Archive for February, 2011

Odds and Ends

February 27, 2011
National Sun Yat-sen University

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So the new academic semester is underway here in Taiwan – week two will begin on Tuesday after the 228 Memorial Day holiday. This will be my final semester studying in Taiwan, and should be quite different than my previous three semesters here, in that I have no classes this time around. I was able to complete all my course requirements during my first three semesters, so now I am free to focus on the final piece of the puzzle – my thesis.

I’ve been pretty satisfied with my progress on my thesis thus far. A month ago, I hadn’t even written the proposal, and now I’ve already got a pretty good first draft of the first two chapters done. My deadline is mid-May to turn the final product in to my advisor, and the defense should go in the first half of June. It’s going to be a lot of work, but already in the short time I have been working on it, I have enjoyed the fact that its production is truly my responsibility and that I can basically follow the research where it leads.

June will be our last month in Taiwan. Yes, nothing lasts forever, and I’ve already got orders to my next assignment. As luck may have it, I’m headed to Denver, Colorado to be a company commander. I am looking forward to that duty. I guess I will have to decide at some point whether or not I want to continue with exclusively Asia-Pacific focus for this blog after that, or if perhaps a transition to a more “general-purpose” military blog would be more in order (something like, I don’t know, maybe Wings Over Iraq? – by the way, I just noticed this blog made the blogroll there – thanks, Crispin!). Regardless, rest assured that Taiwan, China, and the Asia-Pacific will remain vital interests of mine and that material related to the same will appear here from time to time whether or not the overall focus shifts once I move from Taiwan.

But in the meantime, it’s nose to the grindstone for me! That, and a little traveling to indulge in a hobby, triathlons. I will head to Singapore next month for a race and then to the Beijing area in May for a final hurrah before heading back to the U.S.

Completely unrelated to all that, but of interest nonetheless, I commend your attention to a new blog written by one of my classmates at National Sun Yat-sen University. It’s only been around for a little over a month, but already Observations, Comments, and Whatnot is chock full of opinion and well, commentary on Taiwan, China, and more. Head on over and check it out: http://observerlhs-observations.blogspot.com/. The author, Nathan Novak, is averaging greater than a post a day so far in February, and they are not short ones, either. Finally, at least one of his posts has been picked up for publication by the Taipei Times after he posted it to his blog. Take a look.

Links of Interest 02/24/2011

February 24, 2011
Poppy ELINT Satellite (Type 2)

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 02/19/2011

February 19, 2011
Typhoon Morakot (Kiko) was taken over Taiwan i...

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  • My alma mater in the U.S. hosts one of these…though it wasn’t yet established when I was a student there.

    tags: China Confucius_Institute FC

    • Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community.
  • tags: Guam Okinawa USMC FC

    • The Japanese government is considering freezing budget expenditures for the relocation of the Futenma military base, Japanese media reported.

      According to Asahi News, such a freeze would please Japan’s radical Social Democratic Party, but would raise the ire of Washington, resulting in a further delay in the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam.

    • If the budget for Futenma-related projects are frozen, this will further delay the Guam buildup which is already delayed up to 2020.
  • tags: Guam buildup USMC FC

    • The $3.7 trillion federal budget proposal for fiscal 2012 offers more than $367 million for military construction on Guam, including the foundation of a Marine base in Finegayan.
    • The proposed budget includes about $77 million to lay water infrastructure for the Finegayan base and another $78 million to install basic utilities at the Andersen North Ramp, where Marines will need a runway and a hangar for aviation training.
  • Taiwan is also interested in increasing its amphibious capabilities for the purpose of responding to humanitarian crises such as 2009’s Typhoon Morakot.

    tags: China amphibious power FC Taiwan

    • Just a decade ago, China had only a token amphibious force. Today, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has two new, large landing ships of the Type 071 class plus the ‘Ship 866’ hospital vessel all—of them optimized for over-the-beach operations. Lighterage boosts the ships’ ability to move supplies onto shore, and retrieve patients for medical treatment.
    • Some alarmists would point to these new amphibious capabilities as proof that Beijing intends to attack Taiwan. But the systems are equally useful for disaster relief and humanitarian operations.
  • Commentary on the new U.S. long-range strike bomber program.

    tags: China anti-access US US_military FC

    • War planners argued that the bomber is needed to fly deep inside China if Beijing were to begin firing salvos of anti-satellite missiles, first successfully tested in 2007, at U.S. satellites, which are used for everything from communications to weapons targeting. The new bomber would be called on to conduct rapid strikes against ASAT launchers before the Chinese could deal a potentially deadly blow to U.S. military capabilities.
    • Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the bomber is a premier element of a “family” of long-range strike weapons that are “key to anti-access challenges that we expect to face in the future” — anti-access being Pentagon code for China in particular, which is building forces and weapons designed to prevent the U.S. military from supporting regional Asian allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • tags: China soft_power FC

    • As China becomes a global economic powerhouse, its cultural influence remains feeble, with the country’s culture industry only accounting for less than 4 percent of the world’s output, according to a blue book released on Friday.
    • However, the paper also acknowledged China’s cultural soft power development in the past years. This includes its reform of the cultural system, the development of the cultural industry, and the spread of Chinese culture overseas.

      As of November 2009, about 282 Confucius institutes, which are considered a channel and a brand name for spreading Chinese culture around the world, have been set up in higher educational institutions around the world. They are jointly held by Chinese and foreign universities.

  • tags: US China Pacific military AirSea USPACOM FC

    • The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Thursday that the Pentagon is developing new battle plans for Asia that include adding Marines to better-coordinated naval and air forces in the region where China is expanding its military might.
    • Officials said the plan responds to China‘s “anti-access” strategy of using ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines and aircraft to drive U.S. forces out of the western Pacific or limit them in aiding U.S. allies.
    • The four-star admiral’s comments were unusual because the study’s details are highly classified. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered the study in 2009 amid concerns that U.S. forces, especially the Navy and the Air Force, were unable to operate closely in a wartime scenario.
  • tags: FC Taiwan US currency debt

    • Taiwan increased its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities by 0.6 percent to US$131.9 billion in December 2010, making it the ninth largest foreign owner of U.S. government debt, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • tags: FC US defense budget China

    • As for adversaries, there are none that pose a truly existential threat to the U.S. The closest any non-ally comes is China.
    • The U.S. spends many times more on defense than China. According to the Pentagon, the Middle Kingdom shells out between $105 and $150 billion a year for defense. The U.S. “base” budget – not including money spent in Iraq or Afghanistan or money spent by the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons – is $523 billion. China understands this dynamic. That’s why China is investing in asymmetric weapons such as the “carrier killer” missile. They know they can’t afford to keep up with the U.S. in terms of dollars spent, but they can build weapons to take out more expensive weapons such as aircraft carriers with systems that cost very little. The flipside, of course, is that China’s ability to project power, the thing Americans should really feel threatened by, is quite limited.
  • A pair of Australia’s leading defense intellectuals debate how to proceed in the face of a rising China.

    tags: FC Australia China defense

  • tags: asbm China FC

    • An article in the 18 February 20[1]1 English edition of Global Times quotes “a military source close to [ballistic missile] development” as stating that “‘the Chinese-made Dong Feng 21D missile, with firing range between 1800 and 2800 kilometers, is already deployed in the army.’” The article adds: “Foreign media have also speculated that the Dong Feng 21D is a ‘carrier killer’ and would prove to be a game-changer in the Asian security environment, where US Navy aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II, the AP reported.”
    • The bottom line: the era of “ASBM denial” is over. China’s ASBM is not science fiction. It is not a “smoke and mirrors” bluff. It is not an aspirational capability that the U.S. can ignore until some point in the future.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

U.S. Navy: We don’t fear the Chinese ASBM

February 15, 2011
080925-N-9565D-001 YOKOSUKA, Japan (Sept. 25, ...

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Eric Talmadge, “US admiral: Carrier killer won’t stop US Navy,” Washington Post, February 15, 2011

The U.S. military has had its eye on China’s “carrier killer” missile, the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (or ASBM), for some time now, especially the U.S. Navy (understandably, since it’s advertised as a direct counter to the “crown jewel” of the U.S. fleet and a lodestar of U.S. power projection capabilities). The DoD seems to go to pretty extensive lengths to put forth an image of not fearing this weapon, for instance, this today:

However, Vice Adm. Scott van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP in an interview that the Navy does not see the much-feared weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the U.S. carriers – the Navy’s crown jewels.

“It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy – it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there,” Van Buskirk said in an interview this week on the bridge of the USS George Washington, the only carrier that is home-based in the western Pacific.

Admiral Van Buskirk took command of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet last fall. 7th Fleet is the naval command that would be on the front line of a potential maritime conflict with China.

It’s not surprising that the leader of this command would come forth with a strong statement discounting the ASBM – just imagine how it would look if he made a statement saying that there was no realistic defense against the ASBM. (Not exactly confidence-inspiring!)

The truth is that nobody knows for sure if the ASBM will work as advertised. There are a number of extremely high technical hurdles that the Chinese will have to solve in order to achieve a operational, fully capable weapon system. The commander of United States Pacific Command (USPACOM – two echelons of command up the chain from 7th Fleet), Admiral Robert Willard stated in an December 2010 interview that the ASBM has reached a state of development roughly equivalent to what in the U.S. defense establishment is called “initial operational capability.” This means that some units can be expected to have received the equipment and have the ability to employ it. It does not mean, however, that all the pieces of the necessary targeting systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) networks and associated technologies are at a sufficient state of development to fully support the weapon. Indeed. many U.S. defense analysts believe that these supporting technologies are about five years away from being fully operational. (It’s probably good to point out right here that the U.S. has been pretty poor at making accurate predictions about when various Chinese military technologies and hardware will come into service – see also the J-20 stealth aircraft, the prospects of the Chinese deploying an aircraft carrier in the near term, etc.)

