Tag Archives: china

China thinks it can defeat the US. David Axe thinks they can’t. Worse, the Chinese know they don’t have to.

David Axe takes a look at the relative naval strengths in the Western Pacific. For years armchair analysts have looked at a potential Sino-American conflict through the paradigm of an attack across the Taiwan Strait. For many years, the thought of an actual assault across the strait was rather unthinkable, as the Chinese had little or no genuine amphibious assault capability. That’s rapidly changing with the Chinese shipbuilding program producing significant amphibious shipping for both the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and for the People’s Liberation Army Ground Forces.

He sees the rapidly growing Chinese fleet as strong, but with one potentially fatal flaw- undersea warfare.

The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfully prevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing.

Now the good news. China is wrong — and for one major reason. It apparently disregards the decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines.

Moreover, for economic and demographic reasons Beijing has a narrow historical window in which to use its military to alter the world’s power structure. If China doesn’t make a major military move in the next couple decades, it probably never will.

The U.S. Navy’s submarines — the unsung main defenders of the current world order — must hold the line against China for another 20 years. After that, America can declare a sort of quiet victory in the increasingly chilly Cold War with China.

Yes, we do have excellent nuclear submarines. And any student of naval war in the Pacific will quickly realize that long range submarines unleashed offensively will have devastating consequences upon an enemy. Our Silent Service in World War II had an impact far larger than the numbers of sailors, or the numbers of boats assigned would suggest.

But no single weapon system or approach is the single key to victory. The great American talent in warfare is the integration of all forms of combat power to overwhelm an enemy, both physically and mentally.  One role for nuclear submarines that Axe doesn’t mention is using our subs as Anti-submarine Warfare platforms to sanitize an area so our carriers and other surface ships can operate with relative safety.  That’s going to take a few boats off the table, keeping them from pursuing Axe’s goal of sinking any notional Chinese amphibious assault.

Second, a look at both US and Japanese submarine operations in World War II suggests that submarines are not likely to be terribly successful in stopping any amphibious invasion. US submarines failed to stop Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and the Japanese never succeeded in stopping any of the many, many US amphibious assaults in the war. Similarly, the German U-boat force was never able to defeat any amphibious assault, though they did try.

But the real issue is, the Chinese currently have no intention of engaging in a shooting war with the US.

As Matthew Hipple argues, while the US is constrained by a “shoot/don’t shoot” deterrence posture of credible combat power in the disputed territories of the Western Pacific, China is leveraging every tactic and means short of shooting to achieve its aims. And absent US willingness to shoot first (and there’s none of that) China is both achieving near term goals, and showing regional forces that the US is not, in fact, a credible deterrent.

Defense strategists usually discuss asymmetry in terms of operations or tactics: specialized anti-ship missiles, cyber-attacks on command-and-control functions, or insurgency against conventional forces. Strategic-level asymmetry is less discussed—in this case, a force designed to stop an opponent’s war versus an opponent using those forces for everything but a war.

The United States is leaving a gap in its strategy. At CSF14, Andrea Dew describes this gap in the context of groups in active conflict: “Although we artificially draw lines between different domains, other adversaries use them seamlessly.”Dew’s specific concernsare about armed groups fighting a state through the exploitable seams of its stove-piped perspectives. This general concept applies to non-combat operations, where China is utilizing a gap in how the West views the scope and appropriate use of military action as a political instrument. Between the committee chambers of diplomats and the joint operations center of admirals, there is a blind spot in our strategy being manipulated, the same as if it were a small boat attack against a conventional blue-water combatant.

The US could counter this current Chinese operational plan, but the current administration, and the vast majority of the defense establishment simply do not have the mindset to engage in the strategic ambiguity needed.

Most US leaders see the path forward in terms of the past, when US and Soviet forces, seeing an escalating pattern of incidents at sea, forged an agreement to minimize the chances of a tense encounter escalating into a shooting match. They worked together to minimize the tensions.

The Chinese, however, are currently working instead to determine just how far they can push, and with every push, are seeking to expand that envelope, bit by bit. The more they can antagonize both regional powers, and the US, without firing a shot, the more they demonstrate a dominance that may lead regional powers to decide that an unhappy relationship with China is better than a feckless one with the US.  And no submarine fleet, no matter how capable, can change that.

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China’s Economic Paper Tiger

There’s been quite a bit of buzz in the late about China’s slowing economic growth. Gordon Chang’s blog brings us an interesting paper by the China Center for Economic and Business which estimates that China’s economy is 1/3 smaller than orginally thought:

In a report released on June 20th, the business research organization Conference Board recalculates Chinese gross domestic product going back to 1952. Economist Harry Wu estimates that China from 1978 to 2012 grew an average of 7.2 percent a year. Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics reports 9.8 percent average annual growth during that period.

Generally the article argues that economic data since 1977 is considered unreliable. Those of us here with a healthly skeptism of Government find this unsurprising (how many revisions has that number undergone!?) but not trusting data post 1977 takes that skeptism to another level.

More from the paper:

For several years now, China Center researchers worked to illuminate China’s productivity performance — a critical input for gauging the overall sustainability of any economy. This is not an easy task, as data issues involved are very difficult. In this special briefing paper”, Senior Advisor to the China Center Harry X Wu presents the findings of his 30-year long work program on re-estimating Chinese GDP. Wu’s results indicate that Chinese TFP growth went negative during the period from 2007 to 2012. Overbuilding, overcapacity, underutilization, and the “advance” of the state into private sector markets are now substantially dragging on China’s growth.

At the moment, China’s economy is vulnerable to shocks, but the biggest one might not be external. In order to create GDP, Chinese leaders have incurred indebtedness at an extraordinarily rapid pace. Beginning especially at the end of 2008, Beijing has essentially ordered the building of “ghost cities,” high-speed rail lines to nowhere, and factories with little demand for their products.

Here are the key findings from the article:

Since 1978, there is evidence of a strong upward bias in official GDP estimates that emanates from several sources. Removal of the bias yields a significantly lower aggregate growth rate.

On average, our new estimate of China’s GDP growth for the reform period 1978-2012 is 7.2 percent per annum (p.a.), which is 2.6 percentage points lower than the official estimate of 9.8 percent p.a. As for the “central planning period” of 1952-1977, our result is almost the same as the official estimate of 4.3 percent p.a., although there are differences between our estimate and the official estimate over sub-periods.

Examining changes over time, our new results show greater volatility and slower growth than the official estimates, which appear, in particular, to understate slowdowns.

External shocks to the economy are much more pronounced in our new results than in the official estimates, suggesting that the Chinese economy is more vulnerable to external shocks than the picture painted by the official GDP estimates.

For the period of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, 2008 to 2012, we show that, on average, the real GDP growth might have been as slow as 6.5 percent p.a. on average instead of the officially reported 9.3 percent p.a. More specifically, we find that growth in 2008 was only 4.7 percent compared with the official estimate of 9.1 percent, and 4.1 percent in 2012 compared with the official estimate of 7.4 percent.1

For the period of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, 2008 to 2012, we show that, on average, the real GDP growth might have been as slow as 6.5 percent p.a. on average instead of the officially reported 9.3 percent p.a. More specifically, we find that growth in 2008 was only 4.7 percent compared with the official estimate of 9.1 percent, and 4.1 percent in 2012 compared with the official estimate of 7.4 percent.1

Thomas “I have a hardon for authoritian China” Friedman and the religiously zealot Keynesian school members really ought to take note. You can go read the rest of the article (I went to the trouble of downloading the article myself, thank me very much…lol). You can only inflate your economy so much and right now, that’s exactly what China’s been doing. China’s real estate market is in collapse due to construction of so-called “ghost cities.” 

 

China’s plan is to “coerce” State owned enterprises to move to these cities!? Well, this isn’t really new. The Czarist Russia and the Soviet Communists did the same thing then called Potemkin Villages:

Gregory Potemkin was a favorite and lover of the Russian Empress Catherine II. After Russian conquest of modern Southern Ukraine and Crimea from the Ottoman Empire and liquidation of the Zaporizhian Sich (see New Russia), Potemkin became governor of the region. The area had been totally devastated during the wars by the Russian army, and Potemkin’s major task consisted of rebuilding it and bringing in Russian settlers. As a new war was about to erupt between Russia and Ottoman empire, in 1787 Catherine II made an unprecedented six month trip to New Russia, with her court, several ambassadors, and (according to some sources) the Austrian emperor Joseph II, travelling incognito. The purpose of this trip was to impress Russia’s allies ahead of the new war. In fact, Potemkin assembled a few “mobile villages”, located on banks of Dnieper River. As soon as the barge carrying the queen arrived, Potemkin’s men dressed up as peasants would show up in the village. Once the barge left, the village had to be disassembled and rebuilt downstream overnight. Potemkin later led the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War in 1787-1792.

The deserted 5-star Country Garden Phoenix Hotel stands in Conch Bay in Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

The deserted 5-star Country Garden Phoenix Hotel stands in Conch Bay in Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

Buildings stand in the Conch Bay district of Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

Buildings stand in the Conch Bay district of Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

There are plently of economic lessons learned here. Geopolitically, it could explain China’s recent behavior in the South China Sea towards Vietnam and the ongoing ADIZ problems with Japan. China’s plan would be to keep the domestic population looking out and forment outrage against “outsiders” and distract them from their own domestic problems.

What does this mean for us? Well, we’ve got more to worry about from a China that’s not opposed to lashing out internationally than we do a China that REALLY economically prosperous.

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China’s Nuclear Carrier Program

The Chinese military establishment is rather opaque at times, but in other ways, they’re quite forthcoming about what they have planned.

