Sri Lanka: China’s Pearl Harbor

China's Critical Sea Lanes. - University of Texas.

China’s Critical Sea Lanes. – University of Texas.

In February 1941, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Pacific Fleet moved from its west coast home base at San Diego in California, to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, in order to cut the enormous distance the fleet had to sail to confront the Imperial Japanese Navy if war broke out in the Pacific.

Despite the devastating Japanese carrier strike on Pearl Harbor in December of that same year, moving the fleet there was sound military logic. Pearl Harbor remained the prime Pacific Fleet naval base throughout World War II.

China faces a very similar strategic though more critical naval scenario today in the Indian Ocean. Rather than protecting overseas territories, China’s economy and military machine are heavily dependent on imported oil. Ironically, the very same dilemma Imperial Japan faced in 1941.

A war with India, the United States, or a renewal of hostilities with erstwhile enemy Russia would place China’s seaborne supply of Middle East oil under threat. In the long-term future, Japan may also pose the same threat.

China has taken enormous steps in recent years to extend a naval & air footprint outward to counter this threat, primarily into the South China Sea.

Effectively annexing the Spratly Islands, China has established a permanent military presence right on the doorsteps of Malaysia & the Philippines and projects naval power toward Singapore and northern Indonesian waters.

Added to a longstanding military presence in the Paracel Islands; the building of air bases & ports following land reclamation in the Spratlys has laid the foundation of a Chinese maritime footprint extending southwest to Singapore and from the coast of Vietnam to Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

However, there remains the vast vulnerable area of the Indian Ocean in which Chinese bound oil tankers could be stopped, seized or if Chinese flagged, simply sunk on sight in any conflict with India, Russia, the U.S. or potentially Japan in the future.

A solution clearly had to be found and Beijing explored three options; oil pipelines transiting Myanmar & Pakistan; a military presence in Maldives; and a major naval base in Sri Lanka.

The pipeline deal with Myanmar appears to have fallen through. However, the pipeline deal with Pakistan sustained and has the advantage of allowing oil to be offloaded by ship at the Chinese built port of Gwadar in Pakistan without having to transit the Indian Ocean or South China Sea.

However, that option is dependent on defending against terrorist or military special forces attacks and enemy air & missile strikes to destroy vital sections of the pipeline. Such attacks only have to succeed once, to shut down the oil flow.

The more viable solution is an effective Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean capable of protecting seaborne Chinese commerce from the East African and Arabian coasts, to Singapore.

The Maldives can be used to operate Chinese maritime patrol aircraft to attack enemy naval forces, and/or to refuel & provision Chinese warships & diesel submarines with pre-positioned oil tankers, and supply vessels.

Though in the event of war with India or America, either nation would in all likelihood employ carrier strike forces and/or an amphibious assault to eliminate this option for China in very short order.

A Chinese naval base in Sri Lanka however, poses a major problem for any naval adversary of China. Sri Lanka is not merely an island, but a large one, and a nation of over 20 million people. Destroying or seizing Chinese naval & air bases there, is far more problematic.

Beijing is courting the Sri Lanka government with heavy investment in the nation’s infrastructure including the new seaport at Hambonata, now set to be expanded with exclusive berthing rights for Chinese vessels.

Agreement has also been reached for another Chinese built seaport at Colombo and a Chinese run aircraft maintenance facility to be built near Trincomalee to support the Sri Lanka Air Force, which of course will have an adjacent military grade airfield.

Most likely in the minds of Chinese naval planners is staging a sizable number of diesel-electric submarines, maritime patrol and perhaps even tactical aircraft from Sri Lanka in the event of hostilities, to combat both surface warships and submarines threatening oil tankers bound for China.

Chinese submarines operating from there and others forward deployed to Maldives would quite effectively bottle up the Indian Navy along India’s coast protecting India’s own seaborne commerce, naval bases and capital ships.

In the event of hostilities with the United States, American facilities on Diego Garcia would also be open to attack by submarine launched cruise missiles.

Russia would be the easiest adversary for Beijing in the Indian Ocean, as Russian warships and submarines would be operating at their furthest point from any naval facilities; unless operating from Indian naval bases were an option.

It’s unlikely China would deploy any major surface warships or nuclear attack submarines to Sri Lanka, unless the conflict were strictly with India alone. Those warships are vital to protect the Chinese coast from clear threats posed by Russia, the United States and Japan; if one or more of those nations were in conflict with China.

Posted in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Asia, Burma, China, Diego Garcia, geopolitics, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Middle East, Military, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Politics, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, United States, Vietnam, War, World Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USS Arizona BB-39

Today, you will also see USS Arizona’s end a million and one times via ‘train wreck’ news media. But, she had a life before Dec. 7th 1941. More posts coming soon!

