Why America’s Skipjack-Class Nuclear Submarines Were Too Successful


And Russia and China took notice. (This reblogger’s note: The article said nothing about Russia and China taking notice)

by Kyle Mizokami

September 15, 2019 (This reblogger’s note: With failure to have anything new to boast, especially US Navy’s blunders in developing Littoral Combat Ship and Zumwalt, the US resorts to nostalgia of its past glory)

Key point: The Skipjack-class was so successful that it became the basis for future submarine innovations.

The Skipjack-class submarines were arguably the first truly modern postwar submarines of the U.S. Navy. Combining two new innovations—a new high-speed hull design and nuclear power—the innovative, fish-shaped subs were the basis of all future American submarines up to the present day.

The United States Navy officially entered the Nuclear Age on September 30, 1954. That was the day the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered attack submarine ever produced, entered service. Powered by a S2W reactor, Nautilus had a virtually unlimited striking range. Nautilus was a technological triumph, heralding a new age in submarine warfare.

Although successful, Nautilus was a one-of-a-kind, proof-of-concept boat. The Skipjacks, with their improved S5W pressurized water reactors, introduced nuclear power to the bulk of the fleet. The S5W was a highly successful design that produced fifteen thousand shaft horsepower and was the standard U.S. Navy reactor until the introduction of the S6G reactor that powers the Los Angeles class. The reactor was also provided to the United Kingdom, where it powered the Royal Navy’s first nuclear powered warship, HMS Dreadnought.

Still, nuclear power represented just half of what the Skipjack class brought to the table. Although the Navy had introduced the nuclear-powered Skate-class subs to the fleet, they were built to a conventional design that made them more resemble late war submarines. As a result, their speed was limited to maximum of twenty knots. A new, hydrodynamic hull that would fully exploit the power of the reactor was needed.

In 1953 the Navy introduced a new diesel electric boat, the experimental research submarine USS Albacore. Albacore introduced a new teardrop-shaped hull, pioneered by legendary submariner Adm. Charles “Swede” Momsen. The symmetrical, tuna-like hull was a radical break from conventional, cigar-shaped hulls. While the Nautilus emphasized nuclear propulsion, Momsen wanted a submarine that was fast and agile.

Indeed, Albacore was fast—its sleek hull propelled it to twenty-six knots, and with the introduction of silver-zinc batteries and contra-rotating propellers it reached an amazing thirty-three knots. It could also turn quickly, at a rate of 3.2 degrees per second, instead of the average 2.7 degrees per second of conventional submarines.

The two innovations, a teardrop hull and nuclear power, proved complementary in the Skipjack class. Nuclear powered, the Skipjacks did not spend most of their time on the surface, and thus could dispense with design characteristics that improved seakeeping on the surface. A nuclear-powered boat could spend all of its time underwater, so it made sense to make their hulls as underwater efficient as possible.

The Skipjack’s sensor suite was centered around the BQS-4 active/passive sonar array, which had a range of six to eight thousand yards. It also had a BQR-2 passive array with a maximum detection range of thirteen thousand yards. It also had search and attack periscopes in the sail and a surface radar for navigating on the surface.

The submarines were also well armed, with six Mk. 59 bow torpedo tubes. Unlike previous classes, they did not have aft-firing torpedo tubes—their large single propeller made firing torpedoes rearward hazardous. They could fire the Mark 16 antiship torpedo, a veteran of the latter days of World War II. They could also fire the Mark 37 antisubmarine torpedo, a homing torpedo with both active and passive guidance. Eventually the single Mark 48 torpedo replaced both the Mark 16 and Mark 37. Finally, the class could also launch the Mark 45 ASTOR antisubmarine wire-guided nuclear torpedo, which had a range of eight miles and packed an eleven-kiloton nuclear warhead.

Six Skipjacks were built—Skipjack, Scamp, Scorpion, Sculpin, Shark and Snook. The third ship in the class, Scorpion, was lost with all hands in 1968 under mysterious circumstances. Although generally regarded as a success, the accelerated pace of weapon development during the Cold War ensured that a replacement for the Skipjacks was just around the corner. Just halfway though the design cycle, a new class, the Thresher class (later the Permit class, after Thresher was lost), was already on the drawing board. These kept the nuclear propulsion and teardrop hull form of their speedy predecessors, but as a larger, heavier sub were slower.

