ALERT The Winds of War Blow in Korea and The Far East

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
..More on the threats of "hostage diplomacy" Reads as escalation, but mercury is retrograde, so I can't see any actual fwd movement coming from it.. Busy lil bees tho, aren't they
...so many fingers in so many pies that they've had to kick off their kung fu shoe and start using their toes. :: shakes head ::
Idiots......They must be really getting desperate.
 

jward

passin' thru
‘Preparing for War’: What Is China’s Xi Jinping Trying to Tell Us?
By James Holmes
October 19, 2020

Xi recently exhorted Chinese marines to devote their “minds and energy” to “preparing for war.” Much of the message was meant for the U.S. and Taiwan.
Xi Jinping paid a visit to a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps base in Guangdong Province this past Tuesday. During his tour the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supremo exhorted marines to devote their “minds and energy” to “preparing for war,” to “maintain a state of high alert,” and to remain “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.”
Xi’s words set China-watchers in the West aflutter, but what do they mean?

Less and more than it might seem. As a rule, national leaders aim their remarks at more than one audience, and Xi is no exception to the rule. Let’s start with what he communicated to the immediate audience, the Chinese marines on hand for inspection, then speculate about the messages he broadcast—deliberately or inadvertently—to hearers elsewhere in China and the world.In one sense Xi’s words were anodyne, even trite. Military forces exist to provide political leaders with options. To give political leaders options should they resort to war, armed services have to prepare for war in peacetime. That’s doubly true of industrial-age militaries. You don’t improvise a high-tech force at the outbreak of fighting. You develop and build implements of war, devise tactics and doctrine for using them, and train—over and over again.

In warfare as on the gridiron or basketball court, practice before a contest makes perfect. More reps make better habits and a more proficient team. Nineteenth-century psychologist William James paid homage to the part habits play in the profession of arms. James conjured up the Duke of Wellington, the victor of Waterloo, as an authority on the subject: “‘Habit a second nature! Habit is ten times nature,’ the Duke of Wellington is said to have exclaimed . . . . The daily drill and the years of discipline” transmute ordinary people into fighting soldiers, sailors, or aviators.
Executing tactics and operations becomes second nature. Such a force acquits itself well in battle.
Élan is critical to martial prowess. Only a skilled and dedicated wielder can extract maximum design performance from a weapon or piece of kit. To fulfill their duty, in other words, military folk must devote their minds and energy to preparing for war and maintain a state of high alert should they be ordered into battle. Xi was simply entreating the PLA Marines to do their job, not announcing that war is imminent. That’s the banal part.

Xi may have telegraphed an unintended message by entreating the marines to remain absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable. Few U.S. or allied leaders see the need to plead with troops to remain loyal; loyalty to the nation and its constitution is assumed. But the PLA is the military wing of a political party, not a society and its government. CCP grandees constantly hector the Chinese people and their military to remain subservient to party ideology.
That they feel the need to demand what confident leaders expect betokens doubt about the PLA’s fealty.
Military sage Carl von Clausewitz supplies a couple of tools for deciphering Xi’s message to audiences outside China. The main target audiences are Taiwan, an offshore island the Chinese Communist Party has vowed to make its own, by force of arms if necessary; the United States, Taiwan’s chief (if ambiguous) defender; and Asian and allied powers likely to oppose Beijing’s ambitions for territory and extraregional clout.

Clausewitz maintains that any warlike society can be broken down into three “dominant tendencies,” or components, namely rational subordination of military endeavors to policy; chance and creativity; and passion, in particular dark passions like fear, rage, and spite. It’s up to political leaders to ensure the armed forces serve political ends. Chance and creativity are the realm where gifted military commanders practice the art and science of battlefield strategy. And the populace is the primary locus of primal passions.
Strategy, it seems, comes in threes. Clausewitz also contends that there are three ways to win in martial strife. One combatant can overcome the other in action and dictate terms. An armed clash charts the most direct route to victory in war. But the other two ways are more interesting, and they apply not just in wartime but during peacetime strategic competition. A competitor can try to convince its rival that the rival cannot win, or at least that its prospects are doubtful. Or a competitor can try to convince its rival that the rival cannot win at a cost acceptable to it.

Again, rationality is the sphere of political leadership. By Clausewitzian logic no responsible political leader should take up the sword in a hopeless cause. It should forego the attempt, or extricate itself from the conflict if a once-viable cause becomes hopeless after battle has been joined. Nor, by Clausewitzian logic, should a contender overspend on its political goals. How much the leadership desires its goals governs how much it spends measured in lives, military hardware, and national treasure to obtain them, and how long it keeps up the expenditure.
In other words, one antagonist can prevail by defeating its antagonist, disheartening its antagonist, or convincing its antagonist that victory will cost more than it’s worth or is altogether unaffordable.

Things have been tense in the Taiwan Strait of late. Look at Xi’s message to Taiwan’s government, military, and people through these lenses. The message is straightforward: he wants to cow the islanders into submission, convincing them they cannot win and that defeat is a foregone conclusion should they balk Beijing’s will. His bombast signals not just that the PLA is an increasingly well-equipped force with more ships, planes, and missiles than Taiwan’s armed forces can match, but that mainlanders will fight with skill and zeal.
A rational leadership should lay down arms and accept subjugation rather than resist an unbeatable foe. Clausewitz would instantly recognize Xi’s rhetorical methods. He wants to overawe an opponent into surrender, much as China’s rulers have striven to do since the age of Sun Tzu.

America is more interesting as a target audience. Return to the Taiwan Strait once again. To oversimplify, Beijing has constructed forces to slow down and weaken U.S. reinforcements as they cross the Pacific to join with sea, air, and land forces based in Guam, in Japan, and elsewhere around maritime East Asia. Xi may or may not believe he can persuade U.S. political leaders, the armed forces, or the American people the PLA would defeat U.S. forces outright. He can try to persuade them U.S. forces would reach the scene of action too late and too feeble to accomplish their goals. In which case, what’s the point of offering battle?
If successful Xi could convince Washington not to make what looks like a fruitless attempt to succor Taiwan.
And then Xi can try to manipulate U.S. perceptions of how much it would cost to repel a cross-strait assault against the island. The narrative goes something like this: it may remain possible for U.S. maritime forces to achieve their goals vis-à-vis Taiwan, but even if so, America will pay a penalty for success—perhaps a heavy one. Xi can ask Americans, sotto voce, how much they’re prepared to pay for the independence of a small island inhabited by just 23 million people and lying permanently under the shadow of a giant enemy’s seacoasts.

If they don’t care enough to sacrifice for Taiwan’s independence, Clausewitz would advise them not to make the outlay.
And even if they do care enough, the opportunity costs could prove severe. The U.S. military is already strapped for resources trying to police the Indo-Pacific, and this is peacetime. If the United States lost a sizable fraction of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and affiliated joint forces in a contest in the Taiwan Strait—even a triumphant one—its capacity to retain its superpower standing and preside over the liberal maritime order would be diminished. It could win locally but lose globally.
So again, Xi can ask U.S. political and military leaders and the electorate: what’s it worth to you? An indifferent, distracted, pandemic-riven society might decide Taiwan is not worth the effort when balanced against competing priorities—all of them compelling.

Clearly, then, Xi Jinping has much to gain from touting China’s burgeoning military might and the virtues of those who march under its banner. A long-dead Prussian helps us interpret the CCP chieftain’s words—and ponder strategy of our own.
James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and the coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific. The views voiced here are his alone.

posted for fair use
 

jward

passin' thru
South Korea To Acquire 'Suicide Drones' As Tensions In East Asia Surge

Profile picture for user Tyler Durden

by Tyler Durden

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 23:05




The Second Cold War between the US and China has significant consequences across East Asia, especially on the Korean Peninsula. As a result of the escalating tensions, South Korea announced plans Monday to acquire advanced military hardware to better prepare for future conflict.
Yonhap News Agency, citing South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), said under the second round of the "rapid acquisition" project, it would procure 12 state-of-the-art weapons, worth $22.75 million, such as suicide drones and drones with guns.
"They include light-weight suicide UAVs, drones that fire guns at ground targets, advanced surveillance plus attack drones, multipurpose unmanned vehicles, intelligent anti-jamming censors and a smartphone-based combat command system," according to DAPA.

Agency officials said they issued a tender notice Monday and will choose the defense companies within the next couple of months to complete the orders; deliveries are expected sometime in the first half of 2021.
DAPA launched the rapid acquisition project in May to better prepare its forces for conflict as the modern battlefield continually changes with new technology.
In the first round of the project, the arms procurement agency ordered four kinds of advanced military hardware: two surveillance drones, small unmanned aircraft and portable anti-drone guns.
"We will continue to improve arms procurement procedures to cut red tape and boost efficiency," DAPA chief Wang Jung-hong said.
South Korea must continue procuring advanced weaponry because President Trump swung a wrecking ball into the "liberal international order" and has since triggered a Cold War between the US and China. This also means that US allies, such as Japan and Taiwan, must also modernize their armies - as we've seen in recent years, Washington has placed stealth fighter jets in these countries.

posted for fair use
 

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Putin: Russia-China military alliance can't be ruled out
Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can’t be ruled out
By The Associated Press
22 October 2020, 13:32

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he participates in the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Po

Image Icon
The Associated Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he participates in the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can't be ruled out.

Putin was asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday if a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible. He replied that “theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.

Putin noted that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies China that helped significantly bolster China's defense capability, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information is sensitive.

 

OldArcher

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Putin: Russia-China military alliance can't be ruled out
Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can’t be ruled out
By The Associated Press
22 October 2020, 13:32

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he participates in the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Po

Image Icon
The Associated Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he participates in the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can't be ruled out.

Putin was asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday if a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible. He replied that “theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.

Putin noted that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies China that helped significantly bolster China's defense capability, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information is sensitive.

To quote The Great One, “Merde.”

Lock and Load

OldArcher
 

jward

passin' thru
Ankit Panda
@nktpnd

7m

Not watching the debate, but, based on the below summary, I'll up my odds a bit for a North Korean "strategic weapon" test in the transition period if Biden wins. (Of course, campaign in poetry, govern in prose, etc.)
 

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
"Probably A Hypersonic Missile" - Video Shows Chinese Bomber With Large Rocket

by Tyler Durden
Zero Hedge
Thursday 10/22/2020 - 23:00

China has stepped up war preparations by deploying hypersonic missiles at several military bases across from Taiwan. The new type of missile gives China's People's Liberation Army significant leverage over Taiwan's anti-ballistic missile shield due to the glide vehicle's unpredictable ballistic trajectory.

For more hints that China is beefing up its forces with advanced weaponry. Sputnik News reports footage of a Chinese Xian H-6 twin-engine jet bomber that has emerged on various social media networks, allegedly showing the aircraft carrying a new hypersonic missile.

