“China Accused of Building on Unoccupied Reefs in South China Sea” –gCaptain

Satellite images obtained by Bloomberg News depict physical changes to a layered land feature at Sandy Cay between 2009 and 2021. Credit: Bloomberg

gCaptain reports,

China is building up several unoccupied land features in the South China Sea, according to Western officials, which they said was part of Beijing’s long-running effort to strengthen claims to disputed territory and potentially bolster its military presence in a region critical to global trade.

Apparently, China is not satisfied with the military outposts they have created in the South China Sea and are in the process of creating more. These actions may be taken by the Chinese both in support their systematic theft of EEZ resources from other nations and as support for a future blockade of Taiwan.

Certainly, these will be upgraded to military installations just as has been done with other artificial islands.

The nations whose EEZs are being violated by these activities have an opportunity to put a stop to it, while they are being done by fishing vessels, before there is a Chinese military presence, if they act quickly and aggressively to stop this illegal activity.

“Document: Office of Naval Intelligence’s Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, Coast Guard, Ship Identification Guide” –USNI

This Chinese Coast Guard ship is equipped with weapons believed to be 76-millimeter guns. © Kyodo

The US Naval Institute’s News Service reports the availability of a new document, “Office of Naval Intelligence’s Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, Coast Guard. and Government Maritime Forces 2022-2023 Recognition and Identification Guide.

You cannot actually read much of it on the USNI site, but you can download a copy here. You’ll need to expand it to read much of the information.

From a Coast Guard perspective, there are a couple things to note.

First is the sheer number of China Coast Guard cutters. China’s internationally recognized EEZ is less than 8.5% that of the US. Even if their expansive unrecognized claims were included, their total EEZ would be less than 20% that of the US. But according to the guide, they have over 200 cutters of 60 meters (197 feet) in length or greater (225 by my quick count). The US Coast Guard by comparison has 57: 37 patrol cutters, three icebreakers, 16 buoy tenders, and the barque Eagle.

Second, China has other agencies that apparently do coast guard work, that also have their own ships including the Sansha City Patrol, China, and the Maritime Safety Agency which, alone, has over 40 ships 60 meters or greater in length.

“Damen Lays Keel Of First OPV 2600 For Pakistan Navy” –Naval News

OPV 2600 multi-mission patrol vessel rendering (Source: Damen)

Naval News reports,

On October 12, 2022, Damen Shipyards ceremonially laid the keel of the first multi-purpose patrol vessel OPV 2600 for the Pakistan Navy. At the same ceremony, the first steel plates were cut for the construction of the second OPV 2600.

This is only the latest in a long line of Damen OPVs. Details of this 98 meter, 2600 ton, 24 knot design can be found here. Get an overview of their OPV programs here.

“Russia’s new maritime doctrine: adrift from reality?” –IISS

Russian Federation claimed territory. Disputed territory in light green.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has published a short look at Russia’s new maritime doctrine.

There are couple of things that caught my attention in the critique.

  • The Arctic, now comes first, replacing the Atlantic, and
  • No mention of China as a significant ally, while there is a reference to  partnerships and cooperation with India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.

The doctrine does not overtly acknowledge a diminished role for Russia on the world stage, but these actions may reflect that realization.

The Arctic: 

“In terms of the regional priorities of Russian naval activities, there is a reordering compared to 2015, with the Atlantic dropping from first to third on the list. The first priority is now the Arctic, with the promise of strengthened capabilities for the Northern and Pacific fleets in response to threats in the region.”

Emphasis on the Atlantic is inherently offensive, because they have to transit long distances through hostile waters to have an impact there. After all Russia has no Atlantic coast line. Access from either the Baltic or Black Sea looks increasing problematic.

Emphasis on the Arctic is primarily defensive. The Arctic is critical to Russia’s economy.  It is their front door. It is their longest border. Its Northern Sea Route is the strongest link between more populous industrialized European Russia and the sparsely populated Russian Far East, and with increasingly open water, the Arctic coast is increasingly exposed.

The Doctrine points out “…the ‘global naval ambitions’ of the United States, NATO activities close to Russia and at sea, an increase in foreign naval presence in the Arctic and efforts to weaken Russia’s control of the Northern Sea Route as the key challenges.” 

The US has made it clear it would like to conduct “Freedom of Navigation” exercises along the Northern Sea Route (which would require Coast Guard icebreakers). Russia has seen her control of the Northern Sea Route as a money maker and they are not eager to see it turned into open sea.

Notably China’s national interest is in opening the route to international traffic.

