Posts Tagged ‘Sukhoi fighter jets’

Indonesia to Buy $1.14 Billion Worth of Russian Jets

August 22, 2017

JAKARTA — Indonesia will buy 11 Sukhoi fighter jets worth $1.14 billion from Russia in exchange for cash and Indonesian commodities, two cabinet ministers said on Tuesday.

The Southeast Asian country has pledged to ship up to $570 million worth of commodities in addition to cash to pay for the Suhkoi SU-35 fighter jets, which are expected to be delivered in stages starting in two years.

Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said in a joint statement with Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu that details of the type and volume of commodities were “still being negotiated”. Previously he had said the exports could include palm oil, tea, and coffee.

The deal is expected to be finalised soon between Indonesian state trading company PT Perusahaan Perdangangan Indonesia and Russian state conglomerate Rostec.

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Indonesian Air Power – Pilots of the Air Force’s Sukhoi SU-30MK2 aircraft walk on the tarmac after a rehearsal of the 2016 Angkasa Yudha airborne training module at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, on Oct. 3, 2016. (Antara/MN Kanwa)

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Briefing on Security: Dealing with China

September 8, 2015

 

 

 

 

Fourth in a series about national concerns. Supplementary article on territorial frictions

One crucial question on addressing South China (West Philippine) Sea territorial frictions was not dealt with for lack of space in last week’s two-part article on the topic: How can the Philippines defend itself against Chinese encroachment without American backing, as we have had to do since the People’s Liberation Army seized Mischief Reef in 1995?

The United States has never given military support to the Philippines in territorial disputes, even when China seized Mischief Reef in 1995 and Scarborough Shoal in 2012. And when visiting President Barack Obama was asked twice by the Malacañang Press Corps what the US would do if tensions with China turned violent, he was evasive and merely insisted that territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully.

In sum, despite the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement increasing rotations of American forces in the archipelago and granting them access to Philippine bases, EDCA does not change Washington’s longstanding policy not to take sides in territorial disputes or use its forces to defend Philippine claims.

That hands-off policy contrasts with America’s staunch commitment to defend Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China calls Diaoyutai and also claims. When Beijing declared an air defense identification zone over the disputed territory in November 2013, two US B-52 bombers challenged the ADIZ.

And during his Tokyo stop before Kuala Lumpur and Manila last year, President Obama echoed the 2012 Webb Amendment of the US Senate, which “acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands” and pledges to defend it.

So how can the Philippines defend its territorial claims and economic rights, especially the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 200 nautical miles from our archipelagic baselines, and the extended continental shelf (ECS) 320 nm out? Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the country has exclusive rights to exploit resources in EEZ waters and the ECS seabed.

Defending the zone

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Before talking guns and bullets, some diplomatic and geopolitical issues should be sorted out, so it’s clear what kind of conflict the country needs to prepare for.

First, every effort must be made to settle things peacefully, including bilateral negotiations and cooperative undertakings. Even Beijing doesn’t want a war, given its grave damage to trade, capital flows, and regional stability. And while it may sound patriotic to shed blood for islets hundreds of miles out at sea, the death and distress that war could visit on the country should give pause to all who really care about the nation.

One of The Philippines’ few major warships

Second, while the alliance with the United States remains robust, it does not commit American forces to support our territorial claims in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. So the Philippines must build up defense capabilities to assert those claims, particularly economic rights over EEZ waters and the ECS seabed. We’re on our own in disputes over the Spratlys, and must build up our forces accordingly.

So rather than a massive invasion of the Philippines, which is highly unlikely and would almost surely bring in allied forces, what the country needs to do is to gear up to challenges in surrounding waters, where the aim is to deter intrusions and, if necessary, beat back and take out threats.

Anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) is the term used by The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a Washington-based security think tank, in a 2012 paper, “The Geostrategic Return of the Philippines,” which argued that “Neutralizing the Philippines appears to be a critical part of China’s strategy” in enhancing regional clout:

“The United States needs to help the Philippines develop its own set of ‘anti-access/area denial’ capabilities to counter China’s growing power projection capabilities. Emphasis should be on providing defensive systems like maritime surveillance aircraft, coastal anti-ship defenses, and air defense systems.”

Rockets, fighters and subs

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So far, military upgrading initiatives include coastal vessels and aircraft, yet these assets, while enhancing surveillance and enforcement, pose no credible deterrence to Chinese sea and air forces, not at all the the anti-access/area denial capabilities prescribed by CSBA. For A2/AD, the Philippines needs strong anti-ship and air defense systems to make hostile vessels and aircraft wary of intruding into Philippine territory.

Congressman and former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, has argued for one such system: the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile jointly produced by Russia and India. With a range of more than 300 km, the projectile can cover the country’s EEZ. Mounted three on a truck, the mobile system would be hard to locate and take out.

Golez urges a battery of 200 missiles able to move where there are intruders. The estimated cost of P30 billion is well within amounts proposed for armed forces modernization (the used jets from South Korea cost P25 billion, yet they are no deterrent like the BrahMos). And since the rockets would guard offshore oil and gas deposits, their acquisition could be considered an energy-related expense which can be covered by Malampaya gas royalties, now well over P150 billion.

Along with the BrahMos, Vietnam is acquiring submarines, another effective A2/AD weapon. Being hard to find, subs can deter intruders in a vast expanse of sea well in excess of their actual presence. Also on Hanoi’s arsenal and defense shopping list are Russian Sukhoi fighter jets, which could deter enemy aircraft threatening frigates and patrol boats guarding the EEZ and challenging intruder vessels.

These A2/AD capabilities should also be considered by the Philippines. They escalate the risk of intrusion and invasion, even for a superpower aggressor. With them, the Philippines would enjoy far greater respect from rival claimants in the South China Sea. And from allies, too, for we would no longer be so beholden and helpless in seeking help and protection. Only then can we truly have enhanced defense cooperation.

http://www.manilatimes.net/briefing-on-security-dealing-with-china-3/217100/

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 (Defense News article by Wendell Minnick)

 

With eye firmly on China, India to hold naval exercises with Japan, Australia, Myanmar and others

June 28, 2015

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,TNN | Jun 27, 2015,

NEW DELHI: India may still be reluctant to invite Japan, Australia and others to join its top-notch Malabar naval exercise with the US this year, in part because China protested against such a multilateral naval grouping in the Bay of Bengal the last time around. But it does not mean there is no strategic game plan underway.

Sources on Friday said India will hold a flurry of bilateral naval exercises over the coming months with countries in the critical Asia Pacific region, ranging from Australia, Japan and Indonesia to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Interspersed with them will be exercises with the US (Malabar), UK (Konkan) and Russia (Indra), with the one with France (Varuna) already being held in Arabian Sea in April-May.

READ ALSO: India and Australia to hold 1st joint naval exercise

As was first reported by TOI, India has “so far” kept Japan out of the initial planning for the 19th Indo-US Malabar naval combat exercise to be held in Bay of Bengal in October. This despite the Modi-Obama summits in September and January agreeing “to upgrade” the annual wargames, and both Japan and Australia keen to hop on to the bandwagon.

The previous UPA regime largely restricted the Malabar exercise to a bilateral one after China protested against its 2007 edition in Bay of Bengal especially since they were expanded to include the Japanese, Australian and Singaporean navies as well. Since then, Japan has been co-opted only when the Malabar was held in the north-western Pacific in 2009 and 2014.

Interestingly, the Bay of Bengal will be the venue for India’s first-ever IN-RAN naval exercise with Australia from October 30 to November 4 as well as the JIMEX exercise with Japan thereafter in mid-November.

Around the same time, Indian and Thai warships will also hold their coordinated patrolling along their international maritime boundary line. This will be followed by a similar exercise with Myanmar in February-March next year.

