Category Archives: East China Sea

China announces biggest overhaul of military in 60+ years

Xi Jinping, President & head of PLA

Xi Jinping, President & head of PLA

Citing China’s official Xinhua News Agency, Bloomberg News reports on Nov. 26, 2015 that at the end of a three-day meeting in Beijing attended by about 200 top Chinese military officials, President Xi Jinping Xi announced a major overhaul of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest army, to make it more combat ready (“an elite combat force”) and better equipped to project force beyond China’s borders by 2020.

Upon taking power in 2012, Xi also became chairman of the Central Military Commission. He is directly managing the overhaul.

“This is the biggest military overhaul since the 1950s,” said Yue Gang, a retired colonel in the PLA’s General Staff Department. “The reform shakes the very foundations of China’s Soviet Union-style military system and transferring to a U.S. style joint command structure will transform China’s PLA into a specialized armed force that could pack more of a punch in the world.”

The overhaul of the PLA will include:

  1. All branches of the PLA would come under a joint military or forces command. In its annual report to the U.S. Congress in May, the Pentagon said creating joint-command entities “would be the most significant changes to the PLA’s command organization since 1949.”
  2. China’s seven military regions may be merged into four. (The PLA’s last major overhaul — carried out under Deng Xiaoping in 1985 — had reduced the number of military regions to 7 from 11.)
  3. The PLA will be leaner by shedding 300,000 troops. (The reform of 1985 reduced the PLA by some 1 million soldiers.)
  4. Stronger top leader: Yue said “The reform enhanced the power of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and its chairman [Xi Jinping] . . . as the former CMC chairman had little real power over the armed forces.” Xi Jinping has made the military one of the targets of his anti-corruption campaign as he consolidates his power over the PLA. Two former CMC vice-chairman were both expelled from the party since Xi took power in 2012, as were dozens of generals accused of everything from embezzling public funds to selling ranks.
  5. Strengthen the Communist Party’s grip on the military by building a new disciplinary structure and a new legal and political committee to make sure the army is under “the rule of law”.

Under Xi, China has been more assertive over territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea, raising tensions with neighbors such as Japan and the Philippines, as well as with the United States. In the South China Sea, the PLA is constructing artificial islands with military installations.  Xi’s policy marks a shift from China’s previous approach under Deng Xiaoping of keeping a low profile and not attracting attention on the world stage.

The overhaul of the Chinese military into “an elite combat force” also includes armed attack robots.

PLA armed attack robotAs reported by Neil Connor for The Telegraph, Nov. 26, 2015, “armed attack” robots that carry rifles and grenade launchers were recently unveiled at the 2015 World Robot Conference in Beijing. China’s state media called the robots the latest line of defense in the fight against “global terror”.

Xinhua news agency said the toy-sized attacker is one of a trio of new “anti-terror” machines that “can coordinate with each other on the battlefield.”

The first model is known as a “reconnaissance” robot, which scouts for poisonous gases, dangerous chemicals and explosives before transmitting its findings back to base. If this initial investigation detects a simple bomb is the source of danger, the second robot model – a small explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) machine – would be sent in to diffuse it.

But with other, more complicated threats, an attacker robot would start its mission, armed with “minor-caliber weapons, recoilless rifles and grenade launchers”. Xinhua said, “With a sighting telescope, a trigger and a safe installed, the attacker can hit its target from a long distance.

The local police force in Beijing was reported to be among the buyers for the three robots, which are priced at 1.5 million yuan (£156,000) for the set by manufacturers HIT Robot Group, based in the northern city of Harbin. The company’s sales manager Chen Deqiang said, “Apart from anti-terror operations, they can also be applied in fire fighting, public security, forestry and agriculture.”

-StMA

Japan’s Parliament passes legislation allowing military to fight in foreign wars

Both the Chinese government and people long have feared and accused post-WWII Japan of “remilitarization” — a revival of and return to its imperialist military aggression.

Now that Beijing has declared its sovereignty (via an Air Defense Identification Zone) over the disputed Sengaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea, as well as over the South China Sea, that Chinese accusation is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. On July 16, 2015, the Japanese Parliament approved of legislation that, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, empowers the military to fight in foreign conflicts.

China-Japan ADIZsJonathan Soble reports for the New York Times, July 16, 2015, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

The legislation would allow the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to cooperate more closely with United States forces by providing logistical support and, in certain circumstances, armed backup in international conflicts. It complements guidelines in a bilateral agreement governing how Japanese and United States forces work together, which was signed by the two governments this year.

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Abe, who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

But Abe’s agenda goes against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries Japan once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say the legislation violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China. In an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress in April, Abe had pledged that he would enact the legislation to strengthen Japan’s already close ties to the United States.

Abe’s success pushing through the vote has political costs: Voters oppose the legislation by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys. The Abe government’s support ratings, which were once high, have fallen to around 40% in several polls taken this month.

