Archive for the 'China' Tag
As a growing maritime power, when China looks east, southeast, and south – how does it see its neighbors?Even more importantly – how do its neighbors see it?Is Russia even a top-tier concern?Our guest for the full hour will be Wendell Minnick, author, commentator, journalist and speaker who has spent two decades covering military and security issues in Asia, including one book on intelligence and over 900 articles.Since 2006, Minnick has served as the Asia Bureau Chief for Defense News, a Washington-based defense weekly newspaper.From 2000-2006, he served as the Taiwan Correspondent for UK-based Jane’s Defence Weekly.
* 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
Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com
To do a complete stoplight review of China’s Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic levers/influencers of national power is much more than one post on a blog, but you can broad-brush a few things.
In the last couple of decades, China’s “Diplomatic” and “Military” areas are a solid green with up-arrows. Though I would give “Information” a yellow with an up arrow, I will give a nod to those who would give the Communists a green.
Economic? That is a lot trickier than people think. I lean towards the demographic-wonk mantra, “China will get old before they get rich,” – but if you want a good look at another view on China’s “Economic” that you won’t get from Thomas Friedman, a nice primmer would be Reihan Salam’s latest at NR.
Without a sound economy … the dragon may not be as large or as scary, as some think – but it may be more dangerous for other reasons.
… across a wide range of economic, technological, and military indicators, the United States is actually, in the words of political scientist Michael Beckley, “wealthier, more innovative, and more militarily powerful compared to China than it was in 1991.” As Beckley explains in a recent article in International Security, China’s growth in per capita income, value added in high technology, and military spending is impressive primarily because China is starting from such a low base. That the United States has continued to grow across all of these dimensions is making it exceedingly difficult for China to catch up. Beckley thus concludes that China is “rising in place.” That is, while China is improving its economic and military position in absolute terms, it is stagnating relative to America, even in an era of sluggish U.S. growth.
While we can expect China at some point to have an economy somewhat larger than that of the United States — after all, China has four times our population — the country is plagued by pervasive corruption and bad debts that are already undermining its growth prospects.
China’s population is aging rapidly, and soon the country will have to carry the weight of tens and eventually hundreds of millions of retirees. … China’s growth is already slowing as a result. Since 2001, China has grown at an annual rate of 10.1 percent. This year, however, Chinese GDP is expected to grow at 7.5 percent. Further, the official statistics almost certainly conceal the extent of the decline.
The real threat from China is not that it will grow so economically strong that it will bestride the world like a colossus. Rather, it is that it will become so weak and vulnerable as to collapse, or to lash out at its neighbors.
When you build the next military – do you ponder how to deal with a near competitor in 25-years, or how to handle the violent collapse of a nation 4-times your size in 25-years? How would they look different, and how do you hedge one outcome vs the other?
Vietnam said earlier this week that six Buddhist monks will soon take up residence on one of the Spratlys. The monks, who reportedly will stay for the next year, belong to the government-sanctioned wing of the Buddhist church.
In all seriousness though, this has all the ingredients; oil, sea lines of communication – and overlapping claims that adds fuel to it all.
…to re-establish abandoned temples on islands that are the subject of a bitter territorial dispute with China.
The temples were last inhabited in 1975, but were recently renovated as part of efforts to assert Vietnamese sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.
The monks’ delegation is being organised by the local authorities in the southern province of Khanh Hoa, which exercises administrative responsibility for the islands on behalf of Vietnam.
It has also paid for the refurbishment of the island shrines. They include three larger temples and several smaller ones.
The monks have been appointed abbots of the island temples for a six-month period.
Along with China and Vietnam, parts of the islands are claimed by the the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
To get the Monks there takes just a boat – to keep them there or to kick them off takes the ability to project naval power ashore.
Is this a provocation? Of course. The billion dollar question is; what national security concern is this of ours? If it isn’t, when does it become one, if at all?
In a great example of “creative friction” at its highest level of practice, we find ourselves with the authors of Red Star Over the Pacific on one end – and a great naval mind, Dr. Norman Friedman, on the other.
I think good people can fall on either side of the arguments presented – and I encourage you to read both articles to decide for yourself even if you have not read the book in question. That isn’t what this post is about though.
In their response to Dr. Friedman, the authors brought up a topic that will have everyone with an Operational Planning background nodding their heads. Especially those who have taught Operational Planning or better yet have had to lead an Operational Planning team – their words will ring true, and might even open up a scar or two – or even trigger a migraine.
