Pentagon: Chinese Navy to Expand to 400 Ships by 2025, Growth Focused on Surface Combatants

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to […]

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

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power.

By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to the Pentagon’s annual China military report estimates released on Tuesday.

“The PLAN is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing its previous generations of platforms that had limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants,” reads the report.
“As of 2021, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.”

The report, which sums up Chinese military developments in 2021, pegs the growth to the PLAN adding more major surface combatants. The ship total dipped last year from 355 due to a transfer of more than 20 older corvettes to the China Coast Guard.

“At the close of 2021, the PLAN was building an aircraft carrier, a new batch of guided-missile destroyers (DDG), and a new batch of guided missile frigates (FFG),” reads the report.

The bulk of the surface expansion is contained in two programs, the 7,500-ton Luyang III guided-missile Type-52D destroyers and the larger 13,000-ton Type-55 Renhai-class guided-missile cruisers, according to the report.

Renhai-class cruiser

The Luyang III destroyers are built around a dual-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) air search radar and a 64-cell vertical launch system for multiple missiles similar to the Mk-41 VLS on U.S. surface ships.

The Renhais are much larger with a similar radar and 112 cell VLS cells “and can carry a large load out of weapons including [anti-ship cruise missiles], surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), torpedoes, and anti-submarine weapons along with likely [land-attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles when those become operational,” according to the report.

As of May, the Chinese have five of the Renhai-class cruisers in commission, according to the South China Morning Post.

The newer classes of ships, with a variety of anti-surface and anti-air missiles, allow the PLAN better protection as its task groups venture farther from the protective umbrella of its shore-based air defense systems and mimic the basic construct of the American Aegis Combat System.

The emphasis on the platforms are anti-surface weapons, according to the report.
“The PLAN recognizes that long-range ASCMs require a robust, over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting capability to realize their full potential. To fill this capability gap, the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to provide high-fidelity targeting information to surface and subsurface launch platforms,” reads the report.

The PLAN is developing new submarines more slowly than it’s developing surface ships, “as it works to mature its force, integrate new technologies, and expand its shipyards,” reads the report.
“The PLAN currently operates six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN), and 44 diesel-powered/air-independent powered attack submarines (SS/SSP). The PLAN will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.”

The Pentagon speculated in the report that China is developing a nuclear guided-missile submarine that would field both anti-surface and land-attack cruise missiles, a new addition this year.

Type-093A Shang-class attack submarine

“By the mid-2020s, China will likely build the SHANG class (Type 093B) guided-missile nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSGN). This new SHANG class variant will enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability and could provide a clandestine land-attack option if equipped with land-attack cruise missiles,” reads the report.

In terms of amphibious ships, the report highlighted not only the rapid development of the Yushen-class of big-deck amphibious warships, but also the increased use of civilian roll-on/roll-off car carriers that can go into service for military operations.

“This flexibility decreases the requirement to build additional PLAN amphibious ships to successfully assault Taiwan. This operational flexibility also provides operational and logistics units within the [PLAN Marine Corps] the training and proficiency to move between military and civilian vessels not just in a Taiwan scenario, but in any maritime environment where civilian transport vessels are available to the PLANMC and PLAN amphibious ships are not,” reads the report.

In late August, the PLAN held a major amphibious drill using civilian ferries to launch landing craft from sea, USNI News reported.

The PLAN has two operational aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, based on the Soviet Kuzenetzov, a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR). Both carriers have been active in the Western Pacific. A third carrier, Fujian, will feature a catapult launch and arrested landing and is expected to be operational by 2024.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier-based strike aircraft,” reads the report.

The PLAN continues to refine its carrier aircraft – primarily the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, which is an unlicensed copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

“In addition to the standard J-15 fighter that currently operates from PLAN carriers, there is a catapult-capable J-15 variant in development,” reads the report.
“The aircraft is currently testing from land-based steam and electromagnetic catapults. A third J-15 variant, the J-15D, is a two-seat aircraft equipped with wingtip electronic support measures/electronic intelligence gathering pods as well as several conformal antennas. The aircraft is intended to fill a dedicated electronic attack role. China is also developing a carrier capable variant of the fifth-generation J-31 fighter.”

All told, the report concludes that the PLAN is working toward deploying an operational carrier battle group in the next several years beyond the first island chain that doesn’t need the shore-based defenses of the rest of the PLA.

“The PLAN’s ability to perform missions beyond the First Island Chain is modest but growing as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced platforms,” reads the report.

