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Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

(Published March 27, 2018  IndraStra Global http://www.indrastra.com/2018/03/Cupping-Pacific-China-s-Rising-Influence-003-04-2018-0055.html#more)

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

China’s Rising Influence in the Pacific through Sale of Arms

There is one aspect of the recent revolution in Hawaii which seems to have been kept out of sight, and that is the relation of the islands, not merely to our own and to European countries, but to China. How vitally important that may become in the future is evident from the great number of Chinese, relatively to the whole population, now settled in the islands…….China, however, may burst her barriers eastward as well as westward, toward the Pacific as well as toward the European Continent.

                        Alfred Thayer Mahan, Captain, United States Navy. New York, Jan. 30, 1893

 

Arms sales are always for enhancement of self-interest of the seller country, they are primarily for furtherance of own strategic and commercial interests. The strategic reasons include, widening of areas of influence vis-a-vis a perceived adversary, projection of power in the desired region, quid pro quo proposition in times of hostilities through utilisation of recipient’s military facilities and resources or for gaining political upper hand in international bodies. Arms sales are invariably never without a hidden agenda on the part of the seller. The sales are justified under the garb of strengthening self defence capabilities of the recipient or providing support against an adversary. The commercial interests include furtherance of own defence manufacturing capabilities, enhancement of the profits accrued to its own defence industries or as a quid pro quo for other products of interest from the recipient.

This article takes in to account only the certified arms sales as recorded by SIPIRI and does not detail political, social, educational or other soft-influence approaches in the Pacific region by China. The article considers towering influence of the United States in the Pacific region since the second world war as a given and hence the arms sales by the US are not discussed vis-à-vis China. Further, an attempt has been made to indicate to the rising Chinese influence in view of its sales of arms in the region so as to spur some timely corrective measures to ensure cooperative and collective freedom of the Pacific commons. The countries considered in the article comprise SE Asia and South America.

American Approach to the Pacific Ocean

The American approach to the Pacific is largely an implementation of the thoughts of Mahan detailed in his book ‘The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future’[1]. He had held forth on the importance of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for the Pacific, stating that they should be under the American control. He foresaw that the commercial shipping from Japan and China would pass near to the Hawaii island group and thus provide America a strong position in the Pacific to safeguard its maritime interests. He had said that Hawaii forms the centre of a circle of about 2100 nm radius in the Pacific, the periphery of which touches the archipelago system of Australia- New Zealand as well as the American west coast. The power which will hold Hawaii island group, in his opinion, would over see the Pacific. It is for the simple reason that in case of hostilities the supply lines would stretch back to over 3000-4000 nm each way making such an assault against America unstainable. The United States had structured its maritime thrust in to the Pacific along a virtual ‘arrow head’ from its west coast to Hawaii on to Guam and thereafter to Taiwan. Further, the concept of Island chains was constructed utilising island groups in the north-west pacific[2] during the cold war, to contain the spread of communism by Soviet Union and China. Some distances which describe the US ~6940 nm arrowhead across the Pacific up till Taiwan are: San Francisco – Hawaii (Honolulu) ~2095nm; Hawaii (Honolulu) – Guam ~3333nm; Guam – Taiwan ~512 nm. With Hawaii and Guam as entrenched US naval bases and the fact that a warship can sail 600 nm per day at 25kts the arrowhead is well established logistically to sustain prolonged operations from the west coast of the US. The allies would also provide unstinted support in times of inevitable hostilities in the region.

Chinese Perception of the Pacific

Chinese view their seaboard frontier as seas of denied opportunities, seas where their access is perpetually under watch by inimical powers. The Chinese threat perception encompasses Japan in the north and Malacca in the south. The access to the SLOCS from the Gulf is overlooked by India right up to Malacca straits, thereafter by nations which have been under the western influence. Indian island Chain of Laccadives sits astride the important 9-degree channel SLOC and the Indian island chain of Andamans looks over the entry to Malacca straits. It may be interesting to note that Singapore and Malaysian port of Penang lie just ~1176 nm and ~807 nm from Port Blair in Andamans.

The construct of the island chains is viewed as an attempt by the Western Powers to inhibit its naval expansion to within the First Island Chain. Once China has started looking seaward it finds layers of obstruction lined up in the Pacific to dissuade it from becoming a modern Naval power. The Chinese aim in the Pacific appears to be; to overcome or pierce the island chains at their weak points by strengthening its onshore long-range missile capabilities and its naval might. Japan and Guam are considered the strongest components of the first and second Island Chains. Taiwan and Philippines are relegated to a weak component status. However, it is held that Taiwan needs to be in the Chinese fold for a strong grip on the seas.

The US-Japan-Australia-India ‘quad’ (with France in support), if and when it takes concrete shape, would definitely be taken as an attempt to thwart Chinese ambitions of attaining global power status in its envisaged multipolar world. The positioning of road/rail mobile Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM) DF-21 D and DF-26 C in the recent past is to put a serious deterrent in place to thwart any intimidating attempt by the US Navy. It is claimed that the DF 21 D (CSS-5 Mod 5) has a range of ~1,500 km and is armed with a Manoeuvrable Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV). DF 21 D has the ability to attack large ships like the aircraft carriers. DF-26, has a claimed range of 3,000-4,000 km enough to strike Guam. It is estimated that China has command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities required for targeting ships at sea. However, ASBMs also require over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting support that can integrate target information from multiple sources. Once fully deployed the Chinese ASBM system-of-systems would be the world’s first system[3] capable of targeting a moving carrier group with long-range ballistic missiles fired from land-based mobile launchers and would pose a grave threat to the US forces and bases in the region.

China appears to be forging along a strategic trajectory in the Pacific in that it is developing its Navy to blue water capabilities, upgrading its land based ballistic missiles to target mobile assets of the adversary with conventional and nuclear warheads at great ranges, and courting countries in and across the Pacific through Arms sales to build up sympathetic logistic linkages to counter US influence. It is opined that China would keep building up its military might and its cross-Pacific network through sale of arms and/or dole of economic benefits to nations till such time that Taiwan comes firmly in its fold thereafter it could plan for making a bold move in the Pacific to challenge the US power.

Arms sales by China

Chinese arms and weapons are in demand as China has started supplying modern equipment which can meet the economic requirements of middle and lower tier countries. The arms are cheap, reasonably reliable and are supplied with access to easy term loans from Chinese banks. Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles are considered nearly as good as those offered for export by western countries. This has made China a leading arms supplier across the globe. It is understood that the guiding tenets of China’s arms export include, non-interference in internal matters of the country like its political or human rights record; perceived strengthening of the recipient’s self-defence capabilities; and bringing about regional arms balance. China also offers transfer of technology which makes countries gain a degree of self-reliance and allows development of their own defence industry. Whether the loans offered push the recipients into a debt trap or force it to part with its resources or make it pliable to extract military gains for China is yet to be seen. The fact that the importing country becomes politically indebted to China cannot be denied, even when a country is hedging or diversifying its sources of arms import, as it would definitely adopt a more benign stance where China is concerned.

The major countries where China seeks influence in the Pacific are those in SE Asia, Oceania and countries in South America.

Arms Transfer to SE Asian Countries by China

China has arms trade with seven of Southeast Asia’s countries namely Indonesia, Myanmar Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Timor-Leste.

Some of the major Arms transfers to SE Asian countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Indonesia- Surface to Air Missiles (SAM), Anti-Ship Missiles (ASM), Naval Guns, Close-in weapon system (CIWS), Anti-Aircraft Guns (AA Guns), Multi-Rocket Launchers (MRL), various Radars, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Myanmar- Frigates, various Radars, ASM, Trainer/combat aircraft, Naval Guns, Main Battle Tanks (MBT), MRL, UAV, UCAV, SAM, Transport aircraft, Fifth generation aircraft J-17, Armoured Fire Support Vehicle (AFSV), Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).

Malaysia- Offshore patrol vessels (OPV)

Thailand- Self-propelled MRL, ASM, Arty Locating Radar, SAM, Tank, Submarines, Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Anti-ship and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) torpedoes.

Cambodia- Helicopters, Transport aircraft

Laos- Transport and light aircraft

Timor-Leste- Patrol aircraft

As far as Philippines is concerned, China has recently donated 3000 Assault rifles for tackling the drug mafia.

Interests in Oceania

 ‘China is not just filling a political vacuum created by Western neglect…. [i]t is incorporating the Pacific islands into its broader quest to become a major Asia-pacific power with a long-term goal to replace the US as the preeminent power in the Pacific Ocean’.

John Henderson and Benjamin Reilly, 2003[4]

Among the Pacific rim countries, Chinese relations with Australia and New Zealand have been very good traditionally, however, there has been a turbulence with respect to Australia in the recent past. Its relations with Tonga have raised eyebrows in the neighbourhood since it has a population of only 300-400 Chinese people and offers practically no economic benefits apart from its vast unexplored EEZ and fishery resources.

A word about maritime Tonga would not be out of place here. Tonga has a settlement history of over 3000 years based upon the discovery of Lapita pottery fragments on the islands. Lapita people are now supposed to be the ancestors of the Polynesian people. The Lapita people were considered to be proficient sailors and expert navigators.  The Polynesian people succeeding Lapita settlers were great sailors and sea warriors. Tongans also continued the seafarers’ legacy and excelled in building large bi-hulled, 20-30-meter-long, Kalia sailing crafts. The structure of the Kalia was unique in that it had one larger and one smaller hull. Stability could be achieved with the smaller hull rising with the ocean swell and the larger hull dipping in the swell.  They were joined by a platform forming a sort of bridge. The Tongans have been crisscrossing the pacific islands regularly over the past three millennia.  In fact, it is said that no Fiji boat ventured to and from Tonga without Tongan sailors on board. The Tongans procured stone tooling from Fiji, Society islands and Samoa. Tonga had also became a trading hub during the past millennia. Tongan waters have been a witness to one of the most filmed mutinies at sea amidst its Ha’apai island group, namely “the Mutiny on the Bounty”.

Tonga, today, sits astride the SLOC from Asia to South America & Australia/New Zealand to the US and has underground sea cables running through its EEZ. It also has rights to a number of satellite launch sites[5]. The area has a large number of air strips and ports.

Apart from the economic aid, humanitarian assistance and education programs, Chinese ships make frequent goodwill visits to the islands.  China had also gifted a turbo prop aircraft to Tonga, which had ruffled feathers in New Zealand. Recently the King Tupou VI of Tonga visited China where he stated that “Tonga agrees with China on its vision to build a new type of international relations and stands ready to work with China to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”[6]

Keeping the above in view, it does not appear that Chinese largesse towards these islands is a display of its charitable and humane side. It is Tonga’s strategic location on the third island chain that could be the more likely reason for the Chinese strategic foray in to the region.