Katsuya Okada, head of the largest opposition party, said before the opposition walkout, “It is a huge mistake to set aside a constitutional interpretation built up by governments for 70 years without sufficient public understanding and debate.”

Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. “These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe,” he said after Thursday’s vote.

China condemned passage of the bills, describing them as a potential threat to peace in Asia and invoking Japan’s wartime aggression. Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

With opposition lawmakers boycotting the vote, the bills passed with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, and its smaller coalition partner, Komeito, which control a majority of seats in the legislature’s lower house, the House of Representatives. To become law, they must still be approved by the upper chamber, but in the unlikely event that the package is rejected, the lower house can override that decision. Japanese judges are mostly unwilling to overrule the government on matters of security.

The upper house is scheduled to debate the legislation for 60 days, keeping the issue in the public eye and potentially fueling more protests.

Abe has long argued that the Constitution should be amended to remove its restrictive antiwar provisions, but changing the charter would require a national referendum that he would probably lose. For now, at least, a contested reinterpretation of the Constitution appears to be the most he can hope for.

On Wednesday night, large crowds gathered outside Parliament after the bills were approved by a committee in an emotional and chaotic session. The crowds were estimated by organizers to number some 100,000, which would make the protest the largest antigovernment demonstration in Japan since protests in 2012 against the proposed restart of nuclear power plants, a year after the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

See also:

~StMA

China military practices Taiwan invasion in Bashi Channel

Bashi ChannelChina practices Taiwan invasion with civilian ferries, bomber flights in Bashi Channel

Richard D Fisher Jr and James Hardy
IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly
June 16, 2015

A series of Chinese military exercises between late May and early June showcased the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to project land, air, and naval power into the area around Taiwan.

While China has made no official connection, the exercises also coincided with the 29 May to 3 June visit to the United States of Tsai Ing Wen, the leader of the anti-unification [Taiwan]Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who could win the presidency in elections scheduled for 2016.

Perhaps the most interesting was the PLA Daily ‘s 10 June review of a mobility exercise from late May in which a 20,000-ton civilian roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferry was assigned to the Transportation Department of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It transported personnel and trucks from the Bohai Sea to the South China Sea.

To compensate for the relatively small size of its formal naval amphibious transport fleet the PLA has co-funded construction of a large number of ferries used by civilian companies. They will be made available to the PLA during emergencies and are a frequent element in civil-military transport exercises.

The PLA Daily article featured an image of an officer giving a briefing with a digitally barely concealed map of Taiwan. In early 2014 an Asian government source told IHS Jane’s that with combined military-civil transport, the PLA could move eight to 12 divisions to Taiwan.

China also conducted a series of exercises sending air and naval forces through the Bashi Channel and then to the region east and south of Taiwan. On 10 June PLA Navy spokesman Liang Yang confirmed the naval deployments.

These “imitated real combat conditions in waters east of the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan,” according to a Chinese press report. The naval formation included a Type 052B destroyer, a Type 054A frigate, and a Type 904 underway replenishment ship.

On 21 May PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke confirmed that the PLAAF had conducted exercises through and beyond the Bashi Strait. This included the first PLAAF deployment of the Xian Aircraft Corporation H-6K bomber in this region.

The H-6K is a highly modified version of the bomber that can carry six KD-20 land attack cruise missiles on wing pylons plus one or more in its bomb bay. It can also carry a wide range of new precision-guided munitions available from four Chinese weapon manufacturers.

See also:

China builds military base on offshore island to reclaim contested Senkakus

At the end of the Ryukyu archipelago in the East China Sea is a cluster of small islands called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyutai by the Chinese, the ownership of which is contested by Beijing and Tokyo. The waters surrounding the islets are believed to contain sub-soil oil and natural gas deposits.

On November 24, 2013, China made a bold move toward its claim by declaring an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that includes the air space over the contested islands.

At first, the United States appeared to challenge China’s ADIZ by flying B-52 bombers over the area. Two days later, China demonstrated its resolve by sending warplanes into the ADIZ. The Obama administration then backed off, told U.S. commercial airlines to abide by China’s rules in the ADIZ, then seemed to signal that the U.S. would accept China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea although the U.S. official position is that it does not recognize the Chinese air defense zone as it covers large areas of international airspace and waters.

Now China has made another move to reclaim the islands.

China vs. Japan ADIZs

Bill Gertz reports for The Washington Free Beacon, Jan. 27, 2015, that recent satellite photos of an island off the coast of China confirm Beijing’s buildup of military forces within attack range of the Senkaku islands.

In October 2014, construction of a helicopter base on Nanji Island was observed by a commercial spy satellite. The island is off the coast of China’s Zhejiang province—some 186 miles northwest of the Senkakus. The imagery, obtained from the Airbus Defense and Space-owned Pleaides satellite, reveals China is constructing an airfield with 10 landing pads for helicopters on Nanji Island.

