Archive for ‘high seas’

12/07/2017

China sends troops to open first overseas military base in Djibouti | Reuters

Ships carrying personnel for China’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have set sail to begin setting up the facility, as China’s rapidly modernizing military extends its global reach.

Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stand on a ship sailing off from a military port in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, July 11, 2017.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

China began construction of a logistics base in Djibouti last year. It will be used to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

It will be China’s first overseas naval base, though Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

State news agency Xinhua said late on Tuesday the ships had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China “to set up a support base in Djibouti”.

Navy commander Shen Jinlong “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti”, but the news agency did not say when the base would begin operations.

Xinhua said the establishment of the base was a decision made by the two countries after “friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides”.

The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” it said.

“The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways,” Xinhua said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing the base would enable China to make “new and greater contributions” to peace in Africa and the world and would benefit Djibouti’s economic development.

Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts U.S., Japanese and French bases.

‘NOT MILITARY EXPANSIONISM’

The People’s Liberation Army Daily said in a front-page commentary the facility was a landmark that would increase China’s ability to ensure global peace, especially because it had so many U.N. peacekeepers in Africa and was so involved in anti-piracy patrols.China would not seek military expansionism or get into arms races no matter what happened, the newspaper said.

“These promises will not change because of the construction of the overseas logistics base,” it said.

The state-run Global Times said in an editorial there could be no mistake that this was in fact a military base.

“Certainly this is the People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas base and we will base troops there. It’s not a commercial resupply point. It makes sense there is attention on this from foreign public opinion,” said the paper, which is published by the official People’s Daily.

China’s military development was about protecting its own security, it said.

“It’s not about seeking to control the world.”

There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this.

Source: China sends troops to open first overseas military base in Djibouti | Reuters

23/01/2017

China’s first aircraft-carrier bares its teeth | The Economist

FOR Admiral Wu Shengli, the commander of China’s navy since 2006, it must have been a sweet swansong to mark his imminent retirement. In November China announced that its first and only aircraft-carrier, the Liaoning, was combat ready.

On December 24th its navy duly dispatched an impressive-looking carrier battle-group with three escorting destroyers, a couple of frigates, a corvette and a refuelling ship. It sailed from the northern port of Qingdao down through the Miyako Strait, past Taiwan and into the South China Sea.

Three weeks later the Liaoning (pictured) was back in port having sailed home via the Taiwan Strait, thus completing a loop around the island. The point was not lost on the Taiwanese, who scrambled fighter jets and sent naval ships to monitor the group’s progress. The Chinese ships showed off their firepower, with Shenyang J-15 fighters staging a series of take-off and landing drills. That everything went smoothly was evidence of the navy’s transformation under Admiral Wu (his career perhaps destined by his forename, which means victory). He had meticulously prepared for this moment, which came just four years after the carrier, acquired as a partially built hulk from Ukraine in 1998, formally entered naval service.

China’s deployment of an aircraft-carrier is not a military game-changer. But it is a conspicuous symbol of the country’s ambitions as a maritime and global power. The Liaoning has been a crucial building block for the navy in its evolution from a coastal defence force into what is now a modern navy that China uses to assert its (contested) maritime claims in the East and South China Seas. Within the next 25 years China expects its navy to become a powerful blue-water fleet that can guard China’s sea lanes of communication against any aggressor, push the US Navy beyond the “second island chain” far out into the Pacific (see map) and protect the country’s far-flung commercial interests.

Scary, perhaps, but also easy to sink

To that end, probably around 2004, China made up its mind that it must have aircraft-carriers. A second, indigenously designed one, based on the Liaoning but with the latest radar and space for more aircraft, is nearing completion at the northern port of Dalian. Many analysts believe that a third such vessel, larger and more complex, is under construction in Shanghai. Andrew Erickson of the US Naval War College says Admiral Wu adopted a “crawl, walk, run” approach to developing a carrier capability, recognising the difficulties involved. Carrier operations are inherently dangerous—America lost 8,500 aircrew in the 40 years to 1988 on its way to reaching what Mr Erickson calls its current “gold standard” of carrier expertise.

 

Commissioning the Liaoning was a good way to start. Much modified and fettled by the Chinese, the ship is based on the Soviet Kuznetsov-class design. It is big, with a displacement of about 60,000 tons, but nowhere near the size of America’s super-carriers such as the USS Ronald Reagan, which is based in Japan. That Nimitz-class ship displaces around 100,000 tons.