Arms transfers to South American countries by China

It is noteworthy that China has not only made arms sales to SE Asian countries and is making friendly overtures in Oceania but that it has also made deep inroads through arms sales in South America. Significantly, it has sold arms to Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Some of the major Arms transfers to South American countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Venezuela- Radars, Trainer/combat aircraft, Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SRAAM), Transport aircraft, self-propelled MRL/Mortar, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), Armoured Protected Vehicles (APV), Armoured personnel carriers (APC), light tanks, ASM

Peru- SAM, 122 mm MRL

Argentina- APCs

Ecuador- Air Search Radars

Bolivia- Trainer/ combat aircraft, helicopters, APV

Trinidad and Tobago- OPVs

Strategically China has thus ‘cupped’ the Pacific by securing not only its south eastern shores and Oceania but also the western shores of South America.

San Francisco System

A Japanese peace treaty was signed on 6 September 1951 between 49 allied countries and Japan which also contained elements of regional security. A separate security treaty was signed between the US and Japan on that day which made Japan’s economy, military, and diplomacy dependent upon the US. There were a slew of bilateral agreements and treaties thereafter which resulted in a loose and flexible collective security & cooperation structure in the region. The result was a hub and spoke structure with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia as spokes and the US as the hub. Historian John W Dower coined the term San Francisco System (SFS) to describe this informal arrangement under the security umbrella of the United States. The SFS continues to this day in the absence of any other formal security structure covering the Pacific region.

Conclusion

China has been working on the strategy of casting a strategic net across the seas with its arms sales which raises security concerns for nations directly or indirectly dependent upon sea trade. It has almost put in place a multi-polar power structure which would be difficult to dislodge. The string of pearls in the IOR, has grown in to a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’[7] with its pendant as the cupped Pacific.

The Chinese arms sales should not be wished away as insignificant since the market share of the US remains undented, it should instead be assessed in terms of collapsing geo-strategic and geo- political space of the US and its future ramifications.

The option available today in the Pacific is striving for freedom of the Ocean commons and loosening the trade & economic web spun by China through strengthening the spokes in the San Francisco System. It may be worthwhile to look for additional spokes in the nearly 70-year-old system especially in the third island chain. Island nations with rich maritime heritage like Tonga offer a good strategic foot hold and geostrategic advantage in the Pacific. For example, Tonga is ~3182 nm from US base at Guam, ~2752 nm from Hawaii, and ~1959 nm from Sydney. It has a large swath of uninhabited islands which can be utilised for security infrastructure. With the available sensor technologies innovative and cost effective ISR stations can be created which in turn would help in the development of the South Pacific Nations and wean them away from the influence of China.

Picture1

A new node in these islands nations offers the US the flexibility of using the existing sea ports and airstrips as well as an alternate manoeuvring and staging Area. In turn it could accrue scarce strategic space and strengthen the third island chain.

Time to act is slipping away!

[1] Mahan A. T. The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future. http://www.archive.org/stream/theinterestofame15749gut/15749.txt (Accessed 10 Mar 2018)

[2] On 4 January 1954, US State Department Advisor John Foster Dulles propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains. The key component of the First Island Chain was Taiwan (it was thereafter christened as one of the Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers); it extended from northern Philippines & Borneo, up to Kuril Islands. The second line of defence was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania.

[3] Andrew S. Erickson. Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development and Counter-intervention Efforts

Testimony before Hearing on China’s Advanced Weapons. Panel I: China’s Hypersonic and Manoeuvrable Re-Entry Vehicle Programs U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Washington, DC.23 February 2017. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Erickson_Testimony.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[4] John Henderson. Benjamin Reilly. Dragon in paradise: China’s rising star in Oceania. The National Interest; Summer 2003. https://crawford.anu.edu.au/pdf/staff/ben_reilly/breilly1.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[5] What Does China Want with Tonga? Featuring Gordon Chang & Cleo Paskal’, online video, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5vTeUJbN3M, (accessed 15 March 2018).

[6] China, Tonga agree to promote strategic partnership. Xinhua. 24 Mar 2018.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/02/c_137009307.htm (accessed 17 March 2018).

[7] Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans”. IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html  (Accessed 19 Mar 2018)

Civilian Micro Drones, IEDs, and Extremists

Citation:

Kulshrestha, S. “Civilian Microdrones, IEDs, and Extremists”, IndraStra Global Vol. 04, Issue No: 01 (2018), 0035, http://www.indrastra.com/2018/01/Civilian-Micro-Drones-IEDs-and-Extremists-004-01-2018-0035.html | ISSN 2381-3652

 

“I look to the skies
and expect artificial passenger pigeons,
blackening the light,
people taking potshots for kicks
imagining one day they will be extinct.”
Carl-John X Veraj

The proliferation of COTS drones
Unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UAS), have been used by military forces in conflict zones to meet various operational requirements for a long time. However, it is only now, due to the availability of Drone technologies from commercial off the shelf (COTS) market sources, that the use of the UAV/Drones [End note 1]. in the civilian arena have found multifarious applications. This availability of Drones is also being gainfully exploited by terrorists/extremists/non-state actors/insurgents & rebels for furthering their nefarious purposes. The Drones have been weaponised innovatively to drop mini bombs, booby trapping, and carrying out kamikaze attacks on the targets of interest. The exploding of a precision crashed drone, in a target area using remote means, at a time of choice is a more recent phenomenon. For example, Skywalker X-8 drone has been spotted by Kurdish forces since 2015. It is understood that a modified Skywalker X-8 (drone borne improvised explosive device or DBIED-End note 2), white in colour, crashed at approximately 1200 hours on 2 October 2016, about 30 to 40 metres from the Peshmerga trench in the Mosul Dam area. Because the drone was light (approx. 2 kg), it was assumed that it was not booby-trapped. It exploded soon thereafter, resulting in the death of two Peshmerga soldiers and wounding of two French paratroopers. The burns they endured were probably due to the detonation of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil explosive (ANFO), and from the melted expanded polyolefin (EPO) material of the UAV body generated by the heat of the explosion {1}. The explosion of the UAV created a small crater (approximately 15-20 cm in diameter) on the ground where the victims were standing. Since then, the Isis has frequently used weaponised Drones to carry out attacks. The type of Drones are commercially available Chinese mini hobby UAVs with ranges upwards of 7km and payloads of up to 40kg {2}.
As per a report by Bard College, UK, the Drone use by extremists has increased exponentially in 2017. Drones are being used in conflict zones like, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Philippines. In fact, the ISIS has a well organised system for its Drone operations, it is understood that the US had targeted the leaders of the ISIS Drone program during airstrikes in 2017 {3}. The easy availability of cheap drones in the hands of the extremists has also raised the spectre of the extremists carrying out a spectacular attack using a large number of drones akin to a swarm attack by locusts.
Counter UAS – cUAS [End note 3]
The use of consumer drones by Militant groups; for battlefield reconnaissance, dropping small bombs/IEDs, propaganda footage for recruitment videos, acts of terrorism, flying drones into the flight path of commercial airliners, swarming, or creating fear in the minds of public by other acts etc; has accelerated the developments of Counter UAS technologies in major countries.
Western Countries. Whereas the militaries today are conscious that in case of a drone swarm attack it may not be feasible to destroy or take under control of all the attackers it may be a better idea to have a calibrated and a multi layered approach to the problem. This may include both the kinetic and the electronic warfare options. The threat from small UAVs operated by extremist lone wolves are also being looked at with concern. Some of the efforts at tackling drones by the US include applicability of the British Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS), which integrates Blighter’s A400 series Ku-band electronic scanning air security radar; Chess Dynamics’ stabilized electro-optic director, infrared and daylight cameras, and target tracking software; and an Enterprise directional radio frequency (RF) inhibitor to detect, track, classify, disrupt, and defeat UAVs up to a range of six miles {4}. The US Army is utilising multiple equipment to deal with the drone threat. For example; US Army has announced a $65 million contract to SRC Inc. New York, to develop, build, and maintain the low slow small unmanned aerial system integrated defeat system; it has also awarded Leonardo DRS, USA a contract of $16 million to develop a counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) capability to protect soldiers from enemy drones; and it has purchased the “Dronebuster,” which is a 5-pound radar gun-like device that soldiers can use to jam weaponized commercial drones.
Drone Defence of UK uses Dedrone DroneTracker to detect and identify unauthorized UAVs, then utilises either the man-portable Dynopis E1000MP to jam the UAV or its Net Gun X1 C-UAV system to capture the aircraft. Operating from either a fixed location or as a mobile unit, DroneTracker uses acoustic, optical, and infrared sensors for real-time detection and identification.
Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France, has developed a cUAV System combining the company’s radars, IR cameras, and direction finders with state-of-the-art data fusion and signals analysis. The system can identify an approaching drone and assess its threat potential at ranges between 5km and 10km, then offer electronic countermeasures like its Smart Responsive Jamming Technology, to minimize the risk of collateral damage.
Russia. The first Russian permanent tactical unit to combat unmanned aircraft has been positioned around Kursk {5}. It is equipped with R-330KMK Zhitel or “Resident” automated radio interference systems. These systems are understood to be able to detect and jam radio signals and interfere with UAV mission systems up to a radius of 30km. “Zhitel” (R-330Zh) system consists of two elements: a wheeled platform with an operator station for the reconnaissance system (0.1-2GHz frequency range) and a trailer with emitters and antennas of the active jamming system. The system’s purpose is to detect, track and jam the Inmarsat and Iridium satellite communications and GSM 1900 cell phones, and also to act against GSM navigation system utilizing the NAVSTAR satellites. “Zhitel” may be operated autonomously or it may, alternatively, be remotely controlled by the R-330KMK station. Its range has been defined as 15 kilometres in case of the ground-system jamming and 200 kilometres, with regards to the airborne platforms.
Israel. At the Singapore Air show in February 2016, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) revealed the Drone Guard, its new system for drone detection, identification and flight disruption. ELTA, a subsidiary of IAI, offers 3D radars and Electro-Optical (EO) sensors for detection and identification, as well as dedicated Electronic Attack (EA) jamming systems for disrupting drone flight {6}.
China. China’s Ministry of National Defense released images of the new cUAS on 28 Nov 2017. The cUAS is a container based, road mobile short-range air defence system. As per UAS Vision {7} ; the detection and jamming vehicle is equipped with roof mounted radar, electronic jamming system, and a small electro-optical (EO) ball turret. The other vehicle has a roof mounted laser emitter, a tracker (EO and thermal), and a laser range-finder on a stabilized elevatable and rotatable platform. SZMID High Technology Co. Ltd of China, has offered a new cUAS against illegal intrusion, which claims that it can disrupt the navigation of an unmanned aircraft, forcing it to land or return to base {8}.
Attack by Rebels on Russian Bases in Syria using Drone Swarm
“As for these attacks, they were undoubtedly prepared well. We know when and where these unmanned vehicles were handed over [to the attackers], and how many of them there were. These aerial vehicles were disguised – I would like to stress that – as homemade. But it is obvious that some high-tech equipment was used, {9}”
Vladimir Putin
On 6th Jan 2018 rebels in Syria launched a Swarm attack using drone borne IEDs. The attack involved using more than a dozen of weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles on Russia’s Khmeimim airbase and a Russian navy supply base in Tartus. Khmeimim or Hmeimim Air Base, is a Syrian airbase is located south-east of the city of Latakia in Hmeimim. It is being operated by Russia under a 2015 treaty with Syria. The airfield facilities of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport are utilised by the Khmeimim Air Base. The Russian naval facility at the Syrian port city of Tartus is a leased facility. It is used as a minor repairs and logistic supply base by the Russian Navy.
It is understood that 13 drones were used in the attacks, seven were shot down using Pantsir-S1 system and six were force landed using electronic warfare {10} . The Pantsir-S1 is an anti-missile and anti-aircraft system which has a combined missile/gun for automatically engaging up to 4 targets simultaneously. However, using an anti-aircraft/anti-missile system to bring down ISD modified COTS drones is a very expensive way to neutralise the drone swarms, and militaries are looking for cheaper solutions and measures for the same {11}.
The bombs attached to the captured drones were recovered and had “semi-transparent casings, white plastic fins, and a thick metal hook to attach them underwing.” The bomb’s explosive payload consisted of metal ball bearings epoxied to an explosive core and placed in a mortar bomb-like aerodynamic shell {12} . It is understood that Russians were able to track down the militant launch site after decoding the data recorded on the UAVs and kill the militants responsible for the swarm attack.
The swarm attack by rebels has caught the world by surprise mainly because of the complexities involved in controlling and directing a large number of drones to designated target tens of kilometres away. That the rebels have been able to modify the commercial drones to carry explosives as well as procure rudimentary software to carry out a coordinated attack has shaken the Russians and Americans alike. The possibility of such attacks in near future on non-military targets and urban areas cannot be ruled out.

