Archive for the 'international affairs' Tag

The Center for Naval Analyses built their new report, “The Navy at a Tipping Point: maritime Dominance at Stake?” on a comforting trellis of assumptions:

“First, there will be a continued demand for a safe and secure global maritime environment. Advantages to having an open world economy and trade for all major powers are growing…Increasingly, nations are trying to formulate a set of maritime rules to support local/regional development and maritime policing of illicit activities.”

How nice! This vanilla-flavored assumption is positive, doesn’t challenge status quo, and, in addition, makes excellent consultancy fodder for high-paying corporate audiences.

But is this assumption valid? A recent bulletin from Inside the Pentagon (subscription, sorry) suggests otherwise:

“U.S. and Chinese officials agreed last December to hold the next plenary meeting under the 1998 bilateral Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) in March or April of this year. But China subsequently suspended a range of military-to-military activities to protest the Pentagon’s planned arms sales to Taiwan. And now PACOM is confirming the safety talks are a casualty of that row.”

Oops. Other countries (particularly Asian navies that seem to have a higher tolerance for settling maritime disputes via intimidation and, often, gunfire) may not fully subscribe to the U.S. vision of maritime safety.

Here’s CNA’s second set of assumptions:

“Second, no other country (or combination of countries) will create the forces required for a navy with global influence…[other] navies can also conduct short-term surges for uses of force against low end threats or act as supporters to USN-led naval operations; however persistent out-of-area operations (even by a low number of assets) would quickly deplete their resources and political support at home.”

New navies, when well used, pay enormous domestic political dividends. Remember the Maine? Or the year-long voyage of the Great White Fleet? What about Imperial Germany’s use of their growing fleet to build/bolster a colonial empire? Wasn’t Germany’s acquisition of Tsingatao (done after the murder of German Catholic priests) rather…popular?

So..with history in mind, how might China (given its self-acknowledged internal domestic weaknesses) use their fleet? To forge a better sense of national unity, maybe?

Which brings us to CNA’s third assumption-set:

“…China is behaving exactly as every growing nation has behaved since the dawn of the Maritime Age in the 1400s…”

Hey, they got one right (two out of three ain’t bad)…but, hey…Didn’t those new navies ultimately make the seas less safe? Did they not lead to increased conflict at sea? To wider naval conflict?

Seems that the CNA researchers don’t think so.

To be blunt: Other nations may share U.S. appreciation for a “safe and secure global maritime environment.” The problem is that other nations may define “safe and secure” somewhat differently than America does.

U.S. defense thinkers must stop assuming the rest of the world shares our world view. You heard it here first…America’s habit of mirror-imaging (a symptom of having a rather poor grasp of history) is a well-known point of exploitation.

Read more at NEXTNAVY.COM. Subscribe here.



I recently had the pleasure of talking to a Financial Times reporter about Iran’s appetite for small boats. The story, dealing with the saga of the “Bradstone Challenger“, a Bladerunner 51 speedboat, just hit the press today (and it got some love from Drudge (bottom middle column), so…good times). (.pdf here)

I noted Iran’s interest in the Ice Marine’s Bladerunner back in early 2009–in fact, I reported that the Commerce Department’s “stop order”, coming on January 22, was one of the Obama Administration’s first actions taken after the inauguration. But, sadly, bureaucracy intervened–South Africa mislaid the order, sending the boat off in the “Iranian Diplomat.”

“The loading went ahead because, said one source, no one saw the US notice sent by fax over a weekend. US special forces were ready to intercept the Iranian merchant vessel but the operation was called off, the source said”

So now the vessel has, reportedly, been militarized (or, more likely, is being reverse-engineered).

(I won’t bore you with this story’s nitty-gritty details–as fascinating as they are. If you are interested, go read the full post at NEXTNAVY.COM–it’s a rollicking story of international intrigue, politics and…Italian speedboats!)

But for now, let’s focus on the strategic question…Iran’s apatite for small boats aside, just how big a danger are Iran’s little boats? Should the U.S. worry?

Not really.

Outside of surprise (a la the USS Cole), the small boat “record” since World War II fails to live up to the modern-day hype. Certainly, small boats are not things to completely disregard, but I do have serious doubts about the danger a swarm poses to a prepared US vessel. And, in the article, I said so:

“Though the US Navy is very concerned a swarm of small boats can overwhelm and sink a large warship, the hypothesis is untested. It has never been done,” Mr Hooper told the FT. “A small, fast boat navy is nothing more than a surprise strike and harassment force. Every time small, fast boats run into helicopters, the helicopters win.”

