Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Navy’

China irked, scolds US after officials withdraw invite to naval drill

May 24, 2018

China’s Defence Ministry expressed regret on Thursday after the United States withdrew an invitation to China to attend a major U.S.-hosted naval drill, saying that closing the door does not promote mutual trust and cooperation.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise and held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.

RIMPAC enabled the armed forces of the world’s two largest economies to directly engage with each other. It was viewed by both countries as a way to ease tensions and reduce the risk of miscalculation should they meet under less friendly circumstances.

The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of islands in the disputed South China Sea, a strategic waterway claimed in large part by Beijing.

In a brief statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the United States had “ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called ‘militarization’ of the South China Sea”, using it as an excuse to uninvite China.

“This decision by the United States is not constructive. Closing the door to communication at any time is not conducive toward promoting mutual trust and communication between the Chinese and U.S. militaries,” it added.

China’s island-building program in the South China Sea has sparked concern around the region and in Washington about Chinese intentions.

China says it has every right to build what it calls necessary defensive facilities on its own territory.

‘Irresponsible Remarks’

Over the weekend China’s air force landed bombers on islands in the sea as part of a training exercise, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

The ministry reiterated that its building of defense facilities was to protect the country’s sovereignty and legitimate rights, and had nothing to do with militarization.

“The United States has no right to make irresponsible remarks about this,” it added.

“Being invited or not cannot change China’s will to play a role in protecting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and cannot shake China’s firm determination to defend its sovereignty and security interests”.

It is in both countries interests to develop healthy military ties, and China hopes the United States keeps the broader picture in mind, abandon its “zero sum” mentality and appropriately handle disputes, the ministry said.

Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence in the region.r

A satellite image shows the deployment of several new weapons systems to China’s base in the South China Sea. Reuters

In an editorial on its website, widely-read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said there was no way China could trade in its interests in the South China Sea for access to the exercise.

“If the U.S. military increases its activities in the South China Sea, then our side will need to further strengthen its military deployments there,” it wrote.

Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, “Cold War” terms.

Speaking at a separate briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China has sovereign rights in the South China Sea and it is not realistic for the United States to use this kind of action to try to coerce Beijing.

The United States has dispatched warships to disputed areas of the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s extensive sovereignty claims in the territory, which is subject to various claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Reuters

https://nypost.com/2018/05/24/china-scolds-us-after-officials-withdraw-invite-to-naval-drill/

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America Can’t Afford to Cede the Seas

May 15, 2018

Does the U.S. want to continue as a great power? China’s navy is set to surpass our fleet by 2030.

The USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt in a joint exercise with the South Korean navy in the East China Sea, Nov. 13, 2017.
The USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt in a joint exercise with the South Korean navy in the East China Sea, Nov. 13, 2017. PHOTO: YONHAP NEWS/NEWSCOM VIA ZUMA

The escalating territorial disputes in the Pacific between China and America’s allies create an ever-more-urgent need for U.S. sea power. But even as China rapidly expands and modernizes its navy, the Trump administration has not proposed enough funds to maintain America’s maritime advantage. Beginning with the coming 2019 federal budget, the president and Congress must commit to funding a full, modern fleet—or risk ceding essential U.S. and allied interests.

American sea power has secured the Pacific since the end of World War II, assuring safe and open trade, while defusing conflict throughout the region. Maintaining a powerful navy for these ends is hardly an American innovation: No great state or empire has ever retained its status without pre-eminent sea power. The histories of Athens, Venice, Spain, Holland and England show that losing control of the oceans leads ineluctably to losing great-power status.

The rapid growth and improvement of China’s naval forces is the major challenge to American sea dominance today, and likely for the foreseeable future. Retired Capt. James Fanell, former director of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, stated in 2015 that China’s combat fleet will reach 415 ships in 2030. Beijing is particularly focused on adding submarines, amphibious vessels and small surface combatants. The buildup demonstrates China’s clear intention to dominate in coastal regions and amphibious operations—domains in which the U.S. has pre-eminence today.

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China’s new home-built aircraft carrier is on sea trials

As Adm. Phil Davidson, nominated to lead the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate in April: China “is no longer a rising power but an arrived great power and peer competitor.” He added that “China has undergone a rapid military modernization over the last three decades and is approaching parity in a number of critical areas; there is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China.”

The White House has proposed expanding the U.S. Navy to 355 ships, but its plan is too slow and underfunded. The full fleet would not be complete until 2050 at the earliest. Although President Trump proposes to dedicate $20 billion for new ship construction in 2019, and about the same in constant dollars in each of the next five years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the project requires an additional $6.6 billion a year over the next 30 years. Without increased funding, the fleet will be smaller in three decades than it is today, and China’s navy could surpass it by 2030.

Americans would quickly see the consequences of ceding power in the Pacific. Already, China’s growing navy may soon aim to control movement around the first island chain in the East China Sea, which stretches from Japan to the Philippines.

If Beijing gains control of the region, it could hamper America’s coordination with its allies and cast doubt on the U.S. security umbrella. The White House would find it more difficult to prevent distant crises from escalating into direct threats. American business around the world, meanwhile, would be decimated. China would suddenly become the more appealing partner for trade and security. The global maritime order, which has long maintained that the East and South China Seas are international waters, would be replaced by a regional system based on “Chinese characteristics”—the euphemism by which the Chinese Communist Party refers to its brand of state control.

