Thursday, January 19, 2017

Taiwan Navy's antique sub the main attraction at press open day 

Joseph Yeh, The China Post
19 January 2017 

TAIPEI, Taiwan-- The R.O.C. Navy on Wednesday treated local media to a rare tour of the interior of the one of nation's World War II-era submarines, as it staged a pre-Lunar New Year drill at Zuoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung.
The press was shown the fruits of the Navy's efforts to keep the U.S.-built Guppy-class Hai Pao or Seal, in seaworthy condition.
The submarine is one of two Guppy-class submarines Taiwan has in active service. 
Hai Pao was built by the U.S. in WWII, and modernized to Guppy II class in 1949 before being transferred to Taiwan in the early 1970s. 
Although no longer combat-ready, the submarine still plays a vital role as a training ship for the Navy's rookie submariners. 
The Navy also has two Dutch submarines built in the 1980s.
Taiwan has been asking the U.S. to sell diesel-powered submarines for more than a decade in the hope of replacing the Dutch subs. 
In 2001, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush offered to provide eight diesel-electric submarines. However, so far, no significant progress has been made on the purchase of the vessels.
In the interim, the R.O.C. military launched a program to build an indigenous submarine, with the Navy saying the construction of the first locally-built vessel could be completed by 2024.
Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan reiterated Taiwan military's stance Friday that the circumnavigation earlier this month of Taiwan island by the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning "starkly demonstrates the importance of continuing with the indigenous submarine program."
Meanwhile, the Navy also staged an assault landing exercise, during which AAV7 amphibious assault vehicles and Newport-class tank landing ship Chung Ping skippered by Captain Yu Yi-lien, the Navy's first female captain — were deployed to test Navy's combat readiness.
The drill, an annual event opened to media, was held ahead of six-day Lunar New Year holiday, set to run from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1.
The army and the air force held similar drills a day earlier to demonstrate their combat readiness. 

US Pacific commander admits US-India jointly tracking Chinese submarines   

Ajai Shukla, Business Standard
19 January 2017

Admiral Harry Harris, the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) chief, admits “there is probably nothing that could prevent China from sailing an aircraft carrier into the Indian Ocean today”.
The four-star admiral who, from his headquarters in Hawaii, heads the military component of America’s “rebalance to Asia”, dismisses China’s lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as far less capable than an American carrier. He says even the Indian Navy, which operates INS Vikramaditya, is more capable and experienced than the Chinese at carrier deck aviation.
Yet, China’s growing strength and aggression are clearly driving the US and Indian navies together.
A key indicator is Harris’ admission --- the first time ever --- that the two navies are jointly tracking Chinese naval movements in the Indian Ocean. To build up Indian capability to track submarines, Washington had cleared the sale of Boeing P-8I Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft --- the world’s most fearsome submarine hunters.
“We work closely with India to improve India’s capability to do that kind of surveillance… I don’t want to say too much, but there is sharing of information regarding Chinese maritime movements in the Indian Ocean”, admits Harris, who refers to Chinese submarines in these waters as “clearly an issue”.
Anti-submarine operations are extensively practiced in the Malabar trilateral exercise, which the US, Indian and Japanese navies conduct every year. “That helps us hone our ability to do that physical tracking of submarines and ships and the likes”, explains Harris.
The American admiral says that India’s non-signature of a communications security agreement called COMCASA (Communications Compatibility And Security Agreement) is hampering joint surveillance of Chinese vessels. One of three pacts that Washington terms “foundational agreements” for defence cooperation, India’s signing of COMCASA would open the doors for Washington to transfer high-security communications equipment to the Indian military.
“For example with the P-8 aircraft, we’ll be able to do more interoperable activities. The P8 is the world’s most capable anti-submarine platform. India has the P8I, we have the P8A, but they’re not interoperable because they have different communications systems. In order to maximize the potential of these airplanes in the Indian Ocean against [Chinese] submarines, we need to move this agreement forward so that we can have communications interoperability and make it actually happen”, explained Harris.
In New Delhi to speak at the annual Raisina Dialogue, Harris was interacting with a small group of journalists.
Last year, the two countries signed a logistics agreement, called LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) that allows both militaries to access each other’s facilities, with accounts to be settled later. Now COMCASA is being negotiated between Washington and New Delhi; as is a third agreement called BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation), which facilitates mapping.
Hinting that long-running COMCASA negotiations could be nearing closure, Harris predicted: “I think COMCASA is likely to come first. I’m not giving a timeline… but [COMCASA] deals with interoperability and stuff that we really need.”
Harris downplayed concerns about whether the incoming Donald Trump administration might be less focused on US-India defence ties. He said: “In my meetings [last week] with the President elect teams, both in the OSD (office of secretary of defense) and the national security council… [they] underscored the seriousness with which they view India’s relationship with the US.”
Harris believes Trump is unlikely to tamper with the rebalance to Asia, beyond a token change of name. “I don’t
know if we’re going to change the name but the military component of the rebalance…that has already happened.
He said: “Sixty per cent of the US Navy is already in the Pacific now, and sixty per cent of US Air Force striking power is here. The army has increased the number of soldiers, and PACOM has already raised the rank of its senior army commander from three-star to a four-star general.”
Harris, ethnically a Japanese American and the first Asian American to become admiral, is particularly disliked by Beijing for his forthright confrontation of China. At last year’s Raisina Dialogue, Harris irritated Beijing by calling upon India to cooperate closely with the US Navy in the South China Sea; and to expand the ongoing trilateral defence cooperation (with the US and Japan) into a quadrilateral dialogue that included Australia. 