The Skipjack’s hull was later used as the basis of the first purpose-built fleet ballistic missile submarines, the USS George Washington class. A 130-foot-long missile compartment was inserted between the navigation/control areas and the nuclear reactor. Each of the five George Washington boats was fitted with sixteen Polaris A1 missiles. The first submarine-launched ballistic missile, each Polaris A1 had three two-hundred-kiloton nuclear warheads and a range of 2,500 nautical miles.

The Skipjack class was an example of how innovative new technologies can combine to produce a weapons system with vastly improved characteristics. The design was so successful that it provided a basis for future submarines, not only in the United States, but elsewhere around the world. Skipjack’s motto was “Radix Nova Tridentis,” or “Root of a New Sea Power”—an accurate description of this unique class of submarines.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article first appeared several years ago.

Source: National Interest “Why America’s Skipjack-Class Nuclear Submarines Were Too Successful”

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.


The U.S. Navy’s New Attack Submarine: The Most ‘Stealth’ Sub Ever?


We have an idea of what is to come.

by Kris Osborn June 3, 2019

The technical elements of undersea command and control, quite naturally, are being engineered with a mind to an expected increased use of underwater drones. The Navy is now moving quickly with efforts to build an entire new fleet of UUVs able to destroy mines, conduct lower risk forward surveillance, deliver supplies or even fire weapons with a “human-in-the-loop.” Capt. Pete Small, the Program Manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems, addressed this phenomenon at Sea Air Space and said the service’s now in development Orca XLUUV – Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle – is being configured to fire torpedoes.

The Navy has begun work on a new generation of attack submarines with never-before-seen weapons, quieting technology, undersea attack drones, sonar and communications networking… to emerge at some point over the next 10 years or more.

The U.S. Navy’s New Attack Submarine: The Most ‘Stealth’ Sub Ever

Will it be the stealthiest, most lethal attack submarine ever to exist? That ….is the Navy plan.

Plans for the new boats, referred to as a new fleet of Block VI Virginia Class-Attack Attack-class submarines, include launching long-range precision strikes, delivering Special Operations Forces on secret high-risk attack missions, conducting ISR missions, networking with platforms and — perhaps of greatest significance – operating undetected in high-threat waters.

Block VI will start in 2024. We are currently in the phase of looking at concepts and capabilities and determining their feasibility. Next year we will go through the decision points in terms of requirements of what we want to have in that block,” Capt. Christopher Hanson, Program Manager, Virginia Class Submarines, said at the Navy League’s 2019 Sea Air Space Symposium.

Speaking at a Naval Sea Systems Command location, Hanson specified that the new submarines will incorporate a specific emphasis upon Special Operations Forces (SOF), new weapons’ interfaces and payloads for undersea drones, Unmanned Undersea Vessels.

As part of the Block VI development, the Navy is now conducting a “SOF Optimization” Analysis of Alternatives to, among other things, find ways to engineer an attack submarine well suited for clandestine undersea SOF missions. These can include targeted attack operations, forward intelligence gathering or high-risk surveillance missions, among other things.

Hanson was clear to point out that it is not possible, at the moment, to know everything that a new submarine might include 10 years into the future. With this in mind, the service wants to architect the boats, with established standards and interfaces, so that they can easily integrate new weapons, undersea drones or networking technologies as they emerge.

Capability comes in two ways. One is the inherent design and how we build the submarine and the other piece is how we design the submarine with interface requirements for future payloads…that maybe right now are only in the power-point stage…. that can be accommodated in the future?” Hanson added.

This conceptual framework, focused on engineering “upgradeable” platforms, was anticipated in earliest days of the Virginia-class program more than 15 years ago. A 2005 Naval War College Review essay cites Virginia-class submarines as a platform benefiting from a modular, or “open architecture” approach. Since its inception, the Virginia-class was built with a mind to prepare for future upgrades, as evidenced in the essay.

One example referenced in the essay is a modernization effort called the Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (ARCI) program which, among other things, pushed “toward modularity for the Virginia-class, the SSGN and subsequent classes,” the essay states. The success of the ARCI program has continued for more than a decade since its beginning; the program’s success was cited in a 2015 DOT&E report. The DOT&E report recommend that the program begin to emphasize countermine missions, due to its track record of successful upgrades.

