Tag Archives: Force Planning

January 2016 Members’ Round-Up Part One

Welcome to part one of the January 2016 members’ round-up! Over the past month CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including future development programs for the U.S. Navy, Japanese naval strategy in the Asia-Pacific, North Korea’s nuclear weapons test, legal discussions over the U.S. South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) and China’s aircraft carrier procurement challenges.

Beginning the round-up at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Bryan Clark discusses the new Chief of Naval Operation’s vision for the future of the U.S. Navy. Mr. Clark explains that adaptability is a critical factor that the Navy must retain in order to effectively navigate the complex issues the force will see in the future maritime environment. Further to this, he elaborates on the potential challenges the Navy will face implementing an adaptability design as the Navy’s organization, training and equipping functions historically have not been developed for such fluid flexibility. Also discussing the CNO’s new design for the Navy, Chuck Hill for his Coast Guard Blog highlights the key developments raised within the CNO’s “Maintaining Maritime Superiority” document, including the changing dynamics of the global maritime environment and the recognition of increased competition U.S. naval forces are facing in the maritime domain from Russia and China.

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Sam LaGrone, at U.S. Naval Institute News, discusses the future surface combatant study taking place this upcoming summer. Mr. LaGrone explains that the study intends to comprehensively identify the capabilities that will need to be acquired by the Navy to effectively manage the threats the surface fleet will face in the future. Additionally, Mr. LaGrone highlights the strategic and fiscal importance of the future surface fleet having substantial multi-mission capability and an ability to remain relevant through technological advancements in weapon and sensor systems by ensuring the fleet is capable of handling frequent upgrades.

Bryan McGrath, for Information Dissemination, analyzes the ongoing debate concerning the procurement of the Ford-class aircraft carriers and more generally, the strategic benefits the aircraft carrier brings as a key component of the Navy’s force structure. Mr. McGrath outlines five underlying features surrounding the current debate, including the immediate costs of procuring large high-end carriers and the necessity for the air-wing to evolve to provide long-range stealth-strike capabilities, sea control, organic refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations.

Entering the Asia-Pacific, Harry Kazianis for The National Interest examines Japan’s strategy to develop an anti-access/ area-denial (A2/AD) capability to restrain Chinese naval and air operations in the region. Mr. Kazianis explains that a primary component of this strategy is the placement of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile batteries along 200 islands in the East China Sea stretching 870 miles from mainland Japan towards Taiwanese territory.

Members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3). BBC, 2013.
Members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3). BBC, 2013.

Mira Rapp-Hooper at Lawfare provides a breakdown of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s detailed explanation of the USS Lassen’s South China Sea FONOP. Ms. Rapp-Hooper explains how Carter’s letter clarifies that freedom of navigation operations are merely intended to challenge excessive maritime and territorial claims according to international law and not to affirm support for any country involved in the dispute. She also outlines the letter’s second key assertion, which states that the USS Lassen operation in the South China Sea was consistent with the principle of ‘innocent passage’, suggesting that the operation consisted of no illegal activities or actions.

To conclude this edition of the member’s round-up, James Goldrick at The Interpreter discusses recent developments in China’s aircraft carrier program and outlines the PLA-N’s intentions for at least four carrier battle groups to be introduced as a means to support Chinese maritime and security interests in the region. Mr. Goldrick explains that for China’s carrier program to yield successful results, the volume of indigenous Chinese expert shipbuilders needs to substantially increase to meet the design and concept demands their high-end naval programs are requiring – including the PLA-N’s conventional and nuclear submarine development programs.

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

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the CIMSEC site 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 and defense policy and management.

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Is Russia’s Maritime Strategy Adrift?

By Ben Hernandez

This article originally appeared on The Strategy Bridge. You can read it in its original format here. This article originally featured on CIMSEC on Aug. 20, 2015, and has been updated for inclusion into the Russia Resurgent Topic Week

The Russian defense industry has always had a flair for the dramatic. The Soviet military-industrial complex carried so much sway in the Politiburo that at times, it operated with little oversight from the General Secretary.1 It produced wonder weapons and prestige platforms with little regard for their cost and strategic value.

The past few years have seen a resurgence of this mindset. Russia has embarked on a massive recapitalization project, seeking to replace aging Soviet-era platforms that were often built to lax production standards. Their military-industrial complex takes great pride in trumpeting its achievements and ambitious projects through Russian language media and state-owned foreign language outlets, such as RT.com. While it is important to listen to what an adversary is saying, it is also important to see what is behind the bluster. In fact, many of Russia’s wonder weapon projects are far too grand to come to fruition — and may even signal a revival of the same discord within the Russian defense industry that plagued the Soviet Union; a discord that acted as a key forcing-function in the destabilizing Cold War arms race that brought the world to the brink of ruin.

