Archive for the 'PLAN' Tag

“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.”

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?

crossposted at

Posted by SteelJaw in Hard Power, Navy | 26 Comments
Tags: , ,

chinanavyTomorrow (1 February 2010) brings the much anticipated release of the first of three documents of significant import to the US Navy – the QDR for 2010 (Draft-QDR-2010-predecisional). Language in the draft highlights China as one of several state-actors that have acquired significant anti-access capabilities over the past ten years. Additionally, it points out that:

Chinese military doctrine calls for pre-emptive strikes against an intervening power early in a conflict and places special emphasis on crippling the adversary’s ISR, command and control, and information systems. (draft QDR 2010, p. 32)

The report also notes China’s expanding reach and growing interests abroad, and underscores the need for a two-track approach of engagement and prudent planning:

China’s rapid development of global economic power and political influence, combined with an equally rapid expansion of military capabilities, is one of the central and defining elements of the strategic landscape in the Asian region and, increasingly, global security affairs. China has begun to articulate new military roles, missions, and capabilities in support of its larger regional and global interests, which could enable it to play a more substantial role in the delivery of international public goods. The United States welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous, and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs. However, that future is not fixed, and while the United States will seek to maximize positive outcomes and the common benefits that can accrue from cooperation, prudence requires that the United States balance against the possibility that cooperative approaches may fail to prevent disruptive competition and conflict.

The limited transparency of China’s military modernization – in terms of its capabilities, intentions, and investments – remains a source of growing concern in the region, which increases the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation. Our relationship with China must therefore be multi-dimensional in scope and undergirded by a process of building and deepening strategic trust that seeks to reinforce and expand on areas of mutual interest, while sustaining open channels of communication to discuss sources of friction in the bilateral relationship, and manage and ultimately reduce the risk that is inherent to any relationship as broad and complex as that shared by the United States and China. (draft QDR 2010, p. 53)

This is all well and good, especially in light of writings such as this which advocates a very Mahanian view of the Chinese Navy and establishment of overseas bases. Justification, according to the writer, Dr. Shen Dengli, rests on 4 strategic precepts of China’s overseas interests:

With the continuous expansion of China’s overseas business, the governments are more accountable for protecting the overseas interests. There are four responsibilities: the protection of the people and fortunes overseas; the guarantee of smooth trading; the prevention of the overseas intervention which harms the unity of the country and the defense against foreign invasion. The purpose of the tasks is to deter the threats posed on our legal interests.

Read the rest of this entry »

James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara of the Jamestown Foundation conducted a recent analysis of Chinese naval goals that’s worth reading and considering in full. In short, China appears to have a resurgent interest in the work of Mahan, but Beijing is clearly still digesting the details and trying to square Mahan’s theories with their developing strategic goals. Here are the key conclusions:

An Asymmetric Yet Mahanian PLAN

Even if China does interpret Mahan in warlike fashion, it need not construct a navy symmetrical to the U.S. Navy to achieve its maritime goals, such as upholding territorial claims around the Chinese nautical periphery, commanding East Asian seas and skies, and safeguarding distant sea lines of communication. Beijing could accept Mahan’s general logic of naval strategy while seeking to command vital sea areas with weaponry and methods quite different from anything Mahan foresaw. If the much-discussed anti-ship ballistic missile pans out, for instance, the PLA could hold U.S. Navy carrier strike groups at a distance. Medium-sized Chinese aircraft carriers could operate freely behind that defensive shield, sparing the PLAN the technical and doctrinal headaches associated with constructing big-deck carriers comparable to the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz or Ford classes. Beijing would fulfill its Mahanian goal of local sea control at a modest cost—an eminently sensible approach, and one that Mahan would have applauded. Thus, Western observers should avoid projecting their own assumptions onto Chinese strategic thinkers.

Strategic theory, then, gives Westerners an instrument to track China’s maritime rise, complementing more traditional techniques of net assessment. If Chinese scholars and seafarers continue ignoring the cooperative strands of Mahanian thought, mistaking his writings for (or misrepresenting them as) bloody-minded advocacy of naval battle, Chinese strategy will incline toward naval competition and conflict. On the other hand, a China whose leadership fully grasps the logic governing Mahanian theory may prove less contentious.

I, like many current thinkers, am unconvinced that the United States and China must out of necessity become strategic adversaries. Indeed, given the ever-expanding economic interdependency between our two nations, an adversarial relationship would likely benefit neither. However, the ambiguity in the relationship and China’s strategic goals remain the key problems. And of course, U.S. naval planning and force structure will and must continue to consider the PLAN a potential threat to access until the ambiguity is resolved.

