U.S., NATO in for a ‘Long Haul’ Conflict with Russia, Says Polish PM

NATO and the West must be “in the fight for the long haul” economically, diplomatically and militarily in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression, Poland’s prime minister said Tuesday. Although drawing the line at direct military confrontation, Mateusz Morawiecki, in prepared remarks delivered by a Polish chancellery official at the Atlantic Council, said, “it’s up to […]

U.S. Army Sgt. Keegan Davis, assigned to 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, walks towards his Soldiers after laying out parts of machine guns onto the front of an M1A2 Abrams tank after conducting a live-fire accuracy screening test as part of Defender 22 at Mielno Range, Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, May 11, 2022. U.S. Army Photo

NATO and the West must be “in the fight for the long haul” economically, diplomatically and militarily in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression, Poland’s prime minister said Tuesday.

Although drawing the line at direct military confrontation, Mateusz Morawiecki, in prepared remarks delivered by a Polish chancellery official at the Atlantic Council, said, “it’s up to us to win the battle” of protecting Ukrainian sovereignty and blunting possible Kremlin moves against alliance members.

“Ukraine is fighting this war not only for its security but ours.” He said the Feb. 24 invasion “turns out to be a wake-up call” to all of Europe about President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in eastern and central Europe.

In response to the invasion, the prime minister added, “we, the Europeans, have to step up our defense spending.”

Poland already meets the NATO threshold of spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on security. In light of the war in Ukraine, Warsaw intends to raise that percentage in coming years.

Morawiecki praised the United States for its “stepped-up presence” on NATO’s eastern flank to signal to Russia that the alliance is serious about defense.

Mark Brzezinski, American ambassador to Poland, said that in Warsaw, there are now 12,600 American soldiers on Polish bases. Either arriving with them or coming soon are M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

“We are being tested, and Poland is under threat,” he said when explaining the reasoning behind the U.S. troop levels there.

Former ambassador to Poland, Daniel Fried, said, “we don’t know who will win” in Ukraine, but the Ukrainians “have a reasonable chance of success.” He said the West has to keep the pressure on Moscow. “We can’t screw this up.”

Brzezinski added that the movement of so many U.S. forces and so much equipment eastward from the U.S. and other bases in Europe “allow[s] NATO to stand firm.” He said the American build-up and similar moves by the United Kingdom further underscore Washington’s and London’s commitment to the alliance.

“Sanctions will not stop Russia today,” Katarzyna Pisarska, chair of the Warsaw Security Forum, added. “But we need more of them” to weaken Putin, his coterie and the nation’s economy over time.

Europeans also need to become more energy independent from Moscow to cripple Putin’s ability to wage war by cutting off revenues from his largest source of foreign revenue, said Georgette Mossbacher, who also served as an ambassador to Poland. By building liquified natural gas terminals and exploring nuclear energy, Mossbacher said Warsaw took these steps when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Foreign energy sales provided revenue for 36 percent of Russia’s released 2022 budget, according to a Reuters report from earlier this year.

Pisarska said the Russian leader has been steering his country into “self-isolation” since 2008 to consolidate power. A large part of self-isolation is playing out in domestic propaganda to build support for the regime’s war, which it calls a “special military operation,” and in other propaganda denigrating Ukraine, Poland and other eastern and central European nations as ruled by Nazis. The unrelenting stream of stories and postings on these points also makes the Russian audience more accepting of crimes and atrocities committed by its soldiers, she added.

For years, the Russian public has been fed a steady diet that “mass genocide has been carried out in Donbas” by the Ukrainians. Days before the invasion, Putin recognized two provinces in Donbas, where there are large numbers of Russian speakers, as independent of Kyiv. Separatists in the two provinces, backed by the Kremlin, have been engaged in a civil war with the Ukraine government for eight years.

The secretary general of the United Nations said Russia’s claim violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity as a nation.

When the disinformation and propaganda turn outward, Pisarska said it plays on nationalist feelings that oppose allowing more Ukrainian refugees to enter Poland and other NATO and European Union countries.

“You see that in the comment lines” on social media, and this digital campaign “never stops,” despite constant monitoring by social media firms, said Marta Poslad, director of central and eastern European public policy for Google. “The technology is constantly changing,” and that makes removing hated-filled disinformation even more difficult, she added.

