Posts Tagged ‘US Navy’

Saudi Arabia, Lockheed Martin To Start More Than 600 New High Tech Jobs for Saudis Building Black Hawk Helicopters

February 25, 2018


A total of 150 Black Hawk helicopters similar to this will be produced by a joint venture between the Saudi Arabia’s defense industry and the US defense giant Lockheed Martin. (Courtesy of Lockheed Martin website)
DUBAI: As many as 640 new technology jobs are being created in Saudi Arabia as a result of a joint venture between the Kingdom’s defense industry and the American defense giant Lockheed Martin to build Blackhawk helicopters with local employees.
The joint venture — known as Rotary Aircraft Manufacturing Saudi Arabia (RAMSA) — was signed as part of the big package of defense industry deals announced during US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Kingdom last May, but the number of jobs now envisaged is higher than first expected.
Alan Chinoda, the chief executive of Lockheed’s Saudi business, revealed the job creation package in an interview with Arab News ahead of the Armed Forces Exhibition for Diversity of Requirements and Capabilities (AFED), which opened in Riyadh on Sunday.
“We’ve created a joint venture to produce 150 Blackhawks in the Kingdom, which is a tremendous opportunity. It will create a whole new technology eco-system and will involve the transfer of technology as well as jobs. The infrastructure to support that in Saudi Arabia is good,” he said.
The deal to create RAMSA is just one aspect of an expanding relationship between the Americans and Saudi Arabia under the Trump presidency.
There are also plans to develop the THAAD missile defense system, supply of new combat ships to the Saudi Navy, and finalizing of the Arabsat 6A satellite, which could be launched by the end of this year.
“There has been a change since the Trump visit. The business environment has picked up and has been a lot more cordial. It was a big thing for Trump to have his first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia,” Chinoda said.
He emphasized, however, that Lockheed’s relationship with the Kingdom — in place since it supplied Hercules aircraft in 1965 — was not just about supplying expensive military equipment.
“We are looking for local partners across a diverse spectrum to work with us on our systems and programs. It is not just about selling. We want partners we can depend on and see this show (AFED) as the perfect opportunity to talk to potential partners.
“There are some potential partners that can so support and assembly but we need to help get them up to the standard we require,” he said.
Lockheed, which has done business in Saudi Arabia for more than five decades, is partnering with the aeronautics arm of the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (Taqnia) on the RAMSA project for the Blackhawks.
That deal has involved 10 young Saudi technicians being trained at Lockheed’s facilities in the US.
Lockheed has long-term relationships with Saudi Arabia’s Advanced Electronics Co. (AEC) on THAAD — Terminal High Altitude Area Defense — missiles and the Sniper 1 aircraft-born missile system, in one of the largest assembly facilities outside the USA, and has held talks with Saudi Arabian Military Industries, the new corporation set up to develop indigenous skills in the military manufacturing business.
It is also working on the PAC-3, the latest version on the Patriot air defense missile that has recently been used to counter hostile missile attacks against Riyadh and other places in Saudi Arabia.
The four new warships — described as “lethal and highly maneuverable multi-mission” vessels — were announced last year as part of a $28 billion program of deals during the Trump visit. The US Navy awarded Lockheed the contract to work on the ships for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces.
The Arabsat 6A satellite is the second to be developed for Saudi Arabia by Lockheed, and is described as the “most advanced commercial communications satellite we’re ever built” by Lockheed.
The satellite has been assembled in the US and shipped to Lockheed’s facility in Sunnyvale, California, for final tests before a possible launch in 2018.
Chinoda, who has been with Lockheed in the region since 2011, said that there had been an improvement recently in the ease of doing business in the Kingdom. “With Vision 2030 and everything the Saudi government is looking at, they have been trying to assist the way we do business in the Kingdom, especially with things like visas, which are now much easier.
“The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) reached out to us to help us do business more efficiently. There is a definite momentum and a movement for positive change,” he said.

ASEAN’s Growing Unease With China In The South China Sea —

February 11, 2018

Asean needs to resolve complex and pressing issues before nations can agree on rules to help ease maritime disputes in the South China Sea, writes Collin Koh

By Collin Koh
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am

The chairman’s press statement at the latest Asean foreign ministers retreat held in Singapore could hardly be more timely where it concerns disputes in the South China Sea.

Paragraph 11 of the four-page document dedicates substantial attention to the disputes. Its wording in part borrows much of the standard phrases from past documents and is largely conciliatory in tone, including ministers embracing “practical measures” aimed at building confidence to help ease disputes.

Yet, at the same time, the statement flagged the bloc’s collective unease over ongoing developments in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

It noted the “concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, snow, outdoor and nature

China has now built at least seven South China Sea military fortifications.

The proposed solution it suggested would not come as any surprise to observers of Asean and matters relating to the South China Sea.

The ministers duly “reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation”.

It went on to say that all sides should “pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].”