Under the overall plan to counter China’s huge strategic inroads in the Indian Ocean region and beyond, India is steadily building maritime bridges with other countries in the region. Four Indian warships, for instance, are currently on a long overseas deployment to South Indian Ocean and South China Sea in consonance with the “Act East” policy.

India also recently decided to crank up its bilateral defence cooperation with Vietnam through a new “joint vision statement” for 2015-2020. Apart from supplying military hardware and software, India is already training Vietnamese personnel on Kilo-class submarines and now proposes to do the same for Sukhoi fighter jets.

READ ALSO: India kicks off naval exercise with Singapore

Much like Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and others locked in territorial disputes with China in the East and South China Seas, India remains deeply suspicious of Beijing’s expanding military might and assertiveness in Asia-Pacific.

China, in its latest policy document on defence, has also vowed to increase its “open seas protection” in tune with its expanding long-range deployments of nuclear submarines, destroyers and frigates far away from its shores.

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In The Battle For Tikrit, It Is Iran and Not The U.S. Calling The Shots

March 4, 2015

UDHAIM DAM, Iraq Wed Mar 4, 2015 10:47am EST

(Reuters) – Wearing military fatigues and a white turban, the Shi’ite cleric gave an eve-of-battle address to Iran-backed fighters preparing to attack Islamic State militants in Tikrit, praising them for defending their faith and urging them to fight honorably.

Seated in front of him in rows, crossed-legged in the grass, were dozens of armed men from Iraq‘s largest Shi’ite militia, the Badr Organisation, the main element of a force now advancing on Tikrit’s eastern flank against the Sunni Muslim Islamic State militants who now dominate most of northern Iraq.

This week’s multi-pronged attack is the biggest coordinated assault on the city, best known as the home town of executed Sunni president Saddam Hussein, since the radical Islamic State fighters seized it in June.

It is also the clearest example of how Tehran, rather than Washington, is now playing a more important role on the battlefield in a war that sees both Iran and the United States supporting the same side against a common foe.

Unlike a rushed – and failed – Tikrit offensive in July, this campaign appears to follow the methodical military strategy honed by Iranian advisers in neighboring Syria, which helped President Bashar al-Assad regain some lost territory.

Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, along with two Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary leaders, has overseen the eastern part of the Tikrit campaign, whose religious overtones are borne out in its operational title: ‘Here I am, Messenger of God’.

Soleimani, a major general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards spotted on the battlefield here, is the commander of Tehran’s elite Quds force, which Washington considers a banned terrorist organization responsible for training and arming Shi’ite militants across the Middle East.

At least 20,000 fighters are involved in the Iraqi advance, mostly from Shi’ite militias known as Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) units. They are supported from the air by Iraqi jets, although not directly by a U.S.-led coalition which has targeted Islamic State positions elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.

Progress in the first three days of battle has been steady, often delayed by snipers and bombs on the road to Tikrit.

The advance has also been carefully prepared, from the armored bulldozers which dig berms to protect advancing forces every evening, to the sheikhs and “ideological guidance” units brought along to raise morale.

At Udhaim Dam, 75 km (45 miles) east of Tikrit, Sheikh Ahmed al-Rubaei, a Shi’ite cleric, repeated the government’s message that the fighters should respect civilians in the predominantly Sunni Muslim city. Shi’ite militia have been accused of theft and atrocities after previous victories, a charge they deny.

“Let us not taint ourselves for something of no value. Today we are an ideological army,” Rubaei told them. “I am not doubting you. You are honest, and above doing this. But I am reminding you just in case.”

SHI’ITE BANNERS

On the move, the attacking force is a confusing mass of armored vehicles, pickup trucks and motorbikes. The convoy, carrying hundreds of fighters, also includes jeep-laden artillery, ambulances, and armored police vehicles.

The Badr Organisation militiamen and the regular army’s troops drive identical tanks, with only an army logo differentiating regular military from militia.