China: 

“…potential cooperation with China… is strikingly absent from the new doctrine.”

This and upgrades to Russia’s Pacific Fleet, along with improvements to the Northern Sea Route, may reflect a realization that perhaps China will not always be a friend, and ultimately China may turn on them.

A Second Analysis: 

There is a much more detailed analysis of the document here, done by Indian authors. This second analysis seems to confirm greater emphasis on the Arctic and discomfort with the isolation of the Russia’s eastern regions.

“In the 2015 doctrine, the Arctic was at second place after the Atlantic, which has been positioned at third place in the 2022 doctrine. Though the present sequencing may be in no specific order, it may also point to the priority of focus, as the Artic has found detailed mention as indicated earlier. It is evident that Russia recognises the Arctic not only as an area for global economic competition but as an area of military competition as well. The 21 focus areas enunciated for the Arctic region indicate a more positive and perhaps even aggressive approach as they:

—Posit Russia in the lead position in many areas of common regional interest.

—Espouse nuances of control, especially regarding foreign presence and shipping (particularly naval activities).

—Lay emphasis on protection of Russian sovereignty, especially resources.

—Indicate a growing focus on developing the requisite capacity and capability.”

When the Russian Empire fought the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Russia was a great power and appeared to have many advantages, but its logistical links with its Asian holdings were weak. Apparently this is still the case.

Placement of the Pacific at second place is, perhaps, indicative of the Russian approach to the ‘Indo-Pacific’, enunciated in 2012 by the Russian president as the ‘pivot to Asia’, which was aimed at promoting modernisation of the economy. The term ‘pivot to Asia’ is, perhaps, reflective of the belief that “Russia, like China, still strongly opposes the idea of the Indo-Pacific”.
However, Russia will engage nations with which it has long standing strategic relations, like India. Hence, the 2022 doctrine retains the term ‘Asia-Pacific’, and focuses on “overcoming the economic and infrastructural isolation of the Far East from the industrialized regions of the Russian Federation, establishing sustainable sea (river), air and rail links with cities and towns in Siberia and the European part of the Russian Federation, including the development of the Northern Sea Route: This focus apparently seeks to strengthen the ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy, which was termed as a failure, especially due to “Russia’s lack of a comprehensive approach to overcoming the social and economic hardships faced by its least developed regions, namely Siberia and the country’s Far East”.

No Longer a Great Power: 

Despite its ambitions, Russia is not the Soviet Union and is no longer a Great Power. It is a middle weight power with a lot of nuclear weapons, many of which are aging. Potential military power is largely based on economic power, and Russia’s GDP is similar to that of Canada, Italy, Brazil, or South Korea. Even adjusted for “Purchase Power Parity (PPP),” Russia is only number six, behind China, the US, India, Japan, and Germany. In terms of PPP Russia’s GDP is only 14.5% that of China and 17.2% that of the US. Differences are even greater in terms of nominal GDP, 9.2% that of China and 7.2% that of the US.

As systems built during the Soviet era wear out and become increasingly obsolete, Russia’s military power is rapidly fading.

This is not to say that, during a war, Russia would not send at least some submarines into the Atlantic, but they cannot realistically deny the US and NATO control of the North Atlantic. Their SSNs will likely be more more concerned with protecting their SSBNs.

Russian and Soviet Naval thinking has long had an emphasis on coastal defense, that we saw in construction of a large fleet of torpedo and missile boats, corvettes, and light frigates. We still see that in the Karakut and Buyan-M class corvettes, and the retention of large numbers of Soviet era corvettes and light frigates, while they have not laid down a single carrier, cruiser, or destroyer since the fall of the Soviet Union. Even their frigates are smaller than their European counterparts.

Russia, it seems, is desparately trying to maintain its image as a great power, hoping no one, particularly China, will notice, but it simply does not have the means.

“Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in the Western Pacific” –PacArea

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 30, 2022) U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757) transits the Pacific Ocean during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, three submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Bacon)

Only weeks after having completed participation in RIMPAC2022, Honolulu based USCGC Midgett begins a “months-long” deployment in the Western Pacific.

News Release

August 31, 2022
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in the Western Pacific

VIDEO: Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in the Western Pacific

Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in Manila, Philippines Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in Manila, Philippines Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in Manila, Philippines
Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in Manila, Philippines Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in Manila, Philippines Coast Guard Cutter Midgett arrives in Manila, Philippines

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

MANILA, Philippines – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WMSL 757) arrived in Manila Tuesday for its first international port call during the crew’s months-long Western Pacific deployment to the region.