From a technical or engineering perspective, modularity means building a boat with a software and hardware foundation able to adjust as needed. For instance, while attack submarines currently fire Torpedoes and Tomahawks, it is entirely feasible, if not likely, that new submarine-launched weapons will exist 10 years from now. This kind of scenario is exactly what Hanson seemed to be getting at.

The Naval War College Review essay, interestingly, aligns with Hanson’s comment about the need to engineer for future technologies to permit quick integration of new systems. The essay describes it as “yet-unenvisioned equipment to be installed to counter unimagined threats, and an insistence that core enabling characteristics such as stealth never be compromised.” (From”The Submarine as a Case Study in Transformation: Implications for Future Investment,” James H. Patton Jr, 2005)

With this essay in mind, there is substantial precedent for of this kind of modular approach, looking at the multi-year trajectory of Virginia-class development; each Block has incorporated several impactful new technologies not yet present when the previous boats were built. For example, unlike Blocks I and II, Virginia-class Block III boats significantly increase firepower with the introduction of what’s called Virginia Payload Tubes adding new missile tubes able to fire 6 Tomahawks each. Block III also includes a new Large Aperture Bow “horseshoe-shaped” sonar, which switches from an “air-backed’ spherical sonar to a “water-backed” array, making it easier to maintain pressure, according to a 2014 report in “NavSource Online.”

The LAB sonar, which is both more precise and longer range than its predecessor, also advances the curve in that it introduces both a passive and “active” sonar system. Passive systems are used to essential track or “listen” for acoustic pings to identify enemy movements. This can help conceal a submarines position by not emitting a signal, yet can lack the specificity of an “active” sonar system which sends an acoustic “ping” forward. The submarine’s technology then analyzes the return signal to deliver a “rendering” of an enemy object to include its contours, speed and distance. In concept, sonar works similar to radar except that it sends acoustic signals instead of electronic ones.

When it comes to tailoring submarines for SOF missions, it would not be surprising if elements of Block IIIs “Lock Out Trunk” were built-upon or expanded for Block VI; the Lock Out Trunk introduces a new specialized area which fills up with water for departure, enabling SOF forces to more easily and quietly exit the submarine while remaining submerged.

BLOCK VI Technologies

So….. given that both future threats and future technologies are not yet known, as Hanson indicated, what might Block VI look like?

While particular technical details are often unavailable given the secret nature of these kinds of platforms, over the years senior Navy weapons developers have talked to Warrior about some of the key areas of modernization focus; these include new coating materials to make the submarines stealthier, new antennas for longer-range, more accurate undersea surveillance missions and new “quieting” engine propulsion technology, among other things.

All of these technologies, in fact, already exist in the USS South Dakota attack submarine — the most advanced submarine ever to be delivered to the Navy. The new boat, which is now operational, began as a prototype, test-bed platform to evolve these new technologies. What all of these USS South Dakota innovations amount to is that, Hanson said, they are informing current conceptual discussions now underway regarding Block VI.

Also, according to Congressional testimony in 2016, cited in a report from SeaPower magazine, former PEO Submarines Rear Adm. Michael E. Jabaley Jr., the USS South Dakota includes a DARPA-engineered Hybrid Propulsor “which brings new acoustic advantages.”

Yet another area of innovation quite likely to lay a foundation for Block VI includes Block IIIs “Fly-by-Wire” navigational controls; instead of using mechanically operated hydraulic controls, the Fly-by-Wire system uses a joystick, digital moving maps and various adaptations of computer automation to navigate the boat. This means that computer systems can control the depth and speed of the submarine, while a human remains in a command and control role. It seems almost self-evident, given rapid advances in AI and computer automation, that Block VI will include a new generation of these kinds of technologies.

The technical elements of undersea command and control, quite naturally, are being engineered with a mind to an expected increased use of underwater drones. The Navy is now moving quickly with efforts to build an entire new fleet of UUVs able to destroy mines, conduct lower risk forward surveillance, deliver supplies or even fire weapons with a “human-in-the-loop.” Capt. Pete Small, the Program Manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems, addressed this phenomenon at Sea Air Space and said the service’s now in development Orca XLUUV – Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle – is being configured to fire torpedoes.

From essentially a “lone wolf ” a decade ago, the submarine is now nearly universally accepted as a key node within network-centric warfare, the purveyor of “undersea dominance,” and an essential element of Sea Power 21 (a previously articulated Navy attack vision emphasizing information dominance),” the 2005 Naval War College Review essay writes.

Finally, the now underway Block V Virginia-class boats, known for its fire-power enhancing Virginia Payload Modules (VPM), are also contributing to Block V conversations. VPM, which increases the boats’ firepower from 12 to 40 Tomahawk missiles, changes the attack envelope.

Block 5 has some additional equipment we are developing, which will be added to the USS South Dakota. Our expectation is that that equipment is going to continue on into Block VI,” Hanson said.

Most of all, it seems apparent, plans for Block VI want to both remain flexible and explore a wide range of options.

We have a CONOPS *Concept of Operations” ground that brings in operators of other vehicles on a periodic basis so we can show them what we are looking at,” Hanson said.

Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Source: National Interest “The U.S. Navy’s New Attack Submarine: The Most ‘Stealth’ Sub Ever?”

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.


Russia Is Betting That America’s F-35 Is Too Complex To Be Useful


It is looking like a bad bet.

by Michael Peck March 27, 2020

Key point: Still, it’s hard to argue with Drozdenko’s observations that war and technology are not the same.

Surprise! America’s F-35 stealth fighter is too complicated and expensive, claims a Russian military expert interviewed by Russian media.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet while the Sputnik News interview might be dismissed as tendentious at best and propaganda at worst, it perfectly illustrates how Russia and the West view weapons technology.

“The F-35 is a very complex system and, as such, it has lots of holes, bugs and other things, and it is very difficult to debug it,” Dmitry Drozdenko told Sputnik News. “Like other problems, all this is because it is an excessively high-tech aircraft.”

Sound familiar? Russia would have made the same argument in 1943, when hordes of uncomplicated T-34 tanks faced formidable but heavily engineered and expensive German Tiger and Panther tanks. Or the American M-16 versus the AK-47, or the F-4 Phantom versus the MiG-21.

Americans are horrified when their soldiers don’t receive the most cutting-edge equipment. Russia is willing to sacrifice sophistication for simplicity.

Drozdenko also declared to Sputnik News that “unlike us, the Americans rely too much on stealth. However, radar technology is developing fast and invisibility is no longer a sure-fire guarantor of air supremacy.”

Dogfights haven’t gone anywhere,” he added. “They will fire from a distance the first day, but a couple of days later, we’ll be flying like we always did before.”

Note the words “flying like we always did before.” As far back as the 1950s, the U.S. thought the future of air combat would be aircraft engaging each other with missiles at long range (which proved a fallacy in the skies over North Vietnam). The whole concept of the stealth F-35 and F-22 is that they can blast a MiG out of the sky without the MiG knowing it’s there. But to Russia, the good ol’ days of close-range aerial knife fights aren’t over.

Drozdenko does make a point about the F-35 that would have many Americans nodding in agreement. “The Americans tolerate this plane because it’s a very big and expensive business with contracts running into trillions of dollars. While they keep making the F-35s, the Americans are modernizing their fourth-generation-plus F-18s and F-15s trying to bring them up to par with Russia’s Su-35,” he noted.

What’s important here isn’t the mudslinging about who has better weapons, or the merits and demerits of the F-35. As Drozdenko points out, technological advances like stealth are transitory.

It’s the rival conceptions of military technology, and by extension how to wage war. These are concepts rooted in history and circumstances. America’s wars over the last century have all been fought overseas, where the U.S. could tap its industrial and technological resources to field expeditionary forces plentifully supplied with advanced equipment. For Russia, the last century was marked by two immense invasions by the Germans, as well as huge land battles against the Japanese, the Poles and even other Russians during the Russian Civil War. Conflicts fought on underdeveloped, rugged or frozen battlefields are harsh on equipment.

Of course, these images are partly stereotypes. Russia is indeed capable of making advanced weapons such as hypersonic missiles. And while simplicity is a virtue, it has its drawbacks, such as Russian jet engines that wear out too quickly. American weapons may be costlier and fancier than they need to be, but they can be quite effective if used by nations that know to operate and maintain them, as the Israelis have demonstrated time and again.

Still, it’s hard to argue with Drozdenko’s observations that war and technology are not the same. “Imagine a BMW and a Russian Niva on a bumpy road somewhere deep in Russia,” Drozdenko says. “Which of the two will wear out? Technology is technology, but war is war.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared in August 2018.

Source: National Interest “Russia Is Betting That America’s F-35 Is Too Complex To Be Useful”

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.


The Navy Wants 32 More Nuclear Attack Submarines (But Will It Happen?)


Does Washington have the cash? 

by Kris Osborn

April 22, 2019

For Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 84-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. “Virginia Payload Modules.” The Virginia Payload Modules, to come in future years, will increase the Tomahawk missile firepower of the submarines from 12 missiles up to 40.

Destroying enemy surface ships and submarines, “spying” close to enemy shores, bringing massive firepower to strategic areas and launching deadly undersea drones are all missions the Navy hopes to see more of in the future — as the service plans to add as many as 32 attack submarines in just the next 15 years.

The National Interest video

(This first appeared last month.)

Overall, the addition of attack submarines represents the largest overall platform increase within the Navy’s ambitious plan to grow the fleet to 355 ships.

Battle force inventory reaches 301 in 2020 and 355 in 2034,” Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Chambers, told Warrior Maven.

New Navy submarines are hosting an array of breakthrough technologies designed to carve a path into future maritime war; these include more firepower such as Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes, added electrical power for emerging systems such as drones and AI-enabled sensors, navigation and ship defenses.

As evidenced by the Navy’s most recent 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan, the Navy budget seeks to implement a new plan to build three Virginia-class attack submarines some years moving forward. This is, among other things, intended to address an anticipated future attack submarine deficit expected in the coming decade. For quite some time, Combatant Commanders have expressed serious concern that the availability of attack submarines continues to be dangerously lower than that is needed. Navy leadership has been working with Congress to rev-up production.

The previous status quo had been for the Navy to drop from building two Virginia-Class boats per year to one in the early 2020s when construction of the new Columbia-Class nuclear armed submarines begins. The service then moved to a plan to build two Virginia-class submarines and one Columbia-class submarine concurrently, according to findings from a previous Navy assessment.

The new Navy plan is to jump up to three Virginia-class per year when Columbia-class production hits a lull in “off years,” senior service leaders have told Congress.

There are many reasons why attack submarines are increasingly in demand; undersea vehicles are often able to conduct reconnaissance missions closer to targets than large-draft surface ships can. Forward positioning enables them to be “stealthier” in coastal areas, inlets or islands. As part of this, they can also move substantial firepower, in the form of Tomahawk missiles, closer to inland targets.

Not only is the Navy adding substantial firepower to its fleet of attack submarines, but the service is further emphasizing enhanced “spy” like intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance missions. By leveraging an ability to operate closer to enemy shorelines and threat areas than most surface ships, attack submarines can quietly patrol shallow waters near enemy coastline – scanning for enemy submarines, surface ships and coastal threats.

Improved undersea navigation and detection technology, using new sonar, increased computer automation and artificial intelligence, enable quieter, faster movements in littoral waters where enemy mines, small boats and other threatening assets often operate.

Virginia-Class submarines are engineered with a “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator.

With “Fly-by-Wire” technology, a human operator will order depth and speed, allowing software to direct the movement of the planes and rudder to maintain course and depth, Navy program managers have told Warrior Maven. The ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.

The most important feature for maneuvering in littoral waters is the fly-by-wire control system, whereby computers in the control center electronically adjust the submarine’s control surfaces, a significant improvement from the hydraulic systems used in the Los Angeles-class,” a 2016 Stanford University “The Future of Nuclear Submarines” paper by Alexander Yachanin writes.

This technology, using upgradable software and fast-growing AI applications, widens the mission envelope for the attack submarines by vastly expanding their ISR potential. Using real-time analytics and an instant ability to draw upon an organize vast data-bases of information and sensor input, computer algorithms can now perform a range of procedural functions historically performed by humans. This can increase speed of maneuverability and an attack submarine’s ability to quickly shift course, change speed or alter depth positioning when faced with attacks.

A closer-in or littoral undersea advantage, Navy strategy documents explain, can increase “ashore attack” mission potential along with ISR-empowered anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare operations.

The US Navy’s published “Commander’s Intent for the United States Submarine Force,” published last year, writes – “We are uniquely capable of, and often best employed in, stealthy, clandestine and independent operations……. we exploit the advantages of undersea concealment which allow us to: , Conduct undetected operations such as strategic deterrent patrols, intelligence collection, Special Operations Forces support, non-provocative transits, and repositioning.”

The Navy is implementing elements of this strategy with its recently launched USS South Dakota, a Block III Virginia-Class attack submarine engineered with a host of new, unprecedented undersea technologies, Navy officials said.

Many of these innovations, which have been underway and tested as prototypes for many years, are now operational as the USS South Dakota enters service; service technology developers have, in a general way, said the advances in undersea technologies built, integrated, tested and now operational on the South Dakota include quieting technologies for the engine room to make the submarine harder to detect, a new large vertical array and additional “quieting” coating materials for the hull, Navy officials have told Warrior Maven.

The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to listen for an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.

The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.

For Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 84-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. “Virginia Payload Modules.” The Virginia Payload Modules, to come in future years, will increase the Tomahawk missile firepower of the submarines from 12 missiles up to 40.

The VPM submarines will have an additional (approximately 84 feet) section with four additional Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles, for a ship total of 40 Tomahawks.

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Source: National Interest “The Navy Wants 32 More Nuclear Attack Submarines (But Will It Happen?)”

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


How China’s Navy Will Rise: More Nuclear Submarines and Aircraft Carriers:


Should the world be worried?

by Stratfor Worldview May 8, 2019

Supplementing the addition of this hardware will be a continued focus on the country’s logistics fleet, which is key to conducting blue-water operations — sustained, long-range maritime operations over oceans and deep waters — and securing logistics bases around the globe.

All fitted out, China’s second-ever aircraft carrier — and the first built entirely in China — is set to sail for sea trials (This reblogger’s note: the Chinese homegrown aircraft carrier has already been commissioned and named the Shandong now). The construction of the aircraft carrier represents a significant milestone in China’s steady rise as a major naval power. And barring any hiccups, Beijing will continue its ascent in the following decade to the degree that it challenges the United States for naval supremacy – at least in East Asia.

(This first appeared earlier in the year.)

From a Coastal Defense Force to a World Power

The might of the Chinese navy today is far beyond what it was just 30 years ago. As recently as the 1990s, it was effectively a coastal defense force with little ability to challenge its U.S. counterpart. But quick as the Chinese navy’s rise since then has been, its tremendous progress stems from evolution rather than revolution, as Beijing has carefully and incrementally introduced new designs and equipment into the navy before proceeding to intensified shipbuilding.

At the turn of the millennium, Beijing began producing new indigenous vessels, but many of the initial designs, such as the Type 051C destroyer, depended heavily on Russian and other foreign technology for their main armaments. At the same time, China continued to purchase Russian warships, such as Sovremenny-class destroyers and Kilo-class submarines, as a hedge against the potential failure of their new designs.

Over the course of the century’s first decade, China restricted itself to constructing small batches of each warship type; only after engaging in comprehensive testing for each type did the country slowly transition to improved designs. This decade of cautious experimentation gave the country’s navy the confidence to settle on reliable models for high-rate production. Chinese shipyards rapidly rolled out the Type 054A frigate, the Type 039A submarine, the Type 052D destroyer (This reblogger’s note: China is building 8 bigger Type 055 destroyers with greater fire power, one of which has been commissioned, two, undergoing sea trial, three, launched and outfitting and two, being built. Please refer to https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/china’s-giant-new-warship-packs-killer-long-range-missiles-109786 and https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3045764/chinas-most-advanced-destroyer-nanchang-formally-enters-service) and the Type 056 corvette, making the four classes of vessel the mainstay of the naval inventory. Such production, however, did not necessarily increase the size of the fleet but replaced aging and obsolete vessels that had remained in the naval inventory since the 20th century.