Above some of the army’s armored vehicles, the banner of Shi’ite Islam’s revered Imam Hussein flutters alongside the national Iraqi flag.

The forces start their day with dawn prayers. Then, if there are Islamic State fighters on the road ahead, artillery opens up to drive them back, targeting in particular suspected suicide car bombers. Armored vehicles advance to clear snipers, trying to avoid bombs planted by retreating militants.

The militiamen and soldiers say they have information about the territory ahead from military intelligence and sources in Islamic State territory. Sometimes that takes them on detours to bypass suspected booby-traps on their way.

Even so, the first two days of operation brought losses. Three blackened, bombed-out vehicles belonging to the army and militia forces could be seen on the road.

On Monday, crossing the hilly Hamrin region before descending into the flat Tigris plain, the fighters advanced only 8 km (5 miles). The next day, as Islamic State fighters evaporated, their progress was closer to 50 km.

As they advanced, they left police units and militia fighters to hold territory behind the frontline.

By mid-afternoon on both days, they set up base for the night. A bullet-pocked excavator, with metal armour-plating to protect the driver, dug a defensive wall for their base.

Driving alongside them in a white pick-up truck with loudspeakers and a Shi’ite banner on its roof, men from the Ideological Guidance unit dispense battlefield advice and blast out military songs to raise the fighters’ spirits.

“Mosul is calling you,” one of the songs – a favorite among the Badr Organisation – rings out, referring to the northern city which is the ultimate goal in Baghdad’s military campaign to eliminate Islamic State.

The eastern force, which is targeting the town of al-Alam north of Tikrit, is one of three main axes of the campaign, the other two advancing along the Tigris river from north and south.

The militia fighters have already contacted the mainly Sunni al-Alam residents to say they will be well-treated if they put up white flags. But the campaign is clearly presented to the Shi’ite fighters as a defense of their sect, from Sunni radicals who consider Shi’ites heretics.

“Without you, the women of Karbala and Najaf will be enslaved,” Rubaei told the fighters assembled in Udhaim before the fight, referring to holy cities that house the two most important Shi’ite shrines.

“Today, thanks to you, we are all victorious. Today we are in their hotbeds.”

(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Peter Graff)

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This photo is believed to show Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani (right) in Amerli, Iraq (photo: Twitter)

WASHINGTON–Twitter came alive on Monday with photos of Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani who is again in Iraq, directing Shia militias in their fight against IS militants.

Soleimani is reportedly taking a leading role in managing the fighting between Iraqi forces and their Shia militia allies as they attempt to wrest control of the Sunni-dominated city of Tikrit from IS militants and their Sunni allies.

Fighting has been reported in towns to the north and south of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s hometown, nestled in the heart of Sunni-dominated territory, as about 25,000 Iraqi army and Shia militia forces push toward the city.

picture

The image of Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani purportedly showing him on an Iraqi battlefield was published on the website of IRINN state television.

Soleimani has been pictured in northern Iraq repeatedly over the past year as his forces have worked to train largely Shia Iraqi troops and militias as they fight back against IS.

Photos coming out of the region over the past 24 hours have shown convoys of government Humvees and militia trucks flying the yellow flag of one of the more powerful Iranian proxies, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which was formed in 2013 to fight in Syria. Commanders of the group are affiliated with the Badr group and the Quds Force.

The assault appears top have taken the US by surprise, as it comes just two weeks after a now-infamous briefing where a CENTCOM official outlined a timeline for the eventual attack on the city of Mosul, which they said would come later this spring.

U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter described the briefing about the Mosul offensive as ‘an instance of speculation’ [Reuters]

Another Pentagon official said this morning that the United States has not been asked to provide air strikes in support of the Tikrit operation, despite the fact that there are Iraqi aircraft hitting IS positions from the air.