USS Arizona BB-39 at sea, circa 1930's

USS Arizona BB-39 at sea, circa 1930’s

Posted in Japan, Military, Second World War, United States, War, World Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Relearning Anti-Submarine Warfare

Kevin Brent:

And we better relearn it PDQ too.

Originally posted on global aviation report:

An air-to-air right side view of an S-3A Viking aircraft assigned to Air Anti-submarine Squadron 32 (VS-32) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

An air-to-air right side view of an S-3A Viking aircraft assigned to Air Anti-submarine Squadron 32 (VS-32) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

Welcome back to history, mariners of the world! Your post-Cold War holiday from history is drawing to a close—if it hasn’t expired already. Last week’s episode between the Swedish Navy and an apparent Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago was only the most recent reminder of certain verities about combat at sea.

For the full story in The Diplomat click here.

Editor’s note: This talk about bringing the S-3 back for C.O.D? Forget about it! The S-3 Vikings – many tucked away in The Boneyard with multiple flight-hours remaining on their airframes – need to be brought back onto the carrier to provide LR ASW coverage. Perhaps in conjunction with new autonomously-patrolling submersible drones, or as directed to distant CZs by ships pulling the latest sound-sensing towed arrays. Maybe covertly with help from SSNs…

View original 346 more words

Posted in World Events | Leave a comment

NATO Tracks Large-Scale Russian Air Activity in Europe


Portuguese F-16' Falcons

Portuguese F-16′ Falcons

Posted in Eastern Europe, Europe, European Union, Germany, Military, NATO, Russia, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

China’s island building project protects vital oil supplies


Island expansion between March & August 2014.

Gaven Reef Island expansion between March & August 2014.

Russia is the more likely naval power to be foremost of Beijing’s worries. The Russian Navy is a well established presence in the region already. Years of post-Soviet neglect of Russian naval forces is now in reverse with newer warships and submarines being deployed to the Pacific. Moscow has also endeavored to establish naval and air basing agreements with Vietnam & Singapore; and has been courting Indonesia perhaps with the similar goals in mind.

Posted in annexation, Asia, China, geopolitics, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Military, occupation, Philippines, Russia, Second World War, Singapore, United States, Vietnam, World Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Russia aims for Arctic Air Superiority

Tu-160 Blackjack, Mig-31 Foxhounds & Il-78 Midas aerial tanker.

Il-78 Midas tanker, Mig-31 Foxhound fighters & Tu-160 Blackjack bomber.

During the Cold War, the Arctic airspace between Siberia and North America was the transit zone over which both ICBM’s and strategic bombers would have flown to reach targets in either the Soviet Union or the United States & Canada.

Each side knew and understood the other planned to do so and though arms treaties and the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) generally nullified implementation of strategic missile defense by either side in the Cold War, no such limitations were placed on traditional strategic air defense.

The U.S. and Canada maintained such defense with both a chain of radar stations and AWACS planes, coordinating squadrons of fighter jets in a defensive role. U.S. Air Force strategic B-52 & B-1 nuclear bombers were of course the offensive element.

The Soviet Union employed precisely the same strategy for both defense and offense in strategic air warfare. With the primary difference being that Soviet strategic air defense squadrons comprised a separate military air service; as opposed to a subordinate North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) within the U.S. Air Force structure.

This separate Soviet air force was known as ‘PVO Strany‘, a Soviet acronym for what in English would literally be ‘national air defense’. PVO Strany was not a budgetary sub-service of the Soviet Air Force; but, a separate military branch. It’s one and only mission was to maintain Soviet air superiority, of Soviet airspace.

All other military air operations were handled by the Soviet Air Force, with the exceptions of Soviet Naval Aviation and Strategic Rocket Forces, that latter of which was also its own military branch and remains so today.

However, a major operations doctrine shift took place in 1998 when PVO Strany was fully incorporated into the Russian Air Force. Not just an administrative or budgetary change, but a total alteration in the concept of operations.

Strategic air defense is still a Russian priority and it must always be due Russia’s leviathan size airspace. But, Russian air defense doctrine has now taken a step into an offensive role for Russian high-speed/high altitude fighter-interceptors.

PVO Strany’s Mig-31 Foxhound during the Cold War did not have inflight refueling capability, since their role was strictly defense of Soviet airspace. In recent years however, these aircraft have been upgraded with inflight refueling capability, tripling their range from 1,000 miles to over 3,000 miles. Mig-31 pilots are now trained in the full spectrum of both offensive and defensive air superiority warfare.