Friedman’s worst sin, though, is to succumb to (if not revel in) what the late Michael Handel termed the “tacticization of strategy.” Battlefield commanders and many civilians are prone to become spellbound by technological and tactical wizardry. In so doing, they lose sight of the higher – and ultimately decisive – levels of competition and warfare. Since World War II, observes Handel, “technological means have started to wag the strategic dog.” Andrew Krepinevich strikes a similar note in The Army and Vietnam, faulting the U.S. Army for prosecuting a “strategy of tactics.” U.S. forces seldom lost a tactical engagement with Vietnamese regular or irregular forces, yet they were unable to derive strategic or political gains from these engagements. Conflating equipment and tactics with strategy rendered an unbroken string of battlefield triumphs largely moot.
Knowing your place; a concept even more difficult to accept in the era of the “Strategic Corporal” and all the implications of it. To keep your place takes discipline, knowledge, and better yet a command climate that allows someone to pull you back when you drift away from your proper place.
Strategic planning does not need to concern itself with tactical details (AKA 3,000 nm screwdriver) if all three levels function properly. Not just a Strategic level problem, the temptation is even greater at the Operational level where the tendency to drift down to the Tactical is greatest. People plan where they are the most comfortable, and if you just came back from the Tactical level and haven’t mentally adjusted to the fact you now have to think and plan at the Operational or Strategic – you are setting yourself up for disruptive planning, intrusive direction & guidance, and eventually Tactical level paralyses.
Worse that that – if you are in a decision making position at the Strategic or Operational level – and you are not doing that job from that perspective – who is? The answer is, no one. That is where historians have their fun.
Adding to that problem is the amplifying effect. A poorly constructed or ill-disciplined Strategic guidance results in disjointed and inefficient Operational level direction & guidance. That in turn leads to Tactical anarchy. Where does that lead? Well, not to the “W” column.
Fun stuff … fun stuff. As a side note, if you are interested in hearing the authors discuss their book and China in general, EagleOne and I interviewed them back in Jan; you can hear the archived show here. We’ve also interviewed Dr. Friedman twice, once in 2010, and again earlier this year.
“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. 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.”
“Streetfighter is alive, and well, and is an inevitability” – VADM Cebrowski
Indeed — but not where originally intended it seems… Your thoughts?
crossposted at steeljawscribe.com
“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.
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.
Crossposted @ steeljawscribe.com
A Reminder – Pandas May Be Cute, But They Have Sharp Teeth and Claws…
The DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) is in play again in the press and implicitly linked in comments by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Staff that cancellation of at least one of the Ford-class carriers and retirement of some number of others is being considered by DoD ( would note, however, that to draw a straight line between the two is a little simplistic). Surfacing this discussion was the publication of an article in the Taipei Times (14 July edition) last week that led to a good bit of churn on this side of the Pacific:
“People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde confirmed earlier this week that China was developing the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the first Chinese official to publicly state that the missile is in development. His comments came as the English-language China Daily reported that the DF-21D had a range of 2,700km (ed. or about 1460 nm -SJS), well beyond assessments by the Office of Naval Intelligence last year, which put it at about 1,500km. The missile, which is capable of hitting moving targets at sea and is seen as a potential threat to aircraft carrier battle groups, would represent a powerful deterrent to the US Navy in the Pacific.”
One of the arguments about the very existence of the DF-21D was that while there is a surprising amount of information in scientific and technical journals hinting broadly at such a capability for the PLA, publicly, at least until now, there hadn’t been anything forthcoming from the PLA officially recognizing the existence of the program or stating a requirement. In fact, one of my erstwhile colleagues in my day job claims it is all maskirovka, in no small part, I am sure just to aggravate me, I think.
Well, no more. The PLA CoS’ very explicit comment, coming on the heels of ADM Mullen’s visit, ripped that bandage off, confirming that indeed, China was working to develop an anti-ship ballistic missile and that it was aimed primarily at deterring the use of US aircraft carriers in the Pacific. The joker in the deck, however, was the mention of the 2700 km range – well beyond the previous estimates of “in excess of 1500 km” in open sources such as the annual DoD report to Congress on China’s Military Power. As recent as late last year, ADM Willard, current CDRPACOM likewise indicated such when declaring his thought that the DF-21D had reached initial operational capability (IOC). In turn, this has left a number of Western analysts scratching their heads.
Figure 1. Comparative ranges of a 1500km DF-21D vs 2700km DF-21D
From a notional GEOLOC in the Guangdong province, the implications of Figure 1 ought to be pretty clear – a 2700km range would force carriers to operate outside not only the first island chain, but at or outside the second chain and thereby effectively nullify any operational employment in the contested area until the ASBM threat is neutralized. By extending that virtual umbrella of protective fire against the most versatile, flexible operational unit for wide area sea control, the aircraft carrier, the PLAN and PLA-AF would gain a greater degree of freedom to operate in critical areas such as the South and East China Seas with the greatest threat coming from US and allied subs – no mean threat, but more manageable without having to deal with carrier-based air. Presumably land-based air forces would be dissuaded or suppressed by the very large conventional ballistic missile striking force the Chinese are acquiring and deploying. One interesting possibility stemming from this condition is that China also gains a greater margin to operate its embryonic carrier force in a more effective manner against regional actors.