“The incident itself, while it wasn’t necessarily a spectacular attack by terrorist standards, it certainly portends a very dark future.”
Colin Clarke, RAND
Chinese Drones
A look at China’s ingress into the global drone market is required at this juncture since China is making sophisticated and inexpensive drones that are beginning to dominate the global military and civil markets. The emphasis in this section is on drones which could be easily acquired for exploitation by extremists or rogue regimes.
Military drones. Chinese drones have been purchased by many countries including allies of the US. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased Wing Loongs, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Myanmar operate CH-3. Nigeria uses CH-3 against Boko Haram. Saudi Arabia and the UAE utilise CH-4s and Wing Loongs against Houthi in Yemen {13} . Iraq has got CH-4s. Jordan and Egypt have also bought Chinese drones. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the manufacturers of CH-4 UAV, have already set up production factories in Pakistan, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia {14}.
The bigger combat UAVs come under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) but China is not a signatory to the same and can therefore proliferate its military drones.
Commercial Drones. China’s DJI is a company that has risen to one of the top manufacturers in the commercial drone market. DJI is famous for its Phantom and Mavic Pro drones. It represents 50 percent of market across all price categories {15} . DJI’s rise in the consumer drone market has been due to its ability to innovate and produce feature rich drones. DJI also reduces its prices periodically forcing other manufacturers, at times, out of the market.
The commercial drones are far cheaper and easily available in the open market, further, there is no current binding or international law against sale of commercial drones and therefore it is very lucrative for the extremists to buy and modify them to suit their objectives.
China’s Swarm technology
“Our swarming drone technology is the top in the world,”
Zhang Dengzhou of CETC, China
For years, the U.S. appeared to have a clear lead when it came to swarming drones. In 2015, the Advanced Robotic Systems Engineering Laboratory (ARSENL) of USA, had claimed a world record by launching a swarm of 50 drones. However, at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) bettered that record with a swarm of 67 drones flying together {16}. The drone used was Skywalker X6s, made by the Skywalker Technology Co. of China. Skywalker drones are popular because they’re cheap, readily-available, and easy to customize. ISIS has adapted Skywalker drones to carry bombs {17}. At the Zhuhai 2016 Air show, the SW-6 was showcased, it is a small drone with folding wings which can be dropped from a mother aircraft. Its stated role is reconnaissance, but it is also a good candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project.
Chinese Micro Killer Drones
There are a number of combat drones or CUAVs developed by China but of interest and likely application in swarm warfare include the CH-802 and CH-803. These drones have been developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
CH-802. It is a fixed wing micro air vehicle (MAV) with elevated high-wing configuration and V-tail. It is hand launchable. It has a cylindrical fuselage and a two-blade propeller driven by an electric motor. It has a payload capacity of 1 kg and a range of 30 km.
CH-803. It is a fixed-wing UAV with a cylindrical fuselage propelled by two-blade propeller driven by engine mounted in the nose. It is launched by catapult and recovered by a parachute. It has a range of 30 km and a payload capacity of 3.5 kg.
The Future
The drone and drone swarms in the arsenal of the extremists are going to be here for a long time to come. The drones are going to carry more and more harmful weapons like the chemical sprays or the biological viruses. They will be deployed against the state & civil infrastructure as well as personnel. The targeting and guidance is going to be better and better in tandem with the advances in commercial sector. Better speed, obstacle avoidance, longer range, night operability and payload capacities etc. are going to be the norm in near future.
India, as of today, appears to be deficient in effective cUAS/anti-DBIED defensive measures. Major nations across the globe have already strengthened their capabilities in this field while pursuing Unmanned technologies. It is true that as of now such attacks by extremists have more of a propaganda value than a debilitating one. However, considering the capabilities which can be easily transferred by our adversaries to the terrorists under the current trade regimes, and without any fear of international repercussion, the feasibility of a multitude of attacks upon diverse targets launched from across the borders by non-state actors should not be ruled out. India could capitalise on innovative use of artificial intelligence, AI in collating information leading to purchase of drones, their modification, purchase of civil explosives & chemicals, flight pattern of drones etc to augment the EW and kinetic options of cUAS.
It is imperative that India should put in place an AI based robust kinetic and EW counter drone program at the earliest for protection of the military as well as civil areas of interest to the terrorists.

Endnotes:

1.Drones and UAVs are considered to be synonymous references.

2. DBIED (Drone-borne improvised explosive device) – is a drone attached to a bomb fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy or incapacitate personnel or vehicles.

3. A UAS is an all-encompassing description that encapsulates the aircraft or UAV, the ground-based controller, and the system of communications connecting the two.

References

[1] The Use of Weaponised UAVs by the Islamic State: Analysis of DBIED Incident on Peshmerga Forces in the Mosul Dam Area on 2 October 2016. A Report by Sahan Research Ltd London circulated on 29th December 2016. http://sahan-eu.stackstaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sahan-Research-Report-1st-Investigation-of-an-ISIS-Weaponised-Drone-29xii2016.pdf (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[2] Charles Clover and Emily Feng. Isis use of hobby drones as weapons tests Chinese makers. Financial Times. 11 December 2017. https://www.ft.com/content/82a29f96-c9e7-11e7-ab18-7a9fb7d6163e (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[3] Drone Year in Review: 2017. Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, 3 January 2018. http://dronecenter.bard.edu/drone-year-in-review-2017/ (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[4] J.R. Wilson. The dawn of counter-drone technologies. Military & Aerospace. 1 November 2016. http://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/print/volume-27/issue-11/special-report/the-dawn-of-counter-drone-technologies.html (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[5] Philip Butterworth-Hayes. Russia forms first battlefield tactical counter-UAV unit Kursk. Unmanned Airspace. 01 November 2017. http://www.unmannedairspace.info/counter-uas-systems-and-policies/russia-forms-first-battlefield-tactical-counter-uav-unit-kursk/ (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[6] IAI Unveils “Drone Guard”: Drone Detection and Disruption Counter UAV Systems. Israel Defense. 18 February 2016. http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/iai-unveils-drone-guard-drone-detection-and-disruption-counter-uav-systems (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[7] China Test-Fires New Laser-Based C-UAS. UAS Vision. 30 Nov 2017. https://www.uasvision.com/2017/11/30/china-test-fires-new-laser-based-c-uas/#24TYFbwDTJLE1El6.99 (accessed 18 Jan 2018)

[8] Dylan Malyasov. Chinese defence company offers new counter-UAV system. 22, Sep 2017.  http://defence-blog.com/news/chinese-defence-company-offers-new-counter-uav-system.html (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[9] Putin slams drone attack on Russian base in Syria as provocation. Russian Politics & Diplomacy January 11, 20:01. http://tass.com/politics/984721 (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[10] Kyle Mizokami. Russian Bases in Syria Attacked with Black Market Drones. Popular Mechanics. 12 Jan 2018. http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a15062767/russian-bases-in-syria-attacked-with-black-market-drones/ (accessed 20 Jan 2018)

[11]Marcus Weisgerber.  Air Force Buys Mysterious Israeli Weapon to Kill ISIS Drones. Defence One.23 Feb 2017. http://www.defenseone.com/business/2017/02/air-force-buys-mysterious-israeli-weapon-kill-isis-drones/135620/ (accessed 20 Jan 2018)

[12] 10 Ibid.

[13] Ben Brimelow. Chinese drones may soon swarm the market – and that could be very bad for the US. Business Insider. 17 Nov 2017. https://www.businessinsider.in/Chinese-drones-may-soon-swarm-the-market-and-that-could-be-very-bad-for-the-US/articleshow/61687119.cms  (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[14] Minnie Chan. Chinese drone factory in Saudi Arabia first in Middle East. South China Morning Post.26 Mar 2017.http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2081869/chinese-drone-factory-saudi-arabia-first-middle-east (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[15] April Glaser. DJI is running away with the drone market. Recode. 14 April 2017. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tLjIuXb8JLUJ:https://www.recode.net/2017/4/14/14690576/drone-market-share-growth-charts-dji-forecast+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=in (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[16] David Hambling. If Drone Swarms Are the Future, China May Be Winning. Popular Mechanics. Dec 23, 2016. http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a24494/chinese-drones-swarms/ (accessed 19 Jan 2018)

[17] 16 ibid.