Midgett’s crew will conduct professional exchanges and operate with the Philippine Coast Guard as part of an at-sea search-and-rescue exercise while in Manila, building upon the strong partnership between the two nations.

Midgett is operating in support of United States Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the region.

Operating under the tactical control of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, the cutter’s crew plans to engage in professional and subject matter expert exchanges with regional partners and allies and will patrol and operate as directed during their Western Pacific deployment.

The Coast Guard provides expertise within the mission sets of search and rescue; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; maritime environmental response; maritime security; maritime domain awareness; aviation operations; interoperability; and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

As both a federal law enforcement agency and a branch of the armed forces, the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to conduct non-escalatory defense operations and security cooperation in support of combatant commanders on all seven continents. The service routinely provides forces in joint military operations worldwide, including the deployment of cutters, boats, aircraft and deployable specialized forces.

“Engaging with our Philippine Coast Guard partners is truly an honor,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Willie Carmichael, commanding officer of the Midgett. “Together we will continue to build strong relationships and learn from each other. Our deep-rooted partnership will combine the best of both our Coast Guards and the planned search-and-rescue exercise and professional exchanges are a great opportunity for us keep the Indo-Pacific region open and free.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has a 150-year enduring role in the Indo-Pacific. The service’s ongoing deployment of resources to the region directly supports U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives in the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the National Security Strategy.

Since 2019, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750), Stratton (WMSL 751), Waesche (WMSL 751) and Munro (WMSL 755) have deployed to the Western Pacific.

Commissioned in 2019, Midgett is one of two Coast Guard legend-class national security cutters homeported in Honolulu. National security cutters are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days and can hold a crew of up to 170.

Midgett is the second cutter named after Rear Admiral John Midgett, whose family has a long legacy in the Coast Guard and our services precursor – the U.S. Life Saving Service.

National security cutters feature advanced command and control capabilities, aviation support facilities, stern cutter boat launch and increased endurance for long-range patrols to disrupt threats to national security further offshore.

“Singapore’s Police Coast Guard deploys multilayered tactics to defend coastline” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Indo-Pacific Defense Forum takes a look at Singapore’s Police Coast Guard, apparently prompted by a July 2022 report commissioned by the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy and titled “Second Amongst Equals? The Police Coast Guard within Singapore’s Maritime Security Architecture.” Wikipedia has a more detail.

(They have a very different sort of “racing stripe” to identify their vessels, apparently replacing a more conventional white/red/white stripe on blue hull about a decade ago.)

Singapore has a very small EEZ, 1,067 sq.km. That of the US is 10,638 times larger, but those waters are extremely important, highly congested, and have had a long history of piracy. IUU, terrorism, and particularly illegal imigration are continuing concerns.

The largest Singapore Police Coast Guard vessels are similar in size to the 110 foot WPBs. Most of their vessels are relatively fast (35 to 55 knots) and for a “police” organization, well armed. The Singapore Navy handles some missions that we would consider Coast Guard missions, including operation of Offshore Patrol Vessels.

PATFORSWA Now Has Six Webber Class

220822-A-KS490-1182 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 22, 2022) From the left, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144), USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Aug. 22. The cutters are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noah Martin)

The planned six Webber Class contingent for PATFORSWA is now complete. See the press release below.


08.23.2022

Story by NAVCENT Public Affairs   

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet

MANAMA, Bahrain – Two U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters arrived in Bahrain, Aug. 23, marking the arrival to their ultimate destination after departing Key West, Florida in June.

USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) are two of the Coast Guard’s six newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters (FRC) now stationed in Bahrain where U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered.

“This arrival represents the culmination of years of tireless effort and exceptional teamwork,” said Capt. Eric Helgen, commander of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA). “These newest FRCs bring us to our full complement of six ships and mark the beginning of a new era of extraordinary maritime capability supporting U.S. 5th Fleet.”

The Sentinel-class cutters in Bahrain are overseen by PATFORSWA, the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the United States. The ships are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East.

“We are extremely excited to be here and look forward continuing to work with international partners in the region,” said Lt. David Anderson, commanding officer of Clarence Sutphin Jr. “Completing this more than 10,000-nautical-mile transit to Bahrain has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

John Scheuerman and Clarence Sutphin Jr. were commissioned in February and April 2022 respectively. The 154-foot long vessels feature advanced communications systems and improved surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.

Fincantiari of Italy Builds Two Small but Powerful OPVs

The Qatari Navy OPV is about 63 meters long, 9.2 meters wide, with a maximum speed of 30 knots. Giorgio Arra picture.

