Japanese MoD Report on Chinese Gray Zone, Influence Operations

The following is the Nov. 25, report from the Japanese National Institute For Defense Studies, China Security Report 2023: China’s Quest for Control of the Cognitive Domain and Gray Zone Situations. From the report The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Party’s army. It follows the Party’s command and defines its most important role as […]

The following is the Nov. 25, report from the Japanese National Institute For Defense Studies, China Security Report 2023: China’s Quest for Control of the Cognitive Domain and Gray Zone Situations.

From the report

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Party’s army. It follows the Party’s command and defines its most important role as protecting the Party’s regime. Until President Xi Jinping’s military reforms, the Party exercised control over the military mainly through the PLA’s political work organizations, including the General Political Department, and political commissars. Such indirect control, however, was susceptible to communication issues and hindering the execution of joint operations, and caused widespread bribery and corruption in the PLA.

Xi Jinping’s military reforms drove the restructuring of Chinese military organizations, and in this context, the leadership of the Party has been strengthened. More emphasis is placed on direct control by the Chinese Communist Party, with focus especially on the implementation of the chairman responsibility system of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the Party committees in the military. Furthermore, military governance through laws and rules is underscored. The Party’s leadership has been reinforced not only over the PLA but also over other military organizations, and mechanisms are being developed for coordination between
the military and other governmental actors. These measures were developed also as a response to modern forms of conflict that actively use non-military means.

For influence operations, the Strategic Support Force (SSF) was established. The SSF appears not only to integrate functions related to cyber, electromagnetic spectrum, and outer space, but also to be deeply engaged in the struggle for the psychological and cognitive domain.

For gray zone operations, the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and the CCG were reorganized. The PAP was placed under the sole leadership of the CMC, while the CCG became subordinate to the PAP and in turn was also placed under the leadership of the PLA. As a result of the reorganization, the PAP specializes in maintaining public security in peacetime and contributes more easily to PLA joint operations in a contingency.

Download the document here.

Australia’s Port Dispute Shows A Labor System Full Of Holes

With a settlement not really any closer, the Svitzer dispute demonstrates the failure of the Fair Work Act to provide a safety valve to resolve intractable labor disputes in Australia….

With a settlement not really any closer, the Svitzer dispute demonstrates the failure of the Fair Work Act to provide a safety valve to resolve intractable labor disputes in Australia....

Canada, France Should Join AUKUS Style Tech Agreement with U.S., Senator Says

A senior Republican senator suggested Washington craft a military technology agreement with Canada and France to strengthen alliances with the U.S. and to deter Russia and China. Sen. James Risch, (R-Idaho) — ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee — said at the Halifax International Security Forum that Canada and France should be part of […]

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate St. Johns leaving Portsmouth, U.K. Ralph Edwards photo used with permission

A senior Republican senator suggested Washington craft a military technology agreement with Canada and France to strengthen alliances with the U.S. and to deter Russia and China.

Sen. James Risch, (R-Idaho) — ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee — said at the Halifax International Security Forum that Canada and France should be part of an agreement similar to the one the U.S. established with the U.K. and Australia.

The technology sharing agreement between the countries includes U.K. and U.S. assistance to help Australia build and operate its first nuclear-powered attack submarines.

The “administration had a really, really good idea” in signing the technology sharing agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States [AUKUS], Risch said, but he would criticize the administration for not consulting the Senate before moving ahead on AUKUS. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-N.H.) part of the bipartisan delegation to the forum, nodded in agreement.

In response to the question over Canadian concerns about the secrecy surrounding the agreement, Risch said, “if you think the Canadians are unhappy, you ought to talk to the French.”

Risch referred to Australia’s cancellation of a more than $66 billion contract with the French to build conventionally powered submarines to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s aging Collins-class diesel attack boats.

Following the announcement of the AUKUS agreement in September 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa wouldn’t change Canada’s security and intelligence relationship with the three allies through the “Five Eyes” program. New Zealand is also part of the Five Eyes group.