Without a doubt, the key initiative aimed at managing, if not resolving, these disputes is the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, for which a framework was adopted last August.

 Asean foreign ministers pose for a photograph at their retreat in Singapore on Tuesday. Photo: Kyodo

Amid the bonhomie between Asean and China, reducing tensions evident before a UN panel ruled on the legitimacy of China’s claims to the waters in July 2016, the underlying problems still remain up for deeper discussion between Beijing and the 10-member regional bloc.

Now that the “honeymoon” is over following the adoption of the code of conduct framework, the real work begins to iron out the details. Through this latest statement, Asean foreign ministers sought to work towards “an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline”.

This timeline is, however, tenuous at best.

In recent years, a number of South China Sea observers have pointed out that it is by no means certain that a code of conduct will eventually materialise. That is a pessimistic scenario for sure, but let us assume that the code will eventually be promulgated, perhaps not without some potholes encountered in the arduous journey of formal negotiations.

The issue is how exactly how effective it will be.

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoor

China’s military infrastructure on its South China Sea bases is elaborate

Expediting the negotiations can be motivated in a few ways – either because all parties truly commit to the code out of goodwill, or because some tumultuous events arise unexpectedly in the South China Sea, compelling the parties in a knee-jerk reaction to produce a code, more for consumption by the international community, notwithstanding how suboptimal the document may be.

The latter “reactive” scenario is a plausible one.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Talks about the code started only after a major incident happened in the Mischief Reef back in the 1990s, despite the fact that prior to the event there had been disturbing actions undertaken by the claimants and that Asean and China did not conclude that a code was in fact necessary. But as reactive it may be, ultimately having a code serves the interest of both Asean and China. For the regional bloc, the code could be held up as a shining example of the continued relevance of Asean in the regional security architecture. Beijing would also want the code to justify its rejection of external interference in South China Sea disputes.

All parties converge essentially on one common objective, which is to demonstrate to the international community that they could, on their own accord, manage, if not settle, South China Sea disputes. However, there is no way to exclude parties outside the region from operating in the South China Sea, given that this semi-enclosed maritime domain serves some of the most critical arteries for global economic well-being. Ensuring good order in the waters of the South China Sea is not just the responsibility of surrounding governments, but the international community writ large.

Given this reality, it becomes questionable whether the code could be effective if signatories to any document decide not to desist from responding to actions undertaken by those non-signatory parties outside the region.

Image may contain: airplane and sky

It is difficult to envisage that the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations would cease because of the code, or that other players such as Australia, India and Japan would not engage in their usual naval outreaches to the region, engaging their Southeast Asian partners in bolstering maritime security ties. In such a context, any of the South China Sea claimants could choose to undertake measures in the name of “self defence”, including further sprucing up existing infrastructure, even if no additional land reclamation is carried out.

No automatic alt text available.

China’s miitary bases near the Philippines

All such activities could be arbitrarily deemed “provocative” by any of the parties and other stakeholders in the South China Sea. Such a problem could be anticipated in deeper discussions on the code. The devil lies in the definition of militarisation, besides other pertinent issues related to whether the code should be binding (legally or otherwise), the geographical scope of coverage and also the prospect of opening the code for participation by other countries, which is likely to encounter significant differences between the negotiating parties.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Given the commitment to the process, all parties should aim to take as long as required to iron out differences over these issues, as well as anticipated problems related to compliance, verification and enforcement, to produce a truly effective code to every party’s satisfaction. Failing that, if for political expediency the code is rushed for promulgation, a suboptimal document will be all that remains, further undermining the common objective of demonstrating the ability of Asean and China to effectively manage maritime disputes.

Swee Lean Collin Koh is a research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore


See also:

How South China Sea is fast turning into Beijing’s military outpost



No automatic alt text available.

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 Navy probes alleged drug use by sailors in Japan

February 10, 2018


© AFP/File | The US Navy is investigating sailors at Yokosuka base for alleged drug use, reportedly including some serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan


The US Navy said Saturday it was probing sailors at a base in Japan over alleged drug use and vowed no tolerance for any misconduct.

“Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is investigating Yokosuka-based sailors for alleged drug use and distribution,” the 7th Fleet said, referring to its home base southwest of Tokyo.

“The Navy has zero tolerance for drug abuse and takes all allegations involving misconduct of our sailors, navy civilians and family members very seriously,” it said in a comment emailed to AFP.

It added the allegations were still under investigation and would not comment further.

The response came after the Wall Street Journal reported that at least a dozen sailors were being investigated on suspicion of buying, selling and using LSD, ecstasy and other drugs.

Some of them were serving aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier whose home port is Yokosuka, the journal quoted navy officials as saying Friday.

The navy was also probing whether US sailors were using the internet to buy or sell drugs or were distributing them to local Japanese residents, it said.

