Tag Archives: Maritime Futures Project

Members’ Roundup Part 18

Welcome back to another edition of the Roundup! After a brief hiatus we are back to share with you more of our members’ works. There are plenty of articles to share, ranging from maritime infrastructure development to thoughts on the new maritime strategy.

Back in February Miha Hribernik wrote a piece for The Diplomat regarding piracy in Southeast Asia. Although this presents a significant and worrying problem, it is manageable. Miha presents some suggestions for regional States on how to resolve this issue. You can access the article here. 

To surpass China in Sri Lanka, India needs to pursue proactive and dynamic diplomacy. Nilanthi Samaranayake explains, over at The Diplomat, that the key to reaffirming India’s presence in the region is through infrastructure investment. More specifically, the focus should be on public-private partnership and government to government investment in the maritime domain. You can access Nilanthi’s article here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 1.53.03 pmJerry Hendrix, from the Center for a New American Security, published a report in February called ‘Avoiding Trivia: A Strategy for Sustainment and Fiscal Security’. In it, he argues that the United States has strayed from its historic and cultural approach to the world, leaving behind its traditional maritime-focused, technologically innovative, free-trade based strategy. The solution to this, according to Hendrix, is a more clear eyed strategy that seeks to avoid trivia and address the US’ current weaknesses in order to shore up its long term strategic position.

Over at War on the Rocks David Wise shares with us an article titled ‘Blowback as National Policy.’ Many of the current security threats that the Western world faces today are a result of those decisions made in years past. Before making the foray into the geostrategic game, which is more than just a big game of Risk, first have a look at David’s cogent words on what we face today.

Mira Rapp-Hooper writes on the Lawfare Institute’s blog a post examining the impact of China’s increased military spending (and the US’ relative decline in spending) on neighbouring countries. You can access her post here.

Following the trend of AMTI posts, Bryan McGrath shares his analysis on how China might view the United States’ revised Maritime Strategy. Given that Bryan was heavily involved in the development of the 2007 strategy, you will certainly find his views on the matter very insightful. You can access his piece here.

Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, commander of the US 7th Fleet, proposed the creation of joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea by ASEAN member nations – this was quickly met with mix reactions. Scott Cheney-Peters provides some solutions to challenge the arguments presented by the ‘nay-sayers’ and suggests that the presence of the “white hulls” of the U.S. Coast Guard could mitigate many of the perceived drawbacks. You can find out more by accessing his article on the AMTI’s website, here.

Harry Kazianis, on The National Interest, shares an analysis of the core reasons behind China’s ‘massive’ military buildup. He explains the historical roots of the Chinese military psyche due to subjugation at the hands of external powers. The solution to this is to employ an asymmetrical strategy  to defeat, in battle, forces that are superior to its own. You can access his article here.

Long range anti-ship missiles contribute to an essential element of China's deterrence.
Anti-Ship Missiles contribute to an essential element of China’s deterrence.

On the National Defense Magazine’s online blog, Sandra Erwin reports that the current pace of shipbuilding and funding will not be able to meet the future demands of the Navy. Given that is an annual obligation of the Navy to tell Congress how many ships it will need and how much they will cost, it should certainly raise some alarm bells for decision-makers in Washington. For more on this, you can access Sandra’s post here.

U.S. Navy Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron 1 (PCRON 1), USS Hurricane (PC-3), USS Chinook (PC-9) and USS Typhoon (PC-5), transit in formation during a divisional tactics exercise in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. Navy Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron 1 (PCRON 1), USS Hurricane (PC-3), USS Chinook (PC-9) and USS Typhoon (PC-5), transit in formation during a divisional tactics exercise in the Persian Gulf.

Bringing the theme of this Roundup to the naval profession, Matthew Hipple in a joint article with Dan Follet and James Davenport, remind us the important role of patrol coastal ships in securing the seas. In this edition of Proceedings, the authors suggest that patrol coastal ships are an “incredible platform for both mission execution and cultivating war fighting.” To read more about why this is the case, you can access their article here.

Over at War on the Rocks, CIMSECian Emil Maine (and company) provide some critique of Congressman Mac Thornberry’s ‘Defense Acquisition Reform’ initiative. Defence acquisition is a necessity, but the question is whether political momentum can be sustained long enough to overcome the usual barriers to wholesale reform. More on this topic here.

