All posts in “Maritime Strategy”

A Guest Post: The 2014 Current Strategy Forum – ‘Where’s The Beef?’

We have a problem, it seems, developing a naval Strategy for the new century.  Long after the Cold War had supposedly ended (well, we thought it was over – events in Russia’s ‘Near Beyond’ may argue a different outcome) we were still using a variation of Forward…From the Sea and thinking from the E-ring Navy leadership offices was ‘Strategy?  I have a strategy – it’s Sea Power 21!’ – which was more an organizing construct than a strategy, and revealed a bankruptcy in strategic thinking amongst navy’s leaders.  The current Maritime Strategy was released in 2007 – and rather than re-hash ground previously covered, we would instead point you to the discussion that took place at the time under the Maritime Strategy category.  Additionally, Peter Swartz has published The authoritative work on the Navy’s Strategies which may be downloaded here and perused at the reader’s leisure.  

The problem we have is two-fold — on the one hand, there appears to be a continued diminishing pool of active duty officers who are given to the rigors of strategic thought (viz. LCDR B.J. Armstrong and his recent publication “A Twenty-First Century Mahan”  or a modern iteration of Peter to craft a new strategy.  Instead it is outsourced with predictable (by reports) results – formulaic, uninspired and destined for the dusty corner of the bookshelf.  Not at all like the Maritime Strategy that drove the navy in the 80’s to challenge the Soviets on the high seas and carried the fight to the bear’s lair.  No – today we can’t even openly discuss it for fear of getting a certain Asian power’s drawers in a knot.  Which brings us to the second issue — at the recent Current Strategy forum hosted by the Naval War College, CNO made great stagecraft at rolling up his sleeves and saying he wanted to get down and dirty and talk strategy.  Except he didn’t.  By all accounts the discussion was – desultory (look it up).  The refresh of CS21 wasn’t offered up for discussion – instead held for a small, selective group of senior officers who evidently had more interest in the marketing than the beef.  Which brings us to today’s guest author who is a carrier aviator and student at the Naval War College. He does not believe Navy leadership fosters an environment such that junior and mid-grade officers can write critically, yet respectfully of their seniors and has, well, a beef with how the Current Strategy forum went down.  His post follows – read, contemplate and then start banging the drums of advocacy.  To quote my fellow scribe and blogger at arms CDR Salamander  – ‘The CNO has asked for a “crowd sourced” discussion. I don’t think he is using that phrase right, but I know what he means. Well, I think he is going to get it.’  w/r, SJS

UPDATE (9 July): BJ weighs in from the top ropes re. the “refreshed” Maritime Strategy over at USNI blog.  A must read.

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It’s been thirty years since Clara Peller uttered the now well-known phrase “Where’s the beef?” Having just attended the Naval War College’s Current Strategy Forum, I’m left asking the same question. What was touted as an opportunity for the CNO to roll out his updated version of Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power (CS21) came and went with many asking another question: Did I miss something?

Admiral Greenert delivered an engaging and upbeat message addressing the importance of an “all hands on deck” effort to review and reexamine CS21. Suggesting that nobody has been seriously thinking about maritime strategy for the past few years, CNO took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and announced that now is the time to get down to work. Unfortunately, getting down to work will prove difficult, because ADM Greenert chose not to share any of his CS21 updates with the hundreds of mid-grade and senior officers in attendance. Perhaps in keeping with his statement, “if you talk about it openly, you cross the line and unnecessarily antagonize,” he instead chose to assemble a small group of hand-selected officers for a late afternoon roundtable discussion. An attendee described the focus group as a perfunctory “check in the block” where the only topic discussed was the PowerPoint outline of what the strategy brief might look like – not the actual strategy.