Many have scoffed at China buying, refurbishing and deploying the ex-Varyag carrier as the Liaoning. Claiming it is in no way a match for US Nimitz class carriers, with no catapults and a tiny air wing, they sneer at the thought that China can become a naval aviation power. What’s one small carrier to a fleet of 11 supercarriers?

The problem is, the Chinese have never intended to only operate one carrier. The Liaoning is clearly a training carrier, an introduction to naval aviation, much as the US Navy’s first carrier, CV-1 Langley, was not a combat ship, but a laboratory to explore the challenges of naval aviation.

The US Navy uses its carrier fleet for forward presence and as the primary method of power projection from the sea. They take the fight to the the shores of an enemy.

The Chinese Navy (actually, the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN) in the near to mid term sees its role as Anti-Access/Area Denial or A2AD. That is, their role is to prevent the US Navy from being able to perform its power projection role. They see the waters of the far western Pacific as their own, and other nations can only operate their at their sufferance.

Most of the Chinese A2AD strategy has been based on a combination of submarines and land based air and missile power, backed by large numbers of relatively small missile armed surface combatants.

But historically, if you want to fight a carrier based navy, you need a carrier based navy. And so the Chinese some time ago announced their intentions to build up a fleet of (at least) four carriers. The first, Liaoning, we’ve seen. And the word is that the second of this fleet will be a new-build repeat, though probably with some changes based on lessons learned. That leaves carriers 3 and 4.

It has long been speculated that these carriers would be more in line with what we think of as a supercarrier. Nuclear powered, with catapults capable of operating more than just lightly loaded fighters, and with a large, diverse air wing with strike fighters, anti-submarine helicopters, and critically, a viable Airborne Early Warning aircraft.

After a good deal of speculation, now comes word from the China-Defense blog that a fairly definitive model of the next generation Chinese carrier has been made public.

http://xbradtc.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/6f1d2-230357nj50vu409gjdufv8.jpg?w=749&h=575

http://xbradtc.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/bec8d-230358p4rcyo8aye3raaym.jpg?w=755&h=575

If you think that looks not a bit like a Nimitz (or even a touch of Ford) carrier, you’re not alone.

Skeptics of Chinese naval aviation like to say that the US Navy took over 70 years to learn to operate carriers. But that’s not true. Looking at the history of carrier aviation, our Navy learned to operate carriers as many as four different times, each in different ways.

  • The early days of Langley, Lexington, Saratoga
  • The late prewar Ranger, Yorktown, Enterprise,  Hornet, Wasp and early one and two ship carrier groups
  • The Essex/Independence classes and the large Fast Carrier Task Force of late World War II
  • The great transition to the jet age, with the Forrestal supercarriers, the angled deck, steam catapults, and the optical landing system

For our purposes, the last is of the greatest interest. In a period of little more than a decade, carrier aviation changed almost completely. The US Navy suffered appalling accident rates during that time, but the lessons were learned, and for the most part are still valid today.

And having written down the lessons, they are available to study for any who wish to learn.

And like most engineering challenges, once the problem has been solved the first time, every iteration after that is much simpler.

China won’t suddenly become the dominant force upon the ocean blue. But to ignore that fact that China is rapidly becoming a very near peer at sea in the western Pacific, especially as they become more and more aggressive and expansionistic, is to court disaster in the very near future.

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Liaoning At Sea

The Chinese have slavishly copied the US Navy’s techniques and procedures as they learn to operate tactical jets from their first carrier, the Liaoning. Apparently, the also realize the critical importance of releasing “hooah” vids.

 

Spill thought this was pretty cheesy. I thought it was pretty good, though obviously not “homemade” the way most US vids are.

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China Commissions First Type 052D Destroyer

25 years ago, the Chinese Navy (or more correctly, the People’s Liberation Army Navy) was a joke. Crudely build ships with fire control and armament little more advanced than what we operated in World War II would have been easy pickings for our Navy. But China, leveraging the vast increase in GDP, set out to build a quality navy, and has used both domestic development, and reverse engineering of western systems to field ever increasingly capable warships.

One of the first truly modern warships the Chinese fielded was the
Type 052, a class of two ships entering into service in 1994.

Designed prior to the Tiannamen Square massacre, they were built with western powerplants and electronics, though they used largely Chinese armaments.

Type 052.

File:Chinese destroyer HARIBING (DDG 112).jpg

Next step in development was the confusingly designated Type 051B, which looked nothing like the earlier Type 051 series.

File:Chinese destroyer Shenzhen DDG167.jpg

The Chinese only built one Type 051B, and it was apparently not considered terribly successful. But clearly the clean modern hull lines and general layout can be likened to such western types as the British Type 23 frigates (though the Type 051B was considerably larger). Interestingly, the Type 051B reverted from gas turbines and diesels to a steam plant. Chinese technology wasn’t quite capable of using indigenous marine gas turbines to power a destroyer yet.

That would change with the next series, the Type 052B.

One of the problems with the earlier series was the lack of an effective area anti-air weapon system. Earlier series carried the HY-7 missile, which was in effect a reverse engineered French Croatale short range missile. Roughly equivalent to our RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile, it was a point defense system, capable primarily of self defense, and not area coverage.

That lack of area air defense effectively restricted Chinese operations to areas that could be covered by friendly land based air-power.

With the Type 052B, the Chinese installed the Russian SA-N-12 Grizzly Surface to Air Missile. Each ship had two single arm launchers, similar to the old US Mk13, with a total capacity of 48 missiles. For the first time, a Chinese destroyer could provide decent area air defense over a battle group or convoy.

File:Type 052B Guangzhou in Leningrad.jpg

While the 052B was a big improvement, it still relied on mechanically rotated radars, and the single arm launcher system for the Grizzly SAM limited its ability to deal with saturation raids. Entering service in 2004, they were a generation behind US (and even Russian) warships which had long switched over to Vertical Launch Systems, or VLS, and phased array radar systems. The two ships of the 052B class were clearly an interim design.

Using the hull and machinery of the 052B, the next series introduced two major changes. The Type 052C introduced an Active Electronically Scanned Phased Array radar, and the HHQ-9 long range surface to air missile in a Vertical Launch System.

File:Luyang II (Type 052C) Class Destroyer.JPG

The US has operated phased array radars at sea for over thirty years, but the SPY-1 radar is a “passive” array, meaning that a handful of transmitter/receiver modules feed the phase shifting elements of the array that steer the radar beams. In an active array, each phase shifting module is its own transmitter/receiver.

48 HHQ-9 SAMs in a unique vertical launch system gives the 052C a potent very long range anti-air capability. The HHQ-9 is derived from the Russian S-300 SAM system.  It’s theoretical range of 200km is overstating its capability, but it is still one of the more formidable sea based anti-aircraft missiles around.

The Chinese were pleased enough with 052C to proceed to series production, with six hulls being laid down. The need for area air defense, especially as escorts for the new Chinese aircraft carrier, meant building a credible blue water escort was important.

But there was still considerable scope for improvement. And so, even while 052C hulls are fitting out, the next iteration has been built and is being commissioned.

The Type 052D is roughly the same size at the 052C. And it too has an actively scanned array. But improvements in the cooling system have changed the appearance of the array. And rather than a VLS that can only launch the HHQ-9 SAM, the 052D has a new VLS that can, much like the US Mk41, accommodate a variety of different missile types. The 100mm gun of earlier classes has been replaced by a new 130mm design.

The 052D is the “objective” design, and is in series production, with one in commission, three others fitting out, and an additional 8 units planned, for a total of 12.

The obvious analog in the US fleet is the Flight IIA Burke class destroyer.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Burke_class_destroyer_profile%3Bwpe47485.gif

 

The Burkes are a good deal larger than the 052D, by about 2000 tons. Part of that is likely to the US tendency to build their ships for greater endurance and seakeeping. While China may seek to improve their blue water capabilities, they also are unlikely to routinely undertake the kind of world wide deployments US warships have made for the last 70 years.

While we can count gun mounts and missile cells, and look at antenna arrays, much of the capability of a modern warship is actually resident in the combat data systems, the computers that manage the weapons and sensors. And it is very difficult to draw an accurate conclusion as to their capability from the open source press.  We should avoid imbuing them with a lethality beyond what reason dictates, but we should also beware of discounting the ability of others to field technologically advanced and effective weapons.

The Chinese fleet of my youth, a collection of rustbuckets and antiques, is rapidly becoming a modern blue water, power projection fleet. They may not be our peer yet, but they’re certainly a force to contend with.

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Carriers, Mobility, Stealth and Initiative

Think Defence today has a post on the difficulty a potential foe faces in finding a carrier at sea. It is (like virtually all content there) well worth reading the whole thing.

Aircraft carriers are difficult to detect.

Perhaps more importantly, they are difficult to identify. Regarding the difficulty of detection, the seas are very big and, in comparison, even the biggest of aircraft carriers are very small. Modern maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) have radars that have ranges of hundreds of nautical miles (nm) but oceans extend for thousands of nautical miles.

Moreover, radar impulses can be detected by electronic support measures (ESM) systems at significantly greater range than the radar can detect the platform (air or surface or even submarine) carrying the ESM. In wartime, an MPA using its radar gives itself away, opening the way to it either being intercepted and shot down before it can locate the carrier, or to the carrier simply altering course and avoiding the MPA.

Of course, MPAs also have ESM, but this works only if the carrier and its task group (Carrier Battle Group: CBG) are emitting electromagnetically.

