Posts Tagged ‘PLAN’

China is challenging ‘dominance’ of U.S in South China Sea, diplomat says

February 19, 2018


MANILA, Philippines — The risks of a “miscalculation” and armed conflict have risen in the disputed South China Sea with a militarily stronger China now able to challenge the United States, which used to be the dominant power in the strategic waterway, the Philippine envoy to Beijing said Monday.

Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana said the balance of power was shifting with the two global powers vying for control of the waters, adding the Philippines should not get entangled in the increasingly tense maritime rivalry.

Image result for Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims, and it has built seven mostly submerged reefs into islands that reportedly could be used as forward air naval bases and have been installed with a missile defense system.

The U.S. Navy has sailed warships on “freedom of navigation” operations near the artificial islands, actions China has protested as U.S. intervention in an Asian conflict.

“Whereas before the South China Sea was dominated by the U.S. 7th Fleet, now the Chinese navy is starting to challenge the dominance,” Sto. Romana told a news forum in Manila. “I think we will see a shift in the balance of power.”

“It is not the case, that the South China Sea is now a Chinese lake, not at all,” Sto. Romana said. “Look at the U.S. aircraft carrier, it’s still going through the South China Sea,” he added, referring to the USS Carl Vinson that recently patrolled the disputed waters and is currently on a visit to the Philippines.

He compared the two powers to elephants fighting and trampling on the grass and said: “What we don’t want is for us to be the grass.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of befriending China has worked, Sto. Romana said, citing Beijing’s decision to lift its blockade around the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippine military could now freely send new supplies to Filipino marines guarding the disputed area.

President Donald Trump’s administration has outlined a security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup and fought for wider influence.

Image: USS Carl Vinson

Fishermen pass by the USS Carl Vinson off Manila on Saturday, February 17, 2018. Bullit Marquez / AP

Washington has no claim in the South China Sea but has declared a peaceful resolution and freedom of navigation are in its national interest.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson on Saturday that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and in the air in the region for 70 years to promote security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade and would continue to do so.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship brimming with F18 fighter jets and other combat aircraft.


Are China and Russia challenging US military dominance?

February 14, 2018

China is strengthening its military might, while Russia is asserting its foreign policy influence. IISS expert Bastian Giegerich talks to DW about changing US global dominance and the threat of a “great-power war.”

China J-20 fighter jet (Reuters/China Daily)

DW: You note in the IISS 2018 Military Balance report that China has been investing heavily in its air force. Is Beijing now on par with Washington in terms of air dominance?

Bastian Giegerich: China is not yet on par with the United States but it’s catching up. And in some selected areas, our assessment is indeed that China is doing more than just catching up. There are a couple of examples to illustrate that: For instance, we assess that China will add an extended-range air-to-air missile to its inventory this year, and we expect its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, to enter front-line service by 2020. And those are indeed advanced capabilities that challenge air superiority for the United States: At the very least, they will have the effect that the air domain will become a very contested domain again. Operational assumptions over the past two decades for the US, and I would say Western militaries in general, have been that the West and the US own the air domain and can operate in it with great freedom. I think those days now are over.

Your report also notes that China is investing heavily in its navy. What’s the goal in that? 

In the last four years, China has built vessels with a total tonnage that is greater than the total tonnage of the French Navy and is roughly equivalent to the total tonnage of the British Royal Navy. So, clearly the goal for China here is to further develop its blue-water capabilities. In other words, the ability to project force at extended range across the seas.

And the other element which is important to this is that China has opened its first overseas base in Djibouti, which will enable more naval deployments because it will be a base that will help to sustain deployed vessels over time and thereby further contribute to China’s ability to expand power across the oceans.

In Russia, the story seems to be very different. Is Moscow having difficulties when it comes to modernizing its military forces?

Russia has felt that economic difficulties … pose limits to its ability to fund its ambitious defense modernization program. So, in our assessment, that defense modernization program has slowed down a little bit.

The important difference is, however, not just in terms of the ability to spend but the ability to operate and practice. Unlike China, Russia has used, and continues to use, its armed forces in conflicts — in Syria and also with a view to eastern Ukraine. So Russia has gathered a lot of experience using new equipment, using new technologies, putting its personnel through different rotations on operations. It has an advantage there. And China has not yet done that.

Bastian Giegerich International Institute for Strategic Studies (James Clements)


Giegerich and his team compiled the 2018 Military Balance report

Under President Donald Trump the US has been urging its European allies to invest more in the military. And this year’s report notes a dramatic increase in European military spending 2017. Do you think this is due to the pressure from Washington?

I think more than anything else it is driven by a recognition in Europe that the world is a dangerous place, that threat perceptions have changed. I would say that is mostly driven by Russia’s more assertive foreign policy behavior, and of course the conflict in Ukraine. American pressure has certainly played a role as well, but it would be wrong to say the spending increases in Europe are a Trump effect — they actually started before Trump took office.

The gloomiest part of your analysis might be the possibility of a great-power conflict. China, Russia and the US are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. Are we returning to the beginning of the 1980s?

I don’t think that’s quite accurate. But I think what we are seeing is a situation where the possibility of a great-power conflict is now probably higher than it was at any point in the past 20 years. That does not mean that a great-power conflict or a great-power military conflict is inevitable … but it is more likely. And part of it is a result of Russia and China challenging the global predominance of the United States and systematically preparing for the possibility of conflict. Nuclear weapons of course are the ultimate deterrence, so to speak. And we’ve looked at the nuclear modernization programs of the three big powers — China, Russia and the US — and all of them are in the process of modernizing their nuclear forces.

Bastian Giegerich is the director of defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). He leads the team that publishes the annual Military Balance report.


What China’s military air crashes really signal

February 12, 2018

Experts say rising incident rate shows China flexing military might, flying more missions

The deadly crash of a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) military plane in Guizhou province last month during a training exercise has raised questions about whether China’s relentless push for military modernisation has outpaced its actual capabilities.

The incident, which claimed the lives of at least 12 crew members onboard, has severely hit air force morale, as it happened just weeks after the crash of a J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jet, a source told the South China Morning Post.

“We must recognise that in China, there is a fatal gap between the air force’s combat-ready training and its imperfect aircraft development,” the source said.

Despite engine and aircraft design problems, pilots have been pushed to fly the warplanes “because there is this political mission to build a combat-ready fighting force”, explained the source.

The crashes are the latest in what appears to be a growing string of often-fatal accidents involving China’s military planes.

While the PLA does not openly report such incidents, there were at least seven known crashes in the last two years, including one last November that killed Ms Yu Xu, one of China’s first female fighter pilots.

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A J-15 fighter jet landing on the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning last year. China had more than 700 fourth-generation fighter jets last year, compared to 24 in 1996, the US-based Rand Corporation estimates.PHOTO: XINHUA

But rather than a sign of deteriorating capabilities, military experts told The Straits Times the accident rate shows a strengthening of PLAAF and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force.