This is not a fait accompli; American sea power can be restored. But it will require the U.S. to decide that its status as the world’s great power is worth preserving. The Navy’s evolutionary approach to modernizing its fleet must be replaced by a revolutionary approach, increasing the current fleet’s technological advantage. And by 2035, the fleet should be expanded to no fewer than 375 ships.

The U.S. must also prepare to engage China’s navy. That means situating U.S. forces within striking distance of the East and South China Seas, with enough troops on hand to police the region effectively. It also means responding in kind to China’s existing provocations. The U.S. should bolster its military and naval support for Taiwan. The Pentagon should lean forward by actively planning to defend the entire first island chain, as well as to blockade the Southeast Asia straits, through which oil from the Middle East now flows to China.

Conflict may come sooner than most Americans imagine. This month alone, Beijing is reported to have placed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on three artificial islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. also recently said that American military pilots in Djibouti have been hit with lasers fired from a new Chinese base. The Pentagon has filed a diplomatic démarche requesting that China investigate, but mere diplomacy won’t suffice in the game Beijing is playing.

Timidity deters nothing. It encourages the increasing Chinese aggression. But so far America’s plans to upgrade the U.S. combat fleet have been diffident. To remain the world’s dominant maritime force, U.S. sea power will have to be trained, equipped and exercised. On this rests the future of the U.S. as a great power.

Mr. Cropsey is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. He was a naval officer and a deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-cant-afford-to-cede-the-seas-1526338043

Iran: Commander Threatens To Sink US Ships, Create “Catastrophic Situation” If Trump Kills Deal

April 27, 2018

President Donald Trump offered some of his most bellicose rhetoric yet about Iran on Tuesday when he said Iran would have “bigger problems than they have ever had before” if the country’s leadership dared to restart its nuclear program following a US pull-out of the JCPOA (otherwise known as the Iran deal), per the Times of Israel.

 Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars)

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars)

And today, a top Iranian general hit back at Trump with an aggressive threat to sink US Navy ships, while warning that the US would find itself in a “catastrophic situation” if it withdraws from the deal and reimposes economic sanctions.

“The actual information that the Americans have about us is much less than what they think they have. When will they figure this out? When it is too late,” the Revolutionary Guard Corps’s navy commander, Admiral Ali Fadavim, told Iranian television on Saturday.

“They will definitely figure it out when their ships are sunk, or when they find themselves in a catastrophic situation,” Fadavi threatened in an interview with IRINN TV, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

On Wednesday, a non-proliferation envoy confirmed that the US isn’t seeking to renegotiate the JCPOA. Instead, the White House would like to pursue a separate agreement like the one French President Emmanuel Macron proposed during a press conference with Trump. And apparently, Macron’s proposal took his European partners by surprise.

Admiral Fadavim’s remarks followed a similarly stern warning from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reiterated over the weekend his warning that Tehran was ready to swiftly resume uranium enrichment if the US ditches the accord.

Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned that Iran would consider withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the US reimposes sanctions.

Of course, by leaving both the Iran deal and the NPT, Iran would only lend credence to its adversaries’ claims that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build a nuclear weapon – an accusation Iran has long denied. The White House has set a self-imposed deadline of May 12 for deciding whether to pull out of the deal.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-25/iranian-naval-commander-threatens-sink-us-ships-create-catastrophic-situation-if

Times of Israel:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/irans-navy-commander-threatens-to-sink-us-ships/

China’s New Aircraft Carrier Is Already Obsolete

April 26, 2018

But it’s still a powerful signal of Beijing’s ambitions in a post-U.S. Asia. And other new carriers could possibly follow….

China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
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China’s first home-built aircraft carrier, which was seen Monday being towed from berth, will begin sea trials imminently. When the new vessel enters service some time in 2019 or 2020, China will become the world’s second most powerful operator of aircraft carriers, with a grand total of two. It is a position from which it will never be dislodged.

Yes, France, Russia, and Brazil operate a carrier each; Italy has a couple of small carriers; and the United Kingdom is rebuilding a respectable two-ship fleet, as is India. Other countries, such as Japan and Australia, operate several helicopter carriers, though not fixed-wing aircraft. But China won’t stop at two, nor will it remain satisfied with the inferior Soviet-derived design that was seen Monday. (The first carrier of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLA Navy, is a Soviet-era ship purchased half-finished from Ukraine.)

There are rumors that China’s next ship is already being built, and although it will be smaller than the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class and probably not nuclear-powered, in most other respects it will resemble an American supercarrier. The follow-on ships will be better still. No nation other than the United States has that kind of ambition, and it will give China unquestionably the second-most powerful navy in the world — though admittedly one still a very, very long way behind the U.S. fleet.

But there’s a mystery at the heart of China’s ambitious aircraft carrier program, because over the course of its immense naval modernization effort of the last two decades, China has put so much effort into making aircraft carriers obsolete.

