Dec 042012

    Okay, let’s play a little game of “Pin the tail on the donkey.” Here are a small handful of pins. They represent your nation’s limited military and economic resources. No blind folds here. Bring all your knowledge and information about the world to bear. Now where the map will you allocate our finite strengths? One, two, maybe several Middle Eastern countries? Iran? Yemen?

How about Africa with so many challenges such as Nigeria, Sudan, or Somalia? Maybe even some Latin American countries such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Manuel Ortega’s Sandinista suppressed Nicaragua or even America’s trouble border with ITS NAFTA neighbor, Mexico. Are you concerned about the Russian bear that is sniffing around more again?

Now who would have imagined that one’s national security might well depend on the successful outcome of just such a game? It does of course, and in a very real way. For those men and women tasked with securing our nation’s future, losing is definitely not an option.

Probably you would find that most people and most maps have unrecognized cultural orientations and assumptions in them. Take that big wall map of the world for instance. There is a good chance it is centered on America, or even more likely, the Prime Meridian, running smack dab through the center of Her Majesty’s Royal Naval College. Most likely the extra pins were in your left hand, and you reached with your right hand…to the right…to the east, the Orient by any other name. Indeed, do we not refer to the Middle, Near, and Far East? The Anglo-European mind is, so to speak, oriented to view the world that way. And therein lays an interesting phenomenon.

Had you noticed the irony? While our attention tends to be drawn geographically and geopolitically towards the east, the East itself is actually less noticed behind us there in the west.

If given just one pin to stick in a map to indicate one of the most likely places for serious future conflict to arise, where would this author place it? Having spent some considerable time and research and discussions with military planners, that pin would pass right over the seas that lap onto the shores of China and right into the heart of Southeast Asia:

The South China Sea.

Dec 042012

 The Senkaku Islands, three basically uninhabitable clusters of rocky ridges just north of Taiwan, are again making headlines in Asia. They should be making more headlines in America, too. Not much bigger than icebergs, the Senkaku Islands are just the tip of the growing animosities between China, its Asian neighbors, and particularly Japan.

Whether or not one agrees that this is the Century of China, most would agree that China’s burgeoning wealth has fueled an increasingly capable air force and navy. In December, 2008, China sent elements of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA-N) Navy’s Southern Fleet through the South China Sea, past Singapore and out of the Malacca Strait to the piratical waters off the African coast of Somalia. In so doing, China announced that for the first time in 500 years, its modern fleet of destroyers is a global naval force to be reckoned with.

In recent years there have been an increasing number of headlines about maritime conflicts involving China and its neighbors over disputed authority to potentially oil-reach sea beds and abundant fisheries, primarily in the South China Sea. China (and Taiwan), along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam  have a myriad of overlapping claims to the semi-submerged islands of the Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal, west of the Philippines, and the Paracels off the Vietnamese coast. Maps made public by China in recent years show a dotted line that basically encircles most of the South China Sea and designating it as a region of core national interest, putting these strategically important waters on a par with Tibet or Taiwan. At the 2010 ASEAN regional meeting in Hanoi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that this same region remains an important national interest to the United States

But that line of Chinese special concern doesn’t stop within the South China Sea, and that’s where the Senkaku Islands comes in. The line’s extension is called by China its “First Island Chain of Defense.” It extends northward  just inward of the Philippines and encompassing Taiwan, along the western shores of the Japanese chain of islands that include Okinawa and looping up just inside of Japan to the Korean Peninsula. The Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu to the Chinese) lie within this Chinese “Chain of Defense.” And it is to this chain of islands that America could become linked to a military conflict in Asian waters.

The 2010 Chinese National Defense white paper, released in 2011, stated that “Asia-Pacific security is becoming more intricate and volatile.” China repeatedly emphasizes an “unswerving” resolve to defend its territorial claims, making it clear that its military had the physical and cyberspace capability to go on the offensive should the need arise. The 2012 Defense of Japan white paper repeatedly points to China as a major source of potential military conflict, placing Senkaku (Diaoyu) squarely on their own maps of maritime concerns and force projection. Okinawa is stated to be the very core of Japanese efforts in Asia Pacific. Particularly telling is the Japanese defense report’s emphasis on its strengthening ties with American forces. Some months ago, President Obama announced an increasing deployment of marines to the region, especially to Australia. More recently, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there will evolve a shift of naval forces from 50-50 Atlantic/Pacific to a 60-40 weighting towards the Pacific.