The PLA’s air programmes face significant challenges, not least because most of its warplanes are cloned from foreign designs.

While China may have succeeded in cracking design secrets and technical aspects of foreign jets, it is still grappling with cutting-edge jet engine production which requires high-precision manufacturing and deep materials engineering know-how, which China lacks, said analysts.

The J-15 fighter jet, for instance, is based on Russia’s Su-33. The new J-20 and J-31 stealth planes closely resemble America’s F-22 fighter jet and F-35 joint strike fighter, prompting United States lawmakers to accuse Beijing of stealing US designs.

While China may have succeeded in cracking design secrets and technical aspects of foreign jets, it is still grappling with cutting-edge engine production which requires high-precision manufacturing and deep materials engineering know-how, which China lacks, said analysts.

The use of ageing aircraft, such as the 1990s-era Tu-154, for long-distance maritime missions also shows a lack of confidence in the new models when it comes to longer missions, said S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies research fellow Wu Shang-Su.

A more deep-seated problem is the PLA’s graft-riddled past, which has likely compromised the quality of its fighter jet programmes.

Former PLA chief Guo Boxiong was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 for having amassed a fortune in bribes.

“As vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission over the past decade, Guo was in charge of R&D (research and development) and reports were that he took ‘tremendous bribes’ from the defence industry,” said PLA expert Arthur Ding of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies.

“If that’s the case, the technology and quality of platforms like jet fighters may not meet the PLA’s demands, and this can partially explain why they are suffering this kind of incident rate.”


But experts agreed that the biggest contributor to the PLA’s rising accident rate is that it has been tasked to take on more varied and demanding missions, alongside a vast expansion in its hardware and numbers. Since last year, the Chinese air force has conducted “island encirclement patrols” around Taiwan involving its fighter jets, bombers and surveillance planes. Such flights are the “new normal”, a PLAAF spokesman said in December.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV in recent months also shows Beijing wants to regularise deployments of combat aircraft in the South China Sea, through the air and naval facilities it has built on disputed islands there, such as on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys and Woody Island in the Paracel chain.

To support the greater range and number of missions, the PLA’s air assets have been significantly boosted over the past decade. China had over 700 fourth-generation fighter jets last year, compared to 24 in 1996, the US-based Rand Corporation estimated in a report. The PLA today has almost 3,000 aircraft, about the same number as that of Japan and South Korea combined, said Global Firepower, an index of countries’ military strength.

“More aircraft, more personnel, more missions, more training and a higher profile – these are all major factors that account for the incident rate,” said Mr Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defence industry analyst for military publication IHS Jane. “One of the outcomes of the increase in these factors is unfortunately more accidents, but that holds true for all militaries around the world.”

More accidents in the short term also indicate President Xi Jinping’s effort to get the PLA to change its culture is succeeding, said Dr Ding.

Since he took office, Mr Xi has pushed to transform the PLA into a modern military “capable of fighting and winning” a 21st-century war.

Dr Ding noted that in the old days, PLAAF commanders would conduct highly scripted training scenarios that had minimal risk of casualties, unlike real combat scenarios, as casualty rates directly affected promotion prospects. Today’s exercises are much more complex, combat-realistic and integrated. Just last month, China conducted a series of training exercises involving the spectrum of its air assets – from the new J-20 fighter to the H-6K bomber and Y-20 transport aircraft.

“My impression is that (President Xi) has encouraged the top brass to face the reality that rigorous training will mean greater likelihood of incidents, and for the PLA, this mindset shift is probably a good one,” he said.

But this also means that countries in the region should be prepared for a more formidable Chinese air force in the coming years – one that is able to project air power far beyond China’s borders. “It’s probably not so good for China’s neighbours, because down the road, in the long term, it means China’s real combat and operations capability will be substantially improved.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline ‘What PLA air crashes really signal’.

China’s military fires up world first in revolutionary rail gun technology

February 6, 2018

Photographs surface of ship-mounted electromagnetic weapon that could one day supersede traditional explosives with greater power, speed, range and accuracy

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 9:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 11:54pm

China is believed to be testing the world’s first ship-mounted rail gun, a technology that military experts say has the potential to fire shells with enough force to destroy a warship and precision to shoot down a satellite.

The controversial development comes as China seeks to transform its navy into a blue-water force capable of rivalling the United States and projecting power far from home shores.

Photographs of a rail gun mounted on a warship docked in Wuhan, Hubei province, have surfaced on Chinese military websites in the last week, indicating the People’s Liberation Army Navy is testing the electromagnetic weapon and has been able to make it more compact.

Rail guns fire shells using electromagnetic force rather than traditional explosive propulsion systems. They are designed to fire the projectiles with more accuracy and power and over a longer range, but are also extremely expensive.

 A PLA warship in Wuhan appears to be the first in the world fitted with a rail gun. Photo: Handout

The US has researched and tested rail guns for years, with prototypes firing projectiles at up to 7,800km/hour over a 150km range. The cost of the projectiles was reportedly US$1 million per round.

But the Chinese device appears to be the first mounted on a ship.

The rail gun uses electromagnetic technology known as IEPS that state media confirmed last year would power China’s first home-grown aircraft carrier.

The system was developed by a team headed by decorated PLA naval engineer Rear Admiral Ma Weiming, who told state broadcaster CCTV in July that his ultimate goal was to install weapons such as rail guns on the carrier.

China’s state-run Science and Technology Daily reported on Monday that the cutting-edge technology would be deployed on the Type-055, the country’s biggest guided-missile destroyer designed as part of future aircraft carrier battle groups.

But sources close to Chinese military told the South China Morning Post that the destroyer’s propulsion system and internal design were not suited for the rail gun.

The gun in the photographs was installed on a Type-072 landing ship refitted to house the bulky electrical equipment.

Song Zhongping, military commentator and former member of the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps, said future generations of the destroyer could be fitted with the weapon down the track.

Song said China was closing the gap with the US and it was possible that China could eventually abandon explosives in favour of electromagnetic systems.

“China has spared no effort to catch up the US’ electromagnetic technology, to turn the new technology into an all-purpose propulsion system for wide use in ship-mounted weapons and maglev trains and even to replace rockets to launch satellites into the space,” he said.

“The leaked photos show China is now not only catching up to the US in ship-borne rail gun technology, but may surpass the US in next five to 10 years. This is because the US needs more time to approve budgets while China’s political system allows it to put more funding into special projects.”

The US Naval Institute reported last month that the US Navy scrapped plans in 2016 to buy 2,000 rail gun projectiles but would continue to monitor new technologies that could be incorporated into its existing systems.

 Rear Admiral Ma Weiming has spearheaded developments in electromagnetic propulsion. Photo: Minnie Chan

Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said the purchase stalled because of the expensive technology’s low return on investment.

“The US is hesitating because the cost of the new weapon’s development is huge, while its practicability is debatable,” Zhou said.