Defense Primer: Ballistic Missile Defense

The following is the Nov. 23, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Defense Primer: Ballistic Missile Defense. From the report The United States has been developing and deploying ballistic missile defenses (BMD) to defend against enemy missiles continuously since the late 1940s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States deployed a limited nuclear-tipped […]

The following is the Nov. 23, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Defense Primer: Ballistic Missile Defense.

From the report

The United States has been developing and deploying ballistic missile defenses (BMD) to defend against enemy missiles continuously since the late 1940s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States deployed a limited nuclear-tipped BMD system to protect a portion of its U.S. land-based nuclear ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) force in order to preserve a strategic deterrent against a Soviet nuclear attack on the Homeland. That system became active in 1975 but shut down in 1976 because of concerns over cost and effectiveness. In the FY1975 budget, the Army began funding research into hit-to-kill or kinetic energy interceptors as an alternative—the type of interceptor technology that dominates U.S. BMD systems today.

In 1983, President Reagan announced an enhanced effort for BMD. Since the start of the Reagan initiative in 1985, BMD has been a key national security interest in Congress, which has appropriated well over $200 billion for a broad range of BMD research and development programs and deployment of BMD systems here and abroad.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is charged with the mission to develop, test, and field an integrated, layered, BMD system (BMDS) to defend the United States, U.S. deployed forces, and U.S. allies and partners against ballistic missiles of all ranges and in all phases of flight. The FY2023 budget request is $24.7 billion for missile defense, $9.6 billion of which is for MDA.

Ballistic Missile Threats

After an initial powered phase of flight, a ballistic missile leaves the atmosphere and follows an unpowered trajectory or flight path before reentering the atmosphere toward a predetermined target. Ballistic missiles have an effective range from a few hundred kilometers (km) to more than 10,000 km. Short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) range from 300-1,000 km and are generally considered for tactical military use. Medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) have a range from 1,000-5,500 km, although most are armed with conventional warheads and range less than 3,500 km. ICBMs range further than 5,500 km and are generally considered as strategic deterrent forces.

Most of the world’s ballistic missiles belong to the United States and its allies and partners; however, China and, in particular, Russia also have significant numbers of ICBMs. Russia continues to possess intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles (3,500-5,500 km), which led to the U.S. withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The 2022 Missile Defense Review additionally identifies ballistic missile threats from North Korea and Iran.

North Korea likely has an arsenal of hundreds of SRBMs that can reach all of South Korea and perhaps dozens of MRBMs (whose reliability at this point remains uncertain), capable of reaching Japan and U.S. bases in the region. North Korea has flight-tested two types of road-mobile ICBMs that have the range to strike the U.S. homeland. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has assessed that “North Korea’s continued development of ICBMs, IRBMs, and [submarine-launched ballistic missiles] demonstrates its intention to bolster its nuclear delivery capability.”

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Defense Primer: Naval Forces

The following is the Nov. 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Defense Primer: Naval Forces. From the report “Naval Forces” Refers to Both the Navy and Marine Corps Although the term naval forces is often used to refer specifically to Navy forces, it more properly refers to both Navy and Marine Corps forces, because both the […]

The following is the Nov. 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Defense Primer: Naval Forces.

From the report

“Naval Forces” Refers to Both the Navy and Marine Corps

Although the term naval forces is often used to refer specifically to Navy forces, it more properly refers to both Navy and Marine Corps forces, because both the Navy and Marine Corps are naval services. For further discussion, see CRS In Focus IF10484, Defense Primer: Department of the Navy, by Ronald O’Rourke. For a discussion of the Marine Corps that focuses on its organization as a ground-combat force, see CRS In Focus IF10571, Defense Primer: Organization of U.S. Ground Forces, by Barbara Salazar Torreon and Andrew Feickert.

U.S. Strategy and Naval Forces

U.S. naval forces give the United States the ability to convert the world’s oceans—a global commons that covers more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface—into a medium of maneuver and operations for projecting U.S. power ashore and otherwise defending U.S. interests around the world. The ability to use the world’s oceans in this manner—and to deny other countries the use of the world’s oceans for taking actions against U.S. interests—constitutes an immense asymmetric advantage for the United States.

As discussed elsewhere (see CRS In Focus IF10485, Defense Primer: Geography, Strategy, and U.S. Force Design, by Ronald O’Rourke), the size and composition of U.S. naval forces reflect the position of the United States as a Western Hemisphere power with a goal of preventing the emergence of regional hegemons (and otherwise defending and promoting U.S. interests) in Eurasia. As a result, the U.S. Navy includes significant numbers of aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered attack submarines, large surface combatants, large amphibious ships, and underway replenishment ships.