Cyber Warfare: Protecting the Soldier

(Published in CLAWS Scholar Warrior, 06 Jan 2018)

The machine has presented us with a central nervous system, protected with no spinal vertebrae, lying almost naked for the cutting. If, for one reason or another, the severance is made, we face a terrifying, perhaps mortal crisis…. Day by day the complexity, and hence the potential danger, accelerates; materials and structures ceaselessly and silently deteriorate.

                                                                Stuart Chase, in Men and Machines, 1929

The warfare domains have traditionally included those which have geographic and topographic warfighting constraints, for example the land, sea, and air (now aero-space) domains. However, in Cyberwarfare the physical domains are no longer relevant since the domain has changed to the all-encompassing global electromagnetic spectrum. There is a need therefore, to look for the definition of the Cyberspace in which a modern soldier is required to operate.

The US Department of Defense defines cyberspace as, “A global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures and resident data, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers”.[1]

Kuehl has defined it as,[2] “an operational domain whose distinctive and unique character is framed by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to create, store, modify, exchange, and exploit information via inter-connected information and communication technology-based systems and their associated infra-structures.”

The above definitions draw upon the interrelated effects of the physical, the informational, and the cognitive. These together comprise: the physical platforms, systems & infrastructure that provide global connectivity to interconnect information systems, networks, and human users; the massive amounts of information that can be digitally and electronically shared; and the impact on human behaviour & decision making when faced with the deluge of information.[3]

Some characteristics of cyberspace are that: it exists and functions within the natural electromagnetic spectrum (EMS); it exists due to man-made technologies; it can be replicated; and that it is far more economical to operate and utilise cyberspace than other domains. These lead to a more encompassing definition of Cyberspace that,[4]it is a global domain within the information environment whose distinctive and unique character is framed by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to create, store, modify, exchange, and exploit information via interdependent and interconnected networks using information-communication technologies”.

The cyberspace has been preferred by nations, criminals and hackers for cyber-attacks across the globe due to the fact that: its usage is becoming the backbone of the society; the current systems do not have adequate protection and predictive intrusion detection systems[5]; it is very fast, its reach is worldwide, and it provides anonymity. The increasing usage of digital sensing, and software based control in critical infrastructure, and dependence upon communication network for movement of network based data has made cybersecurity a national security problem. Cybersecurity can be defined[6] as, “Prevention of damage to, protection of, and restoration of computers, electronic communications systems, electronic communications services, wire communication, and electronic communication, including information contained therein, to ensure its availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and nonrepudiation”.

Based upon the above Military cyber power can be defined[7] as, ‘the application of operational concepts, strategies, and functions that employ the tools of cyberspace to accomplish military objectives and missions’.

Cyber Threat Assessment – China

The establishment of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence Research Centre in June 2014 to ‘provide strong support in obtaining high-quality intelligence research findings and help China gain advantage in national information security’ indicates to the focus of the PLA on cyberspace[8]. Strategic Support Force (SSF) of China is a Military Theatre-grade organisation responsible for the space, cyber, and electronic warfare missions of the PLA and strategic-level information support for joint operations. The SSF is more or less the information warfare branch of the People’s Liberation Army. While detailed information about the SSF is not available, it is understood that the SFF will be composed of three separate forces: space troops (recognition and navigation satellites), cyber troops (offensive and defensive hacking), and electronic warfare forces (jamming and disrupting radars and communications) [9]. As per Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, its main task will be ensuring the military’s local advantages in aerospace, space, cyber, and electromagnetic battlefields through operations such as target tracking and reconnaissance, satellite navigation, and attack and defence in cyber and electromagnetic spaces – the underlying goal of which should be attaining victory in future wars. Further, the SSF will assume responsibilities in defending the civilian infrastructure to increase the security of China’s financial institutions as well as people’s daily lives in general[10]. It implies that the SSF will be responsible for all aspects of information warfare, including intelligence, technical reconnaissance, cyber warfare, and electronic warfare. This is in line with China’s strategic thinking, which sees paralysing and sabotaging the enemy’s operational and command systems as a key to achieving dominance in all other domains, land, sea, and air[11].

Desmond Ball has brought out that PLA Information Warfare (IW) units have reportedly developed and tested ‘detailed procedures’ for Internet warfare, including software for network scanning, obtaining passwords and breaking codes, and stealing data; information-paralysing software, information-blocking software, information-deception software & other malware; and software for effecting counter-measures. These procedures have been tested during simulated cyber-attacks against Taiwan, India, Japan and South Korea. The PLA has reportedly established at least twelve facilities for Integrated Network Electronic Warfare (INEW) training at unit levels in computer network attack & defence operations, jamming & other forms of electronic warfare, and other IW activities. The facility is supposedly located at Zhurihe in the Beijing Military Region[12].

It is understood that Chinese hackers have been able to: crash selected Web servers, penetrate Web-sites and deface them, erase data from them, post on them, and have developed various viruses/Trojan Horse programs for spreading/inserting by e-mails to disable/steal information from targeted computer systems. However, there is no evidence yet that these hackers would be able to penetrate highly secure networks/command and control or weapon system networks to copy or manipulate critical data. Currently, China’s extensive cyber-warfare capabilities are very good for simple attacks but not for sustained cyber-warfare. As a result, the PLA may seek to use its cyberwarfare capabilities to collect data for intelligence and cyberattack purposes; to constrain an adversary’s actions by targeting network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities; or to serve as a force multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks during times of crisis or conflict[13].

Military Cyber Vulnerabilities

The Future Soldier Vision (FSV)

The FSV design for UK as unveiled by MOD UK includes[14]:

-Head sub-system concept incorporating hearing protection, lightweight sensors for information sharing and an integrated power supply.

-Torso sub-system concept of segmented armour that can be customised to the user or situation with integrated connectors and power supply.

-Smart watch style wearable communications concept which incorporates sensors to record the user’s biometric data.

-Smart glasses concept which include a heads-up display, integrated camera and bone conducting headphones to increase situational awareness without compromising hearing.

-A robust personal role computer concept enabling better information sharing and communications between personnel.

-Ergonomically designed and customisable the weapon concept that will allow targeting information to be shared between soldiers and their units.

-Further the FSV is designed to work as an integrated system with survivability, enhanced situational awareness and network capability. Protection technology, a network of sensors for information sharing and power and data connectors will also all be built-in.

At the 2017 Association of the United States Army annual meeting (AUSA 2017), US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) presented a concept for the US Army’s future soldier of the 2030 which also promised everything from powered exoskeletons, to futuristic optics, to individual network capability[15].

The modernisation program for the infantry in India began with the F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier As a System), but it has now evolved in to two separate programs – arming the Infantry with better offensive and defensive gear and the Battlefield Management System. The system is technology based with sensors, laser range finders, and cameras etc. The system will merge the information to give the soldier a real-time picture of the battlefield. The tactical level communication will take place over secure radio networks, and command level communication would be carried over Indian satellites. Each soldier will have a personal GPS device and will be able to see the position of other soldiers via a helmet mounted display[16].

As can be envisioned from the FSV above, the future soldier would be operating in an environment where he would be subjected to direct and indirect cyber-attacks by the adversary since the FSV is designed around the core concept of network centric warfare. In addition to the FSV, the complete architecture of modern warfare revolves around network centricity which itself is vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Military Systems

The military cyberspace domain under which its systems operate comprises of two major types of networks namely, an open network which relies on data-sharing, situational awareness, and teamwork, whereas the other utilises secure networks which depend upon speed, reliability and data integrity. The military communications utilise various types of modes for example, the global communications systems, military controlled commercial networks, and highly secure networks for target-shooter systems.

Complex Military C4I systems are relying more and more on sophisticated software and communication systems and hence they remain lucrative targets for hackers and adversary states. Next come the weapon systems which use software, like aircraft, warships and military special vehicles. Thereafter come the communication nodes, wide area networks, logistics and GPS feeds etc. Ingress into a system using software can be made by physical means through inputs to the system for example, like spare ports, by installing malware, or installing clandestine wireless devices. Indirect ingress can be made through connectivity ports for example, through internet, or through connection leading from other computers, or indirectly accessing the device from a distance using operating software vulnerabilities. In case of the Military both these methods of attack can be guarded against effectively but not absolutely.

The widespread usage of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) or open-source systems for military uses has increased the vulnerability to cyber-attack, their use should be guided by policies that assure the Military of obviating the risks and by carrying out a risk and cost benefit study.[17]

Standardisation has reduced costs, but it exposes a large number of similar products through exploitation of common vulnerabilities. Trojan horses could be introduced in the process of developing or maintaining the software. Vulnerabilities could be deliberately planted in a device or software program. By and large critical military systems are carefully designed and operated and are expected to remain safe during cyber-attacks.

The cyber space interlays and overlays with the civilian and military cyber domains therefore, even though military defences at local level can be strengthened; using physical access controls, password regimes, complex logging procedures & biometrics, isolation, human interfaces for critical equipment operations etc; it is an effort at the policy level which has to be put in place by the government so that the cyber-attack does not debilitate national security.

Policy Level Efforts

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has three primary cyber missions: Defend DoD networks, systems, and information; Defend the nation against cyberattacks of significant consequence; and Support operational and contingency plans.

US DoD has set five strategic goals for its cyberspace missions[18]:

  1. Build and maintain ready forces and capabilities to conduct cyberspace operations; This strategy sets specific objectives for DoD with regard to manning, training, and equipping its forces and personnel over the next five years and beyond.
  2. Defend the DoD information network, secure DoD data, and mitigate risks to DoD missions; DoD must take steps to identify, prioritize, and defend its most important networks and data so that it can carry out its missions effectively. DoD must also plan and exercise to operate within a degraded and disrupted cyber environment in the event that an attack on DoD’s networks and data succeeds, or if aspects of the critical infrastructure on which DoD relies for its operational and contingency plans are disrupted.
  3. Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks of significant consequence; The Department of Defense must work with its interagency partners, the private sector, and allied and partner nations to deter and if necessary defeat a cyberattack of significant consequence on the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests.
  4. Build and maintain viable cyber options and plan to use those options to control conflict escalation and to shape the conflict environment at all stages; During heightened tensions or outright hostilities DoD must be able to provide the President with a wide range of options for managing conflict escalation. If directed, DoD should be able to use cyber operations to disrupt an adversary’s command and control networks, military-related critical infrastructure, and weapons capabilities.
  5. Build and maintain robust international alliances and partnerships to deter shared threats and increase international security and stability; All three of DoD’s cyber missions require close collaboration with foreign allies and partners. In its international cyber engagement DoD seeks to build partnership capacity in cybersecurity and cyber defense, and to deepen operational partnerships where appropriate.