Despite the Russian propaganda aimed at Poland’s nationalists, Brzezinski called Warsaw “a humanitarian superpower.” He cited citizens driving to the border to greet and help refugees and others opening their doors to house them as examples of how ordinary Poles have responded to the invasion. Rafal Trzaskowski, Warsaw’s mayor, estimated that the Polish capital was now housing 300,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Report to Congress on U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific

The following is the May 6, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. military has maintained a significant and enduring presence in the Indo-Pacific region. In the past, the United States’ […]

The following is the May 6, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. military has maintained a significant and enduring presence in the Indo-Pacific region. In the past, the United States’ strategic approach to the region has varied greatly. From September 11, 2001, until almost the next decade, strategic emphasis was placed largely on global counterterrorism, primarily focused on U.S. Central Command’s (USCENTCOM’s) and later U.S. Africa Command’s (USAFRICOM’s) areas of operation. Starting around 2004, the George W. Bush Administration began to consider strengthening relations with allies in Asia and potentially revising U.S. doctrine and force posture in the region to improve U.S. capabilities.

In 2011, the Obama Administration announced the United States would expand and strengthen its existing role in the Asia-Pacific region. Referred to as the “Rebalance to Asia,” this strategic shift away from counterterrorism was intended to devote more effort to influencing the development of the Asia-Pacific’s norms and rules, particularly as China was emerging as an ever-more influential regional power.

While many view the Indo-Pacific as primarily a Navy- and Air Force-centric region, the Army and Marine Corps have a long and consequential presence in the region and are modifying their operational concepts, force structure, and weapon systems to address regional threats posed primarily by North Korea and China. The Army and Marines each play a critical role in the region, not only in the event of conflict but also in deterrence, security force assistance, and humanitarian assistance operations.

Congress continues to play an active and essential role in Indo-Pacific security matters. The Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), created by the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; P.L. 116-283, §1251) is just one example of congressional involvement in regional security efforts. The February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and its present and future implications for European and Indo-Pacific security will likely increase both congressional interest and action in the near term and for the foreseeable future.

Potential issues for Congress include:

  • the role of U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region,
  • the posture of U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region,
  • U.S. ground forces execution of regional wartime missions, and
  • the potential impact of the Ukrainian conflict on U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region.

Download the document here.

VIDEO: LCS USS Montgomery Fires Hellfire Missiles in Land Attack Test

An Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship launched three Longbow Hellfire missiles that hit a land-based target in a demonstration last week, the Navy announced. USS Montgomery (LCS-8) launched the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles in the Pacific Ocean, the service said in a news release. The missiles, with a range of about five miles, make up the […]

An AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile launches from the Surface-To-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) aboard Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS-8) on May 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

An Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship launched three Longbow Hellfire missiles that hit a land-based target in a demonstration last week, the Navy announced.

USS Montgomery (LCS-8) launched the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles in the Pacific Ocean, the service said in a news release. The missiles, with a range of about five miles, make up the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, one of the three original components of the LCS mission package.

“This test proved the critical next step in increasing lethality of the Littoral Combat Ship,” Cmdr. Dustin Lonero, the commanding officer of the ship, said in a Navy news release. “Using our speed and shallow draft, we are now uniquely optimized to bring this level of firepower extremely close to shore in support of our warfighters and operators on the beach.”

The Navy in 2019 wrapped up the structural testing required to ensure the LCS could fire the Hellfire missiles, USNI News reported at the time.

“The Longbow Hellfire missile already plays a key role in the up-gunned surface warfare mission package,” the Navy said in the news release. “Originally fielded by both variants of the littoral combat ship in 2019, the missile has repeatedly demonstrated the capability quickly defeat multiple swarming Fast Attack Craft/Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FAC/FIAC). Each LCS is capable carrying twenty-four missiles.”

The Hellfires replaced the Navy-Army joint Non-Line of Sight Launch missile system (N-LOS) that Navy officials initially planned to put onto the LCS in 2014, USNI News reported at the time.

Chinese Navy Ship Operating Off of Australia, Canberra Says

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday. Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship. A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing operating off the north-west shelf of Australia. Australian Department of Defence Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday.

Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship.

A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed the ship crossed Australia’s exclusive economic zone on the morning of May 6. On Sunday, it was approximately 70 nautical miles off the Harold E. Holt Communications Station, in Exmouth, Western Australia, while a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft monitored the ship.

Harold E. Holt Communications Station provides Very Low Frequency (VLF) communication transmission services for Australian, the United States and Australian-allied submarines.

The Chinese ship continued sailing southwards, and on Monday, it was 150 nautical miles off Exmouth while an RAAF P-8 tracked the intelligence ship. At the same time, HMAS Perth (FFH157) sailed out from port to monitor Haiwangxing but subsequently turned back because the Chinese ship changed its sailing direction on Tuesday morning. Haiwangxing turned north, sailing at a speed of six knots, 125 nautical miles from Exmouth. An RAAF P-8 and an Australian Border Force (ABF) Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship.

