Report to Congress on Chinese Naval Modernization

The following is the Nov. 10, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress. From the report China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for […]

The following is the Nov. 10, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for more than 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, and has transformed China’s navy into a much more modern and capable force. China’s navy is a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.

China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and sometime between 2015 and 2020 it surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships (meaning the types of ships that count toward the quoted size of the U.S. Navy). DOD states that China’s navy “is the largest navy in the world with a battle force of approximately 355 platforms, including major surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, ocean-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, and fleet auxiliaries. This figure does not include 85 patrol combatants and craft that carry anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). The… overall battle force [of China’s navy] is expected to grow to 420 ships by 2025 and 460 ships by 2030.” The U.S. Navy, by comparison, included 294 battle force ships at the end of FY2021, and the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission projects that the Navy will include 290 or 291 battle force ships by the end of FY2030. U.S. military officials and other observers are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of China’s naval shipbuilding effort and resulting trend lines regarding the relative sizes and capabilities of China’s navy and the U.S. Navy.

China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of ship, aircraft, weapon, and C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) acquisition programs, as well as improvements in logistics, doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises. China’s navy has currently has certain limitations and weaknesses, which it is working to overcome.

China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is assessed as being aimed at developing capabilities for, among other things, addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need be; achieving a greater degree of control or domination over China’s near-seas region, particularly the South China Sea; defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs), particularly those linking China to the Persian Gulf; displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and asserting China’s status as the leading regional power and a major world power. Observers believe China wants its navy to be capable of acting as part of an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces.

The U.S. Navy has taken a number of actions to counter China’s naval modernization effort. Among other things, the U.S. Navy has shifted a greater percentage of its fleet to the Pacific; assigned its most-capable new ships and aircraft to the Pacific; maintained or increased general presence operations, training and developmental exercises, and engagement and cooperation with allied and other navies in the Indo-Pacific; increased the planned future size of the Navy; initiated, increased, or accelerated numerous programs for developing new military technologies and acquiring new ships, aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and weapons; developed new operational concepts for countering Chinese maritime A2/AD forces; and signaled that the Navy in coming years will shift to a more-distributed fleet architecture that will feature a substantially greater use of unmanned vehicles. The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Biden Administration’s proposed U.S. Navy plans, budgets, and programs for responding to China’s naval modernization effort.

Download the document here.

Tokyo Protests Chinese Surveillance Ship Transit in Territorial Waters, Japan Prepares for Fleet Review

A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) survey ship vessel entered Japan’s territorial waters near islands south of Kyushu this week, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. The Shupang-class survey ship was sighted sailing northeast through Japan’s contiguous zone west of Gaja Island and entered Japan’s territorial waters southwest of Kuchinoerabu Island at 12:10 a.m. […]

Shupang-class survey ship

A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) survey ship vessel entered Japan’s territorial waters near islands south of Kyushu this week, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

The Shupang-class survey ship was sighted sailing northeast through Japan’s contiguous zone west of Gaja Island and entered Japan’s territorial waters southwest of Kuchinoerabu Island at 12:10 a.m. local time on Wednesday. The ship departed Japan’s territorial waters after three hours of operating near Yakushima Island and sailed southeast. According to Japanese officials, the transit was the fourth intrusion of a foreign warship this year, marking a record high.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826), JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from Fleet Air Wing 1 out of Kanoya Air Base, Kyushu and Fleet Air Wing 4 operating from Naval Air Facility Atusgi, Honshu, and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA from Fleet Air Wing 5 operating from Naha Air Base, Okinawa, monitored the PLAN ship. Japan has lodged a diplomatic protest over the incident.

On Monday, the Japanese MoD issued a statement that said on Oct. 28, a Russian Navy Balzam-class surveillance ship was sighted sailing west in an area 160 kilometers west of Cape Ryupi, Aomori Prefecture, Honshu. An image and hull number provided in the release identified the ship as Pribaltica (80), which is part of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet. The following day, the Russian ship was sighted sailing southeast towards the Tsugaru Strait before turning around in an area 80 kilometers west of Cape Ryupi and subsequently sailing northwest into the Sea of Japan. Minesweeper JS Izushima (MSC-687) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 2 based at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu monitored the Russian ship, according to the release.

Meanwhile, a number of naval vessels are docked in Yokosuka for the JMSDF International Fleet Review (IFR), which will happen on Sunday at Sagami Bay. Australia, Brunei, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States will take part in the IFR. Details on the U.S. participation have not yet been disclosed, but the following list of ships are currently docked at Yokosuka, according to ship spotters:

https://twitter.com/US7thFleet/status/1587711061326716933

  • Australia: Destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39), frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH151) and submarine HMAS Farncomb (SSG74)
  • Brunei: Offshore patrol vessel KDB Darulehsan (07)
  • Canada: Frigates HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338)
  • India: Frigate INS Shivalik (F47) and corvette INS Kamorta (P28)
  • Indonesia: Corvette KRI Diponegoro (365)
  • Malaysia: Next generation patrol vessel KD Kelantan (PV175)
  • New Zealand: Replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11)
  • Pakistan: Frigate PNS Shamsheer (FFG-252) and replenishment ship PNS Nasr (A47)
  • Republic of Korea: Fast combat support ship ROKS Soyang (AOE-51)
  • Thailand: Frigate HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG471)
  • Singapore: Frigate RSS Formidable (68)

U.K. patrol vessel HMAS Tamar (P233) is also taking part in the fleet review. Submarine Farncomb was originally scheduled to take part in the Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii over the summer, but maintenance issues caused the submarine to miss the it, according to Australian media reports. The submarine did deploy to Hawaii at the end of RIMPAC and conducted bilateral training there before heading to Japan.