Near the coastal city that served as a major port, they gathered in the pre-dawn twilight, forming a single line in preparation for the day’s welcoming ceremony. Emblematic of their nation’s journey from a force in being to a major player on the world stage – economically, industrially and militarily; the grayish white fleet assembling today resembled little of its forebears of a handful of decades past. No longer just a regional power, this was the bid to become a major player on the world’s stage – the signal of arrival.

The Great White Fleet getting completing it’s epic journey around the world? Yes — and the People’s Liberation Army Navy celebrating its 60th Anniversary…

So what is the sense on the ground, if you will, as to the review’s true purpose? From the Deputy Commander of the PLAN via Xinhua (source), the expectations are more ‘understadning’:

“Suspicions about China being a ‘threat’ to world security are mostly because of misunderstandings and lack of understandings about China,” Ding said. “The suspicions would disappear if foreign counterparts could visit the Chinese navy and know about the true situations.”

CNO’s focused on current ops and navy-to-navy cooperation:

“I believe that opportunities like this for our navies to come together to talk about things that navies talk about, to be able to advance our military-to-military relationship and the context of a broader and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship is very important. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a pleasure to be back in China,” Roughead said. “I think that our day-to-day operations in the vicinity of Somalia are a tremendous confidence building measure, and I would say they go beyond a confidence building measure. Today our two forces are operating there,” Roughead said. “I’m a great proponent of cooperative endeavors in humanitarian assistance and how we might be able to work together in some combined and even multilateral humanitarian assistance operations such as the ones that my Navy leads.”

Others, like this from current Political Science professor at University of Miami and former Asia advisor to the CNO, June Tuefel Dryer, in an interview with ABC’s Radio Australia, note the regional concerns beyond merely protecting trade routes:

“JOANNA McCARTHY: Well, there is of course a lot of speculation on the question but what are the intentions behind China’s naval build-up, beyond protecting its trade routes, in your view?

JUNE TUEFEL DRYER: I do think that they want to create a situation where they are not challenged by any other power because the other power would realise it’s simply too dangerous to do so and that would include Vietnam, it would include Japan, it would include Taiwan and the United States. They have been testing, apparently it’s not yet operational, a very menacing weapon with the capability to destroy US aircraft carriers, for example.

JOANNA McCARTHY: And for all of Beijing’s intentions, are they still a long way off building a naval force that’s comparable to that of the United States?

JUNE TUEFEL DRYER: Yes, indeed. It’s a significant way off but on the other hand we shouldn’t downplay the significance of their having come as far as they have very quickly.”(emphasis added)

Time notes the, well, propitious timing with the release of the Obama Administration’s new budget direction and areas of emphasis with attendant opportunities for de-escalating the risk of conflict:

“The anniversary celebrations come at a pivotal moment for the United States and China. On April 6 Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced his intention — and a budget to back it up — to build future defense spending around the “wars we are in,” rather than those that military planners can imagine. The decision is hugely consequential. Even as the U.S. was engaged in two fronts in the so called War on Terror over the last eight years, it simultaneously spent defense dollars on weapons systems grounded in the assumption that someday the U.S. might well find itself in conflict with a big, technologically sophisticated nation with global ambitions, one with a well-funded, well-equipped army, navy and air force. America needed, in other words, to be ready to go to war with China”

and perhaps, wrapping back to the PLAN’s Deputy Commander’s somments above, observes:

For years, the Pentagon has been frustrated by China’s secrecy over its military budgeting and its intentions. The U.S. brass simply doesn’t believe Beijing when it says its defense spending in 2008 was only $60 billion. It’s double or three times that, Pentagon planners believe. Even Barnett concedes that China “goes out of its way to hide what it procures and then slyly trots out its big ticket items every so often so our satellites can get a few shots of them. That, in the past, has fueled the suspicion that has driven the Pentagon’s budget — which in turn convinces China’s hawks that Washington does indeed see Beijing as an enemy. The Gates budget can change that dynamic — if China now responds, and levels a bit more with the outside world about its military. Big anniversaries come and go, but moments like this arise only rarely. Is the Chinese leadership smart enough to seize it?”

Perhaps, but one must always keep the long game in view and it doesn’t hurt to keep your powder dry

MSNBC video on PLAN 60th Anniversary

Posted by SteelJaw in Foreign Policy, Navy | 8 Comments
Tags: ,