Want to get away to a peaceful deserted island? Perhaps it would be best to scratch the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands off your list. In the exotic South China Sea and its broader Asian Pacific surround, unoccupied islands and their offshore waters have a not so funny way of being cluttered with a whole host national flags.

Charles Dusenbury

 Comments Off on Senkaku and China’s “First Island Chain” links U.S. to Troubled Asian Waters
Dec 042012

As a general public reader of the WSJ, I seldom wander into depths of the Corporate News section. Thankfully this day I did. It brought to the surface a concern that really ought to be making the headlines: “Ship Accidents Sever Data Cables Off East Africa” (WSJ, Feb 28, 2012).

As reported in the article, a ship off the coast of Kenya dragged its anchor and severed a crucial fiber optic data transmission line between Djibouti and Zimbabwe. In itself this is an internet inconvenience. However it warrants more attention when this happens on the heels of the simultaneous severing at a depth of 650 feet of three even more important lines coming out of Djibouti that connects the middle east to much of the world.  It has been almost three years to the day that two of the world’s largest capacity cables, FLAG EUROPE ASIA and SEA-ME-WE-4[1] were severed near Alexandria, Egypt.[2]

The term “cloud computing” may instill the comfort of a “Beam me up, Scotty” satellite technology. The reality is that essentially the entire information highway consists of the “anchors aweigh” technology of over 500,000 miles of undersea fiber optic cables[3]. Its strategic vulnerability exhibited by this, as a spokesman for the affected lines said, “…very unusual situation,” is not lost on our military. Djibouti is a main transmission link for the global choke point of the massive undersea cables running right through the tough neighborhood of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Those serving with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa[4] there in Djibouti are well aware that the threat of terrorism and piracy exists not only upon the seas, but under it as well.

While globally we have our high-tech computing heads in the clouds, the down-to-earth concerns of a low-tech threat to the very cable web that links our world is very real.

[1] Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe

[3] The demand is growing very fast for long distance communication.

Over 800,000 km (500,000 miles) of fibre optic cable have already been laid on the seabed, and this number is increasing rapidly. International Cable Protection Committee, 2009

Dec 042012

Continuing our look at CHINA “behind the scenes”, we look at the military and explore possible motivations for its build-up and its often belligerent actions.

Here in EAST WORLD, even military hardware may not be what it seems. Since Mao’s Long March and then the founding of the People’s Republic, assessing Chinese capabilities has been a continuing difficulty. Underestimating China’s prowess can have grave consequences, as the United States learned the hard way when the Red Chinese Army swarmed south over the Yalu river and pushed our forces practically into the sea at Pusan, South Korea. Another shock early in the Korean War was when our predominantly propeller driven air force was greeted by advanced Mig 15s in the skies overhead. Alternating bellicosity and benign cordiality, statements from the leadership make it difficult to be sure as to what China’s intentions are. Sometimes it even appears the leaders themselves are not clear. Either way and from any point of view, there is always the concern that acting on an assumption is…


A Gamble


China’s first aircraft carrier is a refurbished former Soviet Bloc vessel. Purchased from Ukraine under the guise that it would become a floating casino in Macau, its threat of force projection in such troubled waters as the South China Sea may yet prove to be a dangerous gamble.


China has been annually increasing its spending on military research and development. This expansion of its ability for force projection is particularly evident on the sea. By openly challenging the maritime claims of the bordering nations of the South China Sea’s politically churned waters, China is increasingly intimidating those countries and their chief ally in the region, the United States. These actions would appear to be a big gamble. Its launching of its first aircraft carrier is a case in point.


The Chinese carrier is a refitted used Ukrainian [?]vessel, the Varyag. It was purchased by a Chinese company for $20 million in 1998. The originally stated intent was as a floating casino in Macao, China’s gambling enclave. But not to worry. As a high ranking spokesman said, this new carrier is just for training and familiarization. Pilots need to learn to operate off a carrier and a supporting fleet must be established to utilize such an important asset


China’s expanding ability to project force beyond its borders is driven by several factors, a major one being a deep sense of grievances for what it sees as a long period of humiliation. The launching of its first carrier was heralded as another step in China’s Long march back to what it views as its rightful place as a global major power. “From the Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China suffered more than 470 offenses and invasions that came from the seas,” said the official Chinese newspaper, Xinhua on the occasion of the carrier’s launch. This explicit keeping of a tab of offenses is a source of rising concern that China may intend to settle some scores. The increases in the numbers and complexities of its arsenal do nothing to allay such fears.