On Wednesday, Haiwangxing sailed northeast at 12 knots, with the ship approaching as close as 50 nautical miles of the of Harold E. Holt Communication Station, while an RAAF P-8, ABF Dash-8 and ABF patrol vessel ABFC Cape Sorell monitored. Haiwangxing was last spotted on Friday at 6 a.m. local time, approximately 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome Western Australia. An RAAF P-8 and a Maritime Border Command Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship on Thursday.

“Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same. Defence will continue to monitor the ship’s operation in our maritime approaches,” the Australian DoD said in the news release.

Movements of PLAN Dongdiao AGI-792 near Australia May 8-13 2022. Australian Department of Defence Photo

Meanwhile, over in the Philippine Sea, the PLAN’s CNS Liaoning (16) carrier strike group continues flight operations, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s daily news releases this week. Liaoning; Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101); Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120); Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151); Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531); and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901) sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait earlier this month.

The carrier and ships in its CSG performed a series of flight operations four days in a row this week. On 9 a.m. Sunday local time, Liaoning, the two Type 052D destroyers and Hulunhu were sighted 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island conducting flight operations with its embarked J-15 fighter aircraft and Z-18 helicopters from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to news releases from Japan’s Joint Staff Office.

On Monday, the same ships were seen at 10 a.m. sailing 200 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Tuesday at 9 a.m., the group was sailing 310 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Wednesday at 9 a.m., Liaoning and two Type 052D destroyers were seen 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, again performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) has tracked the Liaoning carrier strike group since May 2. Japanese destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) took over the task of tracking the Liaoning carrier group on Tuesday.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled each day in response to the J-15 launches, according to the news release. In a Tuesday press conference, Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the Chinese carried out a total of 100 sorties with its J-15s and Z-18s from Liaoning between May 3 and May 8.

While the activities of the PLAN carrier group were likely aimed at improving its aircraft carriers’ operational capabilities and its ability to carry out operations away from home, Kishi said Japan is concerned about the operations given that they were happening close to the Ryuku Islands and Taiwan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense will continue to monitor such activities, he said.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is also operating in the Philippine Sea. Earlier this week, the CSG conducted deterrence missions in the Philippine Sea by performing long-range maritime strike with refueling help from Pacific Air Forces KC-135 Stratotankers, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued Friday.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Philippine Sea on May 12, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), destroyers USS Spruance (DDG-111) and USS Dewey (DDG-105), and cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) also performed multi-domain training to defend the carrier, according to the news release.

“Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is a powerful presence in the Philippine Sea that serves as a deterrent to aggressive or malign actors and supports a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, the commander of carrier strike group Three, said in the release. “There is no better way to strengthen our combat-credible capabilities than to work alongside other joint forces to demonstrate our commitment to sovereignty, the region, and a rules-based international order.”

U.K. Will Aid Finland, Sweden in Case of Russian Attack says Defense Minister Wallace

If Russia attacked Sweden or Finland for joining NATO, the United Kingdom would come to Stockholm’s defense, the U.K.’s defense minister said today. “We have a 10-nation security” arrangement with all the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, Ben Wallace said at a Washington Post online forum. He added that the arrangement was “a recognition things […]

A FInnish Border Guard member on duty in FInnish Lapland near the Russian border in 2021. FInnish Border Guard Photo

If Russia attacked Sweden or Finland for joining NATO, the United Kingdom would come to Stockholm’s defense, the U.K.’s defense minister said today.

“We have a 10-nation security” arrangement with all the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, Ben Wallace said at a Washington Post online forum. He added that the arrangement was “a recognition things were getting worse” in relations with Moscow following the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea and its backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Relations have not improved since, as the presidents of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia said in March. In addition to calling for a greater forward presence of NATO ground and air forces, they were welcoming Swedish and Finnish partnerships as alliance members in securing the Baltic.

As to whether this arrangement included providing Sweden and Finland the U.K.’ “nuclear umbrella,” Wallace said London’s policy is one of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to use of these weapons.

Wallace said threatening retaliation against the two neutral Nordic nations is having the “opposite effect” that Russian President Vladimir Putin intended. “He never understood [that Sweden’s and Finland’s parliamentary movements to join NATO] is of his own making” with the invasion of Ukraine.

Wallace said “we shouldn’t be surprised” by the latest threats of retaliation from the Kremlin, including the use of nuclear weapons, against its neighbors.