Click images below to enlarge

Nanji1Nanji2Military analysts say the new military base on Nanji Island appears to be preparation by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for an attack or seizure of the Senkakus. Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said:

“China’s new heli-base on Nanji Island demonstrates that the PLA is preparing for an offensive military operation against the Senkaku/Daiyoutai Islands. If you want to rate the level of tension, this is the PLA reaching for its holster. When forces start deploying to Nanji Island, that means the hammer is cocked.

The military buildup on Nanji was first disclosed by Japan’s Kyodo News Service last month. Kyodo, quoting Chinese sources, said a landing strip was being built. However, the satellite photos, reported last week by IHS trade publication Jane’s Defence Weekly, did not indicate construction of an airstrip, only helicopter landing pads. The helicopter base construction is new because photos taken earlier than October 2013 do not show any visible construction. In addition to the helicopter pads, wind turbines on a ridge on the southeast part of Nanji also are visible additions to the island. Radar and communications equipment also is visible. The helicopter pads are an indication that China plans to use the base for transporting troops and forces by helicopter and not for longer-range air transports or fighter jets.

China has been engaged in a tense confrontation with Japan over the Senkakus since 2012, when Tokyo, in a bid to clarify the status of the uninhabited islands, purchased three of the islands from private owners in a bid to prevent Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara from buying them. Since then, Chinese ships and warplanes, as well as unmanned surveillance drones, have been flying close to the islands, prompting numerous Japanese maritime and aerial intercepts.

Yang Yujun

Yang Yujun

China’s Defense Ministry did not dispute the military buildup on Nanji.

On Dec. 25, 2014, at the same time as he called Japanese news reports of the construction on Nanji “irresponsible,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman PLA Sr. Col. Yang Yujun told reporters in Beijing that “There is no doubt that China has the right to conduct activities and construction on its own territory. Some media in Japan make irresponsible speculations on China’s legitimate activities and construction and play up tensions in the region. It is pure media hype.”

Questions were raised during the discussion with Yang as to whether the buildup is part of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus.

Retired PLA Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, a Beijing-based research group, told Singapore’s Today newspaper on Dec. 23, that the Nanji military construction was “normal” and that “China has military bases in several strategically important coastal islands and the Nanji is one of them. The Japanese media is only singling out the Nanji and making a big fuss, [and] this can be misleading.”

Jane’s said the Nanji construction appears to be part of a “quiet military buildup around the Senkaku/Daioyu islands by both sides. For its part, Japan is putting aside funds to buy land for a coastal surveillance radar unit on Yonaguni island, which is the westernmost of its islands and only 150 kilometers from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, while it is also training up and kitting out a small marine corps-style force that will be based in Nagasaki.”

The lack of an airfield is a “gap” in Chinese plans for military operations against the Senkakus, Jane’s said. The closest PLA air base to the Senkakus currently is located at Luqiao, some 236 miles from the Senkakus, where J-10 fighters are based.

Fisher, however, said Nanji could be used by the PLA to base its large Zubr air-cushioned hovercraft that are capable of moving troops and tanks in a takeover of the Senkakus or an assault against Taiwan.

A Japanese Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the Chinese military construction: “We are in the process of gathering information on this, and thus not able to comment.” A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment.

Note: The United States has a mutual defense treaty with Japan, and a Congressional act with the Republic of China on Taiwan called the Taiwan Relations Act (1979), wherein the U.S. states it is committed to the maintenance of peace and security in the Western Pacific (which includes the Taiwan Strait).

See also:

~StMA

China expands maritime reconnaissance-strike capabilities to undermine Japan and U.S. power

China maritime reconnaissance

Below is the Introduction to Ian Easton’s monograph for the Japan Institute of International Affairs, China’s Evolving Reconnaissance-Strike Capabilities: Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance, February 2014. Easton is a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, VA.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is investing considerable resources into a military architecture that has the potential to alter the strategic fabric of the Western Pacific region. This includes the development of multiple redundant sensor capabilities for monitoring a vast maritime domain extending off of China’s coastline and deep into the Pacific. China’s expanding reconnaissance infrastructure is designed to support an array of precision strike capabilities for targeting ships at sea, command and control nodes, air bases, ports, and other critical facilities. The purpose of these reconnaissance-strike capabilities is to undermine the Unites States military’s ability to project power into the region during periods of crisis or conflict to meet its security commitments to its allies and coalition partners.

How China’s reconnaissance-strike capabilities develop in the years ahead will be a key determinant influencing the evolution of regional stability. Indeed, China’s ability to hold strategic assets at risk in times of conflict with conventionally armed projectiles will challenge the security of Beijing’s maritime neighbors to a far greater degree than its development of aircraft carriers or other traditional ship or aircraft platforms. Precision strike assets such as modern ballistic and cruise missiles based on road mobile launchers are exceedingly difficult to defend against and inherently destabilizing. However, China’s weapons systems are not invulnerable to countermeasures that could be fielded in the years ahead.