“Proponents argue that [rail guns] can hit targets several thousand kilometres away guided by the space-based Global Positioning System. But [the US] air force can hit long-range targets easily by dropping cruise missiles from their stealth bombers or fighters, something that is much more cost-effective.”

Military insiders said the high cost of and Ma’s involvement in the Chinese rail gun project also made it contentious.

“The decision to develop the costly electromagnetic rail gun also provoked debate because so far only Ma and his team are the only electromagnetic experts developing it,” one insider said.

“But Ma’s team has the backing of the leadership and that is also the reason why the electromagnetic technology has been developed so fast in China.”

Last year Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded Ma, 57, the country’s highest military honour, the Order of August 1.


New photos show China is nearly done with its militarisation of South China Sea

February 5, 2018
 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

A close-up shot of the runway on Panganiban Reef (Mischief) shows it’s ready for use by the Chinese Air Force. Two other runways have also been built on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross) and Zamora Reef (Subi) in the disputed sea.PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, INQUIRER.NET

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, INQUIRER.NET) – Aerial photographs obtained by the Inquirer from a source show that China is almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago into island fortresses, in a bid to dominate the heavily disputed South China Sea.

Most of the photos, taken between June and December 2017, were snapped from an altitude of 1,500 metres and they showed the reefs that had been transformed into artificial islands in the final stages of development as air and naval bases.

Shown the photographs, Mr Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., the former mayor of Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island, the largest Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys and internationally known as Thitu Island, recognised new facilities on the man-made isles.

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Mischief Reef radomes

Mr Bito-onon saw the construction going on when he flew over the islands with foreign journalists nearly two years ago.

“These photos are authentic. I flew with HBO before the elections in 2016. We got repeated warnings from the Chinese because we were circling over the islands. I see there are now additional vertical features,” Mr Bito-onon said.

With its construction unrestrained, China will soon have military bastions on the Kagitingan Reef, known internationally as the Fiery Cross Reef; Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi) and McKennan (Hughes) reefs from which to project its power throughout the region.


One of the reefs, Panganiban, lies within the Philippines’ 370-kilometre exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea. The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled that Panganiban Reef belongs to the Philippines.

In a report on China’s militarisation of the South China Sea last December, US think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti) said Kagitingan Reef had the most construction in 2017, with work spanning 110,000 square metres.

The runways for the three biggest reefs – Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora – appeared either completed or almost ready for use.

Lighthouses, radomes, communication facilities, hangars and multi-storey buildings had also been built on the artificial islands.

Amti, which described 2017 as a “constructive year for Chinese base building” in the South China Sea, noted the presence of underground tunnels, missile shelters, radars and high-frequency antennas on the artificial islands.

The photos obtained by the Inquirer showed the consistent presence of cargo vessels believed to be used in transporting construction supplies to the artificial islands.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines


Three military ships capable of transporting troops and weapons were docked at Panganiban Reef in a picture taken last Dec 30. These were two transport ships (Hull Nos. 830 and 831) and an amphibious transport dock (989).

The Luoyang (527), a Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class missile frigate, was spotted about a kilometre from Zamora Reef last Nov 15. This type of war vessel has two quadruple launchers installed amidships.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class missile frigate

It also has a Type 79A dual-barrel 100mm gun installed on the bow deck, capable of firing 15-kilogram shells at a rate of 18 rounds per minute over a range of 22km.

Last June 16, the Luzhou (592), a Type 056 Jiangdao class missile frigate, was photographed at Panganiban Reef. China’s Defence Ministry reported the vessel took part in live-fire exercises in the South China Sea last December.

On the smaller reefs – Burgos, Calderon, McKennan and Mabini – the photos showed helipads, wind turbines, observation towers, radomes and communication towers had been built.

A photo taken last Nov 28 showed a single-barrel 100mm gun had been positioned on McKennan Reef.


The extent of development on the reefs shows that China has gone ahead with building military outposts in the Spratlys despite a 2002 agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) not to change any features in the sea.

At the same time, China has softened the impact of its military build-up with pledges of investments to the Philippines and talk of a framework for negotiating with Asean a code of conduct for the management of rival claims in the strategic waterway.

Besides the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also claim parts of the Spratly archipelago. Taiwan is a sixth claimant.

North Korea’s missile and atomic weapon tests also helped draw international attention away from China’s construction activities on the reefs, although recent pronouncements from Malacañang indicated the Philippines was not exactly unaware of the Chinese military buildup in the Spratlys.


Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a news briefing early last month that China’s militarisation in the South China Sea was no longer news but the Philippines would not protest as long as China kept its “good faith commitment” that it would not reclaim any more islands in the waterway.

“The fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I’m concerned, is not new. It’s not news because we’ve always been against militarisation of the area. But the good faith commitment is not to reclaim new islands. I hope that’s very clear,” Mr Roque said.

“The point is, has there been a breach of Chinese commitment not to reclaim any new islands or shoal in the area? For as long as there is none, then we continue to respect that they are true to their commitment not to do so. But I think, from the very beginning, China, we knew, was militarising the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases,” he added.


Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a member of the legal team that argued the Philippine case against China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea in the Hague arbitral court, slammed Mr Roque’s position, comparing it to trusting a thief.

“You don’t rely on the good faith of the thief (who’s trying to break) into your house. If you have that mindset, you rely on the good faith of someone who’s trying to break into your house, that means you’re out (of touch) with reality. You’re in a fantasy land. That’s not how the world is put together. That’s not realpolitik,” Mr Carpio said.

The Philippines is battling communist rebels, terrorists loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, and Abu Sayyaf bandits, but the country is facing a much bigger security threat, Mr Carpio said.

“The biggest (security) problem is China. If we lose (our maritime space in the West Philippine Sea), we lose it forever,” Mr Carpio told the Inquirer in a recent interview, using the local name of the waters within the Philippines’ EEZ in the South China Sea.

“And the area we will lose is huge, as big as the land area of the Philippines, about 300,000 square kilometres,” Mr Carpio said.

China will never return the territory it grabs, he added. “We cannot go to the (International Court of Justice) because China has to agree and China will never agree to submit to arbitration.”


China has ignored the Hague tribunal’s July 2016 ruling that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claim to the South China Sea and declared it violated Manila’s sovereign right to fish and explore for resources in its own EEZ.

But President Duterte, who came to power two weeks before the ruling came down, has refused to assert the Philippine victory, wooing China instead for loans and investments.

China has been only too glad to be neighbourly to the Philippines but it has also been determined to finish its island fortresses in the South China Sea and present its rivals for territory in the waterway with a fait accompli when they sit down to negotiate the code of conduct.

Security analyst Jose Antonio Custodio questions Malacañang’s playing down China’s militarisation of the South China Sea in exchange for economic assistance.

“We are talking (about) trillions of dollars (in) natural resources and we are compromising our territorial claims. At the end of the day, these are not Chinese grants but loans so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the disadvantageous position the Philippines is putting itself into,” Mr Custodio said.

Mr Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the time when the Philippines should have protested China’s militarisation had long passed.

