Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An AirSea Battle on the Potomac

It is clear from last month's commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that this disaster continues to impact the U.S. psyche and national strategy. "The next Pearl Harbor" has been a common theme in reports regarding 9/11.
One can assume the recently developed and classified AirSea Battle Concept has a similar vista. Addressing the "anti-access/area denial" environment, it purportedly discusses the growing influence of China and the importance of Asia to America's national interests. As the name states, air and sea power will be critical to the attainment of U.S. national interests.
While analogies to Pearl Harbor are understandable, they may be misleading on the challenges of tomorrow. A more appropriate lesson might be found in the Battle of Midway.
As the sun rose on June 4, 1942, the Imperial Navy of Japan was the most powerful navy ever to sail. By sunset, its eventual defeat was inevitable. Japan in 1942 possessed six world-class aircraft carriers and the finest naval aviators. Four carriers were lost on that day.
Lacking a robust industrial base, Japan would produce only seven additional fleet carriers by the end of the war (the U.S. more than 20). Rational or not, Japan started a war with a limited force structure and little ability to replenish loses.
Fast-forward to 2012. In a world of iPads, it is incredible, but the forces that will carry out the AirSea Battle construct reflect decisions made decades ago. Tomorrow's U.S. Air Force will possess a nominal force of bombers and a handful of sophisticated F-22s and F-35s. While highly capable, these fifth-generation fighters lack the range and payload necessary for conflicts in Asia. Friendly bases are few.
The airfields close enough for effective sortie generation rates with fifth-gen fighters will likewise be within range of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles. This environment requires hardened facilities and a robust missile-defense system. The former do not exist and the latter only in limited numbers.
While U.S. naval forces will benefit from their mobility, they too will face a Chinese anti-access threat projected to acquire and target surface combatants. With a deck of F/A-18s and F-35s, our carriers will be as range-challenged as our land-based fighters. Getting the carrier to the fight will require expensive escorts to defend against missile attacks. Combat operations would quickly become problematic once the defensive armaments are depleted.
Complicating this bleak outlook is the acquisition death spiral of increased cost/reduced numbers. As weapon systems progress through the acquisition cycle, they invariably fall behind schedule from unforeseen production issues. This drives up the cost, reducing the number of systems that can be purchased. The spiral continues with the war fighter receiving fewer platforms, later than needed, and costing significantly more than planned.
These two flaws could leave the U.S. in the same position that Japan found itself in 1943, weakened and unable to reconstitute a viable force. A small fighter force will generate few effective sorties (this assumes sufficient aerial tankers. Fighters in Asia are static displays without tankers). The loss of a Nimitz-class carrier would rival Pearl Harbor in loss of life and drive our surface naval forces out of harm's way. Like Imperial Japan, a Midway debacle would cripple U.S. power projection. And like Japan of 1943, America of 2012 cannot quickly reconstitute our current weapon systems.
With senior leaders stating there are no alternatives to weapon systems currently in development, it's apparent their predecessors organized a Pickett's Charge decades ago and left the charge to them. Resolving this mismatch between force structure and strategy will require a proper focus on the challenges of combat operations in the Pacific.
Specifically, in the short term:
■ Expand procurement of standoff missiles, such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range.
■ Regain our superiority in electronic warfare that was lost in our infatuation with stealth.
■ Purchase low-end attack aircraft and remotely piloted vehicles for noncontested environments.
■ Limit the F-35 buy to 200 to 400 aircraft.
For the long term:
■ Develop manned/unmanned long-range penetrating precision strike platforms (both land- and carrier-based).
■ Research and develop 21st century battleships capable of firing ballistic and cruise missiles from long range.
On June 3, 1942, the Imperial Navy of Japan was the uncontested master of the Pacific. On the following day, American ingenuity, guts and a degree of luck made Japan's eventual defeat inevitable. The future naval and air forces of the U.S. could face a similar tragedy, one in which the finest air and naval forces are rendered incapable of effective combat operations due to a 20-year process where we purchased what we wanted instead of what we needed.
Perhaps the most important contribution from an honest assessment of the AirSea Battle construct will be to own up to this unfortunate fact.
Chris Choate is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel now performing operational test and evaluation work with the service as a civilian employee. These views reflect those of the author and not the Air Force, Defense Department or U.S. government.

