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.

Chinese Carrier Liaoning Strike Group Steaming Near Japan, Says MoD

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dispatched an eight-ship carrier group, led by the carrier CNS Liaoning (16) and accompanied by five destroyers, a frigate and a replenishment ship, into the Pacific Ocean via transit of the Miyako Strait Monday, marking the first time since December 2021 that the carrier has operated in the area. […]

Chinese ships operate off the coast of Japan on May 2, 2022. Japanese MoD Images

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dispatched an eight-ship carrier group, led by the carrier CNS Liaoning (16) and accompanied by five destroyers, a frigate and a replenishment ship, into the Pacific Ocean via transit of the Miyako Strait Monday, marking the first time since December 2021 that the carrier has operated in the area.

The Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) issued a release Monday on the group’s passage along with photographs of the ships in the group, identifying them by class and pennant number.

Along with Liaoning, the ships in the group are the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120), Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151), Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531) and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901).

Liaoning together with Nanchang, Xining, Urumqi, Chengdu and Hulunhu were sighted sailing south in an area 350km west on the uninhabited Danjo Islands in the East China Sea around midnight Sunday, according to the Joint Staff Office’s release. At 6 p.m. Sunday, Xiangtan was sighted sailing eastward in an area 480km northwest of Okinawa. On Monday, Zhengzhou was sighted traveling south, 160km north of Taisho Island. The PLAN ships subsequently sailed south together through the Miyako Strait.

The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) together with JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4, based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu, and P-3C Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5, based out of Naha Air Base, Okinawa, conducted monitoring of the PLAN ships, according to the release. Liaoning conducted helicopter operations while in the East China Sea.

Chinese naval spokesperson Gao Xiucheng said the Liaoning group is conducting training in the western Pacific Ocean and that it was a routine training organized by the Chinese navy, according to its annual plan and in line with relevant international law and international practice, China’s Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.In December last year, Liaoning along with other PLAN ships conducted flight operations in the vicinities of Kita Daito and Oki Daito islands in the Pacific Ocean. Japan now plans to have a mobile radar station based on Kita Daito Island and is considering moving towards permanent radar stations on the Daito Islands to monitor foreign naval activities and transits in the area.

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

Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) is now in Singapore at Changi Naval Base, arriving on Tuesday to carry out a planned maintenance availability (PMAV) period while in Singapore, according to a 7th Fleet release

“Having Jackson once again using Changi Naval Base as the site for maintenance is a significant milestone and gives operational commanders increased adaptability for maintaining and operating ships,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force 76 in the release. “We are thankful for our defense relationship with the Republic of Singapore and their willingness to host our ships as we strive toward a common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Spey (P234) arrived in Singapore Friday at Sembawang Naval Installation to join sister ship HMS Tamar (P233). Both Royal Navy vessels are on a five-year deployment to the Indo-Pacific region as part of an overall UK policy to strengthen its presence in the region.

Destroyer USS Sampson Transits Taiwan Strait

USS Sampson (DDG-102) transited the Taiwan Strain on Tuesday, the Navy announced. Sampson‘s transit through the strait was a routine operation and was done in accordance with international laws, according to a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” […]

Sailors handle line during a replenishment-at-sea with the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) on April 12, 2022 in the East China Sea. US Navy Photo

USS Sampson (DDG-102) transited the Taiwan Strain on Tuesday, the Navy announced.

Sampson‘s transit through the strait was a routine operation and was done in accordance with international laws, according to a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to the statement. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

Last week, sailors aboard Sampson participated in a Visit Board Search and Seizure drill as part of the ship’s operations in 7th Fleet, according to the sea service.

Sampson is part of Destroyer Squadron 21, currently embarked on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Philippine Sea, according to USNI News’ Fleet Tracker.

The CSG, with Sampson, departed for its scheduled deployment on Jan. 3.

An American warship last transited the Taiwan Strait two months ago, a move which the Chinese called provocative, USNI News previously reported.

USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) transited the strait on Feb. 28, which China saw as U.S. assurance to Taiwan since the operation was done during the early days of the Russian invasion into Ukraine.

U.S. 7th Fleet said the transit was a routine operation.

China has not made similar comments about Sampson‘s transit.