Many ask just why is it China appears and often acts so bellicose, especially when the actual inventory of China’s military hardware is compared with that of, for instance the ASEAN countries, plus Japan, South Korea [not ASEAN members?] and that largest of military might, the United States. What is it that China has to gain by projecting such an offensive/defensive posture? Certainly a sense of grievances and humiliation, as discussed earlier, is a factor. It may well be that at the heart of it there is an underlying factor: Fear.


What does China really have to fear? After all, China has the largest land mass, population, uniformed military, and now, having surpassed Japan, the region’s largest economy. The answer is “A lot” when viewed from the inside looking out. A quick look at a map showing the activity of the world’s shipping lanes gives one answer. China depends almost exclusively on these very busy shipping routes to import the energy and raw materials it needs. The, the goods produced go back out over these vast, mostly unprotected waters. One only has to read the now familiar headlines about piracy to see just one aspect of this concern. Lines of communication represent another strategic vulnerability.


In this day and age of the internet, Wi-Fi and cellphones, the public may have the sense that all this data is beaming happily up and down through a nearly invulnerable constellation satellites circling thousands of miles out in space. Not so. The reality is the vast majority of all these bytes of digitized data we have all come to depend on in our daily lives is transported by good old fashioned land and underwater cables. Well, not so old fashioned, in that they are fiber optic cables, able to handle thousands of separate communications on each hair-thin strand. There are over 500,000 miles of fiber optic cable lying on the ocean floor around the world. And much of it gets funneled through the narrow vulnerable accesses of the South China Sea.


And then there are the natural resources under the sea, proven and imagined. There is inherent vulnerability in having such resource gathering facilities, such as oil rigs scattered over the open waters. The other factor and the one driving much of the naval activity at the moment is the argument over just who gets what, particularly in the South China Sa.


Another explanation for the increased incidences involving China on the high seas may be part of that old philosophy; the best defense is offense. Perhaps China uses some of the headline producing maritime actions as a way to intimidate its seafaring neighbors


And perhaps the greatest fear of all, from a military point of view, is the huge technological and capability gap that was exposed as the world’s military looked on with shock and awe at the United States’ capabilities in the 1991 Gulf War. That wake up call, plus a determination to access the growing coffers within the Forbidden City, has perhaps motivate the military to engage in instances of conflict so as to encourage Beijing to allocated more funds for defense. The 17% increase in the 2011 budget is a case in point.


The recent startling public revelation of the new Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20 seems to have caught the military command centers around the world by surprise. “I am intrigued by developments and am quite interested in the quantities and different types of technologies that we didn’t expect…”[1] said Vice Admiral Dorsett, director of naval intelligence. Though the “surprise” is perhaps an understandable laps in obtaining military intelligence due to the very closed nature of the Chinese system, it may be symptomatic of another problem: America’s military and economic distractions in other parts of the globe. Whatever the reasons, the announcement of yet another advancement, an anti-ship (read anti-American aircraft carrier) ballistic missile, capable of mid-ballistic trajectory aiming corrections, means that the U.S. Navy must be beginning to feel the splash from China’s warning shots across the bow.


It is not just breakthrough advances in new concepts that make the PLA, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, an increasingly powerful force to be reckoned with. Take the PLAN’s submarines for instance (the Chinese navy and air force are branches of the PLA). Yes, they do have nuclear submarines, five of them at last count, but they are not really the backbone of China’s underwater strategy. It is the century old concept of diesel-electric propulsion, brought to a high degree of refinement that makes them one of the PLAN’s greatest threats.


This new class of diesel-electric boats is not your father’s submarines. Those who’s concepts of diesel-electric boats were formed from WWII movies such as “Run Silent, Run Deep” and the German classic, “Das Boot” may find it hard to grasp the dangers these air-breathing machines pose. First of all, there are at least 35 of them (some estimates reach 80 or more), distributed among the Northern, East, and South Sea Fleets. And then there is the fact that when running on the battery powered electric motors, they are among the very quietest and stealthy of the world’s silent services. Given that their main mission is littoral, near-shore protection, that is not much of a real problem. But an increasing number of them have another trick up their sleeve; one learned from Russian and German innovation.


