making little headway in the conflict, even with the aid of terrorist bombings by their allies in Ansar al-Sharia and AQAP, there may be time remaining to the Egyptian Navy to take delivery of the vessels, train the vessel crew and Ka-52 air crews and add these powerful vessels to the naval assets already engaged in the conflict.


It is important to note that the entire Indian Ocean is growing in strategic importance in light of developments over the past three decades. India is positioned between a volatile Arabian Peninsula and Horn of Africa to the west and a traditional enemy in Pakistan and an ever increasingly assertive China to the east. India has wisely responded by modernizing its aircraft carrier force with the acquisition of a Soviet Era Kiev Class aircraft carrier, which was heavily modified and commissioned into the Indian Navy as the INS Vikramaditya in 2013. The INS Viraat, a former British Centaur Class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, is also in service, but is slated to be replaced by the indigenously designed and built INS Vikrant by 2018. INS Vikrant will commence sea trials this coming year. The Indian Navy has called for proposals for its Multirole Support Vessel (MRSV) project, and has specified an LHD design of between 20,000 and 27,000 ton displacement. It appears that Navantia is the leading contender to win the contract; however the DCNS designed Mistral 140 concept, at a much smaller displacement of 14,000 tons may be a contender.


The world is currently faced with a number of regional conflicts that could easily and regrettably become conflicts of global proportion. Nations as small and as economically limited as the Philippines to the military juggernaut that is the United States, have moved in recent years to acquire vessels that allow them flexibility, power projection capability, and asymmetrical warfare options in an ever increasingly complex geo-political landscape. From the Middle East to East and Southeast Asia to the Indian Ocean, the world is challenged by conflicts that defy international law regardless of the claims of the perpetrators. All of these conflicts have been decades in the making.

As the nations on every side of these conflicts plan their strategy, both diplomatically and militarily, one fact stands out loud and clear. They have all either acquired or are in the process of acquiring multirole naval platforms such as the LHD,LPD,LHA or DDH to empower their navies and to provide more options to diplomats, military planners and warfighters to stay one step ahead in an ever changing geo-political landscape. These vessels are not game-changers on their own, but when employed as a component of a modern naval force, they provide an added power projection capability and a host of options to naval strategic planners. They are a force multiplier in 21st century naval warfare.

It remains to be seen how the current conflicts and disputes will be resolved by all of the assorted stakeholders. The fact that these vessels are being added to the naval inventories of many of the real or potential belligerents of these conflicts and disputes carries the probability that they will be used in the future. All we can do is hope that their inherent power and capabilities will work as a deterrent to conflict and war, and that they will one day be looked on in awe as a tool ultimately left sheathed, while intimidatingly ensuring peace.

Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.

Igor Pejic graduated Political Science Foreign Affairs Department at the Faculty of Political Science and now he is a postgraduate student on the MA Terrorism, Security and Organised Crime at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

Photo: Communist Party of the Philippines Gun Salute

Posted to the Jakarta Globe (Dec 31): Photo: Communist Party of the Philippines Gun Salute

Armed members of the New People's Army (NPA) aim their weapons during an event commemorating the 47th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines, in Ifugao province, north of Manila, on Tuesday. (Reuters Photo/Harley Palangchao)

NPA robbed soldiers’ meal allowance during ambush: 2 troopers killed

From the Samar News (Nov 30): NPA robbed soldiers’ meal allowance during ambush: 2 troopers killed

NPA ambush in Catbalogan

PIERCED WITH BULLETS. The KM450 vehicle of 14th Infantry Battalion during an ambush by the New People's Army (NPA) at vicinity Brgy Lagundi, Catbalogan City at around 7:40PM on November 27 2015.

November 30, 2015

CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityMeal allowance of 14th Infantry Battalion soldiers were taken by the New People’s Army (NPA) while two soldiers were killed and three were wounded during an ambush at around 7:40 p.m., November 27, 2015 in Barangay Lagundi, Catbalogan City, Samar.