But the situation worsened when the country refused to bring up the arbitration ruling at the Asean Summit in Manila last year.

“That helped China in doing everything that needs to be completed. If ever the government one day realises that those military aircraft are based there, definitely it has no one to blame but itself, because it did not act when the time to act was right,” Mr Batongbacal said.


Asean’s silence on the arbitral ruling in favour of the Philippines during the Manila summit was a diplomatic score for China.

“Unity among the claimants is one of China’s biggest fears,” Mr Batongbacal said.

“(The Chinese) see it as a huge threat when the surrounding countries are aligned. That’s what they don’t like the most because they think it’s containment. The fact that Asean didn’t come to unite about the disputes because we did not push through putting it on the table, all of that really favoured China. They had a big win and that’s a huge relief for them,” he added.

Mr Carpio said the Philippines could have generated support from the international community if it asserted its victory over China in the arbitration case.

“If we are not aggressive, if we are sitting on the ruling and we are not enforcing it, the others will not support us,” he said.

The military, for its part, cannot do anything but follow the government’s foreign policy.

“We still navigate in those waters. But we are instruments of national policy, so we just follow whatever our national leaders and policymakers decide,” said a ranking military official who requested anonymity.

“Were there challenges (from China)? Yes, but we also challenged them, that’s part of the rules of the road. But the policies of the government are not only military, there’s also political, economic and diplomatic. You can’t confine it to the military,” the official said.


If the Philippines does not assert its legal victory, it stands to lose 80 per cent of its EEZ in the South China Sea, covering 381,000 square kilometres of maritime space, including the entire Recto Bank, or Reed Bank, and part of the Malampaya gas field off Palawan, as well as all of the fishery, oil and gas and mineral resources there, Mr Carpio said.

“My estimate is 40 percent of water in the Philippines is in the West Philippine Sea, so that’s 40 per cent of the fish that we can catch and we will lose that as a food source,” he said.

“Malampaya supplies 40 per cent of the energy requirement of Luzon. If Malampaya runs out of gas in 10 years or less… we will have 10 to 12 hours of daily brownouts in Luzon. It will devastate the economy,” he added.

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

US dropped ball on Navy railgun development—now China is picking it up

February 4, 2018
Analysis of photos show a railgun system being installed on a Chinese amphibious ship.

Photos posted by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) observer show what appears to be an electromagnetic railgun being affixed to a PLAN tank landing ship, the Haiyang Shan. The LST is being used to test the weapon because its tank deck can accommodate the containers for the gun’s control system and power supply, according to comments from a former PLAN officer translated by “Dafeng Cao,” the Twitter handle of the anonymous analyst.

For nearly a decade, the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) and various contractors worked to develop a railgun system for US ships. A prototype weapon was built by BAE Systems. Testing at the US Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia was deemed so successful that the Navy was planning to conduct more testing of the gun at sea aboard a Spearhead-class Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).  The program promised to deliver a gun that could fire projectiles at speeds over Mach 7 with a range exceeding 100 miles. The 23-pound hypervelocity projectile designed for the railgun flying at Mach 7 has 32 megajoules of energy—roughly equivalent to the energy required to accelerate an object weighing 1,000 kilograms (1.1 US tons) to 252 meters per second (566 miles an hour).

But the program has been largely shelved because of the Department of Defense’s ongoing budget problems and the loss of interest at DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office in funding further development. The continued “sequestration” of the DOD’s budget has forced the Navy and ONR to shift development focus away from the long-term goal of the railgun toward the more short-term goal of using the hypervelocity projectile (HPV) the railgun fires within more conventional US Navy gun systems.

US Navy tests of a prototype railgun at Dahlgren, Virginia.

China has clearly been watching the US program with interest, and the PLAN reportedly began working on its own electromagnetic gun system about five years ago, according to Dafeng Cao’s ex-PLAN officer source. Now the PLAN is preparing to take its tests to sea, making the 20-year old Haiyang Shan the first ship to ever be armed with a railgun.

Image result for chinese amphibious ship 936 with rail gun, photos

Philippines and the South China Sea: ‘Well-intentioned but naive’

February 4, 2018

US-based analyst Gregory Poling explains why he views the Duterte administration’s West Philippine Sea policy as

February 04, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler talks to Gregory Poling, one of the world’s leading experts on the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, as he makes a two-day trip to the Philippines for a series of talks and meetings.

Poling is the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington DC. AMTI is the group that regularly publishes satellite images of the South China Sea.

In this Rappler Talk interview, Poling explains why he views the Duterte administration’s policy on the West Philippine Sea as “well-intentioned but naive.”

Watch the full Rappler Talk interview here. –


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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Narrow US focus handicaps Donald Trump’s policymakers in ‘great power contest’ with China

February 3, 2018

Ankit Panda writes that China’s surging hard power and growing regional influence are leaving the US hard-pressed to match strides with ‘rival’ in Asia

By Ankit Panda
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 February, 2018, 9:49am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 February, 2018, 10:08am

An unclassified synopsis of the United States’ new national defence strategy, released in January, has the potential to mark an important inflection point in US strategic thinking about defence planning.

The document, which follows the national security strategy document the Trump administration released in the final days of 2017, expresses a strong intent to refocus US strategic attention on interstate competition – specifically, a great power competition with Russia and China.

Its bottom line is that a great power rivalry is back in East Asia. Not that it ever left.

As Chinese military power expands in tandem with Beijing’s regional ambitions and intention to reclaim territory it considers lost, the US needs to think asymmetrically to remain a step ahead of China; especially as the contest for primacy in Asia plays out over the 21st century.

 Despite emphasising the need to innovate to establish a lethal military operation, alliances remain at the heart of US defence strategy, Ankit Panda writes. Pictured: a B-2 Spirit aircraft. Photo: EPA

The national defence strategy, which very much represents the thinking of US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis’, shows why the US needs to think asymmetrically.

For example, instead of setting an agenda for matching China’s ascendant People’s Liberation Army Navy hull-for-hull, the document acknowledges that America’s long-standing asymmetric strategic advantage lies in its long-standing global alliances.

And conceding that today’s global strategic environment is fast-changing, it emphasises the need for the US to innovate technologically in pursuit of a more lethal military. But alliances and partnerships remain the core of its game plan; especially in Asia.

The strategy’s discussion of Asia and the challenges posed by China’s rise into a global powerhouse inherits a lot from the Obama administration’s so-called ‘pivot’ to Asia. But it diverges from the Obama era’s action plan in style more than in substance.

As Washington lurches toward fully and openly embracing a long-simmering great power contest with Beijing, policymakers there should recall that China gets a vote

In addition to openly contending with the challenge of Chinese military modernisation, the document is clear about China’s desire for near-term “Indo-Pacific regional hegemony” and the future “displacement of the United States to achieve global pre-eminence”.

There is strategic vision here. On the one hand, the document shows foresight with its focus on the challenge posed by a rising China beyond the warfighting implications of militarised islands in the South China Sea or Beijing’s considerable investment in advanced technologies.