Battery powered means of course the batteries need recharging. Diesel engines need air to function, necessitating the oft portrayed WWII submarine motoring on the surface, crewmen with binoculars scanning the horizon for threats. But what if a diesel could operate under water, independent of the air above? Enter the Russian AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) advanced diesel-electric Kilo Class submarine. Picture a Killer Whale with a snorkel, and you won’t be far off. It is not the intent of this writing to get too technical, so suffice to say that AIP is a process whereby oxygen is created and recycled while submerged. Over time many countries have worked on the AIP concept, but the Russian Kilo Class has proven to be one of the most successful and the design that appears to have most influenced recent Chinese AIP developments. The Song Class 039A/B entered service in 2004,[2] followed by the more advanced Yuan Class 041 bringing to a total of an estimated six in service. Now, instead of maximum of about 48 hours submerged for a conventional diesel, an AIP powered sub can remain below for a week or more. Other advantages of Air Independent Propulsion over nuclear include lower cost, the potential for adapting older vessels to the newer propulsion, and the ability to keep the submarine smaller than nuclear powered ones, thus reducing cost and making them more maneuverable a stealthy and adaptable to the more confined waters of, say, the South China Sea.


But really, can such submarines really be effective against the combined might of the United States Navy and its allies? Ask the commanders in charge of a 2007 U.S. naval exercise in the ocean between Japan and Taiwan. As reported in the British Daily Mail, “American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk – a 1,000ft super carrier with 4,500 personnel on board.”[3]All this in spite of protective shield of escort vessels, aircraft and two nuclear submarines. As was mentioned, these Song Class submarines are very difficult to detect when running on just its electric motors. As the editor of the authoritative Jane’s Fighting Ships noted, “It was certainly a wake-up call for the Americans.

“It would tie in with what we see the Chinese trying to do, which appears to be to deter the Americans from interfering or operating in their backyard, particularly in relation to Taiwan.” And, it might be added within the entire region China has now declared as its own core national interest, the South China Sea.



In December of 2008, pirates were surprised to see elements of China’s Southern Fleet operating off the coast of Somalia. They weren’t the only ones to take notice. The PLA-N guided missile destroyer DDG -169 Wuhan[4] arrived with a UN mandate, 16 anti-ship and 48 surface-to-air missiles on board as well as a special forces assault team and two support ships. It was a clear signal; some might call it a shot across the bow, to the nations of the world that China intended to operate as a blue water navy. It was not lost on naval historians that it was on these very same waters that Admiral Zhueng He sailed the last Chinese military fleet in the 15th century.


The world had not seen much of the Chinese navy until recently, but that is changing very quickly. China now makes visits with its impressive missile destroyers on courtesy visits at many ports around the world. They seem particularly interested in impressing their neighbors who surround the South China Sea. Recently, in what was perhaps just an innocent coincidence of timing, there occurred in Brunei an event that could be viewed as an illustration of the current situation in South East Asia. The Brunei Times newspaper ran a pleasant little article quoting the departing American attaché. He expressed his family’s regrets upon the leaving of the nice people he they had met there in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Overshadowing that news was a large photograph and headlines, welcoming the guided missile destroyer Guangzhou that had just arrived at Maura Port. Striding down the guided missile destroyer’s gangway was none other than the Chief of Staff of China’s South Sea Fleet, Senior Colonel Zhang Wendan. If you ever wanted a boat to impress your neighbors, the Guangzhou is the one to do it. This 5,850 ton stealth technology hull destroyer uses conventional diesel power for normal cruise speed, but can kick into direct jet turbo shaft drive when she really wants her top speed of 30 knots. As a multirole ship, the Ghuangzhou, and her sister ship, Wuhan bristles with 16 YJ-83 anti-ship and 48 SA-N-12 Grizzly surface to air missiles. Then there are the 8 HN-2 land attack cruise missiles, 6 torpedo tubes, 2 anti-submarine mortars, a dual-purpose deck gun and two radar controlled Gatling guns that can pump out 5800 rounds per minute. Clearly America was greatly overshadowed by this event.