Cold War Treaty Puts U.S. in Corner Over China

The Cold War's most successful arms control agreement is imperiling U.S. forces and increasing the probability of a conflict in Asia.
The U.S.-Soviet Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty contributed to stability in Europe during the Cold War's final years by eliminating both nuclear and conventionally armed ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Now, however, the treaty is preventing the U.S. and Russia from responding to a growing threat from China, which has been expanding its missile force at an unparalleled rate. China now has at least hundreds of ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. By comparison, Russia and the U.S. have none.
The last time Americans worried about a "missile gap" - a phrase consigned to history along with the Soviet Union - Gerald Ford was U.S. president, Berlin was a divided city and Taiwan was a U.S. treaty ally. With the Cold War's end and the emergence of a unipolar era, Americans, it was supposed, no longer needed to worry about comparing numbers of tanks, bombers and missiles.
But while Washington and Moscow were busy eliminating entire classes of missiles and with good reason, on the other side of the Eurasian land mass Beijing was investing in missile technology. Today, missiles play a central role in Chinese military strategy. And so, 20 years after the Soviet Union's dissolution, the U.S. is once again facing a missile gap, and unlike the missile gaps of the Cold War, there is no question as to this one's existence.
Why does this matter? The U.S.-China missile gap (and the Sino-Russian one, as well) creates strategic instability in a way that the perceived Cold War missile gaps never did. With its ground-based missiles, China can target U.S. and allied bases in the Asia-Pacific as far away as Guam, including key U.S. facilities in South Korea and Japan.
With its new anti-ship ballistic missile, also ground-launched, the People's Liberation Army will likewise be able to attack U.S. aircraft carriers and other capital ships at sea.
Because the U.S. cannot field intermediate-range missiles, it could not respond in kind to a missile strike on regional assets. Instead, it would have two options. It could rely on tactical fighters to carry out retaliatory strikes. Or, it could rely on longer-range options such as bombers or prompt global strike munitions (basically, conventionally armed intercontinental-range missiles).
Given Russia's lack of intermediate-range missiles, it would have similar options in responding to a Chinese missile attack.
The first option is highly escalatory because it involves an infringement of Chinese territorial integrity by a presumably large fighter force. It puts a higher number of American lives at risk and would engage a wider array of Chinese forces than a simpler tit-for-tat retaliatory missile strike. And reliance on tactical aircraft to respond to Chinese missile strikes could be problematic because those strikes might well have rendered U.S. airbases and aircraft carriers unusable, or worse.
Option two is potentially even more escalatory. Bombers and long-range missiles, after all, look an awful lot like nuclear delivery vehicles. China might very well be incapable of determining with what an incoming bomber or missile was armed. It is an open question whether Beijing would wait to find out before deciding how to respond.
Fortunately, the solution to this conundrum is quite clear. First, Washington and Moscow should invite Beijing (as well as other Asian states) to accede to the INF Treaty, or some updated version of it. If the Chinese decline the invitation, Russia and the U.S. should agree to abrogate the treaty while also agreeing to keep Europe free of those weapons, where a missile buildup would needlessly destabilize a largely stable region.
The U.S. military, and the Russian military if it desires, should then begin a spirited buildup of its own ground-based intermediate-range missile force in Asia.
Although counterintuitive, this would contribute to strategic stability. By developing more options for proportional responses to a Chinese military strike, the U.S. military would make escalation management an easier task, thus making vertical escalation much less likely. Such a move would also give Beijing incentive to sign up to a new INF treaty, as the value of its own missiles would be greatly diminished by a balanced U.S. missile force.
If other Asian states begin fielding theater-range ballistic missiles in large numbers as well - a likely scenario given their affordability and obvious merits - the need for a regionwide INF treaty would become apparent even to the Chinese.
But unless and until the U.S. narrows its missile gap with China, stability in Asia will continue to erode.
Michael Mazza is senior research associate, Foreign & Defense Policy Studies, at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

DoD OKs Army's $5.7B Aircraft Survivability Effort

The Pentagon has signed off on the U.S. Army's plan to spend $5.7 billion on anti-missile defenses for helicopters.
THE PENTAGON HAS signed off on a $5.7 billion anti-missile defense plan for helicopters like this CH-47. (Sgt. Dennis W. Jackson / U.S. Army)
In a Dec. 28 memo, acting Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall gave the service permission to begin the technology development phase for the Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) program.
Infrared countermeasures are used to confuse incoming missiles' guidance systems and thereby protect aircraft from being hit.
Attached to Kendall's memo was a cost chart for the CIRCM program produced by the Defense Department's Cost Assessment Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, a group within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that provides independent cost estimates and advice for DoD decision-makers.
According to the chart, the total acquisition cost for the program is $5.7 billion. That includes $815 million for research and development, $3.3 billion for procurement and $1.6 billion in operation and support costs.
Kendall says the Army is to keep funding for the program under $225 million per year. Procurement of the systems does not begin to ramp up until 2017, according to the CAPE chart.
CAPE has estimated an average unit procurement cost for the system of $2.5 million.
Kendall's memo indicates that he has also approved the criteria that will be used to determine whether the program has successfully completed its development phase.
There are several companies competing for the technology development part of the program, including Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, ITT, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
CIRCM is intended as an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM), which was canceled and restructured after the Pentagon and Army officials determined the ATIRCM system to be too heavy for any helicopter other than the CH-47 Chinook.
After this discovery, the Pentagon and Army decided to reduce the ATIRCM buy, causing a breach of the Nunn-McCurdy statute, which requires the Pentagon to notify Congress when major defense programs experience substantial cost growth.
The Army declared a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach for ATIRCM in March 2010.
However, the Army was given permission to buy 83 ATIRCM systems to respond to an urgent request for CH-47s flying in Afghanistan.