Japan is one of the countries that will be most directly impacted by China’s evolving reconnaissance-strike capabilities. Both Tokyo and Beijing are deeply distrustful of the others’ intentions due to a long list of historical grievances, and, more recently, the two sides have seen a sharp downturn in their relationship due to a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. To minimize the potential for conflict erupting, it will be important for Japan and the United States to strengthen their alliance as a stabilizing force to balance against China’s growing military power. Given the budgetary constraints facing the American military, wise investments and a more “normal” Japanese force posture will be essential to keep the region peaceful as China becomes more militarily capable.

This paper will examine China’s emerging reconnaissance-strike capabilities and discuss their implications for the U.S.-Japan alliance. It will begin by describing China’s increasing capabilities, and explain why they would be destabilizing to regional security if left unchecked. Next, this paper will explore efforts currently underway in China to assure its capacity to acquire, track and target adversaries’ naval and air operations. Then it will assess capability gaps in the Japanese and American militaries that create vulnerabilities China could exploit to undermine the defensive utility of the alliance. Finally, this paper will conclude with a brief set of recommendations on countermeasures that Tokyo and Washington could take to assure the defense of Japan in the years ahead.

Omitted by Easton is the fact that China’s enhanced maritime reconnaissance-strike capabilities will also negatively affect the security of Taiwan, as well as impede the United States military’s power projection in the event of a China-Taiwan conflict.

Read the rest of Easton’s 31-page monograph here.

See also:

~StMA

Dir. of U.S. Navy Intelligence sacked for warning about China’s aggressive designs in East China Sea

Capt. James FanellCapt. James Fanell

In February of this year, at the U.S. Naval Institute’s WEST 2014 conference, Capt. James Fanell, 52, the director of intelligence and information operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that the Chinese Navy was practicing for a “short sharp war” against Japan.

According to Fanell, the PLA Navy had been carrying out amphibious assault drills to practice taking territory in the East China Sea, specifically the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands that are claimed by both Japan and China. Once the uninhabited islands come under Chinese control, the PLA could then attack Okinawa to remove the facilities of the US Air Force and Marine Corps from the island. (See my post “U.S. Navy intelligence chief: China training for a quick war against Japan”)

Fanell also stated that China is at the center of virtually every maritime territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific and that the Chinese were engaging in a blatant land-grab of islands that would enhance their exclusive economic rights to fishing and natural resources.

“I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said, adding that when Beijing described its activities as the “protection of maritime rights,” this was really “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors.”

Now comes news that Captain Fanell has been removed from his position as director of Navy Intelligence by Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) boss Adm. Harry Harris and reassigned within the command.

David Larter reports for Navy Times, Nov. 10, 2014, that Capt. Fanell’s remarks about China preparing for a “short sharp war” with Japan ran counter to the Pentagon’s talking points on building ties to the increasingly assertive Chinese navy, which forced top defense officials, including the 4-star head of the Army and the Pentagon spokesman, to respond to his comment in the following days.

PACFLT did not disclose the relief, saying that Fanell was not a commanding officer and therefore was entitled to increased privacy. “It is inappropriate to publicly discuss the internal reassignment of non-command triad personnel,” PACFLT said in an Nov. 7 statement.

The reasons for Fanell’s firing are cloudy, but two sources said the relief stems from alleged mishandling of classified information and fostering a negative command climate. Capt. Darryn James, top spokesman for PACFLT, declined to say whether Fanell’s relief was related to his controversial views, citing privacy concerns.

Fanell’s relief is the latest turmoil in the Navy’s intelligence community, and has raised questions about whether an intel officer was cashiered for publicly voicing a view that contradicted Pentagon public statements.

Fanell’s views have supporters inside naval intelligence, and he has become a high-profile spokesman for a more alarmist view of the rise of China than those espoused by Navy senior leadership, an intelligence source who spoke to Navy Times said. Fanell’s articles on China have been published by Hoover Digest, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly and the U. S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

But his public remarks stirred a major controversy and forced both the Pentagon’s top spokesman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to repudiate his comments.

John Kirby

John Kirby

Pentagon Press Secretary and Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Fanell’s comments were his to express and that they weren’t reflective of the organization’s stance on China: “What I can tell you about what [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel believes is that we all continue to believe that the peaceful, prosperous rise of China is a good thing for the region, for the world.”

Ray Odierno

Ray Odierno

Fanell’s comments in early 2014 came at an awkward time, coinciding with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno‘s trip to Beijing in February, when he was asked by a reporter to respond to Fanell’s analysis. Odierno said, “I’ve seen no indications of that at all,” referring to Fanell’s analysis that China was preparing for war with Japan.

