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AirSea Battle Observations

May 24, 2010
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The following are my own observations on the recent AirSea Battle concept report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, with authors Mark Gunzinger, Andrew Krepinevich, Jim Thomas, and Jan Van Tol. I have probably left out a lot for the sake of space but here are several thoughts after reading:

The New Battleships

Planes will wear out faster than ships, which can be repaired and sent back into the fight. Missiles will be easier to build and replace than fighters.

Even if every US aircraft carrier was sunk or driven into port, there would still be numerous surviving TLAM submarines and surfaces ships to take the fight to the enemy, as pointed out:

Upon warning, US and Japanese AEGIS ships would proceed to pre-assigned BMD stations…US and allied submarines would move to forward stations and commence ASW operations (including operations inside the First Island Chain and ASW barrier operations along the Ryukyus island chain and across the Luzon Strait).
US SSGNs and selected SSNs, allied submarines, and other undersea strike systems would be positioned in Chinese littoral waters for ISR, support for joint strike missions (e.g., SEAD), and missions against undersea infrastructure targets.

Carriers would remain out of this initial struggle, except to support the Aegis ships, which is an astounding role reversal:

Particularly high-value units such as carriers would remain or move beyond the PLA’s A2/AD threat range and operate in accordance with appropriate operational deception precepts to avoid attack.

The authors assume forward bases such as Guam will be temporarily immobilized. So, we are reinforcing these bases at great expense why?

The conflict is characterized as a “scouting battle”, which is typical in warfare, yet with satellites, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance)  planes and other forms of information gathering necessary to initiate the PLA’s anti-access weapons, plus the US counterstrike weapons, on a scale unparalleled. Still, the gathering of intelligence is mindful of the Japanese and US carrier pilots seeking one another in the grey skies of the Pacific, with varied results. Another new factor would be each side seeking to “blind” the other, with anti-satellite weapons, and perhaps even EMP technology. All told, it will be the first “space war”, and the battle could be won or loss in these initial stages, whoever maintains an advantage in intelligence.

Finally, if US and ally suppression operations are even modestly successful in reducing the PLA’s ability to conduct optimum salvo missile strikes on friendly forward bases, this reduces the stress on allied missile defenses, further complicating the PLA’s problem — and raising its costs…The attrition of PLA ISR battle network components over maritime areas would be crucial to neutralizing the Chinese ASBM and long-range air- and submarine- launched ASCM threat to allied surface ships.

Carriers would possess a new role in intercepting enemy ISR aircraft. Plus E-2 aircraft could be used to assist targeting for BMD ships (more here). I wonder why AWACS planes wouldn’t be more helpful since they are not bound by vulnerable forward-based platforms? The flattops’ traditional role (by Cold War standards) of land based strike would be delayed until it is reasonably safe for the to do so.

The challenge for the Chinese defense would be to keep Western counter-strike assets from attacking their missile sites and airbases. This is why the anti-access missiles attacking carriers and forward bases are so important. In other words, the Chicoms don’t want what happened to Saddam Hussein to happen to them. So, you negate airpower’s ability to perform.

The aircraft carriers would be easy to counter, principally because of their short-range bombers. Of greater concern to the PLA are USAF bombers, cruise missiles from submarines, and perhaps stealthy UAVs.

*****

War Under the Sea

I think the report glosses over the problems of 21st century anti-submarine warfare, and the extent the Red submarines would inhibit naval relief efforts in the Western Pacific, except to say:

The ASW sub-campaign by contrast would be much slower. It would therefore be the pacing sub-campaign in terms of enabling US and allied operations closer to China’s littorals.

Concerning the use of allied subs, I thought the following statement a logical call for the deployment of AIP or conventional boats to increase numbers:

For reasons elaborated upon below, while submarines are generally the most lethal ship killers, their
small numbers and payloads, as well as their allocation to other priority missions,
limits their employment in anti-surface warfare operations, save against very high-value targets.

And further down:

Whereas US submarines sought to destroy Japanese merchant shipping wherever it could be found, and operated close to Japan almost from the start of the Pacific War, in AirSea Battle US submarines would be assigned other, higher-priority missions as described above.

Meaning, no matter how capable our nuke boats are, they can only be in once place at a time. I don’t think 30-40 boats for the US, or 8 for the UK is enough, and these are the numbers we are headed for.

One problem faced by the modern American nuke mariner in ASW: his boat was designed to defeat very large, very noisy Soviet submarines in the Cold War. Even toward the end, a very easy, or at least manageable problem. His new adversary, the d/e boat is exactly the opposite–quiet, small, very stealthy. In this case could the hunter actually become the hunted, because in wargames over the years, this has actually happened?

The report places a premium on mines and UUVs to defeat Chinese subs, because of their short range and dependence on ports. Again, long range airpower comes into play, with USAF bombers and Navy patrol planes joining the fight against the new U-boats.

I am a little troubled by the lack of a clear ASW strategy in the AirSea Battle plan. Convoy, the only historically successful counter to the world’s most prolific ship-killer is ruled out from the beginning. The idea of choke points and using hunters to chase these most elusive targets was also a failure in these wars, as was the use of large warships to hunt submarines. During the Cold War the Navy planned to sail aircraft carriers into the Soviet sub bastions, right into their safe areas, and destroy them with carrier-based ASW aircraft. This “Charge of the Light Brigade” strategy mercifully wasn’t revived here, but I would not doubt some air-minded admiral isn’t thinking “just leave the subs to us”! Make the Chicoms’ day, right?

Offensive mining appears particularly attractive, given its comparatively low cost and the difficulty and time-consuming nature of countermine operations. However, these capabilities — armed UUVs and mines — will likely need to be deployed almost exclusively from submarines, as they represent the allies’ only highly survivable maritime asset during the conflict’s early stages. Given the theater’s enormous size and the submarines’ comparatively small payloads, establishing effective minefields near all PLA submarine bases would require a prolonged effort if submarines alone were assigned the mission.

I’m not saying offensive mining won’t work, matter of fact its sounds intriguing, but lets be sure about our strategy, putting it on the front burner. Twice the West has been surprised by the abilities of the U-boats to lay waste to our merchant assets, and with cruise missiles and nuclear power, now matches the reach and speed of our most powerful warships. Lets consider from the outset that we aren’t where we need to be in terms of capability. Yes, time to panic. Concerning ASW, it is OK to plan for the worse case scenario.

*****

Long Range Strike

I get the impression any PLA attack on Taiwan might be like the 1973 Egyptian crossing of the Suez canal. The point there was to deny the Israelis the ability to use their overwhelming conventional capability through the use of missiles, AA guns, and a defensive stance. In the same spirit, the Chinese would seek to defeat USA suppression tactics (SEAD), so successful since Desert Shield, through an overwhelming use of missiles. If the enemy bypasses that shield they would be at the mercy of US countermeasures from Japan based strike planes, and naval assets.