The Guardian today quoted Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi, an advisor to the Iraqi government, as saying that the attackers have been divided into an initial assault force of 9,000, with another group made up of local Sunni tribesmen who will “pacify” the town, and another group which will work on intelligence gathering, reconstruction work, and dealing with the expected refugee flow caused by the fighting.

On Sunday, Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi promised amnesty for Sunni fighters in the city who have aligned themselves with IS, saying “I call upon those who have been misled or committed a mistake to lay down arms and join their people and security forces in order to liberate their cities.”

Abadi has been in Samarra a town about halfway between Baghdad and Tikrit since the weekend, directing preparations for the coming assault.

pmcleary@defensenews.com

Twitter: @paulmcleary

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense-news/blog/intercepts/2015/03/02/iraq-iran-is-war-terrorism/24270363/

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Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has reportedly been caught on camera in the Iraqi city of Amerli, fuelling rumours that the top military mastermind is in the frontline city, working with the United States to push back militants from the Islamic State organisation (IS).

The fight to release Amerli from the chokehold of the Islamic State organisation brought together strange bedfellows — Iraqi and Iranian militias backed by American air support.

Recent footage supports rumours that Qassem Soleimani, a military mastermind at the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, coordinated the successful campaign to liberate the besieged city.

The video below was published Thursday on Facebook by Iranian Shiite activists. The men in the video (including Soleimani) are said to be celebrating the liberation of Amerli.

A photo claiming to show Soleimani in Amerli circulated on social media Thursday. FRANCE 24 was not able to identify the source, but this further supports the idea that Soleimani is in Iraq. Furthermore, he is wearing the same shirt and scarf in the photo as in the video.

This photo seems to show Soleimani in Amerli, Iraq. It was shared by multiple Twitter users.

In the photo, he’s seen next to an Iraqi soldier, who wears American-style military gear and carries an American weapon.

Evidence of this partnership is significant, considering Soleimani spent more than a decade training and directing militias in Iraq that killed hundreds of American soldiers. The US Department of the Treasury had sanctioned Soleimani over his support for the Assad regime and his role in “abetting terrorism.”

Soleimani is a field commander responsible for Iran’s operations outside its borders. In 2013, he is believed to have travelled frequently to Syria while coordinating Iran’s campaign to help ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This is not Soleimani’s only recent trip to Iraq. Several months ago, Iraqi MP Qasem al-Alarji published a photo of himself and Soleimani on Facebook.  “I am no longer scared because Commander Soleimani is here,” al-Alarji captioned his photo.

Qassem Soleimani is seen next to Iraqi MP Qasem al-Alarji, who said “I am no longer scared because Commander Soleimani is here,” an interesting statement from a man who was once held prisoner in Iran.

In July, a video released by the Iraqi defence ministry showed that Iraqi air force appears to be using Sukhoi fighter jets camouflaged to hide the fact that they were sent from Iran.

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Brenna Daldorph (@brennad87).

http://observers.france24.com/content/20140904-amerli-iraq-soleimani-video-iran-isis

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Ash Carter says US official gave inaccurate information on Iraqi mission to take city and should not have briefed media.

A US military official who briefed news media last month about Iraq’s upcoming offensive to retake Mosul provided inaccurate information and should never have publicly discussed war plans anyway, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said.

Carter’s criticism on Tuesday of the February news briefing by an official from the US military’s Central Command was accompanied by an assurance from the secretary to Congress that the matter was subject to an internal inquiry.

The official at the centre of the inquiry, who had spoken on condition of anonymity, had said Iraqi army brigades would soon go through coalition training in Iraq to prepare for the Mosul mission.

He added that five brigades would make up the core fighting force that would launch the attack, but that they would be supplemented by three smaller brigades serving as reserve forces, along with three Peshmerga brigades.

The Peshmerga are Kurdish forces from northern Iraq.