The proof just ain’t there. Once a fast boat swarm is identified as “hostile,” those small boats tend to lead relatively short, exciting lives.

In 1987, U.S. helicopters made quick work of Boghammar speedboats, and during the 1991 Bubiyan Turkey Shoot, helicopters helped sink or damage 143 small Iraqi naval vessels.

The trick, of course, is avoiding any losses as a “swarm” transforms from “traffic” to a swarming “attacker”…

And that might be a tad difficult.

Or…maybe not. Discuss!

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In Asia, America has gotta move away from a long-standing habit of engaging in simple, bilateral force measurements. Asia is a multi-polar place, and America’s penchant for strategic over-simplification is going to land the U.S. into serious trouble.

Put bluntly, U.S. Navy-folk need to remember there are a few other countries over on the other side of the Pacific. Some of them are rather formidable. And the U.S. is neglecting them.

So…Let’s take a moment to compare some naval forces in the Pacific Basin. Using the official DOD Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the PRC 2005 and 2009, it looks like China’s Navy is growing. But…when China’s rate of growth is compared with other neighbors, that burst of growth over the past five years looks a lot less daunting.

China: Diesel Attack Subs: (2005 vs. 2009): 51 vs. 54 (+3)
USA: Diesel Attack Subs: (2005 vs. 2009): 0 vs. 0 (+0)

Note: Japan commissioned 4 Oyashio-class, 2 Soryu-class SSKs; South Korea commissioned 3 Type 214s from 2005-2010.

China: Nuclear Subs (SSN only, 2005 vs. 2009): 6 vs. 6 (+0)
USA: Nuclear Subs (SSN/SSGN only 2005 vs. 2009): 58 vs. 56/57 (-2/-1)

China: Destroyers (2005 vs. 2009): 21 vs. 27 (+7)
USA: Destroyers (2005 vs. 2009/10): 46 vs. 54/57 (+8/+11)

Note: Japan brought into service 2 Atago-class destroyers, 2 Takanami-class destroyers, and a Hyuga-class “carrier” destroyer; Taiwan put 4 ex-Kidd-class vessels into service; South Korea put 4 KDX-2-class destroyers into service over the past 5 years.

China: Frigates (2005 vs. 2009): 43 vs. 48 (+5)
USA: Frigates (2005 vs. 2009/10): 30 vs. 30/31 (+0/+1)

Note: Regional Frigate-building programs are proceeding apace.

China: Coastal Missile ships: (2005 vs. 2009): 51 vs 70+ (+19 at least)
USA: Nada. Zip.

Interesting. China’s small missile ships are allowing China’s larger vessels to engage in “blue water” activities, so, while these vessels expand China’s “reach”, a dependence on small ships may prove a vulnerability. The region needs to know more about the small ship programs hosted by Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. What, by way of smaller vessels, can these navies offer? How good are the region’s Air Forces in hunting and destroying smaller craft?

In short, does China’s love of small craft contribute to regional stability or not?

Look. China’s Navy is still awfully small. And with China not exactly on friendly terms with it’s neighbors (who, on the part of Japan and South Korea, are building some very modern navies), the PLA(N) has a lot to do to secure China’s maritime borders. It is a little bit of a stretch to think all this new floating hardware is aimed exclusively at the U.S.A.

NEXTNAVY.COM



Continued from yesterday’s post… Initiatives 4-6 as outlined by CAPT Chuck Michel:

4. Coast Guard assets (LEDETs, Patrol Boats, and High Endurance Cutters) deployed to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) are supporting CTF-151 efforts to interrupt and terminate acts of piracy and are seen as the subject matter experts in the conduct of boardings by our US and coalition partners. LEDET 405 is currently conducting boardings with Navy Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) teams in the Gulf of Aden. LEDET 405’s current role is to supplement the navy VBSS team and train them in:

o Maritime Laws
o Boarding policies and procedures
o Evidence Collection and preparation
o Tactical procedures

USCGC Boutwell has deployed to CENTCOM for a 3-4 month deployment. It is probable that USCGC Boutwell will be assigned to CTF-151 since the USCG is seen as subject matter experts in the conduct of boardings in this “law enforcement related” operation. Coast Guard vessels may also, in the future, carry foreign shipriders to enforce law in the region.