Panel: Beijing Closely Tracking Global Reaction to Ukraine Invasion

China’s Xi Jinping is closely monitoring what is happening to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputation following the invasion of Ukraine, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones said Monday. Xi is looking at how the world views Putin as a gauge of global reaction he might face should Xi move against Taiwan, Jones argued. Jones, who […]

Xi Jinping President of the People’s Republic of China speaks at a United Nations Office in Geneva on Jan. 18, 2017. UN Photo

China’s Xi Jinping is closely monitoring what is happening to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputation following the invasion of Ukraine, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones said Monday.
Xi is looking at how the world views Putin as a gauge of global reaction he might face should Xi move against Taiwan, Jones argued.

Jones, who also served as the national security adviser and top commander in Europe, said the reaction could range from hailing Putin as a world leader who is “welcomed once again to the Munich Security Conference” to condemning him as a war criminal.

“I think the Taiwanese are as willing to defend their homeland” as the Ukrainians have been, he said.

Xi and Putin “have concluded the U.S. commitment to our regional relationships are not what they used to be” when they signed a cooperative agreement package during this year’s Olympics in Beijing, prior to the invasion. With Russian forces stalled, Xi is “walking a tightrope” in his relationship with Putin, said Michelle Flournoy, former civilian policy chief at the Pentagon.

At the Atlantic Council online forum, Jones and Flournoy said in both cases – Ukraine and Taiwan – it is a struggle between democracies and authoritarian rule. The implications of the outcomes in that struggle will be felt in the Middle East, Africa, the Western Hemisphere and in India, which is a United States partner in the Indo-Pacific. Many of those nations chose not to back the U.S. in its United Nations condemnation of the Kremlin’s unprovoked attack on Kyiv. Multiple abstained although the condemnation resolution passed.

Jones said the U.S. is not helping itself with countries – like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others – by not having permanent ambassadors in place to show American engagement with them on economic, security and diplomatic fronts. To them, the lack of ambassadorial presence demonstrates “a void of commitment” by Washington. Flournoy added the lack of U.S. presence at meetings of regional organizations like the Association of South East Asian Nations [ASEAN] allows Chinese influence to grow unchecked.

Looking specifically at Taiwan, Flournoy said, “we really need to help with an asymmetric defense” like Ukraine has used to so far to stall the Russian advance. This would be a shift away from selling Taipei large platforms like F-16 fighters to having them build-up their anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile defenses and maritime defenses. The island would become “a little porcupine” to overcome and slow down an invasion across the Taiwan strait. If others, like the U.S., are to help, “they need time to arrive.”

Flournoy, who recently returned from a trip to Taiwan, said president Tsai Ing-wen has emphasized the readiness of its active forces and is paying new attention to improved reserve forces. At the same time, Taipei has created a mobilization agency to use civilians and their skills in the case of natural disasters and a possible invasion from the mainland. She noted the success the Taiwanese have had in relying on volunteerism to augment its police and fire services.

Both said there was no need to abandon “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to the defense of Taiwan. But, “frankly Beijing is going to pay a lot more attention to our actions than our words,” Flournoy added, like helping Taipei build strong invasion defenses.

“I put the responsibility of de-escalation [of tensions over Taiwan and in the South China Sea] on Beijing.” The message being sent is: “We’re going to do [Freedom of Navigation operations] when you threaten Taiwan” with air and maritime incursions, said Flournoy.

Xi’s “preferred approach is to create so much economic leverage” over Taiwan that there would be no resistance to its total alignment with Beijing. She cited China’s increased economic ties with the island in key industries there like investing in semi-conductors, encouraging Taiwanese businesses to operate across the strait and the increased recruiting of young Taiwanese to work on the mainland for higher pay and more career opportunities.

Taiwan is not the only entity or nation seeing increased Chinese business interest in its activities.

China’s economic influence, especially through its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and regional trade pact, is widely felt across the Indo-Pacific. Washington needs to create a “counter-vortex” of economic investment across the region, Jones said. He noted 25 percent of South Korea’s gross domestic product is tied to China and the percentage is growing yearly. “That can affect South Korea’s politics at some point,” he said.

Likewise, China is Japan’s and Australia’s largest trading partner.