The drug allegations come at a time when Japan is touting its security alliance with the United States to counter missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

The 7th Fleet has also been hit by a string of accidents in the last year.

In August, the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker off Singapore, killing 10 sailors and injuring five others.

Two months earlier in June, another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, and a cargo ship smashed into each other off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead.

Japan bolsters maritime defense in southern territory

February 8, 2018

Foreign journalists pose in front of a Japanese coast guard vessel docked at the Ishigaki port in Okinawa, Japan. The JCG committed 16 of this 1,500-ton ship to secure its southern front and other areas in the East China Sea. Jaime Laude

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) – February 9, 2018 – 12:01am

ISHIGAKI Island, Okinawa — Learning from the Philippine experience with China in the South China Sea,  Japan has started bolstering its maritime defenses in this southernmost maritime territory.

Yoshitaka Nakayama, mayor of this island city whose territorial and maritime jurisdictions cover the Senkaku group of islands currently being claimed by China, said they don’t want the Spratly experience repeated in Japan.

“The Spratly experience is a learning experience for us,” said Nakayama, whose mayoralty post will be put to test in elections set two weeks from now.

Since the collision of a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese Coast Guard vessel in Senkaku, the JCG are now regularly patrolling the area.

Aside from the newly operational, five-billion yen coast guard port facilities with 15 huge vessels, discussions are underway for the deployment of Japan Self Defense Force.

At present no military personnel are deployed on the island, except for police and coast guard personnel.

Nakayama said talks are ongoing for the deployment of air-to-surface and air-to-ship missiles in this island fast becoming a tourist site for Japanese and other nationals.

Nakayama said he would respect the decision of the central government to deploy land-based forces in the island city and listen to the decision of a majority of his constituents.

Residents on the island, who are mostly engaged in fishing and surgarcane farming, are divided over plans to deploy land-based troops and They said they don’t want to be the first target of an attack should war break out either between China and Japan or Japan against North Korea.

Aside from maritime security concerns with China, Japan is also dealing with a threat of missile attack from North Korea.

Philippine foreign policy 

Meanwhile, the Philippines is gradually benefiting in terms of economic development from President Duterte’s independent foreign policy, a Tokyo-based think tank said.

Kunihiko Miyake, research director of a private funded organization Cannon Institute for Global Studies, said that aside from the Philippines’ allies from the West, Duterte’s strategy is working and is doing good for the country.

Special case to this, he said, is Duterte’s cozying up with China, which is not only  an emerging military power in the region but also an economic giant around the globe.

“His strategy is correct. Getting as much support and assistance from China while massaging the back of the US and Japan,” Miyake said, referring to Duterte.

This shift in foreign policy, has brought huge amount of foreign investments to the Philippines in terms of infrastructure development to spur economic growth.

With highly improved relations, China committed to finance at least three infrastructure projects in the Philippines worth $3.4 billion, which could be rolled out in the first half of this year, the Japan Times reported last year.

The projects were part of the Philippines’ infrastructure wish list presented to China for possible financing, either through grants or loans, three months after Duterte visited China in October 2016.

These projects cover loan agreements on building irrigation, water supply and railways in Luzon and Mindanao.

Last year, Japan pledged to provide close to P60 billion in loans to help the Philippines fund three key infrastructure and development projects, including the construction of a subway system in Metro Manila.

All these projects are aimed at upgrading and modernizing the Philippines’ aging infrastructure to  lift its growth rate to as much as eight percent, create more jobs and reduce poverty.

The Philippines’ highly improved foreign relations with China are timely because Beijing has so much money to spend as a result of its unprecedented economic rise, according to other Japan policy experts said.

But Miyake warned that this economic phenomenon being enjoyed by Beijing would not last forever.

He compared China to a poor, grown-up boy who suddenly acquired massive wealth and doesn’t know how to handle and manage his assets.

“China wants to control everything,” Miyake said in reference to Beijing’ flexing economic and military muscle not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

But there has to be an on end to this, Miyake said, pointing  out that no power in the history of mankind lasts forever.

He said sooner or later, Beijing would feel the economic crunch and that this early, it should reshape its strategy. He projected this to happen in a couple of years.

“All (highly developed) countries experienced this and by 2020, Beijing will  start experiencing this also,” Miyake said.

He said global order would eventually prevail and have a direct bearing on China, noting that Beijing committed a grave mistake when it rejected a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration of the United Nations that invalidated its maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China jets on cruise mission

China has sent jet fighters to the South China Sea for joint combat cruise missions, according to a report published in a Chinese newspaper.

The Global Times quoted an announcement by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force on Wednesday that the Su-35 Russian-made advanced fighters were dispatched to the South China Sea, which a retired major general said could be a reaction to provocation by the United States in January.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

The PLA Air Force said on its official Weibo social media account that this is a pragmatic action for the air force to fulfill its mission in the new era and conduct a combat training military exercise.

US destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 miles of the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the South China Sea under what the US Navy referred to as a freedom of navigation operation.

Hopper sailed near the island on Jan. 17 as part of its Western Pacific deployment.

China’s foreign ministry protested the move, saying the destroyer sailed near Huangyan Dao, as the shoal is called in China, without permission from the Chinese government.

The report said the Su-35 is a multirole fighter aircraft that can attack targets on the ground and sea. The fighter can significantly improve the combat capability of the air force overseas.– With Pia Lee-Brago


China’s aircraft carrier conundrum: hi-tech launch system for old, heavy fighter jets

November 20, 2017

PLA Navy’s J-15s, based on a Soviet design more than 30 years old, are world’s heaviest carrier-based fighters

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 9:07pm

China’s second home-grown aircraft carrier could be a world-class warship if it uses a domestically developed hi-tech launch system, but the hefty fighter jets it would have to launch remain a fly in the ointment for the country’s naval power aspirations.

While Beijing is narrowing the aircraft carrier technology gap with the United States, the country’s carrier programme is still hindered by the capabilities of its carrier-based warplanes.

China spent more than a decade developing its first carrier-based fighter, the J-15, based on a prototype of a fourth-generation Russian Sukhoi Su-33 twin-engined air superiority fighter – a design that is now more than 30 years old.

The J-15, with a maximum take-off weight of 33 tonnes, is the heaviest active carrier-based fighter jet in the world but the sole carrier-based fighter in the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Its weight is one of the key reasons military leaders have pushed for the use of an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) on China’s third carrier, construction of which is expected to start next year, rather than steam-powered catapults, a military source told the South China Morning Post.

 The PLA Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning arrives in Hong Kong waters in July. Photo: AFP

“The maximum take-off weight of the J-15 fighter is 33 tonnes and experiments found that even the US Navy’s new generation C13-2 steam catapult launch engines, installed on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, would struggle to launch the aircraft efficiently,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.

The US Navy also relied on a heavy carrier-based fighter in the past, the 33.7 tonne F-14 Tomcat. But they were replaced by the lighter F-18 Super Hornet in 2006 after 32 years of service. The maximum take-off weight of an F-18 Super Hornet is 29.9 tonnes according to the website of manufacturer Boeing.

All carrier-based aircraft need to jettison their munitions and burn off their fuel before landing on a carrier to reduce runway damage and the risk of a fire or explosion. The empty weight of the F-18 is 14.5 tonnes, three tonnes less than the J-15, which means the J-15 causes more damage to a carrier runway when it lands.

“If China insisted on using steam-powered catapults to launch the J-15, it would look like forcing a toddler to run with [Chinese hurdler] Liu Xiang and [Jamaican sprinter] Usain Bolt,” the source said. “That would be so embarrassing!

“EMALS’ experimental results showed the new technology is able to catapult the J-15 fighter more easily and more efficiently. In the short-run, it’s impossible for China to produce lightweight fighters, so why not take the better route and use EMALS directly?”

 J-15 fighter jets on the deck of the PLA Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning during military drills in the Bohai Sea, off China’s northeast coast, in December last year. Photo: AFP

The source said China was confident about its EMALS technology now that it was able to produce its own insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) chips, a key component of the high-efficiency electric energy conversion systems used in variable-speed drives, trains, electric and hybrid electric vehicles, power grids and renewable energy plants.

The technology was developed by China’s first semiconductor manufacturer, Hunan-based Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric, and British subsidiary Dynex Semiconductor after the Chinese company acquired 75 per cent of Dynex’s shares in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

An integrated propulsion system, a technological breakthrough developed by top PLA Navy engineer Rear Admiral Ma Weiming and his team, will enable China’s second home-grown aircraft carrier to use the world’s most advanced launch system for its fighter jets without having to resort to nuclear power.

An aircraft carrier uses a lot of electric power for take-offs and landings and the integrated propulsion system will be able to provide it. Ma has said experimental results showed the system could result in fuel savings of up to 40 per cent for an aircraft carrier.

EMALS, with a higher launch energy capacity, will also be more efficient than steam-powered catapults, allowing for improvements in system maintenance, increased reliability, and more accurate end-speed control and smoother acceleration.

In an interview with China Central Television broadcast on November 3, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Equipment Research Centre, said China had done “hundreds of [land-based] tests” using EMALS with J-15 fighters in the past few years.

Yin’s comments indicate China might now have mature and reliable EMALS technology. But they also revealed an embarrassing fact: the next generation Chinese aircraft carrier, equipped with a US-style catapult launch system, will still be launching outdated fighter jets.

The US and the former Soviet Union had different combat strategies in mind when they designed their aircraft carriers. For the US Navy, carrier-based fighters were the key weapons of a carrier battle group, while the Soviets opted to add different types of missile launchers and warplanes and relied on an inefficient ski-jump launch ramp.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and its sister warship, the 001A, which was launched in April, both have runways featuring ski-jump ramps, which limit them to launching one fighter jet at a time. The catapults used on US carries can launch up to four aircraft simultaneously.