Admiral Greenert kicked off the symposium by stating, “Everyone – from junior, mid, and senior officers, to scholars, civilians, and retirees – owns a piece of this [strategy].” The problem is that not “everyone” was provided the requisite material to get to work. Why?Is it so heavily classified that it could not be discussed in an open forum? If that is the case, it would stand in stark contrast from previous strategies. Further, if our governing maritime strategy is too sensitive to discuss openly, is it really focused at the strategic level, or have we again mistaken tactics for strategy? Has the CNO grown self conscious of, or as he stated, overly concerned with unnecessarily antagonizing the Chinese? If that is the case, the CNO might have been wise to cancel the entire Current Strategy Forum, since while much of what was discussed during the two-day symposium was enlightening, the overwhelming theme was one of PRC/US alarmism. Does the CNO not really desire an open, “crowd-sourced” discussion (as he suggested)? If that is true, one must ask why he went to such lengths imploring the audience to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Or, is it the case that there are no appreciable changes to the Navy’s grand maritime strategy, and that this version so closely mirrors each previous edition as to be indistinguishable from them, save for new platforms (read: LC$ and J$F procurement). This seems to be the most likely answer. After all, maritime strategy (and military strategy writ large) hasn’t actually been about strategy in a long time.

This bit of the tail wagging the dog is particularly concerning as we sail towards a horizon clouded with fiscal uncertainty. Previous versions of CS21 told us what we were expected to accomplish and to what effect, but came up short of explaining how, and certainly didn’t have an eye toward sequestration. The 2014 rebranding gave the CNO an opportunity to provide an increasingly skeptical Congress (as well as the country in general) reasonably specific objectives and justifications for the funding he’s requested, without trespassing the line of “unnecessarily antagonizing” the Chinese. In choosing to punt, the CNO leaves the door open for us to wonder whether we need LCS and JSF to execute our strategy, or if we’re writing a strategy to justify LCS and JSF.

 

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“Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This is Not A Drill.” *

* Telegraph from Patrol Wing Two Headquarters warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

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Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

(More)

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Strategic Communications and the Senkaku Islands

So – a very good discussion on Midrats yesterday that included a look at China’s maritime claims in the ECS/SCS and regional responses – which of late have seen a ratcheting up of forces in the area.  In the wake of that discussion, I came across the illustration below:   
J31
 
of a cover for a magazine highlighting the J-31 light(er) weight stealth fighter prototype. Now, one expects prototypes to be posed in a variety of action settings that provide at tleast the illusion of capabiltiy. But there was something else (well two actually) that caught my eye.  The first (circled) is the presence of the Liaoning, the PLA Navy’s first carrier.  China was very careful to emphasize to other nations in the region that the mission of the CV was directed towards training and exploring flight operations at sea – in a purely “defensive” manner.  Recently that mask has slipped a bit as senior officials allowed as how it might have a more prominent combat role.

But there was something else — the islands in the background seemed familiar and of course, voila:

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Behold the Senkaku islands - the locus of heightened activity between the militaries and civilian maritime administration fleets of China and Japan (among others).  Nothing like including a pretty clear image of territory under dipute  and defended by your new carrier and stealth fighter/bomber (incidently, launching an ASCM — looks like a C704) to signal intent now is there? Reminds me of something similar a few years back… oh yeah:

New Picture (5)

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Everything Old is New Again*

* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace The Bad Old Days

Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails
And movie stars you thought were alone then
Now are framed beside your bed

Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again

- Peter Allen, ‘Everything Old is New Again

There was a point, a decade or so ago (OK, maybe two decades back), when I thought some of my bete noirs, like medium- and intermediate range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missile-armed supersonic bombers were going to go skulking off into that not-so-gentle night.  Alas, it appears not so:

A move by Russia to sell its production line of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers to China for US$1.5 billion to China was confirmed by the US-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission two years ago and the bomber’s name will be changed to the Hong-10, reports the state-run China News Service  … The Hong-10, whose components will all be produced in China with the exception of the engine, is expected to fly in the second half of next year, and the country will produce 36 aircraft in the first batch to be delivered to the air force. One of world’s fastest long-range bombers which can also carry atomic weapons, the plane can cover the South China Sea, East China Sea and even the western Pacific.  Sources here and here.

So now, along with pondering MRBMs that may be the Pershing II re-incarnated, alongside bulked up Badgers, we have the prospect of the Backfire being introduced into the increasingly volatile mix that constitutes the Far East Theater.  Mah-velous.  Previously rebuffed in the late 80’s/early 90’s by the Russians who didn’t want to upset the balance of forces in theater, the Chinese evidently closed the deal in 2010 to domestically produce up to 36 Tu-22M3 Backfires (Domestic designation: H-10) with the engines to be supplied by Russia – an agreement all the more curious because of the very real anger the Russians have (had?) over the Chinese knock-off production of the Su-27SK that formed the basis of the J-11 family and the navalized J-15 without paying the attending license-fees.