But it ultimately overstates the threat to the continental US from state and nonstate actors and generalises broadly between the divergent threats posed by Russia and China.

Moreover, on the question of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region, the prescriptions in the strategy are mostly inchoate.

While the strategy sets out an agenda to expand US alliances and partnerships in the region, much in the same vein as the Obama administration’s push for a “principled security network” in Asia, there’s no particular prescription for what the US will need of its Asian partners in coming years.

What is clear is that in its second year in office, the Trump administration is emphasising a coming period of intensified geopolitical competition with Moscow and Beijing, albeit with a dual-track approach: while the US president himself maintains a positive relationship with his Chinese and Russian counterparts, Washington’s defence and foreign policy machinery works to punish the two countries in various ways.

 Will the competitive agenda outlined in US national security and defence strategy be operationalised despite President Donald Trump? Photo: AP

Indeed, the overarching question ahead for US strategy in Asia and elsewhere will be whether the competitive agenda outlined in the national security strategy and the national defence strategy synopsis will be operationalised despite Trump. During his state-of-the-union speech, for instance, Trump passed over an opportunity to address the question of the great power contest; instead, he chose to focus narrowly on North Korea, terrorism and his long-standing grievances on trade.

As Washington lurches toward fully and openly embracing a long-simmering great power contest with Beijing, policymakers there should recall that China gets a vote. The recent surge in Chinese hard power capabilities combined with Beijing’s geoeconomic efforts to seal in regional influence through the Belt and Road Initiative will leave the Trump administration – and future US administrations – with a tall task.

Ankit Panda is a senior editor at the Diplomat

The U.S. Navy Lowers Its Sights — Donald Trump pledged the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration

January 18, 2018

Has Trump given up on expanding the size of the fleet? If so, there’s still time to reverse course.

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The U.S. Navy announced Tuesday that it will court-martial the officers who commanded the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain last summer when they collided with other craft in the Pacific Ocean. They will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel. In response to the collisions Navy Secretary Richard Spencer ordered a fleetwide review of strategic readiness. An independent team of civilian executives and former senior military officers delivered their sobering report last month.

The episode should serve as a wake-up call to military and civilian leaders alike. The U.S. has entered a new age of peer and near-peer competition for which the Navy is unprepared, according to the review’s findings. A much diminished fleet has been overloaded with tasks in recent years, yet the number of ships deployed around the world has remained constant. The Navy has managed this by increasing the time that ships and their crews spend at sea. “The net result has been a dramatic increase in the operating tempo of individual ships, and accompanying reductions in the time available to perform maintenance, training, and readiness certification,” according to the review’s authors. “The growing mismatch between the supply and demand of ships taxed fleet personnel and consumed material readiness at unsustainable rates.”

Accidents are inevitable under these circumstances. While enlisted sailors are spending more time away from their home ports, junior officers are spending less time at sea than is necessary to develop what the review calls “deep maritime operating skills.” Sailing a desk on a headquarters staff has became a path to timely career advancement. The review recommends freeing up officers from staff requirements so they can spend more time honing their war-fighting skills. It also urges a better fiscal balance among the operation of ships, equipment maintenance and personnel training—all vital, all expensive.

The most problematic recommendation requires acknowledging a difficult political reality. The Navy must communicate to political leaders “that the higher cost and time to achieve established readiness standards will mean less Navy presence worldwide.”

In September, the Government Accountability Office told the House Armed Services Committee that more than a third of the ships in the Navy’s Japan-based Seventh Fleet had expired warfare-training certifications. The review calls this a “normalization of deviation,” a problem that will persist so long as the Navy lacks the resources to fulfill its obligations.

If implemented, the review’s recommendations would restore the Navy’s readiness to respond to threats and flare-ups as they present themselves. But how, and at what price?

One option—a bad one—is for the Navy to reduce its global presence. As the review’s first sentence acknowledges, the Navy’s global primacy “is being challenged as it sails into a security environment not seen since before the collapse of the Soviet Union.” If achieving naval readiness requires ceding control of the seas to aggressive rising powers like China, Russia or Iran, it won’t be worth it.

A better alternative is to increase the size of the fleet so that necessary maintenance, repairs and training can ensure America’s ability to project naval power from the Western Pacific to the Eastern Mediterranean, from the Arctic to the Arabian Gulf, and to other areas of current—and future—competition with rivals. At the top of this list must be the Baltic and Black seas, where Russian influence is expanding.

As a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to increase the size of the Navy from approximately 275 combat vessels to 350 or more. But in December the administration’s national security strategy document signaled a shift in the president’s thinking. While the document claims the Trump administration supports modernization, acquisition reform, improved readiness and a “full spectrum force,” it does not call for a 350-ship fleet. When it comes to sea power, the U.S. is lowering its sights.

A flexible Navy that retains the ability to respond to threats as they emerge and a fleet large enough to defend vital U.S. interests are not mutually exclusive. But the Trump administration appears to have concluded that since lawmakers are unlikely to pay for construction of a large number of new warships, it won’t even ask them to. It’s a different vision for America’s naval future from the one Mr. Trump outlined on the campaign trail. He was right then; he is wrong now. There’s still time to reverse course.

Mr. Cropsey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he directs the Center for American Seapower. He served as an officer in the Navy and as deputy undersecretary in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and is author of “Seablindness” (Encounter, 2017).




A Larger Fleet Is Not Enough

Expanding the navy is a good idea, but only in service of a strategy to ensure U.S. dominance at sea.

Published on: March 14, 2017
Seth Cropsey served as a naval officer and as Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations. He is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and director of Hudson’s Center for American Seapower.

Trump’s Seapower Contradiction

By Bryan McGrath

President Trump made many promises on the campaign trail, including one to greatly increase the size of the Navy. However, there is a “say/do” contradiction at work between Trump and expansion of American Seapower, one that manifests itself in his view of the role of the U.S. in the world, his key personnel choices, his view of the Russia threat, and his notable lack of public leadership necessary to build support for a larger fleet.The CampaignThe centerpiece of candidate Trump’s call to rebuild American military power was his call for a 350-ship fleet built around 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Trump fleet represented an increase in size of over 25% compared to the 276 ships in the fleet on Election Day and was fully 15% larger than the 308 ships called for in the final Obama fleet plan. He distinguished himself among GOP hopefuls in calling for a larger fleet, as both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were similarly inclined. Trump’s victory in November caused a great deal of anticipation among Seapower advocates who consistently called for a larger fleet, giving the Navy political cover necessary to release its December 2016 Force Structure Assessment calling for 355 ships, an increase of 47 ships from its 2012 review (which had been the basis for the 308-ship fleet).