Navy Ship Types

The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are dedicated to performing a singular mission of strategic nuclear deterrence. The Navy’s other ships, which are sometimes referred to as the Navy’s general-purpose ships, are generally multimission ships capable of performing a variety of missions other than strategic nuclear deterrence. The principal types of general-purpose ships in the Navy include attack submarines (SSNs); aircraft carriers (CVNs); large surface combatants, meaning cruisers (CGs) and destroyers (DDGs); small surface combatants, meaning frigates (FFGs), Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), mine warfare (MIW) ships, and patrol craft (PCs); amphibious ships, whose primary function is to transport Marines and their equipment and supplies to distant operating areas and support Marine ship-to-shore movements and Marine operations ashore; combat logistics force (CLF) ships, which perform underway replenishment (UNREP) operations, meaning the at-sea resupply of combat ships; and other support ships of various types.

The Navy’s aircraft carriers embark multimission carrier air wings (CVWs) consisting of 60+ aircraft—mostly fixed-wing aircraft, plus a few helicopters. Each CVW typically includes 40 or more strike fighters that are capable of air-to-ground (strike) and air-to-air (fighter) combat operations.

Size of the Navy

The total number of ships in the Navy is a one-dimensional metric that leaves out many other important factors bearing on the Navy’s size and capabilities. Even so, observers often cite the total number of ships in the U.S. Navy as a convenient way of summarizing the Navy’s size and capabilities.

The quoted number of ships in the Navy reflects the battle force ships counting method, which is a set of rules for which ships count (or do not count) toward the quoted number of ships in the Navy. The battle force ships counting method was established in the early 1980s and has been modified by subsequent legislation. Essentially, it includes ships that are readily deployable overseas, and which contribute to the Navy’s overseas combat capability. The Naval History and Heritage Command maintains a database on numbers of ships in the Navy from 1886 to the present. (It is available here: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/us-ship-force-levels.html.) Since this database extends back to 1886, it uses a different counting method that is more suitable for working with older historical data. This alternate counting method, however, produces, for the 1980s onwards, figures for the total size of the Navy that are different than the figures produced by the battle force ships counting method. For this reason, using figures from the NHHC database to quote the current size of the Navy can cause confusion.

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GAO Report on Pentagon Cybersecurity Incidents

The following is the Nov. 14, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, DoD Cybersecurity: Enhanced Attention Needed to Ensure Cyber Incidents Are Appropriately Reported and Shared. From the report The Department of Defense (DOD) and our nation’s defense industrial base (DIB)—which includes entities outside the federal government that provide goods or services critical to meeting U.S. […]

The following is the Nov. 14, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, DoD Cybersecurity: Enhanced Attention Needed to Ensure Cyber
Incidents Are Appropriately Reported and Shared.

From the report

The Department of Defense (DOD) and our nation’s defense industrial base (DIB)—which includes entities outside the federal government that provide goods or services critical to meeting U.S. military requirements—are dependent on information systems to carry out their operations. These systems continue to be the target of cyber attacks, as DOD has experienced over 12,000 cyber incidents since 2015 (see figure).To combat these incidents, DOD has established two processes for managing cyber incidents—one for all incidents and one for critical incidents. However, DOD has not fully implemented either of these processes.

GAO Graphic

Despite the reduction in the number of incidents due to DOD efforts, weaknesses in reporting these incidents remain. For example, DOD’s system for reporting all incidents often contained incomplete information and DOD could not always demonstrate that they had notified appropriate leadership of relevant critical incidents. The weaknesses in the implementation of the two processes are due to DOD not assigning an organization responsible for ensuring proper incident reporting and compliance with guidance, among other reasons. Until DOD assigns such responsibility, DOD does not have assurance that its leadership has an accurate picture of the department’s cybersecurity posture.

In addition, DOD has not yet decided whether DIB cyber incidents detected by cybersecurity service providers should be shared with all relevant stakeholders, according to officials. DOD guidance states that to protect the interests of national security, cyber incidents must be coordinated among and across DOD organizations and outside sources, such as DIB partners. Until DOD examines whether this information should be shared with all relevant parties, there could be lost opportunities to identify system threats and improve system weaknesses.

DOD has established a process for determining whether to notify individuals of a breach of their personally identifiable information (PII). This process includes conducting a risk assessment that considers three factors—the nature and sensitivity of the PII, likelihood of access to and use of the PII, and the type of the breach. However, DOD has not consistently documented the notifications of affected individuals, because officials said notifications are often made verbally or by email and no record is retained. Without documenting the notification, DOD cannot verify that people were informed about the breach.

