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Sea Control 27 – International Law, Crimea, and China

seacontrolemblemProfessor Anthony Clark Arend joins us to discuss International law. We discuss some basic definitions, and their influence on international actors, using the lens of Crimea and the Chinese ADIZ. I also learn later that my mic input has been the crummy laptop mic all month, explaining all my audio quality frustrations. Remember, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Stream Radio. Leave a comment and five stars!

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 27- International Law, China, and Crimea

Air-Sea Battle in Orbit

The threat of China’s Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) systems looms large in the minds of U.S. military thinkers and planners.   The threat posed to U.S. naval forces by anti-ship ballistic missiles, submarines, and swarms of small combatants are well known to the readers of this blog.   Air-Sea Battle, however, will not simply be fought in the air and seas of the Asia-Pacific but in space as well.  The Air-Sea Battle Concept recognizes that “all domains will be contested by an adversary—space, cyberspace, air, maritime, and land.”   While space is usually thought of as an Air Force domain, the Navy can make an important contribution to ensure the success of U.S. operations.

Space systems are a key source of U.S. military advantage.  The United States has been uniquely successful in leveraging satellite communications, space-based intelligence capabilities, and the GPS constellation to enable global power projection and precision strike.  This tremendous success has also made the United States particularly vulnerable to attacks on its space assets.   Seeking to exploit this vulnerability China has invested heavily in counter-space systems.  The potential of China’s counter-space program was illustrated most clearly by its successful test of a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon in 2007, destroying an obsolete Chinese satellite and filling low earth orbit with thousands of pieces of debris.

While the dependence of U.S. forces on space systems is relatively common knowledge, less appreciated is China’s increasing dependence on space to accomplish its own military missions.   China uses space assets not to enable global power projection (at least, not yet) but as key parts of its A2/AD kill chain.  China is building a maritime reconnaissance-strike complex, much like the one fielded by the Soviet Union during the cold war, including optical and radar imaging satellites as well as electronic intelligence satellites, that will allow it to locate U.S. ships at sea.  Weather satellites will also aid China’s over-the-horizon radars tracking U.S. ships in the Western Pacific.  Once Chinese satellites locate U.S. carrier groups and other targets, the Beidou satellite constellation, China’s counterpart to GPS, will guide long-range missiles to their targets.

Faced with the threat to important U.S. space assets and the threat from Chinese space assets, what contributions can the Navy make to the Air-Sea Battle fight in space?

The Navy can help mitigate the U.S. dependence on space assets.   While current operations are dependent on targeting, navigation, and weather information from space assets, the Navy operated for decades before the first satellite was launched.   Relearning how to operate without space assets- navigating and targeting weapons without GPS, for instance- will make U.S. forces more resilient in the face of threats to U.S. space systems.  The Navy can also try to reduce its reliance on space systems when acquiring new weapons and platforms.   Unmanned aviation, for instance,  is a major consumer of satellite communication bandwidth.   Finding alternatives to vulnerable satellite communications should be a major part of the Navy’s embrace of unmanned systems for maritime surveillance and carrier operations.

The threat from adversary space surveillance is not a new one.   The Soviet Union deployed radar and electronic intelligence satellites to track and guide attacks on U.S. carrier groups as part of its own A2/AD effort.  In response, the Navy developed countermeasures and deception tactics to blunt the threat from Soviet satellites.   Relearning tactics such as emissions control (EMCON), maneuvering to avoid the orbital path of surveillance satellites, and dispersed formations to confuse tracking and targeting, will improve the chances of U.S. forces surviving Chinese A2/AD systems.

The Navy could also go on the offensive in space.   As demonstrated in 2008’s Operation Burnt Frost, the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD)  system is capable of destroying targets in space.  While the Missile Defense Agency called Operation Burnt Frost a “one-time Aegis BMD mission,” any SM-3 equipped Aegis ship with the same software modifications as the USS Lake Erie would be capable of attacking satellites in low earth orbit.  Laura Grego, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, describes the 43 Aegis BMD ships and the two Aegis Ashore sites that make up the Phased Adaptive Approach as “the largest destructive ASAT capability ever fielded.” How widely to install the necessary software modifications and how to balance the escort and BMD missions of Aegis ships with their potential counter-space role will be important decisions for the Navy to address in the face of China’s A2/AD challenge.