Way ahead

It would be utopian to expect an integrated military cyberspace infrastructure which can fulfil all the requirements of open and closed networks of the military to cater to its multifarious requirements of data sharing and weapon-shooter-target engagements. Further, expecting it to be vulnerability proof, having infinite band width, reliable, survivable & upgradable, virtually amounts to asking for the moon. However, under the prevalent technology regime a pragmatic structure can be provided with sufficient redundancy to enable it to withstand cyber-attacks and carry out assigned tasks during the period of the conflict. Two major adversaries the US and China have well defined cyber security policies in place which offer India a workable platform for tailoring its own policy. The government of India is planning to create a new tri-service agency for cyber warfare. The Defence Cyber Agency will work in coordination with the National Cyber Security Advisor. It will have more than 1,000 experts who will be distributed into a number of formations of the Army, Navy and IAF. According to reports, the new Defence Cyber Agency will have both offensive and defensive capacity[19].

It would be the exhaustive implementation of this policy, as and when it materialises, which would protect the soldier during a cyberwar.

End Notes

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 1-02, Washington D.C., US Department of Defense, 08 Nov 2010;as amended through 15 Feb 2016. https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp1_02.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[2] Daniel T. Kuehl, “From Cyberspace to Cyberpower: Defining the Problem,” in Franklin D. Kramer, Stuart Starr & Larry K. Wentz, eds., Cyberpower and National Security, Washington D.C., National Defense University Press, Potomac Books, 2009. http://ctnsp.dodlive.mil/files/2014/03/Cyberpower-I-Chap-02.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Richard A. Clarke & Robert K. Knake, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to do About it, New York, Ecco, 2010, pp. 103-149.

[6] 1 Ibid.

[7] Elihu Zimet and Charles L. Barry. Military Service Cyber Overview in Military Perspectives on Cyberpower

edits Larry K. Wentz, Charles L. Barry, Stuart H. Starr. Center for technology and national security policy at the National Defense University, Washington, DC. July 2009. https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=32100 (Accessed 02 Jan 2018).

[8] Yao, Jianing. ‘PLA Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence Research Center Founded.’ China’s Military. 30 June 2014. http://eng.chinamil.com.cn/news-channels/china-military-news/2014-06/30/content_6025789.htm. (Accessed 03 Jan 2018).

[9] Mikk Raud, China and Cyber: Attitudes, Strategies, Organisation. The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. Tallin 2016. https://ccdcoe.org/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdf/CS_organisation_CHINA_092016.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[10] Costello, John. ‘The Strategic Support Force: China’s Information Warfare Service.’ The Jamestown Foundation. 8 Feb. 2016. http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=45075&cHash=97580

54639ab2cb6bc7868e96736b6cb#.V6RA_Lt95aQ>. Accessed 23 Aug. 2016. (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Desmond Ball. China’s Cyber Warfare Capabilities. Security Challenges, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 2011), pp. 81-103. https://indianstrategicknowledgeonline.com/web/china%20cyber.pdf (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[13] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments

Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017. https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017_China_Military_Power_Report.PDF (Accessed 02 Jan 2018).

[14] Ministry of Defence UK, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and The Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP. MOD unveils futuristic uniform design. 16 September 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mod-unveils-futuristic-uniform-design (Accessed 02 Jan 2018).

[15] Nathaniel F. “SOLDIER OF THE FUTURE” Concept Displayed by US Army at [AUSA 2017]. The Firearm Blog. 30 Oct 2017. http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/10/30/soldier-future-concept-displayed-us-army-ausa-2017/ (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[16] Abhishek Saksena. Indian Army’s Future Infantry Soldiers To Get Lethal Weapons And Better Protection. India Times. 18 Jan 2017. https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/indian-army-s-future-infantry-soldiers-to-get-lethal-weapons-and-better-protection-269775.html (Accessed 03 Jan 2018).

[17] Howard F. Lipson, Nancy R. Mead, and Andrew P. Moore, “Can We Ever Build Survivable Systems from COTS Components?” CMU/SEI–2001–TN–030 (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University, Software Engineering Institute, December 2001). http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1630&context=sei (Accessed 01 Jan 2018).

[18] The DOD Cyber Strategy 2015, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2015/0415_cyber-strategy/Final_2015_DoD_CYBER_STRATEGY_for_web.pdf (Accessed 05 Jan 2018).

[19] India is quietly preparing a cyber warfare unit to fight a new kind of enemy. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-is-quietly-preparing-a-cyber-warfare-unit-to-fight-a-new-kind-of-enemy/articleshow/61141277.cms (Accessed 05 Jan 2018).

Three Ports Under China’s Gaze

{Published in Indian Military Review Aug 2017 (https://goo.gl/2A1PGt) & IndraStraglobal (http://www.indrastra.com/2017/08/Three-Ports-Under-China-s-Gaze-003-08-2017-0050.html)}

The Baluch and their lands hold the key to prosperity of the land locked Central Asian Region and Afghanistan. The British had divided Baluchistan in to three parts with Goldsmid Line and Durand Line in 1890s. The parts were allocated to Persia, British India and Afghanistan. Iran annexed Western Baluchistan in 1928 and Pakistan annexed British India portion in 1948. The Baluch therefore are aggrieved and demand independence. The Baluchistan of yore (Baluch Lands), had Afghanistan & Iranian provinces of Khorasan and Kerman in the North, the Arabian Sea & Indian Ocean in the South, Punjab & Indus River in the East, and the Strait of Hormuz & the Gulf of Oman in the West. Today it would have had direct access to the Strait of Hormuz and sit atop the busiest of SLOCs carrying 40% of world oil. Baluch lands have large untapped reserves of natural resources like uranium, silver, oil and gas. It provides land, air and sea connectivity to South Asia, Central Asia, and Middle East. It provides a very economical trade link for land locked Afghanistan and Central Asian Region. If united, Baluchistan would have an EEZ of 200 nm along its 1000-mile coastline.

It is estimated that approximately 25 Million Baluchi are in Pakistan, 7 Million in Iran and about 3 Million in Afghanistan. Baluch Insurgency is on the rise in both Pakistan and Iran, though it is much more severe in Pakistan.

Due to the geographical locations of Pakistan and Iran and the fact that both provide the shortest routes to Arabian Sea ports, has led both the countries to progress developing infrastructure and connectivity of their ports with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Region(CAR). Apart from oil and gas, the ports expect to harvest other trade commodities like cotton, which currently are routed through Russia to Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.

Just over 100 km apart, Gwadar the Pakistani port and Chabahar the Iranian port are competitors for accessing the CAR markets. Both Iran and Pakistan are wooing Afghanistan by giving trade and fees incentives to favour their respective ports. Pakistan however fears that “Chabahar port would inflict a huge financial setback for Pakistan”[I].  This is as per a report by the Pakistan’s embassy in Dushanbe, to the Foreign Office in 2003.

Both port cities, Gwadar (Pakistan) and Chabahar (Iran), lie on the erstwhile Baluch land.

Gwadar Port- Pakistan

The Gwadar port development project was commenced in 2002. Millions of dollars poured in to the quiet village of Gwadar from Chinese and Pakistani investors (~$200mn was the Chinese investment for the first phase of the project completed in 2005). Gwadar had a population of about 5000 in 2001, mainly comprising of poor fishermen, once the Chinese assisted deep water port development began, it has crossed a population of 125000. Apart from a network of roads, rail air and infrastructural projects, Pakistan plans include a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, an international airport, a cement plant, an oil refinery, and a steel mill. China’s interests at Gwadar are very clear; China is looking for monitoring of its Gulf oil supply route as well as an opening for import/ export trade from its Muslim majority Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The first phase of Gwadar port was completed on schedule by the Chinese in 2005. The running of the port had been leased for 40 years to PSA International of Singapore in 2007 by the Pakistani government. The agreement has however run into problem and in April 2017 it has been leased to be operated by China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for 40 years. With Gwadar port commencing operations it has given the Chinese an opening in to the Arabian Sea, a strategic depth to Pakistan navy and some cause for worry to India. In 2008 the then Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Gwadar could be used by Pakistan to “take control over the world energy jugular.” [II]


As per some estimates China’s maritime industries could contribute up to $1trillion by 2020. Chinese investments in Latin America and Africa are not only in energy sectors but span white goods, automobile parts and textiles amongst others, but the linkage with China is through the sea lanes. This coupled with inbound humungous requirements of oil from gulf and African countries has given rise to the Chinese fears about disruption of its imports and exports through choking of SLOCs due to state, non-state or natural factors. This has led to a rethink in the traditional maritime strategy of China, as per Ni Lexiong, “the ultimate drive to develop sea power is over sea trade”. The increase in sea trade implies its inherent protection by reducing vulnerabilities in the SLOCs of interest to China.

Oil tankers from Gulf transit about 6000 nm and those from the African coast transit about 10,000 nm before they discharge their energy cargo at Chinese ports. Both the tanker routes have to pass through Malacca Straits in addition to problem zones in their respective routes. If tankers can unload at Gwadar, they would have to travel only about 680 nm from the Gulf and about 3000 nm from African coast (Angola).

Pak-China pipe line from Gwadar to Kashghar in Xinjiang, is likely to run parallel to the Karakorum highway and cover a distance of about 1500 miles over tough mountainous terrain. China is seriously contemplating Pak-China energy corridor is evident from the following development projects[iii]:-

-Phase II of Gwadar port and International Airport at Gwadar by China Harbour Engineering Company.

-Petrochemical city (including oil refining capacity of 421,000 bpd) by Great United Petroleum Holdings Company Limited.

-Rail link up to Xinjiang by Dong Fang Electric Supply Corp.

-Upgrading of Karakoram high way.

-Construction of Kazakhstan-China and Turkmenistan – China pipe lines and their eventual augmentation by feed from Gwadar-Kashghar pipe line.

If this project at Gwadar fructifies on expected lines it is estimated that whereas it would account for about 8% of the 2020 Chinese oil import requirements,[iv] the impact on outbound trade from China to Africa and Latin America would be phenomenal.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC is a 3,000-kilometer corridor from Kashgar in western China to Gwadar in Pakistan on the Arabian sea. It slices through the Himalayas, disputed territories, plains, and deserts to reach the ancient fishing port of Gwadar. Huge Chinese funded infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks as well as power plants, are being built along the way. Originally valued at $46 billion, the corridor is estimated at $62 billion today. The main thrust of these is to strengthen CPEC between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Chinese Xinjiang region. This also forms a part of the Chinese one belt one road, OBOR and maritime silk route, MSR programmes. Chinese government and banks like, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd and China Development Bank will provide funds to Chinese companies investing in the projects. The likely Chinese companies are China Power International Development Ltd, Three Gorges Corp, ICBC Corporation, Zonergy Corporation, and Huaneng Group. The Chinese president has however, linked the investments to the safety and security of Chinese assets and workers since the projects involving railways, pipelines, and roads will cross through the insurgency infested areas of Baluchistan. China would have berthing and transit support facilities for its warships and submarines at Gwadar.