All this advancement in military hardware has been the direct result of intense long term planning and determination. In march of 2011, the head of the Chinese Communist Party and Chair of the Central Military Committee, Hu Jintao, admonished the PLA to “enhance the sense of opportunity, sense of urgency, and sense of historic mission. … Speed up military preparedness, resolutely safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security, and interests, and resolutely safeguard the current important period of strategic opportunity for China’s development.” This and other comments seem to come from the recognition that the United States is preoccupied elsewhere and its military expenditures are being curtailed. This at a time of significant economic growth in China as well as the ever increasing importation of scientific and military technology. It should also be noted that President Hu also emphasized the need for intense education and commitment to correct political thought, this at a time of increasing rehabilitation for Chairman Mao’s teachings.


[1] Aviation Week & Space Technology, Jan 6, 2011


[3] Daily Mail, Nov 10, 2007


Nov 112013

AIP Technology Creates a New Undersea Threat

Inhanced performance of small, defensive submarines, a serious new underwater threat is developing in littoral waters. Increasingly, smaller nations unwilling or unable to accept the high cost of nuclear power to achieve greater underwater endurance and longer range are turning to lower-priced and less ambitious alternatives that still offer significant operational advantages over conventional diesel-electric submarines.

The Russian KILO, can remain submerged on battery at slow speed for periods on the order of three to five days. But now, several AIP schemes in development or already in operation can increase slow-speed range considerably. As interest mounts in “Air-Independent Propulsion” (AIP) for enhancing the low-speed endurance to as much as three weeks or a month. While still dwarfed by the potential of nuclear power, AIP offers diesel submarines a remarkable increase in capability

The Russian submarine manufacturing company, Rubin, is developing an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system [which will be available as a retrofit to the conventional diesel-powered KILO class submarines].

Closed-cycle Diesel Engines
Typically, a closed-cycle diesel (CCD) instal ation incorporates a standard diesel engine that can be operated in its conventional mode on the surface or while snorkeling. Underwater, however, it runs on an artificial atmosphere synthesized from stored oxygen, an inert gas (generally argon), and recycled exhaust products. The engine exhaust – largely carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor – is cooled, scrubbed, and separated into its constituents, with the argon recycled back to the intake manifold. The remaining exhaust gas is mixed with seawater and discharged overboard. Generally, the required oxygen is stored in liquid form – LOX – in cryogenic tanks.

China has two Type 636 submarines, the second of which joined the Chinese fleet in January 1999.

In September 2007, it was announced that Indonesia had placed an order for two Kilo Type 636 submarines, plus options to purchase up to eight more.

In November 2007, Venezuela signed a memorandum of understanding for three Type 636 submarines to be delivered from 2012 to 2013.

Type 636 is designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface-ship warfare (ASuW) and also for general reconnaissance and patrol missions. The Type 636 submarine is considered to be to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world. It is said to be capable of detecting an enemy submarine at a range three to four times greater than it can be detected itself.

The submarine has a launcher for eight Strela-3 or Igla surface-to-air missiles. These missiles are manufactured by the Fakel Design Bureau, Kaliningrad. Strela-3 (NATO Designation SA-N-8 Gremlin) has a cooled infrared seeker and 2kg warhead. Maximum range is 6km.

The vessels can be fitted with the Novator Club-S (SS-N-27) cruise missile system which fires the 3M-54E1 anti-ship missile. Range is 220km with 450kg high-explosive warhead.


The submarine is equipped with six 533mm forward torpedo tubes situated in the nose of the submarine and carries 18 torpedoes with six in the torpedo tubes and 12 stored on the racks. Alternatively the torpedo tubes can deploy 24 mines.

Two torpedo tubes are designed for firing remote-controlled torpedoes with a very high accuracy. The computer-controlled torpedo system is provided with a quick-loading device. The first salvo is fired within two minutes and the second within five minutes.

As near as I can tell, at this point most of the above listed submarines are conventional diesel. Not that that is much of a handicap, since these subs are used primarily for littoral defense, not long range blue-water offense.

Since the USS Nautilus, nuclear subs have always held the public’s attention. However, it was two Russian Foxtrot class diesel subs which came frighteningly close to setting off nuclear devices during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first link below is about the Cuban incident. The second link has details about the Foxtrot class and, incredibly the third link invites you to visit a Foxtrot as a tourist attraction in the U.S.!