“There are limits to China’s J-15 as it was developed based on the Su-33, which was designed for the former Soviet navy’s Kuznetsov-class carrier, the predecessor of the Liaoning,” another source close to the PLA Navy said.

The Liaoning, then an unfinished Kuznetsov-class carrier known as the Varyag, was bought by Hong Kong-based businessman Xu Zengping, a PLA Navy proxy, from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998.

 China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is launched at a shipyard in the northeastern port city of Dalian on April 26. Photo: Kyodo

China has been trying to develop a new generation carrier-based fighter, the FC-31, with a maximum take-off weight of 28 tonnes, to replace the J-15, and put J-15 chief designer Sun Cong in charge of the project.

Pictures posted on mainland military websites show that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the manufacturer of the J-15, has produced two FC-31 prototypes, with one debuting at the Zhuhai air show in 2014.

However, the two military sources said, the development of the FC-31 had not proceeded smoothly and it had failed to meet the PLA Navy’s requirements, with the key obstacle being what one described as “heart disease”.

“China is still incapable of developing an engine for the FC-31 fighter,” the first source said. “The FC-31 has needed to be equipped with Russian RD-93 engines for test flights.”

The second source said the FC-31’s failure to meet the PLA Navy’s basic requirements for a new generation fighter meant “that in the next two decades, the J-15 will still be the key carrier-based fighter on China’s aircraft carriers”.

Above: A U.S. Navy F/A-18 is launched from an aircraft carrier

Trump heads to Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage

October 3, 2017

By Jill Colvin

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is heading to San Juan on Tuesday to meet with some of the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, as criticism that the federal government’s response has been sluggish continues.

The president is expected to spend more than five hours on the island, meeting with first responders, local officials and some of the residents struggling to recover from a hurricane that, in Trump’s words, left the island U.S. territory “flattened.”

“There’s nothing left. It’s been wiped out,” Trump said last week. “Nobody has ever seen anything like it.”

Image result for Puerto Rico, hurricane maria, photos

The trip will be Trump’s fourth to a region battered by storms during an unusually violent hurricane season that has also seen parts of Texas, Florida, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands inundated by floodwaters and whipped by winds.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to attend briefings, visit a church, and meet with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, as well as the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’ll also meet with Navy and Marine Corps personnel on the flight Deck of the USS Kearsarge.

Image result for USS Kearsarge, near puerto rico, photos

USS Kearsarge

Even before the storm hit on Sept. 20, Puerto Rico was in dire condition thanks to a decade-long economic recession that had left its infrastructure, including the island’s power lines, in a sorry state. Maria was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century and unleashed floods and mudslides that knocked out the island’s entire electrical grid and telecommunications, along with many roads.

Nearly two weeks later, 95 percent of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals. And much of the countryside is still struggling to access basic necessities, including food, fresh water and cash.

Trump and other administration officials have worked in recent days to reassure Americans that recovery efforts are going well and combat the perception that the president failed to fully grasp the magnitude of the storm’s destruction in its immediate aftermath.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday the trip would focus on local recovery efforts, “which we’re fully committed to.”

“The top priority for the federal government is certainly to protect the lives and the safety of those in affected areas and provide life-sustaining services as we work together to rebuild their lives,” she said.

While early response efforts were hampered by logistical challenges, officials say that conditions, especially in the capital, have improved.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are now more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground on the island, and forty-five percent of customers now have access to drinking water. Businesses are also beginning to re-open, with 60 percent of retail gas stations now up and running.

For many, however, that isn’t enough. On Monday, the nonprofit Oxfam announced that it would be taking the rare step of intervening in an American disaster, citing its outrage over what it called a “slow and inadequate response.”


Follow Colvin on Twitter at

Image result for Puerto Rico, hurricane maria, photos

The U.S. Navy is staffed by humans

August 26, 2017

By Ravi Velloor
The Straits Times

Four days after the USS John S. McCain suffered major damage in a collision while on approach to Singapore, questions swirl about the manner of the accident, and its reasons.

That it should have come so soon after a sister vessel the USS Fitzgerald suffered a similar accident while leaving a Japanese port, has raised a bunch of troubling questions.

As they say, the first time may be an accident and the second coincidence, but three becomes a pattern.

In the US Navy’s case – or more specifically, the 7th Fleet’s case – there have been not three, but four costly mishaps just this year.

Two other ships currently deployed to the Asia-Pacific, the USS Antietam that ran aground in Tokyo Bay and the USS Lake Champlain that struck a South Korean fishing boat, suffered damage this year.

That certainly makes for a pattern. With a US warship calling in Singapore every three days or so, there is every reason for the Republic to take more than a little interest in what’s going on.

Naturally, conspiracy theories abound.