President Tsai Ing-wen reviews a Marine Corps battalion in Kaohsiung in July 2020. Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China

“We want to keep putting meat on the bones of the Quad,” the informal security and economic arrangement between the U.S., Australia, Japan and India, Flournoy said. She called for near-term technology wins in the Australia-United Kingdom-United States [AUKUS] agreement. “We can help with that” in New Delhi’s case in wooing India away from its reliance on Russian military systems that date back to the Cold War and still require spare parts to keep the Chinese at bay in the Himalayas.

The military sales relationship, in part, explains India’s abstention in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Flournoy said citing new reports.

Both agreed applying sanctions to Beijing in the case of an invasion of Taiwan would be far more difficult than with Russia because China’s economy is much bigger, more diverse and globally engaged, including with the U.S., than Moscow’s reliance on energy exports to boost its GDP.

Report to Congress on AUKUS Nuclear Cooperation

The following is the March 11, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report AUKUS Nuclear Cooperation. From the report On December 1, 2021, President Joseph Biden submitted to Congress an “Agreement among Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information.” This In Focus explains the agreement’s substance, […]

The following is the March 11, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report AUKUS Nuclear Cooperation.

From the report

On December 1, 2021, President Joseph Biden submitted to Congress an “Agreement among Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information.” This In Focus explains the agreement’s substance, as well as provisions of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, as amended (P.L. 83-703; 42 U.S.C. §§2153 et seq.), concerning the content and congressional review of such agreements.

An accompanying message to Congress explains that the agreement would permit the three governments to “communicate and exchange Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information and would provide authorization to share certain Restricted Data as may be needed during trilateral discussions” concerning a project to develop Australian nuclear-powered submarines. This project is part of an “enhanced trilateral security partnership” named AUKUS, which the three governments announced on September 15, 2021. The United States has a similar nuclear naval propulsion arrangement only with the United Kingdom pursuant to the bilateral 1958 Mutual Defense Agreement.

The partnership’s first initiative, according to a September 15 Joint Statement, is an 18-month study “to seek an optimal pathway to deliver” this submarine capability to Australia. This study is to include “building on” the U.S. and UK nuclear-powered submarine programs “to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.” The study is “in the early stages,” according to a November 2021 non-paper from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which adds that “[m]any of the program specifics have yet to be determined.”

Agreement Details 

The agreement, which the governments signed on November 22, 2021, permits each party to exchange “naval nuclear propulsion information as is determined to be necessary to research, develop, design, manufacture, operate, regulate, and dispose of military reactors.” As noted, this information includes restricted data; the AEA defines such data to include “all data concerning … the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy.” The AEA and 10 C.F.R. Part 810.3 define special nuclear material as plutonium, uranium-233, or enriched uranium.

The agreement, which entered into force on February 8, 2022, is to remain in force until December 31, 2023, when it will “automatically extend for four additional periods of six months each.” Any party may terminate its participation in the agreement with six months written notice. Should any party abrogate or materially violate the agreement, the other parties may “require the return or destruction” of any transferred data.

The agreement includes provisions to protect transferred data. For example, no party may communicate any information governed by the agreement to any “unauthorized persons or beyond” the party’s “jurisdiction or control.” In addition, a recipient party communicating such information to nationals of a third AUKUS government must obtain permission from the originating party. The agreement includes an appendix detailing “security arrangements” to protect transferred information.

Download the document here.

Australia to Build New Sub Base for Nuclear Attack Boat Fleet

The Royal Australian Navy will establish a new submarine base on its east coast to host its planned nuclear-powered submarines and to complement the existing Fleet Base West, Garden Island submarine base, Australian officials said on Monday. The government is considering three possible locations for the new base – Brisbane, Newcastle and Port Kembla – […]

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) and Royal Australian Navy Collins-class submarine HMAS Rankin (SSG-78) operate together in waters off Rottnest Island, Western Australia on March 4, 2015. Royal Navy Photo

The Royal Australian Navy will establish a new submarine base on its east coast to host its planned nuclear-powered submarines and to complement the existing Fleet Base West, Garden Island submarine base, Australian officials said on Monday. The government is considering three possible locations for the new base – Brisbane, Newcastle and Port Kembla – down from 19 initial candidates

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement in a virtual address to the Lowy Institute, followed by a joint media release with Defence Minister Peter Dutton. Morrison stated in the address that the decision was made to support basing and disposition of the future nuclear-powered submarines, but at the same time stressed that the new base would not replace any existing Fleet Base West facilities, “This is about additional national capacity, not relocating any existing or planned future capacity for Fleet Base West. Fleet Base West will remain home to our current and future submarines, given its strategic importance on the Indian Ocean” said Morrison.