There was little in the way of a strategic narrative to support an increase in fleet size in Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and given the much-reported lack of policy staff preparation within the campaign, there is little reason to believe such justification existed. Additionally, given candidate Trump’s positional flexibility and propensity to make things up on the fly, it was difficult to discern where a naval buildup fell among the many promises he made on the campaign trail, or even whether it was important to him at all. Nevertheless, as 2017 dawned, a President came to office who ran on a larger fleet, the Navy had promulgated its larger (355 ships) fleet force structure, and three Congressionally mandated fleet architecture studies reached the consensus view that the Navy’s planned fleet of 308 ships was insufficient. All the cosmic tumblers were clicking into place to support a significant fleet buildup.

Nearly a year later, there is little evidence to suggest that a fleet expansion beyond the Obama Administration’s number is underway, or under serious consideration. A careful reconsideration of facts in evidence leads to the conclusion that at best, the “350-Ship Navy” claim was a meaningless campaign promise, and at worst, was an opportunistic lie deeply at odds with the rare ideological underpinnings Trump possesses.

Seapower and Globalism

Globalism, and the expansion of free trade that underpins it is responsible for much of the growth of the global economy in the past quarter-century, as well as the dramatic decline in world poverty. The fall of the Warsaw Pact was the precipitating security event that contributed to this economic dynamism, but global freedom of the seas, over which most international trade travels, is what has kept the party going, freedom provided by a preponderant United States Navy. In fact, protecting global freedom of the seas is the most important mission of the U.S. Navy, mostly because no other element of military power has even a minor role in providing it, and how utterly dependent our prosperity is upon it. America is an outward-facing trading nation that still possesses the world’s largest and most vibrant economy. Our prosperity is directly tied to global free trade, and global free trade depends on freedom of the seas. There is only one Navy on Earth with the forces and basing structure to act as the global guarantor of freedom of the seas, and it does so because the nation’s economy and security demand it. Others prosper because of global trade carried over free and open seas, but no nation prospers more than we. Our future prosperity could be at risk without free and open seas, and no nation has a greater interest in guaranteeing them.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s dictum that “…whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself” has animated America’s naval strategy since World War II, although it has done so in a manner enriching the entire world. That strategy is under increasing pressure, and nowhere more so than in the South China Sea, where China’s naval and missile buildup is designed to challenge America’s ability to provide unimpeded movement for its commerce and that of others, enabling China to exercise de facto dominance over a region of great importance to the United States.

Finally, the U.S. Navy’s global posture provides the catalytic spark for U.S. led regional security in areas where our interests are most notable, and most threatened. Because the U.S. Navy is strong and forward deployed, smaller, less powerful nations are incentivized to join with us in cooperative maritime security efforts and can do so without fear of retribution from other powerful, regional actors (see China, Russia, Iran). Were the U.S. Navy less forward and less strong, regional powers could exert more pressure on these weaker nations resulting potentially in either destabilizing arms races or painful accommodation of the regional power in ways antithetical to our security interests. In other words, it is in our interest to be there, and it is in these lesser powers’ interest to be there with us.

What Trump Believes

Donald Trump’s political views have been flexible over the years. He has been both pro-life and pro-choice. He has been a gun-control supporter and guardian of the second amendment. He has been stridently anti-immigrant while stocking his resorts with foreign guest workers. Some of Trump’s supporters believe that this positional flexibility is a good thing, which the lack of ideological moorings leaves him free to “make deals.” And while the record is clear that Trump does not have many deeply held principles underlying his politics, one consistently held and vocally expressed strain of thought is that the United States is overextended, that allies are not paying their share, and more recently, that free trade often works against American interests. By way of evidence are two articles covering Trump nearly thirty years apart. The first was a recent piece looking back on a younger Donald Trump who took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Boston Globe on September 2, 1987. Here is how a portion of it went:

“For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States… “The saga continues unabated as we defend the Persian Gulf, an area of only marginal significance to the United States for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent….why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests…the world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help.”

Nearly thirty years later while running for President, Trump said the following during a campaign speech in April 2016:

“Secondly, our allies are not paying their fair share, and I’ve been talking about this recently a lot. Our allies must contribute toward their financial, political, and human costs, have to do it, of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so. They look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us. In NATO, for instance, only 4 of 28 other member countries besides America, are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP on defense. We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.”

Thirty years apart, these statements bespeak the consistent view of a man with little understanding of how much the United States benefits economically from its forward-deployed military posture, and even less of an understanding of the choices those nations face in their regional security environments especially were we to abandon our alliances. Additionally, given that a naval expansion on the order of what he promised on the campaign trail would cost upwards of $40B a year in total costs, it begs credulity to believe that he would advocate doing so given the laggard performance of our friends and allies in paying for their own defense. If the Administration does begin to assert the need for a larger fleet, Congress must require it to explain the role of this dramatically expanded force, in light of the President’s clear disdain for forward operations.

The Russia Question

The Navy’s 355 Ship Force Structure assessment and each of the three congressionally-mandated fleet architecture studies shared an underlying threat assumption that contributed to their broad consensus on force levels. That assumption was that Russia posed a significant and growing threat to our interests in the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, in the CSBAstudy in which I participated, we considered the Russian threat to be more serious in the near term than the China threat, and our recommended naval force posture reflected it (see pp. 53-59)

Putting aside for the moment ongoing questions of Russian meddling in the 2016 Election and potential Trump campaign collusion therein, it is not at all clear the degree to which President Trump views Russia as a military threat to American interests. If Russia is not a threat, the Navy likely does not have to be 350 ships. If Russia is a threat requiring a Navy that large, the President should be required to say so—something he has not authoritatively done, but which would have to be made clear in a coherent justification for a naval buildup. The impending release of the Trump Administration National Security (NSS) Strategy should provide some indication of what the President believes, but Congress should not rely solely upon the NSS. It should insist that the President name a resurgent Russia as a clear national security threat to the United States and that the threat warrants additional buildup in U.S. forces.

Personnel is Policy

Perhaps the most obvious sign of Trump’s less than arduous attachment to his promise to grow the fleet was his selection of former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) as his Director of Management and Budget. Originally elected with the Tea Party Class of 2010, Mulvaney earned a reputation for opposing the more hawkish elements of the GOP in the House. Clearly, Mulvaney works for the President and will carry out the President’s wishes, but in the absence of Presidential leadership, Mulvaney will be an unlikely supporter of increasing the size of the Navy. In fact, the original FY 18 budget submission to Capitol Hill in the spring of 2017 accounted for no additional ships above what the Obama Administration had planned for that year. A furor from the Alabama and Wisconsin Congressional delegations added a second Littoral Combat Ship to the budget—presumably against Mulvaney’s wishes.

The selection of retired Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense has also put a chill over the warm talk of naval expansion, as one of his initial acts upon taking office was to issue budget guidancethat made growing the force his third priority, behind current readiness and replenishing weapons stocks, and that more detailed plans for force growth would be held in abeyance pending the White House issuance of a National Security Strategy and the Defense Department’s submittal of a National Defense Strategy—neither of which is expected until early next year. It is difficult indeed to find anything other than generalized statements of support for a larger Navy from Mattis, a situation of some irony given his propensity as the U.S. Central Commander to demand the near-continuous presence of two aircraft carriers.