Evidently, the RFN has even grander designs: a squadron of what would effectively be nuclear powered battlecruisers.

Consider the notional future Russian Federation Navy (RFN). Their fleet, once outnumbering the U.S. Navy 3.5:1, now spends most of its time in port. 2 Russia’s major shipyards are now going full tilt, building frigates and nuclear powered — and armed — submarines. Evidently, the RFN has even grander designs: a squadron of what would effectively be nuclear powered battlecruisers.

Dubbed the Lider class, these warships would feature the nuclear power and armament capacity of the massive Soviet-era Kirov battlecruisers. For reference, the 28,000 ton Kirov class has thrice the displacement of and carries roughly twice the armament of its nominal U.S. Navy counterpart, the AEGIS cruiser. Cutting a distinctive silhouette, the Lider would easily outgun the largest ships in the US or Chinese arsenals. Their nuclear power plants would allow them to sortie worldwide, limited only by food and ammunition supplies — the finest naval power projection to be found outside of aircraft carriers.

Given the grandiose design of the ship, it is worth examining whether the Russian military intends for it to ever exist at all or if it is nothing but a propaganda piece. Recently, the Russians have announced truly fantastic projects, such as a fleet of supersonic stealth transport aircraft capable of covertly inserting an armored division overseas.3 Open sources show that the RFN has desired a next-generation, medium to large surface combatant for years, and that more reasonable proposals gained traction before losing out to the current design.4 Additionally, a video about the Lider focuses on the wide array of Russian corporations contributing to its construction rather than the ship’s actual capabilities. Moreover, it was produced by an industry-focused media concern rather than the expected propaganda outlets, such as RT.5

Building these battlecruisers will almost certainly devour the vast majority of Russia’s shipbuilding budget and capacity.

Russian officials announced they will build twelve of these battlecruisers.6Realistically, most observers should expect to see one or two. A ship’s size tends to drive the cost of constructing it, and there’s a catch to building ships with the massive weapons capacity and power plant of the old Soviet battlewagons: they’re probably going to be about the same size. Some sources suggest they’ve even been designed by the same firm responsible for the Kirovs.7 This implies the Lider will be a budget breaker like its predecessor.

Russian designs on this Lider class represent a gulf between strategic direction and capabilities. Building these battlecruisers will almost certainly devour the vast majority of Russia’s shipbuilding budget and capacity. If the RFN succeeds in acquiring them, it will find itself with a handful of massive power projection tools unsuited to any of the conflicts it is most likely to fight.

One side is building towards a strategically defensive Cold War-era doctrine, the other toward an essentially all new doctrine based on power projection.

The Russians are setting themselves up for a major discontinuity between ends and means. A recent statement by the CEO of Russia’s state owned shipbuilding conglomerate reveals that his view that future submarine construction should focus on defending ballistic missile submarines, a mission that would take place relatively near to Russian territorial waters.8The acquisition of the Lider battlecruisers — plus recently announced plans to acquire a nuclear powered supercarrier — may suggest the forces that drive the development of the surface fleet are not in synch with the forces driving the submarine fleet. One side is building towards a strategically defensive Cold War-era doctrine, the other toward an essentially all new doctrine based on power projection. Neither of these tracks would be of much value should Russia attempt to invade one of the Baltic states, a prospect that recently gained some overt support in the Russian government.9

The Russian military is at a conventional disadvantage against NATO. As oil money begins to dry up and sanctions take their bite, the Russians do not appear to be adjusting their acquisition efforts to compensate. On one hand, they appear to be gravely concerned about the security of their nuclear deterrent. The Strategic Rocket Forces, fearing US missile defense efforts, have invested heavily in new ICBMs. Similarly, the submarine force is building new ballistic missile submarines and advanced new missiles to go with them. On the other hand, the Russians are also attempting to achieve some kind of conventional parity with NATO by producing new stealth fighters, tanks, and apparently battlecruisers. A budget is by definition zero-sum, and as Russia’s economy slowly recovers from its free-fall, the money to build all their desired means simply will not exist. This could leave Russia with an arsenal of top-of-the-line nuclear weapons while intensifying its conventional disadvantage against NATO.

Russia’s plans to build nuclear-powered battlecruisers is emblematic of a dangerously non-coherent national military strategy which haphazardly fuses Cold War paranoia with modern revanchism.

So, what is there to worry about here? Why not celebrate as the Russians procure themselves into the hole, spending exorbitant sums to acquire prestige platforms that do not contribute to their strategy? Because Russia may well attempt to achieve its ends through whatever means are available. The weaker and less focused its conventional forces are, the more likely it is to resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons to win a conflict with NATO. Painted into a corner by their belligerence and poor acquisition decisions, Russia may become dangerously prone to acting upon its “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine.