Finally we conclude this edition with a shameless plug for my own work. The first is an article featured in the March-April edition of the Australian Defence Force Journal. Titled ‘Evolution of the Battlefield’, I examine existing strategic and legal challenges to developing an effective cyber warfare policy for military planners. My second piece is a brief analysis of the Australian Department of Defence’s new First Priniciples Reviewthis will hopefully provide an insight into some of the organisational challenges faced by the ADF and Department of Defence. Perhaps some of the US readers can find some similarities and provide suggestions for the Australian context. You can access each of the above articles here and here.

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.

The LCS Survivability Debate

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the survivability of the LCS and smaller combatants in general. A recent US Naval Institute News opinion piece contends,

“Small warships are historically unsurvivable in combat. They have a shorter floodable length, reduced reserve buoyancy and are more likely to be affected by fire and smoke damage than larger combatants. In both World Wars, losses in ships below 3000 tons in displacement far exceeded those of larger vessels.

“In World War II, for example, the U.S. lost a total of 71 destroyers and 11 destroyer escorts — all under 3400 tons displacement and less than 400 feet in length.

“By comparison, only 23 larger ships were lost. Part of that figure is undoubtedly due to their operational employment, but in simple terms of engineering and physics, larger ships are inherently more survivable than their smaller counterparts.”

In the Coast Guard we once had a saying, “In our obscurity is our security.” I think that should be kept in mind when we consider the survivability of small surface combatants. No, they cannot take as much damage as major surface combatants, but the enemy gets a vote, and he will be less “excited” by the presence of smaller vessels, while he will normally choose to put more effort into destroying larger, more threatening ships. As in land warfare, tanks are more survivable than infantrymen, but they don’t necessarily last longer.

To look at how this factor might influence survivability, I looked at how many of the ships that were in commission at the beginning of World War II were sunk as a result of enemy action. My source is the Summary of War Damage to U.S. Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts which is accessible here. The figures there do not correspond to those quoted above, rather they report 58 destroyers and 9 destroyer escorts sunk, along with 26 larger surface combatants, all listed by name. (The USNI post may have included constructive losses that were not actually sunk or losses to other than enemy action, and does not include the three battleships salvaged although they were out of action most of the war.)

If we look only at the US fleet at the beginning of the war, it included 233 major surface combatants of which 46 or 19.7% were sunk by enemy action during the course of the war. If we break it down by class it looks like this:

Type: Number in Commission, Dec. 7, 1941/Number sunk/% lost to enemy action
Aircraft Carriers (CV): 7/4/57.1%
Escort Carrier (CVE): 1/0/0%
Battleships (BB): 17/5/29.4% (of the 5 sunk, all were at Pearl Harbor, 3 were salvaged)
Heavy Cruisers (CA): 18/7/38.9%
Light Cruisers (CL): 19/1/5.3%
Destroyers (DD): 171/29/17%

(There were no Destroyer Escorts in commission at the beginning of the war.)

If we lump  all the cruisers together, 8 of 37 were lost or 21.6%

If we lump the lone escort carrier together with the fleet carriers then four of eight were sunk or 50%

Additionally three destroyers were lost to weather in a hurricane. They were not ballasted properly, because of the exigencies of impending combat operations.

Clearly, at least looking at the World War II experience, the US Navy did not lose a higher percentage of smaller ships. If anything it appears the opposite is true. A smaller percentage of smaller ships were lost (17% vs 27.4%). More small ships were lost simply because there were many more of them. Undoubtedly some of the DDs and DEs that were sunk, would have survived the damage they received, if they had been bigger, but presumably there would also have been fewer of them. If the decision criteria were an equal chance of being sunk, then probably taking greater risk with smaller ships is both reasonable and unavoidable.

I will note that the probability of personnel loss on small ships is probably higher because they are more likely to sink quickly and catastrophically, while larger ships are more likely to sink slowly.


Photo: USS Newcomb DD 586 was hit by as many as five kamikaze on 6 April 1945 as she was screening for the cruiser USS St. Louis off Okinawa. She survived but was not repaired.




I will add a bit of anecdotal evidence. As part of Operation Overlord, the Normandy Invasion, 60 US Coast Guard 83 foot patrol boats were assigned to rescue those unlucky enough to find themselves in the water or sinking. 30 went to the American beachheads and 30 went to the British and Canadian beachheads. Being wooden hulled and gasoline powered, they certainly would not have been considered “survivable.”

USCG 83 ft patrol boat, probably June 1944. Photographer unknown.

Apparently they were in the thick of it, because they rescued 1438 men from the water and sinking craft. In spite of all the fire from shore, not a single boat was sunk and not a single crewmen was killed. Apparently the German gunners were too busy with the landing craft hitting the beach and the warships that were shelling them. They simply were not a priority target.