China has acquired dozens of submarines, fleets of strike aircraft, and missiles that can be fired from the air, land, sea, and under the sea, all with one purpose: to make it excessively dangerous for large surface ships to operate near China’s coast. China has even invented an entirely new class of weapon — the anti-ship ballistic missile — that has been dubbed a “carrier killer.”

So why is China’s navy, the very institution that has made America’s carrier fleet in the Pacific so vulnerable, now investing in its own carrier fleet? It has surely occurred to the Chinese that the United States will respond to the PLA’s carriers just as China has done to America’s. In fact, it’s already happening. The U.S. Defense Department is now testing a stealthy long-range anti-ship missile that is almost certainly a reaction to the dramatic growth of China’s surface fleet.

So is China making a big mistake? Is the aircrafft carrier program a folly driven by the navy brass, with no clear strategic purpose?

We shouldn’t dismiss that possibility. In fact, that may be exactly how China’s carrier program started. In early 2015, the South China Morning Post published a series of articles revealing the extraordinary pre-history of China’s carrier program. In the mid-1990s, a small group of entrepreneurial PLA Navy officers enlisted the help of Hong Kong businessman Xu Zengping to purchase the hull of a half-finished Soviet-era carrier from Ukraine on the public pretense that it would be rebuilt as a floating casino. Incredibly, the officers told Xu that this initiative had no official backing from Beijing. They were making a potentially transformative arms purchase on their own initiative.

The carrier program has clearly grown since those beginnings and has much further to grow still, so it is safe to assume that the Chinese leadership has now embraced it and has a specific plan in mind for its growing fleet. What could that plan be?

China is a great power with a huge economy. In fact, a recent Australian government report estimates that by 2030, the Chinese economy will be worth $42 trillion versus $24 trillion for the United States — in other words, in less than 15 years’ time China’s economy could be almost double the size of America’s.

No country of that size would accept that it should remain strategically subordinate to another great power in its own backyard, and China certainly doesn’t. Beijing already wants to lead in Asia, and that means having a powerful military with the ability to project power over long distances. For China to become Asia’s strategic leader, it will need to push the United States out. So maybe the carrier fleet is a frontal assault on the core of U.S. power in the Pacific, an attempt to build a force capable of ending America’s naval dominance with a fleet that could overwhelm the United States in an arms race or, if necessary, defeat it in a Midway-style battle.

But even for a country as big as China, building a fleet of that size and capability is a formidable and massively expensive challenge. At the current pace of modernization, it could take decades to build such a fleet, particularly if the United States and its allies respond by improving their own capabilities. And that’s not to mention the heightened risk of a catastrophic great-power war.

So here’s an alternative explanation: China’s carrier-centered navy is not designed so much to challenge U.S. maritime supremacy as to inherit it. China may be betting that the United States won’t need to be pushed out of Asia, at least not by a frontal challenge to its naval power. Rather, the United States will slowly withdraw of its own accord because the cost of maintaining that leadership is rising so dramatically. Consider America’s defense commitment to Taiwan. Before China’s massive investment in anti-ship capabilities, the United States could safely sail its carrier through the Taiwan Strait, and its ability to defend Taiwan remained unquestioned. Now, the United States would be at serious risk of losing one or two carrier battle groups in any confrontation over Taiwan. The cost of defending South Korea has risen steeply, too, with North Korea close to deploying a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach cities on the continental United States, if it hasn’t already.

As the costs of U.S. military leadership in Asia rise, questions about why the United States needs to maintain that leadership become louder. America’s military presence in Asia made sense in the Cold War, but it is much harder to justify now.

If China inherits U.S. leadership in Asia, it won’t need a fleet as big as America’s. Some experts predict China will build just six carriers, quite enough to cement its leadership in a post-American Asia. And that’s when China’s carrier fleet will really come into its own, for although aircraft carriers are increasingly vulnerable to sophisticated anti-ship weapons, America has demonstrated that they are incredibly useful when you have command of the oceans.

That’s why China’s new fleet is such bad news for the small Southeast Asian nations in particular. In a post-American Asia, larger powers such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Australia have a fighting chance of resisting Chinese coercion if they invest more heavily in their own defense capacities. That isn’t an option for smaller powers, particularly as they enter China’s economic orbit via initiatives such as the Belt and Road.

The Chinese aircraft carrier about to put to sea is no match for the U.S. Navy, but that should bring little comfort to the United States and its Asian allies. Indeed, China may be betting that it will never have to confront the U.S. fleet and that it can prepare for the day the Navy sails back to home shores.

Correction, April 25, 2018: China’s first home-built aircraft carrier will begin sea trials imminently. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that it had already set sail. 

Sam Roggeveen is a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. He is the founding editor of the Interpreter and was previously a senior analyst in Australia’s peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments.

Foreign Policy:http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/04/25/chinas-new-carrier-is-already-obsolete/

Syrian countermeasures, including defensive ballistic missiles, were fired after U.S. and allied weapons hit their targets — Russia initially said Syria shot down 71 cruise missiles

April 15, 2018
 Updated on 
  • Trump weighed five proposed target plans, person familiar says
  • ‘No Syrian weapon had any effect’ on strike, Pentagon says

President Donald Trump’s outrage over another apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was clear. And for the second time in his presidency, the U.S. commander-in-chief demanded retaliation.