Naval News has done a couple of posts on a pair of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) built in Italy for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces by Fincantieri (owner of Marinette Marine in Wisconsin):

These are not your typical OPV. They look more like FAC(M) i.e fast attack craft, missile, but they trace their linage back through the UAE’s Falag 2 class to the Italian Coast Guard’s Diciotti class. Let’s compare to a typical OPV and talk about why they are so different.

First what is a typical OPV?

  • Displacement: at least 1,500 tons full load, typically less than 3,000
  • Length: at least 75 meters (246 ft), typically less than 100 meters (328 ft)
  • Range: at least 3500 nautical miles, typically 5,000 or more
  • Endurance: at least three weeks
  • Speed: 20-25 knots
  • Aviation: At least flight deck for medium helicopter
  • Boats:  at least two RHIB of 7 meters or larger
  • Weapons: one deck gun of 76mm or less plus two to four guns .50 cal to 30mm guns with one or two typically mounted in remote weapon stations. Anti-Ship Cruise missiles are rare and Anti-Aircraft missile systems more capable than MAPADS rarer still.

Examples include ships building or in service with Argentina, Australia, Britain, India, Japan, Malta, the Philippines, Singapore, Türkiye, the Fassmar designs used by Chile, Colombia, and German, and Damen designs used by Malaysia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

The 270 foot Bear class WMECs fit the profile pretty well, if you ignore the fact they can’t quite reach 20 knots. In some respects they are still more sophisticated that some of the newer OPVs.

The 210 foot Reliance class WMECs fall outside the current norm, being smaller and slower than typical, but they otherwise fit the profile. Of course even the newest is 53 years old.

Now let us compare the new Qatar OPV.

Range/Endurance:

Their range is only 1500 nautical miles at 15 knots, that is even less than that of the smaller Webber class cutters’ 2500 at 14 knots. Their seven day endurance is more typical of the smaller Inshore Patrol Vessel class. As a patrol vessel, it is closer to the Webber class WPCs than even the Reliance class.

Persian Gulf. US Government work product in the public domain.

Geography is the reason. Qatar’s coast line is only 563 km and its EEZ is 31,819 sq km (that of the US is 11,351,000 sq km, 357 times greater). They just don’t have to go very far. It may also be that these ships will be used more in reaction than as actual patrol vessels.

Size:

Full load displacement is 725 tonnes, with a length of 63.80 (209 feet) (59.60 meters or 195.5 feet between the perpendiculars) and a beam of 9.20 meters/30 feet. This makes them smaller than the Reliance class and only about half the size of the smallest of the typical OPVs. Rough seas are probably less of a concern than in more open areas.

Speed:

Their speed of 30 knots, rather than the typical 20 to 25, also seems to suggest their role is one of rapid reaction rather than persistant patrolling.

Aviation:

Unlike most modern OPVs, there is no apparent provision for supporting aviation assets, not even UAS. That is presumably because land based air is always close.

Starboard quarter of second Musherib-class OPV “Sheraouh” for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces. Visible are the ship’s boat, two twin Exocet launchers and two 30 mm Marlin-WS secondary gun systems. Picture by Luca Peruzzi

Boats:

The OPV has a stern area with crane for launch and recovery of a RHIB. This is not an arrangement that suggests the boat would be used frequently or that boat ops is a high priority.

The second Musherib-class OPV “Sheraouh” for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces. Fincantieri picture.

Amaments:

“…in addition to the NA-30S Mk2 FCS for the Leonardo Super Rapido 76/62 mm Multi-Feeding main calibre gun, the Leonardo-provided  EO/IR suite also includes two SASS IRSTs and a single Medusa Mk4B FCS for the two 30 mm Marlin-WS secondary gun systems. The missile armament package also includes two four-cell VLSs for the MBDA VL MICA surface-to-air system in the bow area and two twin-launchers for the MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missiles in the stern area.”

The Persian Gulf is a rough neighborhood. Qatar faces Iran across the relatively narrow Gulf. Potentially hostile craft are always close. Shore based anti-ship cruise missiles are always within range. Iranian surface units are at most only hours away, aircraft and missiles only minutes.

The vertical launch MICA missile system and Super Rapid 76mm gun provide credible defense against aircraft and cruise missiles.

While normally I would not feel four Exocets would be enough to provide two salvos of adequate size, against the potential Iranian opposition, four are probably adequate for two engagements.

It is not surprising these ships are better armed than any US Coast Guard cutter, including the more than six times larger National Security Cutters. They may be the most heavily armed “OPVs” in the world.