But few capabilities, if any, are ever so neatly packaged, and on closer examination there are some flies in the ointment. Further in the same article, Chen notes:
“…the DF-21D, which can be fired from mobile land-based launchers, was still in the research, development and testing stage, adding that such high-tech devices were difficult to bring to maturity. ‘The missile is still undergoing experimental testing and it will be used as a defensive weapon when it is successfully developed, not an offensive one,’ Chen told reporters. Its development ‘requires funding inputs, advanced technology and high-quality talented personnel … these are all fundamental factors constraining its development’ Xinhua news agency quoted Chen as saying, in comments that were ostensibly intended for a domestic audience.” (emphasis added)
There is a considerable level of effort to translate plans and parts associated with the now decommissioned Pershing II, ostensibly the basis of the DF-15 and land attack variants of the DF-21 family (see Fig. 2), into a system that marries sensors, C2 and “shooter” (aka missile) designed to take out a mobile platform in the broad ocean area. Recall that the Pershing II added a MaRV that married a 5-80kt warhead (with an earth penetrating option) with terrain-scene matching radar to give this relatively low yield weapon a remarkable hard-kill capability owing to a CEP inside of 30 meters. From bases in West Germany, the flight time of the Pershing II to Moscow was on the order 10-14 minutes – and drove the Soviets to the brink as they considered it a first strike weapon in a larger strategic exchange with the US. The fact that its deployment was a reaction to their own deployment of the game-changing road-mobile SS-20 and in all likelihood, was targeted against the operational and support elements for that missile system was conveniently overlooked. It is, however, instructive for our purposes here to note that the manner in which the Pershing II’s range and payload were upgraded and enhanced – through a lighter structure, enhanced propellants and advanced onboard flight and terminal guidance, would likewise be applicable to the DF-21 family. It is altogether conceivable and in keeping with the Chinese design, development and deployment of a range of missile families and capabilities that a similar process was followed to reach the DF-21D.
Figure 2. (l to r) Pershing II, DF-15/CSS-6 with MaRV, DF-21/CSS-5
However, color me skeptical about the 2700 km claim. Time and again more than one nation – ours included, has learned that you just can’t keep scaling up on a “Tim Allen” design basis (“more power”) and expect everything to work. As range increases, the loads (aerodynamic heating, gravity, etc) on the reentry vehicle correspondingly grow, but not at a 1:1 pace. For example, at 200,000 ft (the point at which re-entry begins) thermal loading on an ICBM-class RV will cause the tip to experience temperatures in excess of 3,500 deg.F – the most minute differentiation in the rate of ablation near the tip will cause the RV to at best, modify its ballistic flight profile, affecting accuracy or at worse, adjust so dramatically that airframe body breakup is incurred. To avoid this occurrence, RVs are spin stabilized before re-entry to ensure uniform ablation, but that incurs another series of events to be dealt with, and so on. This, in large part, is one reason why the leap from a space launch vehicle (SLV) to IR/ICBM class weapon is not as clear or fast as the reverse (IR/ICBM → SLV), and should give pause to assessments over the alleged development of ICBM capabilities by some countries.
The Pershing II was classified with a 1,770 km range. A reading of the development of the MaRV for the Pershing II in William Yengst’s monograph, “Lightning Bolts: First Maneuvering Reentry Vehicles” is instructive in the challenges presented by the flight, re-entry and post re-entry aerodynamic loading on the airframe, developing a nose cone that was sufficiently ablative to withstand reentry yet transparent electromagnetically enough for the terrain scene matching radar and developing a guidance and maneuvering system that would survive reentry and be robust enough for terminal maneuvers approaching 8-gs in the target area. No small leap for 1978 and similarly today when looking at an alleged 2700km missile. An alternate explanation would be either a deliberate falsification as part of a larger strategic communications ploy (surprise) or just a simple transpose of a “2″ where a “1″ for a 1700 km vice 2700 km missile would be much more believable. To be sure, an extra 1,000km range would open up a wide range of possibilities for the PLA, not least of which would be greater strategic depth to afford protection against future counter-ballistic missile threats (either ascent-phase interceptors – still very much the stuff of PPT dreams or VLO/UCAV-Ns, less PPT, but years away from a notional weapons capability) while maintaining coverage out to the first island chain and expanding its fleet of open ocean sensors and platforms feeding the reconnaissance-strike complex supporting the DF-21D.