​Chabahar Port-Iran

India has committed ~ $85 million to construct container and multi-purpose terminals at Chabahar[v]. Chabahar enjoys excellent weather and has direct access to Indian Ocean. It lies to south of Baluchistan in the Sistan province. Chabahar has two ports Shahid-Beheshti and Shahid-Kalantary and because of its vicinity to Persian Gulf and Oman Sea it has been a trade centre historically. It had proved its usefulness during Iran-Iraq war, as Iran was able to carry out its trade through this port safely since it lay outside Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf.

A trilateral agreement was signed between Iran, India, and Afghanistan in 2003. India was to build a road, known as Route 606, connecting Delaram, the border city of Afghanistan to Zaranj the Capital of Nimruz province in Afghanistan. Iran was to build a highway from Chabahar up to Delaram. Border Roads Organization of India constructed the Delaram – Zaranj highway and it was completed in 2009. With easing sanctions on Iran, India has once again stepped in with a modest investment to construct container and multipurpose terminals; this would make Chabahar operational in future. It would also provide India with ease of trade with Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Iran. On 23 May 2016 during the visit of Mr Narendra Modi to Tehran, 12 agreements, including a deal to develop Iran’s Chabahar port were signed. India agreed to provide $500 million for the project, with a plan to invest an additional $16 billion in the Chabahar free trade zone.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, its natural resources include, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 60 million tons of copper, and 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as cerium, neodymium, and lanthanum. It also has lodes of gold, silver, aluminium, zinc, lithium and mercury. The carbonite deposits in Helmand province itself are valued at $89 billion. The US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics have shown interest in these deposits. Afghanistan being a land locked country is currently dependent upon Pakistani ports for its international trade. If Chabahar port starts operating it would provide an alternate, better, and safer port to Afghanistan. The Chabahar port project is very important for Afghanistan since it would enable shipping goods to Middle East and Europe as well as allow inflow of key goods to Afghanistan. Economically it would imply a significant boost to its trade and investment in much needed infrastructure.

Pakistan has also been eyeing the Chabahar port. In March this year, Pakistan and Iran discussed the possibility of better connectivity between Gwadar and Chabahar during talks between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Iranian President Rouhani in Islamabad[vi].

The Japanese have evinced keen interest in taking part in the development of Chabahar. Iran’s cooperation with Japan and India, appears to be Iran’s priority for development of Chabahar. China is also keen to take part in infrastructure development at Chabahar.[vii] Subsequent to the visit of Xi Jinping to Iran there has been a talk for development of Jask Port, and industrial parks through funding by EXIM bank of China. Chinese investors are interested establishing a rail connection between Chabahar and Gwadar and/or supplying energy to Chinese contractors in Gwadar through Chabahar.[viii]

Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan had inked a trilateral agreement for the Anzob Tunnel project. Tehran provided $10 million grant for Tajikistan to complete the project. The tunnel, which is now operational, is providing safe and uninterrupted road access to Chabahar port from Tajikistan. Iran also extended $21 million credit to Tajikistan for developing its transportation and road sector.

As of April 2017, work is progressing satisfactorily at Chabahar.[ix]

Powerplay (w.r.t ports)

-India’s foray in to Chabahar is seen as a counter to China’s initiative at Gwadar and its linkages with CPEC. Transforming Chabahar into a major shipping port would be a win-win for all, i.e. Iran, Afghanistan and India. It will provide assured energy supplies, open trade for Central Asian Region and permit monitoring of SLOCS. It has opened up option for a sub-sea Oman-Iran-India oil pipeline. Further in case Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Iran oil pipe line fructifies, Central Asia would be connected to India. This would be a game changer for the region. The Central Asian countries can reduce their dependence upon Russia and export energy to Europe and other Asian countries. Russia could also utilize this route for export of its natural resources and finished products. It would provide a cognizable counter to influence of China in the region. India would keep promoting Chabahar as a strategic port on the Makaran coast as it addresses both the ease of trading as well as India’s security needs in the region.

-To China at Gwadar, Chabahar as and when it is fully developed would pose a significant challenge. It would provide a counter monitoring post to its activities and continue to sit astride the SLOCs threatening its energy security needs. The limited capacities of land pipelines to Xinjiang from Gwadar would still permit sizeable choking of oil flow through SLOCS to Chinese mainland by blockades along the route. Gwadar would be more beneficial to export goods from China to Africa and Middle East. Especially since China exports a large amount of armament to African countries and a land-sea route is far more economical then air freight to distant destinations. The focus of most researchers has been on energy imports by China through Gwadar, however, exports out of Gwadar would be far more profitable for China and provide an opening to a large land locked area of western China.

-The US shares India’s concerns over Gwadar and the long-term threat it could pose to the SLOCs in the Arabian Sea. The US has supported the Chabahar Agreement cautiously for the time being due to thawing of relations with Iran. Increasing awareness in the US of Pakistan’s destabilizing designs in Afghanistan and leaning towards China, as also its support to terror groups on its soil is tilting opinion in favour of India. US would like a greater role for India in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and therefore it realises the importance of land/sea route linkages required by India to assist Afghanistan.

-The development of both ports has provided impetus to the Baluch demand for independence. It has also enhanced the strategic importance of the Baluch land mass for Central Asian Countries, Gulf nations, Europe and African states. It is understood that Baluch would prefer US naval presence at Chabahar and Gwadar in case US supports the case for independence of Baluchistan[x]. Baluch are opposed to militarisation of Gwadar and Chabahar by China and Iran respectively. The Baluch stake their claim to both the ports since historically they are located on their land. India is progressing very cautiously at Chabahar since it supports demand for an independence of Baluchistan annexed by Pakistan in 1948.

The ports of Gwadar and Chabahar lie 1565 miles and 1486 miles NE of Djibouti respectively where China has established its first ever overseas military base.

Strategic Importance of Djibouti

“The western frontier of Djibouti is located in the narrowest part of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It is of great economic and strategic importance. All the European ships which enter the Red Sea from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and head toward East and South Asia, as well as Australia, pass through the 26-kilometer-wide bottle neck,”  

Andrei Kots

Djibouti currently hosts military bases of US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China and Saudi Arabia. It is understood that Russia too is going to join them in future. Further, it is noteworthy that Djibouti has declined to host an Iranian military base. The categorization of countries which constitute the Horn of Africa had been defined by Professor Mesfin Wolde-Mariam in 2004. Accordingly, Horn of Africa contains Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, and South Sudan. Keeping the above in view it can be seen that the Horn of Africa has become the most militarized zone in the region. Dr. Alem Hailu of Howard University, has aptly stated that “The geopolitical importance of the Horn of Africa deriving from the region’s location at the crossroads of trade flows, cultural links and military strategic interests for nations of the world has turned it into a major theatre where governments, movements and political groups large and small have sought to intervene in the internal affairs of the area.”

The strategic significance of the Horn of Africa arises from Red Sea and oil. Red Sea is the shortest waterway between East and the west. The Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa are separated by Bab-el Mandeb strait which is a critical choke point for flow of Gulf Oil. It forms a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Red Sea is connected with Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea through this strait. Gulf oil exports which are routed through Suez Canal and SUMED (Suez-Mediterranean) pipe line pass through Bab-el-Mandeb. Closure of this strait would lead to severe delays in re-routing the supplies over much larger distances via southern tip of Africa. Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia lie on one side of the strait and Yemen on the other side, approximately 3.8 million barrels of crude passes   through this strait daily. The area is piracy and militancy prone and poses a threat to oil shipping.

Djibouti Naval Base– China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti; about 8 km from the US military base Camp Lemonnier; is its most ambitious and first of its kind foray in having a military base outside of China. The facility would have ship and helicopter maintenance facilities, weapon stores, and support infrastructure for a small contingent of PLAN personnel. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Chinese presence at Gwadar.

The security of the Chinese base at Djibouti has been entrusted to the Western Theatre Command, WTC which has its headquarters at Chengdu in Sichuan province. It has the responsibility to look over India and Arabian Sea. It is the largest theatre command and has complex terrain including desert and high mountains, and long borders with India. In addition to the routine peacetime and wartime roles it has also been assigned a naval component to cater to the overseas base at Djibouti. The Tibet Military Command has been tasked for operations against India in the Arunachal Pradesh area, and training forces for high-altitude mountain warfare[xi] (The WTC headquarters includes a joint operations command centre also located in Chengdu). The WTC can deploy subordinate PLA Army, PLA Air Force and PLA Navy units, and if needed request additional forces from the CMC. China has replaced its Second Artillery Force by a new entity the PLA Rocket Force, which has been placed at par with the other three services. This fourth force would have both conventional and strategic missile components. The PLA Rocket Force would provide integral assets to each of the theatre commands. In addition, in a similar manner the PLA Strategic Support force would comprise the fifth arm of the Chinese military and will provide Intelligence, electronic warfare, cyber, and space operations support. It is understood that strategic missile assets including Naval components have been assigned to WTC for security of Djibouti.

In addition to the military base at Djibouti, Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings, Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company, and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu, Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Related to the above is the ever-increasing export of Arms and Ammunition to African countries by China[xii]. Over the years China has established a weapon export relationship with several large and small African states like Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Djibouti, Burundi, Ebola, South Sudan, Algeria, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone, among others. It is well known that Armament and ammunition shipments through land and ship routes are far more economical and safer than through Air and it makes sense for Chinese to route the increasing Armament exports through Gwadar to Djibouti over the sea and then beyond utilising as many friendly ports as feasible in Africa and the Gulf.

Dragon Stretches

On 27 June 2017, the Chinese contingent had participated in the 40th National day Parade of Djibouti along with other nations. On 11 July 2017, two PLAN warships, mobile landing platform MLP 868 Donghaidao and the amphibious transport dock Type 071 Jinggangshan set sail from the port of Zhanjiang to Djibouti. The ships were ferrying Chinese soldiers[xiii] for manning the Chinese military base at Djibouti. As per the agreement, the Chinese can position up to 10,000 soldiers at the base[xiv].

