Skip to content

The China Scapegoat

August 4, 2009

Scapegoat-“A person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.” Wikipedia

The_ScapegoatChina’s  military has become a convenient excuse of late for exquisite weapons programs and grandiose military plans, but not just in the United States. Countries as diverse as India, Japan, and Australia have fingered the world’s most populous nation for some future conflict, and have devised their strategies in consideration of this ominous idea.

All nations have a right for self-defense, and China hasn’t gone out of her way to allays fears and tensions rising in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Her actions in the China Seas with American warships, as well as ongoing rhetoric against the free Taiwanese are cause for concern but not overreaction. It appears though that some countries are using the strained relations as grounds for the biggest arms race since the 1980s, while hoping to persuade their presumed foe to do the opposite. For example:

India-The great sub-continent recently completed its first nuclear powered submarine, after decades of trying. While apparently geared toward the rising Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean, it is its long-rival Pakistan who seems to be the most concerned. According to a report, up to 125 new ships are planned including ” Nuclear submarines, Aircraft carriers, Warships, Frigates, Remote controlled underwater submerged war apparatus are all in the making.” After the horrible Mumbai terrorist attacks which were launched in a unique amphibious raid, it is difficult to see how the nuclear boat and aircraft carrier, and advanced missile escorts will defend the nation’s shores from such agile foes who cannot be tamed by massive conventional arms, as we have consistently seen in this decade. More essential than a 20th century warship, would be scores and perhaps hundreds of coastal patrol craft which could be purchased at the same price, plus more troops to watch the historic northern land invasion route.

Australia-Another Continental power has decided to expand its influence after centuries as a junior partner to first Britain then America. In the greatest military buildup that nation has seen since World War 2, plans are for a fleet of 12 submarines, 2 air-capable amphibious ships, plus Aegis anti-air warfare destroyers, and at least 100 F-35 stealth bombers. The Australians posses a long and vulnerable coastline (25,760 km) easily penetrated by terrorist insurgents striking from the sea. At drastically less expense than its current defense plans, a drastically larger fleet of coastal submarines, patrol ships, and UAVs could be purchased, greatly enhancing its security without fueling a 21st century arms race. Thanks to the power and accuracy of new sensors and smart weapons, the Aussies would not necessarily be giving up capability, but they would fielding a 21st century force for real 21st century threats.

Japan-Currently our former Pacific foes are lobbying to purchase the advanced F-22 stealth fighter. Such an outcome stands a better chance of happening than some think, now that the USAF has been denied future purchases by a White House focused on winning current conflicts. Like America, Japan can only afford a handful of these $300 million superjets, and it is difficult to see how perhaps 50 fighters can stand up to the 2000 plane Chinese Air Force, no matter how capable the weapon. Unlike the USA but like Taiwan, the island nation is close enough to China’s massive conventional missile and rocket arsenal and any airbase capable of launching the Raptor would easily be targeted for destruction early in a conflict. Lots of cheaper fighters and UAVs, dispersed around the countryside, able to fly from highways or rough airstrips would be more survivable, more useful in current insurgent conflicts, and while being able to launch the same precision smart bombs and missiles as the more expensive American plane.

Finally, we examine the USA/Sino relationship. Aside from the obvious, that is is ludicrous to make designs against a nation currently bankrolling our economy, there is also the enormous expense. While we try to push ourselves into a conflict with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, we are stretched thin fighting two campaigns in the Middle East, while using battleships to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden (another example of preparing for the wrong conflict).

This is not to say that war with China isn’t a possibility. If history is a guide it is even a likelihood that powerful economic competitors will eventually turn to arms to settle their trade differences. Still, there is no hurry in this impending clash of nations, and it is doubtful our old 3rd Generation weapons updated somewhat in order to call them “future weapons” like our Raptor jets, the aircraft carriers, and destroyers from the 1980s, can contend with these masters of 4th Generation Warfare.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 5, 2009 7:20 am

    “Small submarines are restricted in weapons load out… larger submarines with high endurance would be required because of the distances at which they would be operating.”

    Again I have to point to the fleet submarines of WW 2, which might be dubbed small or coastal submarines today sailed the wide expanses of the Pacific, often for months, wrecking the Japanese merchant navy (from bases in Australia yet!). Concerning weapons load, in this precision age it is more important the quality of your weapon than the weapons load itself. Then as for range, the German Type 214 has a far greater endurance than the Collins on half the size. See here:

    http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/collins/specs.html

    http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/type_212/specs.html

  2. Paul V. Patty permalink
    August 4, 2009 8:43 pm

    “You mean like the distance from Afghanistan to New York? In this era of globalization, distance doesn’t count for much and conventional armies, navies, and air forces can no longer assure complete protection. Still, the more platforms you have the better, as with troops, and they need not be of the gold-plated variety.”

    Remember though that the 9/11 hijackers didn’t land in the US via border incursion, they came via legal means. As I have said above, anyone trying to land a boat or similar in Australia would have to spend days floating about in the open ocean, hoping that they don’t get picked up by the customs service, RAN or RAAF (all aided by the huge over the horizon radar at Jindalee – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jindalee_Operational_Radar_Network). It would be much easier for a small group of terrorists/insurgents to arrive in the country via a commercial flight, in which case all the patrol boats and submarines in the world would be useless.

    “Perhaps the correct term should have been “small submarines”…Perhaps if the subs were kept closer to home rather than sent on extended cruises, there would be higher morale?”