Hunley Museum on a Slow, Uncertain Path to Showcase Civil War Submarine

Diane Knich, The Post and Courier
18 January 2017

Plans for a museum to showcase the H.L. Hunley have been in the works since shortly after the Civil War submarine was pulled from sand and silt just outside the Charleston Harbor more than a decade ago.
But much remains unclear about the museum, including when construction will begin, how large its building will be and where the money will come from to pay for it.
The former Hunley Commission decided in 2004 to build a $40 million museum on the former Navy Base in North Charleston. It chose that location over other proposed sites in downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant. The city of North Charleston landed the deal with a pledge to donate the land on which the museum will be built, contribute $13 million to construction and $50,000 annually to restoring the submarine.
The commission since has been folded into the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority/Naval Base Museum Authority. 
Little has happened since the decision was made to build the museum on the former Navy Base.
Robert Ryan, the authority's executive director, said the plan for the museum right now is "kind of a rudderless ship on a balmy sea."
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said the city no longer can contribute $13 million. That plan was based on the city's ability to raise the money from a tax-increment financing district on the city's land on the base. But the state took that land, Summey said, so the city no longer can come up with the money.
Right now, the authority has $20 million to $25 million on hand that isn't already committed and could be used for the museum if the authority approves the expense, Ryan said. "That's halfway there."
But he said the city hasn't turned over land to the authority on which to build the museum.
Summey said land on the base north of Noisette Creek now belongs to Palmetto Railways, a division of the state Commerce Department. He expects the land to be turned over to the city at the end of the year. The city then will turn over a parcel to the authority for the museum.
Ryan said he's not sure how the museum plan ultimately will turn out, adding, "It might not be a $40 million museum."
Kellen Correia, president of Friends of Hunley, said it will take five or six more years to restore the submarine. That work is being done by Clemson University's Restoration Institute in the Warren Lasch Conservation Center on the former Navy Base.
That means there's time to raise money for the museum, she said, adding that the museum isn't just for the Hunley. It will be a building that also houses the state-owned Maritime Museum Collection, an extensive collection of more than 8,000 19th century maritime artifacts.
"It's absolutely going to happen," Randall Burbage, secretary and treasurer of the authority's board, said of the museum. The Friends of the Hunley group will apply for
grants and ask for donations if there's a funding shortfall, he said.
Burbage, who was a member of the former Hunley Commission, said the Hunley is a popular attraction now, and will continue to be in the future. Hundreds of people come to see it every weekend, even though it's soaking a large tank of sodium hydroxide. 
Correia said nobody is sure yet how the Hunley will be displayed after the conservation work is complete. It might have to continue to sit in a tank of sodium hydroxide, or might be protected in some other climate-controlled way.
"You're not going to be able to walk up and put your hands on the Hunley," she said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Australia's Future Submarine selection criticized by former ASC head 

The replacement for the Collins-class fleet sub will be "an orphan" on arrival, according to Hans Ohff.