Finally, the only evidence we have thus far of the top-line management of the Department of Defense budget is the President’s 2018 Budget Submission, which represented only a 3% increase over the Obama projection for 2018. Three percent does not a massive military buildup make.

Presidential Leadership

The final evidence offered for the lack of priority afforded a naval buildup under President Trump is that he has done almost nothing to make it happen, and historically speaking, nothing is as important to growing a Navy as Presidential support. As stated earlier—building a larger Navy is an expensive proposition, and while Congress appears ready to provide the Navy with more resources, it will not do so in the absence of a clear plan of how that money will be spent and the sense that the President is dedicated to following through on it. A campaign promise is insufficient reason for the expense. A clearly articulated, consistently reinforced statement of need is central to the persuasive case that must be made for the American people to allocate massive resources in peacetime to a naval building program. That case has not been made, and the President must be the one to make it. Thus far in his Presidency, we have not seen active Presidential support for policies the President was believed to be personally invested in (see Health Care, tax reform), so it remains to be seen whether he will muster the effort to get behind a larger Navy.

Is All Hope Lost?

Given the conflict between the benefits of dominant American Seapower and the consistency of Donald Trump’s most long-standing national security belief, the dubious nature of the President’s view of the Russian threat, his appointment of senior subordinates not likely to be committed naval expansionists, and his own lack of leadership on the issue—the 350 ship Navy appears to be just another broken campaign promise.

The way forward is clear; Congress must assume a greater share of the lead in moving forward with a naval expansion. Uniformed Navy leadership must step forward and relentlessly reinforce the strategic benefits conferred by preponderant American Seapower. For the first time in its history, the nation must attempt to increase the size of its Navy in the absence of Presidential leadership or attention.




Donald Trump pledged the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration

Donald Trump has pledged that he’ll lead the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration, but the details on what’s likely to be an expensive and potentially decades-long effort remain to be seen.

Trump vowed to build the 350-ship fleet Republican defense hawks have long sought and reverse decades of fleet contraction which has yielded today’s battle force of 272 ships. And while the politics of large increases to the defense budget are dicey in the best of times, Trump sees a naval build-up as part of his agenda to create jobs, according to an October internal Trump campaign memo obtained by Navy Times.

The plan, if enacted, would aim to restore the Navy to a size it hasn’t been since 1998, and would mean tens of thousands of new sailor jobs. So far, it remains unclear what mix of ships the incoming administration wants to build more of, from $10 billion Ford-class carriers or $3 billion Virginia-class attack submarines to $500 million littoral combat ships, and how that fleet composition is connected to a strategic vision.

Trump’s camp believes generally that if you have more ships and more capabilities, you give the government more options in a crisis to deter conflicts and defeat enemies. That’s what top Trump advisers told Navy Times’ sister publication Defense News in October ahead of the election.

“I think at this point in history with the credibility of president of the United States eroded, were they to suspect that the United States is abandoning its defense spending,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in the interview. “It takes more than a speech to turn this around.” 

Trump has pledged to build a much larger fleet that experts say will cost many billions more per year, as state-of-the-art technology raises the price of new ship classes.Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin”Trump’s plans are actually to build more ships and maintain a higher number of troops and aircraft. It will go a lot further than words to convince the world that we remain strong. It will help us to maintain the peace.

In the campaign memo, sent by a senior aide to Rep. Randy Forbes, an outgoing Virginia congressman and a top contender to be Trump’s Navy secretary, Trump promises to fund modernizing “a significant number of the Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers,” some of which the Obama administration has sidelined for months or years until they get their modernization overhauls.

The memo also lays out a plan to invest heavily in new submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and to revitalize the shipyards and get warships the maintenance that has been deferred in the last few years because of across-the-board budget cuts.

“Mr. Trump’s plan will require a significant partnership with a defense industrial base that has been strained by years of significant cuts to shipbuilding and ship repair,” the memo reads. “The nationwide infrastructure of yards, depots, and support facilities that created and sustained the World War II and Cold War-era Navy has been largely dismantled.”

The solution, the memo says, is to find places where old shipyards went out of business and have the ability to restart, an effort that would be led by the incoming Navy secretary. Trump also wants to build a robust training pipeline for skilled workers in the shipyards to increase the support base for the growing Navy.

Growing the fleet

Expanding the fleet is an idea that has gained currency both in the current administration, which is trying to boost the fleet to 308 ships up from 272, and among conservative defense proponents who have advocated for a much larger fleet.

The fleet could be grown to the size advocated by Trump, or at least close to it, by the 2030s, said Bryan Clark, a former senior aide to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

would need to start building three Virginia-class attack submarines per year and continue to pump out LCS and its follow-on frigates starting in 2019 to do low-end missions. The submarine build-up would need to continue even as the nation begins on the next-generation of ballistic missile submarines, which are estimated to cost at least $5 billion per hull.

The Navy, he said, could also accelerate the production of the aircraft carriers to get the fleet up to 12 by the 2030s. That buildup would get the Navy from an end strength of about 330,000 sailors today to more than 380,000 in Trump’s Navy.

One idea that wouldn’t work, Clark said, would be to bring ships out of the mothball fleet the way the Reagan administration did. Reagan famously recommissioned the World War II-era Iowa-class battleships to try and meet his 600-ship Navy goal.

“The difference between the ships in the fleet and the ships in mothballs is the technology is two or three generations removed from what’s in use today,” Clark said. “In the 1980s, the ships you could pull out of mothballs, the combat systems were not that far removed from the systems of the day. It wasn’t that dramatic.”

Clark said the modern-day equivalent would be to modernize all the existing cruisers to keep them in the fleet through the 2030s, an idea that has gained traction in the incoming Trump administration.

Now they just have to find a way to pay for it.

Navy and defense spending isn’t the only thing Trump wants to spend money on, and figuring out the winners and losers among Trump’s policy agenda is going to be a challenge, experts warn.

“There are going to have to be lot of trade-offs,” said Dan Palazzolo, a professor of political science at University of Richmond.

Donald Trump wants a lot of things: Big tax cuts, big infrastructure spending, doesn’t want to touch entitlements, defense spending. There are tensions here that are going to have to get unwound.

“Really this is going to be the challenge of Trump’s presidency: How do you translate these broad policy proposals into policies, and defense in that mix. It’s going to be on Congress to help him figure that out.”





Does the US Navy have a strategy beyond hope?

The U.S. Navy begins the new year in crisis. By its own admission many of its ships and aircraft are in poor condition. Training is not where it should be, its ships can’t maneuver properly around other ships, and Navy leaders for years have complained the service is overstretched, constantly struggling to meet requirements and falling short in any number of areas. It is by no means clear that new ideas and concepts are being implemented to counter ever-growing military rivals.