Greece, Israel Pledge to Boost Defense Ties

ATHENS - Greece and Israel pledged to boost defense cooperation with a view to improving regional stability, their defense ministers told reporters Jan. 10.
GREEK DEFENCE MINISTER Dimitris Avramopoulos, right, and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak review a military honour guard during a welcoming ceremony in Athens on Jan. 10. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
"We are committed to work together to deepen our relations in defense and security," said Israel's Ehud Barak. "We have to be prepared for many kinds of developments. ... We must think ahead of time and work together."
Traditionally pro-Arab Greece, which did not officially recognize Israel until 1991, has stepped up efforts to attract investment and expertise to shore up its debt-struck economy.
The two countries are trying to "make up for lost time", Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said, asserting Greece's "commitment to deepening the alliance with Israel ... in the name of friendship, peace and stability for all the peoples of the region".
Barak's two-day visit is the fourth by a senior Israeli official in 17 months. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited in August 2010, followed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in January 2011 and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in November, when Israel hosted a joint exercise with the Greek air force.
He said their cooperation was "honest and sincere (and) not directed against anyone", in a reference to Turkey, formerly a staunch ally of Israel but now on deteriorating terms with the Jewish state.
"To the contrary, this cooperation can create new sources of wealth for the entire region," Avramopoulos said at a time when Greece, lumbered with a severe debt crisis, hopes for economic benefits from closer ties with Israel.
Athens is keenly interested in Israel's economic rapprochement with traditional Greek ally Cyprus to develop undersea gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
Pro-Palestinian Greek activists meanwhile have denounced Barak's visit, with a rights group calling him a "war criminal", and were set to stage a protest in central Athens later in the day.
Last July, Greece banned a flotilla of ships headed for Gaza from leaving its ports on a mission to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory.
An Israeli raid last year on another Gaza-bound aid flotilla left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead, all of them Turks or of Turkish origin, and precipitated a diplomatic crisis with Greece's regional rival Turkey.

S. Africa, Cuba Formalize Defense Cooperation

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa and Cuba signed a memorandum Jan. 10 to put a stamp on the cooperation between the two country's armies, a spokesman said.
Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu signed the memorandum of understanding with Ulises Rosales del Toro, the vice-president of Cuba's council of ministers, according to defense ministry spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini.
"We're cementing that South Africa-Cuban defense cooperation," Dlamini told AFP.
The two countries have already worked together in the past, but the agreement formalizes exchanges in the air force, veterans, military health and education, training and development.
"They're bringing their instructors. The main target is military health," said Dlamini. "The memorandum gives a framework on operations, but the details are left to the officials."
"We are looking to introduce Cuba to our defense industry," he said, adding that South Africa could also share its experiences in peace-keeping with Cuba.
The island state supported South Africa's ruling African National Congress during its struggle against apartheid. It opposed the apartheid regime and sent some 50,000 troops to Angola who fought South African apartheid forces until their withdrawal in the late 1980s.
The two countries established diplomatic relations at the fall of white-minority rule in 1994. They set up a joint bilateral commission in February 2001 and have since cooperated in a number of projects including sending South African medical students to study in Cuba. Cuban doctors and teachers have also come to work in South Africa.
A 2004-agreement between South Africa and Cuba resulted in the deployment of 101 Cuban doctors to Mali, with financial backing from South Africa. In 2008 South Africa forgave Cuba's debt of 926.8-million-rand ($117million, 73 million euro).

