Category Archives: Capability Analysis

Analyzing Specific Naval and Maritime Platforms

East Asian Security in the Age of the Chinese Mega-Cutter

By Ryan D. Martinson

On May 19th, a formidable new Chinese ship put to sea for the first time.  As it left its berth at Jiangnan Shipyard, its onboard automatic identification system (AIS) transmitted signals for anyone who cared to receive them.  Its identity, Zhongguo Haijing 2901.  Its purpose, sea trials.  Its heading, somewhere in the East China Sea.

This was not the voyage of the Red October.  Zhongguo Haijing 2901 is not a stealthy nuclear submarine able to menace foreign capitals, or sink foreign fleets.  Nor is it a sister ship to China’s Liaoning (CV-16), that other potent symbol of sea power, the aircraft carrier. Indeed, by naval standards, its combat capabilities belong to an earlier age—the 19th century.

However, Zhongguo Haijing, or China Coast Guard (CCG) 2901, was not built to fight wars.  At over 10,000 metric tons, it is by far the world’s largest constabulary vessel, a class of ship operating at the vanguard of China’s peacetime expansion in maritime East Asia. When it is commissioned sometime in the coming weeks, it will provide a huge advantage to China in the battle of wills taking place along its maritime periphery.

The New Chinese Coast Guard Mega-Cutter/FreeVectorMaps.com
The New Chinese Coast Guard Mega-Cutter/FreeVectorMaps.com

Building the Mega-Cutter

During the 2010-2012 period, Chinese policymakers made a series of decisions to vastly expand the capabilities of the country’s maritime law enforcement agencies.  They envisioned a great fleet of ships charged with advancing Beijing’s claims to waters and islands hundreds of miles away from the mainland coast, performing what Chinese texts euphemistically refer to as “rights protection” operations.  In the last two years, the China Coast Guard has received dozens of new ships, many of which have been used to buttress new footholds at Scarborough Reef, the Second Thomas Shoal, the Luconia Breakers, and the Senkaku Islands, and underwrite economic activities in disputed waters, most notably the two-month drilling operations of HYSY 981 in 2014.  CCG 2901 is an outcome of this surge in shipbuilding.

That CCG 2901 would someday put to sea was not a secret. In July 2013, the head of China State Shipbuilding Corporation, Hu Wenming, declared that his company would “accelerate research and development” of maritime law enforcement cutters displacing between 4,000-10,000 metric tons.  In January 2014, the research affiliate of another state shipbuilding firm revealed that the previous year it had signed a contract to do design work for this new ship class.  By late 2014, Chinese netizens were posting photos of the ship in the latter stages of construction.

That CCG 2901 would be studded with deck guns was not a given. Indeed, it represents a noteworthy breach of precedent: almost all of the new ships procured by the China Coast Guard have been unarmed.  This allows Chinese ships to aggressively engage the state and private craft of other countries without conjuring images of gunboat diplomacy or precipitating a war. With CCG 2901, the deterrent value of deck guns trumps these old aversions.

When it is commissioned, 2901 will be based at one of three cities with direct access to the East China Sea. Most likely it will be stationed along Shanghai’s Huangpu River, a hub of Chinese coast guard activity.  It may eventually find a home at a large new base to be built further south in Wenzhou.  It will primarily conduct missions to areas China disputes with Japan, including the sovereign waters adjacent to the Senkaku Islands. However like other ships based in these ports it will no doubt periodically patrol the South China Sea, working with sister units in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Hainan to impose the Chinese legal order in disputed waters.

CCG 2901 is the first, but not the last, of its class.  A second ship is in the latter stages of construction at Jiangnan Shipyard.  It will almost certainly be based at a facility with easy access to the South China Sea, probably on the banks of the Pearl River in the city of Guangzhou (Guangdong).

Sprinting to Superiority

Just a few years ago, the idea of Chinese maritime predominance was pure fantasy.  This is illustrated in a little-remembered confrontation between Japanese and Chinese forces that took place in 2002.  In December of the previous year, the Japan Coast Guard sank an armed North Korean trawler operating near the Japanese coast, an encounter that Wikipedia grandiosely calls the Battle of Amami-Ōshima.

After hours of fight and flight, the trawler ultimately went down in Chinese jurisdictional waters.  Japanese policymakers decided to raise the wreck, causing consternation among Chinese leaders.  The operation would involve questions of Chinese rights and interests embodied within the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China ratified six years earlier.  In response, Chinese policymakers instructed the China Marine Surveillance (CMS), a maritime law enforcement agency, to deploy a task force of ships to monitor the Japanese operations.

The CMS task force was ordered to “maintain presence and show jurisdiction,” that is, to be present to remind the Japanese who had authority.  But if the Chinese record is any guide, it was clear that the Japanese were in charge. According to the recollections of the CMS task force commander, Liu Zhendong, Japan created a security perimeter around the site, barring Chinese access to the salvage operations.  It could do so because it was able to muster many more ships: as many as 19 vessels, while CMS could send at most four, cobbled together from units from all over the country.  Moreover, Japan’s cutters were much larger than China’s. Among the ships buttressing Japan’s security perimeter was the 6,500 ton Shikishima (PLH-31)—the world’s largest coast guard ship. In the end, China was forced to resort to guile to gain access to the salvage operations: it accused a Japanese ship of leaking oil, a violation of China’s environmental protection laws.

In little more than a decade, the tables have completely turned. While Japan has a much more capable coast guard in many respects—it operates far more and better aircraft; its ships are more capable, their crews better trained—its white fleet is now much smaller than China’s, at the same time that the area of waters under its administration is far larger. And of course, with the commissioning of CCG 2901, China, not Japan, will own the world’s largest coast guard cutter.

Bigger is Always Better

In the type of missions China’s coast guard is asked to perform, ship size is a key determinant of capability. This differs from modern naval combat, where a 225 ton boat firing long-range cruise missiles might level a 100,000 ton super carrier. While the China Coast Guard does use water cannons, sirens, and other non-lethal measures to cow foreign mariners, the primary instrument of coercion is the ship itself.

This advantage was illustrated in a May 2012 encounter between a Chinese maritime law enforcement vessel—the 4,000 metric ton Haijian 83—and a much smaller foreign ship, probably Vietnamese.  As Haijian 83 sailed through disputed waters in the South China Sea, it was approached and ordered to leave by personnel on the foreign patrol vessel.  As the two ships got closer, the Chinese commander requested permission from superiors ashore to engage.  When this was granted, he ordered his ship to steam “full speed ahead” (kaizu mali), directly at the other craft. Given the size differential, the foreign ship had no choice but to retreat, which is what happened.

As this example shows, the type of confrontation taking place between non-naval vessels is akin to a game of chicken.  When two ships are close in size, nerve and seamanship go a long way, since neither side wants a collision.  When there is a major size disparity, the larger ship can simply drive others away. Indeed, when advantages in speed are combined with advantages size, a big ship can even sink a smaller craft.  At least one Vietnamese boat suffered this fate during contentious encounters in waters surrounding HYSY 981 in mid-2014.

The Implications of China’s Maritime Megalomania

When CCG 2901 does eventually deploy to disputed waters in the East China Sea, Japan may have few options. Because of its enormous size, this ship will sail and operate at will. Japan will be forced to either accept its unfettered movements, or escalate the conflict, which it will naturally be reluctant to do. During a moment of bilateral friction, CCG 2901 may even attempt to expel Japanese Coast Guard ships operating near the Senkaku Islands. Again, in that case Japan’s decision makers, beginning with front line commanders, will be faced with very difficult choices.  Chinese policymakers may assume Japan will back down no matter what China does. That would be a grave misjudgment.  Thus, with the commissioning of CCG 2901, the possibility of a shooting war in the East China Sea increases.

The Chinese mega-cutter will play a different role in the South China Sea, where Chinese forces already outmatch other disputants.  With its range and carrying capacity, it will be able to easily sail the great distances to China’s most remote claims and remain in disputed waters for long periods of time. Of most concern, these ships may engage foreign naval vessels, including those of the U.S. Navy.  In April 2014, both China and the U.S. approved a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), an agreement to ensure professional behavior when foreign warships unexpectedly meet while on deployment.  However, the document only applies to naval vessels: the ships of the China Coast Guard and other maritime law enforcement entities are not required to adhere to its provisions.  Thus, U.S. naval commanders now must prepare for the possibility of testy encounters with Chinese mega-cutters on the high seas in peacetime, when their advanced weapons systems will do them little good.  This is an uncomfortable prospect given that China’s mega-cutters are larger than most U.S. surface combatants and positively dwarf the 3,500-ton USS Forth Worth (LCS-3) that recently patrolled waters near the Spratly Islands.

The strategic and operational implications of CCG 2901 should be the primary concern of other states. But it is also important to reflect on the chain of policy decisions that willed CCG 2901 into being. China has invested hundreds of millions of yuan to design and build this ship, and will spend hundreds of millions more to man, maintain, and replenish it over the course of its lifetime. Yet it exists for a single reason: to help China achieve peacetime dominance in Chinese-claimed waters.  Thus, the decision to build a class of 10,000-ton cutters should be seen as a measure of China’s resolve to prevail in its disputes.

Foreign states will no doubt react with fear and suspicion to the commissioning of these two armed mega-cutters. Chinese leaders must know this.  Just as they must have known that placing HYSY 981 in Vietnamese-claimed waters and building bases in the Spratly Archipelago would result in handwringing among its neighbors.  Not long ago, policies that risked inducing these emotions abroad found few supporters in Chinese councils of state.  The decision to build these ships, then, is another brushstroke in the portrait of a leadership operating on new assumptions, a state that does not fear the costs of its expansionary behavior, or one that believes they can and should be borne for the rewards they redeem.

Ryan D. Martinson is research administrator at the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI). He holds a master’s degree from the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a bachelor of science from Union College. Martinson has also studied at Fudan University, the Beijing Language and Culture University, and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. He edits the CMSI Red Book series and researches China’s maritime policy. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Navy, Department of Defense or the US Government.

Assessing the U.S. Navy’s Arctic Roadmap

By Andreas Kuersten

Shielded by a significant expanse of sea ice, the Arctic Ocean has historically had limited naval strategic relevance outside of submarine and early warning operations.  But the process of climate change is increasingly melting away this covering and laying bare previously inaccessible northern waters.  As a result, and in concert with the region’s vast natural resource endowments and potential shipping lanes, one of the world’s five oceans and adjacent marine areas are slowly opening to human maritime activity – both in terms of state and private actors.  As the military branch responsible for fielding forces “capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas,” the United States Navy has understandably turned its attention northward. 

In planning for the Arctic Ocean’s opening and its ensuing responsibilities in the region, the Navy researched and published the Arctic Roadmap: 2014-2030.  The report lays out how the service views the high north as a theater for operations and its priorities in the area in the near- (2014-2020), mid- (2020-2030), and long-terms (2030-beyond). 

The Arctic Naval Strategic Environment

As outlined at the beginning of the Roadmap, the Navy expects the Arctic “to remain a low threat security environment where nations resolve differences peacefully.”  It sees its role as mostly a supporter of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) operations and responder to search-and-rescue and disaster situations.  However, the presence of vast resource endowments and territorial disagreements “contributes to a possibility of localized episodes of friction in the Arctic Region, despite the peaceful intentions of the Arctic nations.” 

For the most part, this assessment appears accurate.  The Arctic has consistently remained an area of peaceful interaction despite periodic disagreements, and its harsh environment minimizes conflict potential.  But the region also presents a completely unique geopolitical and military situation for the Navy.  As Arctic sea ice melts, the Navy will find itself engaging a theater where it is not the most capable force for the first time in recent history.  Russia’s Northern Fleet, designated in 1937, has been based and operating in the Arctic for nearly 80 years.  Russian naval and support capabilities in the high north surpass those of the Navy: currently, they possess the only fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers and extensive naval bases. 

Direct comparisons with Russia, however, are not very telling in terms of what the Navy’s Arctic priorities should be.  Russian interests in the Arctic have always been far greater than those of the U.S.  As such, the Roadmap is right to avoid any language seeking American naval predominance in the region, or comparisons to the northern capacities of others.  But given Russia’s recent provocative actions in Ukraine and elsewhere, and the fact that the Roadmap was published before these commenced, the Navy would be right to incorporate awareness of Russian activities and capabilities into future Arctic policy publications. 

Russian warships en route to New Siberian islands, including Kirov class battlecruiser Pyotr Velikhiy.

The Navy’s Arctic Capabilities

Turning to the more technical issue of actual Arctic capabilities, the Roadmap presents the region as a unique operational environment.  It astutely notes that “Navy functions in the Arctic Region are not different from those in other maritime regions; however, the Arctic Region environment makes the execution of many of these functions much more challenging.”  This observation was born out in the Fleet Arctic Operations Game naval exercise of 2011.  Unfortunately, so was the reality that the Navy is currently ill equipped to operate in the high north.  A report from the U.S. Naval War College on this exercise noted the following:

The U.S. Navy is inadequately prepared to conduct sustained maritime operations in the Arctic region.  This assertion is due to the poor reliability of current capabilities as well as the need to develop new partnerships, ice capable platforms, infrastructure, satellite communications and training.  Efforts to strengthen relationships and access to specialized capabilities and information should be prioritized. 

The Roadmap seeks to take each of these failings into account, though it does so to varying degrees of prudence.  It presents the need for strong cooperation and partnership with foreign states, the USCG, and other government agencies.  Such interactions are aimed at helping to manage shared Arctic spaces, engage in multilateral training and operations, and develop Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) for the region. 

The Roadmap puts a heavy emphasis on the advancement of MDA and logistics capabilities in the Arctic, and these foci are well warranted.  The principal restrictive variables in Arctic operations are severe and erratic weather, sea ice, poorly developed nautical charts, remoteness, and the absence of support infrastructure.  Tackling these issues begins with extensive data gathering and MDA development.  In this regard, the Roadmap asserts that partnerships with government agencies responsible for meteorology and geography – such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – are crucial for helping “the Navy better predict ice conditions, shifting navigable waterways, and weather patterns to aid in safe navigation and operations at sea.”  A force with a robust understanding of a harsh environment has a significant advantage in any undertaking or confrontation therein. 

Arctic MDA will, in turn, aid in the maintenance of critical logistical support for naval assets deployed in remote northern theaters and the alleviation of infrastructure failings.  The distribution of fuel and other resources, along with the conservation of these assets, are important considerations in Arctic operations and ones the Roadmap shrewdly highlights. 

Beyond MDA and logistics, the Roadmap puts an emphasis on Arctic training and exercises.  These are often conducted with other countries and military branches and are touted to “improve knowledge of the Region and provide a positive foundation for future missions.”  While this is certainly true, training can only go so far when a force lacks the requisite equipment for operating in a region, and this is the Roadmap’s main problem. 

The Naval War College’s assessment of the Navy’s Fleet Arctic Operation Game, noted above, serves to illuminate the branch’s deficiency in terms of material capacity when it comes to the Arctic.  In addressing its equipment needs for northern operations, the Navy’s Roadmap is lacking.  Rather than stating the need to procure necessary equipment, it simply “directs review and identifications of requirements for improvements to platforms, sensors, and weapons systems.” 

For years, the needs of the Navy in terms of Arctic acquisitions and refitting have been extensively researched and presented.  Many individuals and organizations have laid out the various basic purchases and upgrades necessary for effective Arctic naval action.  Moreover, as reported by the website DoD Buzz through interviews with top Navy Officers, the branch is well aware of its needs and has undertaken numerous research and development projects to address them.  Ice-strengthened hulls, topside icing prevention and management, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor establishment and maintenance, and network systems adaptation to northern conditions are all clear areas of need with available remedies. 

Training and operating within equipment limitations enhances effectiveness, but being properly outfitted allows for substantially more freedom of action and strategy, as well as for the more likely attainment of superiority in any future confrontation. 

Even though the Navy is currently experiencing a time of relative budget constraint and massive asset redistribution – namely to the region of East and Southeast Asia – a policy roadmap encompassing the next several decades must make Arctic-directed equipment procurement an expressed priority.  These sorts of undertakings require a good deal of lead-time, and continuing to tread water by solely emphasizing need assessment over need fulfillment is a recipe for future shortfalls in necessary capabilities. 

In addition to equipment, the Navy is also lacking in terms of Arctic infrastructure.  Aside from Thule Air Base in Western Greenland, American deepwater ports are non-existent above the Arctic Circle.  The Navy has utilized temporary ice bases in the past for submarine exercises – the most recent being Camp Nautilus north of Prudhoe Bay in 2014 – but to support the necessity of an increasing naval presence in the next several decades a permanent base and deepwater ports will eventually be needed. 

These, however, are incredibly costly undertakings, both in terms of money and capital as well as force deployment to occupy such facilities.  The absence of any clear intent to look into permanent presence possibilities, or commit to equipment procurements, evinces the Navy’s desire to hedge its commitments to a remote and relatively minor area in the face of important responsibilities elsewhere.  While this is certainly prudent, such policies could become problematic if they result in the inconsequential development of Arctic capabilities over the period the Roadmap encompasses. 

Crewmembers of the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) man the bridge watch after breaking through the ice during Ice Exercise (ICEX 2009) in the Arctic Ocean.
Crewmembers of the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) man the bridge watch after breaking through the ice during Ice Exercise (ICEX 2009) in the Arctic Ocean.

The Navy’s Near-, Mid-, and Long-Term Arctic Assessments

The Navy’s concluding presentation on its ambitions over the timeline of the Roadmap lends credence to concerns over its intent to meaningfully prepare for future Arctic obligations. 

Within the near-term (2014-2020), the Navy plans to have a limited Arctic presence, “primarily through undersea and air assets.”  Surface operations will only take place in open water conditions.  More broadly, the Navy states that it aims to “increase the number of personnel trained in Arctic operations,” maintain ongoing exercises, “focus on areas where it provides unique capabilities,” “leverage…partners to fill identified gaps,” and “emphasize low cost, long-lead time activities to match capability and capacity to future demands.”  From this information, it appears that the Navy has minimal Arctic ambition in the near-term and is content to expand very little on its current capacities. 

In the mid-term (2020-2030), the Navy predicts that it “will have the necessary training and personnel to respond to contingencies and emergencies affecting national security.”  Its “surface vessels will operate in the expanding open water areas” and the Navy “will work to mitigate the gaps and seams and transition…from a capability to provide periodic presence to a capability to operate deliberately for sustained periods when needed.”  Although this language may be interpreted to push for accelerating Arctic initiatives in the mid-term, it actually simply shows the Navy moving at the speed of climate change.  Surface-wise, it will expand into the high north wherever the melting ice allows, but no real impetus is noted to engage the region outside of those areas that become like other environments in which the Navy already operates.  Furthermore, there is not even an ambiguous expression as to how the Navy plans to facilitate “deliberate and sustained” Arctic operations.

In the far-term (2030-beyond), the Roadmap asserts that the “Navy will be capable of supporting sustained operations in the Arctic Region as needed to meet national policy guidance” and “will enable naval forces to operate forward.”  Once again, however, no clear avenue, let alone a vague one, is presented through which these capabilities will be developed.  Consequential investment in region-adapted equipment and infrastructure are needed before the Navy can meaningfully operate in a forward capacity in the Arctic.  Unfortunately, as noted throughout this analysis, there is scant mention of any such commitment. 

Conclusion

The Roadmap ultimately shows the Navy having a keen understanding of the capacities it must develop to be a truly Arctic-capable force, but also evinces an organization weary of any real commitment to a region currently possessing little national security importance.  As the Navy puts it in the report’s final sentence: “The key will be to balance potential investments with other Service priorities.”  The Roadmap, however, currently shows that balance tipping away from any substantial Arctic engagement.  Hopefully the Navy’s fiscal apprehension will not hamstring its ability to operate in a future Arctic environment requiring its capable presence and leadership. 

Andreas Kuersten is a lawyer working in international law who has previously held positions with NOAA and the U.S. Navy and Air Force JAG Corps.

INS Vikrant Makes Progress at Cochin Shipyard

Guest Post by Chris B.

New satellite imagery shows that India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier has made significant progress since it was launched in August 2013, helping India inch towards the goal of a two carrier battle group.

Imagery acquired by commercial satellite firm DigitalGlobe in February 2015 shows further assembly of INS Vikrant, a 40,000 ton aircraft carrier and India’s soon-to-be largest vessel once commissioned. Additional ship modules now welded to the hull have enlarged the deck width — measuring almost 60 meters. The erection of the superstructure reported last November was also confirmed. India’s first domestically produced carrier is currently under construction at state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited, the country’s largest shipbuilding and maintenance facility located in Kerala on the west coast.

Like other vessels built in India, significant cost overruns and delays have hampered shipbuilding progress. The South Asian country is already four years behind schedule on the project with the latests estimates pushing an operational date closer to December 2018, if not beyond. However, the Indian Navy expects that the vessel will “undock” sometime this month after mounting the propellers on the engine shafts, according to an April statement from Vice Admiral Ashok Subedar. Afterward, the shipyard will continue with the fitting out process.

Originally, India was to have fielded her carrier by 2014, eleven years after the government approved the build. Last July, the Cabinet Committee on Security released an additional Rs 19,000 crore (approx USD 3.18 billion), the lion’s share, to complete the vessel’s construction — on top the USD 585 million already spent. Due to India’s extensive bureaucracy, the funds languished for almost a year halting progress on the project.

“As much as 95 per cent of its hull is complete as is 22,000 tons of [its] steel structure,” Subedar went on to say. That’s 3,500 tons heavier than its August 2013 launch weight though significantly less than its planned 40,000 tons. Of course, much of the that weight will be comprised of two fixed wing squadrons (12 x fighters each) of Russian-built MIG-29K and Indian-built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, 10 x Ka-31 ASW helicopters as well as necessary ammo, fuel, and other supplies.

Vikrant

Indian Navy Computer Model of INS Vikrant

Featuring a STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) configuration with a ski-jump, India’s indigenous carrier will push naval pilots to master a new launch and recovery system, one very different from its existing STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing). Luckily, Russia helped India build a shore-based testing facility which became operational early last year. Imagery shows that Indian pilots are already hard at work. (INS Vikramaditya also features a STOBAR configuration).

Aircraft aside, India’s latest carrier will be powered by four General Electric LM2500 gas turbines capable of cruising speeds around 18 knots. With an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles the Navy should have few problems projecting force throughout the Indian Ocean region, especially given India’s previous proficiency in carrier operations.

But if issues do arise, the United States has proposed a joint working group to help support Indian ops, share best practices and even possibly, technology. All of which may lead observers to conclude that India’s naval capability has become increasingly important. Prime Minister Modi made that clear while visiting Mauritius in March: “India is becoming more integrated globally. We will be more dependent than before on the ocean and the surrounding regions. We must also assume our responsibility to shape its future. So, [the] Indian Ocean region is at the top of our policy priorities.”

As perhaps it should be. India is already advantaged by its unique geography, jutting out in the Indian Ocean with its 7,500km coastline and island territories. Given India has short distances to travel to manage any regional conflict or rivalry, it only makes sense that India would focus resources on protecting national interests in its own backyard.

DG (11MAR15) PLAN Salalah

Satellite Imagery of PLAN Vessel at Oman’s Salalah port (DigitalGlobe 11MAR15)

However, few regional contenders are making a splash in the maritime space, though emerging challenges from China are certainly on India’s radar. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2012 and has already started construction on a second. With recent infrastructure established in the South China Sea and additional PLAN deployments in the Indian Ocean region, China appears poised to take a more aggressive maritime stance, a clear departure from India’s Cold War experience.

In response, India is planning a 160-plus-ship navy as it seeks to constrain what it sees as a Chinese incursion into its sphere of influence. Unfortunately for the navy, India is still predominately a land force with the Army maintaining the biggest share of the defense budget. Regardless, India expects that its homegrown carrier program will eventually allow it to maintain two carrier battle groups supporting its respective Eastern and Western Naval Commands.

Named after India’s first aircraft carrier recently scrapped, the INS Vikrant is one of two homegrown carriers planned for the Indian Navy. The second carrier, INS Vishal is currently being fast-tracked—though it’s unknown what this means for Vishal’s construction timeline. In the meantime, India’s lack of experience building carriers and the uncertainty of outside assistance may impede India’s pressing strategic goals, probably pushing the operation of its second carrier to 2025 or beyond.

This article can be found in its original form at Offiziere.ch

Geographic Re-balance the Solution to Right-Sizing the Navy

The new 2015 Maritime Strategy demands a significant part of the Navy be forward based or operated in order to achieve national goals. The current number of ships and their present deployment pattern may not support the new strategy’s goals. Several recent articles have bemoaned the Navy’s shrinking surface ship fleet, or sought to make light of the overall number of ships as a significant determinant of strategic naval power. Both are, in a way, incorrect. The number of ships does matter, but wishing for a return of the halcyon 1980’s and the 600 ship navy is a futile hope in the face of the present budget deficit and growing welfare state. The post World War 2 U.S. Navy deployment structure has been based on the maintenance of a specific number of total ships in order to maintain a consistent overseas naval peacetime presence and credible war fighting force if required. The solution to this combination of forward deployment requirements on a limited budget is a fundamental change to the post-1948 U.S. naval deployment scheme through a global redistribution of U.S. naval assets. Potential threats, strategic geography, and support from potential coalition partners should govern this effort. The Navy should also seek new technologies to reduce overall budget costs. If this sounds familiar, it is not a new concept. Great Britain’s Royal Navy, under the leadership of the fiery transformationalist Admiral Sir John Fisher, executed a similar successful change just over a century ago in a similarly bleak financial environment. A modified version of Fisher’s scheme represents the U.S. Navy’s best hope to assign relevant naval combat power where it is most needed and at the best cost.

Britain’s Successful Rebalance
Like the U.S. today, Great Britain at the turn of the last century was a nation in rapid relative decline. British industry and its share of the world economy were shrinking in response to the rise of Germany, Japan, and the United States. The navies of those nations, as well as traditional enemies like France and Russia were growing in size and capability. Great Britain had just concluded the financially taxing and internationally embarrassing Boer War, which strained the nation’s tax base and earned it international opprobrium for harsh treatment of Boer combatants and civilians. The concept of a British Welfare state had gained significant support, and expenditures for this new government responsibility threatened the budgets of the Army and the Navy; both of which required significant modernization.
Admiral Fisher was selected by the Conservative Party’s First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Selborne, specifically for his daring pledge to cut naval spending, while increasing the power and overall capability of the Royal Navy (RN). Fisher scrapped large numbers of older warships; created a ready reserve of minimum manned, older, but still capable combatants; reformed the RN’s personnel structure; and argued for the adoption of revolutionary technologies such as turbine engines, oil fuel for ships, director-based gun firing, submarines, and naval aircraft. A succession of Navy civilian leaders from both of the large British political parties supported his efforts. Most importantly, Fisher presided over the biggest re-balancing of British naval assets since the end of the Napoleonic wars. Before Fisher the RN was divided amongst various colonial stations around the world. Its most significant operational commands were the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Fleets that protected Britain’s line of communication to India via the Suez Canal.  Although Fisher’s initial strategy was to counter France and Russia,  the concentration of British naval strength in home waters allowed it to counter rising German threats.  Britain sought simultaneous colonial agreements with France and Russia to reduce tension, and signed an official alliance with the emerging Japanese Empire to secure communications with its Pacific possessions. It also unofficially acquiesced to U.S. naval domination in the Western Hemisphere to eliminate any tensions with the other great English-speaking nation. All told, these efforts allowed Fisher to keep British naval spending at 1905 levels until 1911.1 They also ensured that a significant British naval force was in place for war with Germany in 1914.

Conditions for U.S. Rebalance
The U.S. would be well served to create a global re-balance program along the lines of Admiral Fisher’s for its own Navy. In reverse of Fisher, however, the bulk of America’s naval strength must move from bases in home waters to the periphery of the nation’s interests. Some reductions in overall naval strength will be required to ensure that forward forces are well trained and equipped for both peacetime presence and wartime combat functions. Assignment will depend on regional geography, threat level and the availability of coalition partners to augment, or in some case replace U.S. naval assets.
The large deck nuclear aircraft carrier and its associated air wing are best employed in locations where land-based aviation assets are vulnerable or scarce due to geographic location. For this reason, the bulk of the carrier force should be assigned to distributed bases in the Indo-Pacific region. A force of six large carriers would serve as the core of the Pacific naval component. The surface combatant and attack submarine force based in the Pacific would be a commensurate percentage of its overall strength. They should be sufficient in number to support carrier escort, independent operations, and surface action groups as recommended for the emerging strategy of distributive lethality. This force would be large enough to conduct meaningful fleet and large scale joint exercises in a number of warfighting disciplines.

The carrier’s assignment to the largest ocean area of responsibility (AOR) best supports a joint commander’s warfighting requirements in a predominately maritime environment. The caveat with the assignment of carriers geographically is that the post-1948 deployment pattern of ‘three aircraft carriers equal one forward deployed, active carrier’ must be scrapped. This means retiring two carriers, perhaps the two oldest Nimitz class when the USS Gerald R. Ford is commissioned in next year.  One carrier strike group costs $6.5 million dollars a day to operate.2 The funds saved in the retirement of two carriers could be directed toward the maintenance of and operational costs of the remaining eight, with the proviso that these be consistently ready for service as required.
The Eurasian littoral areas historically supported by east coast naval forces would receive smaller, tailored force packages in this new organization scheme. Given that Eurasian littoral operations can be supported by land-based air units, only two carriers need be assigned to the Atlantic coast with perhaps a third designated as a training carrier.