Worldwide challenges abound. China is effectively moving the U.S. out of the western Pacific positions of influence held since the 1940s — ironically using a fast-growing and evermore effective naval force modeled on that of the United States. Virtually every country in the region is re-evaluating political and military realities as China’s influence grows. Russian sea power is reasserting itself in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic seas and most disturbingly in the undersea arena, where a growing threat could compromise or destroy the undersea cables upon which the internet relies. The Middle East remains problematic — stability in the region is threatened by the war in Yemen, eternal squabbling among Arab states and a restless Iran. Terrorist groups, humanitarian crises and natural disasters all increase instability. The list of potential conflict areas widens virtually every week. Above all, the very real threat of armed conflict with North Korea —nuclear or conventional —has many smart people convinced that some sort of clash is rapidly nearing.

Is the U.S. Navy ready? Is it up to the task? Do we see evidence that it is? In a word, no. Aside from resting on past laurels, there seems little reason to persuasively argue otherwise.

Looking for more on the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet? Get the latest here.

The world’s media abounds with stories, videos and images of the growing military capabilities of those who would challenge the U.S., much of them put out directly by those governments or with their support. Check out YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and it’s no problem to get an impressive and often detailed picture of what the other guys are doing.

Where is the U.S. Navy in all this? Pretty much nowhere. Sure, there’s lots of product coming from Defense Department sources, but increasingly it’s watered down, devoid of much real content. By decree, information about operational movements and war-fighting capabilities is largely stripped from official content — certainly whatever remains is a shadow of what was only a couple years ago a robust picture of U.S. military might.

The independent media, of course, would love to take up the slack, but it’s become harder as the Pentagon and service leadership — led by the Navy — warn against giving away too much information. The resulting desire to err on the side of caution means real information has all but dried up.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, noted in a March 1 memo to department personnel that public communications should be done to “communicate with purpose” — but, he added, “very often less is more.”

“Sharing information,” the CNO wrote, “even at the unclassified level, makes it easier for potential adversaries to gain an advantage.” Should there be doubt about a message, he continued, “bias on the side of caution. I am not asking you to throttle back engagement with the media or with the public.”

But make no mistake, the flow of information has indeed been throttled back. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis continued the clampdown in an Oct. 5 memo warning against leaks and divulging classified information. “We must be vigilant in executing our responsibility to prevent disclosure of any information not authorized for release outside the Department of Defense,” Mattis wrote.

There is no question that divulging military secrets would be a mistake, and the great majority of the media doesn’t seek to do so. But one of the goals of putting out information is deterrence, to portray expertise, capabilities, readiness and commitment to deter an enemy from provoking or prompting armed conflict. Mere pronouncements of strength — and the U.S. military leadership has become stridently adept at substituting clichés and slogans for substantive content — don’t deter anyone.

Media requests have become routinely stifled, delayed or denied. Interviews no longer take two or three weeks to arrange — two or three months has become the norm, if at all. A recent development, according to many reporters, is for interviews becoming qualified at the last moment. “We can’t talk about XXX,” officials tell reporters, sometimes a day or less before an appointment, “but we understand if you’ll want to cancel the interview.”

Another tactic to delay or avoid responding to questions is for officials to claim: “We don’t want to get out ahead of leadership,” meaning a topic or program can’t be discussed until higher-ups explain their position. But the higher-ups repeat the assertion, and the request is kicked up multiple levels to the point where executives don’t discuss such things because it’s simply beneath their level.

This information chill is not just about securing defense secrets. It is also about not attracting unwanted attention, particularly from congressional overseers. Heaven forbid some poor program manager mentions a problem and the next day several congressional offices want answers. Sure, no one likes people looking over their shoulder telling them what to do, but that’s exactly what oversight committees are charged with. It’s their job, and the system of checks and balances is a fundamental principal of our government.

Trust and confidence stem from sharing information and having faith the information bears something close to the truth. It is difficult these days to have much faith and confidence that the Pentagon and the Navy can deter war or successfully prosecute an armed conflict. One hopes so, but as someone once said, hope isn’t much of a strategy.

Christopher P. Cavas is a naval analyst and commentator. He was formerly the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.




What are the differences between China’s two aircraft carriers?

December 11, 2017

As the country’s newest warship readies for the next stage of sea trials here’s how it measures up against its predecessor

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 5:20pm

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, is expected to start blue-water trials soon, according to state media and mainland military websites.

The 001A, which started preliminary trials in Dalian in the northeast of China in November after its launch on April 26, has a similar design to the country’s first carrier the Liaoning.

That ship started life as the Varyag, an unfinished Admiral Kuznetsov class carrier that China bought in 1998 from Ukraine – which inherited the ship after the break-up of the Soviet Union – and retrofitted.

The new vessel has been designed as a more modern variant on the Admiral Kuznetsov class ships – which means the two Chinese carriers have a similar appearance.

However, naval experts said the Chinese engineers and designers who built the ship had studied the most advanced military technology used by the Americans, as well as the former Soviet Union, and tried to encorporate this into the new ship to meet the practical needs of the PLA Navy.

 (China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, provided the template for the design of the 001A. Photo: AFP


Size – both are medium-size aircraft carriers with 60,000 to 65,000 tonnes of displacement.

Propulsion Systems – both use conventional propulsion.

Runway – both have a short runway with a ski-jump ramp.

Different roles:

The 001A has been designed to operate in a similar strategic role as US carriers – sailing with an escort of frigates, destroyers and other vessels as part of a battle group that can survey and attack targets on land, sea and air.

By contrast the Admiral Kuznetsov class ships were originally designed to serve as a “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” equipped with much more firepower than other carriers, including powerful anti-ship and surface-to-air cruise missile systems. They were designed to operate without an escort and were able to offer support to other warships.

Take-off ramps

The slope of the ski-jump ramp on the 001A is 12 degrees, compared with 14 degrees on the Liaoning. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the 12-degree ramp would help fighters shorten their take-off distance, save fuel and increase their weapons payload while strengthening the ship’s structure.

 The new carrier has been designed to have more deck space.

Space for more aircraft

China Central Television said the control tower island on the 001A deck has one more storey than the Liaoning.

However Li said the deck space occupied by the island had actually shrunk by 10 per cent to allow the deck to hold more helicopters and fixed-wing early-warning aircraft.

Li further noted that four weapons sponsons, or projections, had been removed from the aft deck, meaning there is space for more aircraft on deck.

The 001A will be able to house a maximum number of 35 J-15 fighter jets compared with the 24 carried on board the Liaoning, according to overseas military reports and retired Read Admiral Yin Zhuo.

 Both carriers will carry J-15 fighter jets. Photo: Xinhua

More powerful weapons

Li said S-band radars with four large antennae would be installed on the top of control tower. The radar system is China’s most ­advanced and is capable of covering a 360-degree search field to scout dozens of targets in the air and at sea.

Another four HQ-10 short-range air defence missiles systems with 24 tubes would also be deployed on the new ship. This weapons system is also used by the navy’s most ­advanced Type 052D destroyers and Type 056 frigates.