"Although the video is interesting regardless of the type of weapon of the bomber, since the new type of X-6 bomber debuted only last year, the analysis of the missile gave a startling conclusion: it is probably a hypersonic missile," Sputnik said.
Xian H-6 With Large Rocket Strapped To Belly

The video footage of an H-6N with a possible air-launched ballistic missile appears to be taken at this location just outside Neixiang Afld. This corroborates my theory that the 106th bde operates H-6N's and, per the CMPR suggesting nuclear-capable ALBMs, is a nuclear unit. https://t.co/aJtOw9PzmD pic.twitter.com/Y4KXN9MldV
— Rod Lee (@roderick_s_lee) October 17, 2020
Sputnik notes, "while military analysts have considered numerous possibilities that hypersonic weapons could be in question, insiders from the People's Liberation Army claim that it is a hypersonic cruise missile, modified from the slower Changjian missile."


"Changjian- 20 has existed for more than a decade. "While other countries are racing to develop increasingly advanced defense systems and other hypersonic weapons, it was time for the Chinese Air Force to have an upgraded missile with an increased range of attack," a military source told Sputnik.


"Currently, the Chinese air force is limited by the capabilities of its bombers. Of the H-6 bombers, only the H-6N variant can be refueled with airborne fuel, resulting in an obvious weakness in range. That forced the air force to upgrade the missile in order to alleviate the range problem ", the sources continued.
Another observer points out that the air-launched missile "looks almost to feature a DF-17 like hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) on top of the rocket."

For the first time a H-6N was seen landing with an air-launched Anti-ship ballistic missile (ALBM/AShBM). This missile so far labelled as CH-AS-X-13 is often referred to the DF-21D but here it looks almost to feature an DF-17 like hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) on top the rocket pic.twitter.com/yOugsjkkhx
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) October 17, 2020
Defense News also agrees the missile "closely resembles the ground-launched DF-17 hypersonic missile:"


"Despite the video's low quality, a freeze-frame analysis by Defense News suggests the payload is a missile with a warhead and booster section that closely resembles the ground-launched DF-17 hypersonic missile, which is believed to use the booster section from a DF-16 medium-range ballistic missile combined with a DZ-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle as its warhead," said Defense News.
China's move to modernize its forces with hypersonic weapons implies that it's preparing for a fight.

 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
"Probably A Hypersonic Missile" - Video Shows Chinese Bomber With Large Rocket

by Tyler Durden
Zero Hedge
Thursday 10/22/2020 - 23:00

China has stepped up war preparations by deploying hypersonic missiles at several military bases across from Taiwan. The new type of missile gives China's People's Liberation Army significant leverage over Taiwan's anti-ballistic missile shield due to the glide vehicle's unpredictable ballistic trajectory.

For more hints that China is beefing up its forces with advanced weaponry. Sputnik News reports footage of a Chinese Xian H-6 twin-engine jet bomber that has emerged on various social media networks, allegedly showing the aircraft carrying a new hypersonic missile.



Xian H-6 With Large Rocket Strapped To Belly





Sputnik notes, "while military analysts have considered numerous possibilities that hypersonic weapons could be in question, insiders from the People's Liberation Army claim that it is a hypersonic cruise missile, modified from the slower Changjian missile."




Another observer points out that the air-launched missile "looks almost to feature a DF-17 like hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) on top of the rocket."



Defense News also agrees the missile "closely resembles the ground-launched DF-17 hypersonic missile:"



China's move to modernize its forces with hypersonic weapons implies that it's preparing for a fight.

Xi is definitely getting every last drop out of their Badger copies....
 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Putin: Russia-China military alliance can't be ruled out
Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can’t be ruled out
By The Associated Press
22 October 2020, 13:32

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he participates in the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Po

Image Icon
The Associated Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he participates in the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can't be ruled out.

Putin was asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday if a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible. He replied that “theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.

Putin noted that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies China that helped significantly bolster China's defense capability, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information is sensitive.

Vladimir is definitely showing his skill as a player of the Great Game.......
 

OldArcher

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Xi is definitely getting every last drop out of their Badger copies....
Just a long range bomb truck. If they carry a nuke payload, it’s well worth the expense, to attack a CBG... Either destroyed, or severely degraded, that’s a “win” for them... Other than that, part of their PsyOps...

All the Best, Great One...

Lock & Load

OldArcher
 

Seeker22

Veteran Member
Beijing voices concern over Indonesia’s blowing up of Chinese fishing boat
Indonesia blows 41 foreign fishing boats to bits, including Chinese ship seized in South China Sea


The Indonesian navy scuttles a foreign fishing vessel caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters near Bitung, North Sulawesi, on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
China on Thursday expressed “serious concern” over the blowing up of a Chinese fishing vessel seized by Indonesia six years ago, the first such incident under President Joko Widodo.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country had pressed Indonesia for more details about the destruction of the Chinese boat, which was among 41 vessels blown up by Indonesia on Wednesday suspected of illegal fishing. Other countries with boats destroyed include Thailand and Vietnam.

Since taking office last October, Widodo’s administration has blown up dozens of foreign vessels as part of his get-tough campaign against illegal fishing.
But no Chinese vessels were destroyed prior to this week due to delays from legal challenges, an Indonesian government official said.

The Chinese boat was seized by Indonesia in 2009. It was not immediately clear what had happened to the crew when it was seized.

The blowing up of the boats comes amid increased tension in the nearby South China Sea over overlapping territorial claims among China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Indonesia is not involved.

Chinese fishing boats have also been illegally fishing in big numbers off West Africa, Greenpeace said on Wednesday, adding that Chinese companies expanded operations in Africa from 13 vessels in 1985 to 462 vessels in 2013.

Authorities sank the vessels in public displays at several sites on Wednesday, local media reported.

Some of the boats were blown up with dynamite and pictures showed the vessels engulfed in flames as they went down.
“Without the continued fight against illegal fishing, we won’t be able to improve the welfare of our fishermen,” Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti told The Jakarta Post newspaper.

The Chinese vessel sunk was reportedly a large ship detained in 2009 for fishing in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
President Joko Widodo has taken a hardline approach to illegal fishing since taking office in October, vowing to stamp out a practice he says costs Southeast Asia’s biggest economy billions of dollars in lost revenues every year.

Indonesia had already destroyed boats from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines in highly publicised displays.
Authorities also say foreigners illegally fishing in Indonesia are partly responsible for massive damage to the environment due to the widespread use of explosives and cyanide.

Widodo hopes that increased revenues from fishing can help boost economic growth, which has sunk to a five-year low.

Beijing voices concern over Indonesia’s blowing up of Chinese fishing boat
 

OldArcher

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Beijing voices concern over Indonesia’s blowing up of Chinese fishing boat
Indonesia blows 41 foreign fishing boats to bits, including Chinese ship seized in South China Sea


The Indonesian navy scuttles a foreign fishing vessel caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters near Bitung, North Sulawesi, on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
China on Thursday expressed “serious concern” over the blowing up of a Chinese fishing vessel seized by Indonesia six years ago, the first such incident under President Joko Widodo.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country had pressed Indonesia for more details about the destruction of the Chinese boat, which was among 41 vessels blown up by Indonesia on Wednesday suspected of illegal fishing. Other countries with boats destroyed include Thailand and Vietnam.

Since taking office last October, Widodo’s administration has blown up dozens of foreign vessels as part of his get-tough campaign against illegal fishing.
But no Chinese vessels were destroyed prior to this week due to delays from legal challenges, an Indonesian government official said.

The Chinese boat was seized by Indonesia in 2009. It was not immediately clear what had happened to the crew when it was seized.

The blowing up of the boats comes amid increased tension in the nearby South China Sea over overlapping territorial claims among China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Indonesia is not involved.

Chinese fishing boats have also been illegally fishing in big numbers off West Africa, Greenpeace said on Wednesday, adding that Chinese companies expanded operations in Africa from 13 vessels in 1985 to 462 vessels in 2013.

Authorities sank the vessels in public displays at several sites on Wednesday, local media reported.

Some of the boats were blown up with dynamite and pictures showed the vessels engulfed in flames as they went down.
“Without the continued fight against illegal fishing, we won’t be able to improve the welfare of our fishermen,” Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti told The Jakarta Post newspaper.

The Chinese vessel sunk was reportedly a large ship detained in 2009 for fishing in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
President Joko Widodo has taken a hardline approach to illegal fishing since taking office in October, vowing to stamp out a practice he says costs Southeast Asia’s biggest economy billions of dollars in lost revenues every year.

Indonesia had already destroyed boats from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines in highly publicised displays.
Authorities also say foreigners illegally fishing in Indonesia are partly responsible for massive damage to the environment due to the widespread use of explosives and cyanide.

Widodo hopes that increased revenues from fishing can help boost economic growth, which has sunk to a five-year low.

Beijing voices concern over Indonesia’s blowing up of Chinese fishing boat
Too bad it’s not the entire PLAN fleet going to the bottom...

Lock & Load

OldArcher
 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Just a long range bomb truck. If they carry a nuke payload, it’s well worth the expense, to attack a CBG... Either destroyed, or severely degraded, that’s a “win” for them... Other than that, part of their PsyOps...

All the Best, Great One...

Lock & Load

OldArcher
Yeah, an H-6 with either one "nuke" ballistic missile or 6 LACM/ASCM (Tomahawk equivalent) could definitely put a crimp into a CBG, but definitely into a supply or troop convoy. They've got enough of the airframes to be a real problem. I only wonder what the final follow-on is going to look like, particularly since when they likely are going to integrate the PLA's version of the JDAM (using Beidou and likely GLONASS as well).
 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Posted for fair use.....

Does Size Matter? North Korea’s Newest ICBM



(Source: KCNA)
During its October 10 celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea paraded its newest and biggest long-range ballistic missile. Described as a “monster,” the presumptive Hwasong-16 is considerably larger than the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that was test launched in November 2017. Most of the initial commentary speculated the new missile, which has not been flight tested, is designed to carry multiple warheads and decoys to ensure the penetrability of America’s missile defenses. Others have gone further, suggesting the new missile will be armed with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).


The analysis presented here suggests that, while the new missile has the thrust to deliver a heavy payload over intercontinental distances, its mobility is going to be severely limited by its tremendous size and weight. Moreover, the Hwasong-16 is too heavy and brittle to be transported safely when fully fueled, so must be fueled at the launch site after it has been erected—a process requiring several hours to complete. Consequently, the missile would be vulnerable to pre-launch attack. Furthermore, developing MIRV technology is no easy task, and will require further development of missile and guidance systems and significant flight testing.


The bottom line is that the Hwasong-16 will need to undergo flight trials conducted over a couple of years to validate its performance and reliability. Taking these factors into account, North Korea is probably years away from having a reliable, highly survivable and operational MIRVed ICBM capability, if that is indeed its intention.