As images of sick or dying children flooded global media all week, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Winston Churchill churned toward the Mediterranean to join a flotilla of allied warships, including another U.S. destroyer, the USS Donald Cook.

 Image result for USS Donald Cook, photos
 USS Donald Cook

It was a ruse.

While both vessels carry as many as 90 Tomahawk missiles — the main weapon used in the Friday evening strike on Syria — neither ship in the end fired a shot. Instead, according to a person familiar with White House war planning, they were part of a plan to distract Russia and its Syrian ally from an assault Assad’s government could do little to defend itself against.

Wreckage at the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound near Damascus on April 14.

Photographer: Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

It worked. Pentagon officials on Saturday said they faced little resistance to their targeted attack on what they said were three Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Most of the Syrian countermeasures, including defensive ballistic missiles, were fired after U.S. and allied weapons hit their targets, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters on Saturday.

Image result for Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, photos

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie

“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” McKenzie said. He described the joint U.S., French and U.K. strike as “precise, overwhelming and effective.”

Brazen as it was perceived to be, the Assad regime’s decision to again use chemical weapons on own people didn’t by itself spur the U.S. to act. The Trump administration was also motivated by how closely the attack followed the use of a nerve agent to poison a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in England in March, an action the U.K. government and its allies blamed on Russia.

The English incident added to concerns held by Trump, his top aides, and leaders in the U.K. and France that not responding might encourage proliferation of chemical weapons, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

As the strategy of how to respond took shape, Trump appeared to telegraph his intentions to the world with a tweet on April 11: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!”’

Analysts suggested Assad’s regime would respond to Trump’s threats by protectively moving weapons and personnel away from likely targets. An already difficult battle plan — which required hitting Assad without provoking Russian reprisals or injecting the U.S. further into Syria’s seven-year civil war — was getting harder.

‘Big Price’

In the White House, Trump met with military officials and made several calls to his French and British counterparts, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May, with the goal of following through on a threat to impose a “big price’’on Syria — a vow made in an earlier tweet, on April 8.

During a meeting with the National Security Council and top military leaders early in the week, Trump had been presented five large target options — called sets — for potential strikes, according to the person familiar with the plans. The president largely listened as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Corps General Joe Dunford and other military leaders did most of the talking. New National Security Adviser John Bolton — who started work on April 9 — and Vice President Mike Pence were also on hand.

The president asked Bolton and the military leaders to justify each potential target, and was particularly focused on limiting the risk of escalation by Russia. There was unanimity among Trump’s top national security staff about conducting strikes but debate about how hard to hit the Syrians, the person said.

Haley’s Voice

Nikki Haley at a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on April 14.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley was especially blunt in her assessment of the Syrian regime during meetings with Trump, the person said.

Haley told the UN Security Council on Friday that Assad and his Russian backers were to blame for the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians. In a private meeting with Trump and national security officials earlier in the week, Haley was a leading voice pushing for a robust military response to the chemical weapons attack on humanitarian grounds, the person said.

Dunford told reporters Friday that the U.S. sought targets that would limit any involvement with Russian military forces in Syria and reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

Trump, who just a week earlier said he wanted to pull U.S. troops out of Syria “very soon,” didn’t want to become drawn into the civil war there and instead focused the military response on deterring the use of chemical weapons, according to the official.

Missile Barrage

USS Winston S. Churchill

Photographer: Raymond Maddocks/U.S. Navy

With the allies on board and the USS Winston Churchill arriving in the Mediterranean region, the attack was nearly under way.

As the president addressed the nation at 9 p.m. Washington time, on Friday, a barrage of 105 U.S., U.K. and French missiles converged on Syria. They came from the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean, homing in from three directions to overwhelm whatever missile defenses Assad’s regime might deploy. Russia’s more advanced air defense system didn’t engage the allied weapons.

According to the Pentagon, the allied weaponry included 19 new “Extended-Range” stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Attack Munitions launched by two B-1B bombers based out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, and six Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Virginia-class USS John Warner submarine. The bomber-launched missiles, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., had never been used in combat.

Red Sea Attack

USS Monterey fires a Tomahawk land attack missile at Syria on April 14.

Photographer: Matthew Daniels/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The cruiser USS Monterey fired 30 Tomahawks and the destroyer USS Laboon fired seven Tomahawks from the Red Sea. The destroyer USS Higgins fired 23 Tomahawks from the North Arabian Gulf, according to McKenzie.

The weapons also included French SCALP-EG cruise missiles and British Storm Shadow standoff missiles launched by Tornado and Typhoon jets. Nine SCALP missiles were fired at what the Pentagon said was a chemical weapons storage complex at Hims-Shinshar, along with two SCALPS, nine Tomahawks and eight Storm Shadows.

Chemical weapons storage complex at Hims-Shinshar before the strike on April 13, left, and following the strike.

satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe

The morning after the barrage, Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished!”, a phrase closely associated with President George W. Bush. The 43rd U.S. president prematurely declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq in 2003 while standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham, in front of a large banner bearing those words.

Trump, like Bush, may live to regret using the phrase. The latest U.S.-led operation was narrow in scope, with little damage done to Assad’s war-fighting capabilities. The country remains a toxic brew of foreign forces, militias and terrorist groups. Haley, the UN ambassador, said this week that Assad has used chemical weapons dozens of times since war broke out in 2011. He might well use them again.