This article can be found in its original form at Chuck Hill’s CG Blog.

The Future of Maritime Security Studies

As part of the Fourth Global International Studies Conference held in Frankfurt (Germany) 6-9 August 2014, a series of panels was organized on Maritime Securityscapes. One of the events was a roundtable on the future of the emerging, informal subdiscipline “Maritime Security Studies”, a rapidly growing field of analysis and research. The participants were asked to provide their comments along four broad questions. The following is one participant’s input to provide food for thought and a better understanding of maritime security as an academic field of interest and study. 

WISC Header

Frankfurt, site of the 4th WISC Global International Studies Conference (source: wikipedia).
Frankfurt, site of the 4th WISC Global International Studies Conference (source: wikipedia).

What are the most pressing and important questions that Maritime Security Studies (MSS) need to answer?

There are four immediate aspects to this, two of which are more inward-looking and two of which are more outward-directed. First, students of maritime security must better utilize the momentum of conditions that are in favor of the thrust of the field (e.g., the littoralization of security, the maritime [and indeed naval] dimensions of climate change, the hypothesis of the increasing utility of naval forces in future conflict scenarios, the recent publication of a cross-sectoral European Maritime Security Strategy, etc.). Second, maritime security scholars must consider, and learn to mitigate, condisations that are seemingly at odds with the thrust of the field (e.g., current land-centric conflicts, continental geopolitical and strategic thinking in policy-making circles, etc.).

Third, there must be a consistent evaluation of the contemporary relevance of maritime security, especially in light of what will come after “anti-piracy”. The naval operations off the Horn of Africa have locked the theme of security at and from the sea in the minds of many policy-makers and analysts to the degree that maritime security is often seen as exclusively about counter-piracy. Naturally, this self-imposed limitation is neither desirable nor practical. Here, it is especially the strategic-minded researchers that have an obligation to make decision-makers aware of the broad security dimensions of the maritime sphere. While they cannot prevent the career of certain terms, they should at least attempt to manage it properly. Fourth, maritime security students must consider how policy-makers can be convinced that investments in maritime security capabilities and capacities at home and aboard is beneficial. This relates to the challenge of doing critical and pragmatic studies: traditional security studies are increasingly dominated and even overpowered by constructivist approaches. 

Piracy areas worldwide.
Piracy areas worldwide.

What issues should be prioritized? What are the top priorities?

As with many fields of study, the top three priorities are funding, funding, and funding. Beyond stating this obvious desire, there appears to be the need to sharpen arguments and understanding of the subject matter “Maritime Security”. For example, in Germany, “maritime security” (“maritime Sicherheit”) has become an all-encompassing term, meaing all kinds of things to all kinds of people. From a naval perspective, “maritime security” usually means just one set of missions among many others (for the U.S. Navy as laid out in the most recent U.S. Navy strategy “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” from 2007; for the German Navy by default, i.e. the operational experience in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy operations since 2002/2008).

Disciples of the emerging field of study should also not forget to look at the field from a commercial and naval perspective. The defense industry, after all, is increasingly looking at littoral security and the emerging maritime safety and security missions, fishery surveillance, counter-piracy, drug interdiction, environmental protection, humanitarian aid, and SAR. Commercial shipping companies are increasingly looking at security in the littoral areas, the ports, and the choke point regions. This offers critical and pragmatic scholars an excellent starting point to link their academic work and insight with influence on actual events and developments.

Scholars should also consider to revive and revitalize the concepts of seapower/sea power in their institutional, function, and geographic dimensions (as British naval strategy dean Geoff Till reminded us once, sea power is something that certain states, or seapowers, have). In addition, it behooves to freshen up on the three uses of the sea for navies (developed by Ken Booth in 1977 and Eric Grove in 1990): diplomatic, constabulary, and military.

Boundaries are a necessary evil.
Boundaries are a necessary evil, but they help to frame our analytical approaches. 

What are the convergences between academic and policy needs in maritime security? Are there shared gaps and how could these be addressed?

The effects of sea power and the policies that make and shape it must ultimately be felt ashore. The same goes for maritime security studies; there are inherent limits to bemoaning “sea blindness” again and again. Policy and maritime security studies both need a better understanding and appreciation of the value and virtue of naval power, and the opportunities of naval forces (presence, flexibility, versatiltiy, modularity, speed, crisis response, etc.). To that end, Maritime Security Studies disciples must learn to embrace navies (even if it means learning some dreaded military lingo and going to acronym hell and back). Navies, in turn, should learn to reach out to the academia and ask hard questions and demand sustainable answers and solutions. Whereas many navies are more about operations than about strategy, and policy-makers often confront a whole host of demands and pressures that keep them from thinking (and acting) strategically, the ultimate goal must be a closer linkage between naval officers, policy-makers, and maritime security students. Those in every field that reach out to the other two players must be identified, and the relationship could even be deepend by way of reserve duty in a navy for civilians and academic fellowships for naval officers).