Is the Hwasong-16 a Real Missile?


North Korea has a history of introducing “fake” missiles during celebratory parades, so it is appropriate to question the authenticity of the Hwasong-16 presented earlier this month. In 2012, North Korea paraded a handful of poorly built, incorrectly configured mock-ups of a new Hwasong-13 long-range missile. The poor quality of those mock-ups had some analysts conclude they were fake and did not represent an operational missile, but could signal North Korea’s long-term ambitions.


The mock-ups shown off in 2015 were of higher quality, suggesting a mature missile design and the possible initiation of flight tests of prototype missiles within a few years. The Hwasong -14 and -15 ICBMs North Korea flight tested in 2017, however, were not fully consistent with the models paraded in 2015, which is consistent with missile development elsewhere. Missile designs evolve during the development process, including during flight trials which reveal design flaws requiring alterations to the design.


The mock-ups presented on October 10 are similar in quality to those paraded in 2015, possibly indicating that North Korea could soon begin flight trials of the notional Hwasong-16. However, as with the Hwasong-14 and -15, one should expect to see minor modifications of the Hwasong-16 when it is initially flight tested.


How Big Is the Hwasong-16?


If a missile’s design documents or technical manuals are available, or if physical access can be gained to the missile to measure its diameter and length, a precise determination of its size can be made. Without such access, one must rely on photographs and other indirect sources for estimating a missile’s dimensions. The resulting estimates will contain errors, the magnitude of which must be included in any missile analysis.


Historically, dimensional data extracted from photographs, videos and other indirect measures contain errors of about five to ten percent, relative to the actual values. This is vividly illustrated in Figure 1, where estimates of the diameter and length of the R-17 (Scud-B) published in declassified intelligence reports, academic studies and the media are given. The estimates were never precise, but they were close enough to allow analysts to create a computational model capable of projecting the R-17’s range and throw-weight parameters.

Figure 1. Estimates of the external dimensions of the R-17 (Scud-B) missile have been made by intelligence agencies and others prior to accessing the missile directly after the Cold War. As shown, none of the estimates matched the actual values for either the nuclear or conventional version of the R-17. However, the estimates were mostly within five to ten percent of the real measures, indicating that measurements extracted from photographs of the North Korean missile will be reasonably accurate. (Graph: Michael Elleman)

Estimates of the Hwasong-16’s diameter derived from photographs taken during the October 10 parade vary. But two values developed by experienced specialists seem reasonable. They indicate a Hwasong-16 diameter ranging between 2.4 and 2.5 meters, and a length of roughly 24 to 25 meters. These data can be used to estimate the missile’s lift-off mass by assuming the Hwasong-16 has an average density consistent with Soviet and American liquid-fuel missile designs from the 1960s and 1970s. Figure 2 plots mass estimates for the missile as a function of diameter, with the upper and lower bounds indicated; if its diameter falls within the 2.4 to 2.5-m estimate, the Hwasong-16’s total mass, when fully fueled, is somewhere between 80,000 and 110,000 kg.

Figure 2. Assuming the Hwasong-16 (and -15) has a bulk density consistent with the liquid-fuel ICBMs developed by the Soviet Union and the US, it is possible to estimate the lift-off mass of the two North Korean ICBMs. The error-bandwidth, depicted by the hashed lines, includes uncertainties associated with the measure of missile diameter and length, as well as variations in the bulk-density of liquid-fuel ICBMs. Note the R-26 is an outlier. This is likely because the R-26 has a first-stage diameter of 2.75 meters, and a considerably smaller second-stage diameter, which skews the data to a much lower value. (Graph: Michael Elleman)

Using the same methodology, and applying it to the Hwasong-15, which has an estimated diameter between 2.0 and 2.1 meters, we get an estimated starting mass between 50,000 and 60,000 kg, which is consistent with reconstructions of the missile using initial acceleration data and the reported burn times for the first and second stages.


How Much Payload Can It Deliver To the US Mainland?


The Hwasong-16’s first-stage propulsion system cannot be directly determined from the available photographs. Presumably, North Korean engineers would seek to use the same RD-250 engine technology that successfully boosted the Hwasong-12, -14 and -15 missiles. Unlike the Hwasong-15, which relied on an engine consisting of two combustion chambers, the heavier Hwasong-16 would require four combustion chambers to attain an initial acceleration similar to those achieved by liquid-fuel ICBM designs fielded by others, as well as the Hwasong-15. A Hwasong-16’s first-stage diameter of 2.4 to 2.5 meters is large enough to house a cluster of four RD-250 chambers, but not a six-chamber configuration.


The Hwasong-16’s second stage appears to be quite small relative to the first stage, as was the case for the Hwasong-15. The first- to second-stage size ratio appears to be just under five-to-one for both ICBM designs. Liquid-fuel ICBMs fielded by others had considerably lower ratios (between 2.6-to-1 and 4-to-1), indicating they employed significantly larger, more powerful second stages than the presumptive Hwasong-16 design. The second stage’s relatively small size suggests North Korea will employ the low-thrust R-27 steering engines. If this is the case, the Hwasong-16’s throw weight will be at the lower end of the projections shown in Figure 3. The reduced performance results from the use of low-thrust, long-action time engines, which are likely to suffer greater gravitational losses than would higher-thrust engines.

Figure 3. ICBMs developed elsewhere have a reasonable, consistent payload to lift-off mass ratios. Assuming the Hwasong-16 has a similar mass ratio, it is possible to project its throw-weight capacity as a function of lift-off mass, as determined by missile diameter. As seen, the upper and lower bands of uncertainty, depicted as hashed lines, are quite wide. Nonetheless, this method yields a reasonable estimate for the payload the Hwasong-16 could deliver toICBM distances, if it is fully developed and deployed. If the Hwasong-16 relies on low-thrust engines, as seems likely, the estimated throw-weight will reside between the expected value and the lower uncertainty threshold. (Graph: Michael Elleman)
These propulsion system configurations for the Hwasong-16 are far from certain. Available photographs do not reveal the types and number of engines North Korea plans to incorporate into the first and second stages. Consequently, we cannot develop a computational model of the Hwasong-16 to confidently calculate the missile’s maximum range for a defined payload mass. However, by examining the ratio of payload mass to lift-off mass of liquid-fuel ICBMs developed by others we can a throw-weight for the new Korean missile, assuming it is designed to achieve the same range capacity as the smaller Hwasong-15.


The estimate throw-weight as a function of diameter (i.e., lift-off mass) is plotted in Figure 3. The plot suggests the Hwasong-16 can deliver a payload of about 2,500 to 3,000 kg to any target on the US mainland, which is almost double the Hwasong-15’s throw-weight of about 1,500 kg. The estimate’s bandwidth, however, shows that the throw-weight might be considerably more or less than the baseline case.


If the Hwasong-16’s second stage is equipped with under-powered engines used on the upper stages of the Hwasong-14 and -15, these projections will trend toward the lower end of the bandwidth estimate shown in Figure 3.


Regardless of the uncertainties for the projected throw-weight estimate, the Hwasong-16 should have the capacity to deliver either a very large warhead, or two to four smaller reentry vehicles containing a miniaturized bomb design. A large warhead accompanied with light-weight decoys to confound US missile defense systems is another possible configuration.


If a multiple reentry vehicle design is sought, North Korea will need to employ slender, highly streamlined reentry vehicles to fit them into the limited volume under the payload shroud. Streamlined reentry vehicles travel through the atmosphere at higher speeds than their blunt-nosed counterparts, requiring a more sophisticated protection scheme to ensure the nuclear warhead survives the intense thermal and mechanical loads experienced during reentry. It is unclear if North Korea has mastered reentry technologies for its Hwasong-14 and -15 missiles. Mastering the technologies for streamlined reentry vehicles will increase the already daunting challenges North Korea’s engineers face.


Will the Hwasong-16 Be MIRVed?


The development of MIRV technology is not easy. It requires a combination of large missiles, small warheads, accurate guidance and a complex mechanism for releasing warheads sequentially during flight. North Korea will also have to develop a bus to carry and release the reentry vehicles. It took the US more than five years to perfect its MIRV capability for the Minuteman ICBM in the late-1960s. The Soviets required a similar amount of time. Further, flight testing will be needed to evaluate and validate a North Korean system, which in turn requires the placement of telemetry reception ships along the ground track of the missile’s flight path. It is unclear if North Korea has such ships it can position far from the peninsula.


Deployment Challenges


The Hwasong-16, if operationalized, would be without question the largest liquid-fuel, road-mobile missile ever developed and deployed. The combined weight of the missile and its 11-axle transporter-erector launcher (TEL) will restrict transport to North Korea’s limited network of paved roadways. It might be possible to travel short distances on some dirt roads, but only if they have not been subjected to rain or snow. Further, it is highly unlikely that the Hwasong-16 (and likely its smaller counterparts, the Hwasong-12, -14 and -15) can be fueled at a secure garrison and then driven to a pre-surveyed site where it can be erected and quickly prepared for launch. The inevitable vibrations a fully loaded missile experiences during road travel are liable to crack open seams and joints, leaking highly volatile fuel and oxidizer and leading to a serious incident.[1]


Perhaps North Korea does not intend to make the missile ‘road-mobile’ and instead plans to deploy them in highly protected underground sites, where it can be quickly rolled out, fueled, and then launched. The fueling process would require a few hours unless specialized pumps are available to quicken the process. Relying on fixed, underground sites would obviate the need to travel on roads and would allow the North Koreans to position the fuel and oxidizer storage tanks, along with the specialized pumps, adjacent to the launch pad for rapid, on-site fueling.


Why Now?


As mentioned above, the Hwasong-16 missile revealed this month featured enough detail to suggest the North Koreans are engineering models that could undergo flight tests in the next year or two. It remains puzzling, however, why the North expended precious resources to develop and build an ICBM of this size and potential capability. Concerns about US missile defenses are warranted, despite the poor test record of the ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska and California. But if North Korea is worried that it might not be able to penetrate the defenses and reliably land a warhead on the US mainland, it seems reasonable its leaders would want to ensure the dependability of its missile forces. After just one flight test of the Hwasong-15 on a highly lofted, unrepresentative trajectory, along with no discernible proof that the reentry vehicle survived, the regime has no measure of the missile’s reliability.


Historical precedence indicates that over half of the Hwasong-15s launched in a crisis would fail. Given the tenuous operational status of the Hwasong-15, and the apparent desire to ensure warheads launched toward the US would successfully arrive on target, it seems more reasonable to continue flight tests to work out the design flaws and quantify its performance and reliability before beginning to design and test a more sophisticated ICBM.