While it is easy to wave the “game changer” flag, the appearance of the H-10 in the region, especially in terms of coverage in the SCS and as a possible LACM platform for strikes against Guam, will be cause for more concern and an additional complication in the “Pacific pivot.”  Already, H-6’s and H-6K’s running around the region with a variety of sub- and supersonic cruise missiles are cause for concern, and now, just as in the ‘Good/Bad Old Days’ the appearance of the Backfire on the stage once again places a premium on our ability to reach out and touch at long ranges, the archer before he has the option to shoot his arrows – rebuilding the Outer Air Battle as it were, but in an updated form to handle an updated threat and under conditions we didn’t necessarily have to face in the Cold War.   It also means stepping up our training and putting renewed emphasis on countering the reconnaissance-strike complex that would support the H-6/H-10 (and ASBMs for that matter) – time to get serious about OPDEC, EMCON and a host of other TTPs we became very practiced with during the 80’s but have let atrophy over the years.  Oh, and did I mention the need for some really, really good AEW? ;-)

And do-on’t throw the past away
You might need it some other rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
When everything old i-is new-ew a-again

The Doolittle Raid – 70 Years Later: Naval Officers and Planning

Here and elsewhere much has been written of the Doolittle raid, from the bookstand to Hollywood and the curriculum of War Colleges the world over.  Coming fast on the heels of the stunning blows barely four months prior a malevolent arc of destruction and defeat stretching from Pearl Harbor back across the Pacific to the Philippines and the rest of Asia, the raid was, no, is emblematic of the American fighting spirit and ability to improvise on the fly and conduct improbable operations on the field of battle.  From John Paul Jones’ raid on the English port of Whitehaven to putting a man on the moon barely a decade after the first tentative attempts to launch a satellite, our history has been replete with no small number of audacious operations.  Of all these though, the Doolittle Raid is probably the best known and yet, there are aspects that still remain shadowed.  To be successful required meticulous, but rapid planning. In short order an idea, germinated in Washington had to be planned, practiced, logistically provided for and executed in an air of ironclad secrecy.

This in an age where “netcentric” and “JOPES” weren’t even a mirage on the horizon.

As always, it was having the right people in place to do the heavy lifting behind the scenes that laid the groundwork for success.  In the case of the Doolittle raid, there were four naval officers, one you have heard of, but two or three others you just as likely haven’t, who played key roles in the planning of the raid.

CAPT Francis S. Lowe: A member of the USNA class of 1915, a 1926 Naval War College graduate, a submariner, then-CAPT Low was assigned as Operations Officer on ADM King’s staff at CINCLANTFLT, and later followed him to Washington when King became CINC, US Fleet and CNO.  Among his duties as Operations Officer was overseeing the ASW operations of the fleet, and it was in this capacity that he flew to Norfolk, VA in January 1942 to review the status of the USS Hornet CV-8.  Chambers Field (the original, now part of the heliport today) had the outline of an aircraft carrier painted on it for FCLP (Field Carrier Landing Practice) which is used to maintain some of the skills necessary to conduct flight operations off an aircraft carrier – to include launching with a minimum of deck space available.  It was during this trip that he observed some B-25s making passes at that outline in a mock attack and realized that twin-engine aircraft would fit on the deck of a carrier and wondered if the B-25s would be able to take off from a carrier. Upon his return to Washington, he mentioned his idea to the Admiral who thought it had merit as did General “Hap” Arnold (USAAF).

CAPT Donald Duncan: A 1917 graduate of the USNA, and holder of a MS in Radio Engineering from Harvard as well as a Naval Postgraduate school grad, then CAPT Duncan, a naval aviator with extensive carrier experience, was King’s Air Operations Officer and the one to whom it fell to evaluate the possible use of the B-25 from a carrier.  In 30 handwritten pages, he outlined all the necessary details and precepts for a successful strike in a feasibility study forwarded to King and Arnold recommending the use of B-25s and oversaw the proof of concept flight that showed the Mitchell bombers could indeed, launch from a carrier deck.  Subsequently he also oversaw the necessary logistical and administrative details needed to get the bombers to and onboard the Hornet at Alameda Naval Station.