Almost certainly the PLA could gain only local superiority, but that would be enough for her gains and hurt the US severely in terms of attrition of weapons, as well as politically.

I also think it interesting the authors point out the need for distant blockade, as yours truly has referred to. The USN or its allies currently have too few assets IMHO to initiate proper control in such a mission.

The allies’ most effective operation could be a distant blockade of China. Whereas the United States has a major asymmetric advantage in that it would be able to maintain the vast bulk of its prewar overseas trade, a large proportion of Chinese trade would be essentially cut off. As shown both in World War I against Germany and in World War II against Japan, strangling an enemy’s foreign commerce can prove crucial, and perhaps even decisive, in winning the war.

This is interesting:

The Navy should consider investing in conventionally-armed, relatively short-range sea-based IRBMs to further complicate PLA planning. Depending on missile technical characteristics, both submarines and surface ships (not necessarily combatants) could serve as potential firing platforms. Ballistic missile striking power should be distributed across a large number of platforms similar to the way Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles distributed Navy strike power that had previously been concentrated in a small number of aircraft carriers. An ASBM variant should also be considered.

The PLA already have such weapons. These might substitute for the manned bomber, which will be almost impossible to replace in the future because of cost, $2 billion each for the last one we purchased. Also the following suggests that the manned jet’s days are waning:

The Navy should expedite developing, experimenting with, and fielding a carrier-based UCAS system designed to operate either independently or in conjunction with manned platforms…The Air Force and Navy should jointly develop future-generation stealthy long-range land-attack cruise missiles capable of carrying a wide variety of payloads to replace today’s Tomahawk (TLAM) and Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM).

The reports also encourages the replacement of short range assets, like JSF and F/A-18 with longer range weapons and platforms:

The Air Force and Navy should alter the current ratio (roughly 20:1) of planned investments in short-range strike relative to long-range strike to favor long-range strike.

It is interesting the primary long range strike asset for the near future is the 70yr old B-52 with JASSM-ER, outdistancing the younger B-1 and B-2 bombers by 1000 miles or more!

*****

On Small Warships

However, many of the platforms most suited for this kind of operation, such as Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), patrol craft and small frigates, do not carry ordnance sufficiently heavy to stop larger ships determined not to halt and be boarded.

This oversight, however, can be fixed:

The Navy should examine options for increasing the numbers and combat capability of lower-end warships suitable for SLOC protection and MIO missions.

The LCS may be readily adaptable, but the cost of uparming a warship already over $1/2 billion each would likely provide a ship near the price of a DDG-51 destroyer, only far less capable. Foreign guided missile corvettes, already armed with cruise missiles and even AAMs price near this number or less, weapons and all.

Also this comment:

The Navy should continue its efforts to develop and field the capability to rearm surface ship VLS cells at sea.

I don’t see the problem of missile reloads any worse than gunnery ordnance reloads during the World Wars. It may even be less a problem since the missile weapons are precision guided. This is not a big deal.

*****

AirSea Battle–What Stands Out

A few initiatives in the report stood out to me as most important:

  • The defining battle would be over ISR assets.
  • The carrier relegated to a subsidiary though important role, which I have expected.
  • The importance of surface BMD platforms.
  • The prime significance of submarine assets.
  • USAF bombers also crucial.
  • Mining campaign by naval and air assets to defeat PLAN subs (inadequate IMHO).
  • “Distant blockade”.
  • The urgency of new long range strike weapons.
  • UUVs and UAVs.

What was left out:

  • In my opinion, the threat of PLAN submarines was not clearly defined, nor was the problem conclusively dealt with.
  • The required buildup of small naval assets and d/e subs to maintain numbers and proper sea control. The need for “distant blockade” was given but nothing called for to maintain this. Simply uparming the LCS would be inadequate because of their already high cost.

The final questioned not answered: where will the funds come from? It is debatable how the Navy and USAF will justify funding a massively expensive conventional strategy in a time of sparse budgets, and with the threat of terrorism looming constantly, to prepare for war with a nation whom we are heavily indebted to.

*****

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55 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2013 11:23 pm

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  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 9, 2010 7:54 am

    Jimmy, I don’t see it as disarming but adjusting to current threats. If we try to attack PLA defenses as we did Saddam in Desert Storm, we may be surprised to learn they have adjusted to out tactics, and we certainly won’t sail our aircraft carriers right up against the Chinese coast as we did in the 1990s, neither will our jets have the range to be effective the further they are pushed away from shore.

    You could fight missiles with missiles, since then you aren’t putting multi-billion platforms and tens of thousands of their precious crew at risk. But we can no longer afford to fight future conflicts with the weapons of the last, meaning traditional planes, large warships, and heavy tanks, nor do we need to.

  4. Jimmy goldfinger permalink
    June 9, 2010 7:21 am

    So US planes and carriers would unleash their firepower on the helpless PLA. It aint so easy as it looks. For starters please don’t compare the PLA with Saddam Hussein ‘s forces.In desert storm ,US planes and ships could roam at will and stay in the persian gulf to send tomahawk missles into Iraq.It’s like a division one team vs a div 4 team.
    the Pla may nt be in the same leagues as the US but I am sure Uncle Sam wouldn’t want to tanglle with China..The Chinese are modernsing their weaponry so that they can retaliate if attacked. I can guarantee no ac will be able to survive after conducting attacks on China.Even if the Pentagon were so naive to commit all carriers it would be suicidal.
    It hasn’t reached mad yet but the fact is the Chinese would be able to devastate the CONUS after a US attack. i am afraid the PLA will in the years to come,be too formidable for the US to disarm. That the US can disarm is not in doubt in June 2010. The question is whether any sane US president will do it and pay an unacceptable price with half the US destroyed.Of course China could be fragmented.

  5. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:56 am

    B Smitty –

    1) Tanking – F-18 definitely not a first choice. As for EW, I’m not so sure. The Growler is a derivitive of the Hornet, but in the end it’s a purpose built aircraft. From what I understand, it has a lot of the flight characteristics you’d want in a EW platform, and is a lot more survivable than the EA-6B.

    2) S-3s did stop doing ASW a long time ago. But when the S-3 was operating, there was a lot of commonality between it’s mission systems and the P-3. I wouldn’t think it would be inconceivable to port a lot of the P-8A acoustics and sensor gear into a re-man’d S-3.

    3) ASW is a very specialized task, and I really believe it calls for a specialized aircraft. I’d prefer modified C-2s over an F-18 — but think an F-18 would be better than nothing.