Conclusion


As it stands today, Kim Jong Un cannot be certain that his ICBMs will succeed in striking the US mainland. Perhaps the development of the Hwasong-16 is a near-term solution to the perceived need for a mobile, multiple-warhead ICBM. But North Korea has an active solid-fuel development and production infrastructure in place to facilitate the creation of large solid-fuel boosters for an ICBM. Thus, a more prudent and cost-effective path forward would focus on the longer-term development of solid-fuel technologies and a solid ICBM. In a best-case scenario, it will take longer than four or five years to succeed in this enterprise. The resulting ICBM, however, would be far more survivable and operationally flexible than a Hwasong-16, which will have limited mobility. Which direction the North’s ICBM development program will take remains to be seen.


  1. [1]
    Concerns about the mechanical integrity of liquid-fuel missiles deployed on mobile platforms contributed to the Soviet decision to abandon attempts to develop a train-mobile version of the liquid-fuel R-16 ICBM in the mid-1960s, despite the pressing need to enhance pre-launch survivability of its ICBM forces by placing them on mobile platforms. Moscow concluded that a mobile ICBM force would have to rely on solid-fuel missiles. It was not until 1972 after the Soviet Union finally began to master the technologies needed to support the production of large, solid-fuel motors for the Temp-2S (SS-16) ICBM that road mobility was judged feasible. The first two Temp-2S regiments were operationalized in early 1976, after completion of a failure-filled, four-year flight test program.
 

Seeker22

Veteran Member
Posted for fair use.....

Does Size Matter? North Korea’s Newest ICBM



(Source: KCNA)
During its October 10 celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea paraded its newest and biggest long-range ballistic missile. Described as a “monster,” the presumptive Hwasong-16 is considerably larger than the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that was test launched in November 2017. Most of the initial commentary speculated the new missile, which has not been flight tested, is designed to carry multiple warheads and decoys to ensure the penetrability of America’s missile defenses. Others have gone further, suggesting the new missile will be armed with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).


The analysis presented here suggests that, while the new missile has the thrust to deliver a heavy payload over intercontinental distances, its mobility is going to be severely limited by its tremendous size and weight. Moreover, the Hwasong-16 is too heavy and brittle to be transported safely when fully fueled, so must be fueled at the launch site after it has been erected—a process requiring several hours to complete. Consequently, the missile would be vulnerable to pre-launch attack. Furthermore, developing MIRV technology is no easy task, and will require further development of missile and guidance systems and significant flight testing.


The bottom line is that the Hwasong-16 will need to undergo flight trials conducted over a couple of years to validate its performance and reliability. Taking these factors into account, North Korea is probably years away from having a reliable, highly survivable and operational MIRVed ICBM capability, if that is indeed its intention.


Is the Hwasong-16 a Real Missile?


North Korea has a history of introducing “fake” missiles during celebratory parades, so it is appropriate to question the authenticity of the Hwasong-16 presented earlier this month. In 2012, North Korea paraded a handful of poorly built, incorrectly configured mock-ups of a new Hwasong-13 long-range missile. The poor quality of those mock-ups had some analysts conclude they were fake and did not represent an operational missile, but could signal North Korea’s long-term ambitions.


The mock-ups shown off in 2015 were of higher quality, suggesting a mature missile design and the possible initiation of flight tests of prototype missiles within a few years. The Hwasong -14 and -15 ICBMs North Korea flight tested in 2017, however, were not fully consistent with the models paraded in 2015, which is consistent with missile development elsewhere. Missile designs evolve during the development process, including during flight trials which reveal design flaws requiring alterations to the design.


The mock-ups presented on October 10 are similar in quality to those paraded in 2015, possibly indicating that North Korea could soon begin flight trials of the notional Hwasong-16. However, as with the Hwasong-14 and -15, one should expect to see minor modifications of the Hwasong-16 when it is initially flight tested.


How Big Is the Hwasong-16?


If a missile’s design documents or technical manuals are available, or if physical access can be gained to the missile to measure its diameter and length, a precise determination of its size can be made. Without such access, one must rely on photographs and other indirect sources for estimating a missile’s dimensions. The resulting estimates will contain errors, the magnitude of which must be included in any missile analysis.


Historically, dimensional data extracted from photographs, videos and other indirect measures contain errors of about five to ten percent, relative to the actual values. This is vividly illustrated in Figure 1, where estimates of the diameter and length of the R-17 (Scud-B) published in declassified intelligence reports, academic studies and the media are given. The estimates were never precise, but they were close enough to allow analysts to create a computational model capable of projecting the R-17’s range and throw-weight parameters.

Figure 1. Estimates of the external dimensions of the R-17 (Scud-B) missile have been made by intelligence agencies and others prior to accessing the missile directly after the Cold War. As shown, none of the estimates matched the actual values for either the nuclear or conventional version of the R-17. However, the estimates were mostly within five to ten percent of the real measures, indicating that measurements extracted from photographs of the North Korean missile will be reasonably accurate. (Graph: Michael Elleman)

Estimates of the Hwasong-16’s diameter derived from photographs taken during the October 10 parade vary. But two values developed by experienced specialists seem reasonable. They indicate a Hwasong-16 diameter ranging between 2.4 and 2.5 meters, and a length of roughly 24 to 25 meters. These data can be used to estimate the missile’s lift-off mass by assuming the Hwasong-16 has an average density consistent with Soviet and American liquid-fuel missile designs from the 1960s and 1970s. Figure 2 plots mass estimates for the missile as a function of diameter, with the upper and lower bounds indicated; if its diameter falls within the 2.4 to 2.5-m estimate, the Hwasong-16’s total mass, when fully fueled, is somewhere between 80,000 and 110,000 kg.

Figure 2. Assuming the Hwasong-16 (and -15) has a bulk density consistent with the liquid-fuel ICBMs developed by the Soviet Union and the US, it is possible to estimate the lift-off mass of the two North Korean ICBMs. The error-bandwidth, depicted by the hashed lines, includes uncertainties associated with the measure of missile diameter and length, as well as variations in the bulk-density of liquid-fuel ICBMs. Note the R-26 is an outlier. This is likely because the R-26 has a first-stage diameter of 2.75 meters, and a considerably smaller second-stage diameter, which skews the data to a much lower value. (Graph: Michael Elleman)

Using the same methodology, and applying it to the Hwasong-15, which has an estimated diameter between 2.0 and 2.1 meters, we get an estimated starting mass between 50,000 and 60,000 kg, which is consistent with reconstructions of the missile using initial acceleration data and the reported burn times for the first and second stages.


How Much Payload Can It Deliver To the US Mainland?


The Hwasong-16’s first-stage propulsion system cannot be directly determined from the available photographs. Presumably, North Korean engineers would seek to use the same RD-250 engine technology that successfully boosted the Hwasong-12, -14 and -15 missiles. Unlike the Hwasong-15, which relied on an engine consisting of two combustion chambers, the heavier Hwasong-16 would require four combustion chambers to attain an initial acceleration similar to those achieved by liquid-fuel ICBM designs fielded by others, as well as the Hwasong-15. A Hwasong-16’s first-stage diameter of 2.4 to 2.5 meters is large enough to house a cluster of four RD-250 chambers, but not a six-chamber configuration.


The Hwasong-16’s second stage appears to be quite small relative to the first stage, as was the case for the Hwasong-15. The first- to second-stage size ratio appears to be just under five-to-one for both ICBM designs. Liquid-fuel ICBMs fielded by others had considerably lower ratios (between 2.6-to-1 and 4-to-1), indicating they employed significantly larger, more powerful second stages than the presumptive Hwasong-16 design. The second stage’s relatively small size suggests North Korea will employ the low-thrust R-27 steering engines. If this is the case, the Hwasong-16’s throw weight will be at the lower end of the projections shown in Figure 3. The reduced performance results from the use of low-thrust, long-action time engines, which are likely to suffer greater gravitational losses than would higher-thrust engines.

Figure 3. ICBMs developed elsewhere have a reasonable, consistent payload to lift-off mass ratios. Assuming the Hwasong-16 has a similar mass ratio, it is possible to project its throw-weight capacity as a function of lift-off mass, as determined by missile diameter. As seen, the upper and lower bands of uncertainty, depicted as hashed lines, are quite wide. Nonetheless, this method yields a reasonable estimate for the payload the Hwasong-16 could deliver toICBM distances, if it is fully developed and deployed. If the Hwasong-16 relies on low-thrust engines, as seems likely, the estimated throw-weight will reside between the expected value and the lower uncertainty threshold. (Graph: Michael Elleman)
These propulsion system configurations for the Hwasong-16 are far from certain. Available photographs do not reveal the types and number of engines North Korea plans to incorporate into the first and second stages. Consequently, we cannot develop a computational model of the Hwasong-16 to confidently calculate the missile’s maximum range for a defined payload mass. However, by examining the ratio of payload mass to lift-off mass of liquid-fuel ICBMs developed by others we can a throw-weight for the new Korean missile, assuming it is designed to achieve the same range capacity as the smaller Hwasong-15.


The estimate throw-weight as a function of diameter (i.e., lift-off mass) is plotted in Figure 3. The plot suggests the Hwasong-16 can deliver a payload of about 2,500 to 3,000 kg to any target on the US mainland, which is almost double the Hwasong-15’s throw-weight of about 1,500 kg. The estimate’s bandwidth, however, shows that the throw-weight might be considerably more or less than the baseline case.


If the Hwasong-16’s second stage is equipped with under-powered engines used on the upper stages of the Hwasong-14 and -15, these projections will trend toward the lower end of the bandwidth estimate shown in Figure 3.


Regardless of the uncertainties for the projected throw-weight estimate, the Hwasong-16 should have the capacity to deliver either a very large warhead, or two to four smaller reentry vehicles containing a miniaturized bomb design. A large warhead accompanied with light-weight decoys to confound US missile defense systems is another possible configuration.


If a multiple reentry vehicle design is sought, North Korea will need to employ slender, highly streamlined reentry vehicles to fit them into the limited volume under the payload shroud. Streamlined reentry vehicles travel through the atmosphere at higher speeds than their blunt-nosed counterparts, requiring a more sophisticated protection scheme to ensure the nuclear warhead survives the intense thermal and mechanical loads experienced during reentry. It is unclear if North Korea has mastered reentry technologies for its Hwasong-14 and -15 missiles. Mastering the technologies for streamlined reentry vehicles will increase the already daunting challenges North Korea’s engineers face.


Will the Hwasong-16 Be MIRVed?


The development of MIRV technology is not easy. It requires a combination of large missiles, small warheads, accurate guidance and a complex mechanism for releasing warheads sequentially during flight. North Korea will also have to develop a bus to carry and release the reentry vehicles. It took the US more than five years to perfect its MIRV capability for the Minuteman ICBM in the late-1960s. The Soviets required a similar amount of time. Further, flight testing will be needed to evaluate and validate a North Korean system, which in turn requires the placement of telemetry reception ships along the ground track of the missile’s flight path. It is unclear if North Korea has such ships it can position far from the peninsula.