The soldiers led by 1Lt. Cherwin B. Lapura, aboard a KM450 vehicle, were traversing the Maharlika Highway in going back to their camp when they were hit by a landmine laid along the side of the road followed by a burst of gunfire. The NPA bandits then took the Subsistence Allowance of the personnel of 14IB amounting to P1.8 million that was just recently withdrawn from the bank. Acting like robbers and criminals, they also robbed the slain soldiers of their combat boots, cellphones, wallet and other personal belongings.

Joint AFP and PNP troops from the Division Headquarters composed of armored vehicles, one platoon of soldiers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, together with the SOCO team from the Samar Police Provincial Office (SPPO) were immediately sent to the area to reinforce the beleaguered troops. They recovered assorted empty shells of different calibers, including that of an AK-47 rifle, and fragments of landmines made from PVC pipe and cuttings of steelbar.

The 8ID strongly condemns these treacherous acts of the NPAs which are gross violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) by the CPP-NPA to which the communist group is a signatory.

CARHRIHL states that parties involved in the agreement should affirm and apply the principles of international humanitarian law in order to protect the civilian population and individual civilians, as well as persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict and also guarantees the right against economic and food blockades and indiscriminate bombings, shelling, strafing, gunfire and the use of landmines.

Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, Commander, 8ID said, “I would like to express my condolence to the families of the slain soldiers. They died a hero’s death in pursuit of peace and development in the region. Their sacrifices and bravery will not be forgotten.”

“Despite this setback, your Army in Eastern Visayas will remain focused in carrying out the mission to safeguard the people against the NPA rebels and in our quest for a lasting peace and progressive communities in this part of the country”, he added.

Velarmino stressed, by calling out the peace loving people of Samar, to help in convincing those who were deceived by the CPP-NPA, to follow the path of peace and condemn those who advocate violence and use of arms against the government.

The wounded soldiers are now recuperating at Camp Lukban Station Hospital and are in stable condition. Pursuit operation is still ongoing as of press time. Names of the casualties are being withheld prior notification of their immediate families.

Local leaders, AFP hoping for end to armed conflict in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 31): Local leaders, AFP hoping for end to armed conflict in Mindanao

Butuan City – Mindanao leaders and field unit commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spread all over the second largest island in the Philippines welcomes 2016 with the hope and ardent desire for peace and prosperity for all Mindanaons and also hope that fighting between government security forces and communist insurgents will end.

These Mindanao leaders are also hoping that this unilateral ceasefire declared by both the government and Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) will continue even after Jan. 3, 2016, the end of suspension of military and police operations and NPA, armed wing of the CPP.

“We welcome peace beginning this New Year and as a people, we should demand an end to armed struggle as a means to achieve change in our society, instead we must make the purveyors of violence realize that the best way to achieve change is through peaceful means,” said Maj. Gen. Rafael C. Valencia, commanding general of the AFP Southern Mindanao 10th Infantry (Agila) Division, in a statement.

Addressing the CPP-NPA-NDF, Gen. Valencia expressed hope that in 2016, their members especially their leaders should realize that  47 years of armed struggle has only brought so much miseries to many Filipino families. “Many Filipino lives were wasted, as parents and children alike were victimized by the brutality of the armed struggle carried out by the CPP-NPA”, he said.
“We call on everyone to work for just peace and change without the use of arms, praying fervently for all to have a peaceful and happy 2016,” the 10th ID commander added, in his 2016 message.

On the other hand, the governors in Mindanao also welcome the new year with the hope that the ceasefire between the government forces and communist insurgents will continue beyond the stipulated deadline.

Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas said, “the ceasefire — alongside peace and development initiatives — can be taken as a sign of government’s commitment to peace. It is a gesture that shows how the government has always kept the welfare of the Filipino people in mind.”

PNP to resume offensive vs NPA

From the Business Mirror (Jan 1): PNP to resume offensive vs NPA

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) will resume on Saturday, its offensive operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) as its 10-day cease-fire with rebels will expire at 12 midnight on Friday.

Based on the monitoring of the PNP, its unilateral cease-fire with the guerrillas managed to hold as no incidents of attacks or harassments of police personnel by rebels across the country was recorded by the national headquarters.

A police official in Albay was shot and killed early this week, reportedly by armed men, while he was manning a checkpoint. The case was still being thoroughly investigated in order to determine if it was perpetrated by the rebels.