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Jennifer Jacobs, Anthony Capaccio, and  Margaret Talev

Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-14/warship-ruse-and-new-stealth-missiles-how-they-attacked-syria

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Sputnik

71 Out of 103 Destroyed: Here’s How Syria’s Air Defense Repelled West’s Missiles

Perhaps the most surprising news surrounding the US, British and French strike on Syria Saturday morning was the report that the country’s Air Defense Force managed to shoot down just shy of 70% of the Western cruise missiles launched. Sputnik looks at how the Syrians managed to do it.

The Western attack, executed this morning at 4:00 am Syrian time on April 14, saw US Navy warships in the Red Sea and Air Force B-1B bombers and F-15 and F-16 aircraft rain dozens of ship and air-launched cruise missiles down on the Syrian capital of Damascus, an airbase outside the city, a so-called chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and an equipment storage facility and command post, also near Homs. B1-Bs are typically armed with JASSM cruise missiles, which have a 450 kg warhead and a range of 370 km. US Navy warships launched Tomahawks, which have 450 kg warheads and an operational range of between 1,300 and 2,500 km.

The British Royal Air Force’s continent for the assault consisted of four Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft armed with the Storm Shadow long-range air-to-surface missile, which the UK’s Defense Ministry said targeted ‘chemical weapons sites’ in Homs. These weapons have a range of 400 km.

Finally, France sent its Aquitaine frigate, armed with SCALP naval land attack cruise missiles (SCALP the French military’s name for the Storm Shadow), as well as several Dassault Rafale fighters, also typically armed with SCALP or Apache cruise missiles.

According to the Russian defense ministry, the B-1Bs also fired GBU-38 guided air bombs.

  • A US B-1B Lancer bomber taking off. File photo
  • Model of a JASSM missile.
  • Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Firing a Tomahawk missile
  • British Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft is seen on the tarmac at the British airbase at Akrotiri, near Cyprus' second city of Limassol on December 3, 2015
  • Storm Shadow missile
  • French FREMM multipurpose Aquitaine class stealth frigate (File)
  • French Rafale fighter jets prepare to take off late April 13, 2018 from the Saint-Dizier military base in eastern France in this picture released April 14, 2018 by the French Military
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A US B-1B Lancer bomber taking off. File photo

Undoubtedly weary of the prospect of having their aircraft shot down after Israel lost one of its F-16s over Syria in February, the Western powers presumably launched their weapons from well outside the range of Syrian air defenses, with all the targets located just 70-90 km of the Mediterranean Sea, and having to fly through Lebanon first.

Attack Blunted

However, notwithstanding the powerful collection of weaponry arrayed against them, the Syrian Army seems to have managed, for the most part, to blunt the attack.

Several hours after the strikes, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the majority of the missiles launched were intercepted by Syria’s Air Defense Force, who shot downsome 71 of the 103 cruise missiles detected. This included the interception of all 12 missiles launched at the Al-Dumyar airbase northeast of Damascus. Syrian media, for its part, reported that the military had destroyed 20 missiles over Damascus alone.

Furthermore, although the Syrian military does have some modern air defenses, including the Pantsir-S1 combined short-to-medium range surface to air missile (SAM) and anti-aircraft artillery system, the cruise missile attack was repelled mostly by upgrades of 30+ year old equipment, including variants of the Buk self-propelled missile system, the S-125 air defense system, and the S-200, an aging but tried and tested SAM introduced into the Soviet military in the late 1960s.

Buk-M1 missile system. (File)
© SPUTNIK / VLADIMIR FEDORENKO
Buk-M1 missile system. (File)

Balance of Forces

In late 2016, Russian defense analysts created a detailed outline of the state of Syria’s military. Their research concluded that Syria’s air defenses remained formidable, even following half a decade of war against terrorism.

According to the estimates, the Air Defense Force’s inventory includes 36 Pantsir-S1s, delivered by Russia between 2008 and 2013, 3-6 battalions of Buk-M1 and Buk-M2 medium-range SAM systems (Moscow delivered eight Buk-M2s between 2010 and 2013), five regiments (i.e. 25 batteries) of Kvadrat tracked medium-range surface-to-air missile systems (Kvadrat being the export version of the Kub air defense system), and 8 regiments of the S-200VE long-range missile system.

S-125, file photo.
S-125, file photo.

Syria has up to 53 regiments of the Dvina and Volga variant of the S-75, the ancient Soviet high-altitude air defense system used to shoot down US U-2s over the USSR and Cuba in the early 1960s. The country also has some 4,000 anti-aircraft guns of various calibers, although these are slowly being retired.

The Ground forces are also equipped with the OSA, Strela-1, and Strela-10 mobile, low-altitude short-range SAM systems (the Syrians have 61, 100 and 60 of each, respectively).

Strela 1, file photo.
Strela 1, file photo.

Syria’s radar network consists of P-40 3-D UHF early warning/target acquisition radar, P-12 3D VHF early warning ground control radar, P-15 2D UHF surveillance/target acquisition radar, P-30, P-35 an P-80 2D E band/F band early warning ground control radar, and PRV-13 and PRV-16 altimeter radar.