Risch added the AUKUS agreement would not affect Canada’s ability to defend its interests in the Indo-Pacific. Canada has not officially expressed an interest in building and operating nuclear-powered submarines.

But like other allies and partners, Canada was kept in the dark about the agreement itself and the extent of its terms.

Shaheen said at the forum AUKUS was “another opportunity for us to engage our partners in the Indo-Pacific,” but added the United States will continue to explore similar security arrangements with other allies. Neither she nor Risch said any new agreement should include nuclear-powered attack submarines.

This spring, following Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, the U.K., U.S. and Australia, announced they would be working more closely on hypersonic weapons engine development, electronic warfare and cyber technology.

The French design of the Attack-class submarine that was canceled by Australia last week. Naval Group image

In this announcement and the one in the fall, China was never mentioned as the underlying reason for the agreement.

Since the announcement on closer cooperation on advanced technologies in the spring, pressure has grown in Canada for a similar arrangement with close allies. The Trudeau government is undertaking a new defense review in light of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine and China’s growing global ambitions.

Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas), who is expected to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the new Congress, said, “I think the Five Eyes is a good model” for expanded technology sharing among allies like Canada, France, Japan and the Republic of Korea. At a later session of the forum, he added technology is how the U.S. will win in competition with China. He emphasized artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications and semiconductor production.

At the press conference, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) said to the Canadians in attendance “rest assured that everyone knows that our partnership and what we work on together in terms of our shared defense industrial base is well-known among partners and allies and is recognized by us in the United States as well.”

Svitzer Ordered to Scrap Harbor Tug Worker Lockout in Australia

Australia’s Fair Work Commission has ruled that Svitzer Australia, a subsidiary of Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, must scrap its plans for a lockout of its harbor tug workers that…

Australia’s Fair Work Commission has ruled that Svitzer Australia, a subsidiary of Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, must scrap its plans for a lockout of its harbor tug workers that...

Svitzer Planning Lockout of Australian Harbor Tug Crews in Dispute with Unions

Towage operator Svitzer, an A.P. Moller-Maersk subsidiary, has announced an indefinite lockout of Australian harbor tug crews over an industrial labor dispute with maritime unions, likely to result in major…

Towage operator Svitzer, an A.P. Moller-Maersk subsidiary, has announced an indefinite lockout of Australian harbor tug crews over an industrial labor dispute with maritime unions, likely to result in major...

Bulker Banned from Australian Ports for Three Months

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Costanza from Australian ports for three months for underpaying crew wages. AMSA boarded the Constanza earlier this month…

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Costanza from Australian ports for three months for underpaying crew wages. AMSA boarded the Constanza earlier this month...

U.S. and Japan Prepare for Joint Exercise; U.S. Wraps up Drills with Allies in South China Sea

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today. Exercise Keen Sword will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according […]

U.S. Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 prepare to off-load ammunition from a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Resolute Dragon 22 on Camp Betsukai, Hokkaido, Japan, Oct. 8, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today.

Exercise Keen Sword will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a Friday news release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Ministry of Defense.

The exercise will take place from Nov. 10-19 at Japan Self-Defense Force and U.S. Forces Japan facilities, the waters and airspace of Japan, on Tsutara Island, which lies west of Nagasaki, and on the southern islands of Amami Oshima and Tokonushima. It will include live-fire drills and focus on a wide-range of operations, including amphibious, ground, maritime, air and working within the space and cyber domains.

The exercise is aimed at improving interoperability between Japan and the U.S. Japan will send 26,000 personnel, 20 ships and 250 aircraft from across the JSDF, while the U.S. will send 10,000 personnel, 10 ships and 120 aircraft from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units in the Indo-Pacific and Japan, in addition to personnel from Space Force.

Canada will participate with two ships – HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) – that have been operating in the region since participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise and an aircraft.

