Not enough ships to convoy?
by David Axe November 18, 2019
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Key Point: Without enough warships and sealift ships, America cannot safely resupply its forces during a major war.
That’s the dire warning that a range of experts have sounded as the Pentagon shifts its focus from counterinsurgency campaigns, which heavily rely on civilian logistics networks, to the possibility of war with a major power such as China.
In a war with China, America’s logistical forces would be a prime target. But the U.S. sealift fleet can neither defend itself nor absorb heavy losses, the Washington, D.C. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment explained in a May 2019 report.
“Failing to remedy this situation, when adversaries have U.S. logistics networks in their crosshairs, could cause the United States to lose a war and fail its allies and partners in their hour of need,” CSBA warned.
Seapower magazine reporter Otto Kreisher outlined experts’ growing concern.
Last October , the U.S. Maritime administrator, retired rear admiral Mark Buzby, said the Navy told his agency that it would not be able to escort sealift and supply ships during a major war. For those ships to survive, crews have been told to “go fast and stay quiet,” with the latter referring to reduced electronic signaling. But MSC ships, with sustained speeds of 15 to 20 knots, can’t go as fast as 30-knot Navy warships.
Also, in May , defense analyst Loren Thompson wrote in Forbes that the well-trained and equipped U.S. military is facing “a big operational challenge that few policymakers or politicians are even aware of — its ability to get to the fight is wasting away. So even with the most capable fighting force in history, the United States might find itself unable to respond effectively to future military contingencies. … Until recently, military planners could at least assume the safety of commercial sea lanes outside war zones. But now even that assumption is being called into question.”
[Military Sealift Command] commander Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne in 2017 told Seapower, “The operating environment is changing,” going from “unchallenged sea to contest waters. … I would maintain that the debate over whether we’re sailing in contested waters is over.” Looking at the situation today, “there is a persistent threat to the ships that are going through those areas,” Mewbourne added, citing missile attacks on U.S. and other ships sailing near Yemen and China’s growing sea-denial capabilities.
“The question might be, ‘Will it be like it is, or could it get worse?’ I would suggest it’s the latter,” Mewbourne said, showing a graph depicting a rising curve of the threats from China and Russian and a nearly flat line of likely U.S. sealift capability to meet that threat. To adjust, Mewbourne said he is working on ways to harden his fleet of tankers and ammunition and cargo ships and to train his crews of primarily civilian mariners to survive in contested environments.
To prepare for a major war, the U.S. merchant marine and Military Sealift Command both must grow. At present, the civilian merchant marine, which during wartime would become a naval auxiliary force, possesses around 180 U.S.-flagged vessels. The other roughly 800 cargo ships working for U.S. companies legally are registered in foreign countries mostly in order for their owners to avoid U.S. regulations.
MSC meanwhile operates around 120 ships with mostly military functions, including support vessels and high-speed transports.
The two forces combined should grow from around 300 ships to 364 ships by 2048, CSBA advised.
“The largest increases CSBA proposed would go to refueling capabilities, from the current 21 tankers and fleet oilers to 69; the towing and salvage fleets, from five to 25; and maintenance and repair, from two tenders to 17,” Kreisher wrote.
The report also recommended growing cargo and munitions support from 12 ships to 25 and creating a combat search-and-rescue and increasing medical care capability from the current two large and aging hospital ships to seven. That would include platforms for CSR helicopters and MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and small “expeditionary medical ships,” based on the expeditionary fast transports currently being built.
This larger logistical support force would include several new ship types — including a variety of tankers and smaller oilers able to refuel combatants and commercial tankers to move fuel forward to replenish fleet refuelers. The CSBA report also urged that munitions ships be able to reload vertical launching system tubes at sea and that new tenders be able to repair surface combatants and even unmanned surface vessels.
The greater numbers and new types of support ships are needed, the report argues, to allow logistical support to continue despite the high attrition expected in a great power conflict, to provide support in contested waters, and to make up for the likely damage to forward support facilities such as Guam, the Marianas and Diego Garcia.
Adding more than 60 ships to the sealift fleet is a tall order and could cost billions of dollars. But experts’ warning have not gone entirely unheeded. Kevin Tokarski, a senior official with the U.S. Maritime Administration, in May 2019 told USNI News that he was considering reflagging some ships working for American companies in order quickly to grow the sealift force.
The government buying 15-year-old used ships also is an option, Tokarski said.
Source: National Interest “The Navy Has a Big Problem If It Had to Fight China”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
Or just a myth?
by Sebastien Roblin November 16, 2019
Key point: American military superiority is rapidly being reduced.
In pictures: Japan’s Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement parade
Nikkei Asian Review
In October 2018, Chinese media announced that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would publicly unveil its new H-20 stealth bomber during a parade celebrating the air arm’s seventieth anniversary in 2019.
Prior news of the H-20’s development had been teased using techniques pioneered by viral marketing campaigns for Hollywood movies. For example, the Xi’an Aviation Industrial Corporation released a promotional video in May 2018 pointedly imitating Northrop Grumman’s own Superbowl ad for the B-21 stealth bomber, portraying a shrouded flying wing bomber in its final seconds. Later, the silhouette of a possible new bomber appeared at a PLAAF gala. This comes only two years after PLAAF Gen. Ma Xiaotian formally revealed the Hong-20’s existence.
If the H-20 does have the range and passable stealth characteristics attributed to it, it could alter the strategic calculus between the United States and China by exposing U.S. bases and fleets across the Pacific to surprise air attacks.
Only three countries have both the imperative and the resources to develop huge strategic bombers that can strike targets across the globe: the United States, Russia and China. Strategic bombers make sense for China because Beijing perceives dominance of the western half of the Pacific Ocean as essential for its security due to its history of maritime invasion, and the challenge posed by the United States in particular. The two superpowers are separated by five to six thousand miles of ocean—and the United States has spent the last century developing a network of island territories such as Guam, foreign military bases in East Asia and super-carriers with which it can project air and sea power across that span.
Xi’an Aviation, the H-20’s manufacturer, also builds China’s H-6 strategic jet bombers, a knockoff the 1950s-era Soviet Tu-16 Badger which has recently been upgraded with modern avionics, aerial refueling capability and cruise missiles in the later H-6K and H-6J models. Beijing could easily have produced a successor in a similar vein, basically a giant four-engine airliner-sized cargo plane loaded with fuel and long-range missiles that’s never intended to get close enough for adversaries to shoot back.
Alternately, analyst Andreas Rupprecht reported that China considered developing a late-Cold War style supersonic bomber akin to the U.S. B-1 or Russian Tu-160 called the JH-XX. This would have lugged huge bombloads at high speed and low altitude, while exhibiting partial stealth characteristics for a marginal improvement in survivability. However, such an approach was already considered excessively vulnerable to modern fighters and air defense by the late twentieth century. A Chinese magazine cover sported a concept image of the JH-XX in 2013, but the project appears to have been set aside for now.
Instead, in the PLAAF elected to pursue a more ambitious approach: a slower but far stealthier flying wing like the U.S. B-2 and forthcoming B-21 Raider. A particular advantage of large flying wings is they are less susceptible to detection by low-bandwidth radar, such as those on the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye radar planes, which are effective at detecting the approach of smaller stealth fighters.
While China’s development of stealth aircraft technology in the J-20 and J-31 stealth fighter was an obvious prerequisite for the H-20 project, so apparently was Xi’an’s development of the hulking Y-20 ‘Chubby Girl’ cargo plane, which established the company’s capability to build large, long-range aircraft using modern computer-aided design and manufacturing techniques—precision technology essential for mass producing the exterior surfaces of stealth aircraft.
According to a study by Rick Joe at The Diplomat, Chinese publications began speculating about the H-20 in the early 2010s. Postulated characteristics include four non-afterburning WS-10A Taihang turbofans sunk into the top of the wing surface with S-shaped saw-toothed inlets for stealth. It’s worth noting that the WS-10 has been plagued by major problems, but that hasn’t stopped China from manufacturing fighters using WS-10s, with predictably troubled results.
The new strategic bomber is expected to have a maximum un-refueled combat radius exceeding 5,000 miles and payload between the H-6’s ten tons and the B-2’s twenty-three tons. This is because the H-20 is reportedly designed to strike targets beyond the “second island ring” (which includes U.S. bases in Japan, Guam, the Philippines, etc.) from bases on mainland China. The third island chain extends to Hawaii and coastal Australia.
In a U.S.-China conflict, the best method for neutralizing U.S. air power would be to destroy it on the ground (or carrier deck), especially in the opening hours of a war. While ballistic missiles and H-6 bombers can already contribute to this with long-range missiles, these are susceptible to detection and interception given adequate forewarning. A stealth bomber could approach much closer to carrier task forces and air bases before releasing its weapons, giving defenses too little time to react. An initial strike might in fact focus on air defense radars, “opening the breach” for a follow up wave of less stealthy attacks.
The H-20 will also likely be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, finally giving China a full triad of nuclear-capable submarines, ballistic missiles and bombers. Though the H-6 was China’s original nuclear bomber, these are no longer configured for nuclear strike, though that could change if air-launched nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missile are devised. Beijing is nervous that the United States’ limited ballistic missile defense capabilities might eventually become adequate for countering China’s small ICBM and SLBM arsenal. The addition of a stealth bomber would contribute to China’s nuclear deterrence by adding a new, difficult-to-stop vector of nuclear attack that the U.S. defenses aren’t designed to protect against.
Some Chinese publications also argue that the H-20 will do double-duty as a networked reconnaissance and command & control platform similar to U.S. F-35 stealth fighters. This would make sense, as China has developed a diverse arsenal of long-range air-, ground- and sea-launched missiles, but doesn’t necessarily have a robust reconnaissance network to form a kill-chain cueing these missiles to distant targets. Theoretically, an H-20 could rove ahead, spying the position of opposing sea-based assets using a low-probability-of-intercept AESA radar, and fuse that information to a firing platform hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The H-20 could also be used for electronic warfare or to deploy specialized directed energy.
The crescendo of publicity surrounding the H-20 indicates the PLAAF believes the plane will soon be ready enough to show to the public—and international audiences. Once revealed, analysts will pour over the aircraft’s geometry to estimate just how the stealthy it really is, looking for radar-reflective Achilles’ heels such as exposed engine inlets and indiscrete tail stabilizers. However, external analysis cannot provide a full assessment, because the quality of the radar-absorbent materials applied to surfaces, and the finesse of the manufacturing (avoiding seams, protruding screws, etc.) has a major impact on radar cross-section.
It is worth bearing in mind, however, that an H-20 seeking to slip through the gauntlet of long-range search radars scattered across the Pacific to launch CJ-10K cruise missiles with a range of over nine hundred miles would not require the same degree of stealth as an F-35 intended to penetrate more densely defended airspace and launch small diameter bombs with a range of 70 miles.
Analysts forecast the H-20’s first flight in the early 2020s, with production possibly beginning around 2025. If the H-20 is judged to be of credible design, the Pentagon in turn will have to factor the strategic implications of China’s stealth capabilities, and will likely seek to field implement counter-stealth technologies which formerly have been mostly vaunted by Russia and China. The publicity which the often-secretive Chinese government is according the H-20 also indicates Beijing’s hope the bomber will serve as a strategic deterrent to foreign adversaries—even before its first flight.
Source: National Interest “China’s H-20 Stealth Bomber: The One Weapon America Won’t Be Able to Beat?”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
While China is moving its export-oriented industries to Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Laos, Pakistan and other developing countries through its Belt and Road initiative (BRI) to avoid US tariff hikes on its exports to the US, the US has nowhere to move its agriculture and high-tech industries to avoid China’s tariff hikes.
In its report “It’s Not Just Farmers—U.S. Exports May Never Recover From the Trade War” on November 15 Bloomberg provide statistics about the shrinking of US exports due to the trade war.
It says, “More than 30 states stretching from Florida to Alaska suffered double-digit drops in merchandise exports to China through September of this year. Sales to the Asian nation fell 39% in Texas, where oil and gas products comprise the largest export to that country.”
It provides charts details of US decline of exports in the report, that can be viewed at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-15/see-the-states-where-trump-trade-war-is-hammering-china-exports.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Bloomberg’s report.
US ban lit a fire under Huawei, seen taking lead in smartphones and awash in cash as bonds trade at a premium
November 15, 2019
Unlisted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies was made an international pariah by US regulators earlier this year after a ban on buying key parts and on access to crucial markets.
You think that sounded the death knell for the company? Think again.
This week, Huawei announced a US$286 million bonuses bonanza to its employees. Its bonds continue to trade above par, and its cash balances are massive. Hardly the signs of a company struggling under sanctions.
The company has repeatedly denied US allegations that it is a front for the Chinese government – the justification Washington cited for banning US companies from using Huawei-manufactured gear.
Huawei is the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker and it’s the second biggest smartphone maker.
According to data from International Data Corporation, smartphone shipments in the July-September quarter rose 18.6% to 66.6 million, just behind global leader Samsung’s 78.2 million.
“Huawei has been gaining market share in China and overseas despite US trade war frictions and may become the leading smartphone maker in the next two quarters,” said Nitin Soni, director of corporate ratings at Fitch Ratings.
He said telcos across emerging markets, which are facing capital expenditure pressures and limited 5G business viability in the short term, may be willing to buy Huawei’s 5G equipment given it is cheaper and has better technology than European counterparts.
It’s not just Soni. Industry leaders also acknowledge Huawei’s quality standards.
Indian telco Bharti Enterprises’ chairman Sunil Mittal said recently, for example, “I can safely say their products in 3G and 4G that we have experienced are significantly superior to Ericsson and Nokia. I use all three of them.”
Indeed, the bond-market performance of the unrated, unlisted company confirms Huawei’s strength. Its dollar-denominated bonds traded in global markets are changing hands at above par, indicating bond investors are confident about the company’s cash position and liquidity situation.
Its bonds due 2025, which pay a coupon of 4.125%, are trading at a price of $104 while the holder would only get $100 at maturity. The premium would be compensated by the annual coupon, which would reduce the yield. The bonds are currently yielding 3.4% compared with the 4.25% yield at the time of the issuance. In price terms the bonds have rallied from $99 in 2015 to $104. Prices move inversely to yields.
The financial highlights also betray no signs of weakness. The company has a cash hoard of $39 billion and generates $10 billion from operations each year.
So, in fact, the US ban on Huawei may be helping the company.
“A ban on US companies such as Google to supply software to Huawei may lead to faster innovation by Huawei to develop its own operating system and chips,” said Soni.
Source: Asia Times “Numbers show joke is on the US, not Huawei”
Note: This is Asia Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
Miko Vranic, London – Jane’s Defence Weekly
14 November 2019
More details have emerged about the new assault rifle for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that was displayed during the 1 October parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
The design of the new rifle seen being carried by motorised infantry troops during the parade appears to have been heavily influenced by the German HK416 and the earlier Chinese QBZ-81 and QBZ-03 assault rifles. The HK416 can in many ways trace its lineage back to the US AR-15 assault rifle series, while the Chinese QBZ-81 and QBZ-03 mostly employ the design features of the Russian AK and SKS rifles.
Although the designation for the new rifle has not been officially confirmed, it is also likely to include the standard ‘QBZ’ prefix when transliterated from Chinese, followed by several digits. The ‘QBZ’ acronym stands for ‘Qīngwǔqì Bùqiāng Zìdòng’, literally meaning ‘light weapon, rifle, automatic’. The digits usually denote the final year of a weapon’s development.
Jane’s has observed three variants of the new QBZ. A carbine model, fitted with an approximately 318 mm (12.5 inch) long barrel; a standard barrel model, with an approximately 368 mm (14.5 inch) long barrel; and a designated marksman rifle (DMR) model fitted with an approximately 457 cm (18 inch) long barrel.
The DMR prototype, spotted in a Chinese TV report broadcast in early October, seems to be fitted with an aluminium forend featuring the M-LOCK-type interface system, in addition to the monolithic MIL-STD-1913-type ancillary rail that runs along its topside, as per the other two models in the family.
One interesting feature on the carbine and standard models, albeit by no means unique, is that the polymer handguard piece appears to be fitted to an aluminium sleeve that envelops the barrel, rather than being directly attached to the barrel itself.
Source: Janes Defence Weekly “More details emerge about PLA’s new assault rifle”
Note: This is Janes Defence Weekly’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
The delay could further inhibit the ability of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet to deploy carriers.
by David Axe
November 13, 2019
Key point: The USS Gerald R. Ford might not be able to deploy until 2024.
The U.S. Navy’s new aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford might not be able to deploy until 2024. That’s years later than the Navy originally expected. The delay could further inhibit the ability of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet to deploy carriers.
The nuclear-powered Ford, which cost no less than $13 billion to build, has been undergoing trials off the U.S. east coast since commissioning in 2017.
The Ford class, in theory, represents a major improvement over the previous Nimitz-class supercarriers. The Navy so has ordered four Fords. Lead vessel Ford was supposed to deploy for the first time in 2022.
The Fords are bigger than the Nimitzs are, boast superior sensors and a more efficient deck layout and feature precise electromagnetic catapults rather than the maintenance-intensive steam catapults that the Nimitzs have.
Sea trials have underlined a host of problems with the thousand-feet-long Ford that have compelled the Navy repeatedly to delay the ship’s first operational deployment.
The Navy’s decision to conduct explosive shock trials of the new flattop before deploying her also has contributed to the delays.
The most high-profile failures have involved the Electromagnetic Launch System catapult, a new aircraft arresting system called the Advanced Arresting Gear, the weapons elevators that haul bombs and missiles from the munitions magazines to the deck and the ship’s primary sensor, the Dual Band Radar.
Ford has four weapons elevators, each requiring precision installation of components weighing tens of tons. As of October 2019, just three of the elevators were working. “We certified now and turned over to the crew three elevators,” James Geurts, the Navy’s top acquisitions official, told lawmakers on Oct. 22, 2019. “The fourth one is very close.”
“We’re about 75 percent done with the entire project,” Geurts explained. “We’re talking about in some cases [lining up] 70-ton doors and hatches. It’s not a technology issue. It’s a construction completion issue in terms of getting all the doors and hatches where they need to be.”
Naval Sea Systems Command head Vice Adm. Tom Moore said he was optimistic the Navy and shipbuilders would be able to make up for recent delays and get Ford out on her maiden deployment earlier than 2024. “We’re going to pull back as far to the left as we can, but I think we’re going to beat that,” Moore said at the same Oct. 22, 2019 hearing with lawmakers.
But Ford’s problems are just one factor in the Navy’s worsening struggle to sail carriers from the East Coast. USS Harry S. Truman in August 2019 suffered electrical problems that delayed her own planned deployment. Problems overhauling USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in late 2018 “left the carrier unable to relieve USS Abraham Lincoln in the Middle East and forced Truman into a double-pump deployment,” Sam LaGrone reported for USNI News.
The Navy’s controversial proposal in early 2019 prematurely to decommission one of its East Coast flattops would have compounded the shortage.
The sailing branch proposed to decommission the 21-year-old Truman in the early 2020s, just halfway through her planned service life, in order to free up billions of dollars for newer ships including Ford-class carriers.
But decommissioning Truman would have dropped the carrier fleet to a low of nine vessels in the 2030s, despite a legal requirement for the Navy to operate at least 11 carriers at all times. If the fleet lost Truman and couldn’t buy or deploy Fords fast enough owing to technical problems with the new ships, the carrier force could’ve shrunk even further.
Lawmakers objected to the Navy’s plan, forcing fleet leaders to backtrack. Truman is set to continue in service. But the delay in deploying Ford amounts to a cutback all its own. An aircraft carrier that can’t deploy doesn’t contribute anything to America’s national defense.
At the Oct. 22, 2019 hearing, Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat, castigated the Navy, describing Ford as a “$13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge.”
David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.
Source: National Interest “The Navy Has Spent $13 Billion On An Aircraft Carrier That Can’t Deploy”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for r
Nov 12, 2019, 03:11am
Huawei has weathered the storm of the U.S. blacklist to come out on top. Despite restrictions on the company and its supply chain, 5G contracts have been secured and smartphone shipments continue to soar. Now the company has made its latest headline move, paying its huge staff base around the world a staggering bonus as a loyalty reward to ensure resistance to the U.S. campaign continues.
The newly announced staff bonus is set to equate to a month’s salary, pro rated for length of service for those who have recently joined. There is also an additional bonus being paid to supply chain and R&D staff on the frontline. Sources inside the company told me that the total cost of the bonuses could run as high as $1.5 billion, although this was later revised down to hundreds of millions of dollars–the scale and nature of which, I’m told, came as a “total surprise” internally.
Huawei has already made headlines with the salaries it is willing to pay to entice talent to Shenzhen and to secure the caliber of engineers it needs to drive innovation across its product lines. “Huawei needs to win the technology and commercial battles in the future,” the company’s CEO Ren Zhengfei was quoted as saying. This latest move benefits staff far and wide. Bonuses will be paid to all 194,000 employees who have satisfactory performance ratings and no information security related black marks on their employee records.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, an internal email setting out the surprise but welcome news explained that “in 2019, the company and all employees were, and are, facing extraordinarily external challenges. Upon approval by the company’s president, a special dedication award will be paid.”
Anyone dealing with Huawei notes the talent that the company has brought into the organisation in recent years—and that approach has not changed over the blacklist restrictions. Western-trained engineers, marketeers, PR professionals, product designers and lawyers have joined the armies of Chinese nationals working for the firm. Like most people covering the company in the media, I have been invited to Shenzhen to see first-hand the lustrous HQ within which the tech champion has plotted its route to the top of the industry.
As I reported yesterday, the company’s scorecard looks quite extraordinary as 2019 draws to a close. Six months after the blacklist was put into effect, Apple, Samsung and others will be watching slightly helplessly as the huge Chinese market continues to rally around its leading technology company, ensuring that its balance sheet is shored up and that growth continues. Meanwhile, countries around the world continue to defy U.S. warnings to sign commercial contracts for 5G network equipment.
Ren has said that the current struggle against the U.S. pales into insignificance compared to other more personal struggles he has faced earlier in life, and his battle to build the company against stiff global competition. His critics, of course, argue that the business was built off the back of collaboration with the Chinese state, smoothing its path to the top. Either way, for tens of thousands of staff who have just spent up in China’s “Singles Day” or who are preparing for Black Friday sales elsewhere, this latest news will be very welcome.
For the Trump administration, though, it is yet another show of financial strength that sends a message of defiance and resilience. For critics of the company who believe Huawei is a genuine security threat, it gives further pause for thought as to whether—despite these concerns—the company is just too large and too well supported to fail or even to be significantly damaged by any of the actions being taken against it.
Updated later on November 12 with additional information from Huawei sources as to scale of bonus payments.
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Source: Forbes “Huawei Just Gave 194,000 Employees An Unexpected Reason To Stay”
Note: This is Forbes’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.