Several ships have wrapped up deployments to the Indo-Pacific recently. USCGC Midgett (WMSL-757) arrived home on Monday in Honolulu following an 83-day, 16,000 nautical-mile deployment to the Western Pacific, which began in August. The national security cutter operated under the tactical control of U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, according to a Coast Guard news release.

Midgett’s crew executed numerous cooperative engagements, professional exchanges, and capacity building efforts with naval allies and partners, who included the Philippine Coast Guard, Singapore Maritime Security Response Flotilla, the Information Fusion Center, Police Coast Guard, Indian Coast Guard, and Maldives National Defense Force.” the release reads.

USS Chicago (SSN 721) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet on Nov. 2, 2022. US Navy Photo

On Wednesday, USS Chicago (SSN-721) returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam following a seven-month deployment that began on March 28. It was the submarine’s final deployment before decommissioning, which is scheduled for 2023 following 37 years of service, according to a U.S. Navy news release.

Navy Tests Reloading Missiles on Destroyer in San Diego Bay, Open Ocean Tests Tougher Task

A pairing of a guided-missile destroyer and a supply ship in San Diego Bay last week was the Navy’s latest test to learn how to resupply its warships with missiles during a high-end conflict. The Military Sealift Command-sponsored reloading test matched USS Spruance (DDG-111) with the offshore support vessel MV Ocean as a test platform to support logistics experimentation […]

Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111) guide training ordnance into the ship’s forward vertical launch system (VLS) cells during a proof-of-concept test in San Diego, Oct. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

A pairing of a guided-missile destroyer and a supply ship in San Diego Bay last week was the Navy’s latest test to learn how to resupply its warships with missiles during a high-end conflict.

The Military Sealift Command-sponsored reloading test matched USS Spruance (DDG-111) with the offshore support vessel MV Ocean as a test platform to support logistics experimentation for fuel, stores, passengers and ordnance delivery.

The test marked the first time the Navy has used an offshore support vessel to test the reloading of the vertical launch system aboard a warship, officials announced.

The experiment, which ran Oct. 4-7, involved only training loads and was held pierside at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, Calif., and in San Diego Bay, Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a 3rd Fleet spokesman told USNI News. Crews maneuvered training canisters – some empty, some weighted – but none had live ordnance during the tests, Robertson told USNI News.

“There was an open-ocean work scheduled. They did not do it. They had some safety concerns,” he said. “Because of excessive roll, they didn’t do the open-ocean transfer.”

It’s unclear if the Navy would conduct an open ocean, at-sea reloading of a ship’s VLS. “They’re working out the after-action reports, and there will be a determination” at some point, Robertson said. He declined to speculate when that might occur or with which mix of ships and support vessels.

Concept Tested Earlier

Military Sealift Command fleet experimentation ship MV Ocean Valor maneuvers alongside Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) in order to conduct a proof-of-concept evolution in San Diego, Oct. 5, 2022. US Navy PhotoThe Navy, in recent years, has been pursuing the capability to reload a warship’s VLS while at sea and, presumably, closer to the maritime fight. The recent years’ VLS reloading experimentation has involved a number of Pacific Fleet ships.

In 2021, the dry cargo ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) experimented with VLS reloading at sea, Robertson said. That was preceded in 2019 by two separate VLS-reloading tests, which “were pierside and protected harbor only. There were no open ocean events.”

The first one that year was in May 2019 and involved the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE-4). Both ships had participated that month in the combined maritime exercise Pacific Vanguard off Guam. The second, held in August 2019, involved the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) and guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108).

Three years earlier, in 2016, the Navy put VLS reloading to the test with initial experimentation with the auxiliary ship USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52).

Also in March 2019, Navy cargo handling and Navy Munitions Command crews did an expeditionary ordnance reload demonstration at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, Calif., with the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112). The crews used forklifts and cranes to load Standard Missiles 2s into the ship’s VLS cells, according to a Navy news story about the event, held during exercise Pacific Horizon 2019.

Options for the Pacific Fight 

An SM-2 missile launches and destroys an airborne training target during a successful first test of the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) on Oct. 24, 2017. US Navy Photo

The ship-to-ship transfer of missiles, especially in the open ocean, is no small feat. Missiles in the Navy’s fleet of cruisers and destroyers are stowed in individual cells of the MK-41 Vertical Launch System, but they can’t be reloaded while the ship is underway. The missiles must be loaded by cranes — which would be difficult to do at sea.

A ship today needs to return to a port or reach a safe, calm harbor where it can reload its VLS from a support ship – and be a safe distance from threats from adversaries, like China or Russia. That also means that ships, especially in the vast Pacific region, will be out of the fight for days or weeks, with time lost to transit but also with the added potential enemy threats from air or space.

The loss of a warship that needs to travel far to a safe harbor to get its resupply of missiles is a problem for the surface fleet.

“Those ships are gone for a month, basically. If the fight is only going to last a month or two, that means you get one use out of them and that means they’re out of action for the remainder of the war,” naval analyst Bryan Clark told USNI News.

What’s needed is a reload capability closer to the front, “maybe a few days away, maybe in the Third Island Chain or Second Island Chain islands,” in the case of conflict with China, said Clark, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute. “Or you can even do it alongside a really big ship, like an [mobile landing platform] or an ESD, that allows you to make it so there are more locations to reload and, more importantly, you can reload closer to the area of action.” Those larger ships, like the expeditionary sea bases, also could offer protection in calm seas.

Auxiliary ships like the fleet of T-AKEs and LMSR vessels, if tasked, could be positioned “outside the fight. The whole purpose is to make it so it’s only a few days away, as opposed to it being two weeks to a month away to reload,” he said. “You’ve got a shrinking surface fleet, so we need every ship to contribute as much as possible.” Clark had authored a 2017 paper – Commanding the Seas: The U.S. Navy and the Future of Surface Warfare – that noted the shortfall in VLS reloading capability and early experimentation.

Challenge of the Open Ocean

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) on June 24, 2022

Navy officials “probably need to figure out a way to reload surface combatants with air defense missiles to get them to get back in the fight so they can continue to protect the carriers and protect places like Guam. That’s probably why you’re seeing a renewed interest in this idea. That’s why this hasn’t been fixed a long time ago,” Clark said. The surface fleet “would like to see itself as very much this strike contributor, where reloading makes a big difference. But it’s really just not been in practice a major element of their contribution to these war fights, at least as how they’re played out in war games.”

A reload ship tasked to support might be 1,000 miles or three days’ travel away – “that’s far enough away where the PLA would have to decide, do I want to expend a really expensive and scarce intermediate-range ballistic missile on this ship, which may not be something that they’re willing to do,” he said. “You can put the reload ship far enough away and still get benefit from it, because it’s still going to be a lot closer than having to drive the DDG all the way to Guam, potentially, but more likely Yokosuka or Hawaii or maybe Australia. But having the reload ship in the second or third island chain is going to be a lot closer than any of those other options.”

The main obstacle to doing this, he said, “is the willingness of the Navy to outfit some of those auxiliary ships with some of this capability.” The Navy has auxiliary ships in the maritime prepositioning force – although that may take it out of the fleet that supports the Marine Corps – as well as the MSC surge fleet that could be repurposed, as seen in some of the reloading experiments.

“It’s certainly doable,” he added if the Navy “wants to spend the money to buy the gear and then outfit these ships and position them out in the Pacific. I would think that from INDO-PACOM’s perspective, I think that investment makes a lot of sense from a deterrence point of view.”

“The question is,” Clark said, “does the Navy share that idea or does the Navy say, ‘I’d rather spend that money on buying more missiles to fill up my existing magazines or spend it on making sure that we get all the upgrades done to the existing DDG fleet’?”

Chinese Launch Assault Craft from Civilian Car Ferries in Mass Amphibious Invasion Drill, Satellite Photos Show

The Chinese military held a major exercise to prove how the People’s Liberation Army Navy could use large civilian ferries to launch a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan. The PLAN brought amphibious landing craft to a Chinese beach near the Taiwan Strait, according to Aug. 31 satellite imagery reviewed by USNI News. Offshore, the PLAN […]

H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies Used with Permission

The Chinese military held a major exercise to prove how the People’s Liberation Army Navy could use large civilian ferries to launch a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan.

The PLAN brought amphibious landing craft to a Chinese beach near the Taiwan Strait, according to Aug. 31 satellite imagery reviewed by USNI News. Offshore, the PLAN arrayed several large civilian ferries and warships. The PLA landing craft left the beach, swam to the car ferries and loaded amphibious assault craft aboard at sea via a specially-constructed ramp. The landing craft then left the ferries and returned to their starting point.

Defense analyst Tom Shugart, who monitors Chinese military exercises, followed the drills and tracked seven of the civilian dual-use amphibious ferries during the exercise. Additionally, satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies has provided USNI News with high-resolution images of the August drills, revealing key details.

Chinese Type 05 amphibious fighting vehicle in 2021. CGTN Image

“They ended up parked off the coast in areas that were near other areas where we’ve seen them do amphibious assault training before with commercial ferries,” Shugart told USNI News.
“The numbers were bigger than we’ve seen before.”

The roll-on roll-off (RoRo) ferry has been identified as Bo Hai Heng Tong, a 15,000-ton multipurpose cargo ship. The ferry’s internal parking ‘lane’ is 1.6 miles long and three meters wide, spread across three decks. This translates into a vehicle cargo capacity that’s almost three times that of a San Antonio-class amphibious warship (LPD-17), Shugart said.

“AN LHA or LPD spends a lot of cubic feet [on] Marines able to operate for weeks or months at sea. That’s a lot of wasted space if all you’re doing is making a quick trip across the strait,” he said.

Bo Hai Heng Tong launched in 2020.

This ship is not unique. Her sister ship, Bo Hai Heng Da, was built at the same time with the same specifications. As the name implies, they normally operate in the Bohai Sea. But for the exercise Bo Hai Heng Tong sailed over 1,000 miles south to be opposite Taiwan.