But if the CBG has adopted strict electromagnetic silence (and it can do so & this is exercised), then there is nothing to detect. So the MPA is reduced to the Mark 1 eyeball as its only useful sensor.

When I think of most post-World War II significant carrier operations, I generally consider their use in Korea, Vietnam, and of course, operations in the Persian Gulf, where they essentially stayed in fixed positions, and acted like additional airfields. The lack of significant enemy ability to interdict our forces at sea allowed us to sacrifice one of the carrier task forces’ greatest assets, mobility, at little risk.

Prior to World War II, it was widely assumed that operating carrier forces within range of enemy land based airpower was a recipe for disaster, and that shore based airpower would quickly sink or damage any carrier force. The first clue that this wasn’t quite so true came December 7, 1941.

Successful, if not highly fruitful, US attacks against Japanese outposts in early 1942 showed that by choosing the time and place to attack, carriers could operate to impede or suppress shore based airpower, and retire out of range before an effective Japanese counterstroke could be brought to bear.

The Fast Carrier Task Force (TF38/TF58) would often operate in wide ranging support of amphibious landings in the Pacific War. While FCTC would of course raid the target of a landing, it would also strike enemy installations far afield, to deny the enemy the ability to reinforce the defense of our objective, and to a degree, to conceal our objective. The ability of the FCTF to move hundreds of miles each day, to attack in unexpected places, meant the Japanese often struggled to counterattack. It was only at times when the fast carriers were tied to an objective that the Japanese were able to mount large scale raids to attack our fleet. The most obvious example of this is the horrible attrition imposed on the fleet while supporting operations at Okinawa.

After the Vietnam War, the Navy looked at what it might be required to do in a World War III scenario versus the Soviet Union. The primary task was to secure the sea lanes to Europe. The primary Soviet threats to the sea lanes were submarines, and long range land based bombers armed with cruise missiles.  We’ll leave the discussion of the submarine threat to another time, but the Navy realized it would be called upon to stop the long range bomber threat, both as a threat to merchant shipping, and to the carrier forces themselves.  Soviet long range aviation had a much longer strike range than the organic airwing of carriers. To charge in and raid the Soviet bomber bases, the carriers would have to be able to avoid detection. And so they spent a fair portion of the coldest days of the Cold War learning to do just that.

The force transits to its objective area in complete electronic silence. Deceptive formations are used dispersed over a broad area to ensure any detection system does not see the classic “bullseye” formation made famous in countless Public Affairs shots and never used in operations. Broad surveillance systems are known so any detection method is countered either by denying sensor information, misleading, or providing expected results consistent with something else. For example, ESM systems rely on active emissions from radars or communication systems. So nothing is radiated. Overhead systems are in known orbits, are predictable, and their sensing capabilities known. So the track is varied, weather is sought out to hide in when vulnerable, blending into sea lanes (while staying out of visual detection range of ships) and such techniques. Deceptive lighting is used at night so that the obvious “blacked out warship” is instead thought to be a merchant or cruise liner. Surface search radar identical to commercial ones are used. Turn count masking is used by the ships. Aircraft maintenance on the CV and other helo equipped ships is limited to prevent transmissions.

In NORPAC 82 using these and other tactics the CV force operated close enough to support each other, but far enough and randomly dispersed to avoid identification by anyone. One night in bad weather a man went overboard when the ship was within 200nm of a Soviet airfield in the Kuril Island chain. Despite launch of helicopters and active search methods by several ships in the successful SAR, including clear voice UHF transmissions, the force is not detected because no Soviet asset was above the radar horizon. No overhead system was cued. The force continued on.

The Chinese have spent the last 20 years developing anti-access/area-denial tactics, techniques, and procedures. And to be sure, any operations against China would be significantly different than operations in the northern reaches of the Atlantic or Pacific.

But to blithely dismiss the ability of a carrier strike group to avoid detection (or at a minimum, to avoid being recognized as a carrier group) is to overlook the long history of carrier groups successfully approaching enemy shores.

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NextGen China Carrier?

@SteelJawScribe found a little gem in a Chinese newspaper:

I can’t read any Chinese, so I can’t find the correct link, but the article is about (I guess) the future Type 055 Guided Missile Destroyer. That would be the ship in the foreground. And if you say to yourself, “Whoa, that looks a lot like a USN DDG-51!” you’re not alone.

I’d like a better look at the hull and the deck layout of the notional carrier but a couple things popped 0ut to SteelJaw. First, the carrier is a nuke. No stacks, ergo, nuke. Second, a closer look at the birds on the roof show what looks like the J-20 stealth fighter, and clearly shows the rotodomes of an Airborne Early Warning aircraft.

Mind you, it’s tough to really know what the Chinese are planning just by looking at pics found on the internet. There’s a ton of stuff floating out there, but until there are hulls in the water, it is often just speculation. The Chinese are a bit more tight lipped about their procurement process than we are.

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China Begins Building Second Carrier

Actually, it’s their first domestically built carrier. Their first is a refurbished ex-Soviet carrier.

It will be interesting to see what the differences in the configuration are between Liaoning and the second carrier.

The speculation is that it too will use the “ski ramp” method for launching aircraft. Unlike US carrier with steam catapults, the ski ramp system is much simpler, but also limits the weapons and fuel any jet can launch with. China has worked closely with Brazil (which operates a carrier with steam catapults) so they should have access to the technology. And steam catapults are hardly new. They’ve been around for 60 years. Steam catapults may not be the easiest technology to master, but it is a rather straightforward engineering challenge.

We in the US think of our aircraft carriers almost exclusively in terms of power projection. From Korea, through Vietnam, Desert Storm and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the role of the carrier has been to sit off the enemy coast and send attacks ashore.

But China’s stated strategy is one of Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD). That is, they are structuring their forces and doctrine to deny us the ability to conduct operations in certain areas, or make them prohibitively expensive in lives and political support.

If the follow on carriers in Chinese service do use a ski ramp, that would effectively limit their fighters to a loadout of a modest number of air-to-air missiles, and a decent internal fuel load. So if Chinese carriers cannot reasonably be expected to perform War At Sea Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) attacks on our carrier groups, what is their possible doctrine?

Here’s my theory, based solely on PIOMA:

A Chinese carrier battle group of one or two carriers and escorts is intended to provide local air superiority over itself, and execute limited challenges to air superiority over our carrier forces.

China wouldn’t even have to secure air superiority over our carrier group, but instead, merely make credible challenges from time to time, while avoiding being destroyed.

It doesn’t take a lot of credible threat to one of our carriers before a large portion of the sorties generated have to be devoted solely to Combat Air Patrols (CAP) over the carrier for self protection. Indeed, the political consequences of losing a carrier, or even having one badly damaged, would tend to make force protection the first imperative for any US Navy operation. To say our current Navy is rather risk averse is to put it mildly.

And so, with a majority of the sorties of this notional carrier task force devoted to protecting itself, it has essentially become a self-licking ice cream cone. The carrier exists to provide air cover to the fleet, which the fleet is there to support carrier operations. See what I mean?

What do you think?

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The PLAAF Aggressor Program

FTTC Badge

The unit insignia for PLAAF’s FTTC.

While there isn’t a lot of information in the public domain regarding what we term in the West as “aggressor squadrons” in China, there is some out there in books and various online sources.

What we do know is that the main unit for the PLAAF (China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force) to simulate what they call “Blue-Force (the OPFOR in the West is usually called “Red Force”)” combat simulation operations is called the Flight Test and Training Centre (FTTC). The FTTC traces it’s lineage to the 11th Aviation School that was established in 1953 in Huxian, Shaanxi Province. FTTC was established in 1987 and is located at Cangzhou, (the airfield is located about 10 miles northeast of the center of the city) in the Hebei Province, located in the Beijing Military Region (an FTTC detachment of J-10s is also located at Juicheng).

The FTTC is organized into 3 regiments which simulate enemy (mainly Western) aircraft. The 1st FTTC Regiment operates the J-10A/AS (these are mostly pre-production machines) and the JL-9. The 2nd FTTC Regiment operates the J-7E,J-8D/F, and JL-9. The 3rd Regiment operates the Su-30MKK. The J-10 probably simulates the F-16F/A-18MiG-29F-CK-1F-2Mirage 2000RafaleTyphoon and other similar types operated by potential enemies. The J-7, J-8, and JL-9 probably simulate older former Soviet types (MiG-1517,192123s) and American built F-5s and F-4s still operated by China’s potential enemies. The Su-30MKK probably simulates primarily the F-15 and F/A-18E/F but also the F-14 and SU-27 series (they use to simulate F-16s before the arrival of the J-10).

su30mkk fttc

PLAAF SU-30MKK from the FTTC’s 3rd Regiment.

Blue060707224546__1

PLAAF J-7E from the FTTC’s 2nd Regiment.

j-7 fttc

A division of PLAAF J-7Es from the FTTC’s 2nd Regiment.

J-10-60185_1258902467_22061

A PLAAF J-10A from the FTTCs 1st Regiment. Note the “Aggressor” color scheme.

J-102x FTTC + strange text

A PLAAF J-10As from the FTTCs 1st Regiment. Note the “Aggressor” color scheme.

Operationally, not much is known about the syllabus of the FTTC. We do know that the FTTC maintains a personnel exchange agreement with the Russian Airforce Lipetsk training school to improve tactics and training. As with other “post-graduate” fighter training schools, they the crews are highly regarded within the PLAAF fighter community.