Air-Sea Battle depends on the success of joint operations in all domains.  While space is not a traditional Navy domain, threats from space pose a challenge to naval operations and the Navy possesses unique capabilities to respond to these threats and should be integrated into efforts to address the challenge of contesting the space domain.

Matthew Hallex is a defense analyst who lives and works in northern Virginia.  His opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer or clients. 

The Greenert Gambit Revisited: Is CNO’s Moneyball Fleet Still the Solution?

The key assumptions behind the “Moneyball” 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan in support of the “Pivot to the Pacific” are unraveling.  The USN force structure is proving itself to be fundamentally disconnected from the foreign policy that it is supposed to be supporting and is therefore standing into a strategic paradox.  The following article is a sequel to a posting in May 2013 http://cimsec.org/the-greenert-gambit/

The highest On Base Percentage in Baseball won’t get you to the playoffs during a Zombie Apocalypse
The highest On Base Percentage in Baseball won’t get you to the playoffs during a Zombie Apocalypse

Moneyball is no different from any other strategic planning framework: the goal is to set your team up to win a campaign. To effectively play Moneyball, you have to have confidence that your sabermetrics are accurate—have you properly distilled down the key elements to win your campaign? Can you acquire them at an affordable cost?  Can you maintain them for as long as needed?

In 2013, CNO Greenert took a big risk with his 30 year shipbuilding plan.  Tasked with supporting the Pivot to the Pacific in a fiscally constrained environment, Greenert boldly chose to complement legacy combatant aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers with new focus on “Moneyball” assets such as Littoral Combat Ships, Joint High Speed Vessels, Afloat Forward Staging Bases and Maritime Pre-Positioning Ships in order to increase his sabermetric elements of presence, C2, and lift.  When tasked to act in ensuring regional stability, the US Navy historically deploys armadas of capital warships to stare down any potential rogues.  This Pacific stability campaign, however, was to be different, and as such success could be predicated with a different kind of naval force—a cheaper, lighter, more flexible force that would empower the administration’s foreign policy mission of 

“…strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.”  (NSA Tom Donilon, 2013)

One year and an LCS forward deployment to Singapore / HA/DR mission to the Philippines later, the report card is troubling. Our alliances in the Pacific are no stronger with successive Air Defense Identification Zones popping up all over the Pacific; our partnerships with emerging powers such as India (Exercise MALABAR cancellation), Indonesia (Australia naval crisis), and Malaysia (opening its waters to Chinese in shore patrols) are threatened by their fear of incurring Chinese wrath.  Meanwhile, the member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are being picked off one at a time by China in a series of coercive bi-lateral negotiations aimed at expanding both the Chinese economic exclusion zone (EEZ) and territorial waters outside of the less pliable ASEAN multilateral framework.  In all of these existential threats to the stated purpose of the Pivot to the Pacific, the US State Department has been conspicuously missing in action.

At the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry refuted assertions that US foreign policy appeared to be hibernating by stating,

“This misperception appears to be based on the simplistic assumption that our only tool of influence is our military, and that if we don’t have a huge troop presence somewhere or we aren’t brandishing an immediate threat of force, we are somehow absent from the arena.”

The results of recent high profile diplomatic efforts absent aggressive US military action have not been promising.  As of 3/12/2014, Syria has delivered only 5% of its chemical weapons to international inspectors for destruction in clear violation of the multilateral framework; the Director of National Intelligence has announced a North Korean expansion of its nuclear weapons program; and Iran is flip-flopping on their commitment to permanently disavow their nuclear weapons program; Russia has invaded Ukraine and is controlling all of Crimea.