In June, this year a window of opportunity opened up for China since Qatar withdrew itself as a mediator between Eritrea and Djibouti land ownership dispute at Dumeira. Both Eritrea and Djibouti had backed Saudi Arabia and its allies in boycotting Qatar and it left no option for Qatar but to recuse itself. A dispute had arisen between Eritrea and Djibouti over Dumeira mountains and islands after the exit of France and Italy from Djibouti and Eritrea respectively. In June 2008, Djibouti claimed that Eritrean forces had entered the territory of Djibouti and had entrenched themselves. Both sides agreed to withdraw to pre2008 positions and have Qatar mediate the dispute after UN intervention in 2009[xv].

On 23 July 2017, the Chinese Ambassador to African Union, Kuang Weilin let it be known that China would consider mediating between Djibouti and Eritrea to resolve the dispute[xvi]and if requested China would also send troops to the border between the two countries.

The Dragon has started stretching from Xinjiang-Gwadar to Djibouti and beyond in to Africa.

 

[I] Neighbours out to fail Gwadar Port, reports revealed in 2003. The News, 30 Jun 2007. https://www.thenews.com.pk/archive/print/651166-neighbours-out-to-fail-gwadar-port,-reports-revealed-in-2003

[II] Ghazali, A.S. India Alarmed as Chinese Built Gwadar Port of Pakistan Becomes Operational.Countercurrents.org, February 8, 2008. http://www.countercurrents.org/ghazali080208.htm (accessed 10 Jul 2017).

[iii] Kulshrestha, S. A Tale of Two Ports: Gwadar versus Chahbahar. World news report and Taza khabar news. 14 May 2015. https://worldnewsreport.in/a-tale-of-two-ports-gwadar-versus-chahbahar/ (accessed 10 Jul 2017). https://taazakhabarnews.com/a-tale-of-two-ports-gwadar-versus-chahbahar/ (accessed 10 Jul 2017).

[iv] Corey S. Johnston, Transnational Pipelines and Naval Expansion: Examining China’s Oil Insecurities in The Indian Ocean. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, June 2008. http://calhoun.nps.edu/bitstream/handle/10945/4124/08Jun_Johnston.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (accessed 10 Jul 2017).

[v] Work at Chabahar Port in Iran progressing fast: Nitin Gadkari. Economic Times, 24 April 2017. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/work-at-chabahar-port-in-iran-progressing-fast-nitin-gadkari/printarticle/58343356.cms (accessed 12 Jul 2017).

[vi]Chabahar port will boost India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia. Bussiness-Standard,21 May 2016. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/chabahar-port-will-boost-india-s-connectivity-with-afghanistan-central-asia-116052100485_1.html (accessed 16 Jul 2017).

[vii] India, China, Japan Vying for Investment in Chabahar. Financial Tribune, 21 Jun 2017. https://financialtribune.com/articles/economy-domestic-economy/66869/india-china-japan-vying-for-investment-in-chabahar (accessed 16 Jul 2017).

[viii] ibid.

[ix] xiv ibid.

[x] Husseinbor, M H. Chabahar and Gwadar Agreements and Rivalry among Competitors in Baluchistan Region. Journal for Iranian Studies, Year 1, issue 1- Dec. 2016.  https://arabiangcis.org/english/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/05/Chabahar-and-Gwadar-Agreements-and-Rivalry-among-Competitors-in-Baluchistan-Region.pdf (accessed 19 Jul 2017).

[xi] Jie, K. China raises Tibet Military Command’s power rank. Global Times, 13 May 2016. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/982843.shtml (accessed 17 Jul 2017).

[xii] Kulshrestha, S. Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans. Indrastra Global,17 Dec 2016.

http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html (accessed 17 Jul 2017).

[xiii] Lendon, B and George, S. China sends troops to Djibouti, establishes first overseas military base. CNN,13 July 2017. http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/12/asia/china-djibouti-military-base/index.html (accessed 25 July 2017).

[xiv] China to open first overseas military base in Djibouti. Al Jazeera, 12 July 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/china-open-overseas-military-base-djibouti-170712135241977.html (accessed 25 Jul 2017).

[xv] The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1862 dated 14 January 2009.

[xvi]Rahman. A, Shaban. A. Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute: China opts to intervene. Africa News, 23 July 2017. http://www.africanews.com/2017/07/23/eritrea-djibouti-border-dispute-china-opts-to-intervene/ (accessed 27 Jul 2017).

Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans

(Published IndraStra Global, 17 Dec 2017; for complete interactive experience visit http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html )

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”  

 Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over a period, Chinese analysts have zeroed upon various countries/islands, which they consider inimical by being under the influence of the United States of America due to trade, military or common political goals. These include; countries/islands in Central Asian Region, Mongolia, India, and Diego Garcia in the outer periphery; Hawaii, Singapore, & Vietnam in the next closer circle; followed by Guam, Australia and New Zealand due to vicinity of second island chain; and Philippines (now tilting in favor of China), ROK & Japan within or around the first island chain. The aim of this article is to provide a naval perspective into the Chinese maritime engagements with nations having seacoasts.

Western Pacific Stand-Off Defenses-Carrier Killer DF-21 D and Guam Killer DF-26

In 2010, The US DoD acknowledged that the Dong-Feng 21D (DF-21D) Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile with a range of 1450 km had attained an initial operating capability. This missile can target a moving aircraft carrier from land-based mobile launchers and has maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system. It is understood that this missile is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single hit. The emergence of DF-21D has led the US Navy to rework the ‘carrier support’ warfare approach with respect to China and recommence building of its ballistic missile defense destroyers.

In 2015, China displayed The Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26). It is an intermediate-range ballistic missile produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The DF-26 has a range of 3,000–4,000 km, and is said to have nuclear, conventional, and anti-ship strike variants. It is capable of targeting  American military installations at Guam therefore, it has earned the tag of the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer”. Guam provides the US a strategic base to target the Asian continent with B-52s, F-35s, and F-22s. It also provides basic operational turnaround facilities for carriers and submarines.

Security Concerns-East China Sea

“China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach” – Song Zhongping, Military Commentator

China has built a pier for warships near a military base site close to the disputed Senkaku Island [2] in the East China Sea. A new 70 to 80-meter long pier for warships has been constructed on one of the islands in the Nanji island chain. It lies close to Wenzhou and is nearer to China than the nearest base of Japan. It is understood that a Coast Guard base is being constructed at Wenzhou, which would lend effective support to vessels for monitoring the Senkaku islands.

Security Concerns-South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region

The naval strategy of countries with large coastlines and hostile maritime neighbors invariably factors in submarines and anti-submarine warfare. A modern submarine is a potent multi-role asset that can carry out ISR, special ops, offensive missions, sea denial, and SLOC protection among others. In case it carries strategic weapons, it acts as an important leg of the nuclear triad. Undersea warfare by deploying submarines and/or other unmanned underwater systems is considered crucial in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environments. Considering the offensive capability a submarine bestows upon the nation operating it, there is some merit in also examining the likely basing /sale by China of conventional submarines and its associated high technology in the IOR.

South China Sea (SCS) – In early 2016, Satellite photographs had revealed that China had deployed two batteries of eight HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system, on Woody Island.[3] HQ-9 is a new generation medium-to-long-range, active radar homing, track via missile SAM. Infrastructure for aircraft, runways, and missiles is visible on Subi reef, Fiery Cross reef, and Mischief reef as well. China has continued building a network of artificial islands and turning them into mini military bases.

Submarine Operations: It is understood that complete control of SCS is considered essential by China to provide its expanded submarine fleet unrestricted and unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean from their base in Yulin, Hainan. The underwater channels and straits in SCS facilitate clandestine movement of the submarines through the first and second island chains. It is also understood that China State Shipbuilding is likely to construct the “underwater great wall” a sonar surveillance system with ship and submarine sensors for effective monitoring of foreign vessels in the SCS.

Indian Ocean Region

Djibouti Naval Base – China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti about 8 km from the US military base is it’s most ambitious and first of its kind foray in having a military base outside of China. The facility would have ship and helicopter maintenance facilities, weapon stores, and support infrastructure for a small contingent of PLAN personnel [5]. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Gwadar as well as the fact that it has been placed under the Western Theatre Command [6] at Chengdu, which would have integral naval assets as well as assets from the PLA Rocket Force  (which controls strategic assets) of China.

Pakistan – In August this year, it was reported that Pakistan is likely to acquire eight attack submarines [8] from China. They are probably export versions of Type 039 and Type 039A/041 (with Air Independent Propulsion). Primary weapons for these submarines are the 533 mm Yu-4 torpedoes, it is also possible that they can fire the Yu-6 wire-guided torpedoes. The torpedo tubes are capable of firing the YJ-8 anti-ship cruise missile, AScM, with a range of 80 km. The submarine can carry a mix of torpedoes, missiles, and mines. The Type 041’s weapon package includes the YU-6 wire-guided torpedoes, mines, and the YJ-8 AScM. It could in the future field the supersonic YJ-18 missile.

Bangladesh –  First of the two Chinese submarines [9] was delivered to Bangladesh on 14 November 2016. The Type 035G diesel-electric submarines, carry torpedoes and mines and are capable of attacking enemy ships and submarines.

Thailand – The Royal Thai Navy is likely to finalize [10] the purchase of three Chinese submarines after dithering over it for some time.

Malaysia – The Royal Malaysian Navy, RMN is planning to buy up to ten littoral mission ships [11] (patrol craft) from China. It is also likely that Malaysia may consider Chinese submarines as a replacement for its HDW submarines in future. It is expanding the RMN Kota Kinabalu submarine base with workshops and air defense systems [12].

Berthing Facilities for PLA Navy in IOR

Myanmar– Construction of two deep-water ports at Kyaukphyu by a consortium headed by CITIC group of China [13] would provide China access to the Bay of Bengal and hence to the IOR. The government has earmarked 1708 hectares for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, with two deep-sea ports, industrial zone, and a housing project.

Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka is trying to breathe life into the Hambantota port and infrastructure project by handing over controlling interests to a Chinese consortium [14].

Maldives – There are indications that Maldives may let the China build a seaport at Gaadhoo Island [15 in the southern atoll. The location of the island is significant as it sits at the entrance to the one-and-a-half degree SLOC channel.

Pakistan – Gwadar port was inaugurated in November 2016 [16] with 250 containers carrying Chinese goods shipped on Chinese ships to the Middle East and African countries.

Tanzanian and Kenyan Ports – Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings. Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company [17], and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu [18], Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Access to IOR of Chinese Mechanized Forces

Maj. Gen Bakshi, a strategic analyst has brought out the following two important facets of CPEC in his recent article [19].

The alignment of the CPEC corridor includes two major loops that come close to the Indian borders in Punjab and Rajasthan where major tank battles had been fought during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. These loops in the CPEC grant a military bias to the otherwise proclaimed trade route.