“That clearly was neither accurate information, nor had it been accurate, would have it been information that should have been blurted out to the press. So it’s wrong on both scores,” Carter, who took over as defence secretary in February, told a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Two influential Republican senators on the committee, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, sent a letter to the White House on February 20, complaining about the briefing, which predicted a Mosul offensive was likely to start in April or May, involving 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

US officials, speaking to the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, have since suggested that timing could slip to the autumn.

Mosul, which had a population of more than one million people, was captured by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June, and is the largest city in the group’s self-declared caliphate, a stretch of territory that straddles the border between northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Carter described the briefing about the Mosul offensive as “an instance of speculation”. He declined to offer a new timeline, saying Iraqi forces would go into Mosul when they were ready.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Central Command would “take the appropriate action” once the inquiry was complete.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/03/defence-secretary-slams-official-mosul-briefing-150304070805369.html

China’s Neighbors Bulk Up Militaries

February 27, 2015

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Despite Beijing’s efforts to cool tensions, many nations prepare for potential conflict

  
Russian-made Kilo submarine arrives at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay in 2014. Photo: Xinhua/Zuma Press
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By Trefor Moss
The Wall Street Journal
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MANILA—China’s neighbors are moving forward with the modernization of their militaries with new fighter jets, submarines and other hardware, even as Beijing has tried to tamp down territorial tensions in the region.

The military buildup is an indication that many Asian countries see little reason to adjust their long-term preparations for potential friction with China, despite Beijing’s diplomatic and economic charm offensive.

China made a dramatic shift in its diplomatic approach at a summit in Beijing in November, adopting a more conciliatory tone. This included the first face-to-face meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since both took power in 2012.

That came after China pledged to invest billions in regional ports and infrastructure, with great potential benefits for its neighbors.

Many Asian nations are participating in those programs or receiving other Chinese aid. But underlying sources of tension haven’t gone away.

It has only been half a year since Vietnamese and Chinese vessels were jostling off islands claimed by both countries after China parked a giant oil rig there. A few months after that, Indian and Chinese troops tussled for weeks in the Himalayas along the countries’ disputed border.

Vietnam recently received the third of six new Russian submarines, valued at about $2 billion in total—a landmark for a country that has never had submarines. It also ordered six Russian frigates and is increasing the size of its Sukhoi fighter-jet fleet to 36 planes.

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Smaller nations like Vietnam don’t expect to seriously challenge China’s military, but want to make China think twice before pressing claims.

“At the minimum we have to decrease China’s ability to act with impunity,” a Philippine defense official said, recalling China’s 2012 capture of the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

A Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Vietnam’s military programs weren’t aimed specifically at China. “The purchase of defense equipment is a normal practice of all countries in the world,” said Nguyen Thi Thai Thong.

Better-equipped countries, such as India and Japan, want China to respect them as military equals.

India is establishing a new mountain corps for deployment along its Himalayan boundaries. It is also testing ballistic missiles with a range of over 3,000 miles, which could strike inside China. In January, India test-fired one of the missiles from a mobile launcher for the first time at an island off its northeastern coast.

Tokyo is setting up Japan’s first amphibious operations unit to defend East China Sea islands contested by China and is adding 42 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters. Japan is increasing its defense budget by 2% in the fiscal year starting April 1.

China continues to outpace its neighbors in military spending—its military budget has grown around 10% annually for the past two decades.

The U.S. has encouraged its allies in Asia, particularly Japan, to build up military capability, which takes some pressure off Washington itself and also creates markets for U.S. weaponry.

India’s military hardware paraded before President Barack Obama in New Delhi in January included a Boeing Co. P-8I antisubmarine-warfare plane and Lockheed Martin C-130J transport aircraft, which could help rush troops and equipment to India’s Himalayan boundary with China.

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Navy P-8 Poseidon

Vietnam is poised to receive American surveillance aircraft and other systems as Washington and Hanoi improve diplomatic ties.

The U.S. partially lifted a long-standing arms embargo on Vietnam last October.

Still, a stronger Vietnamese military isn’t likely to deter any future moves by Beijing.