In 2011, the 3rd Regiment of the FTTC traveled to Pakistan to excerise with the Pakistani Air Force. 2 SU-30MKKs and a 12 member ground crew deployed to PAF Bases Chaklala, Minhas, and Mushaf. They contact DACT (dissimilar air combat training) against the PAF’s Mirage IIIMirage 5P, and the JF-17. IL-78 tankers and Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft were also involved in these excerises called “Shaheen-1.”

Shaheen-1 is recalled here. Another interesting anecdote in the article is the development of a TACTS system for the PLAAF:

The PAF and PLAAF, along with companies like China’s CETC International and Pakistan’s Wah cantonment-based Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO), have, since 2008, been also working together on developing a rangeless dissimilar air combat training system (DACTS) and an air combat manoeuvring instrumentation (ACMI) system, both of which, by using GPS technology, allow pilots to train in any available airspace without reliance on a ground-based, tethered range. A rangeless ACMI system can support up to 100 high-activity aircraft and up to 100 simultaneous weapons-launch simulations in a single training exercise. While the IAF had acquired two sets of ‘EHUD’ rangeless DACTS/ACMI training aids worth US$42 million from Israel Aircraft Industries’ (IAI) MLM Division in the late 1990s, and followed it by acquiring a supplementary system—comprising digital video-cum-data recorders (DVDR) and ground debriefing systems (GDS)—for its Su-30MKIs from Israel’s RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, such training aids have, to date, remained elusive for both the PAF and PLAAF due to US and EU export control regulations imposed since the late 1980s. The kind of DACTS/ACMI systems now sought by China and Pakistan are presently made by companies such as DIEHL/BGT Defence GmbH of Germany (maker of the Flight Profile Recorder system), US-based DRS Defense Solutions Inc and Cubic Defense Systems, Israel’s IAI/MLM Division RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, Singapore’s Prescient Systems & Technologies (a subsidiary of Singapore’s ST Electronics), and Dong Ji Inter-Tech of South Korea. Given the unavailability of DACTS/ACMI systems being made available for export from Europe, Israel and the US, it appears highly likely that the PAF and PLAAF will eventually procure such systems from the Far East.

The rangeless DACTS/ACMI system being sought by the PAF and PLAAF will have four main elements: the ACMI pod, DVDR, real-time monitoring station (RTMS), and GDS. Designed with the same aerodynamics performance of an actual air combat missile, the ACMI pod is an exact replica of the air combat missile whose performance needs to be simulated. The homogeny includes its physical dimensions, weight, mechanical and, electrical and electromagnetic interference characteristics. The pod allows for real-time data transmission, reception and relay between the aircraft and a ground-based RTMS, as well as a GDS for combat outcome assessment and debriefing. The ACMI pod, incorporated with GPS technology, is retrofitted on to the aircraft. The flight data is captured and recorded in data cartridges that can be easily removed for after-action review at the RTMS or GDS. The combat and flight data of the air crew is relayed by the pod to the RTMS. This data is then used to monitor the training scenarios in real-time as well as to conduct post-flight debrief during the after-action reviews. Data recorded and stored by the DVDR is used to reconstruct the spatial flight patterns of all participating aircraft, superimposed on a three-dimensional representation of the mission terrain. Data among all aircraft is automatically synchronised by the GDS. When two screens are used (one for three-dimensional imagery, the other for video), both displays are synchronised as well with no user intervention. All viewing angles and directions, whether from within the cockpits or outside, are user-selectable and adjustable. The GDS is capable of conducting simultaneous, synchronised recording and playback of numerous digital channels, carrying audio and video from multiple sources. The system supports specialty features such as simulation and analysis tools for mission debriefing, and military unit data management. Utilising COTS-based PC technology, the GDS is designed for advanced squadron-level post-flight debriefing.

Note that this article makes reference to a unit called “8th PLAAF Flight Academy.” At the time of writing, this unit no longer exists and was absorbed in into the 13th PLAAF Flight Academy which itself became the PLAAF’s “Aviation University Instructor Training Base.”

Since 2011 there’s no further update about the system but since it’s based on Commercial Off-The-Shelf technology I would image that it’s already deployed for use by the PLAAF.

There also isn’t further information on any other deployments that the FTTC may have made to foreign countries.

Sources:

Respective aircraft Wikipedia pages.

Modern Chinese Warplanes.

International Air Power Review Volume 22.

China Defense Blog.

Information Dissemination.

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Chengdu J-10 Photo Walkaround

j10_3view_thumb

A 3-view drawing of the Chengdu J-10A with available weapons options.

Although revelaled to the general public by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) on 29 December 2006 the J-10 first flew on 23 March 1998.  The J-10’s development period was very protracted as is represents a quantum leap in China’s domestic aviation capability. Previous designs of fighter aircraft which were primarily Chinese copies of former Soviet fighter designs.

The J-10 serves with the PLAAF (insert number of aircraft) The J-10 exists in 8 variants:
J-10A: is the first generation version powered by either the WS-10 or AL-31FN turbofan.
J-10S: the combat capable 2-seat version of the A.
J-10AY: a variant unarmed specially developed for the PLAAF’s August 1st display team (similar to the A).
J-10SY: the twin-seat version of the J-10AY.
J-10AH: the single seat variant in service with the PLANAF.
J-10SH: twin seat verision ins service with the PLANAF.
J-10B: an upgraded version of the J-10A.
FC-20: an export version intended for Pakistan.

There are about 300 J-10s (all versions but the J-10B) in service with 10 regiments within the PLAAF (FTTC, 44th, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 24th, 9th, 15th, 12th, 124 brigade) and 1 regiment within the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) (the 4th division 12th regiment).

These photos first here about 16 November 2013. It appears in Chinese and this is the first attempt at putting some of the walkaround into English:

20131222-111013.jpg
A J-10SY (a J-10S built or modified especially for the PLAAF August 1st display team) illustrates the smoke generator (similar to the PL-9 with the same aerodynamic shape and characteristics).
The twin canopy is also highlighted. The inset details the lightning strike discharger on the J-10A (single seater)
20131222-111028.jpg
Upper left corner: detail of the J-10s vertical tail. From front to back. Probably an ECM antenna (for front aircraft coverage), a red navigation light, probably “Odd Rods” IFF antenna, a static discharge wick, a rear navigation light, a cover over the ARW-9101 RWR and finally another static discharge wick. Below a closeup of the ventral fins possible containing aerials for communications equipment. Right: (other than what’s already covered) and the parachute housing with ECM transciever below.
20131222-111047.jpg
This photo illustrates the J-10SY’s zero-zero ejection seat’s attitude sensors. Also note the canopy rear view mirrors. The rear cockpit instrument panel contains a HUD repeater (top) and 3 digital color multi-function displays. Note the construction number on the canopy rail.
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Close up detail view of the rear cockpit HTY-5 ejection seat attitude sensor.
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Front cockpit HUD (control panel below) and the ejection seat attitude sensor. The construction number is available on the canopy rail.
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The KLJ-3 multimode radar. The KLJ-3 is said to be based on the AN/APG-66/88 series. It’s said to have a maximum detection range of 81 miles and an engagement range of 56 miles. It can also track 4 to 6 targets simultaneously and engage 2 targets at one time.
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Tangentially located four-petal airbrakes on the rear fuselage (2 are located next to the tail and the other 2 are located between the ventral stabilators.
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The J-10’s cruciform braking parachute as deployed on landing.
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The J-10’s braking parachute being installed in it’s storage compartment on the aircraft.
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A closeup the interior of one of the J-10’s ventral airbrakes. Interiors of airbrakes and bays are painted red as they are on US Navy aircraft to alert groundcrew of deployment.
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The segmented afterburner nozzle of the AL-31FN turbofan. The AL-31FN produces 17,857lbs of thrust dry and 27,557lbs of thrust in afterburner.
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A close up detail view of the J-10s in-flight refueling probe. The probe itself is fixed but detachable.
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Another detail view of the J-10’s bolt-on fixed inflight refueling probe. A illumination light for refueling at night is fitted below the windscreen on the starboard side only.
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A closeup of the H-6U tanker’s in-flight refueling hose basket.
20131222-111212.jpg
The ventral engine intake of the J-10. The 2 segmented inlet ramp is perforated to prevent ingestion of the stagnant boundary layer. The ramp is designed to slow down incoming air to subsonic speeds before the airflow reaches the turbofan engine face. The forward segment of the ramp appears to have a range of motion, at the forward hinge, 30 degrees.
20131222-111218.jpg
A closeup of the forward inlet ramp’s perforation. Note the red engine air intake cover.
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A “down the throat” look at the ventral engine intake (with the AL-31FN engine removed).
20131222-111231.jpg
Upper left: A detail view of the ground refueling receptacle and some interesting detail of the wing/fuselage junction. Also detail of the parachute housing in the tail.
20131222-111237.jpg
A look at a few on the ground servicing point of the J-10. The red boxes in the photo highlight the ground refueling receptacle and the open parachute container at the tail.
20131222-111243.jpg
The standard PLAAF TK-11 helmet with attachment point for a helmet mounted sight receptacle. A YM-6 oxygen mask and various other life support equipment for the pilot including oxyygen hose, koch fittings, and g-suit.
20131222-111251.jpg
A look up close at the forward fuselage. The 3 struts above the air intake at the lower left. The ECM fairing immediately above in gray. The insignia is that of the August 1st display team. Immediately in front and slightly below the AoA probe and the IFR probe illumination light is above. Further forward and just below the red cheatline is an air data probe for airspeed indication.
20131222-111259.jpg
Top photo is detail of the 3 struts keeping the intake out of the fuselage boundary layer. The vents on the side provide exhaust for the boundary layer separated by the intake ramp. Next to digit “12” is a green navigation/station keeping light. Also note the numbers on the panels for easier maintenance.
20131222-111312.jpg
A close up of the J-10s intake struts. These lower the intake out of the boundary layer and help the fuselage/intake section maintain a form of structural rigidity. Behind the struts is another longitudinally mounted separator strut.
20131222-111320.jpg
Above the person’s head is the air data probe. The lines on the radome are lightning strike dischargers. Between the 2 dischargers is an AoA probe. the the bottom is another probe probably for air pressure and aft of the AoA probe is another airdata probe for the pitot static system.
20131222-111327.jpg
Other than what’s pointed out in the previous picture, the rectangular antenna is for the UHF/VHF radio.
20131222-111338.jpg
Forward of the “07” digit is the red navigation/station keeping light. There are various panels around the digits but the arrow points rescue crews to the panel to manually jettison the canopy from the outside. Also visible on the nosegear door is the aircraft construction number (this is an assigned number at the factory) “J10AY0514.” The number is also repeated in the front of the smaller door forward of the nosegear main strut.
20131222-111347.jpg
A detail view of the port side main gear and associated equipment. The landing light and the various hydraulic and electrical lines.
20131222-111355.jpg
An in-flight view of the J-10AY from the PLAAF’s August 1st display team. Again immediately behind the canopy, GPS, VHF/UHF, and another navigation equipment antenna (maybe a TACAN or LORAN type instrument?). On the port side wingtip is the green navigation light. Note the dropped leading edge for improved aerodynamic and handling characteristics. Also, note the vapor coming off the leading edge indicating some high-g maneuvering.
20131222-112311.jpg
An in-flight view of the J-10AY detailing the GPS antenna just aft of the canopy. Note the deflection of the starboard side canard.
20131222-112325.jpg
A comparison of degree of travel of the leading edge slat. The inset view probably shows the closed position. The main photo shows the leading edge slat about half deployed.
20131222-112346.jpg
The same J-10AY, this time the aft fuselage and tail section. Noteworthy here is the strut with the ventral fin mounted on it as well as the navigation lights on each wingtip.
20131222-112401.jpg
Detail view on the main landing gear bay showing pneumatic (black) and hydraulic lines (gray). The large yellow hose looks like an engine bleed air line.
20131222-112412.jpg
According to the construction number “J100106″ on the nosegear door of this J-10A is tail number 50556 it belongs to the 44th Fighter Division, 131st Air Regiment based at Luliang in the Chengdu MR. Also note the landing gear light and oleo strut forward. The green antenna just forward of the gear door is for navigation equipment.
20131222-112428.jpg