LT Henry L. Miller: A 1934 graduate from the Naval Academy and native of Fairbanks, Alaska, then-LT Miller was a designated Naval Aviator.  A multi-engine pilot and graduate of the Bombardier course at Sandia base and the All Weather course at Corpus Christi, he was serving as a flight instructor and Personnel Officer at Ellyson Field, FLA when tasked to train Doolittle’s pilots on takeoff techniques from the limited deck of a carrier.  Shifting operations to Pierce Field (one of the outlying fields at Eglin AB – literally out in the sticks) LT Miller not only trained the raiders on take off techniques, but was also principle in teaching the finer points of shipboard life in general and accompanied them as operations shifted to Sacramento, CA and  all the way to launch from the Hornet, 700 nm from Tokyo.

LT Stephen Jurika: Born in Los Angeles while his parents were visiting there, then LT Jurika grew up in the Philippines where his dad owned a number of plantations.  He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1933 and served as a naval attache at the American Embassy in Tokyo before World War II. As the USS Hornet Association’s website notes, the plot thickens from there:

Being fluent in the Japanese language, he was able to collect significant information about the Japanese military and industrial capabilities, even photographing many of their sensitive sites. From August 1941 until October 1941, he reported to the Director of Naval Intelligence, providing a great deal of information about the Japanese threat, including specific information about the new “Zero” high performance fighter.  In October 1941, he was involved with the commissioning of USS Hornet (CV-8), initially serving as the Flight Deck and Intelligence Officer. In mid-January 1942, he consulted to Captain Donald Duncan who was then conducting a feasibility study about launching a bombing raid against Tokyo. Lt Jurika provided a great deal of information about the types and locations of high priority industrial and military targets. Two months later, when the Hornet was carrying the Doolittle Raiders to their launch point, Lt Jurika spent many hours briefing them on the locations of the high value targets and optimum flight routes.

He also had a personal contribution to make to the raid:

One bomb was decorated with Japanese medals, donated by Navy Lieutenant Stephen Jurika, who had received them during pre-war naval attaché service and now wished to pointedly return them to a hostile government. (NHHC)

Each officer would go on to serve with distinction in the war and afterwards.  CAPT Low took command of the cruiser Wichita and saw action from Africa to the Pacific.  Returning to the US he was Chief of Staff for Tenth Fleet, running ASW operations in the Atlantic theater of operations and finished the war as Cruiser Division SIXTEEN supporting the invasion at Okinawa and strikes against the Japanese homeland.  After the war he was in charge of the surrender and neutralization of all Japanese Naval installations in Korea and reported in November as Commander Destroyers Pacific Fleet, serving until March 1947, when, upon his advancement to Vice Admiral, he was given command of the Service Force, US Pacific Fleet. In November 1949 he returned to the Navy Department to conduct a special survey of the Navy’s anti-submarine program, and in February 1950 was designated Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics). He continued duty in that capacity until May 1953, when he became Commander, Western Sea Frontier, and Commander Pacific Reserve Fleet. He served as such until relieved of all active duty pending his retirement, effective 1 July 1956. He was advanced to Admiral on the basis of combat awards.  CAPT Duncan would become the first CO of the lead ship of the Essex class CV and see action in the Marcus Islands and Wake.  From here he would serve as CARDIV commander, CINCPACFLT Chief of Staff, DCN(Air) and finally DCNO before retiring in 1957.

Following the Doolittle raid, LT Miller commanded an Air Group on board USS Princeton (CVL-23), and during the remainder of the war he had command of Air Group SIX stationed on board USS Hancock (CV-19).  Following the war he served in the Navy Department until July 1948, first assigned to writing Air Operations Instructions, later serving as Executive Officer, Air Branch, Office of Naval Research. For two years he served as Public Information Officer on the Staff of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and from June 1950 to August 1952 served successively as Executive Officer of Composite Squadron SEVEN, and of USS Leyte (CV-32).  Graduating from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1953 and, he reported for duty in the Strategic Plans Division at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operation. Subsequent assignments saw him in command of USS Hancock, commander of CARDIV 15, and later, off Vietnam, CARDIV 3/Task Force 77/7th Fleet Carrier Strike Force.  On July 22, 1959 Miller was commissioned a Rear Admiral, and was appointed Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander Naval Air Force, Pacific. Rear Admiral Henry Louis Miller commanded Carrier Division FIFTEEN, which is the Anti-Submarine Hunter-Killer Task Group from May 1961 to June 1962. Admiral Miller also served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, Joint Staff, Commander in Chief, Pacific, during the time when the turmoil in South East Asia escalated. He then assumed command of Carrier Division THREE, a Heavy Attack Carrier Task Group, and at the same time he took command of Task Force, SEVENTY-SEVEN, and the Carrier Striking Force of the SEVENTH FLEET and in this capacity, took the first nuclear power Task Force into combat with the enemy in Vietnam.

LT Jurika followed the Doolittle raid with an assignment to COMAIRSOLS on Guadalcanal as Air Ops officer, a tour which included a special operation that earned him a Legion of Merit. Returning briefly Stateside as a torpedo instructor, he returned to sea as navigator on the USS Franklin (CV-13) and in this capacity, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the bridge in the wake of the attack and devastating explosions and damage that almost sank Franklin.  After the war and a variety of foreign service tours, retired and began a career as a professor at Stanford University and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Note: The oral histories of several of the principals involved with the Doolittle raid and battle of Midway – including that of Stephen Jurika, are available through the Naval Institute via the ‘print-on-demand’ program.  I think the advent of the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid and the upcoming Battle of Midway observances would be a great time for the Naval Institue Press, in line with the Strategic Plan released at last week’s Annual Membership meeting, to announce it was making e-book versions available of these histories.  w/r, SJS

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In The Mail Today: “The Admirals” by Walter R. Borneman

So – just as I was making a serious dent in the pile of shame, in the mail today comes an advance copy of “The Admirals” courtesy the publisher, Little Brown, scheduled for release next month.  The noted author Walter R. Borneman (Polk, 1812, and The French and Indian War among several) takes on the task of examining the rise of Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King to flag officer and their winning the war at sea during WWII.  555 page with illustrations, photos, detailed endnotes and bibliography, at first glance it looks to be a compelling read and one we’ll dive into beginning this weekend.  More to follow…

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Channeling “Streetfighter”? The PLAN’s Houbei FAC

“In the information age we substitute mass for speed, a high degree of simultaneity for sequential action,” he said. “And access is highly valued: access to information, access to ideas, access to the domains of conflict. The Streetfighter concepts are meant to secure access and achieve high speed. That is, to be able to alter initial conditions, develop very high rates of change, stop things before they start…that’s what the military is paid to do.” – VADM Cebrowski (13 Mar 200)

Asymmetric forces and anti-access/area denial have been getting an increasing share of press of late – and for good cause. In the past year or so the poster child for the latest thing in A2/AD, the DF-21D, has netted a good portion of that press, a pretty impressive feat for something that by all accounts is somewhere between the final stages of development and IOC.  Do not, however, under any circumstances construe the preceding as questioning the existence of the DF-21D ASBM, something I’ve been writing about since 2007…   Still, when racking/stacking threats in the present and near future, the reality of the present threats to our naval forces is that the burden falls on cruise missiles, which have seen operational use in a variety of theaters and conditions. Cruise missile capabilities have advanced on par with their supporting technologies — engines, materials, navigation, seekers, etc. From relatively large, slow and medium-altitude threats they have progressed to smaller, faster, longer-range weapons with complex seekers, sophisticated navigation systems and challenging profiles from launch to terminal stages. Concurrent with the improvement in technology has come proliferation across a large number of delivery platforms operating from the shore and above, under and on the surface. In-line with this development, some delivery platforms have emerged, evolved or morphed into optimal platforms for delivering cruise missiles. Among these are the Type 22 Houbei fast attack craft being fielded by the PLAN.

