Category Archives: Members’ Roundup

A periodic overview of member activities.

Members’ Roundup: June 2016

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to the June 2016 members’ roundup. Throughout June, CIMSEC members examined several international maritime security issues, including increased competition in the undersea environment, the Taiwanese Navy’s pursuit of an enhanced air defense capability, Russia’s modernization of the Black Sea Fleet, developments in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology and carrier based operations, and finally, growing piracy threats off the coast of Libya. 

Beginning the roundup at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Bryan Clark discusses undersea cables and the future of submarine competition. Mr. Clark explains how at least 95% of voice and internet traffic in addition to more than $4 trillion per year in financial transactions travels through about 300 transoceanic fiber-optic cables along the seabed. Due to the likely economic and military impacts a cable break or sabotage would induce on international security and economic dynamics, the ability to threaten or protect undersea cables and their shore landings will become an increasingly important aspect of future conflict – with procurement of advanced submarine and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) technology being critical for  addressing this evolving threat. Mr. Clark highlights several of these technologies, including the rise of a new predominant sensing technology characterized by low-frequency active sonar, the use of undersea ‘battle networks’ and the deployment of fixed seabed-based sensors and outposts to augment UUV and submarine operations.

Harry Kazianis, for The National Interest, provides an analysis on the proliferation of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles around the globe and the implications the spread of these weapon systems will have on future U.S. aircraft carrier operations in peace and in conflict. Mr. Kazianis notes that the carrier has been at the forefront of every major U.S. combat operation since World War II, but the short ranges of current carrier based fighter aircraft relative to the longer ranges of certain anti-ship missiles – such as China’s DF-21D, or DF-26 ASBM – may limit the usefulness of the carrier as both an effective deterrent and a reliable platform for power projection in contested areas of operation. The article highlights additional variables affecting the relevance of the flattop in A2/AD environments, including the likelihood of successfully targeting a moving carrier at sea deploying an array of countermeasures.

Ankit Panda, for The Diplomatprovides an overview of a Chinese Naval vessel entering Japanese territorial waters and the incident’s reflection of growing tensions between the two countries. Mr. Panda explains that a Type 815 Dongdiao-class spy ship entered Japanese territorial waters on June 15, a move Beijing has not repeated since 2004, when a Chinese nuclear submarine entered Japan’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea near the Sakishima Islands. The article examines whether the Chinese spy ship was abiding by international law, particularly the provisions governing ‘innocent passage’ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Considering the Chinese vessel was a spy ship and sailed within Japanese waters for several hours, Mr. Panda explains that the Japanese Defense Ministry is investigating whether the PLAN vessel was operating in accordance with international law and if follow-up legal action should be taken.

Michal Thim and his colleague Liao Yen-fan, for Taiwan in Perspective, discuss the restructuring of the Taiwanese Navy, and the goal to acquire enhanced air defense capabilities for the fleet. The authors explain that modernization plans have identified interchangeable Aegis-like integrated combat systems (ACS) that pair powerful radars with advanced anti-air and anti-ship weapons as priority procurement targets. However, the recent breakdown in negotiations between Lockheed Martin and Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) over the acquisition and technology transfer of the Mk.41 vertical launch system may limit the Navy’s ability to deploy ACS. They add that this breakdown and the resulting procurement limitations represent inherent challenges associated with Taiwan’s arms indigenization objectives.

To conclude the June members’ roundup, Sam LaGrone for U.S. Naval Institute News provides an overview of Russia’s first deployment of a new frigate to the Black Sea Fleet since the end of the Cold War. The Project 11356-class Admiral Grigorovich was sent to a Russian naval base in Crimea, which Mr. LaGrone explains is the first of many new surface ships the Russian Navy intends to base in the Black Sea. He adds that the delivery of the multi-mission surface combatant, capable of engaging submarine, air and surface threats, is part of a $2.43 billion Black Sea Fleet expansion program that will allow for increased power projection capabilities throughout the Fleet’s area of operation.

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the month of June:

  • Bryan McGrath, for The War on the Rocks, explains how the lack of naval competition in the post-Cold War period has resulted in a U.S. fleet posture with limited offensive power. He explains how the Navy has prioritized a defensive mindset for too long, with survivability and defensive capabilities outcompeting offensive capabilities for platform space, budgetary resources and strategic inquiry. Mr. McGrath emphasizes that by adopting and implementing the distributed lethality concept across the fleet – that is increasing the unit-level lethality of virtually every ship in the Navy – U.S. naval forces will increase their capacity to successfully deter and challenge nations opposing U.S. interests and international law at sea.
  • Jerry Hendrix, for Defense One, advocates that the X-47B should be reinserted into carrier operations before the U.S. Navy begins to spend more time and fiscal resources on a new, expensive carrier-based UAV. Mr. Hendrix identifies that the Navy needs a long-range strike asset similar to the X-47B design, while it does not need a long-range surveillance platform – an asset the Navy seems to be leaning towards even though 68 unmanned MQ-4C Triton broad area maritime surveillance vehicles have recently been acquired. He also notes the possibility of evolving the X-47B into a joint strike-refueling platform, which would provide two useful, additional capabilities aboard the carrier that are more appropriate and necessary than a surveillance UAV.
  • Michael McDevitt, for The National Interest, discusses China’s ambitions as a maritime power by contextualizing the maritime environment from Beijing’s perspective. The article examines how China seeks to position itself in the maritime environment both regionally and globally, with the Coast Guard, PLA Navy, shipbuilding capacity, merchant fleet, distant-water fishing challenges, territorial disputes and both strategic and tactical level operations taken into consideration.
  • Paul Pryce, at Offiziere, provides an analysis on the current state of the Libyan Navy and the growing threat of piracy operations off of the country’s coastline. Mr. Pryce explains that the Navy’s one active ship, a Koni-class frigate, in addition to the lack of command and control governing the Navy – the same issue facing all Libyan security forces – is contributing to the refugee problem in the Mediterranean and the rising volume in piracy incidents throughout the region.
  • Robert Farley, for The National Interest, discusses Canada’s late 1950’s CF-105 Avro Arrow high-performance interceptor and the aircraft’s unsung potential as a dominating platform in early Cold War airspace, if only the program had not been cancelled due to shifts in Canadian technology, policy and security priorities. In a second article at The National Interest, Farley examines Russia’s Type 705 Lyra Cold War submarine that was regarded by the West as a profound threat to NATO’s undersea dominance.
  • Christian Davenport, for The Washington Post, highlights new technological advancements that may be transforming the way the pentagon outlines its defense strategy, particularly developments within the fields of robotics, drone swarms, and artificial intelligence. The article highlights emerging communication channels between the technology industry in Silicon Valley and the Pentagon, with Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter recently meeting with executives at SpaceX and Google.
  • Kyle Mizokami, for Popular Mechanics, discusses the deployment of two U.S. carrier battle groups to the Philippine Sea to conduct exercises following the UN court ruling on China and its claims in the South China Sea. Mr. Mizokami explains that the carrier strike groups (CSGs) consist of two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, two guided-missile cruisers, six guided-missile destroyers and likely two nuclear attack submarines – although their presence was not confirmed by the Navy. He adds that this is the first two-carrier exercise in the Western Pacific in two years.
  • Dave Majumdar, for The National Interest, examines the Russian submarine threat to NATO’s maritime forces and U.S. naval forces stationed throughout EuropeThe article explains how Russia has successfully incorporated highly agile, technologically advanced and lethal submarines into their overall A2/AD bubble strategy throughout European waters and the significant threat this poses to U.S. and allied undersea posture in the region.  

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies, international law and defense policy.

Featured Image: Naval vessels of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (RT)

Members’ Roundup: May 2016 Part Two

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to part two of the May 2016 members’ roundup. Over the past two weeks CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including the future role of the Littoral Combat Ship in the U.S. Navy, the continued development of the U.S. military’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, the possibility of reducing tensions in the Western Pacific with an international Standing Naval Group, and the development of an undersea second strike capability for India’s nuclear forces. Read Part One here.

Beginning the roundup with a discussion on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Jerry Hendrix for Defense One argues that the U.S. Navy must adapt a procurement strategy that will emphasize a larger fleet and focus on providing the capacity to maintain a sustainable forward presence in multiple contentious maritime environments. Considering current budgetary constraints and the high costs associated with advanced capability ships, such as a $15 billion dollar aircraft carrier or a $2 billion dollar destroyer, acquiring enhanced LCS’s can provide the Navy with a relatively low-cost yet capable platform suitable for growing the size of the fleet. Mr. Hendrix suggests that to achieve an appropriate fleet size of 350 ships (currently 272) and to continue to promote global maritime stability the LCS should be recognized as a priority for the Navy to deploy in significant numbers.

Dave Majumdar, at The National Interest, provides an overview of the Ohio-class Replacement Program (ORP). Mr. Majumdar notes that Electric Boat will be responsible for about 80 percent of the submarines design and production while Huntington Ingalls Newport News will take on the other 20 percent of design and production work. To reduce costs and inefficiencies affiliated with previous ballistic missile submarine construction, the ships’ designers have applied several technologies and systems used in the Virginia-class ­submarines for the ORP. Mr. Majumdar explains that these cost reductions, in addition to the common missile compartment (CMC), will allow for the ORP to be constructed with minimal delays, which should also limit typical cost overruns associated with nuclear submarine production.

Sam LaGrone, at U.S. Naval Institute News, highlights the continued development of Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) and the current $321 million dollar contract from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Lockheed is operating under to complete the missile’s critical design review (CDR). After completion of the CDR, testing for use of the air-launch variant of the missile by the Boeing B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter will begin. Mr. LaGrone explains that the LRASM program is part of the Pentagon’s process of substantially improving the military’s decades-old gap in anti-surface weapons.

Entering the Asia-Pacific, Lauren Dickey and Natalie Sambhi at Foreign Entanglements discuss cross-strait developments in the context of Taiwan’s new President while also unpacking China’s security policy beyond the South China Sea. The discussion highlighted the attributes of the current Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and how her recent public rejection and criticism of mainland China’s one-child policy reflects the pragmatic and pro-independence perspective that she will likely articulate throughout her time in office. Ms. Dickey and Ms. Sambhi also raised the possibility of increased counterterrorism operations in China to meet heightened domestic security concerns in addition to examining China’s role in driving U.S.-Australian relations.

Steven Wills and his colleague Ronald Harris, at U.S. Naval Institute News, discuss the need for an international solution focused on reducing tensions in the Western Pacific. Mr. Wills and Mr. Harris suggest that establishing a Standing Indo-Pacific Maritime Group (SIPMG) for the purposes of humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR), counter-piracy patrols, and general assistance to mariners in distress in international waters can provide a medium through which countries with competing territorial claims in the region can still cooperate and maintain channels of communication. The article explains that the SIPMG would primarily consist of limited capability ships focused on low-threat security operations while the Group’s command structure could be based off of the proven national rotation system used by the Standing North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Maritime Groups.

To conclude the roundup, Harry Kazianis for The Asia Times examines the DF-21D ASBM threat and whether the publicity surrounding the missile in defense circles is warranted. The article references the US-China Economic Security Review Commission Report to highlight the unproven capabilities of the missile, particularly in successfully hitting a moving ship from hundreds or thousands of miles away while the ship is implementing a wide-range of defense and countermeasures against the missile and its targeting systems. The article provides an interesting comparison between the Soviet Union’s development of a submarine-launched ASBM in the 1970’s and China’s current attempt to develop the same long-range ASBM capability. Mr. Kazianis notes that the Soviet Union cancelled the development of the missile due to terminal targeting difficulties, which is an end result that may soon reflect China’s ASBM program. Mr. Kazianis suggests that all contingencies should be prepared for considering Beijing’s access to an advanced satellite and ballistic missile technology base that the USSR lacked over 40 years ago.

CIMSEC Members were active elsewhere in May:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies, international law and defense policy.

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Members’ Roundup: May 2016 Part One

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to part one of the May 2016 members’ roundup. Over the past two weeks CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including the complexities associated with improving U.S. missile defense, the continued modernization of Chinese missile forces, the North Korean nuclear threat, China’s response to U.S. laser based weapons, and finally, defense spending concerns within the NATO alliance.

Beginning the roundup at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Bryan Clark with CSBA colleague Mark Gunzinger provide a comprehensive report discussing the necessity for the U.S. to rebalance and restructure the military’s air and missile defense systems. The report explains that the DoD’s emphasis on long-range surface-to-air interceptors used to defeat a small salvo of anti-ship cruise missiles or a handful of ballistic missiles launched by rogue states have failed to provide the capacity to defend theater forces against large salvos of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and other precision-guided munitions (PGMs). Mr. Clark highlights that the layered missile defense approach favored by U.S. forces, focused on countering incoming threats as far away as possible, lacks the resources to sustain operations against multiple strikes – meaning U.S. defenses could become quickly exhausted in notional conflict where missile threats are frequent and continuous.

Harry Kazianis, for The National Interest, discusses the Chinese DF-26 ballistic missile, noting how analyses of the capabilities and regional implications of the anti-ship variant were not adequately included in the Pentagon’s annual China military report. Mr. Kazianis highlights that the 2500-mile range of the missile should be a serious concern for regional U.S. surface combatants, particularly if combined with the more reliable DF-21Ds and other anti-ship cruise missiles launched from air, land or maritime platforms as part of a large saturation strike. He explains how this capability may allow for China to develop an extremely effective anti-access strategy beyond the first-island chain, thereby severely restricting U.S. ability to conduct operations uncontested near or in support of its regional allies.

Ankit Panda, for The Diplomat, provides an analysis on an upcoming trilateral missile defense exercise being conducted by the U.S., Japan and South Korea. All three navies will participate in the exercise using Aegis-equipped guided missile cruisers, focusing on a response to a notional ballistic missile attack from North Korea. Mr. Panda explains that although recent Japanese-South Korean bilateral relations have been characterized as difficult, the increasingly dangerous North Korean security threat combined with Washington acting as a mediator and leader in trilateral operations has contributed to a steady improvement in cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo.

In a second article at The Diplomat, Mr. Panda examines the development of Pyongyang’s nuclear strategy by focusing on Kim Jong-un’s latest iteration of the country’s nuclear use policies at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The article suggests that outlining a concrete North Korean nuclear strategy is highly problematic considering several unknown strategic variables, including Pyongyang’s conception of sovereignty violation, positions on first use and the role of second or first strike capabilities surrounding regime security objectives.

To conclude the roundup, Kyle Mizokami for Popular Mechanics discusses the deployment of the Norwegian-designed Naval Strike Missile to the USS Freedom Littoral Combat Ship. The weapon system will provide the small ship with an increased surface-to-surface combat capacity while additional deployments of the missile to other vessels are likely to follow – supporting the U.S. Navy’s interest in implementing the distributed lethality concept across the fleet.

In a second article at Popular Mechanics, Mr. Mizokami describes the development of smoke screen technologies by the Chinese military’s Chemical Corps., primarily to be used as shields against increasingly capable U.S. laser systems, such as the already active laser on the USS Ponce in addition to planned lasers on gunships, fighters, and surface ships.

A Naval Strike Missile (NSM) anti-ship missile is launched from HNoMS Roald Amundsen (Picture: Royal Norwegian Navy)
A Naval Strike Missile (NSM) anti-ship missile is launched from HNoMS Roald Amundsen (Picture: Royal Norwegian Navy)

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the first part of May:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies, international law, and defense policy.

Members’ Roundup: April 2016

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to the April 2016 members’ roundup. Over the past month CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including the strategic implications of China’s land creation in the South China Sea, Russia and China’s testing and deployment of offensive hypersonic weapons, the U.S. Navy’s development of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, India’s maritime ambitions in the Asia-Pacific and finally, increasing maritime tensions between African coastal countrie,s and the resulting naval build-up taking place on the continent.

Beginning the roundup in the Asia-Pacific, Lauren Dickey for the Asia Unbound Series at the Council on Foreign Relations analyzes the current political turmoil challenging the stability of Taiwan’s government. Ms. Dickey explains that Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has retreated from an agreement with the country’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to conduct an item-by-item review of a service trade pact arranged with mainland China. The resulting breakout of severe protests by citizens, unions, and the DPP have demonstrate the harmful affects approval of the trade pact would have on Taiwan, including an increase in Beijing’s influence over domestic Taiwanese policy and the ability for large corporations to increase control over Taiwanese industry at the expense of local enterprises. Ms. Dickey highlights the perspective that the KMT party’s decision is one that has and will continue to challenge democratic principles within Taiwan while also creating a public atmosphere non-conducive to cooperative cross-strait relations.

Kyle Mizokami, at Popular Mechanics, discusses the test of China’s new hypersonic weapon, the DF-ZF, at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China. The DF-ZF is likely launched by a DF-21 IRBM, which releases a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) just before leaving the atmosphere. Mr. Mizokami explains how the HGV released in the upper atmosphere is capable of travelling at speeds from 4000-7000 miles an hour making it difficult to intercept and capable of reaching almost any target in the world within an hour. In a second article at Popular Mechanics, Mr. Mizokami continues the discussion on hypersonic weapons with Russia’s continued development of its Zircon anti-ship missile. He explains how the missile will increase the surface warfare capabilities of Russia’s aging battlecruisers by providing a new offensive capacity capable of penetrating sophisticated air-defense systems. Dave Majumdar, at the National Interest, also discusses the technicalities and implications of Russia’s development of the Zircon anti-ship missile, which you can find here.    

Harry Kazianis, at The National Interest, highlights China’s primary strategic objective in the South China Sea; that Beijing views complete control of the waters from Taiwan to Malaysia as imperative to supporting regional Chinese sovereignty. Mr. Kazianis notes that Beijing has used a process of incremental aggression throughout the region to slowly, and perhaps unnoticeably, challenge the status-quo maintained by the U.S. with the ultimate goal of achieving regional hegemony. However, as outlined by Mr. Kazianis, there is potential for the U.S. and regional allies to limit and even halt this Chinese aggression at Scarborough Shoal just West of the Philippines, where the U.S. has already begun operations with A-10 Warthogs and Sikorsky HH-60 helicopters providing air and maritime situational awareness to local forces while also articulating to China that reclaiming the reef will not be tolerated.

In a second article at The National Interest, Mr. Kazianis provides a list of different methods for confronting Chinese antagonism in the South China Sea, including a joint U.S. and allied A2/AD strategy, utilizing media and communications to demonstrate a clear U.S. regional objective and lawfare – the notion that the U.S. and regional allies should coordinate legal actions and claims against China to maximize their effectiveness.

James Goldrick, at The Interpreter, discusses the impact China’s artificial island construction in the South China Sea will have on peace and stability in the region when combined with its aggressive territorial claims under a pretense of sovereign rights. He outlines how China’s objective of creating a safe haven for its naval forces in the region will collide with the national interests of the rest of maritime Southeast Asia. He suggests that Beijing should adapt a more sensitive approach to their regional claims as to not risk international, kinetic conflict.

Alex Calvo, for the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Blog, examines the sinking of a Chinese fishing vessel by an Argentinian Coast Guard vessel and highlights the incidents’ significance should China succeed in breaking out of the First Island Chain and seek an expanded posture in the Southern Atlantic. He notes that China operates the world’s largest long-distance fishing fleet and its interaction with foreign nations and their waters should merit appropriate attention considering how similar fishing related events have contributed to an increasingly tense political and security environment in the East and South China Seas.

To conclude the April 2016 Members’ Roundup, Paul Pryce at Offiziere discusses Africa’s rapidly growing naval forces in relation to the rise of piracy threats in the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf Guinea while also noting an increase in maritime boundary disputes rooted in contested off-shore oil deposits. While identifying several examples, Mr. Pryce notes increased tensions between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and the corresponding procurement of 40 patrol vessels by Ivorian defense officials in response as a primary example of the new arms-race on the continent. He also mentions the procurement of three HIS 32 interceptor patrol vessels and three Ocean Eagle 43 OPVs by the Mozambican Navy in addition to the procurement of seven Macaé-class OPVs by Angola.

Members at CIMSEC were active elsewhere during the month of April:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies, international law and defense policy.