Both ships are deployed to the Indo-Pacific under Operation Projection, the Canadian Armed Forces presence operations in the region, with Vancouver also tasked to sail around Japan under Operation Neon, which covers Canada’s contribution to maritime and aerial surveillance operations to enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Australia will participate with a single ship and a single aircraft, while the United Kingdom will send either offshore patrol vessel HMS Tamar (P233) or HMS Spey (P234), both of which are deployed in the region. Observers from Australia, Canada, France, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom and NATO have been invited to the exercise.

Keen Sword follows an extensive series of activities between the U.S. and its partners in the region, with the United States Marine Corps recently wrapping up bilateral exercise Kamandag 6 in the Philippines and Resolute Dragon 22 in Japan. The multilateral exercise known as Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Samasama Lumbas in the Sulu Sea – hosted by the Philippines, Australia and United States – concluded on Tuesday.

U.S. Navy Sailors with Naval Beach Unit Seven park a landing craft, utility during a rehearsal for a bilateral amphibious landing at Naval Education, Training and Doctrine Command in Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 6, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

“Participating units included USS Benfold, USNS Dahl (T-AKR-312) and USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 11, Patrol Squadron 45, Helicopter Maritime Squadron-51, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), and approximately 1,600 Marines and Sailors from across III MEF including forces from 3d Marine Division, 12th Marines, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and 3d Marine Logistics Group partnered with 1,400 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel from the Northern Army, 2nd Division, during Resolute Dragon 22,” the Navy said in a news release.

During Resolute Dragon 22, Benfold worked with both the U.S. Marine Corps high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 88 surface-to-ship missiles, according to the release.

Kamandag 6 included participation from 1,900 U.S. Marines, 530 Philippine Marines and 100 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Air Force. The Republic of Korea sent 120 Marines, who together with 30 personnel from the JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade participated in some portions of the exercise.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, MV-22B Ospreys, AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters and KC-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft all participated in the drills. Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) and expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) also jointed for the exercise. Tripoli and New Orleans have 31st Marine Expeditionary Units embarked.

Sailors handle a phone and distance line aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) during a replenishment-at- sea (RAS) with USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) Oct. 16, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

On Tuesday, MTA Samasama Lumbas, which began on Oct. 11, concluded its at-sea phase. The exercise was formerly two separate bilateral exercises – exercise Samasama between the Philippine Navy and the U.S. Navy and exercise Lumbas between the Philippine Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The two exercises were held simultaneously together this year for the first time.

Aircraft involved in the subject matter expert exchange engagement phase included Philippine Navy Beechcraft C-90, French Navy Falcon 2000 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force US-2 seaplane and a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The JMSDF US-2 forms the 3rd Air Unit of the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD22). The French Navy Falcon 2000 is now operating at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, until early November, conducting maritime surveillance operations in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea, according to a Japan Ministry of Defense statement.

The sea phase included two interoperability iterations, with the first phase focused on search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster relief operations with the Philippine Navy, JMSDF, the United Kingdom Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, with embarked observers from the U.K. Royal Navy, Royal Brunei Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Malaysian Navy. Ships involved in this phase included Philippine Navy frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), JMSDF destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), RN OPV HMS Spey (P234), RAN destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39) and replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304), while aircraft participation featured the Philippine Navy C90 and JMSDF US-2.

The Philippine Navy also performed a replenishment at sea between Jose Rizal and Stalwart, in which 30,000 liters of fuel were transferred to Jose Rizal. The Philippine Navy said it had not conducted an underway replenishment in a long time.

The second phase, carried out on Tuesday, involved the Philippine Navy, RAN and U.S. Navy in warfighting interoperability exercises, with destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69) joining Jose Rizal, Hobart and Stalwart. During the anti-submarine warfare portion of the exercise, Hobart released an Expendable Mobile Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Training Target (EMATT) that served as a submerged target for participating ships to identify and locate.

