The US Air Force announced last week that it would deploy F-35As to Japan for the operational debut of the variant in the region. The announcement stated that the 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings would deploy 12 F-35A Lightning II jets to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa for six months in ‘early November’ but RBC News showed the first 2 aircraft arriving in Kadena on 30 October turning ‘early November’ into ‘late October'.
Some 300 personnel will deploy for the six month period, joining US Marine Corps F-35Bs already in Japan and amidst rising tensions in the region. US President Trump is also due to arrive in Japan as part of a regional tour on 05 November so it is likely that the USAF are keen to demonstrate the F-35A’s deployment capability to such a high profile audience. It wouldn’t be surprising if the deployment is recognised or if Trump makes an official visit to US forces in Japan during his 3 day visit.
The USAF official statement said “This long-planned deployment is designed to demonstrate the continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the region.”
A series of reports by Zvezda News showed the Russian Navy using a brand new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) off the coast of Tartus in Syria in mine countermeasure (MCM) operations for the first time . The video and article call the AUV 'Galtel' which appears to translate as 'fillet' and Zvezda explain that the AUV is being used to 'illuminate' the seabed to search for mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and weapon caches.
The reports appear to outline that recent operations in Tartus represent acceptance trials for the Galtel AUV and that it will be used in conjunction with additional MCM equipment such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and mine clearance divers. It goes on to state that the Galtel was developed by the Institute of Marine Technology Problems (IPMI), a government research agency based in Vladivostok.
It seems the Galtel began life as the ANPA MT-2010 back in 2010 when the IPMI developed the AUV, then under the name ‘Pilgrim’, for the Ministry of Emergency Situations and a series of trials were made between 2011 and 2013. The Galtel name appears in 2012 and it seems this is when a military role was spotted for the AUV.
The testing off the coast of Syria occurred in August and September of 2017, the use of an operational environment seeming to provide the perfect place to carry out acceptance trials of the AUV. The Zvezda videos show the AUV being deployed exclusively from shore or from the Grachonok-class anti-saboteur boat Unarmeec Kryma (pennant number 836). The Unarmeec Kryma travelled to Syria in April 2017 and does not appear to have returned to her home port at the time of writing.
It is unclear how much further testing will be carried out or whether it has successfully passed. Should the system enter regular service it will likely remain in use by MCM and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) forces before additional roles such as Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) can be considered.