Two four-cell VLSs for the MBDA VL MICA surface-to-air system mounted between the bridge and a Leonardo 76mm gun forward. Picture by Luca Peruzzi

“Japan Awards Contract to Shipbuilder JMU for 12 New Offshore Patrol Vessels” –The Diplomat

A concept image of a next-generation offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) made by JMU. Image courtesy of Japan’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency.

The Diplomat reports,

The Japanese Ministry of Defense announced on June 30 that it has awarded a contract to shipbuilding company Japan Marine United (JMU) Corporation to build a next-generation offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

We had an earlier report about this project.

The project is for 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels of 1920 tons standard displacement. Their full load displacement will be higher, probably in the neighborhood of 2,200 to 2,400 tons.

  • Length: 95 meters  (312 feet)
  • Beam: 12 meters (39’4″)
  • Speed: 20 knots (slower than the 25+ knots reported earlier)
  • Crew: 30
  • Average Cost: $66.6M

The design is said to offer modular adaptability.

Combined diesel-electric and diesel (CODLAD) propulsion promises very economical slow cruising.

Presumably these will be used to shaddow the movements of potentially hostile vessels transiting in or near Japanese waters.

They might also be used to provide counter piracy protection off the Horn of Africa. This would free more capable (and much more expensive) warships to be in position to deal with more significant threats.

The design looks to be almost ideal for export as part of Japan’s on going program to strengthen the maritime law enforcement capabilities of friendly Asian nations.

It does appear there might be some overlap between the missions of this class and those of the Japan Coast Guard.

This combination of sea worthy hull, simple systems, and small crew sounds a lot like my Cutter X proposal to put the machinery, equipment, and crew of the Webber class cutters in a larger, more seaworthy, and longer range hull.

 

“Southeast Asian partners enhancing trilateral maritime patrols” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Law Breakers frequently attempt to exploit divisions of jurisdiction. How to deal with this? The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum contributor Gusty Da Costa reports from Indonesia (reproduced in full below),

IMAGE CREDIT: INDONESIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

The launch about five years ago of maritime patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas involving the armed forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have corresponded with a sharp drop in piracy and terrorism, officials and analysts said. The three nations plan to enhance the patrols with improved surveillance, intelligence and communication to boost security and economic stability.

The INDOMALPHI patrols, a moniker that combines the names of the partner nations, began in 2017 as a result of the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) signed a year earlier by the three governments. Security challenges are “especially daunting” in the seas, where the three nations’ maritime borders converge in an area “with a complex political history and a long legacy of illicit maritime activity,” according to Stable Seas, a nonprofit research initiative.

“The main objective is to enhance security in the Sulu and Sulawesi [Celebes] seas,” Indonesian Army Col. Kurniawan Firmizi, a senior official at the Indonesian Defense Ministry, told FORUM. “A high level of protection with all parties can be beneficial. It can increase the economy, facilitate traffic flows between countries adjacent to the Sulu Sea area, and improve border security and international cooperation. The goal is to secure the Sulu Sea and maritime border waters for all three countries.”

Since their launch, the INDOMALPHI patrols have deterred and defended against attacks on vessels at sea by pirates and violent extremist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Kurniawan said. According to Indonesia’s Defense Ministry, known as Kemhan, there were no reports of piracy for ransom in the patrolled waters in 2021. As recently as 2017, there were 99 reports of piracy and armed robbery in the area, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

Four categories of patrol enhancements were announced at the TCA Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in late March 2022, Kemhan reported. They are: optimizing communication by deploying a liaison officer from each partner nation to each country’s maritime command center; conducting trilateral maritime exercises; adopting an intelligence-led approach to surveillance operations; and improving the TCA structure, communication and coordination to increase partners’ participation and commitment. (Pictured, from left: Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Malaysian Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Philippine National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attend the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in March 2022.)

“There has been an increase in surveillance technology, including drones and satellite systems,” Kurniawan said.

The INDOMALPHI patrols demonstrate the expansive benefits of multilateralism, Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, a defense analyst and the author of “Defending Indonesia,” told FORUM.

“These countries will undoubtedly increase their cooperation with other regions, such as Europe, by securing their maritime areas,” she said. “The reason is that trading traffic will be smoother since it is safe, so the risk-cost will be lower.”

She recommended two additional improvements: increase patrol frequency in the Sulu Sea; and supplement patrols with “additional aircraft such as reconnaissance aircraft, close air support or attack aircraft, commandos from helicopters, etc.”