    Small submarines are restricted in weapons load out. Look at any map of Australia’s near north and you will see that we are buffered by the Indonesia archipelago, the route through which any enemy is likely to come. For our submarines to be most effective, they must be able to reach this area from our main fleet bases or Darwin quickly, then remain on station there for as long as possible with as many arms as possible to harass anyone transiting through the Timor Sea. If an aggressor were to approach from our open east and west flanks, then again, larger submarines with high endurance would be required because of the distances at which they would be operating.

    “I’m not sure about the port issue, except that less money spent on platforms means you could have more bases, and bases mean jobs for the locals? Like over here in the US, the politicians would love that!”

    The port issue is the same with either small or large diesel submarines and, to an extent, even the same for nuclear ones. I will concede some ground to your mothership concept here; if we are to be getting 12 submarines (which would equate to about 8 at sea at any one time) the best solution is not more fixed bases but a few submarine tenders to refuel and rearm the vessels at sea.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 4, 2009 7:46 pm

    Chuck I only recently learned this myself doing reseach for another post! That was very impressive for such a small craft! Gives me hope for our own small ship advocacy.

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 4, 2009 7:20 pm

    Mike thanks, I keep learning new stuff. Why I keep coming back.

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 4, 2009 3:44 pm

    Minor quibble: Think the U-Boats sent to the US East Coast were all Type IX which were over 1000 tons.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 4, 2009 1:24 pm

    Byron, everything is a bomber these days, except of course the F-22, except in a pinch I hear.

    Paul-Some comments on your comments:

    “Distance is Australia’s friend.” You mean like the distance from Afghanistan to New York? In this era of globalization, distance doesn’t count for much and conventional armies, navies, and air forces can no longer assure complete protection. Still, the more platforms you have the better, as with troops, and they need not be of the gold-plated variety.

    “Coastal submarines and patrol boats would only be of limited use.” Perhaps the correct term should have been “small submarines”. The USA and Britain used subs no larger than 2000 tons and usually less to span the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in WW 2. Also, German subs of 700 tons ravaged America’s coastline early in the war during Operation Drumbeat, with “Milch Cow” support. Perhaps if the subs were kept closer to home rather than sent on extended cruises, there would be higher morale? I also imagine a smaller sub would have less mechanical difficulties than a larger 3000 ton warship.

    I’m not sure about the port issue, except that less money spent on platforms means you could have more bases, and bases mean jobs for the locals? Like over here in the US, the politicians would love that!

  7. Heretic permalink
    August 4, 2009 1:19 pm

    Lots of cheaper fighters and UAVs, dispersed around the countryside, able to fly from highways or rough airstrips would be more survivable, more useful in current insurgent conflicts, and while being able to launch the same precision smart bombs and missiles as the more expensive American plane.

    Once again proving that Japan would be a lot better off in oh-so-many ways buying 250 JAS 39 NG Gripens, rather than 50 F-22 Raptors.

  8. Byron permalink
    August 4, 2009 11:17 am

    “F-35 stealth bomber”? I always thought it was a tactical air platform. Who knew they could shrink a B-2 down to VSTOL size…

  9. Paul V. Patty permalink
    August 4, 2009 6:36 am

    I will try to address the views on Australia, being an Australian with an interest in defence matters.

    “Australia-Another Continental power”

    I’m not sure how Australia can be ‘another continental power’ when she is the sole occupant of her continent. Certainly, she is unlike any other continental power I know of. Furthermore, Australia’s strategic stance since the late 1800s has almost permanently been one of expeditionary warfare.

    “In the greatest military buildup that nation has seen since World War 2, plans are for a fleet of 12 submarines, 2 air-capable amphibious ships, plus Aegis anti-air warfare destroyers, and at least 100 F-35 stealth bombers.”

    This force level is more just a return to what was the status quo during the Cold War. The Royal Australian Navy, for example, had roughly 17,000 personnel in the early 1980s; its current strength is closer to 12,000 and will not be significantly larger under the current plan. Furthermore, these announcements are not new. The two amphibious ships are to replace the current Manoora and Kanimbla (although the new ships will be much more capable), the 3 Aegis destroyers are to replace the 3 Perth class destroyers retired around 2000. Likewise, the F-35s have been on the table for a while and are basically a one-for-one replacement for the current F-111s and F/A-18s. The heavy emphasis on submarines, in contrast, is a significant departure from past doctrine.

    “The Australians posses a long and vulnerable coastline (25,760 km) easily penetrated by terrorist insurgents striking from the sea.”

    Distance is Australia’s friend. Any insurgents would have to travel very, very far to get anywhere near our coastline. Even some sort of raid launched relatively closely from New Guinea would have to navigate treacherous reefs and the significant numbers of naval and customs aircraft and vessels that already monitor the northern approaches. If, by some stroke of luck, any hypothetical terrorists did manage to reach the mainland, the north of the country is so sparsely populated that they would likely either get lost and/or die from exposure to the elements.

    “At drastically less expense than its current defense plans, a drastically larger fleet of coastal submarines, patrol ships, and UAVs could be purchased, greatly enhancing its security without fueling a 21st century arms race.”

    Coastal submarines and patrol boats would only be of limited use, largely due to the distances that they would have to travel. Refueling points are sparse, and the main fleet bases are located far south on the landmass (near Sydney and Perth), in closer proximity to urban areas. The large Collins class boats have enough trouble staying on patrol as it is – anything smaller would simply lack the required endurance. Patrol boats are in use (notably the Armidale class) patrolling out of Darwin and Townsville to monitor the northern borders and stop people smugglers and illegal fishermen.

    High endurance UAVs would be useful to monitor shipping and the RAAF intends to procure some to replace its P-3 Orions in the future.

Trackbacks

  1. South Korean Naval Plight Our Own « New Wars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: