Tag Archives: India

malaccapirates

Whither the Private Maritime Security Companies of South and Southeast Asia?

This feature is special to our Private Military Contractor (PMC)’s Week - a look at PMCs’ utility and future, especially in the maritime domain.

In a week-long operation in June 2010, 6 vessels were attacked and robbed over a 130-mile span while in a nearby strait armed security contractors kept watch for the pirate threat.1 The same waters have played host to a “sophisticated syndicate…deploying speedboats from motherships” with raiding parties able to “board, rob, and disembark a vessel with fifteen minutes without the bridge knowing.”2 The location was not the Somali coastline or the Bab el-Mandeb, but rather 4,000 miles to the east, among the Anambas Islands and the Singapore Strait.

2011 Crude Oil Flows through Southeast Asia. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

2011 Crude Oil Flows through Southeast Asia. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

For the past decade or so, when people thought of private military contractors (PMCs)3 they typically thought of land-force outfits like the Academi formerly known as Blackwater and its founder Erik Prince. During this same period, the word “piracy” generally brought to mind skiffs plying the waters of the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Guinea. Others have written elsewhere on this site that some of the more interesting uses of PMCs during this timeframe have in fact been in combating (or attempting to combat) the now-diminished pirate scourge off East Africa in the form of private maritime security companies (PMSCs). Yet historically one of the greatest epicenters of piracy has been in the waters of South and Southeast Asia. If the region, already home to PMSCs operating in a variety of capacities and more than one-third of the world’s seaborne-oil trade, faces a resurgence of piracy, it may see a similar growth in PMSCs.4 This article will touch briefly on the historic precedents, preconditions encouraging the presence of PMSCs, and regional factors affecting their utility.

Precedents and Prevalence

South and Southeast Asia have long been home to private and quasi-private security arrangements. Cdr. Chris Rawley, U.S. Navy Reserve, notes that “historically, the line between privateering and piracy has been a thin one. From the 15th to the 19th century, pirates were often employed as a political tool by the Malay states to resist colonization by disrupting trade of the British and Dutch. Conversely, in the mid-1800s, the British East India Company’s private armies protected shipping in Malacca from pirates.”

The history of Singapore’s founding and growth under British rule is itself closely tied to this blurred public-private partnership. When the British arrived at Malaysian Singapore and sought local allies to protect their trade and investment, the recently displaced Temenggong, sea lord of the orang laut sea people, who themselves were noted for their marauding maritime prowess, presented himself as an acceptable solution. The Temenggongs thus served as part local officials, pressured to resettle their power base to neighboring Johor, and part maritime security contractors for hire, serving British counter-piracy operations in the early 1800s and port security for Singapore.5

In recent years, PMSCs have provided a range of services in South and Southeast Asia. According to The Diplomat’s Zachary Keck, “PMCs operating in Southeast Asia have primarily been focused on providing maritime security to clients, particularly in combating piracy. This has been especially true in narrow chokepoints like the Malacca Straits” and has included companies such as Background Asia and Counter Terrorism International (CTI).

In addition to providing these escort vessels and transit/cargo security aboard merchant vessels, PMSCs have worked extensively on port security (Gray Page, Pilgrim Elite, and the Glenn Defense Marine Asia group now know for the ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal), training and maritime hardening efforts (Trident Group), crisis response, and fisheries protection in countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) (Hart). 6 PMSC experts James Bridger and Claude Berube remark that in contrast with Africa, the companies in South and Southeast Asia place a greater focus on port vs transit security, due in part to the prevalence of at-berth and in-port crime, as well as training, vessel hardening, and security planning.

Preconditions

Attacks and attempts in 2013: South Asia and Southeast Asia. Source: IMB.

Attacks and attempts in 2013: South Asia and Southeast Asia. Source: IMB.

What conditions have given rise to this most recent cast of companies? In Carolin Liss’s 2011 book Oceans of Crime, she attributes the rise of PMSCs in South and Southeast Asia to several factors including states divesting former functions and the changed security landscape. This includes relatively more powerful transnational actors, both those interested in stability such as multinational corporations and multilateral institutions and those, such as terrorist organizations, interested in the opposite. Another element of the changed landscape facilitating PMCs’ rise is to Liss the disappearance of the Cold War struggle between the United States and Soviet Union, and the attendant opportunities for training of regional security forces.7 Further, post-Cold War terrorism heightened the focus of governments and the shipping industry on maritime security, as the threat joined piracy as a perceived regional risk to maritime assets, although it has so far failed to be nearly as impactful.8

In general PMSCs may find a market whenever the threats to maritime assets – be they from criminals, separatists, or environmental, corporate, or territorial disputes – appear to outweigh states’ capacities to safeguard those assets. The perception of corruption or distrust of the competency and fairness of states’ protective functions will similarly further the reception for external services.

How do these threat measures stack up in South and Southeast Asia? The first thing to note is the wide variance among the nations and waters of the region – as can be expected from such an diverse expanse generalities are hard to come by, so the following is a survey rather than a summation of the area.

With regards to the historical scourge of piracy, a recent report by the insurance firm Allianz made headlines for describing a 700 percent rise in actual and attempted attacks occurring in Indonesian waters in a 5-year span, from 15 in 2009 to 106 in 2013,9 although most of these were robberies at berth or at anchor.10 The International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s April 2014 update notes that Indonesian “Pirates / robbers are normally armed with guns, knives and, or machetes…attacking vessels during the night.”11 Derived from IMB statistics, the Allianz report also notes that in 2013 South Asia’s 26 incidents and Southeast Asia’s 128 combined to far outstrip Africa’s total of 89 incidents, with only 7 of the latter considered acts of Somali piracy.12

Attacks and Attempts in 2013. Source: IMB.

Attacks and Attempts in 2013. Source: IMB.

While privation is often portrayed as a leading spur for illicit maritime activities, analyst Karsten von Hoesslin contends that groups  operating in Southeast Asia exhibit “more sophistication and structural coordination, reflecting the existence of organizations that go well beyond opportunistic marauders seeking to merely compensate for economic hardship.”13 In 2012 von Hoesslin noted such syndicates active in the Philippines, conducting kidnapping and robbery (K&R) operations, with robbery and hijacking organizations plentiful in Indonesia’s Anambas Islands and Riau Islands Archipelago.14

On the other hand, IMB’s April 2014 update demonstrates the fluid nature of piracy, stating only three years later that “attacks have dropped significantly in the vicinity off Anambas / Natuna / Mangkai islands / Subi Besar / Merundung area” and “dropped substantially” in the Strait of Malacca since 2005, although no such improvement is noted for the Singapore Straits.15 The year 2005 is significant as the year that Gerakan Aceh Merdaka (GAM) separatists and previous perpetrators of maritime assaults at the entrance to the Malacca Strait signed a post-Tsunami peace accord with the Indonesian government.16

Attacks and Attempts in 2014 to April. Source: IMB.

Attacks and Attempts in 2014 to April. Source: IMB.

The assets most at risk in Southeast Asia are in general not the more than 60,000 tankers and container vessels that ply the waters but tugs and other small vessels with low freeboards. Nonetheless, Erek Sanchez, a maritime security contractor, notes that insurance companies now require nearly all merchant vessels to “have a security team aboard or have a proven static anti-boarding mechanism that satisfies the requirements set by the insurance company,” meaning there is plenty of business to be had.

Adding to PMSCs’ potential in the region is the lack of enthusiasm for joint patrols by multinational forces in and around Indonesian waters due to sensitivity of competing territorial claims. While understandable from a sovereignty perspective, vessels must as a result rely on the prospect of the strengthening of individual naval forces or seek additional protection.

Although the majority of attacks in the region – whether at sea, at anchor, or in port – are short-run robberies, when hijackings do occur they are often inside jobs. An interesting variant on hijackings occurs in the Sulu Sea between rival fishing companies who “attempt to deplete the maritime assets and platforms of their competitors.”17 This points to another factor that might increase the region’s potential for PMSCs – that of maritime resource competition.

According to Rawley, “Poorly managed fisheries and maritime crime in SE Asia are inextricably linked. In the 1990s, over-fishing partially caused the loss of livelihood of coastal communities that contributed to the surge in piracy near Malacca. Southeast Asian countries that cannot afford adequate coast guards might reach out to NGOs or PMCs for fisheries enforcement patrols in their territorial waters.” 

Taken together, the sustained incidence of piracy and robbery, especially near Indonesian waters, along with resource competition between companies, states, and fishermen indicates that there will be a ready market for PMSCs in the region for some time to come. In Part 2 I will look at factors that might lessen the need for or hinder the operations of PMSCs in South and Southeast Asia, as well as provide a brief outlook on their future uses in the region. 

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.

1. Risk Intelligence, “2010 Statistics Fact File.” Marisk.dk 
2. Karsten von Hoesslin, “Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in Southeast Asia: Organized and Fluid,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (2012): 35:7-8, 542-552: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2012.684652
3. I use this term interchangeably with private security contractors (PSCs). 
4. U.S. Energy Information Administration estimate of 2011, updated April 4th, 2013: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=10671
5. Carl A. Trocki, Prince of Pirates: The Temenggongs and the Development of Johor and Singapore, 1784-1885 (Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2007), 24.
6. Carolin Liss, Oceans of Crime: Maritime Piracy and Transnational Security in Southeast Asia and Bangladesh (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2011), 331.
7. Ibid, 323.
8. Ibid, 327.
9. “Safety and Shipping Review 2014,” Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, 27: http://www.agcs.allianz.com/assets/PDFs/Reports/Shipping-Review-2014.pdf
10. Attacks in territorial waters, whether against vessels underway, at anchor, or moored, by definition under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are not considered pirate attacks and when possible I will attempt to distinguish between sea robbery and piracy, although the terms are frequently conflated. 
11. International Maritime Bureau: http://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre/prone-areas-and-warnings
12. Allianz, 27
13. Von Hoesslin, 541-542.
14. Ibid, 544.
15. IMB.
16. Von Hoesslin, 545. 
17. Ibid, 545.

 

antarctica-travel

Antarctica and the Icebreakers: How India Should Prepare

The fortnight-long icy drama in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, is finally over and the two ice breakers, MV Akademik Shokalskiy of Russia, trapped since Christmas Eve, and Xue Long, the Chinese ship that came to rescue it, broke through the thick sea-ice and headed back to their routine summer deployment and scientific tasks.

It all began after Akademik Shokalskiy, carrying 74 people on board, made a distress call that it was unable to cut through the ice and was stranded.  Xue Long, which was on its way to assist the construction of the new Chinese Antarctic station responded to the emergency, but  could not break through the ice; it stopped six miles short of the distressed vessel.  However, it successfully airlifted 52 passengers from the Russian ship but got trapped in the ice itself. In the early stages of these developments, two icebreakers France’s L’Astrolabe, and Australia’s Aurora Australis were also on deployment in the area but not expected to reach the scene quickly. However, it is Aurora Australis that ferried the rescued passengers to Hobart in Tasmania, Australia. During the course of the above events, the United States also dispatched its U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, but by then the two vessels had extricated from the sea-ice.

This rescue operation is a fine example of multinational effort, and the New York Times described it as a display of “unusual international harmony,”  while the Global Times has glorified Xue Long‘s mission as an ‘epitome of China’s attitude towards its international obligations.’ It is useful to mention that Xue Long’s team includes scientists from Taiwan and Thailand.

Xue LongaThe above event merits attention in India, which has a proactive polar scientific research programme including acquisition of a polar research vessel. India has set up three permanent scientific research stations in Antarctica: ‘Dakshin Gangotri’ (1983), ‘Maitri’ (1989) and ‘Bharati’ (2012); as well as ‘Himadri’ (2007) in the Arctic. Their activities are coordinated by the National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) at Goa, India.

India’s polar expeditions are serviced by hiring or chartering ships for short durations from private parties in Germany, Russia, and Norway. India has announced plans to acquire a polar research vessel with specific requirements such as 45 days’ endurance, capable of cutting through 1.5-2 meter ice, accommodations for 60 scientists, a flight deck for helicopter operations, spaces for laboratories and instrumentation facilities for scientific research, and modern polar logistics support systems. Further, the vessel should be able to operate year-round in the Antarctic, Arctic, Southern, and Indian Oceans. The ship is expected to be in service by the end of 2016 and would cost about Rs 800 crore (U.S.$ 144 million).

Polar maritime activity is dependent not only on hi-quality ships, but also on competent human resourced. The ships’ crews have to be skilled and trained for navigation and engineering duties in sub-zero conditions. They also face a host of physical and psychological challenges arising from long periods of darkness, extreme cold, and fatigue, which could result in disorientation and can affect decision making. It is equally important to recognize that ‘a natural understanding based on experience of working in a cold environment cannot be assumed’ for Asian seafarers, unlike the seafarers from Scandinavia, Canada, or Russia, who are at less risk to cold injury than the Asians.

Likewise, the on-board helicopter and its crew must be competent handing air operations under treacherous polar conditions marked by blizzards, low-air temperatures, fog, low visibility, high-speed shifting winds, etc. Although chartered ships carry their own helicopters, between 1981 and 1995, the Indian Navy provided Chetak helicopters and the Indian Air Force deployed the Pratap helicopters for various duties including ferrying scientists, lifting stores, casualty evacuation and other shore tasks.

Another important facet of Antarctic deployment is voyage planning. The 2007 International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ‘Guidelines on Voyage Planning for Passenger ships operating in Remote Areas’ stipulate that  any voyage planning through the Arctic or Antarctic must include a number of safety practices such as identification of safe areas and no-go areas, surveyed marine corridors, contingency plans for accidents, collisions, onboard fire, and search and rescue emergencies. Further, the voyage planning should also include information about icebergs and iceberg evasion procedures, weather, levels of darkness, safe speed, etc.

These material, human, and training requirements can potentially pose major challenges for India’s self sufficiency in its polar research programme and can be addressed through advanced planning and preparation including cooperative ventures with countries that have set up research stations and those which dispatch their research vessels to the polar regions.

This article was published in its original form at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies and was re-posted by permission. Dr. Vijay Sakhuja is Director (Research), Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi. He is also Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore since 2006. A former Indian Navy officer, Sakhuja’s research areas include politico-strategic developments in the Indian Ocean, Asia Pacific security, Arctic politics, and maritime and naval developments.

Corridor

Germany Needs a Permanent Naval Presence in the Indian Ocean

The call for more German engagement in international security is not misguided. There are core interests to protect between Gibraltar and East Asia. As politics by other means, this includes showing the flag East of Suez.
Maritime Core Interests
Recently, James Rogers argued that European geostrategy in the Indo-Pacific is not European, but rather only British and French. He was right. However, with both countries’ political, social and economical travails, it is doubtful Paris and London will be able to accommodate their ambitions. In the name of European interests, other European states have to get involved; this applies in particular to Europe’s present economic powerhouse: Germany.
The Baltic, North Sea and North Atlantic are NATO/EU-inland-seas. Since 1991, they are not subject to military considerations and are therefore relatively safe. Germany’s maritime core interests are located in a corridor from Gibraltar through Suez and Malacca to the Ports of East Asia. Stability in the maritime arena is almost entirely provided by the US. However, a bankrupt America is unlikely to provide additional free-rides to the Europeans.
It’s For the Interests
The German Navy needs to contribute to stability and security in the Indian Ocean, because the world’s fourth largest economy is heavily dependent on exports and global trade. In 2012, the total value of all goods shipped from Europe to Asia was 816 billion Euros (Holslag 2013: 157). No doubt, Germany’s industry has done its share of this total value. Andrew Erickson, in addition, has outlined why the Indian Ocean is so important for Europe:

“The Indian Ocean is not just a source of raw materials; it is also a vital conduit for bringing those materials to market. Most notably, it is a key transit route for oil making its way from the Persian Gulf to consumers in Europe and Asia. Seventeen million barrels of oil a day (20 percent of the world’s oil supply and 93 percent of oil exported from the Gulf) transits by tanker through the Strait of Hormuz and into the western reaches of the Indian Ocean. (…) In terms of global trade, the Indian Ocean is a major waterway linking manufacturers in East Asia with markets in Europe, Africa, and the Persian Gulf. Indeed, the Asia–Europe shipping route, via the Indian Ocean, has recently displaced the transpacific route as the world’s largest containerized trading lane.” (A. Erickson: Diego Garcia, p. 23)

German vital interests, shared by its European and global partners, are therefore safe and secure sea-lanes. Needed are stability ashore and the absence of state and non-state sea-control, which could become hostile to German interests. Combating piracy and terrorism as well as contributing to disaster relief and mutual trust building are therefore security challenges Germany must tackle in the Indian Ocean to pursue its interest of geopolitical stability.

Source and legend: Int. Seabed Authority

In addition, Germany has also resource interests in the Indian Ocean. Its deep sea is blessed with metal resources and Berlin is already working on gaining exploration rights. German research ships pay regular visits to the Indian Ocean. In the coming run for deep sea resources, Germany will not stay absent. When the deep sea mining starts (probably after 2020), the expensive ships are easy to target and very vulnerable. Due to Rare Earths, Manganese and Cobalt, mining in the Indian Ocean could become of extreme economic importance. Blue-water operating ships need blue-water protection, otherwise pirates, terrorists, criminals or even other states may conclude that the German ships are easy to capture.

Of course, the Indian Ocean’s resources will be subject to international diplomacy. However, diplomacy needs a backbone; often that is an economic, but sometimes it has to be a military one. If all you get from Berlin is words, nobody will pay attention to its interests. Showing the flag is therefore a way to make oneself heard.

Finally, Germany has an interest to sell its arms to the world’s most emerging defense market – Asia. Thus, an Indian Ocean presence is also a means to advertise the products of German shipyards to potential Asian customers.
Berlin’s New Stance

It seems that minds are slowly shifting in Berlin towards more German responsibility in international security. Thomas de Maizière, defense minister and potential 2014 NATO SecGen, is arguing for an end of Germany’s “Sonderrolle” and is promoting NATO reform. Moreover, a recent SWP/GMF-report, written by a numerous think tankers and policy-makers from all parties, says that Germany must lead more and show more organic initiative to contribute to a stable international order.During the summer, there were many op-eds in the German press which criticized the government’s passivity in global affairs, with special regard to Syria, and called for a more active foreign policy. One example is a comment published by the Berlin-based newspaper Der Tagesspiegel saying that Germany’s geopolitical reluctance has become grotesque. Slowly, public debate in Germany has started to change.