 

In a separate fora, I received the following brief, which turns out to be a pretty comprehensive look — all from sources on both sides of the Bamboo Curtain of what is rapidly becoming yet another A2/AD challenge for naval planners and commanders in the region. It’s author, George Root (a former Midway-sailor) passes:

“The PLAN’s emphasis on building a very large number of Type 22 Houbei Fast Attack Craft needs more emphasis in Navy and allied thinking. According to in country open sources, by February of last year, the PLAN had fielded over 80 of these vessels and the number is growing. As illustrated in the attached Type 22 focused presentation, just four of these C-803 missile shooters could provide double shooter coverage over the entire Taiwan Strait from the relative tactical safety of the Chinese coastal islands.

In my view, the fact that today, the PLAN could field over 640 mobile 100+nm missiles (80 vessels x 8 C-803s each) in the Chinese mainland littorals should give those interested in China’s growing anti-access capabilities some serious cause for concern.”

PLAN’s Type 22 Houbei FAC _July11_R1

“Streetfighter is alive, and well, and is an inevitability” – VADM Cebrowski

Indeed — but not where originally intended it seems… Your thoughts?

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”


“Washington should show its political will and stop playing with guns on China’s doorsteps.
‘Good fences make good neighbors’ the words of the American poet Robert Frost also hold true for this relationship.” – China Daily (27 July 2011)

Last week the Taiwanese press revealed an incident that occurred on the 29th of June wherein one of a pair of PLA-AF SU-27s crossed the median line between PRC and Taiwan while ostensibly pursuing a U-2 conducting reconnaissance in international airspace.  The story briefly ran in the Western press and the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen, when asked to comment on the incident, noted that while ” (W)e both have to be very careful about how we fly them,” the US would be undeterred in continuing to fly the missions.  In the days that followed, “opinion” pieces ran in the China Daily (source of the quote above) and Beijing Global Times – both generally recognized sources of “official” Chinese messaging without coming directly from a government spokesperson.  Both articles, pointing to the the recent visits by the PLA CoS to the US in May and the visit by ADM Mullen in mid-July, noted the difficulty in re-establishing these early steps in mil-to-mil relations and how this action (the continuation of U-2 “spy” missions) threatened their continuation.  For it’s part, the Global Daily quoted a military expert’s analysis on China’s “legitimacy” in challenging the missions:

Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday that China can legitimately interrupt US surveillance moves.”It is impossible for China to deploy the electronic countermeasures needed to set up a so-called protective electronic screen in the air to deter reconnaissance. Sending flights to intercept spying activities is essential to show China’s resolution to defend its sovereignty,” Song said.”The US has insisted that their spying on China brings no harm by using the excuse that it is safeguarding its own security,”  Song said.  “US spying activities, arms sales to Taiwan and uneven military communications with China have been the top three major barriers for military ties between the two countries,” he added.

China Daily, which tends to be a little more restrained or conservative in tone, emphasized Chen’s comments during the recent visits:

During Mullen’s visit to China, Chen Bingde, the General Chief-of-Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, also voiced his concern on potential miscalculations or even clashes between the two militaries.  While China welcomes the US military presence in Asia-Pacific for its constructive role in maintaining regional stability, that does not mean that China will compromise on issues relating to its territorial integrity or national security.  Chen criticized the US naval drills in the South China Sea and attempted arms sale to Taiwan, and also urged the US to reduce or halt its military surveillance near China’s coast. Given the increasingly interdependent relations between China and the US, and the commitment by both governments to build a cooperative partnership in the 21st century, it is in both sides’ interests to build and maintain good-neighborliness based on mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and national dignity. (emphasis added)

Which, of course, preceded the ‘good fences = good neighbors’  quote above.

 PLAAF J-8  PLAAF J-10  PLAAF SU-27/J-11

 

 

 

 