Julian Kerr, Janes.com
17 January 2017

SYDNEY -- The concept behind the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A submarine selected to replace Australia's Collins-class fleet has been criticized by the person who was responsible for the construction of the Collins-class boats.
Should the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) hold firm to the concept offered by French shipbuilder DCNS, "it will acquire an orphan no informed navy would contemplate commissioning into service", said Hans Ohff, who was
managing director between 1993 to 2002 of what was then the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC).
Writing on 16 January on The Strategist, the commentary and analysis site of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Ohff said that the RAN would own a submarine that would be expensive to build, maintain, and operate. "It will be a class that has no equals; sadly for all the wrong reasons."
The government in Canberra announced in April 2016 that DCNS had defeated Japanese and German bids to design and construct 12 next-generation replacements for the RAN's six Collins-class submarines. The design proposed by DCNS was selected to meet Australia's Future Submarine requirement under the SEA1000 program.
Notwithstanding Australia's considerable capabilities in naval construction, Ohff said he remained doubtful that a long-range diesel-electric submarine with a 5,100-tonne submerged displacement could be designed and built locally.
He also wrote he was not convinced that such a class would be more lethal than smaller long-range classes, noting that the Defense Science and Technology Group within Australia's Department of Defense (DoD) had argued in a recent report that as the size and power of a submarine increased, gains made in range, speed, and endurance eventually diminished.
Moreover, Ohff wrote that an "inexcusable blunder" by defense planners was behind the decision to procure a submarine that would not have air-independent propulsion and was based on lead-acid rather than the lithium-ion technology that would eliminate the dangerous process of hydrogen venting.

Malaysia to establish three designated submarine exercise areas in South China Sea 

Ridzwan Rahmat, Janes.com
18 January 2017

SINGAPORE-- Key Points:
Malaysia will establish three permanent submarine exercise areas in the South China Sea 
The move is being undertaken to enhance submarine operating safety in the region, said the Royal Malaysian Navy 
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) is in the midst of finalizing three permanent submarine exercise areas within Malaysian territorial waters in the South China Sea, a senior service official disclosed on 17 January.
The demarcations, which will be known as the Malaysia Submarine Exercise Area (MSEA) 1, 2, and 3 respectively, are being established as part of the country's efforts to enhance submarine operating safety in the region, said Rear Admiral Abdul Rahman Ayub, Submarine Force Commander of the RMN. 