5. The Coast Guard’s international training team offer tailored maritime law enforcement training tied directly to at-sea operations that can be easily integrated in regional capacity building initiatives. The Coast Guard provides a wide range of maritime capacity-building support to AFRICOM’s larger Security Cooperation program and is an active participant in AFRICOM’s theatre campaign planning process. Between 2008-2009, the Coast Guard will provide maritime training to more than 25 African countries through a mix of deployable in-country training and resident training at Coast Guard schoolhouses in the United States. Comprehensive long-term maritime development projects are in the planning stage for Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone. The Coast Guard supports AFRICOM objectives through periodic ship visits and combined exercises which have historically focused on the West Africa region. Coast Guard support for maritime capacity-building extended to more than 50 countries around the globe annually. Such assistance includes, but is not limited to, resident training, deployable training, assessments, subject matter expert visits, and long-term in-country advisors/mentors.

Popular courses of instruction include but are not limited to:

o Entry level technical (MK, EM, BM, DC, outboard motor, coxswain, MLE)
o Advanced technical (Port Security Anti-Terrorism, Crisis Command Control, SAR)
o Leadership and Management (IMOC, OCS, Leadership)

In addition to training and technical assistance, the Coast Guard provides material support to developing maritime organizations through a robust Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Excess Defense Article (EDA) program. The following applies specifically to East Africa and those Middle Eastern countries adjacent the “Horn” of Africa:

East Africa recipients (2001-2008):

o Kenya – 56 resident students and 14 mobile training teams to country
o Tanzania – 1 resident student and 2 mobile training team to country
o Mozambique – 7 resident students and 7 mobile training teams to country
o Madagascar – 10 resident students and 8 mobile training teams to country
o Comoros – 1 mobile training team to countryo Seychelles – 5 resident students and 5 mobile training teams to country

* Middle East/Horn of Africa recipients (2001-2008):
o Yemen – 54 resident students and 30 mobile training teams in country
o Djibouti – 2 resident students and 5 mobile training teams in country

* Coast Guard international training and capacity building assistance is on a reimbursable basis and is generally in support of a larger USG (DOD/DOS) funded initiative.

* Coast Guard involvement in maritime capacity-building within the AOR is generally one element in a larger developmental effort managed by host nation or key international partner(s). Coast Guard engagement in the AOR is expected to continue based on funding availability.

6. The Coast Guard is also an active participant in the Africa Partnership Station (APS) program. APS is an international initiative initially developed by United States Naval Forces Europe, which aims to work cooperatively with U.S. and international partners to improve maritime safety and security in Western Africa as part of US Africa Command’s Theater Security Cooperation program. Since the standup of AFRICOM on October 1, 2008, Africa Partnership Station is led by United States Naval Forces Africa, the maritime component to AFRICOM.

APS, is designed to build the skills, expertise and professionalism of Western African militaries and coast guards. The program is delivered in many forms including ship visits, aircraft, training teams, and Seabee construction projects. APS is part of a long-term commitment on the part of all participating nations and organizations from the United States, Europe, and Africa. APS activities consist of joint exercises, port visits, professional training and community outreach with the nations of West and Central Africa. The focus is on building maritime capacity of the nations in the region and increasing the level of cooperation between them to improve maritime safety and security. The goal is to improve the ability of the nations involved to extend the rule of law out to sea and better combat illegal fishing, human smuggling, drug trafficking, oil theft and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region.

APS 07’s deployment ran from November 2007 to April 2008. Countries visited included Senegal, Togo, Ghana, São Tomé and Principe, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. The current APS deployment, aboard USS Nashville, began in January 2009, with a visit to Dakar, Senegal. APS Nashville will visit Senegal, Ghana, Gabon, Cameroon, and Nigeria with an international staff including officers from Great Britain, France, Germany, Ghana, and Cameroon. The time in between major deployments is covered by mobile training team visits, maritime patrol aircraft exercises, and port visits by individual naval vessels.



part 1 of a 2-part series

Immediately following this week’s DOD Bloggers Roundtable on the Coast Guard’s global anti-piracy efforts, I submitted a question to CAPT Chuck Michel, USCG, Chief, Office of Maritime and International Law, about the CG’s role in building legal capacity. My sincere appreciation to him for a thorough and informative response.

Readers of this blog know that law enforcement is one of our nation’s instruments of power. It is the “L” in DIMEFIL. CAPT Michel’s response is well worth reading since it outlines several USCG initiatives in support of the law enforcement instrument of power.

So here is my question and the response I received from CAPT Chuck Michel:

Q: What is the USCG’s role in building legal capacity of nations impacted by piracy?