Dec 042012

“A Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel stealth unmanned aerial system spied on Osama bin Laden the night before the special operations unit raid that successfully killed bin Laden at his mansion compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, according to an initial report by the National Journal.

The U.S. Air Force has never released a photograph of the Sentinel, developed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, but it does acknowledge its existence, earning it the nickname the “Beast of Kandahar,” after the airfield it operates out of in Afghanistan…

Though its capabilities have never been formally outlined, the mission suggests the Sentinel is an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, whose multiple secretive missions might have consistently been related to bin Laden. The RQ UAV designation indicates that the system did not carry any weapons. The stealth body of the aircraft lead experts to speculate that the system was being used either over Iran or Pakistan, since the Afghanistan Taliban, according to a 2009 AFP news agency report, does not use radar systems….

UAS attacks more than tripled under the Obama administration and the leadership of Leon Panetta in the CIA, particularly along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border…”

[Excerpts from a UAV organization this writer belongs to:]

The RQ-170 Sentinel is reported to be operated by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada under the Air Combat Command, 432nd Wing, Creech AFB, Nevada. It is said to be a Lockheed Skunk Works project.

You may recall that the Have Blue/F-117 Skunk Works designed aircraft flew out of Tonapah. Reports have it that the RQ-170 has been operating out of Kandahar since 2007.

More informtion available at:

Nov 162013



Arms Race: a thing of the past? Perhaps if one drives a Volvo with a fading peace-symbol or is a federal budget planner very much under the gun.

Certainly many, this writer included, are not surprised to learn that China is rapidly advancing in the world of technology. After all, read the fine print under this or any other electronic device and you will no doubt find it arrived on a Slow Boat FROM China. What is surprising is the admission that our nation lacks the intelligence, not the bright people, to assess and meet the challenges of China’s growing military clout. The following brief excerpts from Aviation Week, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist, raises considerable concerns. One glance at these comments and you may agree, America does indeed have a race problem, an Arms Race problem.

“With the surprise rollout and high-speed taxi tests of China’s newest J-20 fighter, a stealth prototype, theU.S. Navy’s top intelligence official admits that the Pentagon has erred in its estimates of the speed with which Beijing is introducing new military technology  The aircraft’s existence was not a surprise to the intelligence community; but “one of the things that is. . . true is that we have been pretty consistent in underestimating the delivery and initial operational capability of Chinese technology weapons systems,” says Vice  Admiral David J. Dorsctt, deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance and director of naval intelligence. Two recent examples of misanalysis have been the J-20 fighter and the TF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (AIV&ST Jan. 3, p. 18). Moreover, there is evidence that China’s advances include high-performance engines and missiles that display a new level of technical maturity and performance.” (Aviation Week online)

BEIJING—China conducted the first test flight of its stealth fighter just hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sat down with President Hu Jintao here to mend frayed relations, undermining the meeting and prompting questions over whether China’s civilian leadership is fully in control of the increasingly powerful armed forces.

SYDNEY—U.K. Secretary for Defense Liam Fox emphasized Tuesday the importance of the next generation U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to counter China’s development of its own stealth jet, after Britain and Australia agreed to strengthen defense cooperation in Asia during talks in Sydney.

Tom Burbage, general manager of the F-35 program for Lockheed Martin Corp., said Beijing’s progress in developing the J-20 has created a “stronger sense of urgency” throughout the Asian-Pacific region about air-force modernization. He said Japan, South Korea and Singapore are now engaged in bilateral discussions with U.S. government officials over the F-35.

China insists that its growing military and diplomatic clout pose no threat. The rest of the world is not so sure.

But perhaps Shakespeare said it best:  “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your intelligence reports!”

Nov 142013

This put me to mind about something like 100 airmen lost during the early years of overflying China and the USSR, including the use of B-29s,RB-45s, B-50s, RB-36s, and, perhaps more famously, RB-47s. Check back again for more on this subject.
Shown here, RB-45

CIA film depicts a failed Cold War spy mission

By ROBERT BURNS AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON—Far from the glare of Hollywood lights, the CIA on Tuesday premiered a nonfiction film produced for the agency that recounts the mystique and the misery of a botched James Bond-like spy mission in China.The film, which combines documentary footage and actors re-enacting events, is the first such movie in the spy agency’s history, but relatively few people are likely to see it.