  6. B.Smitty permalink
    May 26, 2010 8:41 am

    hokie_1997,

    I certainly will defer to your experience in this area. I’m just brainstorming.

    The F-18 definitely wouldn’t be the aircraft you came up with for ASW, given a clean sheet of paper. However it also wouldn’t be the aircraft you came up with for EW or tanking either. And yet it’s what we have.

    I doubt bringing back the S-3 would be cheaper in the long run. How much life is left on those airframes? At best, we would get some number of years out of them and then be back in the same boat. Plus, there are savings from reducing the number of types that Navair operates.

    Didn’t most have their ASW electronics removed anyway? I doubt we’d just reinstall old systems. We’d want a new ASW suite. That’ll be expensive.

  7. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 26, 2010 8:21 am

    B Smitty,

    Maybe there are less technical challenges to doing this with Hornet than I imagine. I’ll have to think more about this one.

    Still — I have a hard time imagining operationally how this could work with F-18s. I am a former P-3C NFO, so it might just be institutional bias on my part!

    Trying to do everything with one type model (Hornet) is great on paper — if you consider ASW as a “lesser included” to the fighter mission.

    If I were going to sit down and design a carrier borne ASW aircraft, the F-18 would not be it.
    Air ASW has it’s own particular challenges — that’s why we operated specialized ASW aircraft off of carriers for over 50 yrs.

    I still mantain that bringing back a S-3 squadron into each CVW is probably a more effective solutions. It might even be cheaper than all the modifications to make the F-18 ASW capable

  8. Chuck Hill permalink
    May 26, 2010 2:15 am

    If we put the ASW equipment in an OV-10 Bronco, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OV-10_Bronco, or perhaps a C-144, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-144, perhaps you could fly them off of the big deck amphibs.

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    May 25, 2010 11:40 pm

    hokie_1997,

    I agree on all counts.

    On the other hand,

    1. Payload – There are 40+ Hornets on a carrier. If one runs out of sonobouys, send another.

    3000lbs isn’t a problem. They routinely carry a pair of 2000lb JDAMs in addition to tanks and AAMs. I was thinking of a munition launcher like the old German MW-1 or British JP233 submunition dispensers for the Tornado. The MW-1 had 112 tubes. IIRC, they happen to be around the right size to carry an A-size sonobouy.

    2. Endurance – 40+ Hornets on a carrier. When one runs out of gas, send another.

    3. Crew capacity – This one is trickier. First, it is possible that ASW electronics have progressed the same way as EW/Jamming electronics. The EA-6B required 4 crew, the EA-18G only requires 2. Maybe the same is true with ASW gear. Additionally, if the coordinator aircraft stayed up at 30kft, it could use high-bandwidth, LOS datalinks back to the ship to offloading processing and eyeballs.

    4. Speed – The Hornet may be a fast mover, but it can certainly fly slower, if needed. Won’t the P-8 Poseidon have the same problem?

    5. Visual – Though probably not as good as an S-3, the Hornet could use a targeting pod or Recc pod to survey large areas (potentially automated) from altitude. Also, some Super Hornets have an AESA radar, which could be useful as an area periscope detector.

    Another benefit to having 40+ potential ASW aircraft on board is lots of excess surge capacity.

    Pods could also be transferred to new aircraft types, as they become available.

  10. Chuck Hill permalink
    May 25, 2010 8:42 pm

    Plus we have extra space because of the “fighter gap,” might want to use some of that extra hanger space for something that enhances survivability.

  11. Charley permalink
    May 25, 2010 8:03 pm

    Why did they retire the Hoover anyway? The airframes weren’t timed out, they were fairly efficient, and they didn’t have the reputation of being (aircrew) killers either. They could be updated and re-engined if necessary. Gotta be a bunch out there in the desert.

  12. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 25, 2010 7:16 pm

    B.Smitty wrote:

    I wonder if we ca develop an ASW package for the F/A-18? Split functions across multiple aircraft. Have a two-seater act as the coordinator with podded sonobouy comms, datalink, and processing. Use single-seaters to seed sonobouy fields and act as the shooters.

    Developing pods is a lot cheaper than developing new aircraft.

    *****

    Off the top of my head, a few things work against using F/A-18 for ASW:

    1) Payload – P-3 routinely fly loaded to the tops with 100+ sonobuoys. Sonobuoys weigh roughly 30 lbs each — so all told about 3,000 lbs of ordnance. And sonobuoys aren’t particularly small — about 3 feet long. I have a hard time picturing how you could carry more than say 30 or 40 on a Hornet.

    2) Endurance – This is the biggie. ASW is a pretty time intensive mission (they don’t call it Awfully Slow Warfare for nothing). It might take 45 to 60 min to lay a search field. Then once the field is laid, you’ve got to monitor it for a multiple hours. Endurance isn’t a strong suit of fighter aircraft.

    3) Crew capacity – P-3 and S-3 generally require a pilot, NFO, and 2+ acoustic operators to monitor the sonobuoy data. I just don’t see how you can do all that efficiently and effectively from two fighter aircraft.

    4) Speed – To a point, ASW actually favors flying at slower speeds to accurately deploy localization and tracking patterns. That’s part of the reason helos are so effective. Relatively high cruise speed of F/A-18 (around 400 kts) would actually work against it.

    5) Visual – The traditional Mark 1 eyeball is a great sensor for seeing periscopes, snorkels, etc. It’s been my experience that a lot of detections in the P-3C are from an alert flight engineer, co-pilot, or aft observer. F/A-18 has great visibility looking ahead and up, but would imagine that a single pilot crew wouldn’t be as effective as a multi-crew aircraft in visual search — if only for the fact that there are less dedicated eyeballs.

    Sigh — I guess this is the price we pay for going to a nearly all Hornet airwing.

  13. Chuck Hill permalink
    May 25, 2010 6:46 pm

    Actually aircraft sank more U-boats than surface ships. Common Wealth and government in exile aircraft sank about 200, US aircraft sank about 200, Commonwealth and exile government surface ships sank about 200, and US surface ships sank 36. There were a few sinkings by submarines as well.

    The success of the Hunter Killer Groups was due almost exclusively to Code breaking. We probably won’t be so lucky again.

    Traveling in Convoy was actually generally safe, unless you are talking about going to Malta, especially after May 1943 when more U-boats were sunk than merchant ships. The high speed convoys that ferried American troops to England were in a different system and were virtually immune to attack. The slaughter of the Murmansk Convoy, PQ-17, occurred mainly because the British unwisely told the Merchant ships to scatter because of the threat of the Tirpitz which never materialized.