As naval authorities complete this modernization drive over the next two years, China is poised to significantly expand its strength and capabilities. The pace of China’s naval exercises and training regimen is already unprecedented, and the tempo is only likely to continue. The elimination of obsolete warships will provide China with an opportunity to improve not just the quality of its vessels, but also their quantity. If the country maintains its current rate of production, it could add approximately three destroyers each year from 2020 to 2030.

But an increase in the number of modern destroyers, frigates, corvettes and diesel-electric submarines only constitutes one aspect of the navy’s growing strength. Over the next 10 years, China will construct next-generation nuclear submarines that emit far less sound, build new types of aircraft carriers equipped with catapult launch systems and expand its amphibious fleet with the introduction of Type 075-class amphibious assault ships. Supplementing the addition of this hardware will be a continued focus on the country’s logistics fleet, which is key to conducting blue-water operations — sustained, long-range maritime operations over oceans and deep waters — and securing logistics bases around the globe.

Closing the Gap

The coming decade of development will significantly reduce, but not eliminate, the gap between China’s navy — already the second most powerful maritime force on the planet — and the U.S. Navy by 2030.

But even as China comes closer to rivaling the United States in global maritime strength, the two countries will continue to excel in different facets. Because the United States is largely secure and unchallenged in its home waters, it will retain its traditional focus on constructing a blue-water force. Accordingly, Washington has long emphasized aircraft carriers, large surface combatants and a sizable fleet replenishment force that can project influence and force around the globe. China will strive to develop these same blue-water capabilities with similar vessels, but it will focus on exercising power closer to home in the South China and East China seas. As a result, China will maintain a much larger fleet of small surface combatants and diesel-electric submarines — vessels that are ideal for combat in littoral environments close to home ports.

Other factors are also likely to consolidate China’s control of its immediate vicinity, including improved command and control, better training, greater access to land-based air power and missile forces, the existence of geographic chokepoints, as well as the concentrated nature of its forces – in contrast to the more dispersed deployment of U.S. forces. By 2030, the Chinese will likely be the dominant naval force up to an initial island chain that encircles the Yellow, East China and South China seas, while it will also enjoy significant advantages out to a farther limit running roughly from Japan to Indonesia through islands such as Guam and Palau. The United States, naturally, will remain largely dominant on the rest of the world’s oceans and seas.

Predicting China’s potential naval strength beyond 2030 is impossible, but the country could well seek to challenge the United States’ maritime dominance even farther out in the Pacific Ocean. For the decade to come, however, the country’s navy is set to go from strength to strength. It may not become the master of the open seas, but it will become the master of its own maritime backyard.

China’s Navy Prepares to Close the Gap on the U.S. is republished with the permission of Stratfor Worldview, a geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm.

Source: National Interest “How China’s Navy Will Rise: More Nuclear Submarines and Aircraft Carriers:”

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. Some of my views can be seen in this reblogger’s note


Yes China’s Nuclear Missile Subs Are a Danger (But That’s the Point)


This reblogger’s note: This article first appeared in October 2018 and is republished now so that its information is outdated in view of the rapid development of weapon development and buildup.

Key Point: ICBM submarines are a vital part of any country’s nuclear triad. Here’s why they matter.

China for decades has struggled to develop nuclear ballistic-missile submarines. The country finally might be on the cusp of deploying reliable boomers.

This piece originally appeared in October 2018 and is being republished due to reader’s interest.

An effective Chinese ballistic-missile submarine fleet over the long term could have a stabilizing influence on the world’s nuclear balance. But in the short term, it might heighten tensions. Especially if Beijing lets popular fervor drive its build-up.

That’s the surprising conclusion of a new report from Tong Zhao, a fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, based at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

A fleet of survivable nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) would reduce China’s concerns about the credibility of its nuclear deterrent and lessen the country’s incentives to further expand its arsenal,” Tong writes.

Such benefits, however, will be tempered by vulnerabilities associated with Beijing’s current generation of SSBNs. In the near to mid-term, developing an SSBN fleet will require China to substantially enlarge its previously small stockpile of strategic ballistic missiles, possibly exacerbating the threat perceptions of potential adversaries and causing them to take countermeasures that might eventually intensify an emerging arms competition.”