Kirisame is the second surface unit of IPD22. The first unit, which includes helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), completed its part of IPD22 when it returned to Japan on Oct. 5. Kirisame is expected to return to Japan later this month.

Prior to Samasama Lumbas, Kirisame conducted the Noble Mist 22 exercise from Oct. 4-8 in the South China Sea with U.S. Navy destroyers Milius and USS Higgins (DDG-76), RAN destroyer Hobart, frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH151), replenishment ship Stalwart, RCN frigate HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) and U.S Coast Guard cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL-757). The activities between the U.S, Australia, Canada and Japan in the South China Sea appeared to be a continuous series of engagements until Monday, when the U.S. Navy said it finished the drills.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducts a trilateral training exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Murusame-class destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), the Royal Australian Navy Supply-class auxiliary replenishment oiler HMAS Stalwart (A304), and the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) while operating in the South China Sea, Oct. 07. U.S. Navy Photo

“This exercise builds on the previous bilateral and trilateral exercises from recent months conducted in the South China Sea. Throughout the naval exercises, participants trained together and conducted integrated operations designed to increase the allies’ collective ability to maintain maritime security and readiness to respond to any regional contingency. Integrated events included surface, subsurface, and air defense exercises that included Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) from several participating nations,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Hobart, Arunta and Stalwart are currently double-tasked on a regional presence deployment for Australia and form part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 (IPE22), Australia’s annual regional engagement deployment. The main task group of IPE22 includes landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01) and frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150), which left Darwin on Oct. 13 and are now headed to Sri Lanka to begin their first IPE22 engagement.

In other developments, New Zealand Navy replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa is headed to Busan, Republic of Korea after concluding a visit at RMN Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Aotearoa will replenish partner nation ships during her passage to Busan, which included replenishing Milius and Midgett in the South China Sea on Oct. 11 and more recently amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on Wednesday in the Philippine Sea.

Bombers Could Help Australia During Transition to Nuclear-Powered Submarines

Bombers, long-range strike missiles and large undersea unmanned systems could help Canberra until it has nuclear-powered attack submarines, an Australian and American security expert agreed Wednesday. “Bombers are a possibility,” said Marcus Hellyer of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, speaking at a Hudson Institute event. Mark Gunzinger, of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies at the […]

Bombers, long-range strike missiles and large undersea unmanned systems could help Canberra until it has nuclear-powered attack submarines, an Australian and American security expert agreed Wednesday.

“Bombers are a possibility,” said Marcus Hellyer of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, speaking at a Hudson Institute event.

Mark Gunzinger, of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies at the Air and Space Force Association, said “the B-21 is part of a family of systems for long-range strike” that includes missiles and unmanned systems. The Air Force has taken delivery of six of these bombers and some can be operational soon.

He added, “you really don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket” when it comes to deterring a competitor like China. The goal should be “to build a much more resilient capability.” Bombers, in addition to having the ability to fly multiple long-range strike sorties, can also keep sea lanes of communication open and perform sea-mining.

Building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines is the centerpiece of the technology agreement – known as AUKUS – that Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States reached a little more than a year ago. Canberra is expected to make a decision early next year on whether to use an American or U.K. design for the submarine. But that is only the first step in the submarine program, which also must train Australian crews in nuclear operations and create a skilled shipyard workforce in South Australia to build, repair and maintain the nuclear attack boats.

“There’s no use getting SSNs unless you can maintain them,” said Hellyer, adding that the nuclear-powered submarines require about three times as much maintenance time as conventional boats.

It could be 2040 before Australia has the first submarine deliver, with the Royal Australian Navy projected to have four boats by 2050, Hellyer said. 

While in the transition period, Canberra needs to determine what operations it wants its defense forces to be able to do, Hellyer said. It also needs to figure out what it can get from its allies and what it can provide for itself.

Submarines are just one option to carry out a number of maritime missions, Gunzinger said.