Because an “escalate to de-escalate” use of tactical nuclear weapons is in Russian military doctrine, “we should always take the threat seriously.” Wallace cited the Kremlin’s use of nerve agents in attacks on perceived enemies living in the U.K. shows the lengths Moscow will take to get its way. The fact is, “NATO outmatches him [in military capability and capacity]. I don’t think he wants to” use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.

Wallace said Putin “was being true to form” in his presidency, especially since the “color revolutions” in the 2000s that toppled regimes still favoring Moscow in former Soviet Republics. Putin went on an “escalatory trajectory,” threatening Baltic NATO members and nations he associated “with the ancient Rus people” if they didn’t return to Russia’s orbit when he was re-elected in 2018. Putin would have continued the aggressive moves that he first used in 2008 against Georgia “if we hadn’t done anything,” Wallace argued.

The Kremlin leadership “all had an errant assumption” that NATO was “brain dead” and the alliance was weak militarily, he added.

Arguing Putin was “focused on his legacy,” Wallace said the Kremlin leader expected Russian forces entering any of those countries to be welcomed. “Ukraine has been the buffer for him,” with its stiff resistance and military and economic support from other European nations.

While Wallace did not directly answer a question over Kyiv attacking military targets in Russia, he said, “Ukraine is perfectly within its rights to defend itself” as the war is becoming one of attrition. To aid Kyiv in this phase, he added that the U.K. and the United States are sending in advanced artillery and air defense systems to blunt new Russian offensives in the east and south.

“The next step is training” the Ukrainians in their proper use and “to make sure there is no collateral damage,” Wallace said. He said he did not regard this new aid as escalating the fighting, as the Kremlin appears to be doing in attacking civilian targets. The more sophisticated air defenses are supposed to make “it harder to fly” to those targets.

As to whether Ukraine should receive Russian-built fighter aircraft and helicopters from NATO members, Wallace said London has none in its arsenal. “That’s a good example of calibration” in providing short-range air defenses and unmanned systems to Kyiv. “It doesn’t mean fixed winged aircraft,” he said.

Looking at the stalled invasion in the war’s first phase and the Ukrainians holding fast in the east now, Wallace said of Russia’s top military leadership: “I think a lot of guys will be sacked.” He added, “there is no candor upwards” in Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Minister of Defense since 2012, or Gen. Valery Gersimov, the Kremlin’s senior military officer, explaining military realities to Putin. Wallace said this is a hallmark of a “regime run by fear.”

The results, he said, is “the poor old soldier is turned into cannon fodder,” and there will be a price paid by senior officers, as has historically been the case in the Russian and Soviet armed forces.

Great Wall of Naval Targets Discovered in Chinese Desert

China has been honing its ship-killing skills for potential future conflicts on new targets in a remote desert, according to new satellite photos reviewed by USNI News. New analysis shows the People’s Liberation Army is testing the ability to hit ships in port with long-range ballistic missiles. Since USNI News reported China has been building […]

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

China has been honing its ship-killing skills for potential future conflicts on new targets in a remote desert, according to new satellite photos reviewed by USNI News. New analysis shows the People’s Liberation Army is testing the ability to hit ships in port with long-range ballistic missiles.

Since USNI News reported China has been building aircraft carrier targets in the Takmalakan Desert, other target sites have emerged forming a string of large-scale target ranges running along the eastern edge of the desert, according to new satellite photos. Several of these are naval and two have layouts that appear to be modeled on ships in port.

Eight miles southwest of an elaborate aircraft carrier layout, a site with full-scale piers and a destroyer-sized ship-like target was constructed in December. A test missile hit a dead center on the ship replica in February and thent the target was then quickly disassembled and is now gone, according to more recent images.

This new target was discovered as part of the research into aircraft carrier targets, which had been found by All Source Analysis (ASA) with more details revealed by high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies.

Another similar naval base target was found about 190 miles southwest by Damien Symons, an independent defense analyst. This location was built in December 2018, but had escaped notice until now. The pier layout is similar to the destroyer-like site, and it also includes ship targets, with one in the same place as the latest target.

The nature, location and strikes on these sites all suggest the targets are meant for testing ballistic missiles.These hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) are an increasingly significant threat to warships.

H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News

China is known to have been developing several ASBMs. Two types, the DF-21D and DF-26 are land based. Another type, designation unknown, is carried by the H-6 bomber. And there is now confirmation that the Type-055 Renhai Class cruiser can launch a smaller one, provisionally identified as the YJ-21.

Damien Symon said that there are signs of sophisticated targeting.

“The layout of the targets is very calculated,” he said.“The orientations, shapes and sizes are consistent across multiple targets. There is nothing haphazard about these sites.”