Russia’s plans to build nuclear-powered battlecruisers is emblematic of a dangerously non-coherent national military strategy which haphazardly fuses Cold War paranoia with modern revanchism. It seeks to achieve ends (building a “buffer zone” of pro-Russian states by force while protecting its nuclear deterrent) through dangerous ways (“hybrid” and conventional warfighting, with the option to “escalate to de-escalate”) without the means to fully execute those ways. The end result could be disastrous for all involved.


Ben Hernandez is one of the hundreds of students under instruction at Naval Station Newport, R.I. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

1 Hoffman, David, The Dead Hand (Anchor Books, New York, N.Y., 2010)

2 Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, Soviet Naval Strategy and Programs through the 1990s, NIE 11–15–82/D. (CIA Historical Review Program, approved for release 31 January 1995)

3 RT.com, Future Russian Army Could Deploy Anywhere In the World — In 7 hours, 19 March 2015, accessed 17 July 2015, http://www.rt.com/news/242097-pak-ta-russian-army/

4 GlobalSecurity.org, New Construction Destroyer, accessed 17 July 2015,http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/ddg-newcon.htm

5 Concern Agat — Russia Leader-Class Nuclear Guided Missile Destroyer Concept, 16 August 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORVVK6OCr74

6 Sputnik News, The Destroyer “Leader” and the Future of the Russian Navy, 16 March 2015, http://in.sputniknews.com/russia/20150316/1013781801.html

7 Hassan, Abbass, World Defense Review, Russian Navy approves the proposed future destroyer, 14 February 2013, accessed 17 July 2015.

8 Keck, Zachary, Russia’s New Nuclear Submarines to Target U.S. Aircraft Carriers, 6 July 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russia-building-aircraft-carrier-killer-nuclear-submarines-13266

9 Laurinavicius, Marius, Russia’s Dangerous Campaign in the Baltics, 16 July 2015, http://www.cepa.org/content/russias-dangerous-campaign-baltics

October Member Round-Up Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of the October 2015 Member Round-Up, covering the second two weeks of the month. Over the past two weeks the U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea have dominated the attention of the maritime security community. Although the incident was a significant development in the region, CIMSEC members have focused on several other international maritime issues in addition to the FONOPS. These issues include Russian operations in the Middle East, Canada’s blue-water naval capabilities, strategic alliances in the Indo-Pacific and features of the U.S. Navy’s procurement strategy requirements.

Beginning the Round-Up at The National Interest, Scott Cheney-Peters discusses the necessity of U.S. FONOPS directed at China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. Mr. Cheney-Peters explains that the U.S. position was twofold; it was critical to uphold commonsense interpretation of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea while also reassuring commitment to regional allies concerned with China’s growing military capabilities. Mr. Cheney-Peters also explains the FONOPS repercussions and implications in an article at Sputnik.

Bryan Clark is interviewed at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments concerning the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation maneuvers and the potential consequences of such operations. He explains the possibility that these U.S. operations may initiate FONOPS response equivalents off the U.S. West Coast from PLA-N vessels. However, Mr. Clark also notes that inaction would abandon sovereignty disputes over the artificial islands ceding the region to the Chinese, a circumstance at odds with regional U.S. interests.

Fiery-Cross-Reef-China-base-SCS-150311_fieryBase_2detail-1024x863-1024x863
China’s new airstrip built over Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea (CSIS image)

Mira Rapp-Hooper, at Lawfare, explains the U.S. FONOPS in the South China Sea through an international law context. The objective of her article is to outline the key legal and factual features of freedom of navigation while accurately describing the relationship between the military operation itself and maritime law. Also following a legal perspective, Alex Calvo for The Asia-Pacific Journal provides a comprehensive analysis on the ongoing legal dispute in the South China Sea. Mr. Calvo explains that the arbitration case currently being held in the Netherlands will contribute to the future dynamic of the entire South China Sea region and the ability for international law to resolve territorial conflicts peacefully and without recourse to military options.

Concluding the Round-Up’s discussion on the South China Sea FONOPS, James Goldrick at The Interpreter discusses the political and strategic need for Australia to assert freedom of operation throughout China’s artificial island network and its corresponding contested waters. Mr. Goldrick maintains that Australia should dispatch a naval force to operate in the vicinity of the Chinese artificial islands to demonstrate commitment to upholding international law and support for regional allied interests.

Darshana Baruah, at Offiziere, discusses the developing relationship in the Indo-Pacific between India and Australia. The article explains that the recent completion of the first bilateral naval exercises between the two countries indicates an aim to strengthen interoperability between their respective navies for the purpose of increased maritime security. Further to this, Ms. Baruah identifies the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and the rise of China as having contributed to geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, which has resulted in strategic opportunities for Indo-Pacific actors to collaborate in bilateral or multilateral arrangements.