With the exception of the PRV-16 and the P-80, which were introduced into the Soviet military in the early 1970s, the rest of these systems were fielded starting in the late 1950s and mid-1960s, and have mostly been retired in Russia. Russia and Belarus have provided Syria with parts and technical support for these systems.

[Unconfirmed map of Syrian air defense coverage area. The greatest density is southwest of Damascus, where over 35 systems are said to be in operation.]

Stronger Than Expected

The formation of Syria’s more or less modern air defenses has its roots the early 1980s, and stems from the Air Defense Force’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Israeli air power during the 1982 Lebanon War at Bekka Valley. A year later, in 1983, the Soviet Union transferred its S-200VE long-range air defense system, along with the technical personnel to man them and train their Syrian counterparts. The S-200’s deployment was unusual, with Syria getting the systems before even the USSR’s Warsaw Pact allies did.

Soviet officers pose in front of an S-200VE in Syria, 1980s.
© PHOTO : SERGEY KACHKO / VETERANSYRIA.ORG
Soviet officers pose in front of an S-200VE in Syria, 1980s.

Since that time, thanks in part to having to contend with the technologically superior Israeli Air Defense Force on its border, Syria has continued to upgrade its air defense network. In fact, despite its age compared to Western powers, or say Russia, the country’s air defenses are considerably more modern than those of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya before those countries were subjected to US and NATO bombings in 1999, 2003 and 2011.

The Air Defense Force is estimated to have between 20,000 and 36,000 personnel. Syria’s terrain, including numerous mountain ranges, which complicate attackers’ options, has resulted in an operational doctrine aimed at preserving air defense capabilities even in the event of massed enemy strikes, similarly to the Yugoslav Air Defense Force’s strategy during the war against NATO.

According to Russian military observers, Syria’s most formidable air defense systems are its Pantsirs and BuK-M1-2 and Buk M-2Es, which can shoot down F-15s from 45 km away and simultaneously track and destroy up to two dozen enemy targets. Furthermore, the S-125 Pechora remains a problem for NATO, despite its age. In March 2015, Syria shot down a US Predator drone in Latakia using the system. Finally, of course, there are those S-200s, which have an operational range of 300 km. It was one of these that shot down the intruder Israeli F-16 in February 2018.

Future Proofing

It’s unclear at this point whether the US and its allies will limit their strikes to Saturday’s attack, or launch further attacks in the future. In any case, the attack has already prompted Moscow into considering providing Damascus with its S-300 long-range SAM system. “Taking into account what happened, we consider it possible to return to this issue,” the Russian General Staff said in a statement.

In any case, Russia has already provided Syria with substantial assistance in restoring its air defense capabilities, particularly over the past year and a half. The end result of this assistance was seen shortly after 4 am on Saturday morning.

S-300 Favorite surface-to-air missile systems during a bilateral drill of air defense and aviation forces of the Western Military District
© SPUTNIK / RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY
S-300 Favorite surface-to-air missile systems during a bilateral drill of air defense and aviation forces of the Western Military District

Read the rest:

https://sputniknews.com/military/201804141063558487-syria-air-defense-forces-analysis/

U.S. inspects Chinese-funded Vanuatu wharf ahead of military exercise — Does China want to establish a permanent military base in the Pacific island nation?

April 14, 2018

Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The United States has conducted a survey of a Chinese-funded wharf in Vanuatu ahead of a military exercise by U.S. forces planned for the South Pacific later this year, the U.S. Marine Corps said on Saturday.

Location of Vanuatu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanuatu

The wharf had been the subject of reports in Australia’s Fairfax Media that China wanted to establish a permanent military base in the Pacific island nation.

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Vanuatu warf before improvement

Image result for Vanuatu's Luganville wharf, photos

Vanuatu warf after improvement

Both Vanuatu and China denied the report amid heightened tension with the United States over China’s activity in the South China Sea.

U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Curtis L. Hill told Reuters by email that a small contingent of Marines from 1 Marine Expeditionary Force based in California had conducted a site survey in preparation for the exercise that U.S. forces will hold.

“The site survey was conducted due to the likely participation of a Military Sealift Command support vessel in the exercise,” he said.

Vanuatu, about 2,000 km (1,200 miles) east of northern Australia, was home to a key U.S. Navy base during World War Two that helped beat back the Japanese army as it advanced through the Pacific toward Australia.

There is heightened interest in the wharf in Luganville town because it could be big enough to allow warships to dock at it. Its primary use is to cater for cargo vessels and ferries.

Reporting by Alison Bevege and Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY.; Editing by Robert Birsel

See also:

The great wharf from China, raising eyebrows across the Pacific

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-great-wharf-from-china-raising-eyebrows-across-the-pacific-20180411-p4z8yu.html

Related:

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had earlier acknowledged heightened Chinese interest in the Pacific.

“It is a fact that China is engaging in infrastructure investment activities around the world,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

“I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner of choice,” she said.

China has also faced criticisms over its activities in the disputed South China Sea, where it has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and airstrips.

Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Related:

No automatic alt text available.

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.