Morrison said the decision to establish an east coast submarine base has been many years in the making as part of Australia’s transition from the Collins-class submarine, and that establishing a second submarine base on the east coast will enhance Australia’s strategic deterrent capability; bring advantages in operational, training, personnel and industrial terms; and enable regular visits from of U.S. and U.K. nuclear-powered submarines.

The Fleet Base West will also receive significant funding to support Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines and enable regular visits from U.S. and U.K. nuclear-powered submarines, according to the media release. It also stated that the Australian Department of Defence estimates that more than AUD $10 billion will be needed for facility and infrastructure requirements to prepare for the future nuclear-powered submarines, including the new east coast submarine base. It also stated that Defence will engage with state and local governments to determine the optimal site, which will be informed by the ongoing work of the Nuclear Powered Submarine Taskforce. This initial work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

In an interview with ABC Radio on Monday, Dutton said that Australia expects a future influx of ship maintenance and support works throughout Australia, not only from Australian ships, but also partner nation ships coming into Australia.

“We’re talking not only about Australian submarines, we’re also talking about significant visits to our country from the Astute-class [submarines]. We had an Astute-class in [Western Australia] only about two months ago. We have the prospect, I think, of significant visits from the United States fleet – not just their submarines – and also the Japanese visits, the British visits of their frigates. I think you’ll see more activity from the Indians. I just think this is the new norm, tragically, because of the uncertainty within the Indo-Pacific and we’ll see that ramp up over the next couple of years,” he said.

Dutton dismissed the prospect of an intermediate submarine class to bridge the gap between Collins class and the future nuclear-powered submarine, saying it was not feasible, “What we don’t want to do is get into an immature design of a third class of subs. Navy is going to be stretched to run the Collins-class into the mid-2040s, on top of the new nuclear-powered submarines. To have a sort of son of Collins or a daughter of Collins, as it’s been referred to, so a third class of submarines, I just don’t think it’s feasible,” he said, adding that a new class would take years to design and build.

Dutton said that buying an existing nuclear-powered submarine design was not possible given that current nuclear-powered submarine construction capacity globally is now at full capacity. He added that the planned upgrades of the Collins would be sufficient until the new nuclear-powered submarines entered service, which he believes will be earlier than the general estimate of a 2040 timeframe.

“There’s been speculation around the 2040s. That’s not my expectation. I think we can build and we can put into service much sooner than the 2040s. But we’re going through an 18-month process at the moment with both the United States and the United Kingdom talking about the transfer of that [intellectual property], talking about the way in which we can build up that capability”, said Dutton who also stated that there would be more to say on the matter in the middle of this year with the next stage of the [Australia, U.K. and U.S.] discussions.

In other developments, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surface task group involved with the alleged lasing of an Australian P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft on Feb. 17, returned to the military port of Zhanjiang, Guangdong on Thursday last week. The task group is comprised of the destroyer CNS Hefei (174), frigate CNS Huangshan (570), amphibious transport dock CNS Jinggang Shan (999) and replenishment ship CNS Honghu (963). China’s Xinhua news agency reported that the group left Zhanjiang on Feb. 5 and successfully completed combat readiness patrols and offshore training missions in the South China Sea, East Indian Ocean, Western Pacific and other waters. Xinhua also added that the training was a routine part of Southern Theater Command’s annual plan, did not target any specific goals and conformed to relevant international law and accepted practice.

Japan also reported the sighting of another PLAN surface group on Friday, stating that the destroyer CNS Urumqi (118), frigate CNS Yantai (538) and replenishment ship CNS Taihu (889) were sighted 110 km east of Miyako Island and traveled north in the Miyako Strait between Miyako Island and Okinawa heading into the East China Sea. The release by the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self Defense Force also stated that the replenishment ship JS Hamana (AOE-424) and the minesweeper JS Ukushima (MSC-686) conducted surveillance on the PLAN ships.