One line of thinking is that hackers may have corrupted the massive computer systems of the John S. McCain and perhaps, other vessels.

In the case of the John S. McCain, that does not seem the case. Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific fleet, seems to have ruled out a cyber attack in near categorical terms.

Adm Swift should know, of course, but George Kurtz, former head of technology at MacAfee who now owns CrowdStrike, one of the world’s top cyber security companies, had a more nuanced view.

Image may contain: outdoor

USS John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side, which is the left side of the vessel facing forward. Photo was taken off Changi Naval Base on Aug 21, 2017. ST PHOTO: ​DESMOND FOO


While declining to speculate, he told me that any assessment of an incident of this nature would necessarily have to be placed in a geo-political context.

In the John S. McCain’s case, it had just completed a Freedom of Navigation Operation, or FONOP, in the South China Sea where it was repeatedly warned by Chinese vessels.

The current chatter in cyber security circles, he said, is that while the McCain’s computers may not have been compromised, it is probably worth examining if anyone could have tinkered with the GPS system to send her, or the other vessel, off course by a few hundred metres.

It is an interesting theory and not the first time it has come up for mention.

In the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan is sent off by MI-6 on precisely such a mission: to block a power-mad media tycoon’s attempt to start the next world war by engineering an incident at sea. In that instance, a British man of war is diverted into the hands of what appears to be Chinese military, sparking fury in Whitehall.

While nothing can be ruled out these days, the likely explanation could be more mundane and hark back to the essence of the craft – the quality of seamanship.

All major navies of the world do suffer accidents. It is estimated that since World War II, the major navies would have together recorded at least 1,400 mishaps.

Closer home, in early 2014, the Indian Navy chief, Admiral DK Joshi, quit after a series of accidents involving his force. The costliest of those mishaps was the loss of a docked Kilo class submarine that sank after an explosion on board while loading missiles for a mission.

At the time, poor observance of protocols was cited as the reason. The larger pattern was one of falling standards, poor equipment, and inadequate training.

But the United States is considered the gold standard of the navy game. It has the best technology, whether for the turbines that provide the power below deck, or in the missiles and radars stacked above. Its warships are designed for far greater crew comfort, than, say, a comparable Russian craft. And it is the rare naval officer in the world who has not read up on the life and times of Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy, or wished to be like him.

Yet, the US Navy too is staffed by humans. And there is little doubt that its personnel have been under strain and its resources stretched.

The US Congress was recently informed that about 100 ships have been deployed every day since 2001, the year the US suffered the 9/11 attacks. Since its current strength is 277 vessels that makes for a massive utilisation ratio. This, naturally, tells on maintenance, crew rest and training.

While President Donald Trump has said he wants to take the navy to 350 ships, that is a long way away.

In the immediate future, the pressure on its resources will only grow since many ships are due to have completed their normal use cycle and come due for retirement, or scrapping.



China says it is getting “way ahead” of U.S. in silent submarine technology

July 6, 2017

Top naval engineer says new propulsion system will put PLA Navy ‘way ahead’ of US

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 9:09pm

The US Navy’s Pacific fleet used to mock Chinese submarines for being too noisy and too easy to detect, but that has largely been remedied in recent years and China is now on the cusp of taking the lead in a cutting-edge propulsion technology.

Naval experts said the new technology would help China build more elusive submarines, but might also prompt the United States to ramp up anti-submarine warfare measures.

In a recent interview with China Central Television, Rear Admiral Ma Weiming, a leading Chinese naval engineer, showed a component of a new Integrated Electrical Propulsion System (IEPS) for naval warships in a laboratory. He said the system, which turns all the engine’s output into electricity, and a rim-driven pump-jet had been fitted to the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s newest nuclear submarines.

“This is one of our work team’s first world-leading projects, which has been used on [China’s] next-generation nuclear submarines,” Ma said in May. “[Our technology] is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”

Ma’s exalted status in the PLA Navy was highlighted by a photograph of then navy commander Admiral Wu Shengli holding an umbrella for Ma during an inspection of the PLA Naval University of Engineering in Wuhan, where Ma works, on a rainy day in June last year. The photo, posted on the social media website of the PLA’s Navy Magazine, sparked public curiosity about why the commander would give such “preferential treatment” to a rear admiral.

 Rear Admiral Ma Weiming talks to China Central Television last month. Photo: CCTV

Ma told CCTV “the ultimate goal” of developing the new propulsion system “was aimed at solving the problem of deploying high-energy radio-frequency (HERF) weapons on board”, hinting that China was close to emulating the US in that regard.

HERF, a form of directed-energy weapon, can fire highly focused energy at a target, damaging it accurately and quickly. Directed-energy weapons require vast amount of electricity – something IEPS can deliver – and can counter the threats posed by fast missiles such as ballistic missiles, hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. Besides China, the US, Russia and India are also developing them.