The simple fact of the matter is that DF-21D is out there and constitutes some quantifiable level of threat to our deployed carrier force. That in turn has engendered a certain degree of hand-wringing, but simply cancelling programs and cutting force structure on the basis of a weapon itself and its supporting C2ISR infrastructure allegedly still in the throes of development would seem a bit hasty. To be sure, fiscal prudence demands close scrutiny – of all programs, especially in the current and near-future fiscal climate. Yet there is a strategic imperative at play and it goes to what form our forces will take after we have disengaged from protracted conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. Increasingly there is talk of “off-shore balancing” and while that is still a somewhat amorphous form, what is clear is that under such a concept, expeditionary forces supported by naval and air forces will be more relevant than those configured for long-term engagement in continental land-wars and nation building. Prudence, again, dictates a thoughtful examination of the configuration of those naval forces, the flexibility inherent in well designed, time-tested platforms (like the CVN and DDGs) but ensuring there is capacity for growth and adaption to mission changes.
There is a school of thought that is quick to draw parallels between the emergence of the carrier and demise of the battleship as highlighted at Pearl Harbor, but I would point out that was as much to do with the inherent lack of adaptability of the ships on Battleship Row that Sunday morning in December as the added dimension to naval warfare demonstrated by the Kido Butai. I would also note, that the same capability brought to bear against the BBs was also applied at Coral Sea, Midway and Santa Cruz, but there were no calls for ceasing production of CVs after Lexington, Yorktown, Hornet and Wasp were lost to air- and submarine attacks. Indeed the carriers showed their adaptability and flexibility in the utility of their main battery, carrier-based air wings that were composited based on mission, in flexing from sea control to war at sea, to strike support and long-range AAW. And when a new weapon, the kamikaze appeared later in the war we changed tactics, adapted current and emerging technologies (networked fires, improved C2, long-range CAP, attack operations, airborne- and distant surface radar pickets) and even began looking at the potential of emerging technologies like surface to air missiles as a solution set. To be sure, we were still taking grievous losses (witness Okinawa and the beating the DDRs and USS Franklin endured), and the emergence of atomic weapons again proved a challenge. My intent isn’t to rehash the long history of carrier aviation and its adaptability in the face of emerging threats, that has been done much more ably elsewhere. It is rather, to thoughtfully consider the challenge presented, examine all avenues of countering, realizing that frankly, while the DF-21D presents a very high profile threat, the reality of the tactical scenario is that there are a great many more sub- and supersonic cruise missiles, launched from a variety of platforms that are increasingly proliferating around the world and present a far greater threat to all naval platforms.
And that demands a degree of perspective be employed by force planners and naval leaders.
Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com
Craig Hooper and I have a new article on The Atlantic discussing the evacuation of US citizens off the Korean peninsula in the event of renewed hostilities. We argue that the difficulty of evacuating 140,000 US citizens and select foreign nationals might well require the US to ask China and its military for assistance:
Even under the best conditions, a mass evacuation is no easy task. In July 2006, as a battle brewed between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants, the U.S. took nearly a month to evacuate 15,000 Americans. According to the Government Accountability Office, “nearly every aspect of State’s preparations for evacuation was overwhelmed”, by the challenge of running an evacuation under low-threat conditions in a balmy Mediterranean summer.
Evacuating a Korean war-zone would be far harder. And the U.S. would likely have no choice but to ask China for help.
Read the full article at The Atlantic.
PLAN’s new purpose-built hospital ship, Peace Ark, spent last week anchored off Kenya’s coast while providing medical assistance to Kenyan citizens:
The crew, which leaves the port of Mombasa tomorrow, has been doing an average of six operations, 80 physical examinations, 110 dental check-ups, 35 CT scans, 200 DR examinations, 240 ultra sound cases and 170 heart check-ups per day.
The Peace Ark hospital has 428 medical and support staff. They include neurologists, surgeons, radiologists, dermatologists, biomedical engineers and psychologists.
Other facilities are a rescue helicopter, 32 medical departments including Chinese herbal medicine, 300 hospital beds and a wide range of diagnostic medical equipment.
The daily stats offer some insight into the medical assistance capacity of the new hospital ship, however that is not what interests me. What interests me is that PLAN first humanitarian assistance deployment is already scoring major public diplomacy victories for China. Need proof?
Today news of the Peace Ark’s visit to Kenya was posted on the popular social new website Reddit. Within four hours over 840 readers had voted up the story to the top page, where it currently remains. Another further 270 readers had commented on the story. The most popular comment? “When is it visiting the USA?”
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