Marines Stand Up First Marine Littoral Regiment

The Marine Corps this week formally converted its Hawaii-based regiment into the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, taking another step in the pursuit of its new island-hopping strategy in the Indo-Pacific. As part of the service’s Force Design 2030 effort, the Marine Corps converted the 3rd Marine Regiment into the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment in a […]

Marines with 3d Marine Littoral Regiment, 3d Marine Division present arms during the redesignation ceremony of 3d Marines to 3d MLR aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, March 3, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The Marine Corps this week formally converted its Hawaii-based regiment into the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, taking another step in the pursuit of its new island-hopping strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

As part of the service’s Force Design 2030 effort, the Marine Corps converted the 3rd Marine Regiment into the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment in a Thursday ceremony at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

“The concept of this 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment standing up – re-designating 3rd Marine Regiment to 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment – is a visible, physical representation of the Marine Corps’ change to outpace a pacing threat, so that we are in the best position to offer conventional [and] integrated deterrence …. in support of our National Defense Strategy,” Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith told reporters earlier this week.

Military officials describe China as “the pacing threat,” and the Marine Corps’ vision for Force Design includes smaller units that could quickly move between islands and archipelagos, setting up ad-hoc expeditionary advanced bases and firing anti-ship missiles.

Part of the shift to the 3rd MLR construct includes those smaller units – about 75 to 100 Marines in an Expeditionary Advanced Base detachment – that are constantly prepared to deploy to the first and second island chains, as opposed to the historic six-month deployments.

“They are strategically placed via our organic mobility throughout the first and second island chain in order to change an adversary’s calculus,” Smith said. “Again, these units – instead of a captain who’s in charge of 175 Marines, [need] to have a captain or a first lieutenant who’s in charge of 75 Marines with a very specific task.”

Marines with 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, 3rd Marine Division conduct the redesignation ceremony of 3rd Marines to 3rd MLR aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, March 3, 2022. US Marine Corps

The ACMC listed four capabilities the MLR needs: long-range fires – like the Navy-Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) program that features a Naval Strike Missile mounted on an unmanned JLTV chassis; – the MQ-9A Reaper drone for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; radars and communication systems like the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR); and “organic mobility” with platforms like the Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LRUSV) that Marines could employ with the Light Amphibious Warship and other larger amphibious ships.

“The equipment’s going to change over the years. State of the art technology will change in five years or six years, but the MLR will stay as an organization that is purpose-built to deploy immediately in small-task organized units so that its signature is such that it is not easily detectable, and yet it packs enough of a punch that the adversary has to account for it. They have to consider it because that takes pressure off the rest of the joint force,” Smith said.

While the threat will decide where the Marine Corps bases its equipment, Smith said the service also needs to adhere to the environmental and legal mandates, depending on the host nation, before choosing where the equipment will live.

But the Marines have four goals to achieve with the MLR in the Indo-Pacific by the end of Fiscal Year 2023.

US Marine Corps Rouge Fires missile system.

“Those capabilities broadly are additional organic lift – aviation lift and I’m talking KC-130s – into the Indo-Pacific theater, long-range strike into the Indo-Pacific theater. And that means our Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction system, which was successfully demonstrated at last year’s Large-Scale Exercise,” Smith said.
“We have to show our long-range intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance air platform – the MQ-9 Alpha extended range – we have to introduce that into the theater in ’23. And then we have to stand up the 3rd MLR,” which is what the Marines did this week. “And that represents our ability to live, train and deploy in these small disaggregated units.”

The Marine Corps already has G/ATOR systems in Okinawa, Japan, and has experimented with LRUSV using a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) and will keep testing the use of LRUSV with ships from Metal Shark. The service is also leasing one stern landing vessel through the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab so it can use the platform for testing before 2023.