Numerous stories have appeared since 2006 in both defense publications and commercial news media documenting Russian militarization of the Arctic regions of Siberia and offshore Arctic islands. This militarization is across the board of air, land & sea warfare doctrines. It includes the reopening & expansion of abandoned Soviet air bases on offshore Siberian and Arctic islands.

IL-78 Mainstay & Mig 31 Foxhounds over Moscow in 2007.

Beriev A-50 Mainstay AWACS & Mig-31 Foxhounds.

Mig-31 Foxhound’s now conduct flights well beyond Russian airspace in groups of 4 to 6 aircraft along with Russian Il-78 Midas tanker aircraft and the Beriev A-50 Mainstay AWACS, which also have been fitted for inflight refueling.

Other technical changes to the Mig-31 signify that it has been re-purposed for an offensive role; upgraded long-range air-to-air radar and fitting out with AA-9 Amos long-range air-to-air missiles.

The AA-9, comparable to America’s AIM-54 Phoenix (now retired along with the F-14 Tomcat) was originally designed to take out enemy airborne battle management assets such as the U.S. E-3 Sentry AWACS, or enemy long-range bombers. The latest upgrades to the AA-9 now enable it to be used against smaller aircraft more accurately, such as other fighters and cruise missiles at long-range.

With now over 50 incidents of Russian bombers flying close enough to U.S. & Canadian Arctic and NATO airspace to warrant a fighter intercept, some of the intercepts have been met not just by a Russian bomber, but with an escort of one or more Mig-31 fighters. Such intercepts have also occurred off the Pacific coastal regions of Alaska and Canada, and have included a fighter escort.

These new developments may seem on the surface a curious waste of time, effort and money by the Kremlin if one merely looks at it through the prism of Cold War strategic thinking where nuclear ICBM’s were king.

However, this is not the Cold War. Any war initiated by the Kremlin of present day Russia would seek conquest, hegemony and geopolitical/economic power and influence. Adventurism and territorial expansionism have no rewards if only a nuclear wasteland is the war prize.

These Russian Air Force endeavors are geared toward gaining and retaining strategic air superiority over the Arctic, and North America. That objective is only achieved through the engagement and destruction of enemy aircraft and sweeping their presence from the skies sought to be controlled.

Russian bombers would initially be used to draw out NORAD fighters for battle, so that they can be engaged and shot down by the Mig-31; thinning out U.S. and Canadian home air defense.

This strategy was used successfully against the German Luftwaffe in the Second World War with large strategic bomber raids drawing aircraft, pilots and even ground forces to man anti-aircraft guns, away from the landward battle front.

This is precisely the same objective which would be sought by the Russian Air Force in an Arctic/Northern Hemisphere air campaign. Added operations out of future air bases in Cuba and Venezuela must also be anticipated as well.

However, in 21st Century air warfare with far fewer numbers of aircraft involved, the tactics would more closely resemble those implemented by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington during Second World War South Pacific Campaigns.

Maj. Boyington would use flights of bombers, or sometimes have his squadron mimic bomber flight formations and transmit radio traffic common to bomber formations as ‘bait’ to lure Japanese fighters planes into the air to engage and destroy them. This tactic became known as ‘the fighter sweep’ and something very similar would likely be employed by the Russians over the Arctic, North America, and Europe.

Such mimicking can be accomplished today with flight profiles, deceptive electronic warfare, ‘Boyington style’ fake radio traffic, or simply using a real Russian bomber flight as the bait. Recent flights of Russian bombers toward U.S., European and Canadian airspace are designed to feel out detection-to-intercept times. The same methods are being employed by the Russians against Japanese, South Korean and incidentally, Chinese air defense commands.

The one weakness the Russians do have, is the Mig-31 itself. It is a good, fast, high altitude air warfare platform. However, it is getting on in age and would likely be out performed if engaged in an aerial dogfight with the new F-22 Raptor.

However, if recent revelations of newer and upgraded weaponry & equipment among Russia’s ‘little green men’ in Crimea and Ukraine are any indication, Russian industry may yet have more surprises in store.

With or without a new fighter to replace the Mig-31, the change from a strictly defensive to an offensive seek and destroy operational doctrine upsets every Cold War strategic aerial combat concept NORAD & NATO may have been dusting off.

Posted in Europe, Military, NATO, Russia, United States, World Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

NATO and the coming storm

NATO’s most vulnerable

The Post Cold War Era ended when Russia’s ‘little green men’ began to deploy across Crimea, surrounding Ukrainian military bases and eventually forcing the Ukrainians to leave without a fight.

Only then did a long slumbering NATO begin to stir from sleep. As fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine, NATO then sat up in bed and began gathering it’s bearings. ‘Reveille’ however, was no longer in doubt when regular Russian Army forces entered the fight in eastern Ukraine.