Production of the J-10A recently ended after 7 batches, totaling 300 aircraft. The J-10B entered full production earlier this year after beginning flight test in 2008. The J-10B is the next generation version of the J-10 and is the first Chinese fighter equipped with AESA radar and a number of improvements detailed in the picture below:

acgJr

There are rumors of the existence of another variant of the J-10 called the J-10C but no details are available.

[UPDATE]:

RE: J-10C. 

Today (31 December 2013) someone  posted this 3 view on a Chinese language defense forum claiming to be the J-10C:

J-10C

Note the conformal fuel tanks and maybe a different engine. I’m not sure what the appendages are on the wings, maybe ECM but certainly not a BVR AAM. 

However I can’t speak to the image’s authenticity.

Sources:

International Air Power Review Volume 22.

Modern Chinese Warplanes.

Information Dissemination: 2013 Chinese Air Force Review

J-10 Wikipedia page.

Thanks to friends of the blog, RJL and DKE for assistance with this project.

The Alert 5 site.

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US-Chinese Tensions in the South China Sea rise

It’s now being reported that last week saw a tense incident between the USS Cowpens*, a Ticonderoga Guided Missile Cruiser, and a Chinese landing ship, where the Chinese LST forced the Cowpens to manuever to avoid collision.

From the Free Beacon:

A Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials.

The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident

“On December 5th, while lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision,” a Navy official said.

On the one hand, this is quite reminiscent of the bad old days of the Cold War when the Soviets routinely ignored virtually every Rule of the Road in attempts to hassle and annoy US warships. Near misses were common and even the occasional swapping of paint took place.

On the other hand, this is slightly different, as China has long asserted that the entire South China Sea is territorial waters (though absolutely no other country recognizes this, and there is no historical precedent).

It’s not as if the Chinese haven’t done this sort of thing before. In 2001 there was the EP-3E incident, when a Chinese fighter intercepted a routine US surveillance flight (fair enough) but then maneuvered so aggressively it caused a mid-air collision, and the EP-3E had to make an emergency landing in China. The Chinese soon repatriated the US crew, and eventually returned the heavily damaged top-secret spyplane.**

The Free Beacon article also describes the 2009 incident when Chinese assets harassed the USNS Impeccable, an ocean surveillance ship, operating in international waters, again, waters claimed by China as territorial, or at least as part of the  Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Chinese objective here isn’t to provoke a shooting incident. The attempt is to subtlety exert influence. Every time they can force the ships and aircraft of another nation to change their operations, they bolster their claim to the waters, and cause other nations to lose face.

In ordinary times, the US Navy is rather absolutist about the Freedom of Navigation in international waters. The Gulf of Sidra incident, when Ghaddafi claimed those waters were territorial to Libya, arose when the US Navy promptly conducted Freedom of Navigation exercises in those waters. When the Libyans came out to play, they found out they were sorely ill equipeed to challenge the varsity, losing ships, planes and SAM sites in the process.

But will our current administration stand firm in the face of the Chinese? Do more than pass a mild diplomatic note? There is cause for doubt. ADM Locklear, US Pacific Command commander, has sounded conciliatory in the face of Chinese claims. Mind you, when PACOM’s lips are moving (on a diplomatic matter, at least) the Obama administration is speaking.

One fears the current administration’s unwillingness to embrace US strength and resolve will prompt the Chinese to further engage in aggressive behavior, and continue to escalate tensions in the region.

To be sure, this is a fairly minor incident. But failure to curb Chinese actions in the region will embolden them, and increase the chances of a more serious incident, one our current administration is wholly unprepared to face.

**One wonders how the USS Cowpens would have fared were the infamous CAPT Holly Graf still in command.
*After, of course, they had plenty of time to examine every classified bit in minute detail.

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Grasping at Shadows, Blindfolded

A special guest post by Kenneth Ellis, “Fringe.”

The hallmark for good analysis of simulation is found from both admitting the functional limitations of the modelling capability and scenario, and by having an intimate understanding of that which is being represented by said model.

Recently, Kyle Mizokami over at War is Boring (by way of Medium and Foreign Policy) presented us with a long series of admissions pertaining to his simulation of a possible engagement within China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea:

“So what does my simulation of the battle mean for the current situation in the East China Sea? Simply put, China has a chance of pulling off an aerial ambush. If my scenario is realistic. If the game’s modeling is accurate. If the Chinese are little lucky and if U.S. and Japanese commanders make mistakes. And if the first volley of AMRAAMs misses.

To be sure, those are a lot of ifs.”

Measuring the Understatement

The first issue with Mizokami’s exercise is what he presents as a “battle plan”. To understand why, we must look at the defining factors of air to air engagement as they exist in the real world, versus how they are presented in the simulator that he used (Command: Modern/Air Naval Operations, from here designated CMANO), and coupled with his order of battle.

Air operations of the kind presented by Mizokami  are highly dependent on many moving parts and factors, the most important of which is time. In the age of Airborne Early Warning radar (AEW), the ability to detect, identify, and define intent takes place over many hundreds of miles; the further the detection is made against a potentially hostile flight, the longer the amount of time a defender has to position its assets as necessary to construct an effective defense.

To this, certain tactics and and systems can be employed which can minimize this window of response; for example, even against atmospheric reflecting over the horizon radar, low level approach can be used to hide until deep within the radar’s search range. However, the low level ingress eats in to another vital factor of air operations: fuel. Jet aircraft burn more fuel at low altitude by nature of the denser air. Constructing an operation in which a strike package at low level is going to run in at high speed to minimize their chances of exposure demands aircraft with suitably large fuel fractions and combat radius.

The actual strike assortment against the high value targets of China’s eye are the Chengdu J-10. The problem with this representation is that the J-10 has a reported effective radius of 550km when flying a leisurely cruise profile; striking with intent against a Japanese P-3 AND E-2C Hawkeye is anything but a leisurely exercise. With the E-2C orbiting nearly 300 nautical miles away from the closest represented PLA airfield, we have a problem: any dash/tail chase situation on the part of the J-10s against their prey is going to certify that they can’t get home, unless they’re carrying bags (external fuel tanks) to increase their fuel from the reasonable 9900 lbs to something more suitable for the mission profile.

While the need for bags may be a reason why the type, in Mr. Mizokami’s model, were not carrying a larger array of ordnance, it does not appreciably account for the incurred drag penalty having those tanks on the aircraft. Anything hanging off the airframe slows it down, whereas a targeted strike against an airborne target demands maximum haste. When this is contrasted with the premise that the J-10s cruise out to the Eagles, Orions, Hawkeye, and Raptor to engage them without bags, it means that they’re not getting home.

One could make the suggestion that this situation could be resolved through in-flight refueling; however Mizokami has not afforded the PLA assets this resource. Further, as a rule air to air refueling does not take place at low level; given the nature of the refueling approach and the need for options for both the refueling aircraft and its customers in the event of an emergency, such events take place at altitude. This would sacrifice the clandestine nature of the strike package- the instant they dive to hide, the JASDF aircraft in the area would know something was amiss. Groups of aircraft disappearing over contested airspace is a sure way to put people on notice.