Bryan Clark, before the House Armed Services Seapower and Power Projection Forces Subcommittee, argued that the U.S. Navy must increase development of advanced undersea systems to sustain American dominance in undersea operations. Mr. Clark explains that U.S. undersea warfare capabilities face the threat of being effectively challenged as a result of new detection technologies and quieter submarine fleets being developed by U.S. competitors.

To conclude Part Two of the October Member Round-Up, Ken Hansen for The Conference of Defense Associations Institute discusses the loss of Canada’s two primary logistical ships and the implications the loss will have on the Navy’s operations. Mr. Hansen explains that the decommissioning of the HMCS Preserver and the major fire onboard the HMCS Protecteur has entirely eliminated the Navy’s ability to conduct global force projection operations due to a lack of at-sea replenishment. Mr. Hansen explains that the Canadian Navy has acquired Spanish and Chilean logistical ships for temporary use for blue-water training operations and to maintain task group readiness throughout the logistical ship replacement process.

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the second part of October:

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

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honours Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies and defence policy and management.

October Member Round-Up Part One

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to Part One of the October 2015 Member Round-Up, covering the first two weeks of the month. Over the past two weeks CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including the U.S. South China Sea Initiative, Russian military operations in Syria and the Mediterranean Sea, the strategic importance of the Arctic and aspects of the U.S. Navy’s procurement strategy.

Beginning the Round-Up at The Diplomat, Ankit Panda discusses the changes made by the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act 2016 (NDAA 2016). The bill’s new features include Taiwan among a list of countries that will receive financial and military assistance from the U.S. for operations in the South China Sea. Additionally, the NDAA 2016 outlines the new U.S. South China Sea Initiative, which aims to increase maritime security and maritime domain awareness for foreign countries in the region. Also for The Diplomat, Ankit Panda shares a second article where he discusses Chinese coast guard operations near the disputed Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands. These operations have substantially increased East China Sea tensions as the Chinese coast guard continues to enter Japanese territorial waters to support their claim over the islands.

ADM. James Stavridis in an interview with Bloomberg Business discusses the U.S. government’s position towards the artificial islands being constructed in the South China Sea. ADM. Stavridis states that from the U.S. perspective the islands will not affect freedom of navigation (FON) considering the islands represent international sea and air space and not sovereign Chinese territory.

Leaving the Asia-Pacific, ADM. Stavridis speaks with Bloomberg News concerning Russian and U.S. operations within Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. He explains that both countries’ naval and air forces in the region have not established deconfliction processes meaning their local command structures are not communicating with each other. In addition, ADM. Stavridis states that the U.S. will need to prioritize ISIS over other security objectives in the region, a strategy that will consist of significant increases in ground force deployments in Iraq and eventually Syria.

Chuck Hill, for his Coast Guard Blog, discuses the recent cruise missile attacks launched by Russian naval forces from the Caspian Sea against targets throughout Syria. Mr. Hill identifies that these attacks demonstrate Russian surface combatant capabilities similar to that of a U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile being launched from a U.S. vessel. Further to this, Mr. Hill explains that the Russian vessels launching the attacks resemble less-lethal equivalents in the U.S. Navy, revealing that Russian naval forces are practicing distributed lethality while the U.S. Navy is still deliberating over its implementation.

Sam LaGrone, at U.S. Naval Institute News, also discusses the expanding Russian operations within Syria. Mr. LaGrone analyzes the deployment of a Black Sea-based Russian surface action group to the Eastern Mediterranean to provide an air defense bubble in support of Russian fighters striking targets in Syria. These deployments are in addition to the arrival of a Russian surveillance ship as well as several Russian amphibious assault ships in the region.

Dave Majumdar, for The National Interest, discusses features of the U.S. Navy’s plan to acquire rail-guns, lasers and nuclear power across the entire future surface combatant fleet. Mr. Majumdar identifies that the future Navy warship will require large amounts of eclectic power to run advanced systems including power-hungry radar systems and energy weapons. Additionally, the current DD-51 and Ticonderoga-class hull-forms will need to be replaced to allow for developing guided-missile destroyers to be equipped with Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar.

To conclude Part One of the October Round-Up, Chuck Hill for his Coast Guard Blog analyzes the U.S. Navy’s decision to commit to the selection of the Longbow Hellfire missile as a provisional weapon system to offer offensive capabilities for Littoral Combat Ships. Mr. Hill explains that the Longbow Hellfire missile system will be extremely effective against highly maneuverable and high speed fast-attack craft and if deployed in large volumes, can also be effective against larger surface threats.

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

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog 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 and defense policy and management.