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Report to Congress on Chinese Naval Modernization

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

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

From the report

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

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

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

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

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

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U.S. Army Expanding Interoperability with Navy, Marines in the Pacific

Developing relationships and enhancing interoperability with allies partners through exercises and engagements is the focus for U.S. Army Pacific, officials from the command told reporters last week. The command is pushing increased readiness and the ability to respond to contingencies in the Indo-Pacific region, which is in line with the Department of Defense’s emphasis on […]

Indonesian soldiers begin dismounting from an UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for their joint training rehearsal as part of Super Garuda Shield 2022 in Baturaja, Indonesia, Aug. 8, 2022. US Army Photo

Developing relationships and enhancing interoperability with allies partners through exercises and engagements is the focus for U.S. Army Pacific, officials from the command told reporters last week.

The command is pushing increased readiness and the ability to respond to contingencies in the Indo-Pacific region, which is in line with the Department of Defense’s emphasis on the integrated deterrence concept, they told reporters.

In regard to the strategic and operational aspect of integrated deterrence, one of the key advantages the United States has is its allies and partners and its friends around the world, said Lt. Gen. James Jarrard, the deputy commanding general of USARPAC. Specifically in the Indo-Pacific, these allies and partners share the same values and work toward creating a free and open region that allows each country to continue its path based on its own sovereign interest.

“So continuing to develop those relationships is a key part of integrated deterrence at both the strategic and the operational level,” he added.

Upcoming iterations of Operation Pathways and USARPAC exercises west of the International Date Line will see similar trends to the joint Super Garuda Shield 2022 exercise, – held in Indonesia in August with multinational partners – said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey VanAntwerp, the deputy commanding general of Operations, 25th Infantry Division.

Originally a bilateral U.S. Army – Indonesian Army exercise, the service transformed Garuda Shield into a multinational and joint exercise this year with the participation of troops from Australia, Japan and Singapore, in addition to observer and staff participation from Canada, France, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Army also added a sea component, carried out by ships from Indonesia, Singapore and the United States. Littoral Combat Ship USS Charleston (LCS-18) and amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD-20) carried out joint drills and maneuvers in the Natuna Sea with Indonesian Navy corvettes KRI Bung Tomo (357), KRI John Lie (358), and KRI Frans Kaisiepo (368) and landing platform dock KRI Makassar (590), along with Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) frigate RSS Supreme (73) and landing platform dock ship RSS Resolution (208).

A Green Beret with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) briefs Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 3 and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment during a joint Marine and Navy exercise aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD-20), ON Oct. 4, 2021. US Army Photo

“We find if we’re just training army to army with another army, that is good – it’s good towards developing that kind of combined interoperability – but the reality is unless you’re doing it joint, unless you’re doing it multinational, you’re just not going to be successful,” VanAntwerp said. “And so our interest is in taking a lot of these exercises, and if our partners are interested and we want to work together and grow those exercises to ones where we’re working in a multinational way and in a joint way, that’s absolutely where we’d like to go”.

A key element in enabling USARPAC to ensure its forces are ready, available and deployable is the command’s Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC), which has three campuses – one on Oahu, Hawaii, one in Alaska, and the third an expeditionary deployable capability. Not only do these centers build readiness and prepare soldiers for deployments to the region, but they also keeps trained, ready forces available.

“Previously, when we had to send our forces back to the United States, it cost us a lot of money, so we’re getting to save some money, and it cost us a lot of time. It usually took about a month and a half to two months of transit time, and even more, for our equipment. And so it keeps our forces aggregated and available here in the region,” Jarrard said.

The JPMRC also allows USARPAC units to train in environments similar to the environments in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The national training center in Fort Irwin, California, it was a big desert. And that’s useful if you’re going and deploying to the Middle East, not so much if you’re out here in the Pacific. We have the jungle environment and the island archipelago environment that we have here in the Pacific, here in Hawaii. But up in Alaska we also have the cold high mountains that we have in other parts of the Pacific” said Jarrard.

The JPMRC also enables USARPAC to conduct exercise and rehearsals with foreign partners simultaneously, while preparing its units for upcoming deployments, like in the case of the current JPMRC rotation 23-01 taking place from Oct. 20 through Nov. 10 around Hawaii. The rotation includes 6000 personnel from the 25th Infantry Division and 354 partner nation personnel, the majority of which are infantry companies each from Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, in addition to observers from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The U.S. personnel are primarily from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), as part of ensuring the brigade is ready to deploy in contingencies and to prepare the brigade for its Pathways deployment in 2023. The three partner nations’ companies will integrate on a company basis with one of the three battalions of the 2nd BCT. They will execute similar tasking to the U.S companies in the exercise.

Personnel from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) are also participating in the training, while the U.S. Air Force is providing support with aircraft, close air support and defensive counter-air capabilities.

