dimecres, 26 de setembre de 2012

China puts aircraft carrier into service *

China put its first ever aircraft carrier into formal service on Tuesday in a symbolic move that could further raise tension with Japan and other neighbours.
The newly named Liaoning aircraft carrier will help Beijing “effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests”, China’s Ministry of Defence said.
“With the development of China’s maritime trade, the first aircraft carrier provides the foundation for the further development of China’s far-sea defence and far-sea navies,” said Ni Lexiong, director of the Naval Strategy and Defence Policy Institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. “This is a happy occasion that is worthy of high praise.”
China’s President Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the commission that controls the military, presided over the launch ceremony at the ship’s home port of Dalian, along with Premier Wen Jiabao and top generals. Mr Hu “fully affirmed’” the efforts of those working on the ship and called on them to complete all remaining tasks according to the highest standard, the defense ministry said.

The carrier is the former Soviet navy’s unfinished Varyag, which was towed from Ukraine in 1998 minus its engines, weaponry and navigation systems. Christened the Liaoning after the north-eastern province surrounding Dalian, the ship began sea trials in August 2011 following years of refurbishment.

The Liaoning will mostly be used for training purposes and short missions in China’s coastal waters.

Still, the symbolism of formally launching it now, in the midst of bitter recriminations over the uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, fits with the provocative and strident stance Beijing has taken on the issue.

On Tuesday, Zhang Zhijun, Chinese vice foreign minister, in effect blamed the entire dispute on Tokyo and reiterated Beijing’s official line that “Japan must banish illusions, undertake searching reflections and use concrete actions to amend its errors, returning to the consensus and understandings reached between our two countries’ leaders.”

* Notícia publicada al Financial Times. Tot i que l'entrada en servei del nou portaavions de l'Armada xinesa no ens aporta res de nou ( en l'aspecte tecnològic), sí que és una fita històrica que quedarà als llibres, i hem cregut oportú compartir-la amb vosaltres.

dimecres, 19 de setembre de 2012

IMCMEX 2012 kicks off in Middle East *

The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 2012 is now under way in the Middle East to demonstrate the collaborative defence efforts in mine detection and clearance missions.
Involving navies from more than 30 countries, the exercise aims to strengthen relationships among the participating nations and enhance mine countermeasures interoperability.
In the first stage of the exercise, there will be a conference where participating navy units can exchange ideas and demonstrate the latest mine hunting, sweeping and neutralisation technologies.
The second stage involves tactical execution of missions by the ships, crews and observers. as well as conducting at-sea manoeuvres in the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean.
Rear admiral Kenneth, commander of Perry Task Force 522 and exercise director, said: "Everyone here at IMCMEX 12 understands that countering the threat posed by mines is a critical mission to ensure security in the maritime domain."
Pentagon press secretary George Little said: "This is a defensive exercise aimed at preserving freedom of navigation in the international waterways of the Middle East and aimed at promoting regional stability in the US Central Command area of responsibility."
CENTCOM commander general James Mattis said: "IMCMEX 12 demonstrates the international community's ability to work together to ensure free and secure trade."
The crew will conduct mine hunting operations, helicopter mine countermeasure operations, international explosive ordnance disposal mine hunting and diving operations, as well as small boat operations focused on underwater improvised explosive devices.
IMCMEX 2012 is scheduled to be held from 16-27 September.

* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology.

diumenge, 16 de setembre de 2012

DARPA funds drones to hunt quiet diesel subs*

The Navy has moved one step closer to designing the next generation of submarine chasers: roving drone ships capable of scanning the seas for the quietest diesel subs.
The vision for these trimarans, a project funded by the Defense Department’s advanced research arm, is to detect and trail foreign subs across thousands of kilometers for months at a time — all largely without human intervention.
While tracking the sub via sonar, the drone ships would be able to safely navigate, avoiding shoals and other ships.
After proving this core concept was feasible, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded $58 million Aug. 16 to military contractor SAIC to design, build and test these autonomous sub-hunters. But the unmanned vessels will require years of development and testing to consistently accomplish feats challenging for the best human crews.
The biggest engineering challenge will be proving a design that can autonomously drive itself through the ocean and avoid other ships while simultaneously tracking very quiet subs for periods up to three months, an ability one engineer called “intelligent autonomy.”
“Building a boat is rather easy,” said retired Capt. Rick Simon, director of Spatial Integrated Systems, a contractor working with DARPA to help these vessels navigate through high sea states. “But make that thing smart enough to go out there for 90 days and not have to call home to Mama and ask for help — that’s the hard part.”
If these many technological hurdles are scaled, the Navy could have a relatively cheap way to neutralize the diesel subs, which are used by regimes such as North Korea, China and Iran and represent one of its foremost threats.
“Our goal is to transition an operational game-changer to the Navy,” said Scott Littlefield, a program manager at DARPA, in an Aug. 16 news release. “This should create an asymmetry to our advantage, negating a challenging submarine threat at one-tenth their cost of building subs.”
The next three years will be busy as SAIC and subcontractors design and construct an integrated, autonomous boat capable of detecting diesel subs.