Thus we find that given the circumstances that Mizokami has presented, the Chengdu J-10 is not the right tool for the job. That role, however, is more than happy to be filled by the J-11.

The Shenyang J-11 is a license-built copy of the familiar Russian Su-27 Flanker. Built for the air superiority role, and with the intent of minimizing the need for air to air refueling, the Flanker carries a downright prodigious internal fuel fraction- in excess of twenty thousand pounds, or more than double that of the J-10. Further, it can hang a higher amount of air to air ordnance off its pylons than the J-10, and attain a higher top speed. Dismissing the J-10 flight, and replacing it with a matching number of J-11s would go a long way towards solving the underlying failure towards generating operation realism in the scenario. But that is the role of the honest scenario designer, not the person evaluating the analysis.

All that said, the greatest error in the analysis is in not realizing the failures of Command’s model of air combat maneuver.

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”

To illustrate this, we’ll forego review of the PLA engagements with the JASDF Eagles and move right into Mizokami’s money maker- the engagement between the surviving PLA aircraft and the F-22 Raptors.

In his breakdown, Mizokami states that the F-22 Raptors made a mistake late in their intercept of the inbound PLA aircraft- activating their respective APG-77 radars, allowing for them to be detected by the Chinese. This, as far as the white-sourced world currently knows, is in error.

The APG-77 is what is referred to as a Low Probability of Intercept, or LPI, radar. This means that the radar randomly changes the signal frequencies and widths it sends out hundreds of times per second, across its hundreds of individual active arrays, to keep the aircraft from being detected by way of its emissions. Radar warning receivers function based on recurring patterns of bandwidth frequency, width and power to define the type of threat that is pinging it and determine a relative direction and distance to that emitter. With LPI, the warning receiver is unable to find a pattern on which to designate a specific emitter; instead, even if the emissions are detected based on the bands that the RWR is sensitive to, no consistent pattern is found, and the signal is rejected as background noise.

Simply put- the J-11s can’t see the Raptor by way of RWR, even if they’re “loud”.

Compounding this is the differing nature of RWR sensing versus the required data to put a missile on a target. Whereas the APG-77 can turn another aircraft’s emissions into the type of data that an AIM-120 AMRAAM needs to engage, the N001VE Myech radar of the J-11 cannot. Thus, the pulse Doppler N001VE must be close enough to the F-22 to get some form of return to guide a PL-12 at it. Plugging in even a worst-case return value for the F-22 into the radar equation, that of the F-117 Nighthawk (of which the Raptor’s signature is a mere fraction), it’s still miniscule in the terms of beyond visual range (BVR) warfare.

What’s more, the F-22 carries what is referred to as the IFDL, or Intra-Flight Data Link. This system allows a group of Raptors operating within the same region to share targeting data amongst every other Raptor it wishes, meaning that one F-22 can “paint” a target for his wingman, and that wingman can launch a weapon without ever turning on his own radar.

While CMANO’s model of datalinked launch capability purportedly exists, Mizokami never gave it a chance. Lateral separation between a pair of Raptors means time and lack of full recognition of the threat, at least until J-11s (and J-10s) in his example start spontaneously exploding by way of AIM-120. Properly represented, the PLA aircraft do not know they’re being fired upon; and even if they do, they are attempting to intercept the wrong aircraft, making for an easier attack profile for the incoming AMRAAMs.

Summed, Mizokami’s contention that the “U.S. and Japanese commanders (or, in this case, aircrew) make mistakes” is wrong- they didn’t make the mistake. The mistake is on the part of the model, and ultimately, the analyst.

Further, even a cursory review of CMANO’s interactions within the air combat maneuvering arena find it’s modeling of such events to be suspect. BVR tactics are derived from a series of what are called “poles”-

the A-Pole (the range at which one’s BVR missile goes active and can attack without guidance from you),

E-Pole (minimum range one can be from the enemy and outrun his weapon),

and F-Pole (the range from an aircraft to the enemy when his missile attacks)

In BVR, a pilot wants to maximize the range of his launch, minimize the range of his opponent’s weapons, and maintain distance that allows him to reengage, or escape, as required. Applying tactical control of these “poles” allow a well trained pilot to do just that- engage without being engaged, escape when needed, and press the fight as required.

CMANO doesn’t grasp the poles, or more advanced BVR tactical considerations. Intercepts are purely a function of pointing at the enemy, launching at maximum range, and continuing to close with the opponent at the current speed. Weapon avoidance is unrealistically late, and in no way, shape, or form uses well understood maneuvering techniques to deny the shot. At no time do aircraft within CMANO attempt to maximize their situation by way of offset maneuvering, deceleration post-launch, or any number of other techniques made to make survival possible. It is all left to a pure probability model- that is, chance. Even when a player takes over flying duties through manual overrides, his ability to affect ultimate performance is limited; he can create mismatches, direct specific volumes of weapons to be employed on given targets, but not actually force the method of prosecution. This breaks down even further within visual range.

In essence, air warfare in CMANO is 18th century warfare by formatted lines. Mizokami’s example not only surrendered numerical advantage to the Chinese; by failing to account and allow for the USAF/JASDF to effectively employ the advantages their aircraft hold, the resulting findings are without merit, and without usefulness to the lay person or the professional.

Disingenuity to the Last

Ultimately, the most interesting aspect of this exercise is the fact that in its original home at Medium, the article was inherently unable to receive any sort of peer or communal critique. The need for Twitter to sign in, along with the broken comment methodology permitted on the forum, allowed the presentation time to cement a legitimacy that it is undeserving of. With the disclaimer effectively “ten minutes” below the headline, most would never see it, thus have no opportunity to shade the findings as appropriate.

Contrast this with the honest approach to modeling and simulation required when presenting findings to an audience lacking the knowledge to properly assess the evaluation; the oft-mentioned RAND simulation of the F-35 being trounced in open warfare with China is a perfect example. The model had holes, and these holes were understood in a way to still make the data useful to the Department of Defense. Mizokami either doesn’t recognize the holes in CMANO’s modeling of air combat, or is making a conscious effort to not admit where all of these knowledge bombs lay. Thus, one can quickly ascertain why the “ifs” were held till the end- speaking from a non-authoritative position on the subject matter, when adding in the spice of a F-22 Raptor being shot down, it doesn’t make good copy and fails to generate clicks.

There is a place for honest presentation of military subject matter, and the means to which equipment, training, and readiness combine to effect policy, and vice versa, to the public. Wanton click mongering pays no value to the public at large, nor to the services that must be prepared to take action on policy.

In closing, Mr. Mizokami’s scenario, and his final analysis, are works of bad fiction, and should be treated as such. Japanese Eagles and US Raptors may fall if challenged by the PLA over the East China Sea, but it will not be based on the terms he has offered as an example.

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Weekend Reading Assignment- 2013 Report To Congress on China

I’m juuuuuust starting to draft a series on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In the meantime, here’s a copy of the annual report to Congress on the PLA.

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China Announces ADIZ over disputed islands.

 

China’s Ministry of National Defense issued an announcement of the aircraft identification rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone of the People’s Republic of China.p Following is the full text:

Announcement of the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone of the People’s Republic of China

Issued by the Ministry of National Defense on November 23

The Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, in accordance with the Statement by the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, now announces the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone as follows:

First, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must abide by these rules.

Second, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must provide the following means of identification:

1. Flight plan identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should report the flight plans to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China or the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

2. Radio identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must maintain the two-way radio communications, and respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries from the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone or the unit authorized by the organ.

3. Transponder identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, if equipped with the secondary radar transponder, should keep the transponder working throughout the entire course.

4. Logo identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must clearly mark their nationalities and the logo of their registration identification in accordance with related international treaties.

The US establishment of an air defense system over the nation and Canada in the Cold War coincided with both the potential threat of a Soviet bomber attack, and the increase in commercial trans-oceanic flights. To give interceptors time and space to scramble to meet any potential threat, all flights that would enter US or Canadian airspace were required to identify themselves clearly, by filing a flight plan, operating a transponder, and establishing two-way radio communications with air traffic control. Any aircraft not meeting these requirements would potentially find itself intercepted by Air Defense Command, and identified, escorted, or even forced to land.   This zone was known as an Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ. Theoretically, failure to comply with ADC could even result in being shot down. The US wasn’t big on shooting down airliners, but as Korean Air 007 showed,violating  the Soviet equivalent of an ADIZ  could be deadly.

No one is really challenging the right of China to have an ADIZ over its territory. The establishment of an ADIZ over disputed international waters, however, is an extreme provocation. Almost certainly, every commercial carrier that transits the area will comply.  Failure to do so would cause virtually every insurer to cancel coverage.

But to simply accede to this pronouncement would be a de facto admission by other governments that China’s assertion of an ADIZ is legitimate. Japan especially, and perhaps other governments, will likely challenge the validity of the ADIZ. And they’ll do so with military aircraft.

This is an escalation that will lead to one side or the other losing face, or one side or the other losing airplanes. And probably lives.

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In Case You Missed It…

While President Obama is busy pissing off long time allies like the French and Germans* both through policies that offend them, attempting to align more closely with autocratic Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, and spying on just about everybody, you might have missed another Obama “success” story.

Since World War II the US and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia have had a steady, if not always strong, alignment. And that alignment is in danger of rupture.

Saudi Arabia often strikes us more as  a “frenemy” than an ally. We all know that 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals, as was, of course, Osama bin Laden. And Saudi subjects finance radical madrasses worldwide, preaching a vision of Islam that sneers at the mores and values of our Western culture and heritage.