The targets appear to be shaped by laying metal sheets on the ground. “This is a different material to the piers and buildings” Symon adds. “It may reflect heat or radar differently, this also might give us an indication of the complex systems and effort behind these experiments.”

The naval base target destroyed in February was similar to the one Symon found. It is almost a duplicate of the older target, he said

Modern ‘dumb’ ballistic missiles have small circles of error probability, a measure of the distance from the aiming point where there is still a 50 percent chance of it hitting. But if the aiming point is on the pier of a crowded port, most of the CEP is still water, and near-misses into a harbor are unlikely to have the desired effect.

The Chinese missiles may use infrared, optics or radar to form a picture of the target. They could then adjust their trajectory by tiny amounts to land exactly on the target. From open-source information one cannot conclude whether the missiles are using infrared or radar, but there are indications of both. Modern targeting sensors are typically connected to artificial intelligence, allowing the missile to discern targets and choose the intended or highest-value option.

ASBMs, if they are able to discern a ship from a pier, could inflict a killer opening blow against an enemy navy. The fear is fleets could be decapitated before they can escape to open water or disperse.

With at least four ASBM weapons in its inventor has caused concern in the Pentagon and were cited in the Department of Defense’s most recent Chinese military power report.

Littoral Combat Ship USS Sioux City Headed to Middle East After European Tour

After a two year delay, the first Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship is operating in the Eastern Atlantic and on its way to the Middle East, USNI News has learned. USS Sioux City (LCS-11) was operating in 6th fleet as of this week, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Thursday. “Sioux City’s deployment allows us to integrate […]

USS Sioux City (LCS 11) transits the Atlantic Ocean, May 3. Sioux City is operating in the Atlantic Ocean in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

After a two year delay, the first Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship is operating in the Eastern Atlantic and on its way to the Middle East, USNI News has learned.

USS Sioux City (LCS-11) was operating in 6th fleet as of this week, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Thursday.

Sioux City’s deployment allows us to integrate the LCS’ unique operational capability into our already diverse fleet,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet in a statement. “The agility of Littoral Combat Ships allows them to operate in both near-shore and open-ocean environments, enhancing our ability to provide security and stability across the European theater.”

The ship departed from Naval Station Mayport, Fla., last month bound for operations in U.S. European Command and eventually the Middle East, a defense official confirmed to USNI News on Friday.

The Navy has largely regulated the Freedom-class LCS to operations in U.S. Southern Command after discovering a class-wide engineering flaw within the gearing linkage between the gas turbine and diesel engines in the main propulsion system.

The combining gear failure led the service to halt, in 2020, its plans to push the Freedoms out from Mayport to a forward deployed location in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.

A U.S. 5th spokesman did not confirm Sioux City was headed to the Middle East when contacted by USNI News on Friday.

Sioux City is now in a surface warfare configuration with twin 30mm Bushmaster cannons in addition to its 76mm main gun. Based on a photo taken May 3, Sioux City does not appear to be armed with Naval Strike Missiles.

On the West Coast, the Independence-class LCS have operated steadily in the Western Pacific equipped with the Naval Strike Missile in a modified version of the surface warfare mission package.

The Mayport-base Freedoms were tasked with being the primary platform for the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare mission, which included a towed variable depth array sonar that was promised to be key to the fight against Russian submarines in the Atlantic. However, developmental delays caused the Navy to abandon the mission package and transferred the future capability to the under-construction Constellation-class (FFG-62) frigates that will be based on the West Coast.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, the service announced it had intended to decommission the bulk of the Freedom-class – including Sioux City – and leave the remaining six under construction for operations in North and South American, USNI News previously reported.

Warship Moskva was Blind to Ukrainian Missile Attack, Analysis Shows

The crew of RTS Moskva (121) was blind to and not ready for the Ukrainian missile attack that sank Russia’s Black Sea flagship, according to a new analysis of the April 13 strike reviewed by USNI News. The review of images following the strike of the two Neptune anti-ship missiles from open-source naval analyst and […]

RTS Moskva (121) following an April 13, 2022 strike from Ukrainian missiles. Russian MoD

The crew of RTS Moskva (121) was blind to and not ready for the Ukrainian missile attack that sank Russia’s Black Sea flagship, according to a new analysis of the April 13 strike reviewed by USNI News.

The review of images following the strike of the two Neptune anti-ship missiles from open-source naval analyst and retired Navy Capt. Chris Carlson told USNI News that the guided-missile cruiser did not have its radars activated and could not see the threat from the two weapons.

In the photo of Moskva after the strike, the radars “are in their normal stowed position,” Carlson told USNI News on Monday.