The comments also ran contrary to the messaging from Adm. Jon Greenert, who has made engagement with China one of

Jonathan Greenert

Jonathan Greenert

the hallmarks of his time as chief of naval operations. Later in 2014, Greenert stated that talking openly of war with China — and a Chinese war with Japan would almost certainly trigger a war with the U.S. — was unnecessarily antagonistic. “If you talk about it openly, you cross the line and unnecessarily antagonize,” Greenert said at a forum in Newport, Rhode Island. “You probably have a sense about how much we trade with that country. It’s astounding. ”

Fanell is a California native and nearly 29-year career intelligence officer commissioned in 1986. He was responsible for damage assessments for Pacific Fleet during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He served as a China maritime watch officer at Joint Intelligence Center Pacific in 1991, and served on board the carriers Kitty Hawk, Carl Vinson, as well as the amphibious command ship Blue Ridge.

He has been reassigned as an aid to Rear Adm. Randy Crites, head of the maritime headquarters at PACFLT.

See also:

~StMA

Taiwan to replace Navy with all domestic production

Clearly alarmed by China’s increasingly assertive irredentism in the South and East China Seas, the surrounding Asia-Pacific countries are beefing up their military. (See “China threatens war in South and East China Seas“)

According to naval analysts at AMI International, the Asian-Pacific region is currently the No. 2 market for naval arms sales globally. AMI estimates that Asian and Pacific nations will build upwards of 1,100 warships during the next 20 years, and spend $200 billion building them.

More interesting than the new Asian-Pacific arms race is the fact that, instead of purchasing them from the United States, some countries are seeking to build their own arms — a commentary on their perception that Washington is unreliable and undependable. (See “U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Locklear says China is eclipsing U.S. in Asia”)

As an example, Japan is considering building its own fighter jets.

Now, it is Taiwan.

Taiwan StraitMilitary experts say that the Taiwanese Navy, once the island nation’s most neglected military service, has lately come to be viewed as “the most important” arm of the Taiwanese military because the Navy holds the power to save Taiwan from an invasion by mainland China. Accordingly, the Navy is now the focus of Taiwanese military investment.

Last month, Taiwan’s government released preliminary details on a new 20-year plan to modernize its Navy. Currently composed primarily of hand-me-down U.S. and French warships (Perry-, Knox-, and La Fayette-class frigates, and Kidd-class destroyers) and domestically-built supporting Kuang Hua 6 fast-attack missile boats and Ching Chiang-class missile patrol boats.

Taiwan plans to replace this current fleet with one that’s entirely domestically built, by relying on the combined efforts of its Ocean Industries Research and Development Center for design, the Taiwanese military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) for systems and integration, and the Taiwan-based China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. for construction.

Producing them in Taiwan creates jobs and skills, reduces reliance on restrictive US government export policies, and reduces corruption, the Navy official said. US and European defense companies have a history of hiring local agents with ties to organized crime and Beijing’s intelligence apparatus.

Taiwan’s plan is to spend the next 5 to 10 years designing:

  • a new 10,000-ton destroyer
  • a 3,000-ton catamaran-like frigate
  • an amphibious transport dock (often dubbed an “LPD” or “landing platform/dock”)
  • a new 1,200-3,000-ton diesel submarine.

After that, Taiwan will spend the succeeding 10-15 years building:

  • 4 destroyers
  • 10 to 15 frigates
  • perhaps 11 LPDs
  • 4 to 8 submarines

Details of Taiwan’s naval modernization program will be released in November, but Navy officials provided some information about the scope of the massive build plan during the live-fire field training event during the annual Han Kuang exercises off the east coast of Taiwan on Sept. 17.

The fact that Taiwan wants to invest in developing its homegrown defense industry, and build these ships entirely at home, means there’s precious little opportunity for foreign defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls — America’s two biggest military shipbuilders — to participate in the project. The loss in revenues to U.S. defense contractors is estimated to be $6.9 billion — about a year’s worth of business for General Dynamics’ Marine Systems unit, or a year’s worth of revenues for all of Huntington Ingalls.

All is not lost.

While they might not get a chance to build Taiwan’s ships, they might very well be able to play a role in building the weapons and electronics systems that go into those ships.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense is still open to the idea of hiring foreign defense contractors to provide “assistance on various components and systems” that will be installed in its new navy. Taiwan has shown particular interest, for example, in acquiring RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 anti-aircraft missiles built by Raytheon, to replace the Standard Missile 2s that currently outfit its Kidd-class destroyers (now dubbed “Kee Lung-class” destroyers).

The Taiwanese navy’s modernization program will face hurdles from budget declines in coming years. The military’s finances will also be put to the test as it reduces personnel and implements an all-volunteer force. (See “Taiwan military to be downsized and all-volunteer“)

Sources: Defense News; The Motley Fool

See also:

~StMA

Japan considers building its own fighter jets

AFP reports, Aug. 21, 2014, that a report in the newspaper Nikkei says Japan is considering building its own fighter jets after years of playing second fiddle in a US construction partnership.