Deployment Challenges


The Hwasong-16, if operationalized, would be without question the largest liquid-fuel, road-mobile missile ever developed and deployed. The combined weight of the missile and its 11-axle transporter-erector launcher (TEL) will restrict transport to North Korea’s limited network of paved roadways. It might be possible to travel short distances on some dirt roads, but only if they have not been subjected to rain or snow. Further, it is highly unlikely that the Hwasong-16 (and likely its smaller counterparts, the Hwasong-12, -14 and -15) can be fueled at a secure garrison and then driven to a pre-surveyed site where it can be erected and quickly prepared for launch. The inevitable vibrations a fully loaded missile experiences during road travel are liable to crack open seams and joints, leaking highly volatile fuel and oxidizer and leading to a serious incident.[1]


Perhaps North Korea does not intend to make the missile ‘road-mobile’ and instead plans to deploy them in highly protected underground sites, where it can be quickly rolled out, fueled, and then launched. The fueling process would require a few hours unless specialized pumps are available to quicken the process. Relying on fixed, underground sites would obviate the need to travel on roads and would allow the North Koreans to position the fuel and oxidizer storage tanks, along with the specialized pumps, adjacent to the launch pad for rapid, on-site fueling.


Why Now?


As mentioned above, the Hwasong-16 missile revealed this month featured enough detail to suggest the North Koreans are engineering models that could undergo flight tests in the next year or two. It remains puzzling, however, why the North expended precious resources to develop and build an ICBM of this size and potential capability. Concerns about US missile defenses are warranted, despite the poor test record of the ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska and California. But if North Korea is worried that it might not be able to penetrate the defenses and reliably land a warhead on the US mainland, it seems reasonable its leaders would want to ensure the dependability of its missile forces. After just one flight test of the Hwasong-15 on a highly lofted, unrepresentative trajectory, along with no discernible proof that the reentry vehicle survived, the regime has no measure of the missile’s reliability.


Historical precedence indicates that over half of the Hwasong-15s launched in a crisis would fail. Given the tenuous operational status of the Hwasong-15, and the apparent desire to ensure warheads launched toward the US would successfully arrive on target, it seems more reasonable to continue flight tests to work out the design flaws and quantify its performance and reliability before beginning to design and test a more sophisticated ICBM.


Conclusion


As it stands today, Kim Jong Un cannot be certain that his ICBMs will succeed in striking the US mainland. Perhaps the development of the Hwasong-16 is a near-term solution to the perceived need for a mobile, multiple-warhead ICBM. But North Korea has an active solid-fuel development and production infrastructure in place to facilitate the creation of large solid-fuel boosters for an ICBM. Thus, a more prudent and cost-effective path forward would focus on the longer-term development of solid-fuel technologies and a solid ICBM. In a best-case scenario, it will take longer than four or five years to succeed in this enterprise. The resulting ICBM, however, would be far more survivable and operationally flexible than a Hwasong-16, which will have limited mobility. Which direction the North’s ICBM development program will take remains to be seen.


  1. [1]
    Concerns about the mechanical integrity of liquid-fuel missiles deployed on mobile platforms contributed to the Soviet decision to abandon attempts to develop a train-mobile version of the liquid-fuel R-16 ICBM in the mid-1960s, despite the pressing need to enhance pre-launch survivability of its ICBM forces by placing them on mobile platforms. Moscow concluded that a mobile ICBM force would have to rely on solid-fuel missiles. It was not until 1972 after the Soviet Union finally began to master the technologies needed to support the production of large, solid-fuel motors for the Temp-2S (SS-16) ICBM that road mobility was judged feasible. The first two Temp-2S regiments were operationalized in early 1976, after completion of a failure-filled, four-year flight test program.
Imagine the loss of face if while fueling this thing at pre-launch, it got taken out by a drone swarm.
 

jward

passin' thru
China
October 23, 20205:25 PMUpdated 4 hours ago
U.S. to base Coast Guard cutters in western Pacific in response to China
By David Brunnstrom
3 Min Read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. national security adviser said on Friday the U.S Coast Guard was basing Enhanced Response Cutters in the western Pacific for maritime security missions, citing illegal fishing and harassment of vessels by China.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien takes off his a face mask during a meeting at Sao Paulo's Industries Federation President in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo
In a statement, Robert O’Brien also said the Coast Guard planned to evaluate next fiscal year the feasibility of basing Fast Response Cutters in American Samoa in the South Pacific.
The statement described the United States as a Pacific power and added that China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific threatens our sovereignty, as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbors and endangers regional stability.”
It said U.S. efforts, including by the Coast Guard, were “critical to countering these destabilizing and malign actions.”

“To that end, the USCG is strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters ... in the western Pacific,” the statement said, without detailing where the vessels would be based or how many were involved.
O’Brien said the new-generation Coast Guard vessels would conduct maritime security missions, such as fisheries patrols, and enhance maritime-domain awareness and enforcement efforts in collaboration with “regional partners who have limited offshore surveillance and enforcement capacity.”
“Enhancing the presence of the USCG in the Indo-Pacific ensures the United States will remain the maritime partner of choice in the region,” his statement said.

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement, which came just ahead of a planned visit to Asia by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo led a meeting of foreign ministers from India, Japan and Australia this month in Tokyo, a grouping Washington hopes to develop as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness and extensive maritime claims in the region, including to most of the strategic South China Sea.
The U.S. Navy regularly angers China by conducting what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations close to some of the islands China occupies that are also claimed by other states.
O’Brien’s announcement comes less than two weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, in which President Donald Trump’s campaign has made a tough approach to China a major foreign policy theme.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chris Reese and Daniel Wallis

 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Hummm.......Someone is thinking outside of the current box.......

Posted for fair use.....

American Pirates? US privateers could help win a war with China
Alex Hollings | October 21, 2020

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.


During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
American Privateers or Pirates?
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.


Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
The role of American privateers at war
(Italian Center for International Studies)

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
(DoD Photo)
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.


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Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Continued.....

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private infrastructure already exists
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
A complicated solution to a complex problem
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

Alex Hollings

Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran who specializes in foreign policy and defense technology analysis. He holds a master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communications from Framingham State University.
Follow Alex Hollings: Facebook
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Referred article:

Posted for fair use.....

U.S. Privateering Is Legal
By Brandon Schwartz
April 2020

Proceedings
Vol. 146/4/1,406

(See also: Unleash the Privateers!)
Issuing letters of marque presents international legal risks—some real, others imagined—but these are manageable. Further, since a conflict with China might, to paraphrase Dean Acheson, threaten the power, position, and even the existence of the United States, the demands of the conflict would limit the salience of law.1 Such a conflict would result in thousands of U.S. service member deaths and the nearly certain loss of dozens of U.S. Navy ships. The proper frame of reference is spring 1942, when the United States was reeling from the harsh realities of war with Imperial Japan, and not the regional conflicts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, in which the United States had overwhelming military superiority. A conflict with China would be World War III, not Gulf War III. Military and civilian leaders, as well as the public at large, should judge risks in those terms.

The first risks affect privateers themselves. Under the laws of war and neutrality, warships have rights against arrest and proscription by neutrals. Neutrals might choose not to extend those rights to privateers that want to enter their national waters, for example, to refuel. The United States could mitigate this by using friendly ports, negotiating understandings with neutrals, or pacifying them with other elements of U.S. power.

Critics will call privateers mercenaries, but that would hold no water, legally speaking. The 1977 Additional Protocol I (AP I) of the Geneva Conventions deprived mercenaries of combatant and prisoner-of-war rights, but even under AP I (which the United States has not adopted), privateers cannot be labeled “mercenaries” so long as they are a national of a party to the conflict or a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict.

Under both the Second (sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea) and Third (prisoners of war) Geneva Conventions, privateers are entitled to significant protections. They would be regarded as “members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps” so long as they (1) are commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates, (2) bear fixed distinctive signs recognizable at a distance, (3) carry arms openly, and (4) conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.2 These requirements can easily be accommodated.

The other legal hurdle is the myth that the law of naval warfare prohibits U.S. privateering. This confusion arises because some scholars assert that the 1856 Paris Declaration—whose first article banned privateering between the treaty parties—somehow established a customary international prohibition on privateering.3 However, the United States refused to sign the Declaration because it was a bad deal in light of the comparatively small U.S. Navy of the day.4


Some arguments about a customary prohibition are based on the mistaken belief that U.S. acquiescence to the Declaration can be discerned from the United States having contemplated accession during the Civil War or President William McKinley’s 1898 Proclamation 413 during the Spanish-American War.5 However, the United States ultimately chose not to accede.6 Moreover, in an introductory paragraph, Proclamation 413 merely provided that it would be U.S. policy “not to resort to privateering”—implying in this one conflict—“but to adhere to the rules of the [Declaration].” That paragraph also referenced a prior announcement by Secretary of State John Sherman that contemporaneous scholars clearly understood to state that the United States felt legally obligated by the Declaration’s last three articles, but not by the ban on privateering.7

China, and likely other maritime nations, nonetheless will argue that customary international law prohibits privateering. To this, the United States can respond by noting that historical U.S. rejection of the prohibition blocked a general customary prohibition from forming under the doctrine of specially affected states.8 That doctrine assigns greater weight to the practice of states that have a distinctive history of participating in, for example, naval warfare and allows their dissent to block custom formation.9

Even if a general custom has formed, the United States can argue that it has reserved a dormant right to privateer through the persistent objector rule.10 Under this rule, a state is not bound by a custom that it objected to while the custom was emerging. U.S. objection can be found in presidential messages; diplomatic correspondence between 1854 and 1907; and even U.S. law.11

Privateering was again on the chopping block at the Second Hague Conference in 1907. The United States rejected Hague Convention VII (Conversion of Merchant Ships into War-Ships) because, as a U.S. delegate noted, “The United States has not renounced the right to resort to privateering.”12 The formation of customary international law requires relatively consistent state practice done out of a sense of legal obligation, but the absence of U.S. privateering since 1907 has resulted from strategic and policy considerations rather than legal ones.13

Finally, China’s largest shipping company, COSCO, and most of China’s merchant shipping companies are state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The U.S. and foreign publics would likely be more accepting of action against them than privately owned merchant ships. The public also might warm to the idea of privateering if they were to become more aware of China’s maritime militia (see “The South China Sea Needs a COIN Toss,” May 2019, pp. 16–21), which comprises thousands of commercial fishing vessels under the command and control of the Central Military Commission.

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Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Continued.....