U.S. Ship Rescues Six More Iranians: Pentagon

WASHINGTON - A U.S. ship rescued six Iranian mariners in the Gulf after their boat broke down Jan. 10, the Pentagon said, in the latest such gesture despite soaring tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The Iranian crew used flares to seek help from the passing U.S. ship after flooding in the engine room left their dhow unseaworthy before sunrise some 50 nautical miles southeast of the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, U.S. officials said.
The Coast Guard cutter, the Monomoy, gave the Iranians water, blankets and meals made in accordance with Islamic law and provided medical care for one of the mariners who had suffered non-serious injuries, officials said.
A U.S. military statement said that Hakim Hamid-Awi, the owner of the Iranian dhow named the Ya-Hassan, was thankful.
"Without your help, we were dead. Thank you for all that you did for us," the U.S. statement quoted him as saying.
In the afternoon, U.S. forces transferred the six mariners on inflatable boats to an Iranian Coast Guard vessel, the Naji 7, the statement said. The captain of the Naji 7 also offered his regards to his U.S. counterparts and "thanks us for our cooperation," according to the U.S. statement.
The United States says that its forces routinely rescue sailors in distress regardless of nationality but officials have been eager to highlight efforts to assist Iranians amid Tehran's threats to close the crucial Strait of Hormuz.
Last week, the U.S. Navy rescued 13 Iranians held by pirates. Iran welcomed the gesture, even though it earlier had warned the ships to stay away.
That rescue was carried out by one of several warships escorting the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, which the Iranian military had warned to stay out of Gulf waters or face the "full force" or Tehran's navy.
The Coast Guard cutter the Monomoy, which carried out the latest rescue, is in the Gulf to assist maritime security, according to the Pentagon.
Iran's threat - which analysts say it may not be able to carry out - came as the United States expanded sanctions against the Islamic regime and the European Union considers a total ban on oil exports from Tehran.
Western powers have been seeking to increase pressure on Iran due to fears it is developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its uranium enrichment is solely for peaceful purposes.

Indian Military Delegation Begins China Visit

NEW DELHI - An Indian military delegation arrived Jan. 9 in Beijing for a four-day visit, although the group was reduced from the proposed 30 members to 15 after China refused a visa to a senior Indian Air Force official, Indian Defence Ministry sources said.
The visit is part of a defense exchange program. Military-to-military exchanges were restored between the two countries last year after a one-year suspension when Beijing refused to provide a visa to an Indian military officer.
The delegation includes officers from the three defense forces and will visit the General Staff headquarters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and meet the PLA's deputy chief, Gen. Ma Xiaotian, an Indian Defence Ministry official said. The Indian delegation is headed by Air Vice-Marshal P.S. Mann.
Analysts here do not read much into the exchanges because the two countries are preparing militarily against each other.
"India cannot afford to be complacent with its military preparedness vis-a-vis China as the [Chinese] threat has increased more than ever," said Mahindra Singh, retired Indian Army major general and New Delhi-based defense analyst.
The two neighbors fought a brief battle over a territorial despite in 1962, and despite dozens of rounds of negotiations, the dispute remains unresolved.

N. Korea Military Pledges Support for New Leader

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's powerful military has held a mass rally to pledge loyalty to the country's new chief Kim Jong Un, vowing to become "rifles and bombs" to protect him, official media said Jan. 10.
NEW NORTH KOREAN leader Kim Jong Un, center front, poses for photos with North Korean soldiers on Jan. 1. The North's military generals have pledged to support the untested leader. (KCNA via AFP)
The North also announced a rare amnesty for prisoners as the untested, young leader tries to build support.
Service members promised to "become rifles and bombs to serve as Kim Jong Un first-line lifeguards and Kim Jong Un first-line death-defying corps", the official KCNA news agency said.
The regime moved quickly to proclaim Kim, aged in his late 20s, as its new chief after the sudden death of his father and supreme leader Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17.
Kim Jong Il had appointed the son, who is ranked a general but has no known active military experience, as supreme commander of the 1.2 million-strong military.
On Jan. 8, state media showed Kim Jong Un driving a tank and giving orders to artillery, navy and air force units in an apparent attempt to bolster his credentials with the world's fourth-largest armed forces.
KCNA said armed forces chief Ri Yong Ho read the pledge of loyalty to Kim at the Jan. 9 rally in Pyongyang of the three branches of the military, which ended with a march past.
The message pledged to "wipe out the enemies to the last one if they intrude into the inviolable sky, land and seas of the country even 0.001 mm", it said.
The rally paid tribute to the "unswerving Songun will" of the new leader, a reference to an army-first policy which prioritizes their welfare over civilians in a country hit by severe food shortages.
The North separately announced an amnesty for prisoners to mark the upcoming birth anniversaries of its late leaders.
KCNA said the amnesty - the first since 2005, according to South Korea's unification ministry - would apply to "convicts" but did not give numbers or elaborate on who would benefit.
Rights groups say more than 200,000 men, women and children are held in prisons and labor camps, mostly for political and not criminal reasons.
The 70th anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong Il is on Feb. 16. The 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim's father and founding president Kim Il Sung falls on April 15.
The news agency said the decision embodies "the "noble, benevolent and all-embracing politics" of the late Kims.
The regime has vowed not to change course under its new leader and has kept up a stream of hostile commentary on South Korea.
Main newspaper Rodong Sinmun took aim Jan. 10 at a decision by the South and its U.S. ally to sign a joint plan on responding to any North Korean attacks.
An editorial described the joint plan and scheduled exercises related to it as "a conspiracy aimed at eventually triggering a war to invade the (North) with the help of a foreign power."
"The traitor Lee Myung Bak is at the forefront of fanning the madness for war," it said of the South's president.