The secret fantasy of the Maritime Security Studies analyst.
The secret fantasy of the Maritime Security Studies analyst.

How can the new maritime security studies be strengthened? What institutions will we need to undertake research collaboratively?

From a German perspective, there isn’t a single definitive center of gravity for maritime security (especially strategic) intellecutal thought, although there are a number of institutions that could collaboratively engage in maritime security studies (such as the Future Ocean cluster in Kiel, the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg, and the University of the German Armed Forces).  Maritime Security Studies can only be strengthened in a comprehensive manner. Geramns love the comprehensive approach but too often quickly turn a blind eye toward the indispensable military component of that approach. This requires a mapping of institutions and actors who are into the subject. The Institute for Security Policy in Kiel, with its demonstrated experience in third-party research projects and maritime security and naval strategy expertise (one PhD completed in 2009, one to be completed this year, three more due between 2015 and 2018) would be another natural player. Last, but certainly not least, the Center for International Maritime Security itself could play a role.

Analyze this!
Analyze this!

What are plausible next steps for Maritime Security Studies?

There should be a drive for greater institutionalization of the field through dedicated conferences, journals, university chairs, summer schools (one such event was recently organized in Greece), M.A. and PhD courses, etc. There could be a biennial maritime security studies conference – not unlike the McMullen Naval History Symposium in Annapolis, MD – that brings together experts and students from different fields (e.g., naval strategy, recent naval history, etc.). The subject at hand is interesting and exciting enough to explore more dimensions and collaboratively engage in visits on ships, war games and simulations, etc.). In the end, the goal must be to move from maritime case studies such as the dominating anti-piracy operations to the larger trends.

Sebastian Bruns is a Research Fellow at the University of Kiel’s Institute for Political Science/Institute for Security Policy. He holds an M.A. in North American Studies (U of Bonn 2007). The views he presented in Frankfurt and here are his own.

Europe’s Role in an East Asian War

Major war in East Asia is a very unpleasant, but not unthinkable scenario. Of course, the US would be involved from day one in any military conflict in the East or South China Seas. However, Europe’s role would be less clear, due to its increasing strategic irrelevance. Most probably, except the UK, Europeans would deliver words only.

Europe’s reactions depend on America

While Asia’s naval arms race continue, tensions are rising further in the East and South China Seas. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any side will lunch a blitz-strike and, thereby, start a regional war. Although China is increasing its major combat capabilities, it is instead already using a salami-slicing tactic to secure its large claims. However, the worst of all threats are unintended incidents, caused for example by young nervous fighter pilots, leading to a circle of escalations without an exit in sight.

Claims in the South China Sea (The Economist)

Hence, let us discuss the very unpleasant scenario that either there would be a major war between China and Japan or between China and South China Sea neighboring countries, such as Vietnam or the Philippines. Of course, the US would be involved in the conflict from day one. But what about Europe? The Old Continent would surely be affected, especially by the dramatic global economic impact an East Asian War would have. However, reactions of European countries would largely depend on what the US is doing: the larger the US engagement, the louder Washington’s calls for a coalition of the willing and capable will count.

The UK would (maybe) go

The Royal Navy undertakes annual “Cougar Deployments” to the Indian Ocean. Therefore, the UK still has expeditionary capabilities to join US-led operations in East of Malacca. Disaster relief after Typhoon Haiyan by the destroyer HMS Daring and the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious proved that British capability. While Daring is a sophisticated warship, the 34 year old Illustrious with her few helicopters and without fixed-wing aircraft would not be of much operational worth.

Royal Navy SSN in the Suez Canal in 2001 (The Hindu)

Moreover, since 2001, the Royal Navy always operates one SSN with Tomahawk cruise-missiles in the Indian Ocean, probably the most sophisticated high-intensity warfare platfrom the Royal Navy would have to offer for an East Asia deployment. The UK still has access to ports in Singapore and Brunei, although there is no guarantee that these countries, when not involved in the conflict, would open their ports for British ships underway to war. Australia, which is likely to join forces with the US, would be an other option for replenishment at the port of Darwin.