    Early in the War the convoy system only existed near Britain. You saw the result of no convoys along the US coast in the first six months of our entry into the war.

  14. B.Smitty permalink
    May 25, 2010 4:41 pm

    hokie_1997 said, “IMHO we need to put S-3s or something similar back on the carriers. The carrier strike group needs an organic long range ASW platform.

    I wonder if we ca develop an ASW package for the F/A-18? Split functions across multiple aircraft. Have a two-seater act as the coordinator with podded sonobouy comms, datalink, and processing. Use single-seaters to seed sonobouy fields and act as the shooters.

    Developing pods is a lot cheaper than developing new aircraft.

  15. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 25, 2010 4:00 pm

    Mike B wrote: Convoy, the only historically successful counter to the world’s most prolific ship-killer is ruled out from the beginning. The idea of choke points and using hunters to chase these most elusive targets was also a failure in these wars, as was the use of large warships to hunt submarines.

    ***

    Mike, the amateur historian in me absolutely cringes when I read a proclamation begininning with the “historically” that isn’t supported by data or anecdotal evidence.

    “Convoy, the only historically successful counter to the world’s most prolific ship-killer..”

    The Royal Navy went to convoys the day the war started and still had a rough time of it. There are more than a few occassions where convoys operating alone got slaughtered. Take a look at the arctic convoys to Archangel in ’42.

    “The idea of choke points and using hunters to chase these most elusive targets was also a failure in these wars…”

    Hunter-killer groups centered on light carriers were hugely successful against U-Boats. Historical evidence shows that aircraft alone killed almost as many U-boats as did surface vessels.

    http://www.uboat.net/fates/losses/cause.htm

    IMHO we need to put S-3s or something similar back on the carriers. The carrier strike group needs an organic long range ASW platform. Helos along don’t have the range or payload.

  16. Hudson permalink
    May 25, 2010 3:30 pm

    According to Wiki, ROK’s LPH Dokdo’s flight deck is coated with urethane. High temperature urethane has a ‘heat defection’ of only 286F, way below the temperatures generated by the F35B that Scott B. quotes as 1700F, for VTOL jets like the the Harrier that Dokdo is designed to handle. Are Harrier requirements that much below those for F35B? Or do the Koreans know something we don’t about the high temperature properties of urethane, or do they not know what they are doing? Just curious.

  17. Chuck Hill permalink
    May 25, 2010 10:57 am

    MatR, sorry all those ships are busy cleaning up the oil spill.

  18. B.Smitty permalink
    May 25, 2010 8:38 am

    X,

    No worries. All of us Hokies (class of ’91) look alike anyway. ;)

  19. May 25, 2010 8:23 am

    “FYI – it wasn’t me you quoted — it was B. Smitty.”

    Whoops! That is the second time I’ve done that……….

    ……..I will blame my poor internet link.

    Sorry to both.

  20. MatR permalink
    May 25, 2010 7:56 am

    Re: Scott B.’s missile reload figures:

    Fascinating stuff!

    I can’t help but think that the high-end kit could stay in-theatre utilising its abilities in C4I, ASW and air defence, if we used networked, lower-end ships as additional platforms for munitions like TLAM or Standard Missile. They could be sized from ‘arsenal ship’ to ‘trawler’ depending on what you wanted, but the essential point would be their relative cheapness, their numbers, and redundancy if some are lost.

    I wonder if the low spec warship of the future would look much more like a ‘pick-up truck’ than a ‘tank’ (oh heck, I’ll just say it, ‘Absalon’ – there) – or maybe something like an offshore support vessel using palletised missile loads:

    http://www.rhiw.com/y_mor/rem_etive/rem_etive.htm
    or
    http://www.dehoop.net/search.php?shipcategory=31

  21. Scott B. permalink
    May 25, 2010 3:05 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Scott, your numbers on the missile reloads are actually much better than I imagined, since a WW 2 BB could expend its entire ammo in about an hour!”

    I don’t know that any WW2 BB actually ever expended its entire allowance in about an hour, but from a purely speculative POV, with a rate of fire of 1 missile per second, a Tico would be out of ammos in about 2 minutes, and a Burke in about 1.5 minutes.

  22. Joe permalink
    May 24, 2010 9:57 pm

    If only we’d known what was coming in the future.

    Quoting Ken Gallagher, site mgr for Northrop @ Whiteman AFB, when discussing the B-2 notsomuch as a bomber but rather a weapons platform. As has been cited before, the article repeats that 15 years ago we could have had add’l B-2′s for about $566M per copy, flyaway price. Stiff price then & now, but history has taught us that today’s premium price is often better than tomorrow’s bargain.

    Also, considering what was known of IADS-to-come, what did we think we’d be penetrating enemy airspace with in 15-25 years – prayer?

    Buying more of them was an impossible sell in the mid 90′s, but amazingly the notion that the normal cycle of history had been repealed wasn’t.

  23. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 24, 2010 8:49 pm

    Scott, your numbers on the missile reloads are actually much better than I imagined, since a WW 2 BB could expend its entire ammo in about an hour!

    Moose, I just can’t accept the notion that we have no choice but to shrink, because this is where we are headed building only nuke ships. Also, I think both types, SSK and SSN brings something to the mix, so we shouldn’t feel like we lose one capability just by adding another.

    I can understand the mindset, prevalent at the websight you mentioned that “this is how we’ve always done things and we can’t change”, but with shrinking funds and diverse threats, change is coming, one way or the other. It just has to, as no Navy can stand still in a new era and expect to survive.

  24. Scott B. permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:59 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “I don’t see the problem of missile reloads any worse than gunnery ordnance reloads during the World Wars. It may even be less a problem since the missile weapons are precision guided. This is not a big deal.”

    Actually, you’re wrong : this is a pretty BIG DEAL.

    See for instance Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000-2035 Becoming a 21st-Century Force: Volume 8: Logistics (1997) :

    (emphasis added)

    ****************************************************************

    SUPPORTING NAVAL FORCES AT SEA

    The U.S. Navy supports its forces at sea more efficiently and more effectively than does any other navy in the world. The methods have evolved and been refined over many years of experience. Both connected and vertical replenishment are used for all types of ships, often concurrently. Although improvement is always desirable in the maximum weight of transferred loads, or in the separation of ships, or in extending the range of weather conditions under which replenishment can be performed safely, such improvements probably are marginal. With one exception, both methods work well and are reliable.