However, the deputy chief of police of the Libon Municipal Police Station, was conducting the checkpoint in support of a law-enforcement operations to serve a warrant of arrest against one of the most wanted persons in Albay.

The military reported that the NPA greeted its own unilaterally declared cease-fire with the government by harassing soldiers who were involved in humanitarian assistance and disaster-response operations in Surigao del Sur on December 23. PNP Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez ordered the suspension of offensive police operations (Sopo) against the NPA that began on December 23 in deference to the country’s observance of Christmas and the New Year.

“As part of the yearly tradition, the Sopo is observed and respected by all units and personnel of the PNP that refrain the troops from initiating offensive police operations against the NPA,” PNP Spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said.

However, the Sopo does not cover normal law- enforcement operations including the service of warrants of arrest.

Despite the cease-fire, Marquez ordered all policemen to be still on guard against possible attacks by the rebels.

“Recognizing the inherent right to self-defense, all units still remain on guard and maintain a high state of operational readiness to respond to any hostile actions,” he said.

Mlang attack not BIFF’s – authorities

From the Manila Times (Jan 1): Mlang attack not BIFF’s – authorities

MLANG, North Cotabato: Authorities on Wednesday clarified reports that the recent attack in barangay Tibao here was a renewed skirmish between Moro residents and mixed Ilonggo and other Visayan settlers fighting over land ownership.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, with officials of the 602nd Infantry Brigade also belied reports that the recent attack against Ilonggo farmers in a remote village here was a handiwork of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Similarly, Mayor Joselito Piñol and Mlang police chief Supt. Joffrey Todeño said the assault was a result of long-existing land conflict in the area and the BIFF has no hand in it.

The attack in Barangay Tibao in December 26 allegedly staged by the BIFF resulted to the wounding of Nolly Tongcua, barangay tanod Sonny Catague and Jomar Magarso, a civilian volunteer of the paramilitary unit.

The report said civilians mostly Ilonggo farmers were arming themselves to fight against the BIFF.

The incident occurred the same day the BIFF were rampaging in other villages in North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces that claimed 13 lives, eight of them were civilians that sowed fear among residents in Central Mindanao.

“We’ve evaluated the situation and seen that it was not a handiwork of BIFF as per earlier reports but a long-existing land conflict in the area,” Piñol said.

He said involved in the 10 to 20 hectares disputed land were Moro tribesmen headed by Ustadz Alimodin and mixed Ilonggo and other Visayan settlers.

“We are trying to settle it through negotiations,” he said.

He said the conflict has been resolved in 1996 through signed agreements and they would like to revive the pact.

“There was also no truth about reports that there were civilians arming themselves against the BIFF,” he said.

“The local government of Mlang, the police and the army are still in control over the area,” Piñol added.

Earlier reports quoted Armando Tongcua, barangay chairman of Tibao as saying that civilians have started arming themselves to protect their properties from possible attacks by the BIFF.

Tongcua recanted his statement before a press conference saying he was carried away by emotion when he issued the statement.

Tension eases in N. Cotabato town after BIFF scare

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 31): Tension eases in N. Cotabato town after BIFF scare

M’LANG, North Cotabato – Municipal officials and the police in this town alongside the military have dismissed reports that villagers here are arming selves against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militants, who recently figured in bloody clashes with other civilian communities elsewhere in Central Mindanao in what peace advocates lamented as “Christmas rampage.”

“No civilian residents in any part of our town are taking up arms,” M’lang Mayor Joselito Piñol and Vice Mayor Russel Abonado told reporters.

At the press conference, Supt. Joffrey Todeño, M’lang town chief of police, and provincial board member Ivy Martia Dalumpines, backed Pinol and Abonado’s statement.

Armando Tongcua, chairman of M’lang’s barangay Tibao and source of the published report about Christian civilians of his village “arming selves” against BIFF, recanted his statement to corroborate the unanimous declaration.
“I was just carried away by my emotion during my radio interview (On Dec. 29),” Tongcua said, citing an earlier belief that it was the BIFF that attacked his village on Dec. 26.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, together with officials of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, which has jurisdiction over M’lang town, Mayor Piñol and police chief Todeño clarified that what transpired at Barangay Tibao last Dec. 26 was a renewed skirmish between Visayan settlers and Moro residents over a land dispute.