 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water
China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

Taiwan president watches China’s naval drill — China is ‘changing international and regional security situation’

April 13, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Taiwan said the exercise was staged in light of a ‘changing international and regional security situation’

SUAO (TAIWAN) (AFP) – Taiwan’s president watched naval drills simulating an attack on the island Friday, days before Beijing is set to hold live-fire exercises nearby in a show of force.Relations between self-ruling Taiwan and China have deteriorated since Tsai Ing-wen came to power almost two years ago, largely because she refuses to accept the “One China” formula governing relations.

Beijing regards the island as its territory — to be reunited by force if necessary — even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

China’s growing military is increasingly flexing its muscles and will hold live-fire drills next week in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow waterway separating the Chinese mainland from Taiwan — following weeks of naval manoeuvres in the area.

Tsai boarded the Kee Lung destroyer to supervise as troops practised defending against an attack on the northeastern port of Suao.

Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and water

Kee Lung

It was the first time she has supervised a drill from onboard a warship.

“I believe our countrymen will have great faith in the military’s combat capabilities and its determination to defend our country after today’s drill,” Tsai said on the destroyer’s deck after it returned to port as the exercise ended.

Tsai said “we are very confident of our military” when asked to comment on Beijing’s planned live-fire drill in the Taiwan Strait next week.

“It’s a routine drill that our military will fully monitor and has made relevant preparations,” she said.

– ‘Military expansion’ –

Taiwan’s defence ministry said the exercise was staged in light of a “changing international and regional security situation” to test the military’s combat readiness and its ability to defend Taiwanese territory.

Some 20 warships and four F16 fighter jets took part in the drill, one of the largest naval manoeuvres since Tsai took office in May 2016.

Image result for F-16 fighters photos

Tsai has warned against what she called Beijing’s “military expansion” — the increase in Chinese air and naval drills around the island since she took office in May 2016.

Chinese warplanes conducted 25 drills around Taiwan between August 2016 and mid-December last year, according to Taipei.

On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a surprise visit to naval forces in the disputed South China Sea, where he stressed the “urgent” need to build a powerful navy.

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on March 20, the same day that Xi issued a public warning against attempts to “separate” from China.

Xi’s naval visit came after a US aircraft carrier sailing though the South China Sea gave a demonstration Tuesday for members of the Philippine government.

Washington recently agreed to allow US defence contractors help Taiwan construct its own submarines, sparking a warning from Beijing to Taipei against “playing with fire to burn itself”.

Related:

Xi makes surprise visit to fleet in South China Sea drill

April 12, 2018

© AFP/File | China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, passed through the Taiwan Strait last month, according to authorities in Taipei

BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday stressed the “urgent” need to build a powerful navy during a surprise visit to observe naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea, state media reported as the country prepares for live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait.

The region has become a potential flashpoint, with the US saying China’s activities in the area pose a threat to freedom of navigation in the strategically vital waterway, where Beijing has built an archipelago of artificial islands capable of hosting military equipment.

Footage of Xi’s visit on state broadcaster CCTV showed the president watching jets taking off from China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and joining sailors for a meal.

In a speech to the assembled troops, Xi said China’s task to build a powerful navy “has never been as urgent as it is today”.

His visit comes as Washington engages in its own muscle flexing in the region, where the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt gave a demonstration Tuesday for members of the Philippine government.

China’s own naval drill — involving the Liaoning and dozens of other vessels — began at the end of March, with US officials saying the two exercises are separated by several hundred kilometres (miles).

Some 48 warships, 76 fighter jets, and more than 10,000 navy personnel took part in the drill at an undisclosed location, said China Military, a newspaper affiliated to the People’s Liberation Army.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea despite rival claims from several of its Southeast Asian neighbours.

China regularly protests when US warships’ carry out “freedom of navigation” operations near its islands.

– Live-fire exercise –

Xi’s visit came as China announced plans to hold live-fire naval drills next week in the narrow strait separating the mainland from Taiwan, an act that could ratchet up tensions with the island.

“Live-fire military manoeuvres will take place… in the Taiwan Strait on (Wednesday) April 18, 2018 between 8am and midnight,” the maritime safety administration of Fujian, the province that lies opposite Taiwan, said in a statement.

China, which regards self-ruled Taiwan as its territory — to be reunited by force if necessary — has stepped up air and naval patrols around the island since Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016.

She refuses publicly to accept the “One China” formula agreed between Beijing and Taiwan’s previous government.

Chinese warplanes conducted 25 drills around Taiwan between August 2016 and mid-December last year, according to Taipei.

The Liaoning and other vessels passed through the Taiwan Strait on March 20 — the day Xi warned against any attempts to divide China.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it would keep a close eye on the upcoming exercise.

“The defence ministry stresses that the military can comprehensively monitor and respond to the regional situation to ensure national security. We ask the public to rest assured,” it said in a statement.

Related:

Chinese navy stages double show of strength as US strike group drills in disputed South China Sea

April 12, 2018

Image may contain: ocean, sky, water and outdoor

Above: USS Theodore Roosevelt

South China Morning Post

PLA puts aircraft carrier and submarines through their paces as USS Theodore Roosevelt passes through contested waterway

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 7:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 8:08am

The Chinese navy began a three-day drill yesterday near its main submarine base as another exercise finished nearby in what analysts described as a message to the United States that it was capable of defending its core interests.