The concept of augmenting amphibious warfare ships with civilian vessels, and ships taken up from trade (STUFT), are not new to the PLAN. The Chinese Navy has been practicing it for years. Many are used for transport, while some carry artillery pieces on their decks for shore bombardment.

However, launching craft – like the 26-ton ZTD-05, an amphibious armored vehicle used by the PLA – at sea is a new development, Shugart said.

“Everybody assumed that you had to seize a port first. That those [ferries] were second echelon forces… Somebody else has got to seize the port,” he said.
“2021 was the first time we saw them dump amphibious assault vehicles right into the water, which means now those ferries can be the first echelon sending assault units straight to the beach.“

Bo Hai Heng Tong

The new RoRo ships – launched in 2020 – are significant in a few ways. They are larger than most other ships in their class. When launched at the CIMC Raffles shipyard in Yantai, the yard described the ships as the largest multi-purpose RoRos Asia. They are multipurpose ships designed from the outset to carry a range of vehicle types and containers and are built with a large helicopter landing deck.

The amphibious exercise came less than a month after U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan. The visit drew a massive show of force from China as Beijing ramped up military sea and air activity around the island.

Previous norms, such as not sailing warships beyond the median line in the Taiwan Strait, were ignored during the exercise. The new normal sees increased activity, including flying drones over Taiwanese islands. One notable drone incident occurred the same day as the amphibious exercise.

Several Chinese Navy ships were also involved in the exercise. The Type 071 class landing platform dock (LPD), Wuzhishan (987), was present with an older landing ship tank (LST). These also practiced swimming with armored vehicles.

A Chinese amphibious armored vehicle leaving the car ferry Bang Chui Dao in 2020. CCTV image

Shugart said, “China’s roll-on/roll-off ferries are very well-suited to support” any invasion of Taiwan. “Civilian augmentation will be essential, if not providing the majority of the required sealift capacity.”

Since the exercise, RoRo ships have returned to their normal routes, ferrying civilian vehicles across the entrance to the Bohai Sea. But their capability would allow China to switch to invasion mode at short notice.

“What can you come up with that’s better than a ferry? That’s what they do. That’s what they’re designed for, is to quickly move vehicles and people, drop them off and go back and work as efficiently as humanly possible,” Shugart told USNI News.

Chinese, Russian Warships Hold Live Fire Drills off Japan as Part of Vostok 2022

Russian and Chinese warships have been conducting drills around Japan since Friday as part of the Russian military’s Vostok 2022 strategic drills that ends on Wednesday. In a release on Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was taking part in the exercise with a surface action group […]

JMSF Images

Russian and Chinese warships have been conducting drills around Japan since Friday as part of the Russian military’s Vostok 2022 strategic drills that ends on Wednesday.

In a release on Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was taking part in the exercise with a surface action group including destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), frigate CNS Yancheng (546) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902). The warships conducted a live fire anti-aircraft drill in the Sea of Japan on Friday, according to Japanese officials.

The Vostok 2022 is an exercise involving the forces under the Russian Eastern Military District along with invited foreign participants and observers from thirteen countries, namely Azerbaijan, Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria and Tajikistan. China’s participation comprises of more than 2,000 military personnel, 300 vehicles and military equipment, 21 fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft and Nanchang, Yancheng and Dongpinghu, all drawn from China’s Northern Theater Command.

On Friday, a Russian corvette and a missile range instrumentation ship had been sighted in the Sea of Japan according to the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense issued a release on Saturday. The two ships subsequently transited through La Pérouse Strait into the Sea of Okhotsk. Hull numbers and images identify the Russian ships as corvette RFS Gremyashchiy (337) and missile range instrumentation ship RFS Marshal Krylov (331). The Russian ships were monitored by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Yudachi (DD-103), fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 2 stationed at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu.

The JSO issued a release stating that on Saturday, three Russian corvettes along with a PLAN destroyer, frigate and replenishment ship had been sighted sailing east in an area 118 miles west of Cape Kamui, Hokkaido. The corvettes are RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335) and RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339) while the PLAN ships were Nanchang, Yancheng and Dongpinghu. On Sunday, Chinese state media released video of PLAN warships firing close-in weapons systems and refuelling underway. The ships carried out machine gun dri;ls while in the area. Subsequently on early Sunday, all six ships were sighted sailing northeast in an area 31 miles west of Rebun Island, Hokkaido and subsequently sailed east through La Pérouse Strait. The PLAN ships had been earlier sighted on Aug. 29, in the East China Sea and subsequently transiting the Tsushima Strait. The Russian and PLAN ships were shadowed by Yudachi, Kumataka and the P-3C Orions of Fleet Air Wing 2.

Outside of the naval movements, the Vostok exercise has been downplayed by British officials.

“Russia publicly claimed that 50,000 troops will take part, however, it’s unlikely that more than 15,000 personnel will be actively involved this year. This is around 20 percent of the forces which participated in the last Vostok exercise in 2018,” reads an intelligence assessment from the U.K. Ministry of Defence on Sept. 2.
“Russia’s military performance in Ukraine has highlighted that Russia’s military strategic exercises, such as Vostok, have failed to sustain the military’s ability to conduct large scale, complex operations. Such events are heavily scripted, do not encourage initiative, and primarily aim to impress Russian leaders and international audiences.”

China’s Navy Could Have 5 Aircraft Carriers, 10 Ballistic Missile Subs by 2030 Says CSBA Report

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy possesses the resources to field up to five aircraft carriers and 10 nuclear ballistic missile submarines by 2030, according to a new think tank report on Beijing’s ongoing military expansion. Using the its computer assisted Strategic Choices Tool, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s study, “China’s Choices,” found, “the […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy possesses the resources to field up to five aircraft carriers and 10 nuclear ballistic missile submarines by 2030, according to a new think tank report on Beijing’s ongoing military expansion.

Using the its computer assisted Strategic Choices Tool, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s study, “China’s Choices,” found, “the PLA has the resources necessary to continue its modernization over the 2020s,” according to the report.

For “China’s Choices,” CSBA assumes, as a starting point, Beijing’s military will grow at a rate of 3 percent above inflation into the early 2030s according the tool’s model.

In explaining the report and how the tool was used, Jack Bianchi, a principal author, said Thursday that CSBA was not trying to predict China’s actual defense budget since Beijing is no longer breaking out equipment, training and sustainment and personnel costs in figures it releases.

CSBA also did not try to determine the cost of a frigate or aircraft, but rather looked at the military from a “broad, strategic level,” Bianchi said.

CSBA used using U.S. spending percentages for research and development, procurement, sustainment and disposal of a specific weapon systems and applied those to China.

For the Peoples Liberation Army Navy, this can translate into more frigates, missile-boats and diesel electric submarines that can be used for regional defense as well as pressure Taiwan, as China aims to unite the island with the mainland.

“The teams [in their exercises] wanted to develop force structure for regional concerns,” Bianchi said.

They also looked to cutting the army’s size as a potential bill-payer, as well as ridding the air force of legacy aircraft to modernize, he said.

For power projection far from China’s mainland, the report predicted sufficient funds available for “aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, blue water logistics vessels, strategic bombers, and strategic transport and refueling aircraft” into the 2030s.

Former commander of Indo-Pacific Command retired Adm. Phil Davidson said this fits with Beijing’s “long-range goal to achieve great power status by mid-century.” It also aligns with the Chinese Communist Party’s securing its pre-eminence domestically.

The United States retains undersea superiority over China, Davidson said, adding that it is an advantage the country should look to expand.

The Chinese, in the last decade, grew its capabilities of sustaining operations far from the mainland in its operations in the Gulf of Aden, as well as quickly learned how to integrate new capabilities across its joint forces, Bianchi and Davidson noted.

Bianchi said the CSBA analytical tool tool can be applied to all domains including cyber, space and electro-magnetic warfare.

In addition, he said Chinese expanding nuclear capabilities – to include non-strategic uses – should be more fully explored in the future.

CSBA’s tool can be used in presenting other alternatives and has additional uses in investment and strategy to counter China, Davidson said.

He added its flexibility also means the tool can be applied to improve wargaming. Examples he used for changed circumstances important in gaming included the impact of COVID-19 on global economies, food shortages created by war as is happening in Ukraine, whether President Xi Jin-ping secures a fourth term in 2027 and Chinese acceptance of continued high military spending.

Japanese Defense Minister: China, Taiwan Military Balance Shifting in Beijing’s Favor

The military balance between China and Taiwan is shifting in China’s favor, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Friday. Speaking at his regular press conference at the Ministry of Defense, Kishi said the security environment around Japan is becoming severe at an unprecedented speed, as Japan released its annual defense white paper the same day, […]

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) refuels underway during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

The military balance between China and Taiwan is shifting in China’s favor, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Friday.

Speaking at his regular press conference at the Ministry of Defense, Kishi said the security environment around Japan is becoming severe at an unprecedented speed, as Japan released its annual defense white paper the same day, highlighting the threats posed to Japan by Russia, China and North Korea, while Chinese and Russian ships continue to operate around Japan this week.

With the military balance increasingly in China’s favor, Kishi said China’s ability to exert pressure on Taiwan is further strengthened, though this in turn has led the international community to support Taiwan and strengthened along efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. He also said China has expressed its willingness to use force to unify Taiwan with the mainland.

Since the situation around Japan is quickly becoming serious, Kishi said the Defense Ministry is hoping to secure the necessary budget to allow it to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities to cope with the situation, adding that the exact increase to the defense budget was under discussion.

The Friday release of the Japanese Defense Ministry’s annual defense white paper, titled Defense Of Japan 2022, included two separate summaries in English and Chinese, respectively. A full English language version of the white paper is normally issued several weeks after the initial release.

In his statement on the white paper’s release, Kishi said the international community is facing its greatest trial since World War II with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that Russia’s invasion shook the foundation of the international order. China, he said, continues to unilaterally change or attempt to change the status quo by coercion in the East China Sea and South China Sea and that its ties with Russia have deepened in recent years, with the two countries conducting joint navigations and flights in the areas surrounding Japan. Meanwhile, North Korea has repeatedly carried out ballistic missile launches well into 2022 and defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The white paper echoed similar sentiments while also noting the impact of science and technological developments on security, the increasing importance of space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic domains, along with the need for the international community to respond to climate change. The white paper also stressed the need to develop Japan’s defense capabilities while at the same time increasing its cooperation and partnerships with other nations and further strengthening the Japan-United States alliance.

Chinese and Russian ships continue to operate around Japan, though at a lower frequency in contrast to previous weeks. On Thursday, the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a news release that a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Shupang-class hydrographic survey ship was sighted on Wednesday at 6:50 p.m. local time sailing northwards in the contiguous zone south of Yakushima Island, part of the Osumi Island group that lies south of Kyushu. At 8 p.m. the ship entered Japanese territorial waters and continued sailing in the waters until it reached the vicinity of Kuchinoerabu Island at 11:30 p.m. the same day. The ship then departed Japan’s territorial waters, sailing in a westward direction.

Map showing movement of the PLAN Shupang class Hydrographic Survey Ship on Wednesday. Photo Courtesy of Japanese Ministry of Defense

The defense ministry did not include the hull number nor did it provide an image of the PLAN ship. In his Friday press conference, Kishi said this was the sixth time a PLAN ship had sailed in Japan’s territorial waters, with the last sail happening in April of this year. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) had monitored the PLAN ship and Japan lodged a protest via diplomatic channels, Kishi said. He added that military activities in the sea and airspace around Japan from the Chinese Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force have expanded and become more active in recent years. JMSDF replenishment ship JS Mashu (AOE-425) and a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base monitored the PLAN ship, the MOD release said.

The Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense also issued two other news releases on Thursday, with the first stating that on Wednesday at 6 p.m., a Russian Navy corvette was sighted sailing northeast in an area 40 kilomometers northwest of Rebun Island, which lies 50 kilomters off Hokkaido. An image and hull number provided in the release identified the ship as corvette RFS Gremyashchiy (337). The Russian ship subsequently sailed through La Pérouse Strait into the Sea of Okhotsk while fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) monitored, the release said.

Map showing movement of Russian corvette RFS Gremyashchiy (337) on Wednesday. Photo Courtesy of Japanese Ministry of Defense

Meanwhile at around midnight on Thursday, a PLAN Dongdiao-class surveillance ship carrying hull number 795 was sighted traveling south in an area 160 kilomters northwest of Uotsuri Island, part of the Senkaku Islands, according to the second release from the Japanese MOD. Dongdiao 795 subsequently sailed south in the area between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan into the Philippine Sea. Japanese destroyer JS Yudachi (DD-103), replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) and a JMSDF P-3C MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 stationed at Naha Air Base, Okinawa monitored the PLAN ship.

Map showing movement and image of PLAN Dongdiao 795 on Thursday. Photo Courtesy of Japan Ministry of Defense

On Friday, U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) pulled into Singapore for a port visit, with Ronald Reagan docking at Changi Naval Base and welcomed there by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro. Antietam docked at Sembawang Naval Base.

Del Toro is in Singapore on an introductory trip from Thursday through Saturday, according to a Singapore Ministry of Defense news release.

“Secretary Del Toro’s visit underscores the strong partnership between the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the US Navy (USN). Both navies interact regularly through bilateral and multilateral exercises, professional exchanges, and cross-attendance of courses,” the news release reads.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS-40) arrived in Jakarta on Thursday for a port visit.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Leaves Legacy of Western Pacific Security Changes

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led Japan into a more active role in regional and global security over his eight years in power, was assassinated Friday at a campaign event in the western city of Nara near Kyoto. He was 67. Abe, who served the longest consecutive term as prime minister in modern Japanese […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Aug. 18, 2017. DoD Photo

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led Japan into a more active role in regional and global security over his eight years in power, was assassinated Friday at a campaign event in the western city of Nara near Kyoto. He was 67.

Abe, who served the longest consecutive term as prime minister in modern Japanese history from 2012 to 2020, left office citing health concerns but remained an important figure in Japanese political affairs and on the world stage. He is credited with shifting Tokyo’s focus from home-island defense and modernizing its self-defense forces to meet 21st-century challenges.

Although he came into office with an idea of improving relations with China and was the first post-World War II Japanese prime minister to visit Beijing, Abe was denounced by Chinese officials for his 2021 remarks over the consequences of an invasion of Taiwan.

Reflecting on his successor’s more assertive policy over Taiwan’s future and a changed constitution, Abe said “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-U.S. alliance. People in Beijing, President Xi Jinping in particular, should never have a misunderstanding in recognizing this.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, listens as Capt. Christopher Bolt, left, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) on Oct. 18, 2015. US Navy Photo

Tensions between the Japan and China, especially over Beijing’s territorial claims on the Senkaku Islands, have steadily risen over the past decade from Abe’s time in office with increasingly frequent Chinese air and naval exercises, sometimes with Russian forces.

Starting under Abe’s administration, Japan recognized an “increasingly severe” security environment in 2014, in a Ministry of Defense white paper, as China built artificial islands to bolster territorial claims in the Pacific, North Korea aggressively tested missiles and nuclear weapons and Russia annexed Crimea, a Ukrainian province.

The paper called for a “dynamic defense” to address these challenges. Successive white papers have stressed jointness, interoperability with American and allied forces and securing new domains like cyber and space.

As Abe was leaving office, Tokyo took major steps to modernize the self-defense forces, such as agreeing to buy more sophisticated F-35A and F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, revamp its naval helicopter carriers to handle the Short Take-Off version and produce more diesel-electric submarines.

The modernization program is continuing with Tokyo’s Fiscal Year 2022 defense budget of more than $47 billion. USNI News reported naval-related funding under the 2022 budget calls for the construction of five surface ships and a submarine. The budget includes 110 billion yen ($957 million) for the ninth and 10th ship of the Mogami-class frigates, 73.6 billion yen ( $641 million) for a sixth Taigei-class submarine, 13.4 billion yen ($116.7 million) for a fifth Awaji-class minesweeper, 27.9 billion yen ($242.9 million) for an oceanographic research ship and 19.6 billion yen (U.S 170.7 million) for a fourth Hibiki-class ocean surveillance ship.

In the Indo-Pacific, Abe was a key figure in developing the informal security arrangement known as the Quad among Japan, the United States, Australia and India. An example of that evolving relationship, as a counter to an increasingly bullying China over Taiwan, the Senkakus and in the South China Sea, came in 2020 when Canberra agreed to participate with the other three in an expanded Malabar maritime exercise off the Indian coast.

 

President Donald J. Trump joined by the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe arrive aboard the JS Kaga Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Yokosuka, Japan. White House Photo

The military agreement bolstered Abe’s push for a major regional trade and economic development arrangement in the Indo-Pacific after the Trump administration backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. He viewed the development alliance as an alternative to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative in building key infrastructure from ports to airfields to highways in developing nations starting in Southeast Asia.

During Abe’s term in office, North Korea’s continued expansion of its nuclear arsenal and rapid development of missile technologies posed new threats in northeast Asia and across the wider Pacific to include Guam, an American territory, as well as Hawaii and possibly the U.S. mainland.

But relations with Seoul, another American ally, reached a diplomatic low point and, for a time, disrupted trilateral vital intelligence sharing among American, South Korea and Japanese militaries. The split was fueled by trade disputes and the tempestuous colonial history between Korea and Japan.

Intelligence on Pyongyang’s missile program was central to the partnership.

Integration of the three nations’ missile defenses remains a challenge and will be tested during this year’s RIMPAC exercise.

Relations were not always smooth between Washington and Tokyo during the Trump years.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a trilateral summit in March 2015. Japan Prime Minister’s Office Photo

With more than 50,000 American service members in Japan, how much Tokyo should pay for their presence, as well as U.S. military assets there, became a flashpoint that only ebbed when the Biden administration took office.

While often controversial for his political ties and economic policies, Abe successfully amended Japan’s constitution to allow collective defense of other nations, training regional coast guards and establishment of overseas bases.

As Abe was leaving office. Michael Green, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International studies, said at a panel session on the prime minister’s tenure he should be ranked “as one of, if not the most consequential prime minister” in Japan’s post-war history. “He intended to compete” economically and diplomatically and maintain Indo-Pacific security, Green added.

China Denies Harassing Canadian, Australian Patrol Aircraft in the Western Pacific

Beijing is denying that People’s Liberation Army forces harassed Australian and Canadian patrol aircraft in the Western Pacific, claiming that in both cases the aircraft endangered China’s security. Last week, the Canadian Armed Forces issued a statement claiming that on several occasions, while conducting security patrol near North Korea, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force […]

Australian P-8A. RAAF Photo

Beijing is denying that People’s Liberation Army forces harassed Australian and Canadian patrol aircraft in the Western Pacific, claiming that in both cases the aircraft endangered China’s security.

Last week, the Canadian Armed Forces issued a statement claiming that on several occasions, while conducting security patrol near North Korea, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) harassed a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140.

The RCAF aircrew felt enough at risk that they had to quickly modify their own flight path in order to avoid collision with the intercepting aircraft. The statement stressed that the CAF’s primary concern is the safety of its aircrew and the importance of PLAAF aircraft maintaining a professional distance from CAF aircraft flying a United Nations-sanctioned mission occurring in international airspace. Canada ended the statement by saying diplomatic channels would address the incidents.

The mission, Operation NEON, is Canada’s contribution of naval ships, military aircraft and personnel to a coordinated multinational effort in support of the implementation of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea. The multinational effort consists of surveillance operations to identify suspected North Korean maritime sanctions evasion activities. The CAF deployed a CP-140 Aurora Maritime Patrol Aircraft, along with supporting personnel, to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa from April 26 to May 26.

Chinese officials said the Canadian military aircraft have increased close-up reconnaissance and provocations against China under the pretext of implementing the U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Chinese officials said these occurrences endanger China’s national security and the safety of frontline personnel of both sides.

“China firmly opposes this provocative behavior of the Canadian side,” Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a response to a question from the Chinese media on Monday.
“The Chinese military urges the Canadian military to face up to the seriousness of the situation, strictly discipline its front-line troops and must not conduct any risky and provocative acts, otherwise, all serious consequences arising therefrom should be borne by the Canadian side”.

 

Chinese J-16 in flight. PLAAF Photo

On Sunday, Australia’s Department of Defence said that on May 26, a Royal Australian Air Force P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft during a routine patrol over the South China Sea. The intercept resulted in a dangerous maneuver that posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew and the Australian government has raised its concerns about the incident with the Chinese government.

“Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace,” reads the statement.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles subsequently provided further details on the incident while speaking to the media on Monday.

“What occurred was that the J-16 aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft. In flying close to the side, it released flares, the J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance. At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff which contains small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft. Quite obviously, this is very dangerous,” Marles said.

He added that the aircraft had returned to base safely and the crew were unharmed. The Department of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force had made representations to the Chinese authorities about the incident in which Australia had expressed its concern about what had occurred, and particularly, the manner in which the safety of the Australian aircraft and crew had been placed in jeopardy, Marles said.

The RAAF P-8 in the incident was one of two RAAF P-8s operating from Clark Airbase in the Philippines. The aircraft resumed surveillance flights again on June 3, Australian Defence Magazine reported.

A CP-140 Aurora aircraft flies by Mount Rainier in the State of Washington, USA. Royal Canadian Air Force Photo

One of the RAAF P-8s also took part in exercise Albatros Australia-Indonesia, held in the Makassar Strait between the Australian and Indonesian navies on May 29 and 30. Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH154), Indonesian Navy corvette Frans Kaisiepo (368) and an Indonesian Air Force B-737 surveillance aircraft participated in the drills. Parramatta is on a regional presence deployment and is now operating in the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in response to a Chinese media query about the incident that on May 26, an Australian P-8A entered the airspace near China’s Paracel “for close-in reconnaissance and continuously approached China’s territorial airspace over the Xisha Islands in disregard of repeated warnings from the Chinese side.”

The PLA Southern Theater Command dispatched naval and air forces to identify and verify the Australian plane and warn it off, he said.

“The Australian warplane has seriously threatened China’s sovereignty and security and the countermeasures taken by the Chinese military are professional, safe, reasonable and legitimate,” he said.

Tan said Australia repeatedly disseminates false information and instigates hostility and confrontation, which China rejected.

In February, Australia and China had clashed over the activities of an RAAF P-8 monitoring a PLAN surface task group sailing Australia’s northern Economic Exclusion Zone. Australia claimed a PLAN ship had illuminated the P-8 with a laser from a PLAN ship. China claimed the P-8 had flown close to its ships and dropped sonobuoys near the vessels.

Japan Announces Indo-Pacific Warship Deployment Ahead of U.S.-led RIMPAC Exercise

Four Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force warships will leave later this month for a four-month deployment throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Japan’s Ministry of Defense recently announced. From June 13 to Oct. 28, Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD2022) will involve three ships, a submarine and three fixed-wing aircraft from the JMSDF. The deployment has two objectives: “to improve […]

JS Izumo (DDH-183) docking at the Port Klang Cruise Terminal, Malaysia during its 2019 Indo-Pacific Deployment. Dzirhan Mahadzir Photo

Four Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force warships will leave later this month for a four-month deployment throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Japan’s Ministry of Defense recently announced.

From June 13 to Oct. 28, Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD2022) will involve three ships, a submarine and three fixed-wing aircraft from the JMSDF.

The deployment has two objectives: “to improve JMSDF tactical capabilities and to strengthen cooperation with partner navies in the Indo-Pacific region through joint exercises and secondly to contribute to the peace and stability of the region and to enhance mutual understanding and relationship with partner countries through the deployment,” according to a statement from the MoD.

The JMSDF has done the IPD deployment annually since 2019. This year, the deployment will include destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) with three embarked helicopters and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110). A second surface unit includes destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104). The name of the submarine deploying is not clear.

Three aircraft – a P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, a UP-3D Orion Electronic Intelligence training aircraft and a US-2 search and rescue seaplane along with support personnel – will deploy to countries where IPD 22 naval units will join for exercises. Elements of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will embark for part of the deployment.

The IPD 22 units will make port calls to Australia, Fiji, French New Caledonia, India, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga, United States, Vanuatu and Vietnam. The IPD 22 units will participate in six exercises, namely Rim of the Pacific 2022 (RIMPAC 2022), according to the news release. They will also partake in Pacific Partnership 2022, the Japan-United States-Australia-Korea joint exercise Pacific Vanguard 22, Japan-India joint training exercise (JIMEX), the Royal Australian Navy multilateral training exercise Kakadu 2022 and the U.S. and Australian-sponsored multilateral exercise Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama/ MTA Lumbas 2022. The release did not specify which units will take part in each exercise.

RIMPAC 2022 will take place from June 29 through Aug. 4 near the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, according to a Tuesday news release from U.S. 3rd Fleet.

“Twenty-six nations, 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 170 aircraft and approximately 25,000 personnel” will join for RIMPAC, 3rd Fleet said.

Several of the participating nation’s ships have departed from their home ports for Hawaii, with the Republic of Korea Navy Landing Helicopter Platform ROKS Marado (LPH-6112) and destroyers ROKS Sejong the Great (DDG-991) and ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH-976) leaving Jeju Naval Base on Tuesday. Submarine ROKS Shin Dol-seok (SS-082) and a ROKN P-3 Maritime Patrol aircraft will also participate in RIMPAC 2022. On Monday, Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Lekir (FSG26) left RMN Lumut Naval Base for Hawaii.

In an interview on Saturday, Lekir’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Asri Dasman said his ship will take part in the Sink Exercise (SINKEX) during RIMPAC 2022, firing an MM40 Exocet anti-ship missile.

MTA Sama Sama,/MTA Lumbas is a multilateral exercise involving the Philippines, Australia, Japan, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. A date for the exercise has yet to be released. Exercise Kakadu 2022 will take place in the waters of Northern Australia from Sept. 12 through Sept. 25.