(to view link below, copy and paste in your browser)

Dec 042012

Iran recently released photos of equipment  they threaten can be used for swarm attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf. The concept of course is to overwhelm a ship’s defenses by sheer numbers. These first images illustrate craft utilizing ‘ground-effect’ technology. I question how much weight of weaponry they could carry, how stealthy to radar, and as one who has done a bit of boating, I wonder how these behave on rough water?

The concept of ‘wing-in-ground-effect’ (WIG) vehicles is certainly not new. There have been many concepts and attempts over the years. Here is an extreme example.  From 1987 into early 1990’s, the Russian navy operated the MD-160 Lun. Nearly as big as the Spruce Goose, it had eight turbojets, six missile launchers, and advanced radar tracking on the nose and tail. Two things to note of interest: it is skimming over smooth water, and those dates correspond to the fall of the Soviet Union.

And then there is this fleet of Iranian mini subs in the following illustration. Speed, range, guidance, and that pesky question of heavy munitions comes up again. Both types of equipment shown here are based out of the port of Bandar Abbas, strategically located just west of the Strait of Hormuz. Several interesting topics come to mind, which will be enumerated below. As an aside, if someone had told me when I was a young man that this is what I had to do to get 72 virgins, or even one for that matter, I might have just moved to West Hollywood.

Seeing these crew members at attention on these mini subs reminded me of a photo I had seen taken in Kure,  Japan soon after the surrender.

The common term then was midget subs, but the picture has a giant effect. All these midget subs stacked like cord wood, as well as thousands of aircraft, were being held back for a massive last-ditch suicide attack against the inevitable invasion ofJapan by thousands upon thousands of young American boys and men. The resulting carnage unleashed had Operation Downfall come to pass is beyond imagining.

A pre-invasion study estimated that conquering Japan would cost 1.7 to 4 million American casualties, including 400,000 to 800,000 fatalities.  Japan would suffer five to ten million Japanese fatalities.

Numbers too awful to contemplate, and unfortunately often forgotten. Certainly such statistics were not considered  by those arrested in 1995 at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for throwing ash and blood on the cockpit display of the Enola Gay.

Today, the Enola Gay and many other representative aircraft which have served to protect our rights to free self expression sit proudly in the Udvar-Hazy Center adjacent to Dulles Airport. A place well worth a visit.

Dec 042012

The 2011 Report to Congress regarding China’s capabilities seemed to present a Din Sum of unpalatable threats from which we alone must choose. Personally I have lost my appetite for being the host nation expected to pick up the tab for much of the free-world’s defense while others have grown flabby around the ammunition belt.

Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s Libyan military action, illustrated the weaknesses of nations grown militarily lax after generations of being tied to America’s apron strings and open purse. In a June 10th speech in Brussels, then Defense Secretary Gates warned that if European defense capabilities continued to decline, American leaders in the future, for whom the cold war was not a formative experience, may not consider NATO worth the investment. Perhaps we would do well to push our chair back from the table as a growing global family reaches physically and digitally across each other’s plate. A case in point is China.

Situated in a circle around the South China Sea are Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and very much at the head of the table, China. They are all reaching across each other’s maritime-law Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims to shipping on the surface, fish in the sea and oil under the sea floor. With increasing regularity, China appears to be slapping those other grasping hands as it attempts to impose what it believes to be its historical, “core” interest over the whole region. With multiple naval incursions dating back to 1974 when Vietnam was forced off the Paracel islands, other nations such as the Philippines and Japan have quite literally bumped into China’s growing naval might. To those nations feeling under immediate threat, the protection afforded by America must look farther and farther away over the Pacific horizon.

China has been quite public of late about its increasing sophistication both in physical military equipment and cyber warfare. Many question its effectiveness and desirability, such as the new aircraft carrier or the J-20 Stealth Fighter. Indeed, such boasting may be working against China’s own best interest. Her neighboring nations now appear to be in a rapidly growing arms race to counter the perceived threat, with such things as sophisticated submarines for Vietnam and long range airplane tankers for Singapore. Such growth of defensive strength by these and other nations gives the United States a Dim Sum of options for balancing China’s growing ambitions. It may well be that the economic diet our nation must go on will make other nations become more fit to participate in the keeping of freedom around the globe.

Charles Dusenbury