Australia is “already embarked on two high-risk [naval] activities,” Hellyer said.

He was referring to Canberra’s plan to extend the service life of some of its six Collins-class conventional submarines to ease the transition, while also launching an ambitious modernization program for its surface fleet.

Both programs are long-term and costly. They also will fill Australian shipyards to capacity at a time when American and U.K. yards also are stretched to the limit, Hellyer said.

“Maybe the best interim capability we could have is the B-21 bomber,” he said.

Both agreed that using modified F-35A Lightning II Strike Fighters and F/A-18F Super Hornets armed with 1,000-kilometer range missiles would have limited reach in deterring China in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

New systems like hypersonics are extremely costly and usable only once, Hellyer and Gunzinger said.

Unmanned systems, however, can play an increasingly important role in the transition. Hellyer noted that the Royal Australian Navy is also now partnering with Anduril to build and use extra large autonomous undersea unmanned vessels.

“It’s all about China,” Hellyer said in explaining Australia’s decision last year to break its contract with France to build extended range conventional submarines.

Australia’s relations with China “changed significantly” within a year, said Hellyer.

Factors included Beijing’s crackdown on democratic dissent in Hong Kong, its increasingly belligerent stance toward Taiwan and stiff tariffs and embargoes placed on Australian products after Canberra demanded an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it broke the contract last year and decided to pursue building a nuclear-powered submarine, Australia was looking for “a high-end conventional deterrent,” he said.

Hellyer added that AUKUS for Canberra also “is about keeping the U.S. engaged in the Western Pacific.”

Japan Set to Buy SM-6s in Potential $450M Deal, Says State Deptartment

Japan is set to be the first country after the United States to field the Standard Missile 6 as part of a proposed $450 million arms package, according to a State Department notification to Congress. According to the Thursday notification, Japan was conditionally approved to buy up to 32 of the Raytheon-built SM-6 Block Is, […]

SM-6 launches from guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones on Aug. 29, 2017. MDA Photo

Japan is set to be the first country after the United States to field the Standard Missile 6 as part of a proposed $450 million arms package, according to a State Department notification to Congress.

According to the Thursday notification, Japan was conditionally approved to buy up to 32 of the Raytheon-built SM-6 Block Is, pending congressional approval.

“The proposed sale will improve Japan’s Air Defense and Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities against potential adversaries in the region. It will also provide the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance with the latest and most advanced capabilities, reducing Japan’s reliance on U.S. Forces for the defense of Japan and further improving U.S.-Japan military interoperability. Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces,” reads the notification.

The notification follows a 2017 decision from the Pentagon that conditionally approved Japan, South Korea and Australia to buy the missiles, reported USNI News at the time.

All three countries field guided-missile warships that are outfitted with Baseline 9 of the Aegis Combat System. Baseline 9 allows the ships to input targeting information into the SM-6 from another ship or aircraft rather than a ship’s own sensors.

Australia’s three Hobart-class guided-missile destroyers, Japan’s two Atago-class and two Maya-class destroyers and three planned South Korean Sejong the Great-class destroyers feature Baseline 9.

The SM-6 features three different modes – anti-air warfare, anti-surface and a limited ballistic missile defense capability – but not all the features may be available to all three countries, USNI News understands.

In particular, the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency have done several tests to prove the missile’s effectiveness against ballistic missiles in the terminal phase.

Last year, the MDA’s program executive officer for Aegis ballistic missile defense at the time, Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, called the SM-6 “our leading defense capability for hypersonic missile defense.”

Japanese destroyers also field the SM-3 designed for ballistic missile defense. Earlier this year, Japan indicated it would build two 20,000 warships designed specifically for ballistic missile defense missions, USNI News reported last month.

Australia Should Work Closely With U.S. to Master Nuclear Submarine Building, Congressmen Say

Australians should now work shoulder to shoulder with Americans in mastering the building of nuclear submarines while their countrymen serve on deployed U.S. Navy attack submarines to master their operations at sea, two members of the House Armed Services Committee said Friday. Australia has no history of nuclear energy and no industrial capacity to build […]

Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Sheean arrives alongside during a logistics port visit of Hobart, Tasmania on April 1, 2021. Royal Australian Navy Photo

Australians should now work shoulder to shoulder with Americans in mastering the building of nuclear submarines while their countrymen serve on deployed U.S. Navy attack submarines to master their operations at sea, two members of the House Armed Services Committee said Friday.

Australia has no history of nuclear energy and no industrial capacity to build reactors, Rep. Rob Wittman, (R-Va.) said during a discussion on southeast Asia and the Pacific put on by the Wilson Center.

The Australians “need to be here,” he said.

The first conversations with Australians about nuclear submarines were about having a workforce of the next generation of electricians, machinists and welders to manufacture the submarines in the country and to be able to sustain them, Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) said.

Training submarine crews and shipyard workers is not something “done in one cycle. It takes time” to understand procedures and methods, Norcross said.

Australia is expected to announce, in the first quarter of 2023, whether it will pursue and American design or one from the United Kingdom for its future submarine force, Richard Marles, deputy prime minister and Australia’s minister of defense, said again in Hawaii last week.

Canberra’s development of a nuclear submarine fleet to replace its existing diesel-powered Collins class is a central part of the agreement between Australia, the United States and United Kingdom (AUKUS) reached last year on defense technology cooperation.

“It will not just be what submarine we’re going with, but how quickly we can get it, and to the extent that there is any capability gap that arises, how that capability gap can be resolved because it’s critically important, given the strategic circumstances that we face, that there is an evolving submarine capability in Australia from this day right through into the day where the first nuclear-powered submarine enters the water,” Marles said at the Hawaii press conference.

Although the reactors for Australia’s nuclear submarines would likely come from the United States, Wittman said he doubted whether work would be done in American shipyards building the Navy’s submarines.

“There’s a political reality that Australia needs to deal with” in building the submarines in the country. “It has to be an Australian effort” to be successful over the long term.

The U.S. Navy is currently working on building Virginia-class submarines, but they are being completed at a slower pace than the sea service decommissions the Los Angeles-class submarines, Wittman said.

Like the Australians, the Navy is looking into service life extension programs to bridge gaps in delivering new attack and ballistic missile submarines, the congressmen said.

“We have to signal industry this is not a one-year plus-up” when it comes to submarine construction,” Norcross said. The United States also needs to be looking at the need for a next generation of shipyard workers to build and sustain the fleet into the future.

Wittman and Norcross traveled to the Indo-Pacific, where Wittman said he saw great benefit in Marine Corps Commandant’s Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 as a counter to China’s regional ambitions.

The widely dispersed stand-in Marine force with long-range strike and long-range anti-ship fires complicate Chinese military planning, Wittman said. But to make this approach work over the vast distances of the Indo-Pacific, the Navy needs a 31-vessel amphibious fleet and a strong logistical base, he added.

“How do you get a force there and sustain it?” Wittman asked rhetorically.

He called the state of the aging American-flagged fleet and ships under Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration anemic. Numbers and ship age “is one of their [all services] concerns” about sustaining operations in that theater, the congressmen agreed.

“Those long distances take enormous amount of resources” in terms of ships and aircraft like the C-46, Norcross said.

In the first Gulf War, there were 364 ships to sustain operations, Wittman added.

The ability to sustain the Navy is crucial, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said when pressed at a news conference last week in Hawaii.

“Any warrior or warfighter will tell you, any secretary of defense will tell, you that logistics are critical,” he said. “And so because of that, there’s no — it stands to reason that any adversary would try to interdict your ability to sustain yourself. We recognize that, and because of that, you know, we will do everything that’s necessary to make sure that we can sustain ourselves.”