In the same interview, Admiral Willard stated that a full over-water test of the ASBM system had not yet been observed. There was some speculation last summer that the PRC might do such a test in conjunction with bellicose rhetoric about U.S. naval operations in the Yellow Sea, but it never came to pass. (The U.S. naval operations were part of the combined response – along with the South Koreans – to the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan by North Korea earlier in 2010.)

I’d like to go back to what Admiral Van Buskirk said about the ASBM in the quote above – “It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy – it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there.” [emphasis added] Very true. But it’s one part that is very provocative, since only China has anything like it, and because it appears to be directly intended to counter a key U.S. strength in an asymmetric fashion.

In recent testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an expert from the RAND Corporation described China’s anti-access approach to be a “system-of-systems”; that China’s ability to effectively employ its joint anti-access strategy in the Western Pacific would be dependent to a great extent on establishing an effective operational system (meaning the right kinds of units, manned with people trained in the right way) to employ its anti-access capabilities (including the ASBM), and at the same time that China still needed to work on full deployment and integration of a host of battle management and ISR networks to be able to effectively target at long distance, for instance, a U.S. aircraft carrier heading toward the Taiwan Strait. I believe this is what Admiral Van Buskirk was alluding to when saying that the ASBM is but one piece of the overall system. The U.S. has to worry about all of the threats, not just one.

A final quote:

Still, van Buskirk said the Navy has no intention of altering its mission because of the new threat and will continue to operate in the seas around Japan, Korea, the Philippines and anywhere else it deems necessary.

“We won’t change these operations because of this specific technology that might be out there,” he told The AP while the USS George Washington was in its home port just south of Tokyo for repairs last week. “But we will carefully monitor and adapt to it.”

I think that to some extent the Navy (and other branches of the U.S. armed forces) have indeed altered their operations in response to threats like the Chinese ASBM (thought it is hard to prove something like this). A greater impact in this realm has almost certainly been exerted by Chinese short- and medium-range missiles, which have been a focus of particular expansion by the Chinese over the past decade (chiefly as an axe to hold over the head of Taiwan). One could in fact argue that a factor in the shift of some U.S. troops from Okinawa in the much more distant U.S. outpost of Guam has been the Chinese ballistic missile threat. Okinawa is well within range of several types of Chinese ballistic missiles and its utility as a platform to support U.S. combat operations in a China contingency could be degraded quite quickly by the wealth of missile capabilities the PRC would potentially be able to lavish upon it. No wonder the U.S. wants to be able to port an aircraft carrier in Guam and is also expanding its air power and ISR profile there.

Links of Interest 02/13/2011

February 13, 2011
Rumsfeld

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 02/10/2011

February 10, 2011
2009 Guam Quarter

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 02/09/2011

February 9, 2011
US military bases in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 02/08/2011

February 8, 2011
Official portrait of United States Secretary o...

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  • tags: China FC military

    • Beijing’s promotion of a new strike aircraft may be less a powerful addition to its military arsenal than a sophisticated part of a deeper strategy.
  • tags: China FC us

    • Now that the visits of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to China and President Hu Jintao to the United States, the question that naturally comes to mind is what, if anything, has changed in US-China security relations.
    • And there are now reports that China has finally tested the JuLang-2 (JL-2) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Long in development, the JL-2, with its 5000 mile range, would give China’s nuclear arm much greater reach. With up to five of the new Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) entering service, the combination of new subs and new missiles would give China a substantially more secure second-strike capability than it has hitherto enjoyed. But it would also mark a significant expansion of China’s nuclear weapons force, which had previously fielded less than a score of long-range ICBMs capable of reaching the United States.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 02/05/2011

February 5, 2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

New CRS Report on possible US defenses against China’s ASBM

February 5, 2011
Fun with an Argon-ion and a He-Ne laser. Most ...

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Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, December 9, 2010.

Department of Defense (DOD) development work on high-energy military lasers, which has been underway for decades, has reached the point where lasers capable of countering certain surface and air targets at ranges of about a mile could be made ready for installation on Navy surface ships over the next few years. More powerful shipboard lasers, which could become ready for installation in subsequent years, could provide Navy surface ships with an ability to counter a wider range of surface and air targets at ranges of up to about 10 miles. These more powerful lasers might, among other things, provide Navy surface ships with a terminal-defense capability against certain ballistic missiles, including the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) that China is believed to be developing.


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