There is a growing need for Japan to develop a long-haul, highly stealthy fighter jets in face of China’s increasing assertiveness in the East China Sea, where the two countries are locked in a dispute over a group of Tokyo-controlled islands that Japanese call Senkaku and Chinese call Diao-yu.

Japan’s attempt in the 1980s to build its first purely domestic fighters since World War II faced US resistance and resulted in joint US-Japan development and production of the F-2. But joint F-2 production ended more than two years ago and the last of the fighters are due to be retired from Japan’s air defense force around 2028.

F-2 fighters in Japan's Air Self Defense Force

F-2 fighters in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force

Japan’s defense ministry plans to seek about 40 billion yen ($387 million) in state funding for the next year starting in April 2015 to test experimental engines and radar-dodging stealth airframe designs for a purely Japanese fighter. Developing a purely domestic fighter is estimated to cost a massive 500-800 billion yen ($4.8-7.7 billion).

Four years ago, Japan’s defense ministry began work on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X) stealth plane to explore the project’s feasibility by studying lightweight airframe designs and built-in missile-firing mechanisms. The ATD-X was due to start testing experimental engines in January and the stealth airframe designs in April. The ministry hopes to develop the actual engines for the project in cooperation with IHI, Mitsubishi Heavy and other defense contractors in about five years.

Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X stealth plane

Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X stealth plane

Should Japan go forward with producing its own fighter jet, it will likely stoke fears of Japan’s military resurgence among its Asian neighbors.

Beijing regularly warns of what it says is Tokyo’s intent to re-arm on the quiet and that Tokyo’s selective amnesia about its World War II militarism means Japan cannot be trusted to have a fully-fledged military.

Last month the cabinet of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a highly controversial shift in the nation’s post-war pacifist stance by proclaiming Japan has the right to go into battle in defense of allies. Tokyo denies its intent is anything other than defensive and, reacting to China’s criticisms, points to Beijing’s opaque military spending and its burgeoning ambitions as the real danger in Asia.

Developing its own domestic fighter is estimated to cost a massive 500-800 billion yen ($4.8-7.7 billion), a decision Tokyo will have to make by the 2018 financial year.

China “thinks” it can defeat America but will be thwarted by U.S. “Silent Force” of submarines

David Axe, “China thinks it can defeat America in battle: But it overlooks one decisive factor,” The Week, July 7, 2014

The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfully prevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing.

Now the good news. China is wrong — and for one major reason. It apparently disregards the decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines.

Moreover, for economic and demographic reasons Beijing has a narrow historical window in which to use its military to alter the world’s power structure. If China doesn’t make a major military move in the next couple decades, it probably never will.

The U.S. Navy’s submarines — the unsung main defenders of the current world order — must hold the line against China for another 20 years. After that, America can declare a sort of quiet victory in the increasingly chilly Cold War with China.

How China wins

The bad news came from Lee Fuell, from the U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, during Fuell’s testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 30.

For years, Chinese military planning assumed that any attack by the People’s Liberation Army on Taiwan or a disputed island would have to begin with a Pearl Harbor-style preemptive missile strike by China against U.S. forces in Japan and Guam. The PLA was so afraid of overwhelming American intervention that it genuinely believed it could not win unless the Americans were removed from the battlefield before the main campaign even began.

A preemptive strike was, needless to say, a highly risky proposition. If it worked, the PLA just might secure enough space and time to defeat defending troops, seize territory, and position itself for a favorable post-war settlement.

But if China failed to disable American forces with a surprise attack, Beijing could find itself fighting a full-scale war on at least two fronts: against the country it was invading plus the full might of U.S. Pacific Command, fully mobilized and probably strongly backed by the rest of the world.

That was then. But after two decades of sustained military modernization, the Chinese military has fundamentally changed its strategy in just the last year or so. According to Fuell, recent writings by PLA officers indicate “a growing confidence within the PLA that they can more-readily withstand U.S. involvement.”

The preemptive strike is off the table — and with it, the risk of a full-scale American counterattack. Instead, Beijing believes it can attack Taiwan or another neighbor while also bloodlessly deterring U.S. intervention. It would do so by deploying such overwhelmingly strong military forces — ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers, jet fighters, and the like — that Washington dare not get involved.

The knock-on effects of deterring America could be world-changing. “Backing away from our commitments to protect Taiwan, Japan, or the Philippines would be tantamount to ceding East Asia to China’s domination,” Roger Cliff, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, said at the same U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Jan. 30.

Worse, the world’s liberal economic order — and indeed, the whole notion of democracy — could suffer irreparable harm. “The United States has both a moral and a material interest in a world in which democratic nations can survive and thrive,” Cliff asserted.