However, written words do not mean that things get done. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that Emily Haber, State Secretary in the Federal Foreign Office, gave a speech about Germany’s interests in the Indian Ocean. With a strong geopolitical and geo-economic emphasis, Mrs. Haber outlined that “the Indian Ocean will be the new center of the international limelight”. Due to the contrast to what you normally get from many German voices, Mrs. Haber’s speech is definitely worth quoting to show why the Indian Ocean is an area of German interests:

“What is Germany’s interest in that region? Just as China is connected to the Indian Ocean on its Eastern side by the Strait of Malacca, Germany and Europe are connected to it by the Suez Canal on its Western side. Neither China nor Germany is a rim country, but as the world’s strongest export nations we both have an eminent interest in open sea lanes of communication and free trade. (…) If we look at the economic data, Germany is – just like China – a strong trading partner for the Indian Ocean rim countries. Trade and economy hinge on security and stability. We realize that. (…) But when we state our interest in secure and stable conditions for trade and cooperation with Indian Ocean rim countries, and beyond, we believe it goes both ways. After all, we are the world’s largest and arguably most innovative free trade area, and the Indian Ocean is your pathway to it.” (Link)

Source: EUISS Report No. 16, p. 17

We see Germany has significant interests in the Indian Ocean. Moreover, these are not in solely national interests, but rather shared with Berlin’s European and American allies and also with Indo-Pacific countries. (Sadly, different   from other global capitals, the term Indo-Pacific is not used frequently in Berlin, yet. Even in the academic landscape, watching Asian geopolitics with an Indo-Pacific focus is rare.) It is time that Europe’s present economic powerhouse does its share to contribute active- and globally to a stable international order and to a peaceful use of the global commons. To be taken serious, German foreign policy must deliver more than calls (without consequences) for disarmament and arms control.

Djibouti or Diego Garcia?

Many Germans will scream out loud at the idea of a permanent naval presence in the Indian Ocean. However, widely unrecognized, such a presence already started in 2002 (Operation Enduring Freedom 2002-10, Operation Atalanta 2009-present).In addition, German ships took part in NATO-SNMG port visits in the Indian Ocean. Bi-annually, the German and South African Navies hold joint exercises. After the 2004 Tsunami, a German supply ship went to Indonesia for disaster relief. Most notable, two times German frigates, Hessen in 2010 and Hamburg in 2013, operated in the Arabian Sea over several months in real(!) deployments of US carrier strike groups.

German LHD? Maybe? (Source)

Worth mentioning is also the Hansa Stavanger incident. In April 2009, Somali pirates captured the German cargo ship and took the crew as hostages. From the US Navy LHD USS Boxer, German special forces (GSG 9) planned an assault to free the hostages. The mission was cancelled by Washington, because the Americans were fed up from political troubles in Berlin about the mission. However, Hansa Stavanger provides two maritime lessons to learn for the Germans. Number one, they need their own LHD/LPD or at least permanent access to one. Number two, a naval presence in the Indian Ocean is necessary not only to protect their interests, but also their fellow citizens (and those of allies and partners). Next time maybe the US Navy will not provide one of their expensive LHDs. The overstretched French and British could be incapable to help out.

Thus, the case for a permanent German naval presence is less spectacular than it seems. This article argues to extend what is already happening since more than ten years. The German Navy should operate one frigate or corvette based in Djibouti, if possible in cooperation with the French and other on-site navies. Submarines, SIGINT ships, surveillance planes and supply ships could be send whenever necessary. As Germany considers buying one or two LPD and developing amphibious cooperation projections with Poland and the Netherlands, a joint German-Dutch-Polish expeditionary task force might be an idea worth discussing.

Location of Diego Garcia (red)

Instead of Djibouti, the US naval and air base Diego Garcia is a considerable location. Having already cooperated with the US in the Indian Ocean, Germany could base a frigate there. Such a move would strengthen its relationship with its closest non-European ally. Moreover, the US base is more reliable and safer than Djibouti. There is no terrorist threat on the island or the possibility of a government kicking the Germans out. From a strategic perspective, there is no reason why the United States should not welcome a German presence on Diego Garcia, because Europe is much dependent on the Indian Ocean than America.

“However, as noted previously, many of America’s allies and key trading partners in Europe and East Asia are highly dependent on the Indian Ocean for energy. Similarly, with respect to the goods trade, the Indian Ocean is also a far more important conduit for the nations of East Asia and Europe than it is for the United States. Thus the strategic importance of the IOR to the US is not based on its direct impact on America, but on its importance for key US allies and partners. In so far as developments in the IOR affect key allies and partners in Europe and East Asia, who depend on the region energy and trade flows, they are of importance to the United States.” (A. Erickson: Diego Garcia, p. 24)

Any US reluctance to give access to Diego Garcia should be countered with the argument, that it was Washington which was calling for more European and German global engagement. Now, when Germany wants to do something, America should not close the door.

The location in Djibouti is much closer to the vital sea-lanes, while Diego Garcia offers greater flexibility. Therefore, if the German Navy should seek for access to both bases. Diego Garcia is closer to the deep sea claims. However, there will be no German naval operations to secure claims by force. Nevertheless, Germany should be able to act in areas of its interest, to protect its vessels against pirates, and to conduct search and rescue missions.

Even if minds in Berlin have slowly started to shift, nobody should be afraid of the Germans. There will be no national operations using force to oppose Berlin’s will on other countries, due to the legal situation and political culture. Frankly, Germany will not strike Dubai to stop the money laundry. Moreover, the scope of operations is limited, due the tyranny of distance and capabilities; East of Malacca tours are unlikely. Any German presence is about showing the flag to demonstrate political will and to protect vital interests like safe sea-lanes.