“No BIFF was involved in the armed skirmish” that reportedly left three Visayan settlers – Nolly Tongcua, brother of the barangay chairman; barangay tanod Sonny Catague and civilian volunteer Jomar Magarso – wounded, Mayor Pinol pointed out.

The report on the supposed arming of civilians obviously alarmed national authorities, prompting Gen. Pangilinan’s convoy including journalists to rush from Cotabato City and convene an emergency town-wide meeting here to clarify the issue.

“Let us refrain from issuing unfounded statements that would only promote confusion. There is no presence of BIFF elements in M’lang town… Unnecessary attribution of isolated incidents to the BIFF is tantamount to dignifying the outlawed bandit group,” Gen. Pangilinan told the press conference.

Gen. Pangilian labelled the BIFF militants as “demons” due to their penchant in attacking civilians in other parts of Central Mindanao.

Elements of the 6th Infantry Division and its four component brigades will set aside New Year’s celebration to pursue military offensives on BIFF remaining enclaves in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

At Wednesday’s press conference, which he presided over, Pangilinan ordered the establishment in the afternoon of that day of a joint military-police detachment at barangay Tibao to “pacify” the Visayan settlers and Moro residents from further clashing over a long-standing land dispute.

According to Mayor Piñol, there are 10 to 20 hectares of productive land involved in the dispute, which he said began in 1996. He named the group leader of the Moro residents as a certain Ustaz Alimodin.

Casualties mount in Army-Abu firefight

From The Standard (Jan 1): Casualties mount in Army-Abu firefight

THE death toll from intense fighting between the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and security forces climbed to 11  Thursday, including a junior Army officer and 10 bandits, while 20 others were wounded in the latest clashes in Patikul, Sulu.

Killed in the fighting was 2nd  Lt. Ronald Detalla. Seven other soldiers, including Capt. Edmar Samonte, Pfc Ernie de Guzman, Ssgt. Wilson Fontanil, Pfc Joemar Andrez, Pfc Dennis Desambrana, Pfc Alberto Dinio and Sgt. Arturo Andama were wounded.

Thursday’s  total brought to 28 the number of ASG killed in recent fighting as the government intensified its operations against the bandits which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in October 2014.

On the move. File photo shows government troops mustering at Talipao, Sulu in an offensive against Islamist militants who are believed to be harboring at least eight foreign jihadists in Mindanao
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, said 10 ASG members were killed in the encounter in the village of Buhanginan in Patikul, Sulu at about  4:15 p.m.  Thursday.

The clash broke out when Army Scout Rangers on a clearing operation chanced upon the bandits in their jungle lair, Tan said.

Independent sources said a Malaysian jihadist was in the Abu Sayyaf group that figured in the fighting.

“Patikul is a safe haven for foreign terrorists,” an anti-terrorist expert said.

Seven Filipino terrorist were also killed in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat where local militants under the supervision of foreign jihadists conduct its military training.

Sucipto Ibrahim Ali, an Indonesian terrorist killed in an encounter with Marines on  Nov. 26, was one of the corps group members of the Ansar Khilafa Philippines along with five Malaysians, three Syrians and another Indonesian terrorist who have sought sanctuary with local Islamists in Mindanao.

In 2013, the Malaysian government sought the help of the Philippine government to trace the whereabouts of five Malaysian nationals recruited by ISIS who fled to Mindanao.

The Abu Sayyaf are believed to be holding foreign hostages.

The terrorists last month released a video of the two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort operator and a Filipina abducted in another area of Mindanao and demanded P1 billion in ransom.

A Dutch bird watcher abducted in Mindanao in 2012 is also believed by the military to be held by the same group on Jolo.

Founded in the early 1990s with seed money from late Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety for kidnapping dozens of foreign tourists for ransom in the early 2000s.

The group has also been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

It is believed to have just a few hundred gunmen, but thrives in lawless sections of the southern Philippines where Muslim rebels have for decades fought for independence or autonomy.

The militant group beheaded a Malaysian hostage last month, weeks after a 74-year-old South Korean kidnapped in January was found dead, apparently from illness, on Jolo.