China’s industrial profits grow for fourth straight month


By Reuters Staff

EPTEMBER 27, 202010:02 AMUPDATED 9 MINUTES AGO

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Profits at China’s industrial firms grew for the fourth straight month in August, buoyed in part by a rebound in commodities prices and equipment manufacturing, the statistics bureau said on Sunday.

China’s recovery has been gaining momentum as pent-up demand, government stimulus and surprisingly resilient exports propel a rebound.

Industrial firm profits grew 19.1% year-on-year in August to 612.81 billion yuan ($89.8 billion), the statistics bureau said.

That compares with a 19.6% increase in July and is the fourth straight month of profit growth.

However, industrial firms’ profits still face external pressures as rising tensions between Washington and Beijing cloud the global trade outlook.

Raw material manufacturing profits increased by 32.5% in August, up from 14.7% in July, according to Zhu Hong, an official at the statistics bureau. This was driven in part by a rebound in the prices of international commodities such as crude oil and iron ore, he added.

Meanwhile, profits of the general equipment manufacturing sector notched up 37% in August on-year, with electrical machinery up by 13.3% over the same period.

Economic indicators in August, ranging from exports to producer prices and factory output, all pointed to a further pickup in the industrial sector.

However, factory activity grew at a slower pace with smaller firms facing sluggish market demand and financial strains.

The country has introduced a slew of measures to kick-start the economy, from tax and fee reductions to grace periods for the calling in of debt.

China’s economy may stagnate if it fails to rise up the value chain, as it faces increasing competition from countries with advanced technologies and lower labour costs, economists warned.

Authorities have pledged to boost investment in strategic industries including core tech sectors such as 5G, artificial intelligence and semiconductors, and accelerate new material development to ensure stable supply chains.

For January-August, industrial firms’ profits fell 4.4% from a year earlier to 3.72 trillion yuan, better than the 8.1% decrease in the first seven months.

Liabilities at industrial firms rose 6.6% on-year at end-August, edging higher than the 6.5% at end-July.

Earnings at state-owned industrial firms were down 17% on an annual basis for the first eight months of the year, versus a 23.5% decline in the first seven months.

Private-sector profits fell 3.3% in January-August, narrowing from January-July’s 5.3% fall.

Reporting by Luoyan Liu and Engen Tham in Shanghai; Editing by William Mallard and Stephen Coates

Source: Reuters “China’s industrial profits grow for fourth straight month”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Chinese Navy Crafts Unmanned Sea Hunter Knock-off


By: H I Sutton

September 25, 2020 11:07 AM

Chinese Navy USV

A candid photograph posted on Chinese social media sheds light on a Chinese project to develop an unmanned ship similar to the U.S. Navy’s Sea Hunter. The trimaran is remarkably similar to the Sea Hunter in almost every respect.

Although the designation of the project is unknown, based on imagery analysis, the builder and dimensions have been established.

The uncrewed Sea Hunter has been designed under the Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. The uncrewed surface vessel’s (USV) primary mission is to track quiet diesel-electric submarines. It is designed to “lock on” to a submarine and trail it continuously.

Platforms of this size and with this autonomy may have additional capabilities. But the inference is that China may seek the same capability as the Navy’s Sea Hunter.

Due to their higher speed, nuclear-powered submarines could out-run the USV, so the U.S. Navy’s own submarine should be largely immune. But other countries in China’s area of interest — notably Japan, Australia and India — all have diesel-electric submarines.

HI Sutton Image, used with permission

Compared to the Sea Hunter, the Chinese vessel is slightly longer (based on measurements in satellite images) and wider, so it may have a higher displacement. It is narrower overall, however due to the closer placed trimaran outriggers.

The Chinese vessel has been built by Jiang Tongfang New Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. In Jiujiang City, Jiangxi. Based on historic satellite imagery, the vessel was launched before August 30, 2019. The yard, on the banks of the Yangtze River, is 760 km (470 miles) from the sea. It is unclear whether it is an official Chinese government-funded program or a private venture. Jiang Tongfang New Shipbuilding is known to build government vessels but is not generally associated with the Chinese Navy (PLAN).

Chinese firms have already unveiled several USVs. These include armed models such as the Tianxing-1 unveiled at the 2017 China Marine Economy Expo in Zhanjiang. That uses a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) hull and is armed with a machine gun, likely of 12.7 mm. And more recently the Chinese unveiled the JARI catamaran, which is armed with a 30mm canon, surface-to-air missiles and two anti-submarine torpedoes. But both these drone vessels are a fraction of the size of the new trimaran USV.

PLA KJ-600

The main benefit of the increased size should be range and seakeeping. The U.S. Navy’s Sea Hunter is almost identical in size and boasts ‘transoceanic’ ranges.

While Chinese defense manufacturers have a reputation for copying, this vessel is unusual in the degree to which it appears based on an American design. But it is not alone in that respect. China’s new KJ-600 carrier-borne airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft is a dead ringer of the E-2 Hawkeye family.

Only one prototype of the Chinese “Sea Hunter” drone is known and it appears to still be at the shipyard. More details may emerge, especially if it is a government or export project.

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.