What has become clear since then is that a grave series of mistakes have been made since the final Soviet collapse and subsequent break up the Soviet military machine.

The most glaring mistakes:

  • no effort to seriously modernize, revitalize and truly integrate the military forces of former Warsaw Pact nations that joined NATO
  • not instituting a series of theatre level air, land & sea exercises in eastern Europe with defense against a Russian resurgence in mind
  • maintaining the outdated policy of not permanently stationing NATO forces east of the old Iron Curtain line
  • not implementing a military ‘Marshall Plan’ to develop the military forces of the Baltic States upon joining NATO
  • the cancellation on the 70th anniversary of the 1939 invasion of Poland of the missile defense shield for Eastern Europe by Pres. Obama.

There will be seemingly dark days ahead for NATO. Barring some kind of miracle, Ukraine simply has no hope in the end of standing toe to toe with the Russian Army. NATO is not a party to that fight, nor should it try to be.

The eventual fall of Ukraine is unquestionably a horrid thought.

But, NATO member nation political and military leadership have to fetch the sobriety that eventuality puts forth and ‘run with it’ as an American football player would run for the touchdown. All is by no means lost and there is still time for preparation, some of which is already under way.

NATO in 2014 is faced with a very wide eastern front stretching from Arctic Norway, to Turkey. If Finland should join NATO, the Scandinavian theatre of that front will very much widen.

Land warfare with Russia along the European theatre of this front would encompass highly mobile and air-mobile combat operations. Russia would employ wide, sweeping maneuvers of their forces spearheaded with air-mobile and armor formations in attempts to outflank, surround and destroy NATO forces.

NATO would need to employ ‘flexible defense’ giving ground in some sectors before counter attacking to cut off a Russian advance inside NATO lines and destroy it.

Steps have already begun to be taken by NATO with such warfare in mind. Britain is altering its concept of operations to draw on forward staged British armor in Germany, rather than moving it in from the British Isles when a crisis erupts.

Britain is also selling 123 armored fighting vehicles (AFV) to Latvia, which currently has a mere three ex-Polish T-55 tanks. Estonia and Lithuania have no tanks at all, and like Estonia only light infantry formations. These AFVs would have no hope against a Russian main battle tank, however they are tailor-made for the style of urban warfare currently being employed in Ukraine, which is likely to rear its head again among the Russian minority areas in the Baltic States.

Western European governments are also reviewing the role of main battle tanks (MBT)  and will likely reverse the twenty year trend of slowly bleeding off funding of tank production. Germany has sold 14 Leopard 2A4 MBT’s and 105 Leopard 2A5 MBT’s to Poland. These 119 tanks will form a higher end core to augment Poland’s T-72 tanks and Polish improved variants of the T-72, (PT-91 Twardy).

Another development in NATO operational doctrine is the forming of rapid deployment airborne forces which can be quickly put into action in NATO’s east. While they don’t currently approach anything near the large numbers that would likely be needed, it is at least the embryo of future commands and formations to be developed and as this NATO video shows, tactical operations doctrine development can be approached now through exercises such as Steadfast Javelin.

Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Phillip Breedlove is also pushing for the development of a 24/7 headquarters in Poland which would be the command center for operations in Poland and the Baltic States. Gen. Breedlove has proven not to be under any illusions about Russian actions in Ukraine, or what it portends for the future of NATO security.

There have not yet been major new developments on the naval warfare planning front. Aside from one, which is that British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the plan to have one of Britain’s two new large aircraft carriers operational and the other in reserve has been scrapped. Both carriers will be fully operational assets of the Royal Navy as each is commissioned into service. Which was the plan under the Blair Government that legislated their construction.

NATO leadership have an enormous amount of work to do in the near future, for as Gen. Breedlove said, “It is indeed a momentous time in Europe.” And, for the last 12 to 14 years, NATO planning was taken with the idea of ‘Russia as a partner’. That is no longer the case.

Bold steps have to be taken by political and military leadership of NATO to deter against Russian adventurism. It would be a smart move to begin reestablishing a robust human intelligence (HUMINT) network focused on Russia.

It may also be time to revisit some Cold War policies and tactics of deterrence. Particularly those of the Reagan administration in the areas of peacetime military exercises designed to ‘rattle cages’ in the Kremlin and give notice that merely ‘holding the line’ is not our only option if attacked.

The Cold War had an unwritten set of rules which both sides understood and respected, if never publicly acknowledged. Putin’s Russia is not the USSR nor even Communist. It is the rebirth of a nationalistic imperialism not seen since 1945. The kind of thuggery that not only seeks to win, but also to conquer.

Posted in Europe, Military, NATO, Politics, Russia, United States, World Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments