Arms sales in Southeast Asia are returning to levels that existed prior to the region's 1997 financial crash. Procurement plans that had been frozen because of the economic turmoil have been reactivated as area nations seek to acquire items such as military aircraft, communications systems and warships. Although these purchases reflect steady improvement in a number of national economies, some countries remain gripped by fiscal and political crises.
The interception of a U.S. Navy EP-3 signals intelligence reconnaissance aircraft over Chinese coastal waters early last year highlighted the activities of the People's Republic of China coastal defense forces, which have been low-profile and largely remain so today. Such interceptions and intrusions over Chinese waters and nearby coastal areas have occurred for decades, as with the former Soviet Union. In addition to the expected People's Liberation Army Navy assets, a surprising array of non-navy units are integrated into offensive and defensive military coastal roles, in part because the People's Republic of China has no force comparable to the U.S. Coast Guard. These units include coastal air defense as well as nonmilitary naval forces from a variety of paramilitary organizations.
Communications system upgrades planned for the Korean theater will support network-centric warfare, transforming the Asia-Pacific region into a cutting-edge digital environment in both theory and practice. Armed with a vision of how information technology creates a common operational understanding of the battlespace, military leaders on the Korean peninsula are using lessons of the past to chart a new course for the future.
Already tasked with maintaining a steady menu of operations covering one-third of the Earth's surface, the U.S. Pacific Command now is fully engaged in the war on terrorism. The command is fighting disparate al Qaida groups in different countries concurrent with supporting operation Enduring Freedom in the Afghanistan region.
Warfighters may experience some frustration as well as exhilaration in the network-centric environment. Today's multinational exploration of emerging technologies has uncovered some new challenges that military forces face as they push the envelope on new capabilities. More than a decade of systematically examining technical interoperability issues has led to smoother execution of the technology demonstration and maturation process and realistic expectations on the part of both industry and the military.
As with other maritime forces, China has been seeking to network disparate assets, and to meet that requirement, it has been establishing signal stations on islands and atolls throughout the South China Sea. These facilities, which range from communications relays to radar units, both demonstrate China's expanding regional reach and provide a rare glimpse of the country's military electronics technologies.
When U.S. Pacific Command personnel move into their new headquarters building early next year, they will be doing more than just shifting operations to a different location. Featuring an architectural style that is harmonious with the surrounding Hawaiian landscape, the Nimitz-MacArthur Pacific Command Center will be filled with cutting-edge technology that will project the staff's virtual presence across the Asia-Pacific theater. It has been designed to support Joint Vision 2010 operational concepts.
In the event of a major crisis or conflict in the Pacific theater, U.S. forces may have to rely on regional allies to respond quickly and effectively. Relationships between the United States and its allies are maintained through continuous exercises and training events emphasizing collaborative decision-making and command and control. The U.S. military enhances its situational awareness by being aware of the sensitivities, culture and history of nations' in this part of the world. This also serves to promote cooperation and coordination with local forces.
Bandwidth and interoperability concerns have forced the U.S. military in the Pacific theater to rely on flexible communications networks to maintain connectivity across the expansive region. Because of geographical constraints and limited infrastructure in many parts of the theater, the U.S. military transports and maintains agile satellite-based networks capable of operating with local coalition units.