The State Department’s apparent lack of coordination with the Department of Defense in the implementation of the Pivot to the Pacific and coercion of rogue states is threatening the US Navy force structure with a strategic paradox: the sabermetric underpinnings of the Moneyball fleet did not forecast a diplomatic retreat in the pacific and a military retreat against rogue states.  As a result, the AFSBs, MLPs, JHSVs, LCS’s of the Moneyball fleet are in no position to provide a credible counter to Chinese attempts at forcibly expanding their regional hegemony over US partners / allies, and are in danger of being stretched to the breaking point by having to maintain in extremis and contingency forces across multiple AORs (that could otherwise be stabilized through a concerted, coordinated (total government) application of military force and foreign policy).

New Sabermetric: measuring change in PRC behavior when a sufficiently sized saber is rattled
New Sabermetric: measuring change in PRC behavior when a sufficiently sized saber is rattled

In 2013, I argued that,  “…key to achieving [the Pivot’s] strategic aims is regional stability—a stability that can only be maintained with the confidence of regional power brokers that the status quo is acceptable and not threatened.”  That dream is crushed—the status quo is under assault.  The CNO’s options are to rally for State Department to get back into the game before it is too late, or to abandon Moneyball altogether and start laying the groundwork for a Navy that can achieve the goals of the Pivot to the Pacific all on its own.

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the staff of the US Chief of Naval Operations, as well as a graduate student of the US Naval War College. The views presented here are his own and do not necessarily represent the official positions of the United States Navy or the US Naval War College.

Indonesia’s Skin in the Game

Indonesia Faces the Reality of Chinese Maritime Claims

With the possibility of a March snow day shutting down the U.S. government’s Washington, DC, offices on Monday, I had the pleasure of being able to do an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation News Radio-Sydney’s Tracey Lee Holmes on Indonesian and Chinese maritime strategies. Tracey brought up interesting points about the reported 700% rise in “piracy” in Indonesian waters from 2009-2014 creating the opportunity for counter-piracy partnerships with others, notably China’s navy, which could leverage its operational experience from years working in the Gulf of Aden. You can listen to my thoughts here.

The spur for the interview was an article I wrote for The Diplomat on several controversies ensnaring Indonesia’s navy in February. I ended that article with a nod to Indonesia’s efforts, under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or “SBY,” to maintain good ties with China in the face of tension over territorial claims with other nations in the region. During this period Indonesia tried to play the role of conciliator within ASEAN, by attempting to bridge the “pro-China” and confrontation camps in Code of Conduct discussions among others. In an example of this conflict avoidance, a recently aired CCTV documentary highlighting a 2010 incident of Indonesian naval vessels’ reluctance to apprehend a Chinese trawler in Indonesian-claimed waters in the face of Chinese vessels demanding they stand down. 

First line of defense
First line of defense

However, my late-night ramblings in the interview prevented me from effectively elucidating how in the past week this relationship has changed. On March 12th, Indonesia admitted for the first time that China’s 9-dash line South China Sea claims included bits of Indonesia’s Riau Province in the Natuna islands. Earlier, and perhaps in preparation for the acknowledgement of the disagreement, Indonesia’s military announced it would beef up its presence in the disputed islands – ostensibly to prevent “infiltration.”

While the move towards tension is disconcerting, as some say, the first step is to admit you have a problem. Additional variables are Indonesia’s upcoming parliamentary (April) and presidential elections (July), in which Jakarta’s mayor, Joko Widodo, is likely to win but has yet to state explicit foreign policy positions.

By interesting coincidence the end of this month will bring an assemblage of competing interests to the waters of the same Natuna Islands, as Indonesia plays host to the 2014 Komodo Joint Exercise, practicing Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Response (HA/DR). Following on the heels of a similarly inclusive HA/DR+Military Medicine Exercise, Komodo is slated to bring together China, Indonesia, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, ASEAN, and others. Whether it can increase interoperability or defuse tension is an open question, but it’s worth a try.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and vice president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.