Fortunately for that liberal order, America possesses by far the world’s most powerful submarine force — one poised to quickly sink any Chinese invasion fleet. In announcing its readiness to hold off the U.S. military, the PLA seems to have ignored Washington’s huge undersea advantage.

(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam K. Thomas/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

The Silent Service

It’s not surprising that Beijing would overlook America’s subs. Most Americans overlook their own undersea fleet — and that’s not entirely their own fault. The U.S. sub force takes pains to avoid media coverage in order to maximize its secrecy and stealth. “The submarine cruises the world’s oceans unseen,” the Navy stated on its Website.

Unseen and unheard. That why the sub force calls itself the “Silent Service.”

The Navy has 74 submarines, 60 of which are attack or missile submarines optimized for finding and sinking other ships or blasting land targets. The balance is ballistic-missile boats that carry nuclear missiles and would not routinely participate in military campaigns short of an atomic World War III.

Thirty-three of the attack and missile boats belong to the Pacific Fleet, with major bases in Washington State, California, Hawaii, and Guam. Deploying for six months or so roughly every year and a half, America’s Pacific subs frequently stop over in Japan and South Korea and occasionally even venture under the Arctic ice.

According to Adm. Cecil Haney, the former commander of Pacific Fleet subs, on any given day 17 boats are underway and eight are “forward-deployed,” meaning they are on station in a potential combat zone. To the Pacific Fleet, that pretty much means waters near China.

America has several submarine types. The numerous Los Angeles-class attack boats are Cold War stalwarts that are steadily being replaced by newer Virginia-class boats with improved stealth and sensors. The secretive Seawolfs, numbering just three — all of them in the Pacific — are big, fast, and more heavily armed than other subs. The Ohio-class missile submarines are former ballistic missile boats each packing 154 cruise missile.

U.S. subs are, on average, bigger, faster, quieter, and more powerful than the rest of the world’s subs. And there are more of them. The U.K. is building just seven new Astute attack boats. Russia aims to maintain around 12 modern attack subs. China is struggling to deploy a handful of rudimentary nuclear boats.

Note: See “China in a frenzy to build nuclear attack submarines” and “China’s new map includes ‘Second National Territory’ of oceans

Able to lurk silently under the waves and strike suddenly with torpedoes and missiles, submarines have tactical and strategic effect greatly disproportionate to their relatively small numbers. During the 1982 Falklands War, the British sub Conqueror torpedoed and sank theArgentine cruiser General Belgranokilling 323 men. The sinking kept the rest of the Argentine fleet bottled up for the duration of the conflict.

America’s eight-at-a-time submarine picket in or near Chinese waters could be equally destructive to Chinese military plans, especially considering the PLA’s limited anti-submarine skills. “Although China might control the surface of the sea around Taiwan, its ability to find and sink U.S. submarines will be extremely limited for the foreseeable future,” Cliff testified. “Those submarines would likely be able to intercept and sink Chinese amphibious transports as they transited toward Taiwan.”

So it almost doesn’t matter that a modernized PLA thinks it possesses the means to fight America above the waves, on land, and in the air. If it can’t safely sail an invasion fleet as part of its territorial ambitions, it can’t achieve its strategic goals — capturing Taiwan and or some island also claimed by a neighboring country — through overtly military means.

That reality should inform Washington’s own strategy. As the United States has already largely achieved the world order it struggled for over the last century, it need only preserve and defend this order. In other words, America has the strategic high ground against China, as the latter must attack and alter the world in order to get what it wants.

In practical military terms, that means the Pentagon can more or less ignore most of China’s military capabilities, including those that appear to threaten traditional U.S. advantages in nukes, air warfare, mechanized ground operations, and surface naval maneuvers.

“We won’t invade China, so ground forces don’t play,” pointed out Wayne Hughes, a professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. “We won’t conduct a first nuclear strike. We should not adopt an air-sea strike plan against the mainland, because that is a sure way to start World War IV.”

Rather, America must deny the Chinese free access to their near waters. “We need only enough access to threaten a war at sea,” Hughes said. In his view, a fleet optimized for countering China would have large numbers of small surface ships for enforcing a trade blockade. But the main combatants would be submarines, “to threaten destruction of all Chinese warships and commercial vessels in the China Seas.”

Cliff estimated that in wartime, each American submarine would be able to get off “a few torpedo shots” before needing to “withdraw for self-preservation.” But assuming eight subs each fire three torpedoes, and just half those torpedoes hit, the American attack boats could destroy all of China’s major amphibious ships — and with them, Beijing’s capacity for invading Taiwan or seizing a disputed island.

(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam K. Thomas/U.S Navy via Getty Images)

Waiting out the Chinese decline

If American subs can hold the line for another 20 years, China might age right out of its current, aggressive posture without ever having attacked anyone. That’s because economic and demographic trends in China point towards a rapidly aging population, flattening economic growth, and fewer resources available for military modernization.