Build More U.S. Ships, But Not New Designs: CNO Richardson To McCain    

Sydney Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense
17 January 2017 

The Navy wants a 355-ship fleet. Can US shipyards build it? Yes, they can, the Navy leaders are insisting. But, the Chief of Naval Operations warned this morning, to keep production swift and steady, we should be careful about replacing existing designs — including the Littoral Combat Ship — with all-new warships as proposed by the Senate Armed Services chairman, John McCain.
“Time matters and numbers matter,” Adm. John Richardson, the CNO, told reporters after a public talk hosted by Defense One. “LCS has got to compete (with alternatives) in my mind, but time is an element of that competition. We just can’t stop building stuff.” [Clarification: In other words, LCS is a relatively new design that’s still striving to prove its worth and find its place in the fleet, but the fact that it’s in production is in itself an advantage over a hypothetical replacement that would take years to design, test, and build.]
In a white paper released Monday, McCain — a harsh critic of the Littoral Combat Ship — had called for cutting off LCS production this fiscal year (FY17), “buying only the minimum number of additional ships” to keep shipyards in business until a new Small Surface Combatant begins procurement “in 2022 or sooner.”
That’s a five-year gap, already enough to unnerve the Navy — and historically, new warship designs take far longer. That said, Richardson told the press, “we’ve got to challenge that assumption” that it takes decades to develop a new ship. “I don’t think it needs to take that long.”
McCain, a former Navy pilot, also renewed his call for smaller aircraft carriers — perhaps derived from existing “big deck” amphibious assault ships like the America — that could more affordably supplement the nuclear-powered Nimitz and Ford classes. Here Richardson seemed somewhat more receptive: “We need to look at this… ‘high/low mix,'” he told the Defense One audience. “If you think about the introduction of the (F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter) onto our amphib force, that might be systemically the way to get after this.” Note, however, that Richardson is talking about a new role for existing classes of ship. McCain wanted to replace big-deck amphib production with a new design for a mid-size carrier.
Richardson made sure he praised the white paper, which calls for raising defense budgets in general and increasing shipbuilding from 41 ships over the next five years to 59.  “Overall, I think we’re in terrific agreement in terms of the need for a bigger and more capable Navy,” Richardson said. “We’re in very detailed dialogue on how to get there.”
Of course, the details are where the devil lies. And while Richardson made clear he shared McCain’s desire for a more responsive, innovative military — “we’ve got to acquire things faster to compete in time,” the CNO said — he and other Navy leaders have made clear their preference to innovate through incremental upgrades to existing ship types, not by replacing proven designs.
“We need to be constantly looking at new approaches, new technologies, maybe even new ship classes, but as we do so, we don’t have the luxury to sort of stop,” Richards told the Defense One audience. (Emphasis ours). Any new design would need to be developed “in stride” alongside ongoing production of existing types, he said, then “feather(ed) in” to ensure continuous production without a gap between classes.
At least in the near term, Richardson told reporters, “we would probably just increase the rate of the ships that we’re building right now that we know we’re going to need in
the future, so that’s attack submarines, DDGs (destroyers), amphibs, oilers, those sort of things.” Asked to name new capabilities, the CNO did not suggest new ships, but new drones to operate off or with ships and new networks to better connect them: “I am really interested in unmanned (systems, and) we’re doing what we can to increasingly network the fleet together.”
Hot Lines, Stable Designs
Building stable designs with active production lines is central to the Navy’s plan to grow to 355 ships. “if you look at the 355-ship number, and you study the ship classes (desired), the big surge is in attack submarines and large surface combatants, which today are DDG-51 (destroyers),” the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Sean Stackley, told reporters at last week’s Surface Navy Association conference. Those programs have proven themselves reliable performers both at sea and in the shipyards.
From today’s fleet of 274 ships, “we’re on an irreversible path to 308 by 2021. Those ships are already in construction,” said Stackley. “To go from there to 355, virtually all those ships are currently in production, with some exceptions: Ohio Replacement, (we) just got done the Milestone B there (to move from R&D into detailed design); and then upgrades to existing platforms. So we have hot production lines that will take us to that 355-ship Navy.”
The Ohio Replacement Program — the Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine to replace the aging Ohio class — is a huge, expensive question mark on the Navy’s horizon. But even there, designers are striving to make the new submarine, as much as possible, into a plus-sized version of the proven Virginia attack sub. As for the Virginias themselves, the Navy is upgrading the missile tubes and will even extend the length of future hulls, but otherwise it won’t mess with the design, which builders Electric Boat and Newport News are collectively churning out at a rate of two per year. (McCain wants to double sub production to four a year, counting Columbias).