    The exception is rearming the vertical launch system (VLS). Rearming the Vertical Launch System The Navy’s vertical launch system for missiles is rearmed by lowering a new missile canister into each launch cell, one at a time. When rearming at sea, each of these heavy missiles, in its canister, is transferred from the logistic ship using the standard alongside (connected) replenishment method. The missile canister is then manhandled over to the launcher, upended by a crane, and lowered into a cell. Even in calm seas, controlling the pendular motion of the missile dangling from the crane is difficult, slow, and dangerous. Consequently, rearming of the VLS is normally done only at pierside or in a protected harbor.

    Because of these limitations, the Navy has chosen not to provide an at-sea VLS rearming capability in the latest block of its newest class of destroyers (Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer). Table 2.1 shows why at-sea VLS rearming rates are unsatisfactory to the point of being almost useless. Fully rearming a ship’s capacity would take 17 to 35 hours—in calm seas.

    ——————————————————————————
    TABLE 2.1 Estimated Alongside Times for Replenishment Ship Type VLS Missile Capacity

    Current Full Replenishment Time (3.5 missiles per hour)

    * CG-47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers (122 missiles) : 35 hours
    * DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (90 missiles) : 26 hours
    * DD-963 Spruance-class destroyers (61 missiles) : 17 hours

    Full Replenishment Time with TRAM (15 missiles per hour)

    * CG-47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers (122 missiles) : 8 hours
    * DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (90 missiles) : 6 hours
    * DD-963 Spruance-class destroyers (61 missiles) : 4 hours
    ——————————————————————————

    The Navy is working on an approach, called the transportable rearming method (TRAM), that may be able to achieve a vertical launch system rearming rate of 15 missiles per hour. The logistic ship would transfer a device to the combatant that, once the device has been mounted on rails on the missile launcher, would receive the missile canister, move it to the launch cell, and hold it in place while it is lowered into the tube. At the expected rates, full rearming would take 4 to 8 hours. Today, missile inventories are small compared to the number of vertical-launch cells. Mission success may depend on being able to move missiles at sea from a disabled ship to one capable of performing a combat mission; from a ship rendezvousing at sea with one that is just deploying; or from a ship whose current mission does not depend on firing missiles to one whose mission does. Whether or not the TRAM proves to be a satisfactory solution, finding and installing in the fleet a way to rearm the vertical-launch systems at sea should be a high priority for the Navy.

    In the long term, the role of missiles in naval warfare is likely to grow substantially from today’s use of a small number of long-range cruise missiles and air-defense missiles to reliance on ship-based missiles for high-volume strike and close-support missions. If it does, continuing to rearm one cell at a time will not suffice. More efficient means of resupplying ships and of loading launchers will be needed. The Navy should start now to outline concepts for the design of both combatants and logistic ships that will enable rapid resupply of large quantities of missiles.

  25. Scott B. permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:43 pm

    B. Smitty said : “IMHO, we’d need Arsenal Ships to crack this nut. We need to be able to strike thousands of aimpoints (perhaps tens of thousands) in the opening salvos. We could then do to them what they apparently intend to do us – degrade and/or shut down our airpower.”

    +1.

    THINK BIG, not small !!!

  26. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:30 pm

    X,

    FYI – it wasn’t me you quoted — it was B. Smitty.

  27. Scott B. permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:26 pm

    hokie said : “It’s a good thing the USAF is buying the S/VTOL version of the F-35 so that they can operate after the first salvo has cratered the runway.”

    At the risk of starting to sound like Bill Sweetman, I’m afraid that what you seem to take for granted regarding the F-35B STOVL capabilities isn’t exactly a done deal.

    See for instance this Navy report dated 12 January 2010, page 7 :

    ***************************************************************

    VTOL Pads

    The F-35B, or short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), version of the JSF is capable of both vertical take-off (VTO) and VL, although take-off will typically be via STO. For landing, VL (or VTOL) pads will be used. This pads will be exposed to 1700ºF and high velocity (Mach #1) exhaust. This exhaust will melt the top surface of asphalt pavements, and is likely to spall the surface of standard airfield concrete pavements on the first VL. Therefore high heat resistant materials are required for the pavement and for the joint sealants. At the present time there are no identified sealants that can survive a significant number of VLs, and the pads shall be constructed using continuously reinforced concrete (CRC). The pads shall have a minimum 96-ft by 96-ft (or 100-ft by 100-ft) CRC center, with continuous reinforcement in both directions to insure that all cracks and joints remain closed (the center is surrounded by a 50-ft wide paved area). High heat resistant materials for the pavement have been identified but are still being tested.

    ***************************************************************

  28. May 24, 2010 6:24 pm

    hikie_1997 said “There are something like 48 PLAAF airfields within 800km of Taiwan. Figuring 50-100 aimpoints per airfield, you’d need 2400-4800 TLAMs just to shut down the military airfields within range. Then add on all that’d be needed to hit sensor and C3 nodes, SAM sites, and the rest, and whatever re-strike capability is needed. That’s a lot of targets.”

    That is true. But think of it another way; 4800 TLAMS cost as much as what 4 Arleigh Burkes? TLAMs in penny packets aren’t worth much, there power is in massive raids. The battle to be won is not against the Chinese, but with government accountants who need to be convinced that writing off $5billion dollars at the start of the conflict will save more money (and lives!) later on. If I decided where the US defence vote was to be spent I would be mass producing TLAMs hand over fist.

  29. May 24, 2010 6:15 pm

    MatR said “I do worry about Chinese grad students, though.”

    Off and on over the last 15 years I have attended a series of lectures on “World Affairs” at the nearby university. They are run as part of the adult and continuing education programme and have grown to some prominence attracting international experts and politicians with attendances in the high hundreds. But rarely is there ever more than a handful if any of the teenage undergraduates (or for that matter members of the faculty) despite the very high standard of speaker.

    A year or two ago I attended a lecture given by one of the UK’s leading authority on China. And there were Chinese students everywhere. At first this pleased me. I always found the Chinese kids to be not only hard-working but exceptionally polite too. But during the Q&A I became uncomfortable. Student after student stood up and said if reading from script that “China was a friendly and great place.” No qualification or supporting remarks. After an hour or so I started to think that the students’ presence was carefully orchestrated. But I put it out of my mind as just too preposterous.

  30. B.Smitty permalink
    May 24, 2010 5:45 pm

    hokie_1997 said, “True, but at least they might be able to pick up and go somewhere else.

    My concern with CTOL is that even if the aircraft aren’t hit – if their runway is taken out they’re useless until its repaired.

    Given all of the infrastructure required to fly even STOVL F-35s (e.g. fuel, munitions, maintenance and flight crews, spares), and the apparent propensity of the F-35B test aircraft to destroy unprepared tarmac, I question how many sorties you will get out of them after their primary airfield is destroyed.

