dimarts, 24 de desembre de 2013

El submarí científic ICTINEU 3 supera amb èxit les primeres proves sota l’aigua*

Les maniobres s’han realitzat a la depuradora de Sant Feliu de Llobregat gràcies a la col·laboració d’Aigües de Barcelona i l’Ajuntament

El submarí científic ICTINEU 3 ha superat amb èxit les primeres proves d’immersió realitzades aquest dijous dia 19 de desembre davant dels mitjans de comunicació en una piscina de la depuradora de Sant Feliu de Llobregat. A casa nostra no hi ha instal·lacions específiques prou grans per poder fer aquestes proves amb un submarí tripulat i per això ha estat important la col·laboració de l’Ajuntament de Sant Feliu de Llobregat i d’Aigües de Barcelona, que han facilitat l’ús de les instal·lacions. Per aquesta raó, a banda de la presència del director general d’ICTINEU Submarins, Pere Forès, i de la directora d’operacions, Carme Parareda, les proves han comptat amb la participació de l’Alcalde de Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Jordi San José i Buenaventura, la regidora de Promoció Econòmica, Maria Cinta Daudé, el director d’Explotació de Sanejament d’Aigües de Barcelona, Pere Aguiló, així com la cap de planta de la depuradora, Rut Estany.

El submarí s’ha submergit dues vegades en una piscina per comprovar el bon funcionament dels sistemes de flotabilitat, navegació, comunicació i seguretat, com a pas previ a les proves de port i de mar previstes per l’any que ve, l’última fase abans d’obtenir la certificació i classificació final. Segons ha explicat la directora d’operacions d’Ictineu Submarins, Carme Parareda, “la immersió ha consistit en submergir dues vegades el submarí, amb 3 persones a dins, a una profunditat de 4,5 metres”. Parareda ha matisat que “és poca profunditat” però “suficient” per comprovar que l’aparell “funciona de manera correcta”.

Es tracta de la primera aparició sota l’aigua del submarí científic. L’última vegada que es va poder veure va ser en el marc del cinquè congrés de tecnologia marina MARTECH celebrat a Girona del 9 a l’11 d’octubre, al Parc Científic i Tecnològic de la Universitat de Girona.

* Notícia publicada al web del projecte Ictineu. Des d'aquest bloc no podem sinó alegrar-nos de la nova fita assolida per l'equip del Projecte Ictineu. Renovem la crida a totes aquelles persones i empreses que, en la mesura de les seves possibilitats, els ajudin.

diumenge, 22 de desembre de 2013

Plumbing the Depths: Unmanned Submersibles Come of Age*

Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) have been slow to attract attention in military circles – until now, that is. Today, Jon Rosamond looks at the technological advances that are enabling the development of unmanned submersibles and which countries are leading the way.
By Jon Rosamond for ISN
Two high-profile events from the past three years have served to highlight the growing importance of the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) in naval operations. The first incident saw the Royal Navy minehunter HMS Brocklesby, operating off Libya in May 2011 as part of the NATO mission to enforce UN Security Council resolutions, deploy a SeaFox UUV to destroy a buoyant mine laid by pro-Gaddafi forces outside Misrata harbour. Packed with 100kg of explosives, the mine was one of three placed by Gaddafi loyalists seeking to halt the flow of humanitarian aid into the port.
Subsequently, in August 2012, the US Navy sent dozens of SeaFox UUVs to the Persian Gulf after the Iranian government threatened to use its arsenal of Soviet-era mines to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a move that would have effectively shut down a major proportion of the world's oil supplies. Both events validated the efforts that are being made by Western navies to reshape their post-Cold War mine countermeasures (MCM) capabilities. Instead of placing bespoke timber- or GRP-hulled minesweepers and ordnance disposal divers in harm's way, navies are taking advantage of developing technology to 'keep the man out of the minefield' by allowing unmanned platforms – on the surface as well as underwater – to perform critical tasks.
Naval hydrographic and oceanographic units are using UUVs equipped with a wide array of sensors to chart the seabed and/or determine the characteristics of a given body of water, providing essential data for planning submarine and amphibious operations. Unmanned submersibles are also employed on search-and-rescue and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Meanwhile, trials have commenced in the US that will result in the introduction of a new class of deep-diving UUV designed to stalk hostile submarines. The development of a time-critical strike capability is a real possibility too.
ROV, AUV and…
There are two broad categories of UUV: the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The first is tethered to the host vessel and controlled continuously by a human operator, while the second is programmed to swim to one or more waypoints and operate independently for a predetermined period of time. Both types are routinely equipped with payloads that include sonars, cameras, environmental sensors, manipulator arms and (in the case of MCM assets) some form of mine-destruction device.
German company Atlas Elektronik, however, describes its ubiquitous SeaFox ROV as a 'semi-autonomous' vehicle. Although it is controlled via an optical fiber cable from the host ship, SeaFox can use its sonar to automatically relocate the previously acquired positions of mines or mine-like objects. These objects are identified using the onboard CCTV camera and, if necessary, destroyed by the one-shot mine neutralization system (a large caliber shaped charge).
At the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) 2013 exhibition in Washington, DC, Thales UK released details of an innovative military/commercial technology demonstrator for MCM operations using a Saab Seaeye ROV fitted with a Hydra multi-shot mine neutralization system. The ROV is deployed from an optionally-manned 11m boat; demonstration trials for the Royal Navy were scheduled for October.
Containerized solutions are becoming increasingly popular with navies. In 2012, for example, the Royal Danish Navy achieved full operational capability of a modular, containerized MCM capability featuring Saab Double Eagle ROVs equipped with mine destructor charges.
Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Navy recently acquired eight SeaBotix vLBV950 ROVs to survey ships' bottoms and conduct deep water tasks such as locating lost aircraft and retrieving their 'black box' data recorders. These ROVs may also be used to retrieve objects jettisoned by pirates or smugglers, as well as in MCM roles.
Enter Knifefish
As far as autonomous types are concerned, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems announced in August that it had successfully completed a comprehensive risk reduction phase for what is arguably the world's most high-profile UUV program: the US Navy’s Knifefish venture. Based on Bluefin Robotics' Bluefin-21 vehicle, the Knifefish AUV is scheduled to enter service as part of the Littoral Combat Ships' MCM mission package from 2017. Knifefish is GPS-guided and can operate with full autonomy for about 16 hours in total. Each vehicle is about 20ft (6m) in length, weighs about 3,000lb (1,360 kg) and can run at 6kt, carrying a novel Low Frequency Broadband sonar designed to detect and identify mines in highly-cluttered sea floor environments.
The high-fidelity sonar was tested during the risk reduction phase along with Knifefish's ultra-high density data storage/recording system, propulsion system (with the emphasis on noise reduction) and software interfaces.
Although Knifefish is probably the world's largest UUV development program, US-based manufacturer Hydroid (now owned by Norwegian company Kongsberg) is the global market leader, having supplied more than 200 AUVs to 13 navies. In February, Hydroid announced that its contract to provide Littoral Battlespace Sensing (LBS) AUVs to the US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) had moved into full rate production. SPAWAR ordered three LBS AUVs – a variant of Hydroid's heavyweight Remus 600 AUV – for oceanographic and meteorological data-gathering duties.
In June 2012, the company said that Japan's Ministry of Defence had purchased a single Remus 600 system for MCM missions and also to investigate and map the sea floor dispersion of contaminants following the previous year's magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Also in 2012, Germany's Federal Office of Defence Technology & Procurement ordered six of the smaller (man portable) Remus 100 AUVs to enhance the Deutsche Marine’s MCM capabilities in very shallow waters, while the Royal Norwegian Navy acquired four additional Remus 100 systems for MCM tasks.
Works in Progress
The technical challenges involved in developing UUVs for naval service are numerous, particularly in relation to speed and endurance, geospatial accuracy, sensor performance and data transfer. The small size of many vehicles, particularly the man-portable types, puts severe limits on the space available for batteries, propulsion and guidance systems, sonars and other sensors.
One solution to the problem of limited endurance is the underwater glider, which uses wings and small changes in buoyancy to convert vertical motion to horizontal, allowing it to travel thousands of kilometers (in a sawtooth-like pattern) over many months. Kongsberg unveiled its Seaglider model at AUVSI 2013 and will begin full production in December. Developed initially by the University of Washington with funding from the US Navy, Seaglider is designed for missions lasting up to 10 months. Heading, depth and altitude sensors allow the vehicle to navigate while submerged but it also surfaces frequently to fix its position by GPS.
The problems of data transfer are more intractable. Radio waves do not travel happily through salt water, making communication with a submerged AUV (lacking an umbilical link to the host vessel) extremely difficult. The need to come to the surface, or at least raise an antenna above the water, in order to transmit or receive data increases the risk of detection by hostile forces. With real time communication not an option, data is normally uploaded by personnel onboard the host vessel after the AUV has been retrieved from the water.
Looking to the future, one cutting edge initiative is the Deep Sea Operations (DSOP) technology and system development program run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is intended to create a deep-diving AUV able to operate at depths of 6,000m and covertly trail submarines operating overhead.
Bluefin Robotics completed six days of deep-water testing of one of its DSOP vehicles in April, including two 4,450m dives lasting 11 hours. Further tests will focus on sonar system integration while a second vehicle is produced to demonstrate networked operations. Effective power and noise management will be crucial if the required levels of endurance and silence are to be achieved.
While UUVs have been slow to gain traction in military service compared to unmanned air vehicles, the functionality and reliability of modern ROVs and AUVs mean they are now more than capable of taking on a wide variety of naval tasks that were traditionally regarded as 'dull, dirty or dangerous'. The fact that de-mining, hydrographic survey and other vital missions can now be completed in a fraction of the time that was previously required, and at a fraction of the cost, suggests that prospects for the naval UUV are bright indeed.

Jon Rosamond is a freelance journalist and editorial consultant specializing in the global defense arena, with particular expertise in the maritime domain. He was previously the Editor of Jane’s Navy International and a defense correspondent for The News.

* Article publicat al web de l'ISN. Les tecnologies no tripulades, tot i ja ser presents en el camp de l'aviació militar, no són tant conegudes en l'aspecte naval. Vet aquí un interessant article sobre el tema.

dissabte, 7 de desembre de 2013

U.S. Navy Launches UAV from a Submarine*

Naval Research Laboratory XFC Sea Robin demonstration Atlantic Undersea Test & Evaluation Center in August 2013. US Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy has demonstrated the launch of a small unmanned aircraft from submarine for the first time, the service announced in a statement on Dec. 5. The successful test could herald the arrival of potentially revolutionary new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for the Navy’ submarine force and special warfare communities.

The demonstration “represents an unprecedented paradigm shift in UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] propulsion and launch systems,” Warren Schultz, program developer and manager for the program at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). “This six-year effort represents the best in collaboration of a Navy laboratory and industry to produce a technology that meets the needs of the special operations community.”

During the demonstration, the NRL developed eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System (XFC UAS) was fired out of the USS Providence (SSN-719)’s torpedo tube using a ‘Sea Robin’ launch system, which is designed to fit inside an existing Tomahawk launch canister.

After it was fired out of the Providence’s torpedo tube, the Sea Robin rose to the surface and launched the XFC UAS—but only after it received permission from the Los Angeles-class boat.
The NRL describes the XFC as a “fully autonomous, all electric fuel cell powered folding wing” unmanned air system. It has an endurance of greater than six hours, according to the NRL. The aircraft uses an electrically assisted take-off mechanism, which boosts the small UAV vertically out of its container.

Once in the air, the XFC “flew a successful several hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk” read the NRL statement. The XFC eventually landed at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the Bahamas after the completion of the sortie.

According to the NRL, the lab received funding from the Office of Naval Research’s SwampWorks officer and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office (DoD/RRTO).

The Navy and industry have both explored launching unmanned aerial vehicles from submarines.
In late 2009, Boeing and Northrop Grumman proposed equipping the Multiple All Up Round Canisters (MAC) in the Block III Virginia-class (SSN-774) attack submarines and the Ohio-class guided missile submarines (SSGN) with the compressed carriage version of the ScanEagle UAV.

* Article publicat al US Naval Institute. Interessant esdeveniment, tot i que caldrà seguir-ne l'evolució, que obre tot un camp en les operacions de reconeixement clandestí.

divendres, 6 de desembre de 2013

diumenge, 1 de desembre de 2013

What is a Corvette? And What Next?*

Classification of surface warships as cruisers, destroyers, frigates, or corvettes, has become like pornography. There are no generally accepted definitions, but “I know it when I see it”–except that everyone sees it a little differently.
Since this is “Corvette Week” what are we really talking about?
(Note: unless otherwise specified, lengths are over all and displacements are full load)
My Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition, which I have used here extensively for reference, defines Corvettes as, “Surface Combatants of less than 1,500 tons but more than 1,000 full load displacement–essentially, fourth rate surface combatants.”  but goes on to note that “…the designation as used here essentially refers to smaller frigates and does not correspond to the European concept of corvettes as any warship larger than a patrol craft but smaller than a frigate.” I feel to confine the definition within a 500 ton range is too restrictive. in fact it would have excluded the Castle class corvettes of WWII as too large, and other corvettes as too small.

Royal Navy Photograph of Castle class corvette HMS Denbigh Castle (K696)
During the age of sail, corvettes were originally warships typically smaller than a frigate, but larger than a sloop, usually with guns on a single deck. Some ships continued to be called corvettes as steam was introduced, but in the Royal Navy, in 1877, corvettes along with sloops and frigates were subsumed under the new designation “cruisers.” Corvettes, as a type, essentially disappeared from the English naval lexicon until 1939. The term was kept alive in some navies (including the French, German, and Italian) as a rank that translated corvette-captain, a rank generally equal to Lieutenant Commander.
World War II:
Corvettes as a type reemerged just prior to WWII. As it became clear that U-boats would be a major threat, Britain saw the need for an escort vessel that could be built quickly and in large numbers, in yards that had not been considered capable of building warships. Just before WWII, they ordered the first of 267 “Flower Class” corvettes that were built in the UK and Canada. They modified the design for a whale catcher named Southern Pride, enlarging it to 205 feet overall and a displacement of 1245 to 1390 tons. They were terrible warships, weakly armed, cramped, uncomfortable, and slow. Single screw, reciprocating steam propulsion gave them a maximum speed of only 16.5 knots, a knot slower than a typical (Type VII) surfaced U-boat. They were originally intended only for coastal operations, but because of their long range, they were thrown into the Battle of the Atlantic, where they were by far the most numerous transatlantic convoy escorts for the critical early years, taking slow merchant convoys across the mid-Atlantic air gap, while the Home Fleet’s more capable, but shorter legged, fleet destroyers were generally held back to escort the battle fleet or met convoys only as they approached the British Isles.

Flower Class Corvette HMS Polyanthus, Source =www.oldships.org.uk, Author =Leidseplein Date =1943-09-
Reportedly Winston Churchill had a hand it designating this new class “corvettes,” probably in an attempt to make them appear more glamorous than the term “patrol vessels” which had been applied to similar vessels previously. Two years after the re-introduction of the term “corvette,” the term “frigate” was also resurrected to describe another war emergency escort program, this one more complex and more capable but still using reciprocating steam propulsion. Larger commercial yards converted to making frigates (301 to 307 ft, 1920 to 2420 ton), but smaller yards continued to make corvettes of the improved Castle class (252 ft, 1590 to 1630 tons), while naval yards continued to produce small numbers of sloops like the Black Swan class that were the true premier ASW escorts of the Royal Navy.
Australia also built corvettes, 60 ships of the similar but even smaller, slower Bathurst Class (186 ft). Initially they were classified as minesweepers, but found more employment as escorts, so were more frequently referred to as corvettes.

Bathurst-class corvette, HMAS Fremantle, State Library of Victoria
Japan, Germany, and Italy all made similar escort ships, but only the numerous Italian  Gabbiano class (193 foot, 728 tons, with combined diesel or electric propulsion no less),  were actually referred to as corvettes.
All of the WWII corvettes were primarily ASW escorts, but their were a number of classes of vessels, many built prior to the war, that share DNA with today’s missile armed corvettes. These were small, fast, torpedo armed vessels that resembled destroyers, but most had a standard displacement of 1000 tons or less. Usually they were referred to as “torpedo boats.”  Japan built twelve, The Germans built 48 (the last 15 were large enough to have been considered destroyers in other navies). The French Navy completed twelve. The Italians completed 69 (some of which were closer to frigates or destroyer escorts). The Italian Spica class (269 ft, 885 to 1,030 ton, 34 knots) may serve as an example.
Italian Spica Class torpedo boat
Generally, the war emergency programs had one thing in common. They were not the ships these navies would have chosen to build in peacetime. In wartime priorities change; planning horizons contract. Producibility may trump quality. They were all compromised in some fashion–in their speed, survivability, weapons, or economy of operation. Corvettes filled a need for large numbers of escorts, but after the war, most were quickly discarded.
The MCM Connection:
The Flower Class Corvettes were originally also equipped to sweep mines. As noted the Australian Bathurst Class began life as minesweepers. While the US built no “corvettes” during the war, the minesweepers of the Raven (220 foot/1040 tons), Auk (221 foot/1,250 tons), and Admirable ((180 foot) classes frequently functioned in this role. In fact, with minor modification Admirable class ships were redesignated PCEs (Patrol Craft, Escort). All these minesweepers were built with sonar. By the end of the war, most were equipped with hedgehogs, depth charge projectors (K-guns) and dual depth charge racks, having enjoyed priority for ASW equipment second only to destroyer escorts.

File:PS-74 Rizal.jpg

Former Auk class minesweeper still serving in the Philippine Navy as Corvette BRP Rizal (PS-74), US Government photo, 050822-N-6264C-145 Sulu Sea (Aug. 22, 2005)

Post WW II:
Since the end of WWII corvettes have generally fallen into two categories, with some designs attempting to incorporate elements both types. They tend to be either:
—Small, fast, missile armed vessels optimized for ASuW, like Sweden’s Visby Class (40 knots, 239 ft, 650 tons) usually expected to operate in groups, either with others of their kind or acting as flagships for even smaller missile boats, or
—Smaller versions of frigates with moderate speed optimized for patrol and presence in peacetime and escort during wartime like the Damen designed SIGMAs or  India’s Kamorta Class (25 knots, 358 foot oa, 3100 tons).
File:K33 HMS Haernosand Karlskrona Marindagen2008.jpg
Visby class Corvette, HMS Härnösand, Source: Xiziz at en.wikipedia
SIGMA class corvette
Largest Operators of Corvettes:
The largest operator of corvettes is Russia with approximately 53 (3 Buyan, 1 Buyan M, 7 Parchim II, 23 Grisha V, 4 Grisha III, 2 Dergach Project 1239, 13 Nanuchka) (80 if you count the 27 Tarantuls that fall slightly below the 500 ton threshold I have assumed).
India, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Italy also maintain large numbers of corvettes.
File:Type 056 corvette 583 Ganzhou.jpg
Chinese Type 056 corvette 583 Ganzhou, by 樱井千一
Corvettes in the USN:
While the US Navy has never built corvettes for its own use, the type is not without precedence in the US.
In the early days of WWII, when the US navy was desperately short of escorts, 18 Flower class corvettes were transferred to the USN. Eight of those were manned by USCG crews.
File:USS Intensity (PG-93).jpg
Coast Guard manned Flower Class Corvette USS Intensity (PG-93), mid-1943. Former  HMCS Fennel (K194) [http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h97000/h97406.jpg]
In the 50s the Navy was interested in experimenting with types that might be built hurriedly in an emergency. The result was the four ships of the Claude Jones class (DE-1033-1036) built by Avondale between 1956 and 1959. At 312 feet long and 2000 tons, they were essentially the same size as the preceding Dealey Class, but they were  simplified, diesel powered, slower, and more lightly armed. These ships were really a update of the corvette concept of a cheap simple escorts that lent itself to rapid construction. (Similarly about the same time the British were building 14 HMS Blackwood Class  (Type 14) that were “2nd Rate Frigates” of 1536 tons, powered by a single shaft steam turbine plant with no gun larger then 40mm.)
File:USS Claude Jones (DE-1033).jpg
USS Claude Jones (DE-1033), US Navy photo, www.navsource.org
In the late 1960s the US built four corvettes, given US hull numbers PF-103 to PF-106, that were immediately turned over to the Iranian Navy. They became the Bayandor Class (275 feet long, 1,135 tons).
In the early ’70s, two additional PF-103 class ships (PF-107 and 108), built to a modified design, were delivered to Thailand’s Navy. These were the Tapi Class.
Between 1977 and 1983 Tacoma Boat built a class of four CODOG powered “PCG” for Saudi Arabia, the Badr class, 245 feet, 1,038 tons, 30 knots.
Between 1983 and 1987 Tacoma Boat built two diesel powered “PFMMs” for the Thai Navy Ratanakosin class 252 foot, 960 tons, 26 knots.
Between 1989 and 1995 Northrop Grumman Litton built three CODOG Corvettes for the Israeli Navy, the Sa’ar 5 class, (281 foot, 1,275 tons, 33 knots).
File:Three Sa'ar 5 Class Missile Corvettes Going For a Cruise.jpg
American built Israeli SA’AR5 corvettes, http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/6871983192/in/photostream
Between 2008 and 2013, VT Halter Marine has been building a class of four missile corvettes for the Egyptian Navy, the  Ambassador MkIII class (205 feet, 700 tons, 41 knots). The first has already been delivered.
An undated photo of the ENS S. Ezzat, an Egyptian Fast Missile Craft. VT Halter Marine Photo
An undated photo of the ENS S. Ezzat, an Egyptian Fast Missile Craft. VT Halter Marine Photo
While the Littoral Combat Ships are not normally considered corvettes, on June 10, 2013, Rear Admiral John F. Kirby, the Chief of Information for the Navy called them Corvettes. Without a mission module or aviation detachment, they are really more like OPVs. But when the Mine Warfare module is mounted they become MCM vessels. When an ASW or ASuW module is mounted, they start to look like corvettes.
The Claude Jones class ships were transferred to the Indonesian Navy and continued in service there until 2006. Of the six PF-103 class ships, two Iranian ships were lost in combat with Iraq, but the remaining four are still in service with the Iranian and Thai Navies and have been updated. The Badr class and the  Ratanakosin class are still in service with their respective navies, and the Sa’ar Vs are still the most advanced surface ships in the Israeli Navy. All but the two Thai Navy Ratanakosin class (PF-107 and 108) have been equipped to launch anti-ship cruise missiles.
The Coast Guard Connection:
During WWII Coast Guard Cutters were frequently used as ASW escorts, some quite successfully, filling corvette and frigate roles. After the war, new construction frequently included provision for ASW systems either as built or as planned upgrades in the case of a major conflict.
The 16 Reliance class Medium Endurance Cutters (210 feet, 1,050 tons, 18 knots) delivered 1964 to 1969, were built with provision for adding sonar, hedge hogs, and torpedo tubes. They were originally to have been designated PCs. a designation shared with the sub chasers of WWII.
The 12 Hamilton Class High Endurance cutters (378 feet, 3,050 tons, 29 knots) completed 1967 to 1972, were built with ASW systems installed and their systems were upgraded and provision for harpoon installed 1989 to 1992. As built, they were not the equal of contemporary Destroyer Escorts with their AN/SQS-26 sonars, but were comparable to those built only a few years before. An argument can be made that these ships, as built and later modified, could be considered, if not frigates, at least corvettes.

USCGC Mellon after upgrades including Harpoon, CIWS, and support for LAMPS

The thirteen Bear class cutters (270 feet, 1,780 tons, 19.5 knots) completed 1983 to 1990, were built without ASW systems, but had provision for adding a towed array and supporting a LAMPS I helicopter. If these systems had been provided, then the ships might have also been considered corvettes.
The Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters, of the Bertholf class (eight ships planned, 418 ft/4,500 tons) have no installed ASW systems or ASCMs, but they do have excellent aviation support facilities and the ship has been marketed as the basis for a frigate program. Aside from Exocets carried by the French ships, they are in most respects more capable warships than the Floreal “light surveillance frigates” (307 ft/2950 tons) and similar to the French Lafayette Class frigates (410 ft/3,600 tons) which also currently have no sonar.
File:USCGC Waesche by Yerba Buena Island.jpg
USCGC Waesche, U.S. Coast Guard photo ID: 100228-G-2129M-004
File:Ventose 1.jpg
French frigate Floréal-class Ventôse (F733)
The Coast Guard is in the process of procuring a new class to replace its Medium Endurance Cutters. The resulting ship is likely to be similar to the Floreal class (90 to 100 meters in length and 2500 to 3500 tons) but faster and will share sensors and some weapons with the Bertholf class and the Littoral Combat Ships. Addition of ASW or ASCM systems would result in ships many would classify as light frigates or corvettes.
Bottom Line–What is a Corvette?:
Corvettes slot under frigates but above patrol boats or missile boats as a classification of surface combatants. To me, this means that they are the smallest or perhaps least capable ocean-going warships. This is a bit of a stretch for Corvettes like the Visby, but in fact the Swedes have deployed even smaller warships to the Indian Ocean for counter piracy operations. That sets the low end of the the displacement range at about 500 tons, but when we look for an upper limit, it seems a moving target, with no similar performance based limit.
The US and Britain already build destroyers the size of WWII cruisers. Germany and in the near future Britain will build frigates over 6,000 tons full load. Japan’s Coast Guard has OPVs displacing 9,350 tons full load.  If we tripled the displacement of WWII corvettes as we have done with WWII Frigates and Destroyers, Corvettes could displace almost 5,000 tons, so I don’t think displacement is a reliable determinant.
Strict naval vessel construction standards don’t necessarily distinguish a corvette from an OPV either. They were not applied to the original “Flower” class, and they don’t apply to the Damen designed Sigma class, built or building for Indonesia, Morocco, and Vietnam, or to the French Lafayette class (also operated by Taiwan, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia) and Floreal class (also operated by the Moroccan Navy) which are rated as frigates but which it might be argued are actually corvettes.
The only metric that doesn’t seem to have changed much over the last 70 years is crew size. Corvettes generally have crews of 120 or less, frigates from 120 to perhaps a bit over 200, while destroyer crews begin slightly under 200 and go up to about 350, and cruiser crews are larger still. The DDG1000s will apparently have a frigate sized crew, but their final crew may be larger than currently planned. OPV crews tend to be corvette sized or smaller.
Just as the difference between Spruance Class Destroyers and Ticonderoga Class cruisers was mission and associated equipment, not displacement, the differentiation between the various types of warships and between Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and corvettes may simply comes down to their missions and equipment. OPVs include a wide range of ships, but the common thread, generally accepted, is that they have no ASW weapons, no heavy anti-ship cruise missiles, and only a self-defense AAW capability. Adding an ASW capability and/or cruise missiles would convert an OPV into a corvette. Perhaps they would not make very good warships, but then the original Corvettes weren’t very good warships either, but they served a vital role. Conversely an old frigate or corvette, stripped of all its weapons except a medium caliber gun and heavy machine guns would become an OPV, even if it nominally retained its frigate or corvette designation as in the case of Portugal’s Joao Coutinho and Baptista de Andrade class or some of Italy’s Minerva class.
If we had no history, and we could start ship designations on “a clean sheet of paper” we might define ships types based on their missions and equipment, saying destroyers are vessels designed with robust capacity to perform well in all three major surface combatant warfare areas, AAW, ASuW, and ASW. Frigates are designed to perform well in only two missions areas  (with possibly modest self defense capability in the third). Corvettes would be single mission specialists with only modest capability in the other two missions (if at all). OPVs would be vessels equipped for missions that did not require robust capabilities in any of these three mission areas. All four types might be called generically “cruisers” which would bring that designation back to its original meaning, a vessel smaller than a ship of the line that can operate independently.
The Future of Corvettes:
WWII corvettes were small ships packed with crew and weapons.They were small because there was an urgent need for many ships that could not be met by the shipyards that normally built warships. They were a way of making the small commercial yards serve the war effort. If we are ever engaged in a prolonged conflict against a near peer adversary we may again resort to a similar expedience. If so, the resulting corvette is more likely to be based on a petroleum industry offshore support vessel rather than a whaling or fishing vessel.
But when ships are built in peace time, for a 20 to 40 year life, other factors beside construction cost start to dominate. In the West, crew costs weigh heavily, while increasing hull size appears less important, provided we do not load up the larger hull with additional systems which will in turn drive up crew costs. Larger hulls are more seaworthy, allow greater endurance, and may be made quieter. They may even be more economical to operate and maintain because of easier access.
Some European Countries that formally operated a number of Corvettes seem to have abandoned the type in favor of ships with more range and better seakeeping including The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. Denmark has instead produced frigates and a novel class of ships, the Absalon Class “support ships,” (450 ft/6,600 tons) that include a relatively large hull of modest speed, with a relatively small crew of about 100, and a large reconfigurable spaces–an open one topside midships where missile systems can be placed and a “garage” area under the flight deck that can accommodate vehicles and containerized loads. These ships are perhaps too large to be considered corvettes, but they are not nearly so well armed as the frigates of the similarly sized Iver Huitfeldt-class. They do have characteristics I would expect to see on future corvettes, a relatively commodious hull (because “steel is cheap and air is free”), a relatively small crew (because that is the most expensive component over the life-cycle of the ship), and reconfigurable spaces and weapon systems, that allow the ships to be adapted to different missions (because that is allow us to hedge our bets regarding what capabilities will be needed, while allowing that minimal crew over most of the life of the ship).
Because Corvettes are always compromised, they are likely to be controversial. Many will not agree with the compromises accepted. That is certainly true of the new American Corvette, the Littoral Combat ship.
In some respects the LCSs may be the prototype of the future corvette, in that it is not particularly small, but they were made cheap to operate with a minimal crew, and they are single mission ships, but with the advantage that the mission can be changed over time, although not as quickly as once advertised. Other aspects of the ship were perhaps not as well thought out, but they will serve a purpose, and perhaps the next generation LCS  or convertible corvette will better meet our needs.

 * Article publicat al CIMSEC. Interessant i molt necessària reflexió al voltant de la definició de les corbetes. Lectura obligada per totes aquelles persones interessades en la futura configuració de les forces navals catalanes.

diumenge, 24 de novembre de 2013

Restrictions on Air Space Over Senkaku Islands*

By Zachary Keck

In a move certain to escalate tensions with Japan, China’s Ministry of Defense on Saturday issued what amounts to a heavily regulated air zone over much of the East China Sea, including the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

In a statement today China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced the creation of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, which went into effect 10 AM Saturday Morning local time. A second statement by the MND laid out the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.

The latter statement outlines six rules aircraft flying in the zone must follow, starting with rule number one, which reads “aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must abide by these rules.”

The second rule contains four ways aircraft must identify themselves and keep in communication with Chinese authorities while flying over the zone. These include clearly marking the nationality of the aircraft and maintaining two way communications with China’s Foreign Ministry and Civil Aviation Administrative.

The third rule states that “aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should follow the instructions of the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.” The next rule identifies China’s Ministry of National Defense as the administrative organ. The statement also empowers the MND to explain the rules.

Many of the identification procedures are similar to the ones used by Canada and the U.S. in the North American ADIZ that they jointly administer. The rules for that ADIZ appear to be a lot more precise, however.

Notably, rule number three in the new East China Sea ADIZ warns “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.”

While the language is vague, it appears to be consistent with how other countries handle potential violations to their ADIZ.  For instance, in two separate incidents over the summer, Russian strategic bombers entered into America’s 200 km ADIZs around the Pacific and Alaska. They were met by U.S. interceptor jets though the Pentagon refused to specify which type of aircraft the U.S. had used.

The first statement announcing the East China Sea ADIZ’s creation laid out the precise coordinates of the zone, and was accompanied by a hard to see map outlining it.

The creation of the ADIZ is in line with a growing aerial trend in the East China Sea dispute between China and Japan. In a piece on The Diplomat earlier this month, Flashpoints contributor Mira-Rapp Hooper noted, “In recent weeks, the standoff over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands has taken to the air.” She further warned that there are a number of reasons to think that “these aerial activities… may present new challenges in the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute.”

The possibility of China setting up an ADIZ in the East China Sea first leaked earlier this month when the Japanese new service Kyodo obtained an internal People’s Liberation Army document discussing the ADIZ. Kyodo noted at the time that China’s ADIZ would almost certainly overlap with Japan’s own ADIZ in the East China Sea. It also stated, “Such zones are set up by countries based on domestic law. There are no international rules concerning their establishment.” And therein lies the danger of the new ADIZ.

After announcing the ADIZ’s creation, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense fielded questions about what it entailed. According to a transcript released by Chinese state media, the spokesperson explained that an “Air Defense Identification Zone is an area of air space established by a coastal state beyond its territorial airspace to timely identify, monitor, control and react to aircraft entering this zone with potential air threats.”  The U.S. Department of Defense defines ADIZs as “Airspace of defined dimensions within which the ready identification, location, and control of airborne vehicles are required.”

The spokesperson also stated that the East China Sea ADIZ had been set up, “with the aim of safeguarding state sovereignty, territorial land and air security, and maintaining flight order. This is a necessary measure taken by China in exercising its self-defense right. It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of over-flight in the related airspace.”

The MND spokesperson went on to defend the ANIZ’s creation as consistent with China’s sovereignty, international law, and precedent. In particularly, he noted that 20 nations, including some of China’s neighbors, have set up such ANIZs over the years.

When asked why the ANIZ stretched “only” 130 km from China’s territory, the spokesperson responded, “Some country established Air Defense Identification Zone as early as in 1969. The shortest distance from their zone to the Chinese mainland is also 130 km.” That was almost certainly a reference of Japan, which took control of its ANIZ from the U.S. military in 1969.

Later the same spokesperson clarified that China will continue to respect over-flight rights in accordance with international law.

“The establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone does not change the legal nature of related airspace,” the MND spokesperson said. “Normal flights by international air liners in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone will not be affected in any way.”

He concluded the press conference by saying that China would create additional ADIZs “at the right moment after necessary preparations are completed.”

The Ministry of National Defense in Taiwan, which also claims the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, issued a statement expressing regret at China’s move. It also vowed to protect Taiwan’s national security and sovereignty. Notably, the ADIZ’s boundaries did not include Taiwan proper. At the time of this writing, Japan does not appear to have issued an official response yet.

In practical terms, the creation of the ADIZ is in line with China’s goal of challenging Japan’s administration of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Just over a month after Japan nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands in September 2012, M Taylor Fravel explained China’s strategy towards its disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

“The most striking feature of China’s behavior in its maritime disputes this year has been efforts to redefine the status quo,” Fravel wrote at the time.  “In its disputes with the Philippines and Japan, China has used the presence of its civilian maritime law enforcement agencies to create new facts on the water to strengthen China’s sovereignty claims.”

Now China is trying to create new facts in the air.


* Notícia publicada a The Diplomat. Sembla que la política de fets consumats de la Xina continua...

divendres, 22 de novembre de 2013

Portsmouth Ship Yard Jobs: Britain’s Maritime Capabilities Rebalanced*

By Dr. John Louth

British maritime defence industrial manufacturing capabilities saw a historic transition with the Portsmouth naval yard losing out to Glasgow.   This is an important milestone, but it is too simplistic to talk glibly about the resulting strategic shrinkage or the demise of British maritime strength

November 2013 has seen two significant announcements from the UK government that will have major implications for the projection of force and the protection of sovereign capability, both of which would appear to be important to Britain’s fortunes within a contingent and uncertain geopolitical system.

First, it has been confirmed by the Defence Secretary that British maritime defence industrial manufacturing capabilities are to be significantly rationalised and re-ordered by BAE Systems across its sites at Govan, Scotstoun and Portsmouth. This will lead to the complete elimination of a maritime construction presence in Portsmouth, effectively ending English surface-shipbuilding for the Royal Navy and a tradition of excellence that stretches back to Richard the Lion-heart. For once, the description of a decision as being ‘historic’ does not seem overblown.

The decision itself will see British naval manufacturing clustered on the Clyde in Scotland and the loss of over 1,700 jobs: 940 in Portsmouth, 800 in Glasgow and a small number of ship design and specialist engineering posts will also be lost from sites in Bristol and Edinburgh. These roles represent hard-won national defence capabilities and capacity, born from decades of governmental and industrial investment. Once removed, it will not be easy (or even possible) to grow back these core competencies, so this is a major strategic decision for the UK. But it is too simplistic to talk glibly about strategic shrinkage or the demise of British maritime capabilities: politicians and industrialists have to live in the real world of budgets, order books, scarcity and tough choices and play the hand their dealt.   

Once manufacturing has been centred around Glasgow, Portsmouth will be the home and maintenance/refit base for the two ordered Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, the first of which is due for delivery in 2017, and a major base of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet. So a maritime, as distinct from manufacturing, presence in Portsmouth is assured well into the second part of this century.

Two Aircraft Carriers Operated from Portsmouth

This is where the importance of a second significant announcement from government can be distilled. With his strongest hint to date, the Defence Secretary has told Parliament of the utility that operating both aircraft carriers would bring to UK forces in future operations. This is different from a current common argument across government and in defence circles that one of the two ships should be kept as some kind of forward reserve, to be up-skilled at moments of crises only. Both carriers being operated at the centre of future British defence capabilities would offer real force utility and points to the significance of Portsmouth as a major operating base for many years to come.

Of course, both the carrier programme and the rationalisation of maritime surface-ship manufacturing are not without real risks and concerns. In relation to the former, the Public Accounts Committee will inevitably conduct another inquiry into the programme after it was announced this week that costs had grown by another £800 million to £6.2 billion, significantly above the original 2007 estimate of £3.7 billion. 

This will be the fourth such exercise in six years. Whilst narratives of cost overruns and inefficiency will invariably dominate the debate, and understandably so, the substantive issue is one of effective requirements setting, cost forecasting and budgeting by government rather than runaway costs. A taste for champagne but a budget for rough cider usually means that something has to give; in the case of the carrier programme it has been the budget.

Scottish Referendum

Moreover, the decision to anchor surface-ship manufacturing to Glasgow prior to a referendum on Scottish independence, due in 2014, could prove problematic if the Scottish people vote to leave the Union. It seems less than certain that a UK (less Scotland) with an historical commitment to sovereignty over its warship design and production would import warships from a foreign power residing just north of the border at Hadrian’s Wall. Of course, it is equally fanciful that a youthful and reforming independent Scotland would have a demand for any warships it was manufacturing on the Clyde.

Scottish independence would probably see a return of shipbuilding to Portsmouth as contracts with BAE Systems and others were revisited as part of the constitutional de-coupling. Indeed, across defence, Scottish independence is a major issue within boardrooms with mitigation plans, investment decisions and migration options all part of the mix: it would be naive to assume that the maritime sector would be immune to such a major political, economic and structural event no matter what decisions are taken now.

To conclude, November 2013 is a significant moment in Britain’s naval history and tradition. A centre of excellence on the Clyde for shipbuilding centred on concluding the carrier programme and the Royal Navy’s demand for a new frigate, the Type 26, is a major rationalisation of skills and competencies, unfortunately at Portsmouth’s expense. The latter will continue as a major operational centre for the surface fleet and the home of the new carriers. Both, perhaps, could be fully operational and the centre-point of future British military capabilities across a wide spectrum of operational scenarios.  

 This seems a sensible, rational solution for the UK as a whole, re-balancing core-competencies and capacity within the industrial sector to a shrinking order book from the UK government. But as a solution it only stays intact, I suspect, if the UK polity itself stays intact. Those risks registers, in London, Edinburgh and elsewhere, both in government and in commerce, will see some action between now and the end of next year.

* Article publicat al RUSI. Interessant lectura, no només per les implicacions en la indústria de defensa britànica, sinó especialment per veure com Londres està jugant molt hàbilment les seves cartes.


dimecres, 20 de novembre de 2013

Les democràcies marítimes salpen cap a les Filipines: on són les quatre barres?

El Tifó Haiyan / Yolanda, un dels més destructius dels darrers temps, ha deixat al seu pas per les Filipines un reguerot de mort i destrucció. Encara no se sap amb exactitud la xifra de morts i damnificats, però les dades que esmenten les organitzacions internacionals i els mitjans de comunicació són esfereïdores.

Enmig d'aquesta desolació però, un raig d'esperança. Les democràcies marítimes s'han mobilitzat ràpidament, desplegant uns mitjans navals i aeris impressionants en un intent de limitar les conseqüències d'aquesta catàstrofe natural. Un cop passada la tempesta, sorgeixen nous perills com ara la manca d'aigua potable i les epidèmies. Països com el Regne Unit, Estats Units, i el Japó, d'acord amb les autoritats filipines, han desplegat vaixells i avions a la zona.

Malauradament la manca de mitjans navals impedeix que Catalunya, nació a la que escau indubtablement l'etiqueta de democràcia marítima, de fet n'és la més antiga (malgrat tres segles sense marina i sense democràcia), se sumi a aquest esforç internacional. Això no vol dir però que no sigui imperatiu seguir la situació, tant per raons humanitàries, com per a contribuir al debat sobre els mitjans dels que la Catalunya estat s'haurà de dotar en el camp de la seguretat i la defensa.

Camp que inclou, no ho oblidem, l'assistència a les autoritats civils, domèstiques i aliades, en as de grans catàstrofes naturals, així com la lluita contra determinades amenaces naturals com ara els asteroides.

Podeu consultar l'article sencer clicant en aquest enllaç.

*Article publicat al CEEC.

dimarts, 19 de novembre de 2013

INS Vikramaditya enters service with Indian Navy*

The Indian Navy has commissioned its new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, at Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk, Russia.
Capable of accommodating a crew of 1,600, the completely refurbished 44,500t INS Vikramaditya has an overall length of about 284m, a maximum beam of about 60m and a range of over 7,000nm.
Indian defence minister AK Antony said INS Vikramaditya is expected to significantly enhance the reach and capability of the Indian Navy.
"India's economic development is dependent on the seas and safeguarding the nation's maritime interests is central to our national policy," Antony said.
"The induction of Vikramaditya'with its integral MiG29K fighters and Kamov-31 helicopters, not only reinforces this central policy, but also adds a new dimension to our navy's operational capabilities."
Powered by eight new generation steam boilers, the aircraft carrier can operate Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RAC MiG)-built MiG 29K multirole fighter aircraft, the Kamov 31 medium-weight naval helicopter and Kamov 28 naval anti-submarine helicopter, the Sikorsky Sea King aircraft and Chetak aircraft.
"The meaning of 'Vikramaditya', which literally translates into 'strong as the sun' is complemented by the ship's motto: "Strike Far, Strike Sure."
The short takeoff but arrested recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carrier is equipped with sensors and launch and recovery systems, and enables the smooth and efficient operation of ship-borne aircraft.
Naval chief of staff, admiral Joshi, said INS Vikramaditya will bridge the time-gap that occurs between the INS Viraat and the indigenously built aircraft carrier Vikrant by helping achieving medium term goal of operating two aircraft carriers.
The warship also features Resistor-E radar complex automated system to provide air traffic control, approach / landing and short range navigation for ship borne aircraft as well as modern communication complex, CCS MK II, to meet her external communication requirements.

* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. Finalment, i després de molts anys de retard, sembla que l'entrega del Vikramaditya és imminent.

divendres, 8 de novembre de 2013

Navy to upgrade torpedoes, sonars of warships soon*

The Navy is all set to upgrade its heavyweight torpedoes to extend both its life and range, apart from acquiring low frequency sonars for 16 of its front line warships to improve its surface and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

The Navy has chosen the German firm Atlas Elektronik to help it upgrade the heavyweight torpedoes, the most reliable weapons that can hit surface and underwater targets (SUT), for the four HDW Type 209 Shishumar class submarines, also of German origin.

The Navy is also on the verge of finalising the winner for supplying it with Active Towed Array Sonars (ATAS) for which Atlas Elektronik is one of the leading contenders, the company’s executives told a group of Indian journalists taken on a tour of its manufacturing facilities at Bremen and Hamburg in Germany.

The first six ATAS system would be three each of the Delhi-class destroyers and the Talwar-class frigates of the Navy. The contract winning company would be required to transfer the technology of the ATAS system to Indian defence public sector Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to produce 10 more of the sonars for the Kolkata-class destroyers, Shivalik-class frigates and the Kamorta-class corvette.

Navy sources here confirmed that they have selected the firm to upgrade its 64 SUT torpedoes and extend its life by another 15 years, while the selection process for the ATAS system is still not completed.

Khalil Rehman, CEO of Atlas Elektronik which opened its Indian subsidiary earlier this year, said the company was looking to expand its presence in India after its return to the market with the torpedoes upgrade programme. In this regard, he said, Atlas Elektronik had presented its SeaHake mod4 ER -- the latest, fastest and most effective heavyweight torpedoes -- to the Navy to boost its firepower.

“We want to further deepen our ties with India and provide the best of products and services to the Indian Navy, apart from integrating India into our global supply chain,” Bremen-based Atlas Elektronik CEO Volker Paltzo said.

* Notícia publicada a The New Indian Express. Sovint analitzem l'evolució de les marines de guerra en funció de l'aquisició i/o baixa d'unitats. Però l'estudi de sistemes concrets, com ara els sónars i torpedes ens pot donar informacions molt rellevants.

dijous, 7 de novembre de 2013

We shall fight them on the beaches: Japan looks at UK for inspiration as she readies for amphibious drills*

Japan is taking a major step forward in her deterrence strategy, conducting a large-scale amphibious drill designed to put on display her ability to reconquer an island.
This follows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's repeated references to the Falklands in his speeches, a polite and indirect, yet unequivocal way, of warning China that an invasion of the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu for Beijing) would be met with an amphibious counterstrike. This was crowned by his recent meeting with Falklands veteran His Royal Highness the Duke of York. On the political and diplomatic side the drills are designed to show that Tokyo is not standing alone should that scenario materialize. Japan has already succeeded in getting the United States to acknowledge that the bilateral security treaty covers indeed the Senkaku Islands, following a certain ambiguity and conflicting public statements in the past. Next step is to show that Japanese and US forces are interoperable and could work together in such a campaign. All of this while developing a Japanese amphibious capability. However, there is still the nagging question whether a successful and relatively bloodless landing by Beijing may prompt some voices in the US to claim the islands are no longer under Tokyo's effective control and therefore outside the scope of an automatic response in support of Japan. Should Japan fear that scenario Tokyo's next logical step may be to deploy land troops. While it is not clear yet whether that step will ever be taken, Japan is deploying, as part of the drills, anti-ship missiles with which to close the First Island Chain to Chinese shipping.

Japan's growing amphibious capabilities. The creation of specialized units and facilities in this field is one of the aspects of Japan's defense reorientation following the end of the Cold War and the growing might of the Chinese Navy. The idea is to develop a capability to deploy in contested islands in the event of a major crisis, and to retake them if necessary.

With that need in view, Tokyo decided to develop a specialized force, mentored by the US Navy and Marine Corps. The force will comprise contingents from the Ground, Air, and Maritime Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and include different units covering a range of capabilities, from infantry to maritime transportation, and including the necessary air support. This specialized force is seen as necessary, among others, because the disputed territories are far not only from existing military facilities, but from civilian infrastructure able to support operations.

Until 2012, Japan considered marines to be offensive in nature and thus falling outside the scope of Article 9 of her constitution. The current government interpretation of the text is that it allows defensive, but not offensive, weapons, a distinction not always easy to make in practice. Finally, last year the cabinet came to the conclusion that Japanese law allowed marines units to be created and deployed. The unit selected to serve as the core, the seed, of this amphibious capability was the Western Army Infantry Regiment (WAIR), based in Nagasaki. This location facilitates its quick embarkation on MDSF (Maritime Self-Defence Forces) ships at Nagasaki/Sasebo or on V-22 Ospreys from nearby air bases at Nyutabaru and Tsuiki. From this core, Japanese amphibious capabilities are expected to expand.

Despite its name, the WAIR is, broadly speaking, of battalion size. It is made up of at least three infantry companies. Its table of equipment is that of a light infantry unit, with weapons no heavier than 84mm Carl Gustav recoil-less rifles (employed by the Royal Marines against ARA Guerrico in the defense of South Georgia) and French MO-120-RT 120mm towed mortars. Tokyo announced recently that it would be buying up to six AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles. Traditionally the WAIR's only vehicles were light trucks.

Concerning air support, up to now the WAIR has not had at its disposal any dedicated, specialized, collocated, air unit. Traditionally, it has relied on helicopters from the 1st Aviation Brigade, with headquarters near Tokyo. For example, during the June 2013 Dawn Blitz drills, which took place in Southern California, this brigade provided AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Now Tokyo is pondering the possibility of purchasing organic air transport for her marines, in the shape of up to 20 V-22 Ospreys. This may allow the WAIR to quickly move to the Senkaku Islands in the event of a crisis. The Ospreys are however somewhat controversial in Japan, with certain opposition due to past accidents.

With regard to naval means, here we can observe how, in spite the very recent decision to develope specialized marine units, Japan has long enjoyed a sizable capability when it comes to amphibious ships. The MSDF's three Oosumi class vessels are considered to be Landing Ship, Tanks (LSTs) and feature full-length flight decks and a well deck. Each can transport almost a battalion of infantry, plus tanks and other vehicles. Each of these ships can carry two American-built Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), Japan having six of them. Tokyo also has a dozen medium-sized landing crafts, each able to transport around 30 tons of equipment or up to 80 marines from the ship to shore. To the Oosumi class we must add the Hyuga class, officially described as “helicopter destroyers” but similar in look and capabilities to light carriers. Each can carry up to 14 or 16 helicopters, and it probably would not be too difficult to convert them to operate VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) planes like the F-35-B which the UK is buying for her Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, currently under construction. Although media reports do not usually refer to this, the question remains in the air whether the budding defense cooperation between London and Tokyo may include at some point future assistance in developing such a capability. It may be a door left open. Similar to the French Mistral class and American Iwo Jima class in their versatility, the Hyuga Class, of which a third vessel is under construction, provides a very strong addition to Japan's amphibious capabilities. This, while able to serve in a variety of different roles. Writing for the Asahi Shimbun on the occasion of the launch in August 2013 of the second ship in the class, the Izumo, Alessio Patalano (King's College London), one of the top experts on Japanese Naval Affairs, made this clear. Patalano stressed her design had multiplied “the Izumo’s operational flexibility and versatility so that it can be used in the defense of offshore islands, to rescue nationals overseas and as a command ship in expeditionary or relief missions” and adding that “In relief operations after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, for example, the helicopter destroyer Hyuga was deployed precisely in that type of function”.

We can thus see how, out of the three pillars of Tokyo's amphibious forces, the maritime one is probably the strongest. The marine component is currently under development, and in the air there is still a lack of specialized units and equipment, with Tokyo pondering the purchase of V-22 Ospreys.

Concerning US assistance in the process, Washington may be interested not only in helping Tokyo reinforce her military capabilities as a complement to her own “Pivot to the Pacific”, which rests in no small measure on a strengthening of the naval capabilities of key allies and partners such as the Philippines and Japan, but also in opening the door to a Japanese contribution to US-led amphibious operations. This was stressed by Kyle Mizokami in his recent piece on “Japan’s Amphibious Buildup” for the United States Naval Institute News. Mizokami wrote “Under the tutelage of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Japan is slowly but surely building up a credible, flexible amphibious force capable of responding to national emergencies. Highly trained with a high level of mobility, it could eventually become the equal of both. The force will not only be highly useful in Japan’s territorial disputes, it will likely be a excellent partner for their American counterparts in joint operations”.

Recently writing in the Asahi Shimbun, Koji Sonoda explained that according to Japanese Defense Ministry sources “The creation of a Japanese version of U.S. Marines will be included in the National Defense Program Guidelines to be compiled in December”, adding that “The amphibious force will be set up as early as fiscal 2015”. Sonoda said that these sources had revealed the target size of the force to be 3,000. Four of the specialized craft mentioned earlier would be purchased in the current fiscal year, and the remaining two in Fiscal 2014.

The coming drills: ships, jets, and 34,000 troops. Japan's Defense Ministry has announced a large-scale military exercise designed to bolster the country's ability to protect her remote islands, claimed by other nations. AFP quoted a ministry official who explained that the war games would feature “destroyers, fighter jets and 34,000 troops”, adding that they would involve “live-firing”. The “air-sea-land drill” will be held from 1 to 18 November. It will comprise “amphibious landings on the uninhabited atoll of Okidaitojima, 400 kilometres southeast of the main Okinawan island”.

In a statement, the SDF joint staff said that the drill was aimed at “maintaining and improving the joint operational abilities of the Self-Defense Forces in armed-attack situations”, adding that it would feature “a series of actions in defending islands” including combined operations in landings.

According to the Asahi and Fuji TV networks, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are pondering the deployment of short-range anti-ship missiles on Ishigaki, an island 150 kilometers away from the Senkaku-Diayu. Both sources added that there were no plans to conduct live-fire exercises in Ishigaki. The deployment was later confirmed by US private intelligence firm Stratfor.

Closing the First Island Chain: the Long Shadow of HMS Glamorgan. The decision to deploy anti-ship missiles in the islands of Ishigaki and Miyako-jima was the aspect of the drills most clearly stressed by Straftor. Although the “Type 88 surface-to-ship missiles” will not be tested, Stratfor believes that “their deployment is important because stationing batteries of Type 88 missiles in such a way would effectively put the entire passage between Okinawa-jima and Miyako-jima under the coverage of Japanese land-based surface-to-ship missiles”. The commentary notes that while Tokyo denies aiming this deployment at anyone in particular, “the Chinese navy is increasingly using the same passage through the first island chain and into the Pacific” and as a result “the deployment is sure to send a strong message to Beijing”.

Stratfor concludes that Japan's drills and anti-ship missile deployments “show that, despite some Chinese military claims of having 'dismembered' the first island chain as an obstacle”, transiting it “in peacetime is entirely different from attempting the same feat during a conflict with Japan”.

The potential of shore-based anti-ship missiles became clear in the closing stages of the 1982 Falklands War, when Argentinian forces launched an improvised Exocet missile (taken from the above mentioned ARA Guerrico) against the Royal Navy's HMS Glamorgan, damaging her extensively and taking her out of action. While not as well known as the other two successful instances of Buenos Aires' use of this weapons system during that war, from the air against HMS Sheffield and SS Atlantic Conveyor, it was duly noted by both Chinese and Japanese naval planners. Recent Filipino commentary on how to protect waters claimed by China has also featured discussions on mobile shore-based missiles, possible camouflaged in some of that country's extensive jungle areas. Taiwan is also another country considering the potential of this kind of weapons system, one of the “asymmetrical” technologies that many voices are urging Taipei to adapt, given the growing gap in conventional naval capabilities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Japan's accompanying public relations (PR) offensive. The announcement of the drills went hand in hand with that of a renewed exercise in public diplomacy, with Japan releasing some videos, and announcing the coming publication of others, defending Tokyo's position in the island disputes with the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea. AFP informed that “In its latest volley, the foreign ministry has produced two 90-second videos stating its case for ownership of the two disputed island groups and posted them on its YouTube site”. It added that both clips were in Japanese and that they would be followed by versions in other languages, “including Chinese and Korean”. AFP quoted a Foreign Affairs Ministry (FOMA) official as saying that “We are also preparing three other short movies on the Senkaku islands and one on the issue of Takeshima,” the later refers to islets under South Korean control, which Seoul calls Dokdo. The official explained that the FOMA had earmarked 120 million yen in the current fiscal year to produce such films, adding that “It is important that the international community obtain correct understanding over situations surrounding Japan including territories”.

Both Beijing and Seoul reacted strongly to this move. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying insisted once more that the Senkaku Islands belonged to Beijing, adding that “Whatever propaganda tools Japan employs to support its illegal claim, it will not change the fact that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China”. Chunying said “We strongly urge the Japanese side to correct its attitude, stop all provocative words and actions and make concrete efforts for the proper management and resolution of the question of the Diaoyu Islands”. On the other hand, Seoul lodged a formal diplomatic protest over the Youtube video, summoning a senior Japanese embassy official on 26 October.

At the time of writing, the Japanese MOFA's Youtube channel still contained the two Japanese-language video clips only. The one on the Senkaku Islands had been viewed by 258,577 people, and the one on Takeshima/Dokdo by 406,895.

From “Three Blocks” to “Three Islands”, or the thin line between police and the military. Since an invasion of the Senkaku Islands could take place at the hands not only of a conventional military force, but also of unarmed activists supported by naval and air units, a question which we may ask ourselves is: Does Tokyo have the capability to use non-lethal force to recover control of a contested islands? One of the most difficult challenges of contemporary war fighting is the need to be prepared for very different scenarios, and to prevail in all of them at the same time. It is what the US Marine Corps calls the “Three-Block” doctrine. It does not suffice to be able to employ brute force, like a doctor, sometimes resorting to surgery, sometimes just prescribing a pill or some exercise, modern Armed Forces are called upon to be ready to resort to a wide range of tools. Confronting an entrenched unit of the PLA, ready to open fire, is not the same as confronting a group of Chinese activists, with the usual addition of a few Hong Kong and Taiwan “compatriots”, with their placards and slogans. Are Japan's Self-Defense Forces ready to react to both scenarios, and even to both in different islands at the same time? Do they have the necessary training, equipment, and doctrine for this? Is the recovery of an island in the hands of unarmed activists backed up by naval and air forces included in the coming drills? These are questions that need to be asked. The US Marine Corps itself has recognized the need to acquire a police capability, one of the lessons learned in Iraq, setting up a battalion of reservists who are police officers in their daily life.

The British factor: A renewed Anglo-Japanese Alliance? While it is the United States that constitute the main target for Japan's diplomacy when it comes to securing support for its stance on the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, we cannot but fail to note the growing significance of the United Kingdom in Tokyo's discourse. We have already noted Shinzo Abe's frequent references to the Falklands, but this may just be the tip of the iceberg. A recent two-day security conference at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security (RUSI)'s Tokyo Branch, featured none other than the Duke of York, a veteran of the 1982 war, with Shinzo Abe as the keynote speaker. It is interesting to note how, within the division of duties in the British Royal Family, the Duke of York is in charge of export and investment promotion. So again we find what is fast becoming Shinzo Abe's trademark combination of economic and security issues. The message was dual: working to increase trade and investment links with another advanced economy, and sending the signal that just like the UK in 1982 force would be met with force. All in the most deniable way of course, but the message was there.
The conference was titled “Rejuvenating UK-Japan relations for the 21st century” and was jointly organized by RUSI and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. It took place in Tokyo from 30 September to 1 October 2013. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the event, delivering a keynote address and meeting the Duke of York. The 400th anniversary of UK-Japan relations seems to be providing cover for Japan's deterrence diplomacy. Next year, the 100 anniversary of the First World War, where Japan and the UK fought together, may provide further opportunities for the Japanese prime minister to send subtle messages to China and to Tokyo's allies. In his speech, Abe already noted how the Japanese Imperial Navy came to be known as “the guardian of the Mediterranean”. Can Japan combine a no-nonsense approach to national security without incurring excessive military spending and/or prompting accusations of militarism at home and abroad? That is a key question, and one on which the Japanese Government seems to be looking to the UK as a possible role model, to some extent going back to the old days of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the old days when Japan was respected as a regional power without being seen as an outcast and a bully as in the 1930s.

Conclusions. The drills announced by Tokyo are significant, and not just due to the large number of personnel involved, but above all because they signal a clear determination to show the world, both to allies and to potential foes, that Japan is back as a major naval power and that she is developing a serious amphibious capability, together with the ability to close off key naval passages at a time of conflict. There is little doubt that the Japanese military are professional and skilled and that they can easily acquire new capabilities. However, what is equally important for Tokyo, perhaps even more so, is to integrate the securing of national objectives such as the defense of the Senkaku Islands with the defense of wider interests and values such as freedom of navigation, the rule of law, and the peaceful solution to territorial disputes. Since becoming prime minister for a second time Shinzo Abe has devoted much time and effort to this, and it has become a constant in his speeches. Growing links to the UK are part of this strategy, since that country displays many of the characteristics that Japan is seeking, being an ally of the US with significant military capabilities and sizable soft power. Furthermore, referring to the UK and her past defense of the rule of law in the South Atlantic is an attractive way of stressing that Japan's rearmament and normalization are meant to benefit, not hinder, the national interest of other countries. Thus, beyond the development of technical capabilities and doctrines, this is and remains Shinzo Abe's main challenge, together with economic recovery: portraying Japan's reemergence in the security arena as that of a force for good, going back to the old days of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, when Japan was known as the “Britain of the Far East” and leaving behind the negative legacy of the 1930s and the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Second World War. If Abe succeeds in this and in getting the Japanese economy to grow sustainably again, his legacy will be assured.

Alex Calvo, an expert on security and defence in the Asia-Pacific Region, is currently guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan)

* Article publicat al CEEC. Interessantíssim anàlisi del professor Àlex Calvo sobre els canvis en les JSDF.

dimecres, 30 d’octubre de 2013

The Z-boat floats! Zumwalt launched into the night*

Zumwalt afloat on the evening of Oct. 28.

With little ceremony, Bath Iron Works launched the ZUMWALT (DDG 1000) into Maine’s Kennebec River on Monday afternoon, Oct. 28.
The 600-foot-long ship — the largest destroyer ever built — was floated off from a floating drydock that had been moved into the middle of the river. The operation to move the drydock out into the river, flood the dock, float off the Zumwalt and move her to a pier took about eight hours, according to Matt Wickenheiser, a spokesman for the shipyard.
The ship began its translation — an engineering term for transferring the ship from land to water — from the shipyard’s land-level construction facility to a floating dry dock Friday, Oct. 25. 
“This is the largest ship Bath Iron Works has ever constructed and the Navy’s largest destroyer,” said Capt. Jim Downey, the Zumwalt-class program manager for the Navy’s Program Executive Office, Ships. ”The launch was unprecedented in both its size and complexity.”
The ship’s christening, planned for Oct. 19 but put off because of the government shutdown, won’t take place until sometime in the spring, the Navy said. Zumwalt is about 87 percent complete, but more than a year of work is needed before the ship is delivered in late 2014. Even then, further development, tests and trials of the ship’s combat systems will continue well into 2016.
Zumwalt is the first of three ships in the DDG 1000 class. Major portions of the Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) already have been assembled, and with Zumwalt launched, more sections will be joined together.
Construction also is proceeding on the Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002).
All photos courtesy US Navy/General Dyanmics Bath Iron Works, by Michael C. Nutter.

Water begins to swirl under the giant destroyer as the floating drydock is submerged into the Kennebec River.

A yard tug begins to nudge the Zumwalt out of the dock under an early-evening sky.
Tugs move the brilliantly-lit Zumwalt back toward the shipyard. Note that the forward 155 mm gun mount is open, and the weapon appears to be fully elevated.

* Notícia publicada a Defense News. La primera unitat de la classe Zumwalt ja ha estat botada, encara queda temps per veure-la comissionada a la U.S. Navy , no obstant, pot ser tota una fita en la manera d'entendre les operacions navals al segle XXI. Recomanem clickar a l'enllaç per veure la sèrie completa de fotografies d'aquesta nova nau.

diumenge, 27 d’octubre de 2013

The Geopolitics of Australia*

By James R. Holmes

To travel in the Asia-Pacific is to reacquaint yourself with geography. Case in point: Australia. For Americans, Australia is Foster's, throwing meat on the barbie (a term I haven't heard once this week) at Outback Steakhouse, and Crocodile Dundee. None of those are bad things. But there's more to the country than that. A quick survey of the environs:
First, Australia is an island, a continent and a nation all at once. It bears some resemblance to the United States in that sense, albeit without even the friendly, and far from geopolitically troublesome, neighbors to its north and south. Isolated from external threats by water, Australia, like the United States, has the option — and at times displays a propensity — to turn inward, neglecting the sea and the navy. I'd be a rich Naval Diplomat if I had a dollar for every time I've heard this lament from Australian officers at this week's Sea Power Conference. Seafaring culture demands care and feeding to thrive.
Second, the nation straddles the juncture between the halves of the grand Indo-Pacific theater, or the "Indo-Asia-Pacific," to use the unwieldy, not terribly helpful term now occasionally heard in defense circles. Australia's position astride the Indo-Pacific seam could impart a horizontal, east-west character to maritime strategy. Forces based here, that is, could swing into action far more readily than could forces based at the extreme ends of the theater, such as Japan or Bahrain — home to the U.S. Seventh and Fifth fleets, respectively. A central geographic position bestows options on mariners wise enough to exploit it.
Third, such forces could range around the periphery. Australia holds an exterior position vis-a-vis Southeast Asia, outside the southern rim of the South China Sea. This makes the South China Sea unique among semi-enclosed seas. It's rather as though a massive island were positioned due east of Puerto Rico, letting the island's inhabitants maneuver outside the Caribbean and Gulf while influencing the shipping lanes connecting those expanses with the broad Atlantic. If Canberra can look east into the Pacific or west into the Indian Ocean, it can also look north into the South China Sea or operate outside the perimeter of that contested expanse. This vertical dimension, along with the horizontal dimension, adds up to a lot of vectors demanding policy and strategic attention, particularly for a middle power like Australia. An Australia attuned to its maritime surroundings should fare well managing its near seas. An inward-facing Australia could run afoul of savvier competitors.
Fourth, Australia is something like Cuba was for Mahan. Again, it occupies a blessed geographic position. It's big, and it boasts plentiful resources relative to its modest population. It would be hard if not impossible to blockade. Defenders would simply shift resources overland, using overland transport to evade the blockading force. And it's defensible. It lies largely out of reach of potential adversaries' weaponry. Forces could disperse to points around the long coastline or the continental interior to elude bombardment or a blockade.
And finally, Australia is geographically interdependent with the islands connecting it to North America by sea. In the early 1890s, when Mahan was hectoring Washington to annex Hawaii, he pointed out that that archipelago lay along the sea lanes connecting the Panama Canal with East Asia and the routes connecting western Canada with Australia. It was the only convenient stopping point for American or British shipping amid a desolate stretch of ocean. That basic geographic fact rivets attention on the trans-Pacific seaways. The U.S. Navy and Marine campaign in the Solomon Islands (1942-1943) sought to preserve this lifeline between North America and Australia when Imperial Japan tried to sever it. South Pacific geography, then, imposes yet more demands on Canberra's and the Australian Defense Force's attention.
All in all, this is a complex and demanding environment. One wishes Australian maritime proponents well as they try to resuscitate and preserve the nation's seafaring culture. Canberra's foreign policy and strategy could come under duress without it.

* Article publicat a The Diplomat. Breu però clara descripció de les opcions geopolítiques d'Austràlia, per a qui interessi aprofundir en el paper d'aquest país en el presenti el futur.