“We know what we want to do with the vehicle – there’s no doubt about the concept of employment. Now we’re talking about the specifics of beachability and exact size. that’s what the analysis of alternatives for which ship do you procure – that will determine that. But we already have a surrogate that we will lease to use for experimentation,” Smith said. “And we might additionally lease two more for a total of three because we don’t want to wait for the LAW to come online for us to then confirm – not come up with – but confirm our concept of operations.”

Smith said the 2023 timeline stems from the need to show Congress and the Defense Department that the Marine Corps has made progress on Force Design and the service’s obligations to provide capabilities to combatant commanders that can help deter an adversary.

“We can’t wait until the adversary has reached their full potential and then try to divert them, to change them. We have to change that trajectory now, meaning by the end of Fiscal Year ’23,” he said.

Adversaries, according to Smith, don’t like the Marine Corps’ strategy because of the unpredictability and maneuverability a unit like the MLR brings.

“They don’t like the fact that units are highly mobile, that they have a low signature and that they – the adversary – doesn’t know where these things are. Because we’re talking about an organization that’s 75 Marines who have organic mobility, either by air or by surface connector. And once they’re ashore, they have organic mobility in the form of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and relatively small trucks that are inherently mobile and have capabilities to shut down a network, to strike a capital warship and then fade away and move again,” he said.
“Adversaries hate that because they don’t have effective control over their – the adversary’s – plan. So all of our assessments, wargaming and analysis say that we are on the right track. We are constantly adjusting the exact size of an infantry battalion, the exact number of missiles a unit needs to carry so that it matches our logistics capability, the exact signature that they will put out – that is constantly adjusting based on the adversary’s ability to pick up our signature.”

U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, demonstrate expeditionary advanced basing capabilities Oct. 7 to 8, 2020, as part of Exercise Noble Fury, from Okinawa to Ie Shima and across surrounding waters. US Marine Corps Photo

The current plan is for the Marine Corps to have three Marine Littoral Regiments all based in the Indo-Pacific. It will eventually convert the 4th Marine Regiment and the 12th Marine Regiment – both based in Okinawa – into MLRs. The service needs all three MLRs operating by 2030, with Smith estimating a transition for one organization in the 2025-2026 timeline and 2027-2030 for third one.

“By ‘30, we will have all three of them and what we’ll do is we will confirm with this first regiment what is exactly needed. We’ll take our time. That may mean the second MLR to stand up is a little slower than we thought, but it’ll be easier to do because we’ll know exactly what sized unit to put in there – exactly how many master sergeants, exactly how many staff sergeants, exactly how many missiles,” the ACMC said. “So all of them have to be stood up 2030, which is when we would consider the decade of uncertainty beings. You have to be ready because again the pacing threat’s moving.”

Smith acknowledged the 3rd MLR could be a little bigger than previous estimates of 1,800 to 2,000 Marines and sailors, but said the organization will be smaller than the 3rd Marine Regiment. The MLR is slated to include a Littoral Combat Team, Littoral Logistics Battalion, and a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion. Smith said the service is still working on the Littoral Anti-Air Battalion, so depending on new technologies that come online, the MLR could require fewer or more Marines and change in size over the next one to three years. But Smith said it’s unclear if that change will be a difference of 50 Marines or 300.

As the Marines perform more exercises and collect more data, the service will have the chance to hone the number.

“Changing the size of the unit every single day – you don’t do that. You might do it annually, or every two years,” Smith said. “But when there’s data sufficient to prove that we need to change, we’ll change again because the pacing threat’s always changing. They’re always moving.”

Destroyer USS Ralph Johnson Performs Taiwan Strait Transit

A U.S. warship passed through the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, irking the Chinese government, which called the move “provocative.” Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) conducted a routine strait transit on Saturday, according to a press release from U.S. 7th Fleet. It operated in accordance with international law. “The ship is transiting through […]

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) pulls alongside the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Guadalupe (T-AO-200) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea in the South China Sea on Feb. 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

A U.S. warship passed through the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, irking the Chinese government, which called the move “provocative.”

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) conducted a routine strait transit on Saturday, according to a press release from U.S. 7th Fleet. It operated in accordance with international law.

“The ship is transiting through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” according to the 7th Fleet release. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

Although 7th Fleet called the transit passage routine, the Chinese government said performing the transit during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was meant to reassure Taiwanese separatists that the U.S. is committed to Taiwan’s security, according to state-run outlet People’s Daily.

Chinese forces monitored Ralph Johnson as it went through the strait, according to the Chinese outlet.

Senior Col. Shi Yi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, told People’s Daily the passage through the strait was provocative and called actions to encourage the Taiwanese separatist forces “futile.”

China routinely protests the U.S. transits through the Taiwan Strait and freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Last month, USS Benfold (DDG-65) performed a FONOP near the Paracel Islands. The U.S. Navy at the time denied a Chinese claim that it expelled Benfold from the waters.

CNO Gilday: ‘We Need a Naval Force of Over 500 Ships’

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The U.S. Navy needs a fleet of more than 500 ships to meet its commitments to the soon-to-be released National Defense Strategy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Friday.  “I’ve concluded – consistent with the analysis – that we need a naval force of over 500 ships,” Gilday […]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), left, USS America (LHA-6), and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), transit the Philippine Sea on Jan. 22, 2022. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The U.S. Navy needs a fleet of more than 500 ships to meet its commitments to the soon-to-be released National Defense Strategy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Friday. 

“I’ve concluded – consistent with the analysis – that we need a naval force of over 500 ships,” Gilday said during the WEST 2022 conference, co-hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute.

“We need 12 carriers. We need a strong amphibious force to include nine big-deck amphibs and another 19 or 20 [LPDs] to support them. Perhaps 30 or more smaller amphibious ships to support Maritime Littoral Regiments… to 60 destroyers and probably 50 frigates, 70 attack submarines and a dozen ballistic missile submarines to about a 100 support ships and probably looking into the future about 150 unmanned.”

According to Gilday’s list, that force would be about 513 ships with 263 manned combatants, plus 100 logistics and supply ships and 150 unmanned vessels. Gilday told reporters later that the total would include Littoral Combat Ships.

“LCS is in that mix,” he said.

The numbers Gilday said on Friday are largely in line with a notional high-end total included in the abbreviated Fiscal Year 2022 long-range shipbuilding plan. The ongoing congressionally-mandated force structure assessment will inform the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, Gilday said. But details of the FSA have largely been under wraps as the Pentagon continues to craft its next national defense strategy.

“We’re going through another force structure assessment right now, but based on the hard work we’ve done over the last five or six years we’re thinking about how we would fight,” Gilday said. “How would we fight differently in terms of a wide, vast ocean like the Pacific?”

For the last three years, the Navy’s future force structure has been in flux, undergoing several different fleet reviews while the Department of the Navy and Pentagon leadership underwent unprecedented churn in 2019 and 2020.

The attempt at a force structure assessment led to the Trump administration releasing an ambitious fleet plan toward the end of its tenure. The Biden administration shelved the plan shortly after President Joe Biden took office, prompting the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of the Defense to again reevaluate the force under new Pentagon leadership and the prospect of a flat budget outlay.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday speaking at WEST 2022 on Feb. 18, 2022.

Over the last year, the Navy has set out on an aggressive testing program to refine the emerging Distributed Maritime Operations concept that will connect crewed and unmanned ships and aircraft to operate in concert across the vast distances of the Pacific.

In particular, Large Scale Exercise 2021 tested DMO in addition to the Marines Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment across three combatant commands in a networked exercise with live and simulated exercises. The Navy and Marines are also testing deployed carrier strike and amphibious ready groups with complicated battle problems that further test the underlying concepts. Meanwhile, in U.S. 5th Fleet, the ongoing testing of small unmanned vessels is refining how the service thinks about employing them in the future.

“The real message I wanted to get out of those numbers, it’s actually grounded on how we’re going to fight,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has an ongoing amphibious ship requirements study that it will ultimately deliver to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said the study is about 30 to 45 days away from completion and he expects the analysis to call for approximately 31 amphibious ships. So far, Del Toro has received two progress updates about the study, Berger said.

“If it’s anything like the previous studies – we’ve had I think 12 studies in the last 13 years – every one of them came out about 31 amphib ships,” Berger told reporters at WEST. “So I don’t know what this one will come to, but I can’t see it radically different from that. That’s requirements. That’s our Marine Corps requirement. That’s maybe different from what the nation can afford.”