China, like North Korea and the former Soviet Union, is openly hostile to reconnaissance flights,  taking every opportunity to display their impatience and displeasure with the missions.  Generally speaking, unlike the Soviets and North Koreans, the Chinese have been less inclined to shoot down reconnaissance aircraft unless they were actually over Chinese territory (the wreckage of several Taiwanese U-2s shot down over the mainland are on display in a Beijing military museum).  T0 a degree, that has been a function of their inability until the recent past decade to reach out and touch US platforms, like the U-2 (and presumably the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS which has been forward deployed to Guam for a while now).  The deployment of SU-27 FLANKERs, purchased from the Russians (and now, indigenously produced J-11’s) have served to significantly extend the PLAAF’s reach, both in range and altitude, over the much less capable F-8 and even the  That, however, does not mean that they will not react to US aircraft engaged in intelligence collection missions off the Chinese coast.  Ample evidence of how a reaction can go wrong, especially if the reacting fighters are overly aggressive, is provided with the midair between a PLAAF J-8 and a Navy EP-3.  Though it turned out badly for the Chinese pilot (whose body was never found) the exploitation of the EP-3 after it made an emergency landing at a nearby airfield on the Chinese island of Hainan, proved to be a windfall for Chinese intelligence.  Still, the manner and size of a reaction to reconnaissance missions can be used as yet another means of “signaling” to another country. A reaction by a pair of fighters that maintains a stand-off distance of 5 or so nautical miles, effectively shadowing the recce aircraft signals the awareness of the observed nation to the presence of the aircraft and the mission assigned.  An intercept with aggressive maneuvering, like a CPA inside 50 ft, “thumping” or other clearly hazarding maneuvers might serve as a warning to open distance from the edge of a nation’s airspace (even though the recce aircraft may be in international airspace) or even a warning that future missions will be met with hostile fire.  It’s all part of a range of strategic communications (like so-called “op-eds” in State-owned or directed media).  So, what is the context here?

China, I believe, has clearly laid out three redlines where the future of mil-mil exchange and talks are concerned – China’s claims to the South China Sea, the continuance of arms sales to Taiwan and so-called “dangerous military practices” that are typified by US reconnaissance missions.  In each of the high-level visits, this was the message delivered to the US – “here are our conditions for further progress.”  The message builds on actions taken from the tactical to strategic — from serial harassment of Vietnamese survey ships in the South China Sea and intercept attempts at high-level reconnaissance aircraft (don’t forget – this took place after the visit by Chen to the US and before Mullen’s visit to China) to pursuing a bi-lateral condominium of “understandings” with nations bordering the SCS, eschewing multi-party fora and working hard to exclude US presence and influence.  It is at once a fairly aggressive tack, but one that has remained hidden in plain sight of US policymakers who are wrapped up in three wars abroad and dealing with fiscal issues at home.  As part of a carefully crafted strategic communications campaign, the target audience isn’t just the US, but more importantly, regional states.  The message it carries – the US is in relative decline across all measures of power but more importantly, in the area of real power and presence in the region, its primacy is declining to such a degree that its reliability is increasingly suspect.  Therefore, measure carefully your actions and intent for it is in your better interests – in the long run, if you not only reduce reliance on the US and its instruments of regional presence and power (e.g., naval and air forces), but work with us to reduce this increasingly risky and reckless presence.  Combining challenges in relatively low-risk actions – like increasingly aggressive intercepts of US recce aircraft.  Just when, for example, has the US militarily reacted to an aggressive intercept, much less shoot-down of a recce platform?  Nothing was done to the North Koreans or Soviets even in the face of several high profile incidents like the Pueblo.  Throw an unmanned recce platform into the mix as a potential target for a demonstration during a high stakes stand-off and it could get very interesting very soon.  The very near sea trials of the former Varyag CV, allegedly named Shi Lang, serves as another point.  China knows full well that it can’t compete hull-to-hull with the US CVN/CVW team – but it doesn’t need to because the US is so strapped worldwide in terms of force structure and OPTEMPO.  Rather, the Shi Lang is at once a message and warning to states like Vietnam and the Philippines that should they decide to put force behind their challenge to China’s claims in the area, their naval forces are wholly inadequate to the job by themselves, and again, the US won’t be one to be relied upon to fill the breach.

Source: China Military Report (http://wuxinghongqi.blogspot.com)

None of this happens overnight and as mentioned, not without a strategic communications campaign.  The point is recognizing that one is underway and that the terms of engagement may in fact be changing.

Good fences make good neighbors’ the words of the American poet Robert Frost also hold true for this relationship.”

Indeed – but as many a suburbanite will tell you, fences can also be very polarizing to a neighborhood, especially when built outside of where property lines are clearly understood and recognized.


 

Sea-Based BMD — Another Successful Test

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source: www.mda.mil)

 

Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2).  The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol.  Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via www.navy.mil)

Thought for the Day

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