Meanwhile shipyards Bath Iron Works and Ingalls are together building two a year of the Navy’s workhorse surface warship, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyer. DDG-51 production was actually halted and then restarted after its intended replacement, the super-high-tech DDG-1000 Zumwalt class, ran aground on cost and was cut to just three ships. There are no plans to build more Zumwalts, Richardson reaffirmed today. Instead, the Navy’s future destroyer fleet will be comprised of upgraded Arleigh Burkes, a “Flight III” evolution of the current design that boasts a more powerful radar and the electrical systems to support it. (The Arleigh Burke itself began as a new hull for the Aegis combat system on the Ticonderoga cruisers, which used the hull from the older Spruance destroyers).
It’s not just destroyers: “Across the PEO (Program Executive Office) Shipbuilding portfolio, the designs are stable,” PEO-Ships chief Rear Adm. William Gallinis told the recent Surface Navy Association. That includes the Navy’s new mid-sized amphibious ship, the L(X)R class, which will be a simplified, less expensive version of its standard San Antonio LPDs. In big-deck amphibs, the Navy is actively going back to the past — and away from McCain’s vision of mini-carriers. The USS America (LHA-6) and Tripoli (LHA-7) will be the only big-decks built that sacrifice the well deck — crucial to operating landing craft — for more aviation capacity: The future LHA-8 and subsequent ships will restore the well deck. (And even the LHA-6 is a linear evolution of the older LHD class).
New & Troubled: LCS and Ford
At this point, in fact, the Navy is only introducing one new class of warship: The Ford-class aircraft carrier, which McCain has blasted for $2 billion in overruns and months in delays. While the Ford has the same outer hull as the 1960s-vintage Nimitz, it has several revolutionary new systems inside, which have repeatedly struggled in testing. Last week, the Navy announced that testing would finally be finished and the Ford delivered to the fleet in April. To save cost and complexity, future Ford-class carriers will shed some of the high-tech systems, notably the radar.
Then there’s the Littoral Combat Ship, actually two very different designs of small, light, high-speed warship: the Lockheed-Marinette Freedom class and the Austal Independence. After horrific early overruns, caused largely by major Navy design changes halfway through building the first ships, the Navy and shipbuilders finally have a handle on LCS costs. (The ship itself is still well above the original targets, but the “mission modules” that compromise most of its combat equipment have gone down).
After the initial turbulence, a multi-year block-buy contract has “brought a tremendous amount of stability into the program,” the LCS program manager, Rear Adm. John Neagley, told the Surface Navy Association, (and) “both variants have now deployed to Singapore,” giving them real-world operational experience. Future efforts focus on incremental upgrades to the current LCS designs — adding a long-range anti-ship missile and, ultimately, reconfiguring them as beefed-up frigates — rather than developing a new clean-sheet small-ship design. The program is also struggling to solve mechanical and electrical troubles that continue to plague both variants, 10 and eight years after the first two LCS were launched.
Even the vaunted Zumwalt itself suffered an embarrassingly low-tech breakdown in the Panama Canal last November. “What’s frustrated us with DDG-1000 is we’ve had lube oil coolers since Noah had an ark,” lamented Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), “so what’s the cause there? We’re still really working our way through what the root causes are.”
With new ships like these, it’s no wonder that the Navy wants to stick with time-tested designs.
Continuous production is essential. “By virtue of maintaining these hot production lines frankly over the last eight years, our facilities are in pretty good shape,” Stackley emphasized to reporters. “In fact, if you talk to industry they’d say we are under-utilizing the facilities that we have.” Increased production will require new investments in specialized tooling, the workforce, and supply chains, he said, but it’s all entirely achievable.
The Navy needs to look at its own contracting and acquisition processes and workforce as well, said Vice Adm. Moore, speaking separately to reporters at the Surface Navy conference. “There’s a whole list of very specific things that
we’re working on diligently,” he said. Moore had no desire to get out ahead of the incoming President — who has pledged a 350-ship fleet — but, he said, “we’ll be ready to talk to them when they’re ready to talk to us about it.”

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Taiwan must build its own submarines: defense minister 

Staff, The China Post
13 January 2017

TAIPEI -- China's recent move to sail an air carrier near Taiwan has highlighted the need for Taiwan to go ahead with a plan to build its own submarines, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said Friday. 
The indigenous submarine project will not only protect the country's territorial security but also allow Taiwan to contribute to regional security, Feng said while addressing the opening of an exhibition on the history of the Navy's submarine fleet.
In what was seen by many as sabre-rattling on the Chinese side, the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, sailed south in the Pacific Ocean off Taiwan's eastern coast on Christmas Day before entering the South China Sea.

On Jan. 11, the Liaoning passed through the Taiwan Strait on its way back to its base in northeastern China after conducting training exercises in the South China Sea.
The last time the aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in November 2013.
Also during the opening ceremony, Feng told reporters that his ministry made public, related information to notify the public on the Liaoning's movements, but stressed that "no special situations" were detected.