    What do we really expect them to do anyway? They aren’t Raptors, so we can’t count on them winning vs 5+ to 1 odds against in the air. The PLAAF has a lot of aircraft. They can afford to attrite however few fighters we can put at Kadena.

    IMHO, we’d need Arsenal Ships to crack this nut. We need to be able to strike thousands of aimpoints (perhaps tens of thousands) in the opening salvos. We could then do to them what they apparently intend to do us – degrade and/or shut down our airpower.

    There are something like 48 PLAAF airfields within 800km of Taiwan. Figuring 50-100 aimpoints per airfield, you’d need 2400-4800 TLAMs just to shut down the military airfields within range. Then add on all that’d be needed to hit sensor and C3 nodes, SAM sites, and the rest, and whatever re-strike capability is needed. That’s a lot of targets.

    This would just soften them up enough to permit our carrier air, long-ranged bombers and whatever tacair we have left (or can fly in) to get within range in a non-suicidal fashion.

    Of course whether the ROEs would allow attacks on the Chinese mainland is another question entirely. Having the Arsenal Ships might at least act as a deterrent.

    We also need the Next Gen Bomber. We have way too few B-2s, and B-1s and B-52s are just cruise missile slingers in this conflict. The Chinese IADs is just too dangerous for them to get close.

  31. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:48 pm

    hokie_1997 ,

    Without those zero kt fuel dumps and munitions dumps, those STOVL F-35s won’t fly for long either.

    ***

    True, but at least they might be able to pick up and go somewhere else.

    My concern with CTOL is that even if the aircraft aren’t hit – if their runway is taken out they’re useless until its repaired.

  32. B.Smitty permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:53 pm

    hokie_1997 ,

    Without those zero kt fuel dumps and munitions dumps, those STOVL F-35s won’t fly for long either.

  33. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:18 pm

    NATO NBMR-3 (Nato Basic Military Requirement 3) was finalized in march 1961.

    And here we are … 50 years later … and we’re suddenly waking up to the notion that CTOL planes flying from fixed airbases might not survive the open shots of a conflict between industrial militaries armed with precision strike missiles.

    Hello Jump Jets!

    ****

    Heretic, I’m sure some of the aircraft will survive the opening shots. History shows that you can disperse aircraft such that the enemy has a hard time developing a targetting solution. The Germans and Japanese both did so in WW2.

    I think what Mike B. fails (or doesn’t want) to see is that it’s pretty hard to hide a runway, a maintenance hangar, or a fuel dump. If it’s on Google Earth, and it’s moving at exactly 0 kts, it’s a pretty easy targetting solution.

    It’s a good thing the USAF is buying the S/VTOL version of the F-35 so that they can operate after the first salvo has cratered the runway.

    Err — wait a minute…

  34. Moose permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:06 pm

    You’re still barking up the wrong underwater tree. You point out that you believe US SSNs to be limited because of their numbers, because they’re noisier than SSKs, and because they were designed to hunt “big, noisy Soviet Subs.” You use that to justify adding an SSK force to supplement the SSN force and free it for other missions. But an SSK force will, short of a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting it, always be a funding threat to the SSN force. And for a return out of proportion with the expense.

    Your view of the influence of size on submarine combat is wrong. You assume big is vulnerable and small is harder to hit. That’s wrong. There’s a reason the Japanese and Australian SSKs are big and getting bigger, and it’s not compensating for anything anatomical. Underwater, if you’re not big enough for good enough sonar and signal processing hardware you’ll never hear the Sub that kills you. You can’t out-turn a heavy torp the way a fighter out-turns a Vietnam-era SAM, you have to decoy it or run out its fuel; which a small SSK won’t be able to do. The Seawolves, Virginias, Astutes and later T-boats have best ears in the world, the 688i boats do pretty well a rung below that, and their fish are much smarter and longer-ranged than anything the Chinese have. If the Japanese and Australian Navies had the political green light and industrial infrastructure for Nukes, they’d be building nukes just like ours or the UK’s.

    I’ll concede, payload limitations are a huge problem. The status quo is insufficient, and we need a way to address our limitations. But that doesn’t mean you go out and buy SSKs, it means you innovate and enhance the SSN’s payload. As Galrahn pointed out some time back, by networking in off-board weapons to the SSN’s combat system you can increase the weapon count of that sub without needing it to retire to a base for re-arming periodically. Networked UUVs and preposition-able weapon “boxes” effectively expand the subsurface fleet without having to risk personnel and funding on inferior manned platforms. The SSN becomes the hub which monitors the network, uses its own superior sensors to track and target, and then attacks from a position of safety using network assets. THAT is where our precious money needs to go, on the technology to make that network work smoothly and the off-board systems to use it.

  35. Heretic permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:04 pm

    NATO NBMR-3 (Nato Basic Military Requirement 3) was finalized in march 1961.

    And here we are … 50 years later … and we’re suddenly waking up to the notion that CTOL planes flying from fixed airbases might not survive the open shots of a conflict between industrial militaries armed with precision strike missiles.

    Hello Jump Jets!

  36. MatR permalink
    May 24, 2010 1:31 pm

    Speaking of keeping an ‘awake’ eye on Chinese immigrants in the West: I don’t think we conceivably have any threat of them harbouring antagonism towards our countries. The ethnic Han Chinese I’ve met living in settled communities outside China, in the UK, USA and Asia, were hard working, decent people who just wanted to fit in. It’s not really comparable with Muslim desires for the umma or sharia, which the even the ultra-liberal BBC reports 25% of UK muslims support.

    I do worry about Chinese grad students, though. Currently, the PLA sends more students to graduate school in the USA than the US military does – that’s stunning. Chinese nationals, (rather than han immigrants to the USA) have made up for a massive shortfall in the number of US students taking scientific and technical doctorates. 30% of Silicon Valley firms have non US-born CEOs (most of these being Chinese).

    Partly, that figure is symptomatic of the ‘brain drain’ from the USA to China. Partly, it is also reflected in the number of Chinese graduates who have worked for defence contractors and hi-tech firms who have conducted military and industrial espionage for China (often, perhaps overwhelmingly) for commercial, non-military reasons.

    The Chinese have used their grad students to steal everything from nuclear missile and warhead technology to details about making better consumer laptops, trade deals, business strategies, etc. It’s pretty well documented.

    The intent doesn’t make the Chinese unique (the French and Israelis both pilfer US commercial and military secrets at every opportunity) but the execution is unparalleled. (Almost makes you admire the Chinese sagacity.)

