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.

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.

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.”

Japan’s Ruling Party Calls for ‘Counter Attack’ Capability, Increased Defense Budget

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presented its national security strategy proposals Wednesday to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling to increase in Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent or more of GDP along with the development of “counterattack” capabilities able to strike at not only at missile launch sites but also the command and control capabilities […]

Soldiers from the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) conduct individual and small-unit maneuver exercises during Iron Fist at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, February 6, 2019. US Marine Corps Photo

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presented its national security strategy proposals Wednesday to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling to increase in Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent or more of GDP along with the development of “counterattack” capabilities able to strike at not only at missile launch sites but also the command and control capabilities of the opposing nation which would serve as both a pre-emptive measure and deterrence capability for Japan.

The proposals are not unexpected given that Kishida’s government has pledged to strengthen Japan’s defense. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told Kyodo News this month his ministry would ask for a larger budget and was discussing the potential of acquiring capabilities to pre-emptively strike at enemy bases.

Kishida’s government plans to put forward a new national security strategy by the end of this year, replacing the one formulated in 2013. The Japanese government will also release a new national security strategy, a new national defense strategy and a new defense capability plan, all covering a period of 10 years.

The development of counterattack capabilities is controversial, given the self-defense stance that Japan has had since its pacifist constitution was created and the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, has shown reluctance for increasing the defense budget and acquiring counterattack capabilities.

The LDP’s proposal identifies the threat posed to Japan by Russia, China and North Korea, noting the three countries built-up of their military capabilities along with increased military activities in East Asia.

It also noted that North Korea’s continuing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons developments, the willingness of Russia to use force in Ukraine and China not ruling out the use of force on Taiwan as reasons for Japan to improve its defense. The China Coast Guard continuing to violate Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands and Chinese and Russian aircraft and ships conducting joint flights and sails around Japan were additional concerns.

Japan’s Defense Ministry issued a release this week that a Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Shupang-class survey vessel entered Japanese waters west of Kuchinoerabu Island, at 11 p.m. Tuesday before sailing out of Japan’s territorial waters south of Yakushima Island at 2:10 am on Wednesday. Kuchinoerabu Island lies 130 kilometers (70 nautical miles) south of Kagoshima, Kyushu.

The Defense Ministry release stated that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Onami (DD-111) and a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat had monitored the PLAN ship. Japan has lodged a protest with China via diplomatic channels on the incident.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) issued a release stating that a PLAN frigate and amphibious ship had been spotted that day traveling northwest in the area about 100 km east-northeast of Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture. The ships subsequently proceeded northwest in the sea area between Okinawa and Miyako Island to the East China Sea. Photos and pennant numbers in the release identified the ships as the frigate CNS Zhoushan (529) and landing platform dock CNS Yimeng Shan (988).

The PLAN ships were monitored by the JMSDF replenishment ship JS Hanama (AOE-424) and JMSDF P-3C maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5 operating from Naha Air Base, Okinawa.

On Tuesday, during a press conference, Kishi stated that his ministry would soon call for bids to survey a suitable site for a mobile radar station on Kita Daito Island, adding that Japan would likely move towards permanent radar stations around the Daito islands as these areas form a surveillance gap in regard to military activities and transits to and from the Pacific Ocean. A Chinese carrier task group conducted an exercise around Kita Daito Island last year, USNI News previously reported.

The LDP proposal also called for the loosening of Japan’s export and transfer restrictions, allowing not only the Japanese defense industry base to sustain itself but to strengthen the defense capabilities of partner nations in the region.

It also called for Japan to further raise awareness and support for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept and in collaboration with the E.U., European countries, NATO, AUKUS and others, to further strengthen partnerships in the region along with further enhancing current efforts such as the Quad. At the same time emphasis was also placed on the U.S-Japan alliance, stating that the two countries would strengthen their military and security cooperation and interoperability.

Kishi announced on Thursday that he will travel to the United States from May 3-6 and hold a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin on May 4. Items on the agenda include Ukraine, China, and North Korea, the Japan-US “2 + 2” discussion held in January this year and the formulation of a new national security strategy being implemented in Japan along with concrete efforts to strengthen the deterrence and resilience capability of the Japan-US alliance. Kishi also stated his delegation will visit the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Cyber ​​Command to exchange views on ballistic missile defense and cyber cooperation.