To be fair, almost all developed countries are also experiencing this aging, slowing and increasing peacefulness. But China’s trends are pronounced owing to a particularly steep drop in the birth rate traceable back to the Chinese Communist Party’s one-child policy.

Another factor is the unusual speed with which the Chinese economy has expanded to its true potential, thanks to the focused investment made possible by an authoritarian government… and also thanks to that government’s utter disregard for the natural environment and for the rights of everyday Chinese people.

“The economic model that propelled China through three decades of meteoric growth appears unsustainable,” Andrew Erickson, a Naval War College analyst, told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

What Erickson described as China’s “pent-up national potential” could begin expiring as early as 2030, by which point “China will have world’s highest proportion of people over 65,” he predicted. “An aging society with rising expectations, burdened with rates of chronic diseases exacerbated by sedentary lifestyles, will probably divert spending from both military development and the economic growth that sustains it.”

Wisely, American political and military leaders have made the investments necessary to sustain U.S. undersea power for at least that long. After a worrying dip in submarine production, starting in 2012 the Pentagon asked for — and Congress funded — the acquisition of two Virginia-class submarines per year for around $2.5 billion apiece, a purchase rate adequate to maintain the world’s biggest nuclear submarine fleet indefinitely.

The Pentagon is also improving the Virginia design, adding undersea-launched dronesextra missile capacity, and potentially a new anti-ship missile.

Given China’s place in the world, its underlying national trends and America’s pointed advantage in just that aspect of military power that’s especially damaging to Chinese plans, it seems optimistic for PLA officers to assume they can launch an attack on China’s neighbors without first knocking out U.S. forces.

Not that a preemptive strike would make any difference, as the only American forces that truly matter for containing China are the very ones that China cannot reach.

For they are deep underwater.

China’s new map includes “Second National Territory” of oceans

On June 25, 2014, Reuters reports that China has unveiled a new official map of the country giving greater play to its claims on the South China Sea by making the disputed waters and its numerous islets and reefs more clearly seem like national territory.

Although previous maps published by Beijing included China’s claim to most of the South China Sea, that claim was depicted in a little box in a bottom corner to enable the rest of the country to fit on the map. That placement made the South China Sea’s islands appear more like an appendage rather than an integral part of China.

The new, longer map dispenses with the box, and shows continental China along with its self-declared sea boundary in the South China Sea — stretching right down to the coasts of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines — on one complete map.

An unnamed official with the map’s publishers told the Chinese government’s official newspaper People’s Daily that the new “vertical map of China has important meaning for promoting citizens’ better understanding of … maintaining (our) maritime rights and territorial integrity.”

H/t CODA’s M.S.

New map of China 2014Click map to enlarge. Note the purple dashes marking the South China and East China Seas as parts of China.

Indeed, China’s recent aggressive moves in the South China Sea, as well as last November’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea, are but indicators of an overall policy shift by the Chinese military from a land-based to an ocean defense strategy.

From p. 230 of Maria Hsia Chang’s Return of the Dragon: China’s Wounded Nationalism (Westview, 2001):

An article in [Beijing’s Guofang journal] National Defense in 1995 explains that, “In the past, for a long period of time,” humanity primarily relied on land for their survival and development, thinking that “national territory (guotu ) only meant dry land.” But in today’s world, due to rapid increases in population and dwindling land and resources, “national territory” must mean more than “land territory” (lingtu ) but should include “territorial waters” (linghai ). This has led nation-states to turn to the “oceans” (haiyang ) — most of which are still “virgin territory” — in their search for new “living space” (shengchun kongjiang  ).

The PRC  now conceives oceans to be its “second national territory” (dier guotu  ). It defines “maritime national territory” (haiyang guotu ) as “the maritime portion of any land and space belong to or under the jurisdiction of a coastal country.” China’s “second national territory” includes 12 territorial seas (linghai ), 24 “maritime adjacent regions” (haili pilian qu ), 200 maritime economic exclusive zones and continental shelves — totaling more than 3 million square kilometers or one-third of China’s land mass.

Defense of its “national maritime territory” requires Beijing to shift its defense strategy from one of “coastal defense” (jin’an fangyu ) to “offshore defense” (jinhai fangyu ). National Defense maintains that since “the frontline of maritime national defense lies beyond China’s territorial waters . . . there will be times” when China’s defense of its seas “may require doing battle in farther maritime regions” including “international waters and seabeds.” China’s perimeter of “offshore defense” is conceived to include two “island chains.” The first chain stretches from the Aleutians to the Kurils, the Japanese archipelago, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippine archipelago, and the Greater Sunda Islands. The “second island chain” comprises the Bonins, the Marianas, Guam, and the Palau archipelago.

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~StMA