How to Remove Political and Legal Obstacles

Constitutionally, present German laws for expeditionary missions are still based on the supreme court’s 1994 “out-of-area decision”. According to the ruling, Germany can send troops abroad using force only in missions of international organizations (UN, NATO, EU). National missions involving the use of force abroad are forbidden, with the exception of rescuing citizens (so done in Albania 1997). Legally, Germany is not allowed to go alone for strike missions like Britain in Sierra Leone or France in Mali.Present discussions about Pooling+Sharing and German contributions to NATO capabilities (AWACS, SNMG, staff) show the limits of this legal basis. If Germany wants more NATO/EU-cooperation to work, it must change either the laws for parliamentary approval or even the constitution. Berlin is now (rightly) seen as an unreliable partner.However, right now there is a window of opportunity to change. The coming Grand Coalition has a 4/5 majority in the Bundestag. Necessary for constitution changes is a 2/3 majority. Thus, the situation for Merkel’s government is more than comfortable. Getting the Green Party to join the vote in the second house (Bundesrat) may be the tougher, but possible job.The German constitution should be changed in two ways. Firstly, it should remove present obstacles to German contributions in NATO and EU. Moreover, it should allow permanent expeditionary basing of troops, with the use of force restricted to defensive measures and saving citizens, as long as there is no international mandate for other tasks. Bundestag should get the competence to decide about expeditionary basing, either unlimited or limited in years, but with the right to bring the troops home at any time. In addition, the Bundestag has to approve the necessary funds anyway. No money, no navy.Finally, I now expect the worrywarts to challenge my case with legal and political arguments: legally difficult, politically impossible, too US-friendly and so on. However, maybe the worrywarts should start to recognize how, as outlined above, international order and German debate are changing. Time for them and for German policy-makers to adapt to a geopolitical environment, which requires Germany to do more in global and Indian Ocean affairs.

Felix Seidler is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany, and a German security affairs writer. This article appeared in original form at his website, Seidlers Sicherheitspolitik.

Who Is Ahead In Asia’s Carrier Arms Race?

Asia’s maritime arms race has again highlighted the emerging relevance of aircraft carriers. China, India and Japan made significant progress with their flattops. As all major powers in the region run for more and larger carriers, the question is: Who is ahead?

Japan

Japan Unveils Izumo Class Helicopter Destroyer (Light Aircraft Carrier)Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ah-64 sh-60 (1)    First of all, Tokyo, please stop these ridiculous wordplays. Carriers are carriers and not “helicopter destroyers”, no matter what official spokespersons are saying. Back in the Cold War, nobody believed the Soviet’s heavy flight deck cruisers were actually “cruisers”.

Japan’s present fleet includes two Hyuga-Class and one Izumo-Class helicopter carriers (CVH). Lacking a well deck, they have no amphibious role and are only able to operate helicopters or fixed wing aircraft. Such helicopters can either be used for any number of missions, from Search and Rescue (SAR), surface warfare (SUW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), or troop movements. Moreover, purchasing some V-22 Ospreys is another option for Japan. Recent maneuvers with the US Navy showed, V-22s are able to operate from the Hyugas.

The main issue is whether Japan’s CVH can operate fixed wing STOVL aircraft, in particular Lockheed’s F-35B (STOVL – Short Take-off and Vertical Landing). Japan’s three CVH are not yet ready to host F-35B, though they could easily be converted into smaller carriers to operate V/STOL aircraft. Due to “no obvious technical obstacles“, the only issue left is the political decision.

The the F-35B has been critiqued for the poor performance of its STOVL variant: enormous fuel consumption during takeoff and landing, limited payload, limited range. In the maritime East Asia, distances are not so far that long range would be necessary. The F-35B may be superior to Chinese warplanes as a whole program, because China has presented prototypes rather than a factory-ready mass-produced model of its 5th generation carrier fighters.

Japan’s main obstacle is the complete absence of combat experience since 1945. However, its navy enjoys the opportunity to train with the US and perhaps Britain in the future: countries with proven combat experience. GlobalSecurity.org reports, moreover, that Japan may consider a program for a larger carrier starting in the 2020s. However, there current evidence says that Japan is about to go for STOBAR or CATOBAR carriers. Hence, Japan will play an important role in the carrier arms race. Maybe the F-35B will boost Japanese maritime power, if Tokyo decides to go for it. However, size and nature of Japan’s carrier program will not bring the country into leading position.

South Korea

article-1312184-0B3144C1000005DC-215_964x470Seoul’s flattop program is less developed than Japan’s. The South Korean Navy (ROKN) runs one Dokdo-class helicopter carrier and aims to operate three at the end of the decade. Like Japan, these flattops are said only to operate helicopters, but they could be modified to host F-35B. Drones could also be an option. Unlike Japan, the ROKN’s Dokdo has a well deck and can therefore be used for amphibious operations.

However, even though there are reports about South Korean interests in the F-35B, officially plans for converting the Dokdos into a small carrier have been denied. Such a political move is logical. In the U.S, the F-35B has proved to be a budget disaster and has yet to show its operational capabilities. Fortunately, China has not crossed the threshold of full operational capability; the LIAONING is still relatively green and there are no Chinese indigenous carriers. Seoul has still time to weigh its options.

South Korea will only keep regional military weight if Seoul broadens its pursuit of “blue-water ambitions“. In particular, this means spending much more money on an expeditionary navy to include additional flattops. With its sophisticated shipbuilding industry, South Korea would be able modify the Dokdos to small carriers or develop new indigenous carriers. However, the political consequence would be entrance into the great power competition between the navies of the US, China, India and Japan. The ROKN will definitely not take a lead, but do not count South Korea out. If things in maritime Asia get worse, Seoul made decide to follow the Japanese example.

Australia

2005_S1237_02.JPGThe two forthcoming Canberra-Class LHDs would able to operate F-35B. The ski-jump on prow is credible evidence. However, right now Australia has no intention to go for the F-35B. Needless to say, political landscapes can quickly change. We will see what happens in Canberra after the F-35B has proven its operational abilities and the carrier arms race continues. Australia could also operate UAVs from her carriers.