But that is all public relations; there is no legally significant difference between an SOE merchant ship and a privately owned merchant ship, so far as privateering would be concerned. All enemy merchant ships—SOE or otherwise—may be captured, and in some cases destroyed, if located outside neutral territory. Further, for the purpose of determining whether any given vessel is a lawful object of attack, both privately owned merchant vessels and SOE vessels are fair game if they constitute a military objective.14



1. Dean Acheson, “Remarks on the Cuba Quarantine,” Proceedings of the American Society of International Law, 57th Annual Meeting (1963), 14.
2. Jean Pictet, ed., Commentary on the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, vol. 2: Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea (Geneva, Switzerland: International Committee of the Red Cross, 1960); Second Geneva Convention, article 13(2); Third Geneva Convention, article 4(2).
3. Lassa Oppenheim, International Law: A Treatise, 8th ed., H. Lauterpacht ed., vol. II: Disputes, War & Neutrality, 461; James Kraska and Raul Pedrozo, International Maritime Security Law (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Nijhoff, 2013), 867; Hisakazu Fujita, The Law of Naval Warfare, Natalino Ronzitti ed. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Nijhoff, 1988), 68, 70.
4. Sir Francis Taylor Piggott, The Declaration of Paris, 1856: A Study, Documented (London: University of London Press ltd., 1919), 142–49; Carlton Savage, Policy of the United States toward Maritime Commerce in War, vol. I: 1776–1914 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1935), 76–81, 89–90.
5. “The Marie Glaeser,Times Legal Reports 31 (1914), 1, 10; William McKinley, “Proclamation 413—Standards of Conduct and Respect of Neutral Rights in the War with Spain.”
6. Piggott, The Declaration of Paris, note 4 at 154–61, 206–13.
7. U.S. House of Representatives, 55th Congress, 3rd Session, Papers Related to the Foreign Relations of the United States (Serial Set 3743) (Washington, DC: GPO, 1901), 1170–71; J. B. Moore, A Digest of International Law, vol. 7 (Washington, DC: 1906), 541–42; Charles H. Stockton, The Declaration of Paris, 14; American Society of International Law, American Journal of International Law 14 (1920), 356, 362, 367.
8. President Franklin Pierce, Second Annual Message to Congress, 4 December 1854.
9. See John B. Bellinger III and William J. Haynes II, “A U.S. Government Response to the International Committee of the Red Cross Study Customary International Humanitarian Law,” International Review of the Red Cross 89 (2007): 443 at n. 4; “Principles Applicable to the Formation of General Customary International Law,” International Law Association (ILA), Report of the Sixty-Ninth Conference (London: 2000), Principle 14, Commentary, paragraph (e), 26.
10. ILA, note 9 at Principle 15, 27–29.
11. “Letter of Mr. Marcy, Sec. of State, to Mr. Sartiges,” 28 July 1856, in Miscellaneous Documents of the U.S. Senate (Washington, DC: GPO, 1886); U.S. Congress, An Act Concerning Letters of Marque, Prizes, and Prize Goods, chapter 85 (3 March 1863).
12. James Brown Scott, The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907: A Series of Lectures Delivered before the Johns Hopkins University in the Year 1908, vol. 2 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1909), 222–23.
13. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress on the Arming of Merchant Ships, 9 October 1941.
14. DoD, Law of War Manual, note 1 at §5.7 and §13.5.2.

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Posted for fair use.....

Unleash the Privateers!

The United States should issue letters of marque to fight Chinese aggression at sea.

By Colonel Mark Cancian, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired) and Brandon Schwartz
April 2020

Proceedings
Vol. 146/4/1,406

For a discussion of the law regarding letters of marque, see: U.S. Privateering Is Legal
Naval strategists are struggling to find ways to counter a rising Chinese Navy. The easiest and most comfortable course is to ask for more ships and aircraft, but with a defense budget that may have reached its peak, that may not be a viable strategy. Privateering, authorized by letters of marque, could offer a low-cost tool to enhance deterrence in peacetime and gain advantage in wartime. It would attack an asymmetric vulnerability of China, which has a much larger merchant fleet than the United States. Indeed, an attack on Chinese global trade would undermine China’s entire economy and threaten the regime’s stability. Finally, despite pervasive myths to the contrary, U.S. privateering is not prohibited by U.S. or international law.

What are Letters of Marque?
Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships.1 The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11). Captured vessels and goods are called prizes, and prize law is set out in the U.S. Code. In the United States, prize claims are adjudicated by U.S. district courts, with proceeds traditionally paid to the privateers.2 (“Privateer” can refer to the crew of a privateering ship or to the ship itself, which also can be referred to as a letter of marque).

Congress would likely set policy—for example, specifying privateer targets, procedures, and qualifications—then authorize the President to oversee the privateering regime.3 Congress also could indemnify privateers from certain liabilities and curb the potential for abuse and violations of international law through surety bonds and updated regulations on conduct.

Letters of marque could be issued quickly, with privateers on the hunt within weeks of the start of a conflict. By contrast, it would take four years to build a single new combatant for the Navy. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, privateers vastly outnumbered Navy ships, with one U.S. official calling privateers “our cheapest and best navy.”4 Though many were lost, thousands sailed and disrupted British trade.5 British officials complained they could not guarantee the safety of civilian trade.

Privateering constitutes a once universally accepted but now thoroughly unconventional way of harnessing the private sector in war.


A Rising Chinese Navy
The rise of the Chinese military has been well documented, but a few points highlight why privateering would be a useful element of U.S. naval strategy.

China has built a powerful defensive network around its homeland, sometimes called an antiaccess/area-denial (A2/AD) envelope. As one element of this strategy, China has expanded its navy from a modest coastal force in the 1980s to an oceangoing force of at least 200 ships, with sophisticated air defenses, antiship missiles, and even aircraft carriers. Backing up the navy are land-based missiles and bombers.

Cracking open such a defense would require a naval campaign more demanding than anything the U.S. Navy has done in the past 70 years, leaving little capability for other tasks, such as hunting down China’s global merchant fleet. Whatever limited naval forces might be left over from a campaign in the Pacific would be needed to keep an eye on other potential adversaries, such as Russia, Iran, or North Korea.

Asymmetric Vulnerabilities
A print showing the U.S. privateer General Armstrong under attack by HMS Plantagenet, a 74-gun British ship of the line, in 1814. Though it has been two centuries since the U.S. government issued letters of marque, the prospect of a fight in the western Pacific makes this a good time to reconsider their use



A print showing the U.S. privateer General Armstrong under attack by HMS Plantagenet, a 74-gun British ship of the line, in 1814. Though it has been two centuries since the U.S. government issued letters of marque, the prospect of a fight in the western Pacific makes this a good time to reconsider their use.

Library of Congress
China has aggressively expanded its global economic and diplomatic influence through its Belt and Road Initiative, but this expansion creates a vulnerability, as these investments must be protected. Chinese vulnerability goes deeper. China’s economy has doubled in the past 15 years, driven by exports carried in Chinese hulls. Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP.6 Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.

China’s merchant fleet is large, because the cost to China of building and operating merchant ships is low, and its export-driven economy creates a huge demand. In 2018, China had 2,112 ships in its global merchant fleet and Hong Kong had another 2,185.7 In addition, China has a massive long-distance fishing fleet, estimated at 2,500 vessels.8


By contrast, the United States has only 246 ships in its merchant fleet. That fleet—expensive to build and operate—is sustained mainly by the Jones Act, which mandates that ships conveying cargo between U.S. ports must be U.S.-flagged.
This asymmetric vulnerability gives the United States a major strategic advantage. The threat privateering poses to the Chinese economy—and hence the Communist Party—could provide the United States with a major wartime advantage and enhance peacetime deterrence, thus making war less likely. Even if China threatens to dispatch its own privateers, U.S. vulnerability is comparatively small.

Size of the Dog in the Fight
The ordinary course of action would be to have U.S. Navy warships drive China’s merchant fleet from the seas. However, the U.S. Navy would have its hands full taking on the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The U.S. fleet is down to about 295 ships, and though it may reach and surpass 340 in the early 2040s before declining again, the goal of 355 ships is probably out of reach.9 A conflict with China would likely require this entire fleet; indeed, against a capable PLAN adversary defending its home waters, even 355 ships might be too few.

By contrast, in World War II, the U.S. Navy grew to 6,700 ships, counting neither Great Britain’s huge fleet nor contributions from other allies.10 And the allies, Britain and France particularly, had a global network of colonies that denied adversaries sanctuary and provided bases for operations against enemy ships. Comparable assets will not be available in a future conflict. Indeed, some former allies and colonies might even give sanctuary to Chinese vessels.11

Cruise the Seas for Chinese Gold
Capitalizing on Chinese vulnerabilities requires large numbers of ships, and the private sector could provide them. The ocean is large, and there are thousands of ports to hide in or dash between. While the Navy could not afford to have a multibillion-dollar destroyer sitting outside Rio de Janeiro for weeks waiting for Chinese vessels to leave, a privateer could patiently wait nearby as U.S. diplomats put pressure on (presumably neutral) Brazil.


Neither recruiting crews nor the need to arm ships would constitute a major obstacle. Privateers do not need to be heavily armed, because they would be taking on lightly (or un-) armed merchant vessels, choosing vulnerable targets, or acting cooperatively with other privateers. Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?12

The existing private military industry would doubtless jump at the chance to privateer. Dozens of companies currently provide security services, from the equivalent of mall guards to armed antipiracy contingents on ships. A large pool of potential recruits has shown willingness to work for private contractors. At the height of the Iraq War, for example, the United States employed 20,000 armed contractors in security jobs.

In fact, private security vessels already have been created, demonstrating the concept’s viability. The private security firm Blackwater outfitted an armed patrol craft to defend commercial shipping from Somali pirates.13 At the height of Somali piracy, there were some 2,700 armed contractors on ships and 40 private armed patrol boats operating in the Indian Ocean region.14
Just as the prospect of prize money induced thousands of seamen to sign on with privateers during the Revolution and the War of 1812, similar inducements—such as the prospect of earning millions of dollars from a single capture—would attract the needed personnel in a future conflict.

New Approaches Required
The notion of privateering makes naval strategists uncomfortable because it is an approach to war that does not conform to the way the U.S. Navy has fought since 1815. There is no modern experience of their use, and there are legitimate concerns about legal foundations and international opinion. But strategists cannot argue for out-of-the-box thinking to face the rising challenge of China and then revert to conventional solutions because out-of-the-box thinking makes them uncomfortable.

As the strategic situation is new, so must our thinking be new. In wartime, privateers could swarm the oceans and destroy the maritime industry on which China’s economy—and the stability of its regime—depend. The mere threat of such a campaign might strengthen deterrence and thereby prevent a war from happening at all. In strategy, as elsewhere, everything old shall be new again.