Navistar Receives $880 Million MRAP Order

The Department of Defense announced Jan. 9 it had placed an order with Navistar Defense for chassis and other services valued at nearly $880 million.
The order, part of a previously awarded Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles contract, is expected to be completed by Oct. 2013. It specifies the delivery of 2,717 rolling chassis, 10 engineering change proposals, and 25 contract data requirements lists.
Navistar saw its net income climb from $223 million in 2010, to $1.7 billion in 2011.
The contract is being managed by Marine Corps Systems Command.

Military Sealift Command Reorganizes Operations

The Military Sealift Command (MSC) announced Jan. 9 a reorganization of its operating forces in a move to increase efficiency.
THE SUBMARINE TENDERS Emory S. Land (AS 39) and Frank Cable (AS 40), seen together last month in Guam, are now part of MSC's Service Support program. MSC also oversees harbor tugboat operations (MC2 Elizabeth Fray / U.S. Navy)
"We are proactively streamlining," Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, MSC's commander, said in a statement.
MSC operates virtually all the U.S. Navy's support and auxiliary ships, crewing them with civilian mariners working for the government or civilian contract crews. The 110 ships operated by the command provide fleet services, take on special missions and carry and store military equipment.
Under the reorganization, the ships will operate under five mission programs, including a new Service Support program. Continuing in operation are the Combat Logistics Force (CLF), Special Mission, Prepositioning and Sealift programs.
The former Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force (NFAF) is no more, its ships operating now under the CLF or Service Support programs.
Also, MSC's 12 worldwide Ship Support Units, which previously reported to the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command in Norfolk, Va., now report to MSC's operational area commands: MSC Atlantic in Norfolk; MSC Pacific in San Diego; MSC Europe and Africa in Naples, Italy; MSC Central in Bahrain; and MSC Far East in Singapore.
Three of MSC's six civilian Senior Executive Service (SES) officials are being "repositioned," according to a press release. One SES will oversee MSC's government-operated ships, another will be in charge of contract-operated ships, and another will oversee total force manpower management.
The new Service Support program includes 14 government-operated ships, including the submarine tenders Emory S. Land and Frank Cable, command ship Mount Whitney and the cable laying ship Zeus, all formerly operated by the Special Mission program. Ten more ships previously operated by the NFAF operate now under the Service Support program, including the hospital ships Mercy and Comfort - designated T-AH - T-ATF fleet ocean tugs and T-ARS rescue and salvage ships.
The Combat Logistics Force, previously a subset of the NFAF, comprises 32 government-operated fleet underway replenishment ships, including T-AKE dry cargo/ammunition ships, T-AOE fast combat support ships, T-AO fleet replenishment oilers and T-AE ammunition ships.
The Special Mission program maintains 24 contract-operated ships, including 8 chartered submarine- and special warfare-support ships; 6 T-AGS oceanographic survey ships; 5 T-AGOS ocean surveillance ships; 2 T-AGM missile range instrumentation ships; the navigation test support ship Waters; and the SBX-1 Sea-based X-Band Radar platform with its towing vessel Dove. The program also manages harbor tug contracts on behalf of the Navy's Installations Command.
The prepositioning program maintains 31 large ships positioned worldwide to store military equipment for the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy, and the Defense Logistics Agency. Prepositioning ships are a mix of government-owned and chartered ships. The program also includes the high-speed vessels Swift and WestPac Express, the Marine aviation support ships Curtiss and Wright, and the offshore petroleum distribution system ship Vice Adm. K. R. Wheeler.
The 16 ships of the Sealift program are also a mix of government-owned and long-term charter vessels, including large roll on/roll off ships, dry cargo ships, and tankers. The Ready Reserve Force, a group of 48 support ships maintained in various states of readiness, is also part of the Sealift program