USS Hopper (DDG-70) is also participating in the exercise. VanAntwerp said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer last week inserted a U.S Army special operations team into the training area.

U.S. Marines with 3d Marine Littoral Regiment, 3d Marine Division, post security during a field training exercise at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 30, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment is also taking part in the exercise.

“The Marine Littoral Regiment is doing what it envisioned doing, what we, the joint force, would envision them doing in their role, just as we’d expect in a conflict” VanAntwerp said when USNI News asked about the 3rd MLR’s role in the exercise. “They are currently forward-deployed with multiple sensing and firing, advanced expeditionary bases, and they are going to open up air corridors and sea lanes to allow our forces during the remainder of the joint force to move into this operational area.”

Jarrard said the JPMRC rotation is done on an annual basis and countries were invited to observe the exercise to decide if they want to participate in future iterations.

“And so we just see an increased interest in this capability and what we’re doing throughout the Pacific, and so that we think this is a very good way to continue to develop relationships with our allies and partners,” he said.

As for the upcoming Keen Sword exercise in Japan in November, Jarrard said that while it’s primarily a U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps drill, the U.S. Army will participate with its Multi-Domain Task Force and deploy in the southwest islands of Japan with some of its key capabilities.

Jarrard stressed that continuous engagement is essential to build interoperability so the U.S. and partner forces can respond to events and crises in the region, whether it’s humanitarian and disaster relief operations or respond to military situations.

The U.S and its partners must be able to understand how each other operates and have equipment that enables all parties to effectively communicate with each other.

“And so that is what we need to work on every time we get together with our allies and partners so that we can do that better. We still have areas that we do not do that well, even though we’ve been doing this a long time, and so we’ve got to continually to improve, so that when we are required to work together, we can do it at an effective level,” Jarrard said.

Report to Congress on Hypersonic Weapons

The following is the Oct. 27, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. […]

The following is the Oct. 27, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics, on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S. military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.

Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part, to the advances in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.

The Pentagon’s FY2023 budget request for hypersonic research is $4.7 billion—up from $3.8 billion in the FY2022 request. The Missile Defense Agency additionally requested $225.5 million for hypersonic defense. At present, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that it may not have approved either mission requirements for the systems or long-term funding plans. Indeed, as Principal Director for Hypersonics (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) Mike White has stated, DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to assist in the evaluation of potential weapon system concepts and mission sets.

As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it might consider questions about the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic stability and arms control. Potential questions include the following:

  • What mission(s) will hypersonic weapons be used for? Are hypersonic weapons the most cost-effective means of executing these potential missions? How will they be incorporated into joint operational doctrine and concepts?
  • Given the lack of defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, how should Congress evaluate funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs or the balance of funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies, and supporting test infrastructure? Is an acceleration of research on hypersonic weapons, enabling technologies, or hypersonic missile defense options both necessary and technologically feasible?
  • How, if at all, will the fielding of hypersonic weapons affect strategic stability?
  • Is there a need for risk-mitigation measures, such as expanding New START, negotiating new multilateral arms control agreements, or undertaking transparency and confidence-building activities?

Download the document here.

Navy Restarts Flights for Some T-45C Trainers

Chief of Naval Air Training resumed T-45C Goshawk aircraft flight operations Monday, according to a Naval Air Systems Command release. The Navy and Marine Corps grounded the entire 193 T-45C Goshawks for a safety pause since Oct. 14 after an engine blade failure was discovered. There are some Goshawks that will remain grounded because the […]

A T-45C Goshawk, attached to Training Air Wing 1, approaches USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck, Feb. 4, 2021. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jackson Adkins)

Chief of Naval Air Training resumed T-45C Goshawk aircraft flight operations Monday, according to a Naval Air Systems Command release.

The Navy and Marine Corps grounded the entire 193 T-45C Goshawks for a safety pause since Oct. 14 after an engine blade failure was discovered. There are some Goshawks that will remain grounded because the engine blades do not meet the manufacturer’s engine specifications.

“The process of returning to operations is based off engineering analysis by NAVAIR, with the most important decision being the safety of our aviators,” Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Richard Brophy said in the release. “The aircraft we are flying are verified and known-good. We have the highest confidence in the compliance of these aircraft.”

The rest of the T-45C fleet’s flight operations will stay paused while the Navy and Rolls Royce continue to analyze engineering data on the “non-conforming parts.” Rolls Royce and the Navy will continue to work to return the T-45Cs to operational status.

“During this time, training air wings and squadrons are maximizing ground training, including classroom lectures, simulators and computer-based training,” according to the release.

Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding

The following is the Oct. 20, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the […]

The following is the Oct. 20, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

Download the document here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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