A Substitute for a Carrier Strike Group
Under this arrangement the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf areas would not see regularly deployed large deck carriers. To offset their absence, it is proposed that two light carrier groups be forward-based on the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean respectively. Such a group would each be centered on an LHA-6 class amphibious warship configured as a light carrier with an airwing of 20+ F-35 Lightning II strike aircraft. The CVL-configured LHA, too small to support the full traditional carrier wing of both attack and support aircraft, would be supported by land-based assets that would provide airborne early warning (AEW), tanking, and other strike missions. Each group would contain three DDG-51 class destroyers for offensive and defensive roles including missile defense, a DDG-1000 class destroyer for surface strike and other warfare roles, and a flotilla of four to six littoral combat ships (LCS) or similar frigates (FF’s) for a variety of low intensity combat and surface strike missions. Attack submarines may be included as needed and an amphibious warfare group similar to the present 7th fleet formation based in Sasebo, Japan round out the numerical assignments. A full amphibious ready group (ARG) with associated Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) based at Rota could exploit NATO/EU capabilities in the region as well. Most of these rebalancing efforts can be completed between 2020 and 2025, with the fight light carrier group ready by 2017. It may begin operations with the AV-8B II Harrier, but later transition to the F-35B Lightning II. After 2020, an international carrier strike group (CSG) presence might be maintained in the Eastern Mediterranean with British, French, Italian, and Spanish carriers playing a role.3
The Mediterranean offers a number of ports that together are capable of hosting such a force including Rota, Spain, Sigonella, Sicily, and Souda Bay, Crete. The Western Pacific/Indian Ocean represents a more complicated basing picture, but a combination of facilities in Singapore, Darwin, and Perth, with a forward anchorage in Diego Garcia might offer sufficient space to support to forward deployed forces. Both regions offer a number of land-based aviation facilities to support a light carrier formation.
The navies of friends and formal allies offer additional support to this strategy. The U.S. has consistently sought and depended on coalition allies in the conflicts it has engaged in since 1945, and especially since 1990. European fleets have changed from antisubmarine Cold War forces to smaller, but more deployable, larger combatants capable of global operations. Resident European force in the Mediterranean and deployed forces in the Persian Gulf region might augment U.S. efforts in those regions. The Libyan Operation of 2011 (Operation Odyssey Dawn for the U.S.), showcased what a U.S. light carrier group, as centered then on USS Kearsarge, and European forces might accomplish. The British Defence Secretary’s recent announcement that the Royal Navy will develop a base in Bahrain suggests that at least British and perhaps other Commonwealth nations’ navies might support U.S. efforts in the Persian Gulf region.

Options for Cooperation and Technological Offset
Strong U.S. relationships with Western Pacific nations are essential to any re-balancing strategy in that region. The adoption of AEGIS systems by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, the South Korean, and Australian navies significantly aids in cooperative efforts. Close U.S. ties with Singapore, the Philippines, and other regional naval forces are also essential to U.S. efforts. One method of achieving this might be a Western Pacific version of the Standing NATO Maritime Groups. An international squadron with rotating command responsibilities would be useful in easing old tensions and promoting better relations amongst this diverse group of nations.
The “long pole in the tent” of such a re-balancing strategy is how to manage the personnel disruptions such a change would cause. The CONUS-based U.S. deployment strategy, and dependent housing agreements in Japan and some Mediterranean nations has allowed for a great deal of family stability. Sailors can remain reasonably close to their families, even when forward deployed. There is no guarantee that Pacific or Mediterranean nations would accept large increases in the population of U.S. naval personnel and their dependents resident within their borders. In addition to the foreign relation concerns, such additions would cost a considerable amount of money and involve greater security risks in protecting a larger overseas American service and dependent population. The answer to this problem is to ‘dust off’ some of the reduced and creative manning projects of the last decade. While not ideal in many ways, reduced manning, crew swaps, and longer, unaccompanied deployments may become the norm, rather than the exception for American sailors.
Unfortunately, this is the price of putting more credible combat power in forward areas at present or even reduced costs. The U.S. will be hard-pressed to duplicate Admiral Fisher’s other revolutionary changes. The U.S. Navy has retired nearly all of its outdated warships, and further reductions of newer platforms will harm overall naval capabilities. Revolutionary changes in armament such as the rail gun and other directed energy weapons, and continued advances in the electric drive concept may allow for some cost reductions in naval expenditures, but they remain far from mature development. The rail gun is slated for additional afloat testing, but with a barrel life of only 400 rounds, it represents a 21st century equivalent of the arquebus.4 Fisher, by contrast, had relatively mature technological solutions in propulsion, and rushed fire control, aircraft, and submarine advances into full production with mixed results. The present U.S. test and evaluation culture would not permit such bold experimentation.
The U.S. can, however, improve its overall forward naval posture by re-balancing its force structure along geographic lines to better support national interests and regional commanders’ requirements.  Additional force structure will be difficult to achieve in the face of present budget woes. Transformational technology is moving toward initial capabilities, but is not yet ready for immediate, cost savings application. The post-1948 CONUS-based deployment system is becoming more difficult to maintain with fewer ships and persistent commitments. Despite these dilemmas, the U.S. must fundamentally change the deployment and basing structure of the fleet in order to provide credible combat power forward in support of joint commander requirements. The new 2015 Maritime Strategy will not achieve many of its goals using the present CONUS-based deployment construct. Geographic re-balance of the fleet will provide strength were it is most needed.

1.  A detailed explanation of the Fisher/Selborne re-balance strategy may be found in Aaron Friedberg’s The Weary Titan, Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895-1905, pages 135-208.

2.  Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN (ret), PhD, “At What Cost a Carrier”, Center for New American Security (CNAS), March 2013, p. 7.

3.  Conversation with retired NSWCCD Senior Warfare Analyst James O’Brasky.

4. 15 February statement of Statement of Rear Admiral Mattew L. Klunder, USN, Chief Of Naval Research before the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee  of the House Armed Services Committee on the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request,  26 March, 2014.

 

China’s Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities

“The U.S.-Chinese military balance in the Pacific could nevertheless influence day-to-day choices made by other Pacific countries, including choices on whether to align their policies more closely with China or the United States”

Superbly researched and organized, China’s Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress by CRS analyst Ronald O’Rourke serves as an excellent resource from which to better understand China’s evolving naval capabilities and how the U.S. Navy can retain its edge in the face of the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) challenge. The scope of the report is wide, with information given on a large variety of platform and weapons procurements. The breadth is matched by depth of analysis, as the author assesses the sophistication of individual systems, offers concepts of employment, describes potential conflict scenarios, and explains how naval modernization is tied to broader policy. The report is broadly organized into sections that cover Chinese platforms and weapons, American policy decisions responding to China’s naval rise, key U.S. Navy acquisition programs, relevant sections from the National Defense Authorization Act, and an appendix providing supplemental readings. Certain sections could be strengthened and new areas could be explored to further flesh out the expanse of information, but nonetheless this fact packed publication has plenty to teach.

The detailed section on the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is thoroughly informative on China’s maturing navy. Every surface combatant the PLAN fields is covered in the report. Each ship class’s capabilities are described along with their production history and projected numbers. Ships are contrasted with the capabilities of the vessels they are replacing, producing an appreciation of progress. Furthermore, certain ships are highlighted for their ability to enable operations that were not feasible until recently, such as the power projection and humanitarian assistance missions that could be conducted by the new Liaoning carrier and Type 071 vessels. Extensive attention is devoted to the new carrier, including the significant limitations posed by a ski-ramp configuration and the critical research role the vessel will play in familiarizing the PLAN with carrier operations. Information is also given on upcoming and prospective designs such as the Type 055 cruiser, Type 081 amphibious assault ship, and Type 095 nuclear attack submarine. In total, these sections combine to produce a clear trajectory of naval modernization.

The Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier. The vessel was commissioned in 2012, and is being used to familiarize the PLA Navy with carrier operations.

The American perspective is captured as well. The report documents in numbers the changes being made to the Navy’s force posture and forward basing in order to operationalize the Asia Pivot. The Air Sea Battle concept is discussed along with the operational goal of disrupting kill chains in the electromagnetic spectrum. An especially insightful subsection describes the variety of nuances that should inform comparisons between the U.S. and Chinese navies, and naval forces in general. A unique strength of CRS reports, relevant legislation is included, providing key information into how Congress is influencing policy towards China and America’s own naval modernization. These sections in the National efense Authorization Act (NDAA), will help the reader better understand how Congress perceives the implications of China’s naval modernization, and which ongoing U.S. Navy procurement programs have Congressional priority towards meeting the A2/AD challenge. The NDAA also identifies certain knowledge gaps and requires reports be drafted in order to raise awareness, offering a glimpse into potential weaknesses and priorities.  

There are certain key points and gaps of information within the report that need to be addressed in order to fully appreciate the increasing modernity of China’s Navy and A2/AD abilities. For example, the author states “Changes in platform capability have been more dramatic than changes in platform numbers” but this is contradicted by ONI Officer Jesse Karotkin’s testimony that is included in the appendix: “China is implementing much longer production runs of advanced surface combatants and nuclear submarines, suggesting a greater satisfaction in their recent ship designs.” The tables provided by the author on yearly ship comissionings support this conclusion, marking a new and more confident phase of modernization that is gaining momentum. This trend highlights an aspect of modernization that requires greater attention, China’s increasingly formidable shipbuilding industrial base.

China’s naval modernization can be subsumed under a greater A2/AD aspiration, and the author stresses that proper assessment of a potential maritime conflict includes understanding “maritime relevant capabilities that are outside their navies.” Information is included on land based platforms such as backfire bombers procured from Russia, UAV’s, ASBMs, and even EMPs. However, if it is the intent to draw awareness towards addressing the A2/AD threat as a whole, primary attention should be given to China’s robust cruise missile inventory, which is the most significant weapon system towards enabling land based A2/AD. Although the author takes note throughout the report which platforms can field ASCMs and LACMs, the ASCM section lacks information on the precise range and speed of China’s cruise missiles and their advantages relative to comparable weapons fielded by American surface combatants. There is also no information provided on LACM types and capabilities.

The author writes “China’s naval modernization effort also includes reforms and improvements in maintenance and logistics, naval doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises.” Yet these topics received hardly any attention, and are arguably more critical to the maturity of the PLAN than capabilities borne from more modern platforms and systems.

When it comes to logistics, underway replenishment vessels are the foundation of blue water power projection. The number of these vessels in a Navy’s inventory is indicative of broader policy and the priority placed on projecting presence far from home. China possesses eight such ships, with three constructed from 2012-2014. The five type 903A “Fuchi” class vessels are relatively modern, with the first pair of ships launched in 2004. These ships may be among the most operationally experienced vessels in China’s navy. Since China began its anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 there have been twenty deployments, and a replenishment vessel has accompanied every task force sent. The PLAN also operates two type 904 general stores ships, which have delivered necessities to installations in the Spratly Islands.

Type 903 Fuchi class  vessel conducts simultaneous replenishment of Type 071 landing dock vessel and Type 052C guided missile destroyer
Type 903 Fuchi class vessel conducts simultaneous replenishment of Type 071 landing dock vessel and Type 052C guided missile destroyer

The PLAN is clearly committed to producing personnel with the high degree of technical proficiency necessary to operate modern warfighting platforms and systems, and such investments are already paying off in active operations. The PLAN is partnered with thirteen universities, and financial aid given to enrolled students was doubled to ten thousand RMB in 2009. Beginning in 2012, the PLAN launched programs partnering with specialized vocational schools from which high school graduates chosen through a competitive process would receive senior technical certifications following graduation, and be inducted as NCOs. Skill redundancy is achieved by requiring more technical proficiencies be acquired as an enlisted sailor rises in rank, resulting in units with greater shared expertise.  In 2011, technical evaluation stations were stood up in an effort to standardize assessment of NCO performance, and operate at the level of local units.

Author Ron O’Rourke writes “China’s naval modernization is a broad based effort with many elements” and China’s Naval Modernization certainly captures many of them. However, analysis of China’s military has been dominated by more observable material developments such as ship acquisition and weapons procurement. The trend has been made clear, and now it is as much a given for China to be continually introducing better platforms as it is for the United States. But these developments are subsidiary to more immaterial initiatives. Key elements such as doctrine, organization of forces, personnel education, operational experience, interoperability, and exercises are all more meaningful indicators of the growth of the PLA Navy than new equipment. And all of these areas have undergone their own changes in tandem with procurement programs. The challenges posed by the effective implementation and evaluation of these reforms need to be acknowledged, but this institutional development of the PLA Navy is what will ultimately best empower it to function as an enabler of policy.

Dmitry Filipoff is an Associate Editor with CIMSEC. 

Russia’s Supersonic Tu-160 Bomber Is Back: Should America Worry?

The article can be found in its original form at The National Interest here and was republished with permission.

By Dr. Tom Nichols

Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced recently that Russia is going to begin production of the Tu-160, a Soviet-era bomber known as the “Blackjack.” The Tu-160 is a nuclear platform, basically something like the Soviet version of an American B-1 bomber: a big, heavy, swing-wing bomber meant to deliver nuclear weapons at long distances. The Soviets built about thirty-five of them in the 1980s, of which only fifteen remain in service.

So what does this mean to the strategic balance between the United States and the Russian Federation in 2015? In reality, it means absolutely nothing in military terms. As a political signal, however, Shoigu’s announcement is just the latest in a series of provocations. No American response is required and none would matter.