We will not see high-profile patrols of Australian LHDs in the East and South China Sea. The Royal Australian Navy may use Canberras for joint exercises with the US, Japan, South Korea, or the Philippines. In terms of operations, the use of the LHD will be to underline Australia’s hegemonial role in the Pacific Islands, disaster relief, and potentially in tackling the refugee issue.

Thailand

As long as Thailand does not seriously invest in its single carrier, the Chakri Naruebet will be nothing else than the “Royal Yacht“. Thailand’s carrier rarely operates and the crews have rare practical experience. Do not bet on Thailand. The Thai carrier will only make a difference in disaster relief.


Singapore

Singapore has yet to jump for a flattop. However, due its very limited space for air force bases, the tiny city-state seriously considers an F-35B purchase. In the future, LHD or small Izumo-style carriers could be an option for Singapore. Basing the fighters offshore would save urgently needed space on land. Nevertheless, there is no credible evidence yet that Singapore is really planning to buy warships like the Izumo (if anybody comes across news regarding this issue, please drop me a line). Thus, Singapore remains a known unknown. What would make Singaporean carrier very relevant is its geographic location close to Malacca Strait and southern end of the South China Sea.

Russia

From the four Mistral LHDs Russia’s navy is about to commission, two will be based in the Pacific. There are no indications that Russia is planning to develop a new STOVL aircraft, although the country’s industry would be capable of doing so (Yak-38, YAK-141). Thus, the Mistrals will only be outfitted with helicopters and, therefore, not make a significant difference in the Indo-Pacific’s maritime balance of power.

Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that Russia use the new LHDs in waters other than the Pacific. Recently, the Russian Navy deployed warships from its Pacific Fleet to the Mediterranean for a show of force offshore Syria.

New Russian aircraft carriers are only discussed, but far away from being realized. If the Russians would start to build new carriers, they would first replace the aging Kuznetsov and, thereafter, strengthen their Northern Fleet to protect their interests in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

India

130812065726-01-ins-vikrant-0812-horizontal-galleryThe Indian Navy should definitely be taken into account for a front position. Due to the operational experience of its single operational carrier INS Viraat and its soon to be commissioned two new STOBAR carriers INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, India is now Asia’s number one in maritime aviation. In the 2020’s, an even larger carrier INS Vishal is in the works; perhaps a CATOBAR design, which would provide far better striking capabilities, and maybe even nuclear powered. While future expansion has yet to be determined, in the present India is going to build up a sophisticated three-carrier fleet. The Indian Navy will be able to maintain always one carrier battle group at sea and to project power in the western Pacific.

However, India lacks access to a carrier-capable 5th generation fighter. There is no carrier-version of Indo-Russian Suchoi PAK FA under development. Joining India’s forces in the early 2020, the PAK FA will only be available as a land based fighter. India’s Mig-29 and the potential Rafale are definitely combat capable aircraft, but surely behind the F-35′s abilities and probably, too, behind China’s J-31. Once other Indo-Pacific powers operate their 5th generation fighters from carriers, India will fall behind in quality if not quantity.

In addition, operating different fighter and carrier models, as India is about to do, increases maintenance costs significantly. Nevertheless, just by the numbers of operational vessels and the operational experience, India will take the lead in Asia’s carrier arms race for this decade and maybe also in the early 2020s, but not longer.

China

carrier_liaoningAs much has been written about China, we keep it brief here. Given China’s “Two-Ocean-Strategy”, seeking to operate always one carrier in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, the PLAN will need up to 5-6 flattops. We have physical evidence now for what everybody knew before: Chinas is commencing an indigenous aircraft carrier program. The hot issue is, for which design China will go. Will they re-build LIAONING‘s STOBAR design? Alternatively, will they go straight for a more advanced CATOBAR design?

Probably the first and second indigenous Chinese carrier will be a conventional powered STOBAR flattop. Thereafter, we may either see conventional or even nuclear powered CATOBAR carriers. Beside military requirements, for political prestige Beijing will not accept its carrier fleet to be behind the level of India. Instead, after the “century of humiliation” China will seek for clear superiority over India, Japan, and other potential Asian naval powers.

Who is ahead?

Right now India is definitely ahead due to operational experience and the number of vessels. Regarding technology, Japan is likely to be number one. However, both will be surpassed by China either at the end of his decade or surely within the 2020s. South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore are economically too weak to be a maritime game changer. However, it will be interesting to watch how these and other countries are seeking for maritime alliances to balance China. Russia will not play a major role in maritime Asia, especially not with carriers, because its core interests are located elsewhere.

 

After Obama scrapped US foreign policy almost entirely in the last years, what will a weakened America do in the Indo-Pacific? States like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia will rely on US security guarantees. However doubts remain as to whether Obama and his successors are willing to deliver should serious conflicts occur. For a clear message to China, the US needs a credible and increased forward presence throughout the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, Washington should leave theaters like the western Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean to the Europeans as much as possible. If necessary, let Europe learn the hard way that in the Indo-Pacific Century, the times of US military bailouts are over and Europe has to do carry its share of the load.

Felix Seidler is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany, and a German security affairs writer. This article appeared in original form at his website, Seidlers Sicherheitspolitik.

Do We Need an Indo-Pacific Treaty?

paparan-csis-1

By Natalie Sambhi

Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa has recently articulated his proposal for an Indo-Pacific Treaty at no less than three different conferences (including ‘Intersections of Power, Politics and Conflict in Asia’ in Jakarta in June) and it bears careful reading because it contains ambitious ideas.

To summarise his proposal, Natalegawa sees the Indo-Pacific region as beset by a deficit of ‘strategic trust’, unresolved territorial claims, and rapid transformation of regional states and the relationships between them. The potential for these factors to cause instability and conflict requires the region to develop a new paradigm, an Indo-Pacific wide treaty of friendship and cooperation, to encourage the idea of common security and promote confidence and the resolution of disputes by peaceful means. At present, Natalegawa has only provided the broad concepts behind the treaty but a precursor question is whether a treaty is really necessary?

Natalegawa argues that the Indo-Pacific region needs to be thought of as its own separate system. By having a treaty, regional states will start to think of themselves as members of a community responsible for common security. But the appeal of the idea depends on whether you consider multilateral agreements effective in encouraging member states to cooperate. Less powerful states in the Indo Pacific have few means to contribute to regional stability other than engaging more powerful states. In talking about managing the rapid transformation of regional states, Natalegawa espouses his idea of ‘dynamic equilibrium’ which entails ‘no preponderant power’. Rather than allow the region to be dominated by bilateral tension between powerful actors, Natalegawa argues their interests are inter-linked. The US and China, along with India and Japan are thus encouraged to see their actions in the context of ‘common security’.

The Indo-Pacific is an important geostrategic and economically significant area but it’s a long way from being a formal institution. Indonesia, a non-aligned state located at the geo-strategic centre of the system, might see itself as an obvious choice of broker for this treaty. However, the Indo-Pacific is, at best, a nascent ‘system’, and there’s no central body like ASEAN driving the process for this treaty. In absence of such a framework, it’s hard to see how Indonesia will be able to bring regional countries even to the negotiating table.

The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the East Asia Summit’s Bali Principles both had ASEAN providing the diplomatic management for negotiating these agreements. They too encourage member states to build ‘strategic trust’, renounce the use of force and settle disputes by peaceful means, as well as include norms like the promotion of ‘good neighbourliness, partnership and community building’. Yet, they’ve had limited effectiveness as a mechanism for action or conflict prevention. Almost all of the so-called ‘Indo-Pacific’ states belong to one or both of these agreements, but no multilateral system has yet demonstrated the ability to ensure that all states adhere to those norms.

In order to effectively tackle the region’s security challenges, including the rapid social and economic transformation of states and the friction this might bring, there needs to be a strong incentive to cooperate and a mechanism for conflict management. The proposed treaty, like the previous two, provides neither.

Security issues between ASEAN states show a clear preference for bilateral resolution. Most recently, smoke from burning forests in Sumatra last month blanketed Malaysia and Singapore in the worst haze since 1997, with severe risk to health. First Singapore then Malaysia sent their representatives to Jakarta to urgently discuss a solution with the Indonesian government. An agreement signed by ASEAN states in 2002 to tackle haze hasn’t been ratified by Indonesia. Instead, at an ASEAN–China Ministerial Dialogue in Brunei earlier this week, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to a trilateral process to manage fires and haze in future—the three states have a clear interest in cooperating on this issue. ASEAN can provide a forum to discuss the haze but, when push comes to shove, the actions of Southeast Asian states demonstrate a tendency to bypass the ASEAN framework.

Similarly, China’s assertive and uncooperative behaviour towards the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal is at odds with the TAC and Bali Principles. China’s made clear its preference for bilateral engagement with other territorial claimants and to avoid international courts. Without the most powerful states in the ‘Indo-Pacific system’ backing the treaty, norms (in this case, the expectation that states won’t resort to the use of force or coercion) won’t provide the restraint needed. States will continue to rely on traditional alliance partners for protection or to provide a balance to other aggressive actors.

Multilateral frameworks in parts of the Indo-Pacific have been most effective when they have formed for a clear purpose. As Victor Cha argues, coalitions have formed ‘among entities with the most direct interests in solving a problem’. I think the best we can expect for now is a complex network of overlapping agreements and groupings that form to solve clearly defined and immediate issues. Direct interests will yield definite action. The Indo-Pacific treaty could build trust in the long term and as a proposal for more order-building in a transformational Asia, it shows Indonesia trying to lead the way. But if the strategic outlook is as dire as Natalegawa describes, I’m doubtful a new treaty is what we’ll need to tackle some of the region’s most pressing security challenges.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Indonesian Foreign Ministry. This post first appeared at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (APSI)’s blog The Strategist.

India Looks to Prevent Another Mumbai Attack With UAVs

NA9India’s growing unmanned aerial vehicle fleet is being put through its paces in defending against a future Mumbai-style complex terrorist attack.  During a 48-hour-long exercise, Gemini-2, UAVs from the Navy’s 342 Air Squadron cued patrol boats and coastal police to thwart mock terrorists attempting to infiltrate Southern India’s shoreline from the sea.  The first iteration of Gemini was held in November 2012, and other multi-agency coastal security exercises (‘Sagar Kavach’) have been conducted frequently since the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks on Mumbai in 2008.

India’s ground-based tactical Searcher MK II and longer-ranged Heron UAVs are a component of a more comprehensive maritime observation network consisting of manned aircraft, cooperating fishermen, and coastal surveillance radars and cameras installed in 90 lighthouses along India’s 7,500 km coastline.  India’s army and air force are also acquiring some small tactical UAVs to support anti-terror surveillance in urban areas.

This article was re-posted by permission from, and appeared in its original form at NavalDrones.com.

Carriers of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game

By Felix Seidler, Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany / German blogger.

Less Liaoning

Setting the stage for the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game

Setting the stage for the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game

Nothing has been as over-hyped since August 2011 as China’s aircraft carrier program.  After the former Soviet carrier Varyag, fully refurbished by the Chinese and renamed Liaoning, took its first “test drive”, thousands of blog posts, press pieces, and scholarly articles argued about possible regional and global implications.  Is this single ship a regional or even global threat?  What about the balance in the East and South China Seas?

Stay calm, people.  After a few tests, China’s Navy – the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) – has shown it is in fact still years away from having an operational aircraft carrier, let alone integrated carrier strike group.

Moreover, if a navy wants to have a single operationally available aircraft carrier at any one time, it needs at least two, and better still three carriers in rotation: the one in operational status, one in the shipyard, and one in training and work-ups.  According to these numbers, it is unlikely that the PLAN will be able to sustain a “blue water” carrier presence before 2020 based on projected shipbuilding schedules.

Even the first flights of a J-15 Shark from Liaoning’s deck were more PR event than step towards a credible carrier force.  It’s one thing to launch a single fighter under controlled and planned conditions.  Conducting dozens of flight movements per hour in wartime requires a significant increase in capabilities and training.  To reach this, China must still walk a long road.

Eye on India

How important is Shark Week?

How important is Shark Week?

However, while most observers were busy with Liaoning, Asia’s only operational aircraft carrier, India’s INS Viraat, has largely been left out of the discussion (sorry, Thailand, but your never-operating carrier is not a serious asset).  The first reason why India’s carrier must be taken more seriously than China: operational experience.  India has been operating its current carrier since 1987 (the now-decommissioned INS Vikrant began service in 1961), and already has in place the necessary supply chains and logistics that the PLAN lacks.  China’s maritime “Long March” could take longer than Mao’s to gain all the experience India already has.  And while both China and India could turn to Russia for potential assistance, only the latter would likely receive carrier support – whether logistics or training – from the U.S., France, or the U.K.

 

Unlike their Chinese counterparts, Indian commanders already conduct serious exercises with their helicopter and fighter pilots integrated with their carrier crews.  China, due to the lack of capacity (i.e. a carrier at sea) has not yet started the most crucial parts of its carrier training.  Russian experts warn it may take the Chinese another decade to learn how to “efficiently” run carrier operations.  Meanwhile, India’s next carrier INS Vikramaditya (former Soviet Admiral Gorshkov), due the benefits of Russian support, is already training in Arctic waters and is expected despite delays to enter service in late 2013 or 2014.  The indigenously built INS Vikrant is slated to be commissioned in 2015.  In consequence, whenever the PLAN’s first carrier is operational, India will have at least two well-trained counterparts (Viraat is set to decommission in 2020).  Furthermore, India will generally be able to maintain one operational carrier off-shore while China, at least initially, will not.

New Delhi and The Three Carrier Big Boys

Beside Russian support – generous, but not free – India participates in joint exercises with the navies of the other two “Carrier Big Boys,” the U.S. and France.  The PLAN is far from such trials and, beyond search and rescue (SAR), these navies by policy will not conduct full-scale combat training with a Chinese carrier, their possible future foe.

For instance, in April 2012, the U.S. and India conducted the 15th joint naval Exercise Malabar; which also included warships from Australia, Japan, and Singapore.  Training with the U.S. means that India has the opportunity to look at and, thereby, learn from the skills of the world’s best carrier-operating navy.  However, Indians pilots have not yet been reported taking off from U.S. carriers.  Also unprecedented but not improbable, India’s carrier officers, pilots, and crews could hone their skills training side-by-side with the world’s best counterparts.  This is something Chinese sailors are probably never going to experience.  China’s fighter pilots had to travel to Brazil for portions of their carrier flight training.

Moreover, the U.S. is joined by France in using their carriers as political means of improving strategic ties with India.  In 2011 the French Navy sent its carrier Charles de Gaulle, accompanied by surface vessels and a nuclear sub, to India for a joint exercise.  Of course, this was also an advertisement for the French carrier-capable Rafale fighter, which India has since purchased.  Operating combat-proven (Libya), NATO-interoperable fighters from carriers is surely a positive.  Meanwhile, the competition is mostly working with slight improvements on copied Soviet and Russian designs.  While China is developing a flat-top capable stealth fighter (the J-31), it will take years before it reaches full operational capabilities and production.  In response to the threat of a Chinese carrier with J-31s, India could opt for the F-35C or a carrier-capable version of the Russian T-50 PAK FA.  The U.S. and Russia would probably sell everything to New Delhi to keep a resurgent India in their camp.

Given all these advantages there can be no doubt that India’s already operating carriers deserve much higher esteem than China’s refurbished test-object in Dalian shipyard. However, it’s time to put the carriers into the geo-strategic context.

India’s Lasting Geo-strategic Advantage

Andmanen und NikobarenFor all its current carrier edge over China, India will not become a U.S.-like carrier superpower; but nor does it need to.  Look at the Indian Ocean on the map and you’ll see the world’s most important sea-lanes running in front of the Indian military’s ports and air bases.  Some of the most critical geostrategic hotspots and maritime chokepoints, including the Strait of Hormuz, the Malacca Strait, and the Gulf of Aden are nearby.  For example, from its Andaman and Nikobar bases, India could easily block the northern entry of the Malacca Strait in the event of conflict.

By comparison, the PLAN has natural access only to the Malacca Strait, and to reach it must traverse the South China Sea, which can easily be filled with the subs and vessels of neighboring nations’ and the U.S. Navy.  Thus, due to geography, the PLAN would have a far more difficult time exerting control on, or re-opening, access to the chokepoint than the Indian Navy.  The Indian Navy would have a good deal easier job of accessing the South China Sea than the PLAN the Indian Ocean.  Additionally, India has no “island chains” from which opposing forces can launch strikes, and therefore does not need to concentrate on Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) and instead can focus on freedom of action.

The Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game

South_China_Sea_claimsFinally, in the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game – how I like to describe what is going to happen in the map at top over the next 50 years – the better cards are in India’s hand.

As mentioned, India has the geographic edge.  New Delhi’s maritime lifelines cannot easily be blocked.  And, if someone tried, India’s carriers, surface vessels, subs, and air bases are within striking distance of the chokepoints.  Furthermore, India has the better demography, with a younger (average) population base than China’s, which is “getting older before it gets rich.”  This is important, because the Achilles Heel of the PLAN’s carrier program is the development of the Chinese population.  Changes in society and government could reverse Beijing’s decisions in the carrier case.  In 2060, India is expected to be the third or second largest economy in the world.  Hence, it will have the money and the technology to sustain its number of carriers at an even higher rate than present.

With this in mind, whoever worries in the U.S. or Europe about these Chinese carriers, which could patrol the Indian Ocean’s SLOCs, should remember that India will be there too.  So will other countries, like Australia.  It’s time to recognize that of the two Indo-Pacific neighbors only one can as yet legitimately claim to be a global maritime power.

Besides, it won’t all come down to naval power in the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game.  Of course, as the U.S. military recognizes, it must incorporate Air-Sea, but Space and Cyber must play integral roles too.  Remember, all ships and fighters are worth nothing without satellite communications and a working cyber infrastructure.  Therefore, wordy though it is, an Air-Sea-Space-Cyber-Battle is the way ahead (or perhaps Air-Sea+?); perhaps not only for the U.S., but for those developing their influence in the Indo-Pacific too.