But the Saudi royal family, despite appearing to be an absolute monarchy, is in a difficult position. As much as they try to moderate and modernize their culture, any shift to a more liberal** stance risks seeing them overthrown by their own radical elements. The family has to walk a tightrope between maintaining relations with the West, and not inviting internal revolt.

Saudi Arabia’s single biggest external security issue is Iran. The incredibly deep schism between Sunni and Shia means Iran is an even greater threat to the kingdom than any possible internal unrest. And the specter of a nuclear armed Iran is the nightmare fuel for Saudi foreign ministry types.

Sadly, Obama seems to take at face value the extraordinarily meager crumbs of reconciliation the new Iranian president Rouhani.  This is incredibly naive, even for this feckless administration. The Iranians are clearly trying to buy time to further their nuclear weapons program. Toning down the rhetoric is an easy way to do it. That our own government can’t see that is astonishing.  Further, even in the incredible case that President Rouhani actually did wish to change the relationship between the US and Iran, such a policy decision is out of his hands. The president of Iran can do pretty much anything he wants, policy-wise, so long as it is exactly what the Supreme Ruling Council wants.

Michael Totten has a terrific post that showcases the fruits of our amatuer foreign policy, a policy so bad that it is driving Saudi Arabia away from the US, and into the arms of… who knows? He goes off the rails a bit there, but the diagnosis is spot on.

Personally, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if China was quick to make friends.

*To be honest, I’m not a bit dismayed to hear we’re spying on them. We’re supposed to spy on everybody but our own citizens.

**Not in the American political sense

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China sends a message

When I saw this last night:

China’s top newspaper on Wednesday published a call for a review of Japan’s sovereignty over the island of Okinawa — home to major US bases — with the Asian powers already embroiled in a territorial row.

The lengthy article in the People’s Daily, China’s most-circulated newspaper and the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist party, argued that the country may have rights to the Ryukyu chain, which includes Okinawa.

The island is home to major US air force and marine bases as well as 1.3 million people, who are considered more closely related to Japan in ethnic and linguistic terms than to China.

The authors of the article, two scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, considered China’s top state-run think-tank, said the Ryukyus were a “vassal state” of China before Japan annexed the islands in the late 1800s.

“Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration,” wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang, citing post-World War II declarations that required Japan to return Chinese territory.

I knew in my bones I’d see it at CDR Salamander’s place this morning.

China in the last 5 or so years has become increasingly expansionistic. As their military and economic power has risen, so to has a significant percentage of both the leadership and the population become more vocal about reclaiming territories they deem their own.

Ten years ago, the supposition was China primarily posed an expansionistic threat to Taiwan. Today, the emphasis has shifted away from Taiwan. That doesn’t reflect a change in mainland China’s goal for control of Taiwan, but rather a belief by many that sooner or later, Taiwan will fall effectively, if not de jure, under Chinese rule.

What is interesting in this case is that most of the previous recent disputes about maritime properties have related to areas with potential for resource exploitation such as oil, gas, or fishing rights. While there is certainly economic potential in the Ryukyus,  any Chinese control of Okinawa would best be seen as an outpost of a defensive chain, much as the Japanese used several chains of islands during World War II. For that matter, much as we use it as a forward outpost today.

This increasingly aggressive foreign policy has sparked something of an arms race along the Rim of the Pacific. South Korea, already committed to strong self defense against its nutty neighbors to the north has in the past few years put great effort into expanding its navy. Today is it fielding world class blue water destroyers and helicopter carriers. The North Koreans have virtually no navy, and while this buildup can be seen as a balance against Japan, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has long had a significant destroyer force. That force never lead to South Korea building up its navy before. Once can only conclude it is in response to the expansion of the Chinese fleet.

China is also feeling its oats along the China-India border.

One wonders what major shift in US foreign policy may have occurred in the past five years that might have encouraged China to embrace an increasingly confrontational foreign policy.  Of course, the Chinese bear ultimate responsibility for their actions, but failure of the US to provide clear leadership and an unambiguous policy in the region isn’t helping matters.

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Information Dissemination: Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (really) Small Combatants

I’ll have to  go back after finishing today’s taskings, and read this in detail and give it some thought. I’m not convinced that a small craft approach is what we need in the Western Pacific, but I have long believed that such an approach would be fruitful in certain waters, specifically the Persian Gulf, and possibly off the Horn of Africa. And of course, the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.

You are a tactical commander tasked with a mission to seek out and destroy one of the enemy’s premier capital ships in his home waters. You have two potential striking forces at your disposal: a world class surface combatant of your own with a 99% probability of mission success (Ps = 0.99) or a squadron of eight independently operating, missile carrying small combatants – each with a chance of successfully completing the mission no better than a coin flip (Ps = 0.5). Do you go with the almost sure thing and choose to send in your large combatant? As it turns out, the squadron of small combatants has an even higher overall Ps. But let’s assume now that you’ve advanced to operational commander. You might have more concerns than just overall Ps. What are the defensive and logistical requirements for each option? How much fleet investment am I risking with each option? What will it cost to replace the asset(s) if it is lost? What capability does the striking force have after successful enemy action (i.e. resilience)? An analysis of these factors, intentionally designed to disadvantage the small combatants, actually comes out overwhelmingly in their favor over the large combatant. The results verify what naval strategists and tacticians have long known: for certain offensive missions, an independently operating group of even marginally capable platforms can outperform a single large combatant at lower cost and less risk to the mission.

Put on your thinking caps, and let me hear your thoughts. You groundpounders might think of it in terms of armor versus light infantry in open versus close terrain.

via Information Dissemination: Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (really) Small Combatants.

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Bomb North Korea?

Hardly a day goes by where I don’t find myself in disagreement with at least something from the Op-Ed pages of the NYT. Today is no exception. It’s far more rare that I find myself in agreement with the left leaning blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money. Today is an exception.

University of Texas Professor of History Jeremi Suri argues that the US should preemptively strike North Korea’s ballistic missile capability.

The Korean crisis has now become a strategic threat to America’s core national interests. The best option is to destroy the North Korean missile on the ground before it is launched. The United States should use a precise airstrike to render the missile and its mobile launcher inoperable.

President Obama should state clearly and forthrightly that this is an act of self-defense in response to explicit threats from North Korea and clear evidence of a prepared weapon. He should give the leaders of South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan advance notice before acting. And he should explain that this is a limited defensive strike on a military target — an operation that poses no threat to civilians — and that America does not intend to bring about regime change. The purpose is to neutralize a clear and present danger. That is all.

Erik Loomis at LGM notes:

China’s role in a potential war on the Korean Peninsula is hard to predict. Well then. Might as well just bomb North Korea and see what happens!

For that matter, we might just want to consult our South Korean allies on the matter, rather than just giving them advanced notice since, after all, the inevitably resulting war would take place on their turf. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and one of the densest metroplexes on Earth, lies within easy artillery range of North Korea. I’m not entirely convinced they’d relish being plastered by thousands and thousands of artillery rounds and rockets just based on a hunch that North Korea was doing more than its usual sabre-rattling-for-aid routine.

That’s not to say I don’t take the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea seriously. Just that any serious (or even the most amateur)  student of strategy  in the nuclear era* knows there are more options on the table than shoot/don’t shoot, today, at this moment in time.  I tend to agree with URR that willfully lying to ourselves that China is a strategic partner with a shared interest in maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula is foolish. But that doesn’t mean we can’t point out to China that a full scale crisis holds greater risks to them economically and politically than it does to us, and maybe dialing it back a bit might help.  A steadfast refusal to submit to North Korean extortion for aid might be a good idea as well. And finally, if historians must weigh in on the matter, perhaps they should stick to reminding the Obama/Kerry foreign policy team of the parlous rates of returns that investing North Korean promises of good behavior in the past, when previous tantrums have been rewarded with food, fuel oil, and nuclear reactors.

*As opposed to nuclear strategy. Nuclear strategy is how to fight a nuclear war. Strategy in the nuclear era is how to avoid a nuclear war.

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Missile Defense- Tit for Tat

So, the other day, the US tested its Ground Based Mid-Course Defense (GMD) interceptor by a launch to validate an upgraded Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV).

What an amazing coincidence then that China tested their own GMD system!

From the very day Ronald Reagan announced the goal of ballistic missile defense, critics have announced that not only would it not work, it could never be made to work. This despite the fact that an ICBM target had been intercepted 20 years before Reagan’s announcement. And if it will not and cannot be made to work, why is it China and Russia continue to develop their own anti-missile systems?

Via War News Updates

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Did the Chinese test their “carrier killer” missile in the Gobi desert?

From Business Insider’s Military and Defense blog comes a report that they did just that.

China’s PLA “sunk” a U.S. aircraft carrier during a war game in remote China using its DF-21D “Carrier Killer” missile, reports Taiwan paper Want China Times.

The China Times is a 63 year old Taiwanese paper slightly slanted toward unification, but with a solid reputation and accurate reporting.

The Times report originates with a Google Earth image published at SAORBOATS Argentinian internet forum.

The photo shows two big craters on a 600 foot platform deep in China’s Gobi desert that Chinese military testers used to simulate the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

There has been talk of the DF-21 for years with estimates of its range, threat, and theater changing implications, but this could be the first known test of the rocket.

DF-21D Carrier Test

Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Who knows?