1. Department of Defense (DoD), Law of War Manual (2016), § 13.5.2; Louise Doswald-Beck, ed., San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (International Institute of Humanitarian Law, 1995), Rules 13(i), 40–41, 59–60, 135, 138–39.
2. 10 USC § 8852. For prize law, see 10 USC §§ 8851–81, and 10 USC § 7668 (allowing courts to only pay net proceeds into the Treasury).
3. U.S. Congress, An Act Concerning Letters of Marque, and Prizes, chapter 102, 26 June 1812.
4. Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 96
5. Edgar Stanton Maclay, A History of American Privateers (London: Sampson, Low, Marston, and Co., 1900), 506; George F. Emmons, The Navy of the United States: from the Commencement, 1775, to 1853 (Washington, DC: 1853), 170–203.
6. World Bank Trade Database, data.worldbank.org.
7. “Merchant Marine” in CIA Factbook 2018 (Washington, DC: 2018).
8. Gary Doyle, “Chinese Trawlers Travel Farthest and Fish the Most: Study,” Reuters, 22 February 2018.
9. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2019 Shipbuilding Plan (19 October 2018).
10. Naval History and Heritage Command, “U.S. Ship Force Levels 1886–Present,” www.history.navy.mil.
11. MAJ Nicholas R. Nappi, USMC, “But Will They Fight China?” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 5 (May 2018).
12. DoD, Law of War Manual, note 1 at §13.5.3.
13. Kim Sangupta, “Blackwater Gunboats Will Protect Ships,” The Independent, 19 November 2008.
14. Sean McFate, The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 142.

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With the number of hulls available to them (never mind domestic politics and legal issues), IMHO Beijing doing this is more likely than the other way around. HC
 

OldArcher

Has No Life - Lives on TB
China
October 23, 20205:25 PMUpdated 4 hours ago
U.S. to base Coast Guard cutters in western Pacific in response to China
By David Brunnstrom
3 Min Read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. national security adviser said on Friday the U.S Coast Guard was basing Enhanced Response Cutters in the western Pacific for maritime security missions, citing illegal fishing and harassment of vessels by China.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien takes off his a face mask during a meeting at Sao Paulo's Industries Federation President in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo
In a statement, Robert O’Brien also said the Coast Guard planned to evaluate next fiscal year the feasibility of basing Fast Response Cutters in American Samoa in the South Pacific.
The statement described the United States as a Pacific power and added that China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific threatens our sovereignty, as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbors and endangers regional stability.”
It said U.S. efforts, including by the Coast Guard, were “critical to countering these destabilizing and malign actions.”

“To that end, the USCG is strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters ... in the western Pacific,” the statement said, without detailing where the vessels would be based or how many were involved.
O’Brien said the new-generation Coast Guard vessels would conduct maritime security missions, such as fisheries patrols, and enhance maritime-domain awareness and enforcement efforts in collaboration with “regional partners who have limited offshore surveillance and enforcement capacity.”
“Enhancing the presence of the USCG in the Indo-Pacific ensures the United States will remain the maritime partner of choice in the region,” his statement said.

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement, which came just ahead of a planned visit to Asia by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo led a meeting of foreign ministers from India, Japan and Australia this month in Tokyo, a grouping Washington hopes to develop as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness and extensive maritime claims in the region, including to most of the strategic South China Sea.
The U.S. Navy regularly angers China by conducting what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations close to some of the islands China occupies that are also claimed by other states.
O’Brien’s announcement comes less than two weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, in which President Donald Trump’s campaign has made a tough approach to China a major foreign policy theme.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chris Reese and Daniel Wallis

Often saw those beautiful CG cutters off the coast of Vietnam... They did Herculean work, helping to deny easy replenishment of NVA in the coastal areas. Everyone was safer, with the CG on duty. They have my undying respect and admiration.

Lock & Load

OldArcher
 

jward

passin' thru

jward

passin' thru
Poll Shows Increase in American Support for Defending Taiwan



By Bonnie S. Glaser and Mathew P. Funaiole

October 23, 2020
Poll Shows Increase in American Support for Defending Taiwan

Credit: Office of the President, ROC (Taiwan)

President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election in Taiwan in January has been met with growing assertiveness from China. Beijing’s ramped up military pressure against Taiwan has renewed questions about whether the United States would intervene if the island faced a blockade or invasion. Although the U.S. Congress has consistently signaled strong support for Taiwan, there has historically been less enthusiasm among the American public. However, new data suggests these views may be changing.
Annual surveys conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) consistently show tepid enthusiasm for Taiwan’s defense among the American public. The recently released 2020 poll revealed that a mere 41 percent of Americans backed military action were China to invade Taiwan. Although hardly a ringing endorsement, these results show the highest level of support for Taiwan’s defense since CCGA first posed the question to the public in 1982.
Were a contingency to arise in the Taiwan Strait, public pressure could hamstring a robust U.S. response and prove disastrous for Taipei. The CCGA surveys suggest that views among the public are slowly changing, and a newly released study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) offers further insight into how these perspectives are evolving.

This summer, CSIS surveyed the American public and thought leaders in the United States, Asia, and Europe to map perspectives on China and U.S. defense commitments in the Asia-Pacific (the authors were part of the research team). We asked respondents to gauge on a scale of 1 to 10 how important it is to defend U.S. allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific should they come under threat from China. These questions were designed so that a score of “1” meant it was not worth taking any risk to protect an ally or partner, and a “10” meant it was worth taking a significant risk.

The results show that Americans are, in fact, prepared to take a substantial risk to defend Taiwan. With a mean score of 6.69 out of 10, respondents from among the U.S. public gave stronger backing for defending Taiwan than Australia (6.38) and comparable to Japan (6.88), South Korea (6.92), as well as an unnamed ally or partner in the South China Sea (6.97).
Subscriptions – The Diplomat
Differences in views were most pronounced across different age cohorts. Older Americans (over 67 years old) proved to be the most willing to defend Taiwan, but there was a statistically significant gap between senior citizens and younger Americans (18-30 years old), who were the least supportive. Age proved to be a determining factor elsewhere in the study. Younger Americans showed only modest interest in defending partners in the region. This position is likely born out of the fact that our study also revealed that 50 percent of younger Americans think war with China is likely and another 15 percent believe it is inevitable.

Our project also tracked converging and diverging perspectives between the public and thought leaders. Across the board, thought leaders more enthusiastically supported defending partners in the region – including Taiwan. With a mean score of 7.93 out of 10, thought leaders demonstrated a willingness to take a considerable risk with regard to Taiwan, albeit somewhat less than the average mean score of 8.72 among U.S. treaty allies (Australia, Japan, and South Korea).
Of the constituencies polled, human rights experts pegged Taiwan’s defense as the highest security priority, more so than all other U.S. allies and partners in the study. An impressive 57 percent of individuals who self-identified as being from the human rights community rated their response with the highest possible score of 10.
We expected thought leaders to prioritize Taiwan. Many within the policy community have, for years, labored to counter Chinese coercion against Taiwan and strengthen the island’s security. There is also strong bipartisan support for Taiwan in the U.S. Congress. What was revealing was the degree to which experts were willing to accept risk on behalf of Taiwan’s security.

Although tempered, we were surprised to also find support for Taiwan among the American public. The public is less inclined than thought leaders to incur risk overseas, but they did rate the defense of Taiwan of similar importance to that of long-standing allies.
This latter point provides a more refined understanding of how the public thinks about Taiwan compared to what can be gleaned from other surveys. One of the clearest findings from our data was that the public is significantly concerned about China. Fifty-four percent of Americans see China as the biggest challenge to the United States, more than double the amount primarily concerned about Russia (22 percent). Those most worried about China are, unsurprisingly, also those most interested in defending partners like Taiwan.
China’s growing assertiveness in the region almost certainly plays a role in souring public opinion. Beijing has continued to rachet up its pressure campaign against Taipei, which ranges from disinformation campaigns to poaching some of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies. Over the last several months, Chinese military aircraft have made an unprecedented number of incursions across the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

While many of these provocations may go unnoticed by those outside the policy community, Taiwan’s precarious position as a small, vibrant democracy on the doorstep of China is more visible than ever. Rising authoritarianism, much of which stems from or is supported by Beijing, poses a fundamental threat to the U.S.-led international order. Leaders from both political parties have brought these shifting dynamics to the forefront of public discourse on foreign policy.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic likely also colors public opinion. With the pandemic continuing to rage across the United States, it logical that Americans are seeking effective government responses elsewhere. Taiwan boasts one of the most advanced health care systems in the world and provides universal coverage to the island’s 23 million inhabitants. COVID-19 has had a much smaller impact on Taiwan than other industrialized economies, and the international community has lauded Taipei’s effective handling of the outbreak.

Deterrence necessitates that China believes that the United States is likely to intervene should it attack Taiwan. The first step in making deterrence credible is ensuring that the U.S. military has the capabilities necessary to defend Taiwan and that Taiwan does its part to reinforce its security. Yet, public support for Taiwan’s defense – as evidenced by the recent CSIS study – is also critical. It demonstrates a robust commitment to overseas partners, which in turn serves to bolster peace and stability in the region.

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Bonnie S. Glaser is senior advisor for Asia and director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Matthew P. Funaiole is a senior fellow with the China Power Project and senior fellow for data analysis with the iDeas Lab at CSIS.
 

OldArcher

Has No Life - Lives on TB
:: shakes head :: dale carnegie grad he clearly is not ::adds UK to the list::
Indo-Pacific News
@IndoPac_Info


#China warns #UK not to offer citizenship to #HongKong residents China has told Britain to "immediately correct its mistakes" after the UK reaffirmed its plan to offer a route to #British citizenship to almost three million people living there.
View: https://twitter.com/IndoPac_Info/status/1319943351722856448?s=20
There are times when the Brits do something truly great. This is one of those times...

F&*k the CCP...

Lock & Load

OldArcher
 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment
Posted for fair use.....

As US Military Moves Into Palau, China Watches Intently
In a recent meeting between the Navy Secretary and the president of Palau, the US signaled a commitment to "enhanced presence here and for more US Military activity in the future."

By Paul McLeary on October 23, 2020 at 1:41 PM

WASHINGTON: The United States is stepping up its military presence and activity in and around the small island nation of Palau in the Philippine Sea, a strategic location coveted by Pentagon planners as the US looks to expand its footprint in the region.
The past two months have seen visits by both the secretaries of Defense and the Navy, where commitments were offered about more US attention to the country, according to meeting notes seen by Breaking Defense.
The president of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, recently handed letters to the two US officials in which he asked the US to consider building a new base in his small nation of 17,000 inhabitants.

The letter, passed to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, said the archipelago boasts “port facilities, secondary airfields, law enforcement training grounds and maritime enforcement and surveillance facilities,” which can be used as “opportunities to strengthen US military readiness.”
The ask falls squarely within the emerging US military strategy in the region which revolves around distributing forces to more places, with smaller footprints than the megabases on Guam, Okinawa, and Japan.
Defense and State Dept. officials have embraced Remengesau’s eagerness to draw closer to the United States, and there are signs of progress in getting agreements signed and begin moving forward.
One State official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “we have a great relationship” with the Republic of Palau, “and look forward to finding ways to strengthen our cooperation in areas of mutual security interests.” They added, however, that “the sensitive discussions between our senior leaders” still have a way to go.