China has been “disconcerted” by Vietnam’s modernization plans, said Tim Huxley, executive director of IISS-Asia, a Singapore-based security think tank. But Zhang Baohui, a politics professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said China is confident of its military superiority over the Vietnamese.

“The buildup of the weaker party won’t much motivate the stronger party,” he said.

Su-30 variants (near camera) from Indonesia join two Australian F/A-18s

Despite complaints from South China Sea neighbors, China continues to reclaim land to build new bases in disputed waters. Last month, Philippine officials said a new island capable of supporting a large Chinese airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef in the contested Spratly Islands was “50% complete.”

Vietnam showed that it, too, remains wary of Chinese activities in contested seas, joining Manila in denouncing Beijing’s land-reclamation projects. Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s deputy prime minister, visited Manila in late January for talks about upgrading the two countries’ security ties, partly to help block China’s regional expansion.

China says it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratlys and the waters around them. “The relevant construction and maintenance that the Chinese government does on them are China’s legitimate rights,” the Defense Ministry said.

China has long argued that military modernization is normal. But Beijing has criticized Japan for easing restrictions on its Self-Defense Forces, saying Tokyo is “deliberately fabricating the China threat.” In 2013, after Tokyo launched its second helicopter carrier, China said it was “concerned over Japan’s constant expansion of its military equipment.”

Beijing spent five times more on defense than the ten Southeast Asian countries combined in 2013, according to Sipri, a Swedish security institute, with investments in stealth planes, aircraft carriers and other cutting-edge capabilities.

Meanwhile, its neighbors are also bulking up. The Philippines ordered a dozen Korean fighter jets valued at $410 million, and has earmarked $1.8 billion for new hardware over the next two years, including naval frigates.

Philippine Air Force FA-50 jets from South Korea

Malaysia is in the market for new fighter jets and has recently received its first pair of submarines, bought from France for roughly $2.2 billion. Indonesia has plans to station newly purchased Korean submarines and U.S. Apache gunships near islands it deems vulnerable to Chinese encroachment.

China isn’t the only reason Asian countries are spending more on defense, of course. In Southeast Asia especially, countries have long had weak militaries in need of new equipment just to keep operating. Many of them have their own rivalries as well.

But taken together, the latest spending could just wind up raising the risks of a deadly confrontation if tensions worsen.

Some experts say stronger militaries elsewhere could change the strategic calculus for Beijing eventually, possibly making it more willing to negotiate settlements. “The last thing China wants is to surround itself with modern, capable militaries,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila. As its neighbors upgrade militarily, “China is bound to face greater risks of unwanted escalation and resistance.”

—Yuka Hayashi contributed to this article.

Write to Trefor Moss at Trefor.Moss@wsj.com

Sigma Corvette — Schelde Naval Shipbuilding

Bulking Up

Asian nations are making big investments in new military hardware. Some of the latest purchases (with seller in parentheses):

INDIA

  • 126 Rafale fighter jets (France)
  • 22 AH-64E Apache gunships (U.S.)
  • 8 P-8I Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft (U.S.)

INDONESIA

  • 3 Chang Bogo-class submarines (South Korea)
  • 24 F-16 fighter jets (U.S.)
  • 16 Sukhoi Su-27/Su-30 jets (Russia)
  • 8 AH-64E Apache gunships (U.S.)

JAPAN

  • 4 helicopter carriers (Japan)
  • 42 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters (U.S)
  • 17 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (U.S.)

MALAYSIA

  • 2 Scorpene submarines (France)
  • 6 Gowind-class frigates (France)

PHILIPPINES

  • 12 FA-50 fighter/trainer jets (South Korea)
  • 2 Hamilton-class cutters (U.S.)

VIETNAM

  • 6 Kilo-class submarines (Russia)
  • 6 Gepard-class frigates (Russia)
  • 36 Sukhoi Su-30 jets (Russia)