The challenges any designer faces making an anti-ship ballistic missile are not trivial. First, you have to find the carrier. That’s not always easy. Eventually, yes, the carrier will likely disclose its position. But the first datum that a carrier is on station is likely to be Tomahawk and SEAD strikes against your homeland.  Second, just finding a carrier isn’t localizing to the point of a firing solution.  That doesn’t even begin to take into account any active countermeasures the carrier group may use. And oh, yeah, carriers move. Quite a bit. So not only must your ASBM maneuver, it will likely need a mid-course guidance update.  Maybe. If not, it has to have a seeker that can detect and discriminate targets from long range so it can begin its terminal maneuvers early.

Then there are the active countermeasures. If the missile uses a radar guidance, sooner or later, we’ll learn to jam that system. If it uses infrared, we can jam that as well.

But the most likely active countermeasure is the accompanying escorts. Today, the Navy already fields a number of Aegis cruisers and destroyers fully capable of detecting, localizing, targeting, engaging and destroying medium range ballistic missiles. In fact, since the missile would be approaching the carrier group, that reduces the crossing angle of the shot, and makes it easier and gives multiple shots at a given target.

Given the already fielded anti-ballistic missile capability of our Navy, we are not terribly concerned with the DF-21D. In fact, one wonders why the Chinese would even pursue such an expensive capability, when there are other approaches far more likely to yield success. The obvious approach is the use of submarines. Our surface based Anti-Submarine Warfare capability and training have been shamefully ignored for years, as the capability of diesel electric subs worldwide has improved. Even more “asymetrical” would be an even more primitive weapon, the humble naval mine. The Chinese could lay defensive minefields in areas around their shores to deny us free use of those waters. And if they were really smart, they could use offensive minefields against the ports and harbors that forward deployed carriers depend on. A carrier may be able to spend months at sea, but it still relies on logistics ships to provide it with jet fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and food. This combat logistics train shuttles from friendly ports to the carrier group and back. Deny the navy its logistics, and you’ve denied the Navy itself. And it would only take a handful of mines in any of a number of important ports to effectively shut down operations in the Western Pacific.

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The Small Surface Combatant and the South China Sea

Information Dissemination continues its symposium today with an interesting post from CAPT Wayne P. Hughes, USN (Ret.), a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, regarding options for a confrontation with China. A well respected naval tactician, CAPT Hughes argues, among other things, that the US Navy should field a flotilla of small, missile armed,  surface combatant vessels in the area, based out of a friendly foreign port.

Flotilla Operations
To this existing undersea capability I want to add a new flotilla of small missile combatants that would operate on the surface in the China Seas. The Navy should draw from foreign designs and also those tested in campaign studies and war games at NPS and the Naval War College. Our workshops suggest three prominent employments:

  • Conduct hit and run raids on illegitimate Chinese seabed exploitations that are contrary to international law.
  • Escort vital shipping into friendly ports, especially in the South China Sea.
  • Augment Japanese patrol vessels to constrain illegal interference by China near the Senkaku Islands.

During peacetime, their presence serves as a signal of American commitment, helping to motivate peaceful resolution of disputes over economic exclusion zones, while conducting many small-ship exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Singapore.
What would the flotilla look like? In rough terms we envision individual small combatants of about 600 tons that carry about eight surface-to-surface missiles, depend on deception, soft kill, numbers, and point defense for survival, and are supported by off-board manned or unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and tactical scouting. To paint a picture of possible tactical configurations, I contemplate the smallest element to be a mutually supporting pair, a squadron to comprise eight vessels, and a deployed force of four squadrons. The entire flotilla would comprise about eight squadrons. Costing less than $100 million each, the entire force would take only a small fraction—around 4%–of the shipbuilding budget and be inexpensive to operate.

 

I’m generally in favor of the Navy fielding a small surface combatant. Quantity has a quality all its own. And a survey of the fleet of 1945 shows that enormous numbers of our stupendous fleet was actually composed of very modest craft, such as the 173’ PC class subchaser. They weren’t the most potent ships, but their presence allowed them to perform secondary missions, freeing up the main body of the fleet for offensive operations. 

Further, in certain restricted waters, many of the shortcomings of smaller vessels compared to large blue water combatants are less important.  CAPT Hughes first portion of the post addresses the impact of losses on a flotilla composed of multiple small platforms versus a task force centered around a handful of high value platforms. In engineering terms, the loss of some low end vessels from a numerous flotilla might be termed “graceful degradation.”  That is, if you have a force of 8 or 16 small combatants, and lose two or four, the fundamental capabilities of the force remain, even if their total capacity has been substantially reduced. On the contrary, if you lose, say a Tico class cruiser from a task group, the fundamental capabilities of the group in terms of command and control and offensive and defensive power may be fundamentally changed.

One of the temptations when thinking of ship design and procurement is to pose the question of what to buy in terms of  a ship class is to consider “force on force.”  For instance, if you look to buy a small missile armed combatant, the great temptation is to look at the adversary missile boats, and build one to counter it.  CAPT Hughes is wise enough to note that this is the incorrect approach.  Mining the ports enemy boats operate from, and leveraging other weapons platforms such as tactical air make more sense.

China will likely use its small combatants to deny swaths of the South China Sea to major US surface combatants, constricting their freedom of maneuver that is one of the key advantages of a naval force. Still, they’ll suffer from the fact that a blue water naval force can exploit its mobility to concentrate and strike at the time and place of its choosing. The defender, on the other hand, has to defend all places at all times, diluting the effect of its large numbers of smaller combatants. Further, massing the fires of a number of small combatants is a real challenge.  One or two missile boats attacking a carrier task force with anti-ship missiles is a manageable threat. Fifteen or twenty boats launching 8 missiles each becomes a much more problematic threat. The challenge for the Chinese would be to detect and localize any US force, and then mass the missile boats within range without them being destroyed, and then coordinating the actual attack in time and space. That’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.

So what roles might a small US missile combatant perform in this scenario if not as a direct counter to Chinese missile craft? First, they could perform close escort for friendly shipping, either merchant traffic, or ships from the logistical force. Second, they can block key chokepoints denying mobility to Chinese forces. Just as the Chinese might wish to constrain our maneuver, we would seek to channelize theirs. Third, our small combatant could attack Chinese merchant shipping (or alternatively, blockade them from free passage in international waters). Fourth, distributed vessels serve as distributed sensor nodes in the information domination campaign. Finally, just upping the number of combatant vessels in the theater of operations complicates an opponent’s operations, forcing them to devote resources to ISR and sea control that they otherwise would be able to apply against the main body of a US fleet.  A study of US PT boat operations throughout World War II would likely show other useful roles and missions, as well as the limitations, of such a force.

I’m not entirely sold on CAPT Hughes reasoning here, or even his proposal for a flotilla of small combatants in this scenario (and be sure to read his thoughts on an Iranian scenario as well). But it strikes me as quite depressing that CAPT Hughes and many others in private forums and quasi military forums such as the USNI blog are able to cogently explain a tactical or operational scenario, propose the platforms and tactics to support them, and spark an open, frank discussion of the role of seapower and US power in the world. Contrast that with the current Navy and DoD leadership inability to give a rational explanation of what the LCS should be and how it should be used (or the F-35 or any other number of programs).

It is to weep.

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12 Things Missing from China Report | The Diplomat

The progressive neutering of the annual Pentagon China military power reports is unfortunate, as the report has been among the most authoritative sources of information on specific Chinese military capabilities in recent years. Given the People’s Liberation Army’s unwillingness to reveal this information itself, the report has been one of the few reliable sources of transparency to inform foreign analysts, scholars, and citizens about important Chinese military developments that often have global repercussions. China has experienced important military and security changes over the past year, yet aside from its reformatted font and graphics, the 2012 report proves thin on new content.

via 12 Things Missing from China Report | The Diplomat.

I vividly recall reading the annual report on the Soviets from the 1980s. Each year, it was a concise, well written explanation of the Soviet military, from their strategic aims, to the basics of their organization and equipment. For the lay reader, it was the go to source for understanding the potential threat we faced.

That the government cannot seem to produce a similar guide to the Chinese is disturbing. I’ve seen past editions, and they were a poor substitute for the old Soviet books.

One wonders, just who is neutering the publishing process?

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I’m not too worried about China becoming the next superpower…

What do you think?

H/T: Eddiebear over at H2.

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Freedom of Navigation

The US has long maintained that it has complete freedom of navigation in international waters and airspace. That is, when nations claim certain waters outside the traditional 12 mile boundary as territorial waters, the US very rarely acknowledges that claim, and indeed will often conduct operations in those waters and airspace to emphasize the point. One example was the “Line of Death” that Libya claimed in the Gulf of Sidra. The US conducted air and sea operations in those waters on a regular basis. When the Libyans reacted with armed force, the US reacted violently.

Now comes word the Chinese are becoming obnoxious again, this time harrassing the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea. China in many ways regards the SCS as their back yard. I don’t think I’ve ever heard them claim them as territorial waters, but they certainly think of it as their spere of influence.

USNS Impeccable

USNS Impeccable

The Impeccable is a ship owned by the Navy, but operated by civilians, as opposed to being a warship. Her mission is to gather accoustic intelligence on submarines. It may be that the Chinese chose this moment to interfere with her in order to frustrate some particular intel gathering opportunity. Or they may just have felt like being a pain. It is hard to tell.

Of course, this has shades of the incident in 2001 when Chinese fighters harrassed a US Navy EP-3E conducting operations over the South China Sea. When things got out of hand and the fighter collided with the US plane, the EP-3 crew had to make an emergency landing at Hainan Island, which is sovreign Chinese soil. And the Chinese of course, made getting both the crew, and later the EP-3 itself, a major hassle.

So, is China just being its usual obnoxious self, or are they testing the new President?

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