Michel: The Coast Guard is working with our interagency partners to assist East and West African regional states and victim states in building the necessary capacity to deliver consequences to pirates. Counter-piracy operations are primarily a maritime law enforcement activity that the Coast Guard is trained and equipped to support. We are the competent authority for the U.S. government on more than 30 bilateral agreements with foreign partners that are key components in a wide range of Coast Guard operations including counter-drug, migrant interdiction, fisheries enforcement, and the Proliferation Security Initiative operations. The Coast Guard understands the domestic and international legal frameworks and the associated boarding and enforcement requirements necessary to ensure the successful negotiation and implementation of agreements to facilitate counter-piracy operations on the water and the delivery of legal consequences to the pirates ashore. A number of initiatives are underway:

1. Coast Guard attorneys were actively involved in the negotiation of the US/Kenya MOU on the transfer and prosecution of pirates that was signed on 16 January 2009. Discussions are ongoing for the development of implementing arrangements to ensure that the agreement functions properly. This will include a package of training and assistance for Kenyan prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, as well as for U.S. Navy and Coast Guard personnel.

2. In late January 2009, the Coast Guard led the U.S. delegation for final negotiations in Djibouti on regional cooperation to combat piracy. This agreement called the Djibouti Code of Conduct, signed by 9 regional nations so far, provides a legal framework for the interdiction and prosecution of pirates. It contains such practical measures as a shiprider program and the development of information sharing and operational coordination mechanisms.

3. The Coast Guard provides the Head of U.S. Delegation to International Maritime Organization (IMO) meetings and activities. IMO activities to combat the threat have included an IMO Assembly Resolution establishing a framework for international cooperation, work throughout the region to develop a cooperation agreement between stakeholder countries to create the legal and operational framework for regional States to combat the threat (resulting in the adoption of the Djibouti Code of Conduct), updated counter-piracy guidance to industry, and, perhaps most importantly, IMO provided technical cooperation to promote judicial consequence delivery mechanisms so that pirates, once caught, face meaningful and just punishment under the rule of law.

To be continued……

Initiatives 4-6 will be detailed in tomorrow’s post so be sure to check back.



YourDefenceNews.com writes,

Close-up of a Fairey Swordfish Mark II, HS 545'B', in flight as seen through the struts of another aircraft.

Close-up of a Fairey Swordfish Mark II, HS 545.

Royal Navy aviators and veterans, including Jock Moffat, the Swordfish pilot whose torpedo crippled the Bismark in World War Two, gathered today at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London to launch the One Hundredth Anniversary of Naval Aviation. The centenary year will be marked by a panoply of colourful events and activities throughout the UK.

The rest of the story can be found here as well at The Royal Navy’s Fly Navy 100.

Have you been a part of this glorious history? If so, comment away!



In a DOD Bloggers Roundtable the other day, I asked ADM. Timothy J. Keating, USN, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command a question about our landlocked coalition partner, Mongolia:

Q: Admiral, can we get an update on PACOM’s partnership with the country of Mongolia? There’s been a lot of news over the past year or two about their peacekeeping efforts.

ADM. KEATING: You bet, Jim. I had the privilege of going to Mongolia a while ago, saw the concluding exercise events and the ceremony attendant to Khaan Quest, conducted in the Mongolian steppes, which is a fabulous training area. The Mongolians were very cooperative training partners for about 10 countries who sent troops — I think the number was 10 — sent forces to participate in the exercise.

Mongolians have joined us in Iraq, as you know. I saw a number of their forces when we went, visited them Thanksgiving a year and a half ago. They were tasked with providing perimeter security for a camp southeast of Baghdad, a singularly important mission, as you appreciate, particularly if you’re inside the camp. And they were doing a magnificent job.

The Mongolian chief of defense has gotten to be a pretty good friend. He has come to our Chiefs of Defense conference. They’re in, of course, a strategically critical spot for us, with Russia to the north and China in the south. They have some marvelous natural resources upon which they intend to capitalize. So they’re a good partner of ours, they’re good friends, and we enjoy working closely with them.

The emphasis the Mongolian Armed Forces places on peacekeeping is a success story that can’t be told enough. It is also important to note that Mongolia considers the United States to be it’s 3rd neighbor and English is the primary foreign language learned in Mongolia.



Worried about the decline of the Royal Navy? You should be! The time is now for our U.K. readers as well as naval bloggers worldwide to take action. Need ideas on how to how? No problem. 

Save the Royal Navy is a website dedicated to fighting the decline of the Royal Navy. It aims to educate the public about Britain’s need for strong naval forces and to raise awareness of the dangers of allowing the navy to decline. According to the site, interested persons can take action by:

Signing online government petitions;
Writing their Member of Parliament;
Writing the Secretary of State for Defence;
Starting a blog;
Commenting online and writing to the press.

To borrow a line from distinguished Naval Institute Press author Tom Cutler’s email signature block, “Don’t Give up the Ship.” Take action today.



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