The dual show of strength came as an American strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt conducted its own exercises in the contested waters of the South China Sea.

The latest Chinese drill began in the waters off Sanya, Asia’s largest submarine base, on the south coast of Hainan province.

It overlapped with an unprecedented week-long series of live-fire drills involving the aircraft carrier Liaoning to the east of the island, near the venue for the Boao Forum for Asia.

The area has several underwater channels and straits, which could allow China’s submarine fleet to break through the United States’ first and second island-chain blockades that are designed to confine China’s maritime forces.

Beijing wants to tell Washington that the Chinese navy is capable of defending the waters relating to its core national interests
BEIJING-BASED NAVAL EXPERT LI JIE

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said China was sending a message to the United States that its armed forces were ready to deal with any security challenges.

“Hainan is the starting point for China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, while the South China Sea has the most important strategic sea waters for China to project its maritime presence and influence,” he said.

“Beijing wants to tell Washington that the Chinese navy is capable of defending the waters relating to its core national interests.”

On Tuesday, the USS Theodore Roosevelt staged what it described as a routine training exercise en route to the Philippines.

A small group of reporters were invited to watch 20 F-18 Super Hornet Fighter jets performing a take-off and landing exercise.

 A US Navy crewman watches the deck of the Theodore Roosevelt on Tuesday. Photo: AP

“We have seen Chinese ships around us,” strike group commander Rear Admiral Steve Koehler told journalists on board the three-decade-old nuclear-powered carrier.

“They are one of the navies that operate in the South China Sea, but I would tell you that we have seen nothing but professional work out of the ships we have encountered.”

The drills also show off China’s military muscle to other claimants involved in territorial disputes
SONG ZHONGPING, FORMER MEMBER OF CHINA’S SECOND ARTILLERY CORPS

Song Zhongping, a former member of China’s Second Artillery Corps, said the Chinese drills had been carried out in a less sensitive area than the South China Sea, where China had a string of territorial disputes with its neighbours – including the Philippines.

Song, now a military commentator for Phoenix Television in Hong Kong, said the choice of location – rather than a disputed area such as the Spratly Islands, Paracel Island or other sites in the South China Sea – indicated that “Beijing has been restrained in this”.

But he continued: “The drills also show off China’s military muscle to other claimants involved in territorial disputes.”

Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said on the sidelines of the Boao Forum, that all Asian countries were concerned about Chinese and US military displays in the area.

“If [the drill] is in accordance with international law, just like any other country, they are entitled to do such drills. But of course we would not like to see any provocative acts,” he said.

 China has been keen to prove its naval prowess. Photo: Chinamil.com.cn

However, Zheng Yongnian, a professor at the South China University of Technology who was also attended the forum, said other countries should regard China’s drills as regular training for defensive purposes.

But he added that anything China did could be demonised “if the US wants a cold war”.

The United States and China are not the only navies to patrol the strategic waterway, with vessels from Japan and Southeast Asian nations also active in the area, which apart for raising tensions also increases the risk of accidents at sea.

After two fatal collisions involving US warships in the region last summer, a number of navies, including those of China, the United States and nine Southeast Asian countries, have been working on a code for unexpected encounters at sea.

Additional reporting by Reuters

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2141322/chinese-navy-stages-double-show-strength-us-strike

China defends military buildup in disputed South China Sea

April 10, 2018

BY JESSE JOHNSON

STAFF WRITER

Japan Times
APR 10, 2018

Beijing defended its construction of what it called defensive facilities in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, saying the moves were not directed at any specific country, according to a Defense Ministry spokesman.

“China’s garrison on the islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands and the deployment of necessary national defense facilities are the natural rights of sovereign states,” spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement posted to the ministry’s website.

China refers to the South China Sea’s Spratly chain as the Nansha Islands. The Spratlys are home to seven Chinese-held man-made islands that it has fortified with deep-water piers, military-grade airfields, defensive weapons and barracks.

Ren said the facilities help protect navigation safety, “serve to ensure regional peace and stability and are not directed at any country.”

He was answering a question about whether China’s military deployments were a response to missions by the U.S. Navy to challenge Beijing’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei all have overlapping claims in the strategic waterway.

Tuesday’s remarks came on the heels of a report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday citing a Pentagon official who said that China “has deployed military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts.”

That report said that the new jamming equipment was deployed within the past 90 days on Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef, according to U.S. intelligence assessments.

China is currently in the midst of a military modernization program heavily promoted by President Xi Jinping, who has overseen a shift in focus toward creating a more potent fighting force, including projects such as building a second aircraft carrier, integrating stealth fighters into its air force and fielding an array of advanced missiles that can strike air and sea targets from long distances.

The Chinese military has also seen its forces drill to punch further into the Western Pacific with what it calls “regular” exercises.

Late last month, the Chinese Air Force conducted a series of exercises in the South China Sea and Western Pacific, where it sent advanced fighter jets and heavy bombers through Okinawa’s Miyako Strait, labeling the exercises “rehearsals for future wars.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/04/10/asia-pacific/china-defends-military-buildup-disputed-south-china-sea/#.Wszz6YjwaUk