Source: USNI News “Chinese Navy Crafts Unmanned Sea Hunter Knock-off”

Note: This is USNI News’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Prospects for game-changers in submarine-detection technology


22 Aug 2020|Sebastian Brixey-WilliamsUndersea deterrence

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Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) has always been a game of hide and seek, with adversarial states looking to adopt and deploy emerging technologies in submarine stealth or detection to give them the strategic edge. The advantage has shifted back and forth, but, on the whole, it has proved easier to hide a submarine than find one: the oceans are wide, deep, dark, noisy, irregular and cluttered.

Technological change can alter the balance of military power, however, and parallel technological trends facilitated by the ‘digital revolution’ may gradually make submarine detection more reliable. Certain scientific or technical breakthroughs and investments may even prove to be game-changers for submarine detection—defined here as a combination of technologies that significantly reduce or even eliminate a state’s confidence that its submarines can elude tracking and remain undetected most of the time.

History cautions that there can be no jumping to conclusions, however. Truly game-changing ASW technologies have been awaited for decades and are by nature difficult to predict. This was clearly expressed in Western deterrence and arms-control literature in the 1970s and 1980s, which reflected fits of ‘transparent oceans anxiety’: a persistent and partially unfalsifiable disquiet that a technological innovation could make the oceans transparent and undermine strategic stability by making US nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) sitting ducks in a bolt-from-the-blue first-strike attack. Technologies available towards the end of the Cold War were insufficient to give seekers the advantage that some analysts predicted and, as Owen Cote notes, also contributed directly to the development of effective countermeasures that ensured the survivability of US SSBNs. After the Cold War, the notion that submarines (above all, SSBNs) were ‘invisible’ became politically unassailable.

Several articles and studies in recent years have revisited the survivability of SSBNs, for which game-changers would perhaps have the greatest consequences for international security. As Norman Friedman notes, ‘strategic submarines seem to be key to strategic stability’, providing what is generally believed to be the most survivable nuclear second-strike force. Friedman marshals some of the limited evidence available in the public sphere, but is deliberately cautious about making bold and certain predictions.

The technologies outlined here relate primarily to emerging ASW capabilities developed by the US, which has higher levels of transparency about its SSBN capabilities and nuclear strategy than other countries, but it may be assumed that similar technologies will proliferate to other navies.

Sensor platforms

ASW traditionally relies on a limited number of costly manned platforms such as attack submarines (SSNs and SSKs), frigates and maritime patrol aircraft fitted with a variety of sensors. Today, there’s evidence of a move away from this model towards unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) fitted with equivalent sensors, which are more expendable and are becoming cheaper to develop, produce, modify and deploy at scale. Navies are indicating that this is the direction of travel; as Robert Brizzolara, a US Office of Naval Research program officer, states: ‘The U.S. military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing “king” and “queen” pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of “pawns”.’

A prime example is the US Navy’s medium displacement USV, or MDUSV. The prototype launched in April 2016, Sea Hunter, was reported to have demonstrated autonomous SSK detection and tracking from the ocean surface from 3.2 kilometres away, requiring only sparse remote supervisory control for patrols of three months, using a combination of ‘advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms’. Since the range and resolution of acoustic sensors are highly variable according to oceanic conditions (such as depth, temperature and salinity), the range may well go further in favourable conditions; a Chinese estimate puts it at 18 kilometres. Since SSKs using air-independent propulsion or running on batteries are virtually silent, MDUSVs should theoretically be capable of pursuing SSNs and SSBNs (whose nuclear reactors continuously emit noise) at greater distances, and there are reports that they will be armed.

Whereas the new US FFG(X) frigate costs a sizeable US$1 billion per ship, MDUSV platforms are reported to cost only US$20 million each and so could conceivably be produced at scale to autonomously or semi-autonomously seek and trail submarines. Former US deputy defence secretary Robert Work has suggested as much: ‘These will be everywhere.’

Signal processing

ASW relies on separating tiny submarine signals from background ocean noise, primarily by using active and passive acoustic sensing (sonar) and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD), and it looks likely that these will remain the most important signals in the near future. However, the range of signals may grow as sensor resolution, processing power and machine autonomy reach the necessary thresholds to reliably separate other, ‘quieter’ kinds of signal. As Bryan Clark notes, ‘While the physics behind most [non-acoustic detection] techniques has been known for decades, they have not been exploitable until very recently because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine.’ However, he adds there’s now ‘the capability to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time’.

No breakthroughs have been publicly disclosed, though an independent investigation by British Pugwash in 2016 identified light detection and ranging, or LIDAR, using blue–green lasers; anti-neutrino detection; and satellite wake detection as signal types that may merit further examination. Higher processing power can also enable digital sensor fusion, whereby different kinds of signal are synthesised and analysed together, and better simulations of the baseline ocean environment, which would show up anomalies in greater contrast.

Persistent observation

Tracking submarines across large areas of ocean remains a key challenge for ASW. Manned platforms have limited ranges, and while the US Navy’s passive sonar system, SOSUS, is still in operation in parts, it is geographically bounded and requires substantial modernisation to detect today’s quiet submarines. This gap has been partially filled by modern acoustic sensor arrays like the fixed reliable acoustic path, but in relative terms these cover very small areas of ocean.