In other ways, too, the Liaoning pales in comparison with America’s 10 Nimitz-class carriers. They can carry more than 55 fixed-wing aircraft. The Liaoning can only handle 24 J-15s (based on the Russian Sukhoi SU-33) and a handful of helicopters. Unlike the American carriers, it lacks a catapult to propel aircraft from its deck. Instead it relies on a “ski-jump” prow to provide extra lift. As a result, the J-15s have to carry a lighter load of weapons and fuel. Heavier, slower airborne early-warning and anti-submarine aircraft cannot take off from the Liaoning at all. That limits the type of missions the ship can perform and makes the vessel vulnerable when operating beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. The Liaoning also depends on a notoriously unreliable Soviet-era design for its steam turbines, which cuts its range and speed compared with the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers.

The US Office of Naval Intelligence has dismissed the Liaoning’s ability to project naval power over a long distance. But the ship does have military value. It can provide air-protection for China’s fleet, and would be a major asset in disaster-relief or evacuation missions. Peter Singer of the New America Foundation, a think-tank, says that a Liaoning-led battle group would also seem pretty formidable to neighbours, such as Vietnam or the Philippines, should China feel like bullying them.

But the main value of the Liaoning is the experience that it is giving the navy in the complex choreography of carrier operations. Those skills will help in the eventual deployment of indigenously designed carriers. The Chinese have been training with catapult-launch systems on land. This has fuelled speculation that the carrier thought

Source: China’s first aircraft-carrier bares its teeth | The Economist

21/12/2016

China seizes an underwater drone and sends a signal to Donald Trump | The Economist

IT WAS an operation carried out with remarkable cool. On December 15th, less than 500 metres away from an American navy ship, a Chinese one deployed a smaller boat to grab an underwater American drone. The object was then taken to the Chinese ship, which sailed off with it. Point deftly made.

The incident occurred in the South China Sea, in which China says the Americans have no business snooping around. By seizing the drone, it has made clear that two can play at being annoying. Mercifully no shots were fired. After remonstrations by the Americans, China agreed to give the drone back “in an appropriate manner”. It chose its moment five days later, handing the device over in the same area where it had snatched it. The Pentagon, though clearly irritated, has downplayed the drone’s importance, saying it cost (a mere) $150,000 and that most of its technology was commercially available. The drone was reportedly carrying out tests of the water’s properties, including salinity and temperature.

But it may turn into less of a game. Relations between the two nuclear powers, never easy at the best of times, are under extra strain as Donald Trump prepares to take over as president on January 20th. Mr Trump has already angered China by talking on the phone to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and challenging China’s cherished “one-China” policy, crucial to which is the idea that Taiwan is part of it.

The capture of the drone took place on the outer perimeter of China’s expansive claim to the sea, about 50 miles (80km) from the Philippine port of Subic Bay, which was once home to a large American naval base (see map).

It appeared calculated to show China’s naval reach, with only minimal risk of any conflict—the American ship that was operating the drone, the Bowditch, is a not a combat vessel. Once in office, however, Mr Trump could face tougher challenges, exacerbated by China’s growing presence in the South China Sea: it appears to be installing weapons on islands it has been building there.

His two predecessors were each tested by a dangerous military standoff with China in their first months in office. With George Bush it involved a mid-air collision in April 2001 between an American spy-plane and a Chinese fighter-jet off China’s southern coast. The Chinese pilot was killed and the disabled American plane made an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield. There the crew of 24 was released after 11 days of painstaking diplomacy. The aircraft, full of advanced technology, was returned—in pieces—months later.

In March 2009 it was Barack Obama’s turn. According to the Pentagon, an American surveillance ship, the Impeccable, was sailing 75 miles from China’s coast when it was buzzed by Chinese aircraft and then confronted by five Chinese ships. First the Chinese forced it to make an emergency stop, then they scattered debris in front of the American ship as it tried to sail away. They also attempted to snatch sonar equipment it was towing. The Impeccable soon returned—this time in the reassuring company of an American destroyer.

For now, feuding between Mr Trump and China is less nail-biting. In Twitter messages, Mr Trump bashed China for taking the drone and later said China should keep it. Chinese media have in turn bashed Mr Trump. One newspaper said he had “no sense of how to lead a superpower”. Global Times, a nationalist newspaper in Beijing, said that China would “not exercise restraint” should Mr Trump fail to change his ways once in the White House. He would be wise to study the form.