Beijing began developing boomers as far back as 1958. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the country completed its first boat. But the Type 092 SSBN never deployed on an operational patrol. “It was reportedly too noisy and might have had other safety and reliability issues,” Tong explains. “Moreover, the missiles it carried had very short ranges.”

The newer Type 094 class of SSBNs, each armed with a dozen, longer-range JL-2 nuclear-tipped missiles, began to enter service around 2006. A Type 094 apparently conducted China’s first undersea deterrence patrol in 2015. “China has obtained, for the first time, a demonstrably operational underwater nuclear capability. This represents the start of a new era for China’s sea-based nuclear forces.”

As of late 2018 there are four Type 094s in service. Beijing has not publicly released a detailed plan for its SSBN fleet expansion, but the U.S. military expects China to build between five and eight of the vessels, in total, according to Tong and various military reports and statements.

The U.S. military has responded to the China’s new boomers by boosting its own anti-submarine capabilities. “Between Chinese efforts to create a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent and U.S. endeavors to strengthen anti-submarine countermeasures, tensions are brewing under the surface of the South China Sea and the broader Pacific Ocean,” Tong explains.

But the Type 094s and future Chinese SSBNs could actually end up encouraging stability rather than conflict. Today SL-2s about boomers account for nearly half of China’s approximately one-hundred-strong arsenal of long-range nuclear missiles. That proportion is likely to rise as more SSBNs enter service.

As they have the potential to be more survivable than land- and air-launched nukes, the SL-2s could change the attitudes of Chinese leaders toward the country’s atomic deterrent. “If China’s SSBNs significantly contribute to the credibility of its overall nuclear deterrent, China would have less of an incentive to further enlarge its nuclear arsenal,” Tong writes.

In other words, China ultimately might need fewer nukes overall if a larger proportion of the weapons are submarine-launched missiles. In an era of escalating nuclear buildups in the United States and China, a relatively smaller and stabler Chinese arsenal could have a cooling effect, according to Tong.

But Beijing must convince other powers that a growing boomer fleet contributes not only to its own national security, but to the stability of the whole world. “China has a few unilateral steps that it should take to ensure that the growth of its SSBN fleet is as undisruptive as possible to regional security dynamics and to its own security interests.”

For one, China must build only as many SSBNs as it truly needs in order to maintain a credible at-sea deterrence. Four or five Type 094s could be enough for one boat to be on patrol at all times. If Beijing builds significantly more than five SSBNs, it could mean that the Communist Party has let irrational nationalistic sentiment shape its force structure, as the Party allegedly has done in its breakneck acquisition of aircraft carriers.

If China allows nationalistic sentiments to induce it to build a massive sea-based nuclear capability beyond any practical security needs, this could raise doubts in foreign countries about Beijing’s strategic intentions and contribute to an unnecessary, damaging strategic arms competition,” Tong warns.

But for China’s rivals, a small but reliable Chinese boomer fleet could be as calming as a big one is alarming.

David Axe edits War Is Boring . He is the author of the new graphic novels MACHETE SQUAD and THE STAN. This piece originally appeared in October 2018 and is being republished due to reader’s interest.

Source: National Interest “Yes China’s Nuclear Missile Subs Are a Danger (But That’s the Point)”

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.


Germany Follows UK Not to Ban Huawei, Where Is US Leadership?


Financial Times says in its article “Germany’s CDU stops short of Huawei ban in 5G rollout” yesterday, “Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has backed a strategy paper that could potentially curtail Huawei’s involvement in Germany’s 5G rollout by barring ‘untrustworthy’ companies deemed to be subject to state influence from the process. But the recommendations will disappoint the US by stopping short of banning Huawei technology outright. Ms Merkel, the German chancellor, has opposed any attempt to single out the Chinese telecoms equipment maker, preferring instead to tighten security requirements on all suppliers.”

In order to contain China, the US has tried hard to force its allies to ban Huawei with the threat of ceasing intelligence sharing, but like UK who has allowed use of Huawei equipment with some restrictions, Germany is unwilling to follow US leadership in containing China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Financial Times’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.ft.com/content/e17ba42a-4ce1-11ea-95a0-43d18ec715f5.