Distributed remote sensing networks, however, which link interoperable manned and unmanned sensor platforms together as nodes in a larger system of systems, could be used to scale up persistent observation across wider areas. Networks in development include the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) distributed agile submarine hunting program, which is developing ‘a scalable number of collaborative sensor platforms to detect and track submarines over large areas’, and PLUSNet (persistent littoral undersea surveillance network), which aims to create ‘a semi-autonomous controlled network of fixed bottom and mobile sensors, potentially mounted on intelligent [unmanned platforms]’ in littoral zones.

Networks of this type could be greater than the sum of their parts, with nodes able to carry heterogeneous sensors, cross-reference positive signals from multiple directions and domains, and move and respond to get a better look at signals using real-time swarming. A video of a 56-strong ‘shark swarm’ of Chinese USVs conducting complex manoeuvres on the sea surface has demonstrated that USV swarming is already possible, and the size of swarms can be expected to grow considerably just as it has for UAVs. It’s easy to imagine fleets of MDUSVs being used in the same way, potentially much further apart. Some technical challenges remain, including scaling up to blue water and improving underwater communication, autonomous decision-making, self-location and battery life, but none appear insurmountable and some of the physical limitations felt by a single vehicle can be mitigated by swarming.

Sensor resolution

While it seems likely that the proliferation of distributed remote sensing networks could decrease the importance of extending sensor range and resolution as the quantity of platforms goes up, the two principal ASW sensor types (sonar and MAD) have, or are hoped to enjoy, significant improvements in resolution on their Cold War antecedents.

Acoustic sensing in peacetime relies mostly on passive sonar, as active sonar ‘pings’ of adversary submarines risk a hostile response and disrupt ocean fauna. Recent techniques under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Undersea Remote Sensing, which use particular features of the ocean as acoustic waveguides for efficient long-range propagation, offer the potential for significantly greater ranges to detect and classify submarines under certain conditions. The POAWRS (passive ocean acoustic waveguide remote sensing) system was able to ‘detect, localise and classify vocalising [marine mammals] from multiple species instantaneously’ over a region of approximately 100,000 square kilometres, and detect quiet diesel-electric surface vessels ‘over areas spanning roughly 200 kilometres in diameter’ (30,000 square kilometres). The active variant (OAWRS) can localise manmade objects as short as 10 metres over areas 100 kilometres in diameter (8,000 square kilometres), provided the resonant frequencies scattered by the object are known. Crucially, by using many frequencies transmitted at once—multi-frequency measurements—the system can distinguish fish or seafloor clutter from manmade targets. POAWRS can also be mounted on unmanned vehicles and used to detect larger manmade objects like submarines, even if their signal is partially mitigated by acoustic cloaking.

Today’s MAD magnetometers can detect a submarine’s ferromagnetic hull at a maximum range of several hundred metres. The use of more sensitive magnetometers with a range around an order of magnitude higher, known as superconducting quantum interference devices, or SQUIDs, has been limited by their oversensitivity to background noise and their need for super-cooling.

However, in June 2017, an announcement by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was later taken down, claimed that a Chinese team had produced a ‘superconductive magnetic anomaly detection array’, which technical experts indicated could have ASW applications and could contribute to a wider strategy to create a ‘Great Underwater Wall’ to monitor underwater traffic in and out of the South China Sea. One expert in magnets estimated that such an array could have a range of 6 kilometres or further. If this technology can be proved to work and be mounted on unmanned platforms, it could have significant implications for shorter-range submarine detection, though these reports remain unverified in the public domain.

Data transmission speed

Most data can be transmitted in ‘nearly real time’ through air. Undersea communications are more challenging, as radio waves are heavily absorbed by water. While acoustic signals can be used, this has remained an expensive technique involving significant processing power. As a workaround, DARPA’s POSYDON (positioning system for deep ocean navigation) program looks to relay data between UUVs via low-frequency acoustic messages to USVs, and from them by radio to satellites, which can make use of radio waves.

Meanwhile, a team at Newcastle University in the UK has developed ultra-low-cost acoustic ‘nanomodems’, which can send data via sound up to 2 kilometres for use in short-range underwater networks. Improving the ‘intelligence’ of each node in the network so it can discriminate useful data and minimise data packets would also increase the speed of transmission.

Hurdles still remain, but it seems that low-cost workarounds can be found.

Conclusion

The introduction of autonomous, unmanned platforms mounted with improving and digitally fused sensors, integrated within cooperative systems, will enable wider surveillance of the ocean. One effect may be to elevate the reliability of submarine detection and, in some circumstances, these technologies could prove to be game-changers that tip the balance in the favour of ASW. Nevertheless, because the history of science and technology is littered with unforeseen obstacles and elusive breakthroughs, and because many of these technologies are currently classified, it’s difficult to offer any kind of firm timeline for game-changers in ASW.

According to James Clay Moltz at the US Naval Postgraduate School, writing in 2012, some ‘emerging autonomous-tracking technologies … are likely to be widely available within the next 20 years … [raising] the prospects for successful ASW against US forces’. If this proves correct, in spite of the United States’ world-leading stealth technologies, it would imply that nuclear-capable states in the Indo-Pacific deploying relatively noisy SSBNs might have even weaker prospects of survival by the early 2030s. This would have important implications for India’s first-generation Arihandt-class SSBN and China’s Type 094, for example.