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Remengesau is clearly ready for those talks to move along. Under the Compact of Free Association between the two countries signed in 1994, the US is obligated to defend for the country, while allowing citizens of Palau to serve in the US armed forces.
“We should use the mechanisms of the compact to establish a regular US military presence in Palau,” the president’s letter said. “The US military’s right to establish defence sites in the Republic of Palau has been under-utilised for the entire duration of the compact,” signed in 1994.
In his meeting with Remengesau, Braithwaite stressed Palau’s “strategic location” which is “extremely important to US presence in the region,” according to the meeting notes. The secretary also made a commitment to “enhanced presence here and for more US Military activity in the future.”
There has already been significant movement.

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“This is a terrible idea for several reasons,” Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute said. The oldest ships would need to undergo a service life extension, while the newer ships would have to undergo expensive upgrades for a complex new mission.
By Paul McLeary
Just before Braithwaite’s visit, the Japan-based USS Comstock amphibious ship docked for a weeks-long stay where sailors are working to remove unexploded ordnance. On Oct. 12, a C-130 flight brought 24 Air Force personnel to evaluate runways and tarmacs at airfields in Babeldaob, Peleliu and Angaur.
The Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia also arrived this month to lay navigation buoys, following a similar visit in May.
The string of islands in the Philippine Sea sits between the Philippines and Guam, the former being a major hub for the US Navy and Marine Corps, and also occupies a critical location for China in moving out of the First Island Chain.
“Palau is primary geography for operating forces forward in the region,” said Eric Sayers, a former Indo-PACOM advisor and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for New American Security. “It’s an ideal opportunity given the geographic and political restraints we face to our posture in the region.”
The Navy has been pushing the idea of “distributed maritime operations,” in which ships deploy and move in a more unpredictable manner, throwing Chinese and Russian intelligence and tracking assets off track and keeping them guessing.
In the Philippine and South China seas in particular, where long-range Chinese weapons can hold more and more territory at risk, having new ports to pull in and then deploy from, would go a long way to that end.
Similarly, the Marine Corps is pushing hard to transition to smaller, more mobile and lethal units spread around the Pacific. Commandant Gen. David Berger is establishing several Littoral Regiments that can provide their own air defense and precision fires assets
The units are part of the Corps’ effort to move toward building a fast-moving, hard to detect “inside force” that can operate within range of Chinese and Russian weapons ranges while packing a potent offensive punch — and staying away from the megabases well ranged and targeted by Chinese missiles. Having Palau as a new staging or jump-off area would prove hugely helpful.
The Navy and Marines are also developing a new class of logistics ship that can resupply Marines deployed to ad hoc island bases, and a Light Amphibious Warship to carry Marines as well as fuel and supplies. All of these ships, and Marine units, could make use of facilities at Palau.
Significantly, Palau is also one of just four Pacific nations to recognize Taiwan, after the Solomon Islands and Kiribati walked away and changed their diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 2019.
That fact is not lost on US policymakers, increasing their eagerness to pull Palau even closer as the Trump administration doubles down on the US relationship with Taiwan, sparking Chinese complaints over growing US arms sales to Taipei.
The PLA Navy has ramped up its deployments into the Philippine Sea in recent years while also increasing the number of marine research expeditions in the area, Collin Koh of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said. It’s part of “Beijing’s quest to build first a regional, then eventually global, ocean observation network that obviously has both civilian and military applications (in particular, undersea warfare).”
With those increased transits, having a base of operations in Palau “could help improve the US military’s ISR in the area, helping keep tabs on these activities including PLA Navy submarines,” Koh added.
Because of Palau’s continued recognition of Taiwan, China slapped a boycott on the country in 2017, banning Chinese tourism, which severely impacted the country’s economy. The move has raised concerns in Palau and Washington that China’s predatory economic strategy was being employed in the country, where China offers “debt trap” investments in exchange for further alienating Taiwan.
Whatever the US footprint in the country looks like going forward, it’s clear that both sides — at the moment — appear to be reading from the same playbook. That’s good news for the Pentagon and US ally Taiwan, but China’s growing influence in the region and clear ambitions to extend that power further afield, will keep close tabs on what happens next.



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As US Military Moves Into Palau, China Watches Intently
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Comments 12
 

jward

passin' thru
he Marines Corps is rolling out a 'subversive' new strategy to take on China
Mark Perry, Responsible Statecraft

6 hours ago






Marine Corps Marines amphibious beach landing Talisman Sabre

US Marines conduct a simulated amphibious assault during exercise Talisman Sabre 19 in Bowen, Australia, July 22, 2019. US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Tanner D. Lambert
  • In August 2019, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger published his Commandant's Planning Guidance, detailing a dramatic shift in the Marine Corps' force structure.
  • It positions the Marines to take on China, but it also makes a subversive proposal to take on a sophisticated rival with cheaper capabilities than what the other branches are pursuing.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
US Marine officers are notoriously dismissive of those who talk about strategy. "Strategy?" a Marine who served in Vietnam says. "Here was our strategy: hey-diddle-diddle, straight-up-the-middle."
The description rings true: The Marine Corps' most famous fights were straight-ahead affairs that gave the Corps its most celebrated moments: at Belleau Wood (in World War I), at Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa (in World War II), at Inchon (during Korea), at Hue (in Vietnam) and, most recently during the battles for Fallujah, back in 2004. Now, it seems, all of that is changing.
In August of last year, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger published his Commandant's Planning Guidance, a detailed recasting of the Marine Corps' force structure.
By any measure, Berger's guidance marked a breathtaking shift away from the service's urban combat focus and its follow-on mandate of "countering violent extremists in the Middle East" to a "great power/peer level competition, with special emphasis on the Indo Pacific…"

US Marine Corps Marines amphibious assault KAMANDAG Philippines

US Marines during an amphibious exercise as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3 in the Philippines, October 12, 2019. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani
The shift, Berger admits, is sweeping: "from inland to littoral, and from non-state actor to peer competitor." The guidance reduces tank companies (from 7 to 0), artillery batteries (from 21 to 5), infantry battalions (from 24 to 21), amphibious vehicle companies (from 6 to 4), helicopter attack squadrons (from 7 to 5), and the number of F-35Bs in its air squadrons.
The guidance eliminates law enforcement battalions and bridging companies. And the force itself will be cut by some 12,000 personnel over a period of 10 years. More simply: Berger's guidance ("to be clear, it's not really a new strategy," one senior Marine officer notes, "it's more like a new operational concept") cuts structure in favor of adopting "long range precision fires, advanced reconnaissance capabilities, unmanned systems and resilient networks."

The shift is here to stay: Berger clamped a non-disclosure requirement on participants in the wargames that led to the rethinking and, just last week, cancelled the "Metropolis II" exercise testing tactics the Marines would adopt to fight in cities. Instead, the service will focus on building a new Marine Littoral Regiment (an MLR) that would allow it to operate on small atolls and islands against a projected threat in the Pacific — read: China.
Berger's new MLR is billed as "dispersed, agile and constantly relocating" (a combat team, a logistics element and an anti-air battalion), and delivered to the battleground by a yet-to-be-designed class of amphibious ships. Dispersed and agile? For Berger's critics, the MLR looks more like a Navy landing party (of some 1800 swabees) than an all-arms 3600 trooper Marine regiment of hardcore fighters. Berger would almost certainly reject the claim, but his guidance ties his service more closely to the Navy than it has been since the Marines landed on Guadalcanal.

"During World War II, we as a Service, clearly understood that Marines operated in support of the Navy's sea control mission," the guidance argues. "In subsequent years, the luxury of presumptive maritime superiority deluded us into thinking the Navy existed to support 'Marine' operations ashore. That era was a historic anomaly, and we need to re-focus on how we will fulfill our mandate to support the fleet."

USMC assault amphibious vehicle

A Marine drives an assault amphibious vehicle onto amphibious assault ship USS San Diego, off the coast of Hawaii during exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016. Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti/US Marine Corps
Berger's guidance earned initial praise, even from would-be detractors ("it's one of the most well-written documents to come out of the Pentagon in a long while," a US Army force planner admitted), as well as a host of respected military thinkers, including Dr. James Lacey, a former US infantry officer and director for War, Policy, and Strategy at the Marine Corps War College. "I think Berger has boldly taken the Corps in a direction it must go as we reenter a period of great state competition," he wrote in an email.

More crucially, Chris Brose, the former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee — whose questions to the services in 2018 helped to fuel Berger's thinking — told columnist David Ignatius that the new Marine guidance "looks reality in the face and says we've got to make changes. He doesn't hedge, he doesn't fudge. He makes choices. He's thrown down the gauntlet for the other services."
Not everyone agrees. An early and outspoken critic of Berger was James Webb, a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran and secretary of the Navy.
For Webb, the Berger guidance reads like a pointy-headed powerpoint presentation cooked up by draft dodging Marine Corps wannabes: "Interestingly, when citing his philosophical inspiration at the outset of his proposal, General Berger chose to ignore two centuries of innovation and ground-breaking role models who guided the Marine Corps through some of its most difficult challenges," Webb wrote in a much-circulated article in The National Interest. "The giants of the past — John LeJeune, Arthur Vandegrift, Clifton Cates, Robert Barrow and Al Gray, just for starters — were passed over, in favor of a quote from a professor at the Harvard Business School who never served. Many Marines, past and present, view this gesture as a symbolic putdown of the Corps' respected leadership methods and the historic results they have obtained."
Webb's critique is echoed by other experts, including Dr. Williamson "Wick" Murray, one of the nation's most respected defense thinkers.

"The Marines are the most intellectual of all services," Murray told me in an extensive telephone interview, "so I'm a little surprised that the guidance leaves so many unanswered questions. It goes too far in stripping out capabilities, lacks important details on how these capabilities will be replaced and doesn't provide strategic solutions to strategic challenges. This guidance needs to be more nuanced and more flexible. It's not. It puts everything on the table for countering China, but if history teaches us anything it's that the enemy you get is rarely the one you plan for."
Murray also notes the unease that greeted the guidance from the US Navy. "The big assumption here is that the Navy wants to cooperate, that it'll be a willing partner. Maybe: but its yet to be seen whether they're capable of taking this on."
A senior US Navy strategist, speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the topic, agrees: "The Navy has largely ignored strategy and focused on what to buy and how to buy it, then figuring out how to use what they have." Which is to say that the Navy leadership seems strangely out of touch with what Berger is doing — a kind of hey-diddle-diddle-let's-buy-more-ships focus that retains its legacy platforms (Berger dubs them "large ships" — like aircraft carriers — "with large electronic, acoustic, or optical signatures") at the same time that the Marines are shedding theirs.

Marine Corps commandant David Berger

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger, August 8, 2018. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Patrick Mahoney
 
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