The US U2 Spy Plane Above Chinese Clouds

Reports have emerged that the crew of a U.S.armored vehicle was injured after running into a Russian military convoy in an incident in northeast Syria earlier this week. The incident appears to be related to a series of videos of tense encounters between the two forces that have been uploaded in social media. According to different American media sources, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, the incident occurred when a Russian vehicle collided with one of its American counterparts, resulting in four U.S. soldiers sustaining “concussion-like injuries.”

The action by Russian looks like a deliberate one. Though it is unclear it seems that AmericanMaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) appears to be involved in the collision with a Russian Typhoon-K armored truck. National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot said the incident occurred around 10 a.m. Syria time on Tuesday, when a routine security patrol encountered Russian troops near Dayrick in northeast Syria. Ullyot condemned the Russian actions in the statement. "Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019," In a move to enhance the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) surveillance capabilities, India is going to sign the long-pending deal to acquire two additional Israeli-made PHALCON airborne early warning and control systems (AWACS)aircraft from Israel.

The deal valued at around $1 billion presently, was derailed at least a couple of times in the past due to the high costs involved. The contract is for two AWACS, with the Israeli PHALCON early-warning radar system mounted on Russian Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift aircraft, which will be delivered in three to four years. The two new Phalcons will add to the existing three Phalcon AWACS acquired by IAF between 2009-2011 under a $1.1 billion deal inked by India, Israel, and Russia in 2004. The new aircraft would be more advanced than the older once. The Phalcons are powerful “eyes in the sky” since they are equipped with a high-tech Green Pine radar system, which has a range of 500km or 310 miles.

A Chinese military spokesperson on Thursday voiced opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and vowed countermeasures if the U.S insists on pushing for a new round of arms sales to the region. Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, made the remarks at a press conference while responding to a question about a reported 10-year arms deal worth 62 billion U.S. dollars announced by the U.S.Department of Defense. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and wants to bring it to its fold in the future. Taiwan is currently a self-governed democracy. Though Taiwan has no formal diplomatic ties with the U.S, it remains an important ally. U.S relation with Taiwan is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act.

The Taiwan Relations Act neither confirms that the USA will intervene militarily if China invades Taiwan nor does it relinquishes it, maintaining a strategic ambiguity. As per the act, “The United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities” U.S. Air Force is stepping up its activities in Europe in a message to Russia. A group of six B-52H Stratofortress bombers, which are now on a short-term deployment in the United Kingdom, recently flew together with Norwegian F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and F-16AM Viper fighter jets. Reports indicate that all the bombers were nuclear-capable.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force released pictures and video of the armada of aircraft in flight on Aug. 24, 2020, but did not say when or where the event had actually taken place. Viewers may note that similarly, a large exercise involving five B-52Hs and Norwegian F-16AMs last year took place over the Norwegian Sea. Norwegian Army Major General Eirik Kristoffersen, the country's present Chief of Defense, said in a statement"I am happy that our American friends choose to practice and train in our local areas. It is important that they know Norwegian conditions and can operate with us if necessary.” India and Japan set to share bases. The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement or ACSA (commonly referred to as Mutual Logistics Services Pact) would permit the Indian Navy access to a Japanese base in Djibouti.

The Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JSDF)would be permitted to use India’s military installations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Indo-Japanese defense ties have been growing over the past few years. At the end of the bilateral 2018 summit meeting in Tokyo attended by the two leaders, both countries had agreed to begin formal negotiations on ACSA. India has since long been keen to get a presence in Djibouti as part of its Indian Ocean outreach. Djibouti, wedged between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, is a natural gatekeeper to a vital and extremely bustling sea-lane. The base in Djibouti is the JSDF’s first full-scale, long term overseas base. Similarly, Andaman and Nicobar are critical for the Japanese Navy in the Bay of Bengal region. The ACSA is seen as a counter to Chinese expansion in the region.

There is an investigation going on to ascertain if the fire that struck the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard in July was intentionally set. Reports indicate that the Naval Criminal InvestigativeService was considering the possibility that the fire was a case of arson and had identified a sailor as a possible suspect. Multiple news reports state that the sailor is being questioned in connection with the fire but has not been charged. Readers may note that the ship burned for three days while it was tied to the pier at Naval Base San Diego. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gildaylater told Navy leaders that 11 of the ship's 14 decks had been damaged and the ship's island was “nearly gutted,” The Navy has not yet revealed if the Bonhomme Richard is deemed too damaged to save. USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy commissioned in 1998 as the sixth ship of her class.

The primary mission of Bonhomme Richard is to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft, an amphibious vehicle, and if needed, to act as a light aircraft carrier. China has accused that of provocation after a U-2 spy plane appeared to have observed the Chinese military exercise. As per Reuters, China says its Defense Ministry has lodged 'stern representations" with the U.S. government over the U-2 “seriously interfering in normal exercise activities" that could have resulted in an "unexpected incident." They added that the flight was "an act of provocation, and China is resolutely opposed to it... China demands the U.S. side immediately stop this kind of provocative behavior and take actual steps to safeguard peace and stability in the region.”

Experts have indicated that China can issue a notice to airmen (NOTAM) warning of live-fire drills but a large part of the exercise would have taken place in international waters. Hence, though the U-2 may have got near the airspace China 'closed' for the exercise, it doesn't mean it broke any territorial boundaries. The U-2 can operate day and night at high-altitude (70,000 feet, 21,300 meters) and has all-weather intelligence gathering capability.