  37. Chuck Hill permalink
    May 24, 2010 12:57 pm

    “However, many of the platforms most suited for this kind of operation, such as Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), patrol craft and small frigates, do not carry ordnance sufficiently heavy to stop larger ships determined not to halt and be board”

    This is easy to fix. Modify obsolete Mk46 torpedoes to go for the propellers. Won’t sink a large ship, but it should have no problem stopping them. 57mm are only useful as a signaling device for the shot across the bow.

    Any small combatant should be able to take the weight since they only weigh about 500 lbs/230kg each.

  38. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 24, 2010 12:47 pm

    That report is, uh… interesting.

    OPEN ‘cold_war_1985.doc’
    FIND WORD ‘Soviet Union’
    REPLACE WITH ‘China’

    Be wary of generals always ready to fight the previous war

    ****

    Exactly which war are you talking about? The last time I checked we didn’t have to actually fight the Cold War. At least not in a force-on-force confrontation vs. the Soviet Bloc.

    This was due in no small part to the fact that our conventional forces (land, air, maritime) presented a long-standing, credible deterrent to the USSR. One which, over time, constantly adapted to the nature and scale of the threat.

    Historians I’ve read tend to agree that the USSR didn’t want to fight the west, because their leadership knew they couldn’t win a protracted industrial war against us. A solution was to make the US think that any attempts to hold and reinforce Germany would be prohibitively costly. Hopefully we’d roll over before a shot was fired.

    Much the same, although the PRC has vested interests in controlling the Western Pacific, I don’t think they want to fight us. My take is they want to establish de facto superiority such that to attempt to confront them would lead to a pretty bloody nose.

    Sun Tzu said “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” I’d be more wary of what that particular general had to say.

  39. papa legba permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:44 am

    That report is, uh… interesting.

    OPEN ‘cold_war_1985.doc’
    FIND WORD ‘Soviet Union’
    REPLACE WITH ‘China’

    Be wary of generals always ready to fight the previous war.

  40. Distiller permalink
    May 24, 2010 10:58 am

    I think there is no other way than to accept a Chinese imperial hemisphere. Even if some battles could be won inside, demographics are not on the side of the yang guizi. If there’ll be war it will be over some colonies, maybe in Africa, maybe in South America. Which means neither side will be able to bring its full weight to the table, and controling the access routes will be vital. No real-world attacks on the mainland, from neither side. Cyberwar maybe yes, but that I think falls into the same category as privateer warfare 200 years ago. At some point a balance will be reached …

  41. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 24, 2010 10:42 am

    That was the report’s impression, not yours truly’s. You smack an airbase with a dozen missiles, yet you can sill fix it, but a carrier would be less likely to be in service anytime soon. A deck fire can put them out of service for a year.

    ****

    No offense Mike, but even our Air Force doesn’t believe that!

    If I’m the PRC and I’m not sure that I’d sufficiently schwacked say Kadena, then I’d just smack the airbase with a dozen more. And I’d lob in some delayed action warheads set to go off every 24 hrs to screw up the repair crews.

    A key point of the report was that this would be an ISR fight. If you can find it, and target it, you can kill it. A fixed airbase makes ISR awfully easy doesn’t it?

  42. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 24, 2010 10:28 am

    Hokie wrote “I’m intrigued (but not really surprised) that you left “vulnerability/irrelevance of fixed airbases” off your bullet list.”

    That was the report’s impression, not yours truly’s. You smack an airbase with a dozen missiles, yet you can sill fix it, but a carrier would be less likely to be in service anytime soon. A deck fire can put them out of service for a year.

    Heretic wrote “it may actually be the development of extremely long range navalized strike aircraft that “shrinks” carriers, simply because you don’t “need” the stupendous size of a 100k ton supercarrier to efficiently generate sorties of over 1000kms round trip.”

    I agree and persistence also lessons the requirement for voluminous sorties. I am thinking you have a UCAV with a 1000 mile range, more with tanker support, that can stay in the air virtually unlimited then why do you need to risk a $20 billion strike group to deploy it?

  43. Matthew S. permalink
    May 24, 2010 10:12 am

    “– Keep a *very* awake eye on the Chinese immigrants in Western Europe and the U.S.”

    Uhm, why? I grew up with many of them. Some have roots in this country going far back in US history. Are we going to resort to some WW2 style internment camps? Nothing like that will fly nor should it.

  44. hokie_1997 permalink
    May 24, 2010 9:45 am

    RE: AirSea Battle–What Stands Out

    ******

    I’m intrigued (but not really surprised) that you left “vulnerability/irrelevance of fixed airbases” off your bullet list. This struck me as one of the key points the author’s made.

    As I’ve stated before airbases, because they are fixed, would just get schwacked in the opening hours of a fight. Carriers can at least move outside the theat ring and live to fight another day. They might be less relevant — but I’d much rather be irrelevant than dead!

    So I’ll bite: Do you stand by your assertion in another post that “…the land air base is better overall, from an economical and survivable standpoint.”?

  45. Heretic permalink
    May 24, 2010 9:44 am

    As the Range To Target for carrier aircraft increases, the relative importance of high sortie rates paradoxically decreases simply due to transit times … to and from targets at long range.

    Irony of ironies … it may actually be the development of extremely long range navalized strike aircraft that “shrinks” carriers, simply because you don’t “need” the stupendous size of a 100k ton supercarrier to efficiently generate sorties of over 1000kms round trip. Building to generate a continuous steady rate of sorties, rather than a quick surge of them, results in some rather different design considerations.

    —–

    And if anyone can come up with a better/cheaper offensive minelayer than a Type 212A armed with 24 external mines for missions in shallow water near a port/sub barn … speak up.

  46. Hudson permalink
    May 24, 2010 9:09 am

    Also apparently missing from the report is a list of American cities a U.S. president would be willing to sacrifice to thwart or contain China.

  47. Charley permalink
    May 24, 2010 9:01 am

    Yea, serves me right for skimming…. Not much mention though which I still find interesting.

    The impression that I took away from the report – a again I admit that I only skimmed a pdf – was that the authors were suggesting that heavy, i.e. intercontinental bombers were going to be important assets. I don’t think that the US possesses enough bombers to generate the sorties required to make them relevant – flying from Hawaii or Diego Garcia is a long way, and I don’t think either of those 2 bases can service B-2′s.

    In any event, I owe it to myself (and others if I continue to pontificate) to read the report more thoroughly.