The CCTV report did not say which types of Chinese submarines would use the pump-jet propulsion system, but mainland military websites said they believed Ma had hinted at the new-generation, nuclear-powered Type 095 attack submarines and Type 096 ballistic missile submarines.

Collin Koh Swee Lean, a submarine expert from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said Ma’s remark showcased the growing scientific and technological maturity of China’s submarine development.

“In the long term, if the pump-jet propulsion is declared fully operational and tested successfully … future [Chinese] submarines would be equipped with pump-jet propulsion as a standard design feature,” he said, adding that the new technology would also benefit other naval shipbuilding projects, such as surface warships.

“The operational/strategic ramifications would be that China would muster stealthier submarines … and this essentially broadens various options for Beijing where it comes to the peacetime use of its naval capabilities.”

 A rim-driven pump-jet . Photo: Handout

A rim-driven pump-jet has a ring-shaped electrical motor inside the pump-jet shroud, which turns the vane rotor inside the pump-jet cavity to create thrust. The design reduces noise by removing the shaft and also creates fewer water bubbles, making it even quieter.

Modern American and British submarines already use pump-jet propulsion, but Koh said the technology had not been adopted more widely because its design was complex, and just a few countries could support the technology with “a good deal of funding and technical expertise”.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said China had put a lot of resources and encouragement into developing cutting-edge technologies, including the pump-jet, air-independent propulsion (AIP) for non-nuclear submarines and other measures as part of its efforts to make Chinese submarines stealthier.

“Both the ultra-quiet engine and AIP will help Chinese subs to elude foes as high concealment is very important to all nuclear attack subs,” Li said. “Quieter subs means stronger stealth capability, which will help them to conduct surprise attacks when necessary.”

China has built Asia’s largest submarine base at Yulin, on the south coast of Hainan, near Sanya. The base features underground submarine facilities with tunnel access, shielding Chinese submarines that enter the South China Sea from the prying eyes of US reconnaissance satellites. That’s prompted American warships and aircraft to conduct more close surveillance operations in the disputed waters, which are claimed wholly or in part by mainland China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Koh warned it was foreseeable that the US Navy would ramp up anti-submarine warfare measures to detect, classify and track Chinese submarines if they were harder to detect after being fitted with pump-jet propulsion and other stealth equipment.

 An artist’s impression of China’s Type 095 nuclear-powered attack submarine. Photo: Handout

“This more intensified cat-and-mouse game would also result in the risk of underwater accidents … between submarines or with surface ships,” he said. “The quieter the submarine is, the greater the likelihood of such navigational safety hazards and, potentially, they could cause diplomatic incidents in the context of those maritime disputes and of course, the persistent Sino-US divergence in views over foreign military activities in coastal states’ exclusive economic zones. ”

The Chinese navy is likely to begin construction of the Type 096 submarines, which will be armed with 24 JL-3 intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missiles, in the early 2020s, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress this year.

Ma, 57, became a household name in 2011 when he announced during a speech to accept a national technology award that his team had successfully developed a Chinese electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS).

Ma, a PLA deputy to the National People’s Congress, has since been asked by the media at the annual sessions of the national legislature when his EMALS will be fitted to China’s next-generation aircraft carriers.

“I am very unhappy because I have no power to decide when my EMALS will be used,” a frank Ma told reporters on the sidelines of this year’s NPC session in Beijing in March. “But I dare to tell you that the EMALS developed by my working team is more advanced and reliable than the US system to be used on their Ford-class aircraft carrier.”

 A steam catapult track (top) sits next to an EMALS catapult track at the Huangdicun Airbase in Liaoning in October last year. (2016) Photo: Handout

The first of America’s Ford-class carriers, the first US vessel to use EMALS, completed sea trials in May.

Sources close to the navy told the South China Morning Post earlier this year that Ma’s EMALS might be fitted on China’s third-generation nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Type 003. However, the Central Military Commission, chaired by Xi, has not decided when the Type 003 will be built, and construction work has not yet started on the second-generation Type 002.

The PLA Navy has two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet carrier commissioned in 2012, and the domestically built Type 001A, which was launched on April 26. They are both conventionally powered platforms featuring ski-jump take-off ramps.

Xi has urged the PLA to pursue a “strong army dream”, but when asked by the Postwhether he hoped to see his EMALS fitted to a Chinese aircraft carrier one day, Ma said he “never has any dreams” and was focused on finding practical projects for his team that would release its potential.

“Whether the new technologies will be used never bothers me, because I’ve found that my task is to cultivate talent, meaning I have to create more opportunities for them and help them solve problems,” Ma said.

“For example, compared with the US, China couldn’t devote as much funding to developing the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and advanced arresting gear (AAG) system, but I understood that our valuable resource was that I could mobilise my hundreds of talented students.”