The Blackjack, assuming the Russians even manage to build any more of them, is a perfectly capable nuclear bomber that, in time of war, would fold back its swan-like wings and dart toward its targets at top speed. Once in range, it would launch cruise missiles that would make the last part of their journey low and slow under enemy radar. This is pretty much what all bombers would do in a nuclear war. (The one major advantage of the American B-2 is that it could penetrate farther into enemy airspace with less chance of detection.)

o worry about the extra capability of additional Blackjacks, however, requires believing that nuclear bombers matter at all in 2015. During the Cold War, when a “triad” of land, air and sea weapons were the guarantee against a massive surprise attack, both sides invested in various tripartite combinations of ICBMs, sea-launched weapons and bombers. In a massive first-strike, at least some of these weapons would survive and destroy the aggressor, which is why no one could contemplate doing it. (The Soviets likely did not contemplate it very seriously in any case. There’s an interesting declassified CIA report from 1973 you can read here.)

Today, no one seriously worries that the Russians or the Americans will, or can, execute a disabling first strike against the other. A “BOOB,” or “Bolt-Out-Of-the-Blue,” is neither politically likely, nor militarily feasible. The days when command and control, satellites and even strategic delivery systems themselves were all far more shaky are long gone. The ideological competition between two global systems, in which one would seek to destroy the other as rapidly as possible, is also over.

Moreover, the sheer number of strategic weapons isn’t up to the job. In 1981, the United States and the Soviet Union fielded a total of nearly 50,000 weapons against each other. Strategic targets, including opposing nuclear forces, numbered in the thousands. Today, in accordance with the New START treaty, Russia and America will only deploy 1550 warheads each. (Coincidentally, this week marks the fourth anniversary of New START.) Even if both sides were committed to a first strike, there aren’t enough weapons to do it: 1550 means 1550, and it doesn’t matter what platform—bomber, ICBM or submarine—is carrying them.

So why are the Russians even bothering to do this?

For starters, not everything is about us. The Russians have a huge nuclear infrastructure, and a military obsessed with symbols of nuclear power. Building more nuclear toys makes everyone happy: Russia’s nuclear military-industrial complex gets jobs and money, the military gets its nuclear security blanket, and Russian leaders like Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin get to thump their chests about holding back the nuclear savagery of Barack Obama. Outside of Russia, no one except nuclear wonks like me even know what a Tu-160 is, but Russians know of it and many are likely proud of it.

President Vladimir Putin in the cockpit of a TU-160 in August 2005

The part that is about us is more disturbing. The Russians, and Putin in particular, have decided to forego any further pretense of accepting the outcome of the Cold War. Some foreign-policy realists lay Putin’s aggressiveness at NATO’s door, and rightly point out that NATO expansion needlessly handed Russian nationalists a cause. But Putin, it should now be obvious, was never going to accept the Soviet loss. His feints at cooperation were unsustainable, and his Soviet-era nostalgia for the days of the USSR has reasserted itself with a vengeance. If Putin can’t get along with a U.S. president as passive and accommodating as Barack Obama, he can’t get along with anyone.

That’s why the United States has no play to make here, other than to remind the Russians of two things.

First, if we react to Shoigu, we should note only that the United States has a fully capable deterrent that cannot be destroyed, and that we have no interest in Russian bombers, so long as they do not exceed New START’s warhead limits. We do not need to create a new nuclear system, or start returning nuclear weapons to Europe. If Russia means war, they know it will end in 2015 the way it would have ended in 1965: with the destruction of most of Russia and North America, and the deaths of millions of innocent people.

More important, we must reaffirm our commitment to NATO, because Europe, not America, is really the intended audience for Russia’s nuclear antics. Bringing back the Tu-160 is another of the Kremlin’s many attempts to scare the Europeans with the same threat the Russians have been harping on since the 1950s: “If war comes, the Americans will be so afraid of us they will not lift a finger to help you.” Each time we ignore these threats, we encourage more of them.

The way to reassure NATO is match Russian moves not with nuclear threats, but with conventional forces, as U.S. ambassador Steven Pifer and others have argued. This is what the Russians fear most, because they know that the Cold War equation is now flipped, with Russia the weaker conventional power. If Shoigu wants to build more of his pretty bombers, that’s his business, but no Russian leader should think that an attack on NATO can produce anything but a Russian conventional loss, at which point the Russians will have to think about whether they want to face the escalatory burden that once haunted NATO.

Our reaction to Russia’s nuclear threats should be no reaction at all, other than to affirm our ability to defend ourselves—and the most populous, wealthy and powerful alliance in human history—as the mature and confident superpower that we are.

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College and an adjunct at the Harvard Extension School. His most recent book is No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security (University of Pennsylvania, 2014) The views expressed are solely his own. You can follow him on Twitter: @RadioFreeTom

Call for Articles: Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Week, June 1-5

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have consistently proven their considerable utility since their operational debut. Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) may be ripe for similar operational success. Despite the command and control challenges inherent in conducting underwater operations, the sophistication and proliferation of UUVs has accelerated rapidly over the last decade.

From Boston Engineering’s hyper-realistic BIOswimmer, which mimics the swimming motion of a tuna to maintain position while conducting inspections of hulls and other underwater infrastructure, to Boeing’s mini-sub sized Echo Ranger AUV, UUV platforms run the gamut in size, endurance, and capability. UUV’s actual and notional applications are similarly diverse. Suited for ISR operations in contested environments, port security, special operations, and mine clearance/countermeasures as well as more mundane tasks like maintenance and mapping, UUVs offer tremendous utility for maritime forces’ rapidly evolving mission set, maximizing the benefits of underwater stealth while minimizing risk and, eventually, cost. Critics of UUVs, however, cite substantial development costs and technological hurdles (like the aforementioned communications difficulties). Indeed, just because UUVs can accomplish a mission may not mean they should…particularly when other assets can accomplish the job equally well.

th-1
BIOswimmer Pictured in Action

During the first week of June, CIMSEC will host a series focused on the development, application, and unique challenges of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV). As such, this is a general call for articles concerning UUVs. Articles should be between 500-1500 words in length and must be submitted no later than 25 May. Contributions may address the utility of UUV platforms to address the Navy’s evolving needs, the challenges of their application, their contributions to a particular mission or strategy, or some other facet of UUVs. Publication reviews will also be accepted.

Send articles to: nextwar(at)cimsec.org
Length: 500-1500 words
Due by: 25 May 15

CIMSEC members can expedite their submission uploading it directly to wordpress. In fact, we will probably ask you very nicely to do so.