  48. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 24, 2010 8:45 am

    Actually Charley, the report on Page 51 said the following:

    Japan and Australia Will Be Active US Allies.
    Given the fundamental
    values and interests these allies share with the United States, it seems reasonable
    to assume that if the stakes in a confrontation were sufficiently high to trigger
    a Sino-US conflict, they would be high for US allies as well. Japan’s participation
    would significantly complicate Chinese planning and operations by forcing
    a major diversion of military forces that would otherwise be available for use
    against the United States and its allies. In addition to Japan’s capable military
    forces, Japanese territory offers some measure of strategic depth to the allies in
    its eastern and northern regions as well as important physical barriers to enable
    allied ASW operations. Japan also possesses numerous air and port facilities,
    some of which are only targetable by longer-range and thus scarcer PLA ballistic
    missiles. If Japanese territory were no longer available, US power-projection
    options would be significantly constrained. Similarly, Australia would provide
    strategic depth and capable forces for peripheral campaigns, perhaps involving
    sea control and support operations in the eastern Indian Ocean, Oceania and the
    South China Sea.

  49. Charley permalink
    May 24, 2010 8:28 am

    The authors didn’t mention Australia’s role in a potential conflict – as a land base and an ally.

    The Navy desperately needs a long range moderately stealthy F/A type naval aircraft – forget the JSF. And the UCAV-N is essential. Without these types of asset, the carriers will have to standoff until shore based ASM threat is mitigated.

    Do the Chinese air forces have the expertise to do air-air refueling?

    I can’t help to think that China was on the mind when the C-ICBM idea was being tossed around of late.

  50. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 24, 2010 7:40 am

    Distiller: I appreciate your comment “BMD is not interesting against China.” Very interestingly put!

    You, MatR, and I agree that its probably best not to pick fights with China. It saddens me to think that we are in the same boat with the Chinese as the Japanese were with us in 1941. As they were heavily indebted to us pre-war, even dependent on vital fuel supplies, so does the US find itself in the position of either accepting Chinese influence or going to war.

    Let me be so bold to add the ulterior motives of the admirals and generals behind this strategy, who find their type of warfare increasingly sidelined by land centric operations. In other words, with their historical influence over the budget waning, here is a desperate attempt to get the politicians back on their side.

    I don’t accuse them of pushing us to war, since they like deterrence and quick victories over far less capable foes. Welcome to the real world. As MatR showed us, China isn’t going to play to our strengths.

  51. Anonymous permalink
    May 24, 2010 7:39 am

    You ask “The authors assume forward bases such as Guam will be temporarily immobilized. So, we are reinforcing these bases at great expense why?”

    Because, as stated in the report, US forward bases have to be hardened to resist the initial Chinese assault that will be conducted to limit US ISR and ‘first response’. The authors contention made sense to me… forward assets need to survive to be able to push back. Without push back the conflict is immediately over, and the aggressor retains its gains.

  52. MatR permalink
    May 24, 2010 7:11 am

    Sorry, thought I should explain that when I said ‘I think you’re right on the technology and tactics, but I think we tend to miss a few important, overarching points on strategy’ that I was responding to Mike B’s article. I’ve got to start making that kind of thing clearer.

  53. MatR permalink
    May 24, 2010 7:07 am

    Interesting analysis. Congrats on 800k, btw!

    I think you’re right on the technology and tactics, but I think we tend to miss a few important, overarching points on strategy. I suspect that it would make as much sense for the USA and allies to take on China as it would for the USSR to take on the USA in the 1980s, when the USSR was crippled by debt and underinvestment – and relied on American farmers to provide much of its food, and knock-offs of American technology in its economy.

    The Chinese have stockpiled foreign reserves, mostly in US Treasury bonds, to a value of well over a trillion $USD and rapidly growing. Long before a conflict broke out, they would be able to cripple the US economy by divesting and short-selling. Great Depression Mk 2.

    Similarly, China’s mercantilist trade policies now see them control the bulk of particular, crucial global resources such as rare earth metals used in semi-conductors, communications and so on. They are making similarly aggressive moves into bauxite, oil, etc.

    China is the world’s workshop. Any kind of naval blockade would starve us of everything from shoes to ticket machines on busses, phones, printing presses, computers, and pretty much everything else we use. There is no alternative capacity outside of china that could take up the slack within a period of years to decades.

    If the Chinese were smart, they’d just nationalise all the foreign-owned factories in the approach to a war, or its outbreak. Increasingly, they don’t need US trade as much as they used to, because they sell more to the rest of the world and their own growing internal market. As a matter of fact, the Chinese are already imposing more and more stringent ‘domestic investment’ and ‘domestic content’ rules on foreign investors, forcing them to build-up China’s own tech base.

    Unlike most Western oil firms, China prioritises output not to the market, but to its own industry and people. China’s oil companies are obtaining drilling rights at a meteoric rate, so that they will one day control more oil than the USA and Europe combined.

    And, for the most part, China relies on soft power, trade and bribes. It has brought more, and more substantial, trade and development to many less developed countries than the USA or Europe have in decades. China has friends, influence, and a notable degree of world opinion behind it.

    In short, China won’t let itself be manouvered into a position whereby it faces a fair fight; and it will prefer to rise to superiority without engaging in any major conflict bar minor ‘bush wars’ along its area of influence, as seen in periodic shooting matches with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

    Then, and only then, will the Chinese reveal that they have bought the moon and renamed it ‘Death Star’ ;o)

  54. Distiller permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:47 am

    Hm. If this where 1910 I’d say that concept tries to achieve Royal Navy goals (strategic containment) with Kriegsmarine tools (submarine and cruiser war). How realistic is that? Or: Is there any other way??

    I doubt there will be a containment battle in the West Pacific. Once the Chinese feel strong enough to challenge the West, they will have fleets (surface and subs) in the Indian Ocean, in the North Atlantic (mostly nuclear subs coming in under the pole – what a wonderful diversion!!! and also why it is so important to include the Russian ASW forces in any Chinese games!!!), and in the South Atlantic (based in Africa).

    For the U.S. this means:
    – Build the medium-orbit rapid-launch small swarm-flier satellite network for orbital C3ISR. Forget LEO or GEO, both are vulnerable.
    – Maintain nuclear supremacy over China AT ALL COSTS. AT ALL COSTS. And keep enough of it to wipe the 300 largest Chinese cities off the face of the earth. Of course civilian targeting! Everthing else is a waste.
    – Build subs subs subs: They are the prime ocean tool to keep China from deploying its power projection capability.
    – Use the carriers against leakers, surprises, and to blow up as much Chinese stuff around the world as you can find.
    – Keep tactical nukes in the fleet.
    – BMD is not interesting against China. Use flexibility and mobility instead.
    – Keep a *very* awake eye on the Chinese immigrants in Western Europe and the U.S.
    And it also means be prepared for an offensive, unprovoked war against China on , once they cross a certain threshold. For example the Philippines or Indonesia must never become Chinese. Everthing else “inside the line” can be considered Chinese from now on … That includes Formosa, btw.

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