The study is assessing the requirements for both large amphibious ships and the Light Amphibious Warship, which the Marine Corps wants to shuttle Marines around islands and shorelines in the Indo-Pacific. LAW is supposed to have a beaching capability so it can easily deliver Marines to the shore. While the Marine Corps is behind the push for LAW, money to purchase the platform would come out of the Navy’s shipbuilding account.

Gilday’s affirmation of the fleet follows reports the that the Biden administration is planning late influx funds into the Pentagon budget for FY 2023. USNI News reported earlier this week that the new topline could be as high $773 billion.

Luria: U.S. Needs to Provide ‘Strategic Clarity’ on Defense of Taiwan

The United States must “provide strategic clarity” on what Washington would do if China invaded Taiwan, the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) added, “We need to say [as an administration and Congress] we will come to the aid of Taiwan.” She said the time for Congress […]

Taiwan’s indigenous fighter. CNA Photo

The United States must “provide strategic clarity” on what Washington would do if China invaded Taiwan, the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) added, “We need to say [as an administration and Congress] we will come to the aid of Taiwan.” She said the time for Congress to act is now so that the president will have the authority to respond militarily to such an event, which current law does not provide.

“We need to have the debate in Congress now, not when [the Chinese are] halfway across the strait.” Luria added, “We should not take for granted their will” to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control even if they lack amphibious assault capability.

The American public needs to realize what’s at stake in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific, she said, adding, “Do you want the Chinese to take over [from the U.S.] as the world influencer?”

Although the government is still operating under the constraints of a continuing resolution almost halfway through this fiscal year, Luria didn’t expect to see plus-ups for the Navy when the administration submits its fiscal year 2023 request.

“I think more resources need to go to the Navy and Air Force [due to] the nature” of the Indo-Pacific, and the expected emphasis the theater will receive in the new defense strategy due out this month, she said. Past spending has been roughly divided into three equal parts for the services.

Constraints on this year’s spending due to the budget impasse, she noted, impact the future schedule and cost of the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine program, the Navy’s top spending priority. Also in limbo was the $22 billion plus-up called for in the National Defense Authorization Act.

As she has in the past, Luria took exception to a policy of disinvesting – particularly decommissioning ships which still have service life in order to invest in future systems – with each year’s budget submission.
“We can’t just build a new fleet in five years,” she said.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday reenlists Sailors on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on Feb. 24, 2021. US Navy photo.

She expected “more of the same cuts in shipbuilding” coming forward in the new budget request.t. In the relatively near future 27 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will be coming up on the end of their service life, and decisions need to be made about possible upgrades and continued service. “It was criminal what we did to the cruisers,” Luria said.

She added that the Navy is studying refueling USS Nimitz (CVN-68) a second time to extend its service life.

“We’re always shooting for the newest things,” like artificial intelligence and quantum computing breakthroughs that could change warfare. “Sounds great [but] the truth is you can’t get rid of the platform,” she said.

On budgeting, Luria wants the services to come to the House Armed Services Committee with presentations that say, “This is what we need; here’s the risk” if those needs aren’t met, as John Lehman did when he was Navy secretary. Otherwise, it’s a “shell game” of publicly supporting the administration’s request and then submitting a list of unfunded requirements, she said.

“Truth is, there was commitment from the top” from President Ronald Reagan for an approach like Lehman’s, which is needed today from President Joseph Biden.

While Navy officials answered questions about the budget, Luria said several times that the Navy has yet to present to Congress with an updated shipbuilding plan that could help decision-making on Capitol Hill.

That plan, along with details about the Navy’s long-time repair needs, also helps private shipyards, like Electric Boat and Newport News, in adjusting the size of their workforce and potentially expanding,and can encourage other companies to look for Navy work.

“We also need to be able to invest in our private yards,” Luria said, to spread out construction on new classes like frigates. She added that Electric Boat and Newport News, in addition to delivering Virginia-class submarines, developing Columbia class and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, are now being asked to also take on major repair work.

“There’s only so much capacity on the waterfront” with public and private yards now, she said. Delays in return to service will only worsen as more ships join the fleet, she added, and other ships need necessary major maintenance to keep them in service if more yards aren’t available.