Source: China seizes an underwater drone and sends a signal to Donald Trump | The Economist

18/12/2016

China to return seized US underwater drone, Pentagon says – BBC News

The Pentagon says it has “secured an understanding” with China that it will return an underwater drone seized in the South China Sea.China captured the US vessel in international waters on Thursday. It has not explained why and accused the US of “hyping-up” the incident.US President-elect Donald Trump accused the Chinese of “stealing”.

“We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back – let them keep it!” he tweeted.

The incident is among the most serious military confrontations between the two powers for decades.

The Pentagon said the drone, known as an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), was being used to carry out scientific research at the time it was captured and demanded its immediate return. It warned China not to repeat such a move in the future.

But a spokesman said later on Saturday that an agreement had been reached.”Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

The Chinese defence ministry said the vessel would be returned in an “appropriate manner”. It is not clear when this might happen.

It criticised the earlier US response, calling it “inappropriate and unhelpful”.

Source: China to return seized US underwater drone, Pentagon says – BBC News

29/07/2016

Why India Is Spending $1 Billion on Boeing Jets – The Short Answer – WSJ

India is beefing up its maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare capabilities with an order for four Boeing Co.-made P-8I aircraft.

The order is the latest evidence of booming defense ties between India and the U.S. The South Asian nation’s arms imports from the U.S. in the five years through 2015 were 11 times the amount in the previous five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

India imported 14% of its weapons from the U.S. in the same period, although its longstanding supplier Russia continued to dominate its defense market with a 70% share, according to the think tank.

India spent how much?

India will pay about $1 billion for the four P-8I planes. That is about half the amount the country spent in 2009 for eight of the aircraft. That order had an option for India to acquire four more jets at the 2009 price, something it is exercising now.

What can the planes do?

The P-8I—a military variant of Boeing 737-800 commercial jetliner—is fitted with state-of-the-art sensors and radars for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, and to snoop on submarines. It can also be fitted with the Harpoon all-weather anti-ship missiles made by Boeing.

The aircraft–a variant of the U.S. navy’s P-8A Poseidon plane–can also be used for anti-piracy and other intelligence operations. It was deployed in 2014 when India joined the multinational search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It is currently being used in the search for an Indian air force AN-32 aircraft that went missing on Friday over the Bay of Bengal.

Why does India want the jets?

The latest acquisition of the P-8I is a milestone in India’s strategy to replace its aging equipment, much of which was bought from Russia during the Soviet era. The twin-engine jet has a range of about 2,222 kilometers, or more than 1,200 nautical miles, which allows the Indian navy to monitor the country’s vast coastline.

Has this got anything to do with China?

India’s expansion of the P-8I fleet comes as China increases its naval presence in the Indian Ocean, alarming New Delhi.

In recent years, China has been improving its submarine power with a nuclear-powered sub travelling all the way to the Persian Gulf via Sri Lanka. China and India are also locked in a long-running land-border dispute.

The new planes will bolster India’s capabilities to keep an eye on movement on Chinese warships and submarines in the region.

What else is on the shopping list?

India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has promised to upgrade the country’s military capabilities. But a long-delayed deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation S.A. of France is still being negotiated–more than a year after it was announced.

India also has plans to buy howitzers, warships, submarines, as well as to acquire fighter jets.

Source: Why India Is Spending $1 Billion on Boeing Jets – The Short Answer – WSJ

16/06/2016

U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

From the waters of the Philippine Sea this week emerged a partial outline of Washington’s vision for a new Asian maritime-security order that unites democratic powers to contend with a more-assertive and well-armed China.

A U.S. Navy aircraft-carrier strike group along with warships from India and Japan jointly practiced anti-submarine warfare and air-defense and search-and-rescue drills in one of the largest and most complex exercises held by the three countries.

The maneuvers were being tracked by a Chinese surveillance vessel, a U.S. Navy officer aboard the carrier USS John C. Stennis said on Wednesday. Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing hoped the training “will be conducive to regional peace, security and stability.

”Washington and Tokyo have long cooperated closely on defense. And the U.S. has been working to deepen strategic ties with India and to encourage New Delhi to play a more active role, not just in the Indian Ocean but also in the Pacific, as China’s rise shifts the regional balance of power.

Americans are looking for those who can share the burden,” said C. Raja Mohan, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India center. A strengthened three-way partnership among the U.S., Japan and India is “an important strategic shift.”

Source: U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

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