DARPA expects vessel prototypes to start at-sea tests in 2015. Building such complex, autonomous vessels will likely lead to technological breakthroughs that affect other parts of the Navy.
But as this system transitions from concept to fleet reality, the Navy will have to resolve larger issues about how to make a gee-whiz design relevant in wartime, one former submarine captain said.
“Is this a peacetime or a wartime capability?” said the retired officer, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about a defense contract. He highlighted the vessels’ vulnerability in wartime, such as against the Chinese navy.
“If this thing is out there, banging away on top of a submarine with active [sonar],” he said, “why wouldn’t the Chinese just kill it?”
* Notícia publicada a Navy Times.  Les operacions ASW són sens dubte un element imprescindible per la conducció de  els operacions navals. Poder detectar i seguir els submarins enemics mitjançant plataformes no tripulades, seria tota una revolució en la guerra naval. Emprant-ho de forma combinada amb sensors fixes com ara el SOSUS, podria donar resultats de valor incalculable.

dimecres, 12 de setembre de 2012

The Master ‘PLAN’: China’s New Guided Missile Destroyer*

We are loyal followers of baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, who reportedly proclaimed that “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Like the great Yogi, we seldom venture prophecies. But we did hazard one in The Diplomat late in 2010, namely that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would defy those Western experts who opined that Beijing had slowed or halted its naval buildup.
For evidence, such experts claimed that the PLAN had stopped building guided-missile destroyers, or DDGs. If so, Beijing had made a conscious choice to limit its navy’s offensive punch. Not so, said we. Having experimented with various DDG designs, the PLAN was simply settling on a model that incorporated the best of each test platform. And indeed, DDG serial production has recommenced in earnest, judging from pictures of the new Type 052D Luyang II-class DDG that have surfaced on the Internet.
Until recently it was fashionable for Western PLA-watchers to contend that Chinese shipyards had slowed or stopped construction of major surface warships like DDGs in favor of smaller, shorter-range, seemingly more defensive-minded vessels like guided-missile frigates and fast-attack boats. They cited the dearth of clear-cut proof of DDG-building since 2005 as evidence of this supposed trend. From this they inferred that Chinese naval development had taken a less menacing turn.
This was counterintuitive at best. And indeed, a series of photos on Chinese and Western military websites over the past few years dispels such sanguine prognoses. The images indicate that Chinese shipyards had already resumed DDG construction by 2010, when we essayed our prediction about Chinese shipbuilding.
The latest reports suggest that Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai launched its sixth Type 052C DDG and is laying down an average of two hulls per year. The new combatant under construction within a nearby hangar appears to be the Type 052D, the 052C’s successor. Indeed, a well-known China-watcher confirms that one of the new vessels was launched last week. By no means does this mean the ship is ready for sea. An enormous amount of work doubtless remains to be done on it alongside the pier, per shipyards' usual practice. Still, putting the first of its kind in the water represents an important milestone toward sending a new ship class to sea
The PLAN may have found its premier surface combatant.
According to the Taipei Times, this shadowy new vessel is an improved variant of the Type 052C, itself a man-of-war touted by Chinese naval enthusiasts as “China Aegis,” an equal to state-of-the-art U.S. Navy vessels. (We remain unconvinced by these claims.) The Type 052D is a stealthy, 6,000-ton, gas-turbine-driven ship boasting 64 vertical launch cells (VLS in Western parlance). A VLS cell is essentially a canister embedded in a ship’s hull. Each can disgorge one to four missiles, depending on the missile load. VLS allows for quick firing of anti-air, anti-ship, or land-attack missiles without the bother, delay, and technical headaches associated with uploading munitions onto launchers from magazines deep within the ship.
On paper, at least, the Type 052D appears to be a more modest version of the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class DDGs and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers. The PLAN DDG displaces less than the American vessels, which displace 11,000 tons and 9,600 tons respectively. This indicates that it has smaller fuel capacity and thus shorter cruising range. On the other hand,its dimensions are more than adequate for the types of regional missions it will likely be assigned in the “near seas” or the Indian Ocean. Its armament is smaller than that of the Burkes or Ticonderogas, which carry 96 and 122 VLS cells, respectively. But again, this Chinese destroyer packs a punch for localized conflicts in Asian waters. It will also operate under shore fire support in most cases, evening the firepower balance.
Since commencing its naval buildup in earnest in the late 1990s, Beijing has taken an eminently sensible approach to fleet development. So long as China’s strategic surroundings remained hospitable and the United States was content guaranteeing safe passage through international waters and skies, the PLAN could pursue leisurely “fleet experimentation.” Shipwrights built small classes of ships, kept the best features of each, and discarded the rest. This risk-averse approach made technological sense while the Chinese were attempting a qualitative leap in naval engineering.
The Chinese surface fleet, which consists of five relatively new destroyer classes of no more than two hulls apiece, bears out this go-slow approach. These ships need not remain close to home. The PLAN can extract real value from them, dispatching experimental vessels to distant waters to fine-tune crews’ skills, develop doctrine, and smooth out technical kinks. It has doubtlessly done so during counter-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean.
Ultimately, however, the PLAN had to settle on a single design for mass production. The timing appears auspicious for drawing this phase of Chinese fleet experimentation to a close. The PLAN’s first aircraft carrier, the refitted Soviet-built flattop Varyag, has undergone a series of sea trials. Recent reports indicate that the PLAN has been flight testing the J-15, a reverse-engineered derivative of the Russian Su-33 fighter plane that can operate from the Varyag’s decks. The chief element missing from an initial PLAN carrier group is a versatile picket ship to defend the capital ship against air and missile threats. The Type 052D could be it.
Admittedly,a new DDG will only complete the strictly material dimension of China’s carrier ambitions. Forming a Chinese carrier battle group on par with its American counterparts will remain a formidable challenge.Chinese planners will need to combine the carrier, its air wing, surface combatants, and possibly a nuclear attack submarine screen into a seamless, mutually supporting team.This is no easy feat.
But the destroyer’s usefulness will not hinge entirely on the fate of China’s carrier program. These are workhorse ships. A multirole DDG could be put to many other uses while the PLAN methodically masters the art of carrier operations. Notably, the Type 052D could join a surface action group (SAG) or amphibious task force to support and defend high-value ships other than carriers. It could also act as the centerpiece of such a group depending on the mission.
And it could do so throughout broad sea areas. Over the past five years numerous surface action groups, numbering up to eleven ships, have transited the international straits separating the Ryukyu island chain to reach the open Western Pacific. Four such groups voyaged to the high seas in the first six months of 2012 alone. Such naval activism strongly suggests that the surface action group will be a key organizing principle around which surface combatants will be deployed, with the Type 052D leading the way.
What will they do? Specifically, improved Luyangs could fend off air attacks against China’s Soviet-built Sovremenny-class destroyers, which specialize in ship-killing engagements. They could also accompany the small but growing numbers of amphibious assault ships Beijing has constructed to project power ashore. Such expeditionary strike groups easily outmatch those deployed by Southeast Asian navies. They would be particularly well-suited to seize islands in the South China Sea. The Type 052D, furthermore, could extend its protective air-defense umbrella over the nimble and stealthy Type 022 Houbei catamarans. These craft belie their diminutive size,sporting long-range anti-ship cruise missiles that allow them to assert or deny control of the seas vis-à-vis superior fleets.
In a Taiwan contingency, moreover, cutting-edge DDGs would offer Beijing a sea-based air-defense option that would further threaten the survivability of the embattled Taiwan Air Force.With its long detection and engagement horizon, a single Type 052D could cover wide swathes of airspace near or over the island, beyond the effective firingrange of shore-based surface-to-air missile units emplaced on the Chinese mainland. Type 052Ds cruising east of Taiwan could in effect surround the island’s air defenders, mounting a threat from all points of the compass when pilots take to the air.
Finally, the PLAN could dispatch such imposing frontline warships overseas, showcasing China’s military prowess to foreign audiences while advancing naval diplomacy. The bottom line is that more—and more capable—large-displacement destroyers will allow China to imaginatively combine different elements of its naval power for a wider range of missions.
In closing, it is worth speculating whether the regional naval balance of power will shift as a result of China’s DDG buildup. The short answer: yes. A casual calculation based on the IISS Military Balance is telling. If the PLAN puts ten Type 052Ds to sea, as the Taipei Times forecasts, then China will boast a fleet of six teen Aegis-equivalent warships—even in the unlikely case that it builds no more combatant ships of this type. By comparison, Japan and South Korea, the only Asian powers with similar naval heavyweights in their inventories,currently possess six and three Aegis-equipped destroyers, respectively.
On paper, at least, this officially makes China’s the leading indigenous Asian navy. Once the 052D contingent joins the fleet, the PLAN can expect to take on any regional fleet—excluding the U.S. Navy, of course—with better-than-average prospects of success. It will command a 16:6 advantage over the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, 16:3 over the South Korean Navy, and 16:9 over the combined Japanese and South Korean fleets. That’s significant.
Will the prospect of a tilt in China’s favor spur a new round of naval construction across the region in the coming years? Much depends on the United States’ staying power in the region, and on Asian countries’ capacity and willingness to bear the costs of an arms race. Now that the debate about the PLAN’s supposed building pause is over, it is time to ponder this troubling prospect.

*Article publicat a The Diplomat. Si la Xina aspira a una "Blue Water Navy", sens dubte els destructors tipus AEGIS n'han de ser la columna vertebral. Creiem que aquest text n'aporta unes dades interessantíssimes per tal d'esclarir les darreres informacions sobre el "nou" model de destructor de Classe 052D.

dimarts, 11 de setembre de 2012