As the technological picture becomes clearer, future work will need to continually evaluate the relative gains and losses in detection and survivability that these technologies could provide to each state, and offer tangible responses to reduce strategic nuclear risks both in the region and globally.

This piece was produced as part of the  Indo-Pacific Strategy: Undersea Deterrence Project, undertaken by the  ANU National Security College. This article is a modified version of chapter 19, ‘Prospects for game-changers in detection technology’, published in the 2020 edited volume  The future of the undersea deterrent: a global survey. Support for this project was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

AUTHOR

Sebastian Brixey-Williams is co-director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and a nuclear weapons expert with a special focus on nuclear responsibilities, emerging technologies, risk reduction and disarmament politics. Image: DARPA.

Source: ASPI The Strategist “Prospects for game-changers in submarine-detection technology”

Note: This is ASPI The Strategist’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


The U.S. Government Made a Powerful New Kind of Nuclear Fuel


It’s part uranium, part thorium, and it may just save America’s nuclear program.

BY CAROLINE DELBERT

SEP 24, 2020

thorium pellets PALLAVA BAGLA

A new, U.S.-made nuclear fuel could improve outcomes in existing nuclear plants.

Thorium is a popular talking point as a way to “clean up” nuclear energy.

One advocate says having a U.S. nuclear product also improves our diplomatic position.

Could a new blended thorium fuel improve U.S. nuclear power’s outlook? Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory have a new fuel called Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life, or ANEEL. It’s a proprietary mix of thorium and low-enriched uranium, and Forbes’s James Conca says it could help close the gap in a near future where nuclear seems like the only option.

The mix itself is a secret, but thorium—pictured above in pellet form—has continued to gain momentum as an alternative nuclear fuel.

THORIUM: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

What Are Thorium Nuclear Plants?

[T]horium has a higher melting point and lower operating temperature which makes it inherently safer than straight U and more resistant to core meltdowns,” Conca explains:

The ANEEL fuel has a very high fuel burn-up rate[, which] means the fuel stays in the reactor longer and gets more energy out of the same amount of fuel. [It’s] prohibitively difficult to make into a weapon. [And] ANEEL fuel will reduce the waste by over 80% and end up with much less plutonium. Less spent fuel means less refueling, less cost, less fuel handling and less volume to dispose.”

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Thorium has a number of advantages over uranium, and especially over highly enriched uranium. Yes, thorium must be paired with at least a small amount of a fissile material, because it isn’t naturally fissile on its own. But it’s much more plentiful than uranium and found in high quantities in the kinds of developing markets where Conca says nuclear will be clutch in coming decades—starting with India.

India itself has more Th than U, particularly as monazite sands, a reason they have been pursuing Th in nuclear reactors for decades,” Conca writes. This, he suggests, lends itself to a more mutually beneficial arrangement where Indian thorium can be turned into U.S.-made ANEEL fuel and then exported to India.

In turn, this can lead to improved diplomacy. “Whenever the United States is involved in another country’s nuclear program, that country signs various agreements related to security, weapons nonproliferation and nuclear materials, including nuclear fuel,” Conca explains.

Source: Popular Mechanics “The U.S. Government Made a Powerful New Kind of Nuclear Fuel”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Some 3,500 U.S. companies sue over Trump-imposed Chinese tariffs


By David Shepardson

SEPTEMBER 26, 202010:35 AMUPDATED 44 MINUTES AGO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – About 3,500 U.S. companies, including Tesla Inc TSLA.O, Ford Motor Co F.N, Target Corp TGT.N, Walgreen Co WBA.O and Home Depot HD.N have sued the Trump administration in the last two weeks over the imposition of tariffs on more than $300 billion (£235.35 billion) in Chinese-made goods.

The suits, filed in the U.S. Court of International Trade, named U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the Customs and Border Protection agency and challenge what they call the unlawful escalation of the U.S. trade war with China through the imposition of a third and fourth round of tariffs.

The legal challenges from a wide variety of companies argue the Trump administration failed to impose tariffs within a required 12-month period and did not comply with administrative procedures.

The companies challenge the administration’s “unbounded and unlimited trade war impacting billions of dollars in goods imported from the People’s Republic of China by importers in the United States,” according to a suit filed by auto parts manufacturer Dana Corp DAN.N.

The suits challenge tariffs in two separate groups known as List 3 and List 4A.” List 3 includes 25% tariffs on about $200 billion in imports, while List 4A included 7.5% tariffs on $120 billion in goods.

One suit argues the administration cannot expand tariffs to other Chinese imports “for reasons untethered to the unfair intellectual property policies and practices it originally investigated.”

Companies filing suit include heavy truck manufacturer Volvo Group North America VOLVb.ST, U.S. auto parts retailer Pep Boys, clothing company Ralph Lauren, Sysco Corp SYY.N, guitar manufacturer Gibson Brands, Lenovo’s 0992.HK U.S. unit, Dole Packaged Foods, a unit of Itochu Corp 8001.T and golf equipment manufacturer Callaway Golf Co.

Home Depot’s suit noted it faces tariffs on bamboo flooring, cordless drills and many other Chinese-made products. Walgreen, a unit of the Walgreen Boots Alliance, said it is paying higher tariffs on products like “seasonal novelties; party, first aid, and office supplies; and household essentials.”

Lighthizer’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Sept. 15, the World Trade Organization found the United States breached global trading rules by imposing multibillion-dollar tariffs in Trump’s trade war with China.

The Trump administration says tariffs on Chinese goods were justified because China was stealing intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to transfer technology for access to China’s markets.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown

Source: Reuters “Some 3,500 U.S. companies sue over Trump-imposed Chinese tariffs”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Why Can Intel and AMD Sell Chips to Huawei Again?


The ban on chip sales to Huawei didn’t last very long.

Leo Sun

Sep 25, 2020 at 8:45AM

On Sept. 15, new restrictions barring sales of U.S. components to Chinese tech giant Huawei went into effect. Those rules would have prevented Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), AMD (NASDAQ:AMD), and other American chipmakers from selling any new chips to Huawei.

But shortly after that deadline passed, Intel and AMD announced they had obtained special government licenses that will enable them to continue selling chips to Huawei. Let’s see how Intel and AMD obtained those licenses, and what they mean to the tech war between the U.S. and China.

Why does Huawei need American chipmakers?

Huawei installs Intel and AMD’s x86 CPUs in its PCs and servers, as well as Intel’s Altera FPGA (field programmable gate array) chips in its 5G base stations. Huawei develops its own Arm-based CPUs via its HiSilicon subsidiary, but those chips are less powerful than Intel and AMD’s chips. Huawei depends on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE:TSM) to produce those chips — but the Taiwanese contract chipmaker stopped taking its orders to comply with tighter U.S. regulations earlier this year.

Those restrictions also cut Huawei’s smartphone business off from Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) mobile chips. To make matters worse, NVIDIA’s (NASDAQ:NVDA) planned takeover of Arm Holdings could eventually cut HiSilicon and other Chinese chipmakers off from Arm-based designs — which account for over 95% of all smartphone chips worldwide.

Simply put, the U.S. could have cut Huawei off from the industry’s most powerful PC and mobile chips with its latest restrictions. That’s why the 11th-hour license approvals for Intel and AMD were surprising — the U.S. clearly had Huawei on the ropes, but it’s now backing up and giving the Chinese tech giant time to recover.

Why would the government grant Intel and AMD licenses?

The details regarding the new licenses are vague, but they’ll reportedly allow Intel and AMD to sell “certain” types of chips to Huawei.

AMD’s EESC (enterprise, embedded, and semi-custom) chief Forrest Norrod recently said that, based on its recent license approvals, the chipmaker wouldn’t experience a “significant impact” from the latest trade restrictions. Intel has been less forthcoming about the overall impact to its business, and merely confirmed it could sell chips to Huawei again.

AMD’s statement suggests that both chipmakers will continue selling PC and server CPUs to Huawei. Intel already supplies server-class CPUs to Inspur, China’s top server company, and stated back in July that the latest trade restrictions wouldn’t affect those shipments. Intel previously supplied supercomputer-class chips to the Chinese government, but the Obama administration banned those shipments five years ago. Therefore, Intel’s PC and data center businesses in China should remain fairly stable.

However, Intel’s FPGA business, which generates most of its programmable solutions group (PSG) revenue, faces a less certain future in China because its Altera chips power Huawei’s 5G stations (these are a major flashpoint in the escalating tech war between the U.S. and China). Intel’s statement about “certain” types of chips hints that those chips could still be banned.

Yet Intel can afford to lose those orders since its PSG business generated just 2.5% of its revenue last quarter. Intel doesn’t disclose the PSG segment’s exact revenue from China, but we know that the chipmaker generated 28% of its total revenue in China last year. As such, Intel’s FPGA sales to Huawei likely account for less than 1% of its total revenue.

Hesitation on both sides

These new license approvals should allay some concerns about Intel and AMD’s future in China, but they also indicate the Trump administration isn’t ready to completely cut Huawei off from American chips. That hesitation mirrors the Chinese government’s reluctance to blacklist U.S. tech companies.

Both sides seem hesitant because their technologies and businesses are still too tightly intertwined. Moreover, cutting off Huawei from American chips would force Chinese chipmakers to accelerate the development of their own domestic chips — which could harm American chipmakers over the long run.

Source: The Money Fool “Why Can Intel and AMD Sell Chips to Huawei Again?”

Note: This is The Money Fool’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Is China About to Give Its Best Fighters Powerful New Jet Engines?


A game-changer?

by Sebastien Roblin

March 5, 2020

Key point: Beijing wants the best for its vaunted fighter jets. And that means better engines to allow them to compete with America’s finest.

In a 2018 Zhuhai airshow in China, a specially modified Chengdu J-10B single-engine multi-role jet wowed audiences with a series of jaw-dropping maneuvers including the famous Pugachev’s Cobra and the Falling Leaf, in which the diving aircraft spun laterally on its horizontal aircraft as it seemingly floated lazily towards the ground. You can see the stunts in this video.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Like its American counterpart the F-16 jet, the J-10—dubbed the Vigorous Dragon, or the Firebird by NATO—is a quite agile fourth-generation jet with an aerodynamically unstable airframe that has to be regulated by its flight control computer. But such maneuvers would have been impossible for a regular plane relying entirely upon conventional flight controls.

The secret-sauce in the J-10B at Zhuhai was its powerplant: instead of the usual Russian AL-31F(N) turbofan, it boasted a WS-10B Taihang engine normally reserved for use on the larger twin-engine Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter.

More importantly, this particular Taihang (labeled the WS-10G in some sources) was modified with three-dimensional Thrust Vector Controls (TVC) allowing the pilot to redirect the engine’s thrust by tilting the exhaust nozzles side by side as well as up and down.

This enhances the jet’s ability to adjust pitch, roll and yaw, granting the J-10B super-maneuverable flight characteristics, in which the pilot retains control of the aircraft during a stall, unlike for a conventional plane.

Aside from various testbeds, the United States only operationally deploys a single TVC-equipped fighter, the super high-performing F-22 Raptor air superiority stealth fighter equipped with two-dimensional TVC. Lockheed did not incorporate TVC in the later F-35 Lightning attack-oriented stealth jet.

Russia has adopted TVC engines on a larger-scale in the fourth-generation Su-30MK, Su-35S and MiG-35 fighters, as well as its Su-57 stealth fighter. China’s purchase of 36 Su-35 fighters in 2016 likely gave it access to technology it used to inform the TVC-equipped WS-10.

The ability to perform tight maneuvers is obviously slick card for pilots to hold up their sleeve in a within-visual range dogfight, potentially allowing them to outmaneuver nearby foes and possibly dodge an incoming missile.

But the value of incorporating heavier and more expensive TVC engines remains debated in Western aviation circles, because performing such extreme maneuvers drains away the jet’s energy in terms of speed and altitude that can be traded for speed. That means that a tight maneuver may pay off against an immediate threat, but then leave the TVC-equipped jet in question a ponderous state in which it would struggle to evade follow-up attacks.

It’s alleged that over-reliance on thrust-vectoring led to the defeat of Indian Air Force Su-30MKI fighters which dueled American F-15C jets in a Red Flag exercise in 2008.

Another issue is that the advent of high-off-boresight missiles like the American AIM-9X and Russian R-73 missiles and helmet-mounted sights on the latest fourth-generation fighters allow pilots to launch short-range air-to-air missiles at targets without having the nose of the plane pointed at them (though being so positioned remains desirable due to the added momentum.) This reduces, but hardly eliminates, the advantages granted by superior maneuverability.

The Troubled Taihang

Photos have revealed additional J-10Bs and more advanced J-10Cs modified as WS-10B testbeds, both with and without thrust-vectoring. in November 2019, photos emerged of a yellow composite-skinned J-10C with production model serials equipped with higher-thrust non-TVC WS-10B turbofans.

Furthermore, a J-20 stealth fighter testbed equipped with a thrust-vectoring engine is also known to exist.

China has for years struggled to get its indigenous WS-10 turbofans, particularly their metallurgy and single-crystal fan blades, to perform to the specifications and reliability required of them. Reportedly, early WS-10s had to be returned to the factory for refurbishment after only a few dozen flight hours.

For that reason, its J-20 stealth fighters often make do with lower-thrust Russian AL-31F engines, and so the beastly stealth jet has yet to attain its full projected performance characteristics.

After years of refinements, J-10 and J-20 manufacturer CAIG hopes the WS-10B model marks a more consistent step up in thrust and performance while China completes the development of a much higher-performance WS-15 turbofan.

The WS-15 is projected to generate 40,000 pounds of thrust, possibly boosting J-20 speeds to the point it can super cruise—fly supersonic in level flight without using fuel-gulping afterburners. The WS-15 is also speculated to feature three-dimensional thrust vectoring.

The question that emerges, therefore is whether the multiple J-10 TVC testbeds indicate China intends to build a higher-thrust, and possibly thrust-vectoring J-10D production model to succeed its very respectable J-10C fighter (detailed further in a companion article).

Or do the tests instead indicate CAIG’s focus on making thrust-vectoring J-20 stealth fighters? Dr. Andreas Rupprecht, author of the Modern Chinese Warplanes series of books, told Defense News earlier in 2019 it’s more likely that the J-10 engine testbeds are being used to test capabilities that will make their way into new WS-15 engine planned for the J-20.

The predominant theory in western circles is that beefy J-20 is exhibiting high-speed but inferior maneuverability, making it best suited for hit-and-run style attacks. But China’s evident sustained interest in testing agility-enhancing TVC engines may support a counternarrative that the J-20 is intended to evolve into a more well-rounded jet once upgraded with new engines, one that could more than hold its own in within-visual range combat.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.


Economist Stephen Roach issues new dollar crash warning, sees double-dip recession odds above 50%


PUBLISHED WED, SEP 23 20207:11 PM EDTUPDATED WED, SEP 23 20208:18 PM EDT

Stephanie Landsman

Roach’s dollar warning

New evidence supports ‘seemingly crazed idea’ that dollar will crash: Stephen Roach

Economist Stephen Roach warns next year will be brutal for the dollar.

Not only does he see growing odds of a double-dip recession, the Yale University senior fellow believes his “seemingly crazed idea” that the dollar would crash shouldn’t be so crazy anymore.

We’ve got data that’s confirmed both the saving and current account dynamic in a much more dramatic fashion than even I was looking for,” Roach told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Wednesday.

Roach highlights two ominous second quarter figures.

The current account deficit in the United States, which is the broadest measure of our international imbalance with the rest of the world, suffered a record deterioration in the second quarter,” he said. “The so-called net-national savings rate, which is the sum of savings of individuals, businesses and the government sector, also recorded a record decline in the second quarter going back into negative territory for the first time since the global financial crisis.”

Right now, the U.S. Dollar Index is trading around 94. When Roach predicted on “Trading Nation” last June the index would plunge 35%, it was trading around 96.

At the time, Roach estimated it would happen in the next year or two, maybe more. But now, he sees it happening by the end of 2021.

Lacking in saving and wanting to grow, we run these current account deficits to borrow surplus saving, and that always pushes the currencies lower,” he said. “The dollar is not immune to that time honored adjustment.”

Roach, who’s former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and lived in Asia during the deadly 2003 SARS epidemic, is also worried about the state of the economic recovery as U.S. coronavirus deaths top 200,000 and Europe sees a resurgence in infections.

He puts the probability of a U.S. double-dip recession above 50%.

As we head into flu season with the new infection rates moving back up again with mortality unacceptably high, the risk of an aftershock is not something you can dismiss,” Roach said. “The record of history suggests that this is not a time unlike what the frothy markets are doing to bet that this is different.”

Source: CNBC “Economist Stephen Roach issues new dollar crash warning, sees double-dip recession odds above 50%”

Note: This is CNBC’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


The F-22 imperative


By: David A. Deptula and Douglas Birkey, Mitchell Institute   May 28

126

Says Dave Deptula and Douglas Birkey of Mitchell Institute call the F-22 “the crown jewels in the nation’s military arsenal.” (Air Force)

The loss of an F-22 Raptor during a training flight on May 15 serves as a wake-up call regarding the size of the Raptor inventory.

Tunnel vision over a decade ago related to counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq saw the nation buy too few F-22s, with just 187 purchased versus the 381 official military requirement. Now, with those wars largely in the rear-view mirror and a new National Defense Strategy, the capability attributes afforded by the F-22 are more important than ever.

These 5th generation stealth aircraft are the crown jewels in the nation’s military arsenal. The recent crash reinforces the need to double down on the F-22 force by fully funding necessary upgrades. No other capability — U.S. or foreign — will come close to the F-22 for years into the future. It is important that budget and inventory management decisions mirror that reality.

The F-22’s primary mission is to secure air superiority — a condition vital for any successful military operation. While the aircraft can also strike targets on the ground with great precision, and conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance inside contested airspace, at its heart the Raptor will remain an air-to-air champion. Because of its vast array of capabilities — not all known — the F-22 is our nation’s greatest conventional deterrent. While the current force size is small relative to other fighter forces, the F-22 has — at a minimum — an order of magnitude greater effect than any other fighter in the world.

The F-22 is a fundamentally unique airplane due to the unparalleled integration of stealth, sensor technology, processing power, and unrivaled flight performance. While many fighters have some elements of this mix, none possess the total package afforded by the F-22. Stealth makes it exceedingly difficult for an enemy to close the kill chain. Sensors and processing power allow it to understand the battlespace with tremendous acumen — allowing F-22s to be at the right place and time to achieve desired effects while minimizing vulnerabilities. Its flight characteristics of speed and maneuverability are simply unequaled by any other aircraft. Anyone questioning the value of the F-22 should consider why friends and foes alike are all pursuing options to develop like-capabilities — they are game-changing.

The fact that the nation needs more F-22s is not rocket science. However, since the F-22 production line closed years ago, this is not a feasible option. Ensuring the F-35 — a plane designed to complement the F-22 with a greater focus on ground attack — does not repeat this same mistake is certainly an important lesson. That aircraft is also an essential investment in our aerial arsenal. In fact, a greater F-35 annual buy-rate becomes more important given the small F-22 force. Future next generation air dominance concepts must also proceed. However, COVID-19-related budget pressures are likely going to delay meaningful advancement in this regard. Plans that exist at the PowerPoint level and theoretical operational concepts must not be confused with concrete capabilities that are able to meet current and future challenges. Further investments in aging designs like the F-16 and F-15, originally designed a half a century ago, simply fail to meet modern requirements. While these aircraft will remain an important part of the inventory out of necessity, their operational utility will diminish given they do not address the challenges that will increasingly dominate the security environment.

This leaves the F-22 as the nation’s keystone air superiority capability. Adversaries respect the aircraft and that is precisely why they are regularly deployed as a signal of resolve. If conflict erupts, F-22s will be at the forefront of operations. This places an extreme imperative upon funding Raptor upgrades to ensure they remain viable for years into the future. The most cost-effective way to increase the capacity of the F-22 force is to upgrade the 33 older block 20 F-22s used for training and test to full combat capability. This effects-based option would result in an additional squadron of F-22s for a minuscule fraction of the cost of attaining 5th generation fighter capacity any other way. For those who focus on cost, are they prepared to pay the price of not having the entire F-22 force at its peak potential? That bill would be measured in strategic objectives surrendered, significant force attrition, and lives lost.

Canceling the F-22’s production with half the military requirement unmet was a tragedy whose impact will be felt for years. However, that is runway behind us. What matters now is how we make the most of the F-22s we do have. Upgrading the older block 20 force of F-22s to full combat capability will deliver a very clear message to potential adversaries. It all comes down to real capability and capacity with the F-22s we possess. Let’s optimize that number. The security challenges of today and tomorrow demand nothing less.

David Deptula is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general with more than 3,000 flying hours. He planned the Desert Storm air campaign, orchestrated air operations over Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power Studies. Douglas Birkey is the executive director of the Mitchell Institute, where he researches issues relating to the future of aerospace and national security.

Source: Defense One “The F-22 imperative”

Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Could Pakistan Move to Make Gilgit-Baltistan a New Province Soon?


Islamabad’s decision will factor in several domestic and geopolitical considerations.

By Abhijnan Rej

September 23, 2020

Media reports last week suggested that Pakistan may declare Gilgit-Baltistan — a part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan as an autonomous territory but also claimed by India — to be a full-fledged province in the near future. According to reports, on September 16 Pakistan’s Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs, Ali Amin Gandapur, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit the region “soon” and make the official announcement. Since India’s decision in August 2019 to revoke the special constitutionally-guaranteed autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad has been struggling for an appropriate response – which, so far, has only taken the form of attempts to raise the Kashmir issue at the U.N. and the release of a new political map that marked India and Pakistan-administered Kashmir with the same color.

To be sure, if Pakistan was to revoke Gilgit-Baltistan’s autonomy, it would be much more consequential – and potentially fraught with risks. But such a decision is most likely to be taken in consultation with – if not dictated outright by – Pakistan’s powerful army and its chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Also at play is a renewed opposition push in Pakistan against (what the opposition calls) “selected prime minister” Khan. After a year’s silence, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched a strident attack against Khan on September 20 “accusing him of only reaching power through a vote rigged by the country’s powerful military,” according to one report of a conference of opposition parties. Whether Khan, who nominally enjoys the support of the military, will deflect Sharif’s attack by showing his resolve around Kashmir — an issue around which he can rally people — or (conjecturally) consolidate the army’s backing by adopting a muscular approach on the region remains to be seen. But any Pakistani decision on Gilgit-Baltistan will have to factor China’s significant investments in the region, as well as the ongoing India-China military standoff “next door,” in eastern Ladakh.

Let’s start with the domestic-political angle. Pakistan’s three major opposition political parties – the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and the Pakistan People’s Party – announced a joint decision Sunday to launch a “three-phased anti-government movement” beginning next month and lasting till January next year with the aim to oust Khan from office. If this alliance manages to sustain itself, and some Pakistani observers remain skeptical, it stands to put significant pressure on Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. But much would depend on Khan’s own assessment of the probability of something like that materializing. If he assesses that the alliance has the ability to stay its stated course, Khan might try to earn a quick win from the COVID-19 battered public with a decision around Gilgit-Baltistan to preemptively deflect some of the heat, and especially so if it buys him more goodwill with Bajwa which would, then, go on to help him consolidate his rule.

But Khan’s domestic-political calculus pails in significance compared to what the Pakistan army may – or may not – have in mind when it comes to drawing up a course of action for Pakistan-administered Kashmir (which currently comprises the autonomous “Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” along with Gilgit-Baltistan) as well as India. While soon after India’s August 2019 decision Bajwa spoke out — noting that his army was “prepared” and would “go to any extent to fulfill our obligations” to the Kashmiri cause — Pakistan’s coercive military options to force India to the negotiating table on Kashmir are limited. Any solo Pakistani military push around Kashmir at the moment is a non-starter given the significant Indian military presence in the region, especially as Indian planners find themselves confronting the possibility of a two-front India-China war.

Paradoxically, given these circumstances, Bajwa may indeed sign off on a plan to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan into the Pakistani state – a move that will irk India considerably, but one to which New Delhi will have no meaningful reply given China’s military buildup in Ladakh. In fact, it is plausible that the India-China standoff creates an opening for Pakistan to establish a notional parity with India – just as India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019, Pakistan, by doing the same in Gilgit-Baltistan, could call it even and call it a day.

Of course, to what extent China may agree to such a plan remains to be seen. Pakistan’s incorporation of Gilgit-Baltistan as a fifth province of the republic would stand to help China consolidate its significant investments in the region. But at the same time, given the timing New Delhi would – irrespective of how the story actually played out in reality – suspect Beijing to be a backer, if not outright instigator, of the move. That, in turn, could lead to significant hardening of India’s position in the standoff in eastern Ladakh, at a time when diplomatic options to resolve the crisis look fewer each passing day.

Source: The Diplomat “Could Pakistan Move to Make Gilgit-Baltistan a New Province Soon?”

Note: This is The Diplomat’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.