Polar Route (Wikipedia)

Through the Polar Route (a route European airlines used while Soviet airspace was closed) and with aerial refueling or stops in Canada and Alaska, Britain could also deploy some of its Eurofighters to Japan. As such, Britain would be capable of doing, at least, something.

 The question is,if Britain is willing to take action. Surely, UKIP’s Nigel Farage would not hesitate to use the broad public reluctance to expeditionary endeavors for his’ own cause. As in case of Syria, a lack of public support at home could prevent the UK from a military involvement. It would be hard for any UK Government to sell to the British voter to cut back public spending at home while signing checks for the Royal Navy heading towards East Asian waters.

France would not make a difference

Beside the US, France is the world’s only navy with a permanent presence through bases in all three oceans. Although, with one frigate, France’s Pacific presence of surface warships is relatively small. The one Tahiti-based French frigate deployed to an East Asian theater would not make a difference, but be a rather small show of force.

French frigate in Bora-Bora 2002 (Wikipedia)

Like Britain, France permanently operates warships in the Indian Ocean, which it could also deploy to East Asia. Its nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle and SSN would also be able to tour beyond Singapore, however with a relatively long reaction time.

Paris’ main hurdle would be the same as London’s: The lack of public support. Le Pen would do exactly the same as UKIP and mobilize publicly against a French engagement and, thereby, against the government. Moreover, France has not the money necessary for any substantial and high-intensity engagement. In addition, a weak president like Hollande would fear the political risks. Given the operation ends in a disaster for the French, e.g. with the Charles de Gaulle sunk by the Chinese, Mr. Hollande would probably have to resign. Hence, do not expect an active role of France during an East Asian conflict.

No role for NATO and EU 

On paper, NATO, with its Standing Maritime Groups, seems to be capable of deploying relevant naval forces across the globe. In practice, however, any mission with a NATO logo needs approval of 28 member states. Due to NATO’s present pivot to Russia, many members would object any new NATO involvement outside the Euro-Atlantic Area. As the US prefers coalitions of the willing and capable anyway, there would be no role for NATO in an East Asian war.

In addition, there is also no role for the EU. Since 2011, the rejections each year to the EU for observing the East Asia Summit are showing Brussels’ enduring strategic irrelevance in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, neutral EU members, like Sweden and Austria, would never allow any active involvement. It is even questionable, if EU members could agree on a common political position or sanctions – something they have already failed to do often enough.

Dependent on the size and kind of US response, smaller European countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway may join forces with the US Navy and send single vessels through the Panama Canal into the Pacific or replace US warships on other theaters. This is not far from reality, because these countries did already sent warships into the Pacific for the RIMPAC exercise. However, their only motivation would be to use these deployments to make their voices better heard in Washington.

What would Germany do?

First of all, Germany is the enduring guarantee that, when confronted with major war in East Asia, NATO and EU will do nothing else than sending out press releases about their “deep concern”. Being happy that ISAF’s end terminates the era of large expeditionary deployments, Germany’s political class would never approve an active military role in East Asia – left aside that Germany would not be able to contribute much, anyway.

Sino-German Summit 2012 (Source)

Germany would first and foremost defend its trade relationships with China, which is in its national interests. Thus, the much more interesting question is, if the German government would develop the a diplomatic solution. Germany has very good relationships with the US, China, Japan and South Korea. Vietnam and other South East Asian countries have frequently expressed greater interest in deeper cooperation with Germany.

Hence, Germany has the political weight necessary to work for a diplomatic solution. The question is whether German politicians would be willing to work for that solution themselves. Most probably, Berlin’s press releases would call for the United Nations and the “International Community” (whoever that would be in such a scenario) to take action.

What Germany could do and what would get approval at home, is to implement measures of ending hostilities and re-establishing peace – maybe by an UN-mandated maritime monitoring mission or by the build-up of a new trust-creating security architecture.

Europe’s limits

The debate about a European role in an East Asian major war is largely hypothetical. Nevertheless, it teaches us three relevant lessons.

First, we see how politically and militarily limited Europe already has become in the early stages of the 21st century. Given current trends continue, imagine how deep Europe’s abilities will have been sunk in twenty years.

Second, the main reasons for Europe’s limits are the lack of political will, public support and money. Europe’s march to irrelevance is not irreversible. However, it would need the political will for change and an economic recovery making new financial resources available

Third, we are witnessing an increasing European geopolitical and strategic irrelevance beyond its wider neighborhood. In reality, Europe’s role in an East Asian war would be nothing else but words.

Felix Seidler is a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany, and runs the site Seidlers-Sicherheitspolitik.net (Seidler’s Security Policy).

Follow Felix on Twitter: @SeidersSiPo