“If you look at the pictures of Moskva, when she’s just dancing around going from place to place, or she’s anchored as a showboat, those directors are all facing aft every time,” he said.

The analysis is based on images of the Slava-class guided-missile cruiser that emerged just after the attack about 100-miles off the coast of Ukraine from what the Ukrainians claim were two Neptune-class anti-ship missiles.

Analysis from Chris Carlson shows how the radars on the ship were in their stowed position in photos following the missile strike. Images used with permission

While the Russian warship had older point-defense systems, they would have been capable of countering the Neptune missiles based on a 40-year-old Soviet design, which was in turn based on the U.S. Navy’s Harpoon anti-ship missile, he said.

“This is like Harpoon. It’s a small missile. Its warhead is about 145 kilograms, travels less than 10 meters off the deck [and has] radar homing,” Carlson said. “This is not, shall we say, a stressing threat for air defense systems. It’s not supersonic.”

In particular, the radar system that would have directed Moskva’s OSA-M surface to air missiles to counter the Ukrainian missiles appears to not have been active with its emitters stowed, based on the photograph.

“If you’re not running it, your point defense [surface to air missiles] are not going to be playing,” Carlson said.

In addition, on Moskva, “you’ve got old stuff, which means it’s temperamental. It’s hard to maintain, and at-sea maintenance has not been a Russian strength.”

Location of where Moskva was hit. Images used with permission

Based on the photographs that circulated following the strike, the two Neptunes hit the warship near its most vulnerable point: the ship’s main propulsion spaces, dead center of the ship, just above the waterline.

“A missile hit in the forward engine room would very likely cause significant damage to the cruise gas turbines and steam turbines and could potentially distort the main shaft sufficiently to cause damage to the reduction gears of the boost turbines,” Carlson wrote. “Heavy damage in the post of energy and survivability compartment could cause a loss of all electrical power, as well as potentially disabling the ship’s automated damage control capability.”

Combined with the Russian Navy’s uneven training for sailors in damage control, Carlson said the photographs lend credence to Ukraine’s explanation that they were able to target, fire missiles and hit the target with their own resources.

Following the initial strike, a Telegram channel with ties to the Russian mercenary Wagner Group said the crew observed Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2s near the ship. The Ukrainian Navy began acquiring the combat drones starting in the last year and they are equipped with an electro-optical system that’s capable of providing the Neptune command system enough information via datalink to target the missiles.

“All they have to do is laze once or twice and then they have a feasible targeting solution,” Carlson told USNI News.

Shortly after the sinking, reports emerged that a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon was in the area before the attack, suggesting that the U.S. may have provided detailed targeting information to the Ukrainians to target the ship.

Carlson said while the U.S. could give Ukrainian forces a general idea of where the ship was, it could not provide necessary tracking information to the Neptunes because P-8s datalinks were incompatible.

Ukrainian Navy TB2

“There’s no way the P8 has the ability to send direct data via data link right to the Ukrainians,” he said. “You can’t do it by voice. It’s got to be done through a data link.”

On Thursday, following a Wednesday story from The New York Times on the targeting of Russian general officers, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. intelligence sharing with the Ukrainians has limits.

“We do not… participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military. Ukrainians have quite frankly, a lot more information than we do. This is their country, their territory, and they have capable intelligence collection abilities of their own,” he said. “Ukraine combines information that we and other partners provide with the intelligence that they themselves are gathering on the battlefield and then they make their own decisions, and they take their own actions.”

Japanese Lawmakers Argue for Counterstrike Capability for Self Defense Force

Japan must develop counterstrike capabilities in coordination with the United States to deter the “more serious imminent threat” from North Korea and the newly accelerated threats from China and Russia in the Northern Pacific, two Japanese lawmakers said Tuesday. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Itsunori Onodera, a member of the Japanese […]

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade proceeds to a meeting point after completing a static line jump from a U. S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at JGSDF Narashino Training Area, Japan, April 19, 2022. US Air Force Photo

Japan must develop counterstrike capabilities in coordination with the United States to deter the “more serious imminent threat” from North Korea and the newly accelerated threats from China and Russia in the Northern Pacific, two Japanese lawmakers said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Itsunori Onodera, a member of the Japanese House and a former defense minister, said through a translator that Tokyo “must be prepared for a compound situation” of threats from three potential adversaries in a very different security environment than in 2013. That was the last time Japan overhauled its defense and security strategies.

To underline that point, he cited recent Chinese and Russian joint military exercises that Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin attended. Having the leaders of the two nuclear powers present at the exercise “was rather chilling” to the Japanese, he said.

Japan has been engaged in territorial disputes with both Russia and China since the end of World War II.

“Counterstrike capability is not a single issue,” said Masahisa Sato, a member of the House of Councillors, which is the upper chamber in the Japanese Parliament. He added that developing it is important in the Japanese strategy of “deterrence by denial.” He stressed Tokyo “is not engaging in first strike,” barred by its post-World War II constitution, in developing this technology. He hopes to have counterstrike fielded in five years.

Both Sato and Onodera play key roles in developing what will likely be Tokyo’s new defense and security strategies.

As for potential basing, Sato, a former foreign minister, suggested Hokkaido as a site, with the U.S. Army also stationing soldiers there with medium-range the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, and its vehicles.

“You’ll have to hit the other country’s territory” for effective counterstrike, said Onodera, one of the authors of Japan’s 2013 strategies. Sato estimated that China had 1,900 missiles in its arsenal and said Beijing has ratcheted up tensions in the Taiwan Strait in recent months. It’s also continuously probing Japanese air and maritime defense forces to test response time. As an example of that, China sent an eight-ship carrier strike group through the Miyako Strait this week as it sailed to the Pacific.

While China flexes military muscle around Taiwan and Japan, Russia test-fired submarine-launched cruise missiles in the Sea of Japan. Moscow also conducted a 10-ship surface naval group exercises close to the Japanese home islands.

Japan’s new strategies, developed by the Liberal Democratic Party, have been sent to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Adding the counterstrike capability to the strategy, however, remains controversial with the party’s coalition partner in the government.

Of equal concern to the Komeito party is the Liberal Democrats’ five-year plan to boost Tokyo’s defense spending to 2 percent of its gross domestic product. This is in line with the goal set by NATO in 2014 following Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

“You’re looking at roughly doubling” of Japan’s defense spending, said the Council of Foreign Relations’ Sheila Smith. If the spending plan is adopted as proposed, there would no longer be annual debates on defense spending. “Those monies have to come from somewhere,” she noted, referring to a major concern for future domestic spending if GDP slips.

The proposal will not count Japan’s coast guard or military pensions in reaching the 2 percent goal.

The increased spending plan was in line with Germany’s promise after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine to also meet the 2 percent goal. It projects greater spending on cyber, space, research and development and to “boldly make use” of the commercial sector and universities in those domains, Onodera added.

Smith said the other question is “what do you want to spend the money on?” She and Onodera both emphasized the importance of sustainability and resiliency in reassessing the total acquisition lifetime costs of systems and platforms. With new systems, like counter-strike, coming into the Japanese arsenal, there could be a “roles and missions balancing act” needed with Washington, D.C., under terms of the alliance, she added.

The two lawmakers were in the United States meeting with administration officials to explain Japan’s proposed strategies and changing posture on defense spending.

Looking at Taiwan, Sato said the U.S. needs to drop its “strategic ambiguity” policy toward Taiwan and make clear the U.S. will come to its defense. He added that Taiwan is vital to Japan and South Korea as a sea lane through which their oil shipments flow. The island is the main source of semi-conductors for both nations’ high-tech industries, as well as for the United States. Japan and South Korea also need to make clear their stance on Taiwan if it is attacked by China, he said.

Japanese AAVs operating at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Jan. 13, 2022. USNI News Photo

If a crisis over Taiwan turned to conflict, Smith said Japan would likely be involved since it hosts a number of U.S. bases like Kadena Air Base and Sasebo Naval Base and the U.S. Marine Corps maintains a large presence on Okinawa.

“What happens once it begins?” Smith asked, referring to the possibility of China striking bases in Japan to cut off outside military support to Taiwan. Of particular concern now in light of the Kremlin’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war is China adopting the same warfighting doctrine to get its way with Taiwan.

“These are weighty issues that must be discussed,” said Onodera.

Onodera said Japan in the future needs to work more closely not only with South Korea and the U.S., but also with India and Australia on security issues across the Indo-Pacific, as well as the Association of South East Asian Nations and the European Union to reach a goal of having a “free and open Pacific.”

‘More Ugliness’ Coming For Ukraine, Says Former Top NATO Commander

A “whole lot more ugliness” for the Ukrainian people and countryside is likely to unfold over the coming weeks as Moscow concentrates forces and long-range artillery in the Donbas and near the Sea of Azov and Black Sea, a former top commander for NATO said Monday. Retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said, “there can […]

A street in Mariupol Ukraine from the Facebook page of the 36th Marine Brigade on April 7, 2022.

A “whole lot more ugliness” for the Ukrainian people and countryside is likely to unfold over the coming weeks as Moscow concentrates forces and long-range artillery in the Donbas and near the Sea of Azov and Black Sea, a former top commander for NATO said Monday.

Retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said, “there can be no rush to do business as usual with Russia,” in light of its continued attacks on Ukraine and new threats against its neighbors – including NATO members.

Despite suffering “a badly mauled force” after two months of fighting, the Kremlin isn’t pulling out of Ukraine, Breedlove said.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council event, Michael Kofman, CNA’s research program director of Russian studies, said, it’s “not clear Russia can succeed” militarily in Donbas. The Kremlin has been actively supporting separatists since 2014 in that area.

While the “costs are going to be high” in eastern Ukraine combat, there’s “no sign of Russia’s political leadership giving up” its political goals to bring Kyiv forcibly into its sphere of influence or any willingness to give territory it already controls, Kofman said.

One option for the Kremlin would be to mobilize reservists to get its way, he added, but the move still does not guarantee of success on the battlefield.

Kofman said, “we don’t do nuance” in the Pentagon when drawing lessons from conflicts like Ukraine. He added jokingly before the February invasion the modernized Russian army was considered “12-feet tall,” but now after months of combat it is being regarded as “4-feet tall.” Neither is correct, he said.

Before the Feb. 24 invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of two breakaway provinces in the region. The Kremlin seized controlled of Crimea, also part of Ukraine, in 2014 under the pretext of defending Russian-speaking residents there and to protect its Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol. Moscow used forces in Crimea to open another front at the start of the invasion.

To aid Ukraine now, Alexander Vershbow, former NATO deputy secretary general, said, “we have to keep those weapons flowing.”

During the morning forum, panelists listed air and missile defense systems, long-range artillery and a steady flow of ammunition as important in this phase of the conflict. Resilience is needed not only in Ukrainian fighting forces but in the American and NATO defense industrial bases to support Kyiv, he said, as more and more war stocks are shipped to Ukraine.

Kofman said the defense industrial base needs to address questions of being able to deliver “replaceability” both in the near- and far-term of weapons and systems because modern wars can change from quick strikes to ones of attrition.

“Autocrats should note NATO is all in” on defending Ukraine, Koffman said. But Europe “needs to pick up the slack” in meeting military commitments in the Baltic and also assist the United States in the Middle East to have Washington continue remain a power in the Indo-Pacific. Vershbow called for Canada and the Europeans to “meet half of NATO’s military commitment by the end of the decade.”

While Breedlove called for “permanently” rotating more American forces into Eastern Europe, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said those forces “are still tied down” by agreements with the host nations.

Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, said the about half of the $33 billion supplemental spending bill President Joe Biden requested last week will help rebuild stocks and systems in the United States that were used in Ukraine and assist Kyiv’s forces.

She added, “we know the landscape has changed” in Europe with Sweden’s and Finland’s parliaments considering NATO membership. She pointed to the alliance’s steps after 2014 to build up pre-positioned weapons stocks to meet a crisis on the continent as being useful now.

At that same time, she added the Ukrainian Defense Initiative supplied weapons and systems to Kyiv and trained its forces and overhauled its military structure to better resist Russian aggression.

Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel conduct Freedom of Movement Detachment training at Camp Novo, Oct. 7, 2021. US Army Photo

For the United States and its allies, the goal of integrated deterrence and security can come through thinking globally about gray zone activities, cyber, long-range strike that ‘’give [leaders] capabilities in depth to minimize risk,” Cartwright said. It’s not “necessarily a buy my F-35s” approach in working with allies who may not be able to sustain the maintenance costs of advanced weapons systems.

Instead, Cartwright saw great value in moving away from large depots to store weapons and equipment that are vulnerable to a single strike to a localized armory approach. A move will like that “will give resilience to indigenous forces” until outside aid arrives, he said.

Later, he pointed to the commercial sector for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and command and control as models the department could adapt for its use.

“The most sophistical [electronic warfare] country [Russia] was defeated by a company [SpaceX]” when Moscow tried to bring down its communications network in Ukraine.

Cartwright added, “We ought to explore more thoroughly” dual-use technologies.
“We don’t want to learn the wrong lessons” like the days of armor and surface combatants are over based on Russian losses.

“The big lessons” to take away are the value of fundamentals like logistics, manpower and training, Kofman said.

At its June meeting, Vershbow called for NATO to consider a “secure neighborhood initiative” to protect Moldova and Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union but not NATO members, against Russian subversion or attack.

Breedlove added without clear guidance from the alliance, “what do we do it Mr. Putin pulls out chemical, biological nuclear weapons” if not in Ukraine in the future. “We need to make those decisions immediately.”