Amid China’s South China Sea Construction, President Duterte has been a passive observer

June 30, 2017
Faced with China’s version of “build, build, build” in the South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte is keeping his “non-combative” stance in dealing with Beijing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. PPD/Robinson Niñal, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Faced with China’s version of “build, build, build” in the South China Sea, President Duterte is keeping his “non-combative” stance in dealing with Beijing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

“We need to reiterate the fact that the President has said – his approach to the situation, to regional geopolitics has always been to come into a mutual understanding and dialogue in order to resolve cases like these,” Abella said during the “Mindanao Hour” program held in Davao City.

While the government would rather leave the matter to the Department of National Defense and Department of Foreign Affairs, Abella stressed that Duterte has made his position clear on the issue – to be “non-adversarial” and opt for “peaceful dialogue.”

“We need to just go back to the fact that the President at this stage has been non-combative and non-adversarial, but has approached regional geopolitics from the point of view of dialogue and mutual understanding and mutual support,” Abella said.

He was reacting to a report of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative – part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies – that new missile shelters and radar and communication facilities were being built on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief) and Zamora (Subi) reefs in the Spratlys.

The report said the ongoing installation of a very large antenna array on Panganiban should be of concern to the Philippines due to its proximity to an area claimed by Manila.

The facility would certainly boost Beijing’s ability to monitor the surroundings, the report said.

Duterte began cozying up to China right after assuming the presidency last year, purportedly as part of his pivot to China and “separation” from the US, which has been critical of his bloody war on drugs.

He also described his warming of relations with Beijing as a step toward an independent foreign policy.

On Wednesday, Duterte witnessed the turnover by Beijing of a military package worth about P500 million delivered by cargo aircraft at Clark Freeport.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua also donated P5 million in assistance for families of soldiers killed or injured in the government’s fight against the Maute group in Marawi City. Beijing also donated P15 million to help in the rebuilding of the war-torn city.


 (Includes links to several related articles)

No automatic alt text available.

The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.

China builds military facilities in Spratlys — Ignoring international law

June 30, 2017
China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a US think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway. File

WASHINGTON – China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a US think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said new satellite images show missile shelters and radar and communications facilities being built on the Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Mischief (Panganiban) and Subi (Zamora) reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The report said the building of a large antennae array on Mischief should be of concern to the Philippines. Last year, the United Nations-backed Permanent Arbitration Court had awarded the Philippines sovereign rights over Mischief off Palawan, which the Chinese began occupying in 1993.

The US has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea, an important trade route.

Last month, a US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in a so-called freedom of navigation operation, the first such challenge to Beijing’s claim to most of the waterway since US President Donald Trump took office.

China has denied US charges that it is militarizing the sea, which also is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Trump has sought China’s help in reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate those efforts.

China has built four new missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef to go with the eight already on the artificial island, AMTI said. Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, the think tank said in a previous report.

In February, Reuters reported that China had nearly finished building structures to house long-range surface-to-air missiles on the three islands.

On Mischief Reef, a very large antennae array being installed would presumably boost Beijing’s ability to monitor the surroundings, the think tank said.

A large dome recently was installed on Fiery Cross and another is under construction, indicating a sizeable communications or radar system, AMTI said. Two more domes are being built at Mischief Reef, it said.

A smaller dome has been installed near the missile shelters on Mischief, “indicating that it could be connected to radars for any missile systems that might be housed there,” AMTI said.

“Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time,” it said.

‘Golden period’

In Manila, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s visit to Beijing is timely as relations between China and the Philippines have entered a “golden period of fast development.”

He said the two countries have signed 22 cooperative agreements in less than six months and China has become the Philippines’ biggest trading partner for the first time.

“The agenda is very clear, for the enhancement of relations between China and the Philippines,” Zhao said of Cayetano’s meeting with Chinese officials.

Cayetano, who left for a four-day official visit to China last Wednesday, has met Chinese leaders, including Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, according to Zhao.

“I think Secretary Cayetano is doing a very good job and the Chinese side attach great importance to his first official visit to China in his capacity as secretary of foreign affairs,” the ambassador said.

“He has very good conversations with his counterpart Wang Yi,” he said.

Zhao said the South China Sea issue would likely be tackled during Cayetano’s meeting with Chinese leaders.

“I think this will be one of the topics. You know China and the Philippines have already established bilateral channel between the two ministries of foreign affairs to talk about the South China Sea and related issues, and that China has already been open and we would hope that it would be friendly and candid exchange of views through that bilateral channel,” he pointed out.

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

Despite the legal victory, Duterte has chosen to put the ruling on the back burner, saying he would revisit it later in his term.

The arbitral tribunal’s decision came three years after the previous Aquino administration turned to the court for help to assert the country’s jurisdiction over land features in the West Philippine Sea coveted or already seized by China.

Beijing has vowed not to honor the ruling.  – Reuters

The world is seeing, today, a lesson in how China honors international agreements —  in Hong Kong:


 (Includes links to several related articles)

No automatic alt text available.

The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.