The Chinese army in its thrust on rapid modernization has mechanized its formations to wheel/track based formations that make them very agile. It also allows them to bring their tremendous firepower to Indo-Pak borders through CPEC in the case of any conflict.

Needless to assert that the same firepower can be transshipped rapidly to Gulf, Europe and African coast if required.

Security Concerns-Elsewhere

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The following table accessed from SIPRI highlights the types of weapon systems exported by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China (Weapon Systems)-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m. at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$0.5m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
2014 2015        Total           
Aircraft 215 409 624
Air defence systems 52 64 116
Armoured vehicles 302 384 686
Artillery 94 27 121
Engines 1 1
Missiles 197 206 403
Sensors 30 10 40
Ships 470 865 1335
Total 1360 1966 3326

The following table accessed from SIPRI provides arms export by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China to nations-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$ 0.5 m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
   2014 2015                     Total
Algeria 68 254 322
Angola 1 1
Bangladesh 245 474 719
Bolivia 20 20
Cameroon 74 74
Djibouti 8 7 14
Egypt 1 1
Ethiopia 2 2
Ghana 13 13
Indonesia 39 33 72
Iran 9 9 19
Iraq 17 17
Jordan 1 1
Kenya 7 10 16
Myanmar 267 288 554
Nigeria 57 58 115
Pakistan 394 565 959
Peru 13 13
Saudi Arabia 8 8
Seychelles 10 10
South Sudan 12 12
Sudan 32 27 59
Syria 5 5
Tanzania 26 20 46
Thailand 8 8
Trinidad and Tobago 16 16
Venezuela 77 147 223
Zambia 8 8
Total 1360 1966 3326

-It is interesting to note from the above table that 24 countries out of the 28 countries to which China has exported Arms and Ammunition have a maritime border!

-Further, the only four land locked countries that receive arms and ammunition from China have contiguous boundaries with Coastal nations, which in turn are beneficiaries of Chinese arms export. (Bolivia-Peru; Ethiopia-Kenya & Djibouti; South Sudan-Kenya; Zambia-Tanzania)

-it can be seen that the list covers nations in Asia, Gulf, both coasts of Africa, and Latin America. This intern implies ease of berthing facilities for Chinese Naval vessels in ports of these nations.

Gateway to Europe 

“The cooperation at Piraeus port is not just an economic collaboration but has strategic characteristics. Greece, via the Piraeus port, can indeed become China’s gateway into Europe to the benefit of China and Greece,”  Pitsiorlas, Chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund privatization agency.

Greece – The ancient Greek port of Piraeus and one of the largest in Europe, located in the Mediterranean basin has been acquired by COSCO Shipping of China after purchasing 51 percent stake in the port [20]. COSCO Shipping is scheduled to construct a second container terminal for Chinese exports to Europe. The sale another Greek port Thessaloniki; which is being eyed by Chinese companies; is currently put on hold.

Turkey – In September 2015, Chinese state-owned shipping, and logistics company COSCO Pacific, along with China Merchants Holdings International and CIC Capital, had acquired a majority stake in one of the largest container terminals of Turkey, namely Kumport at Ambarli coast of Istanbul [21].

Thus, China has established a critical foothold in Europe by acquiring the Piraeus port as well as the Turkish container terminal in Kumport as part of its strategic One Belt One Road strategic initiative.

Chinese Foray into, Antarctica, and the Arctic (Bering Sea)  

“China’s rapid Antarctic…expansion reflects Beijing’s desire to become a maritime, and polar, great power” – Prof Anne-Marie Brady, Antarctic specialist

China is setting up its first Air Squadron [23] in Antarctica to support its ongoing scientific explorations. China is also a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty that bans the military activity in the region, but there are many dual capability missions, which can aid military research and operations in face of contingencies.

In September 2015, in a first of its kind mission five PLAN ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska [24], interestingly, the PLAN ships were in the area during the visit of President Barack Obama to Alaska. With global warming likely to open the Northern Sea Route sooner than later, China is keen to utilize this opportunity as the route cuts down the distance and passage time to Europe. However, since Canada claims sovereignty over the said waterways, this could pose “the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage,” [25] according to Professor Rob Huebert, of University of Calgary.

Global Outlook of PLAN – Chinese Navy has undertaken modernization of its Naval fleet to meet its Global Navy focus as part of its geopolitical strategy. As analyzed in a Wikistrat report, “Chinese Navy ships have transited the Red Sea and Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, the Bosporus, the Panama Canal, the Strait of Magellan, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and have made port calls all along both the east and west coasts of Africa, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Chinese warships have sailed into American territorial waters near the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea” [26].

Conclusion 

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A global strategic net has been cast by China by creating fundamental structures for sea trade and commerce. China has been carrying out calibrated development of its maritime capability in mercantile shipping, fishing, undersea exploration & exploitation, and the Navy. It is likely that by 2025 the world would have to come to terms with the global maritime status of China as also the blue water capability of PLAN. The attendant security issues and concerns would follow.

It is no longer a string of pearls in the IOR, it is a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’ that stares at the developed world in defiance today.

Options: 

  • Preclude confrontation given the precarious global economic situation and nuclear deterrence
  • Preclude submission given the dispositions of the existing and emerging power centers
  • Preclude peaceful co-existence, as it is utopian under the existing circumstances where national interests have prevented even an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism
  • Could include rapid building up of a robust coalition to create two distinct power centers, provided the United States is able to synergize its economic might with those of the like-minded nations and tamper the perception that it is a global hegemon.

Time to act is now!

 “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  Publication Details:

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans” IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032 | http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html | ISSN 2381-3652|

Endnotes:

[1]http://origin.www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/Staff%20Report_China’s%20Expanding%20Ability%20to%20Conduct%20Conventional%20Missile%20Strikes%20on%20Guam.pdf

[2] https://sputniknews.com/world/201608201044449726-china-pier-for-warships/  

[3] http://www.news.com.au/world/ongoing-escalations-in-the-south-and-east-china-seas-has-some-analysts-daring-to-wonder-who-would-win-a-war/news-story/20da5034d2b32ff31d35242cee26b656  

[4] http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1993754/south-china-sea-air-strips-main-role-defend-hainan   

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-builds-first-overseas-military-outpost-1471622690   

[6] http://english.chinamil.com.cn/view/2016-02/02/content_7160686.htm   

[7]http://english.chinamil.com.cn/news-channels/china-military-news/2016-01/01/content_6839967.htm   

[8] http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/pak-to-acquire-8-attack-submarines-from-china-for-4-billion-report-1452729   

[9]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Bangladesh-buys-two-submarines-from-China/articleshow/55415904.cms   

[10] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/is-thailand-now-serious-about-submarines-from-china/

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-china-defence-idUSKCN12S0WA   

[12]http://thediplomat.com/2015/01/malaysia-eyes-submarine-base-expansion-near-south-china-sea/

[13] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-moves-to-revive-its-sway-in-myanmar-1456697644   

[14] http://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/10/28/sold-sri-lankas-hambantota-port-and-the-worlds-emptiest-airport-go-to-the-chinese/#1d473d1716d8    

[15]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/China-may-build-port-in-southern-Maldives/articleshow/51771171.cms 

[16]http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2016/nov/13/pakistans-strategic-gwadar-port-opens-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-1538139.html   

[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36458946  

[18]http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Chinese-firm-to-build-Sh14bn-Kisumu-port/1248928-3130106-4m9purz/index.html

   [19] http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/voices/2016/nov/26/india-needs-to-seek-alliance-partners-who-are-prepared-to-contain-the-chinese-aggression-1542281–1.html   

[20] https://www.rt.com/business/355523-cosco-stake-greek-port/   

[21]http://www.invest.gov.tr/en-US/infocenter/news/Pages/280915-cosco-pacific-buys-turkish-kumport.aspx   

[22] https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/considering-chinas-strategic-interests-in-antarctica/   

[23] http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/china-to-establish-antarctic-air-squadron-in-2016/

[24] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKCN0R22DN20150902   

[25] http://time.com/4302882/china-arctic-shipping-northwest-passage/

[26]http://wikistrat.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Wikistrat-The-Chinese-Navy.pdf
 

The Naval Gun Continues to Reign!

 

(Published SP’s Naval Forces Aug-Sept 2015)

A naval warship is a platform that is meant to last at least 25 years and have flexibility to upgrade its systems with changes in technology during this period. It would therefore be worthwhile to look at some of the formidable modern warships and their armament packages to get a perspective in to trends in the coming decades. Starting with the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) the second LCS, Coronado has been designed for littoral warfare and is being equipped to tackle anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare and anti surface warfare. It is being outfitted with reconfigurable payloads called ‘mission packages’. The Coronado is being constructed by M/s Austal USA, in Alabama, USA. Apart from the mission modules, it carries Evolved SeaRAM (Raytheon) 11-cell missile launcher, 4 × .50-cal guns (2 aft, 2 forward) and 57 mm gun (Mk 110, of BAE Systems). The US Navy’s Zumwalt class guided missile destroyers have been designed as land attack, multi mission ships. These ships boast of an integrated power system, which can power rail gun or free electron laser guns of the future. The main armament consists of, 20 × MK 57 VLS modules (Raytheon) with a total of 80 launch cells, Tactical Tomahawk(Raytheon/ McDonnell Douglas) 1 per cell,RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM-Raytheon) 4 per cell, Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC- Lockheed Martin) 1 per cell, 2 × 155 mm/62 caliber Advanced Gun System (BAE), 920 × 155 mm rounds, 70–100 LRLAP rounds(Lockheed Martin), 2 × 30 mm Mk 46 Mod 2 Gun Weapon System (General Dynamics).

The Russian Navy’s Steregushchy class multipurpose corvettes are meant for littoral combat missions including those of anti submarine warfare, anti surface warfare and naval gunfire support. The armament package includes, 2 x 4 Uran Kh-35 (SS-N-25), 12 x Redut VLS cells, 1 x Kashtan CIWS-M, 2 x 4 330mm torpedo tubes for Paket-NK anti-torpedo/anti-submarine torpedoes, 2 × 14.5mm MTPU pedestal machine guns, 2 x AK-630М CIWS, and 1 x 100mm A-190 Arsenal or 130mm A-192 naval gun. The PLAN’s type 052D guided missile destroyer (Kunming class) is under construction at
Changxingdao-Jiangnan Shipyard (JNCX). The main armament consists of YJ-18 or YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, CJ-10 LACM, CY-5 series ASW missiles, 64 VLS, HHQ-9 series long range SAM, DK-10A medium range SAM, 1 x HHQ-10 short range SAM in 24-cell launcher, 6 torpedo tubes, 1 x H/PJ-12 CIWS, 2 x 30 mm remote controlled guns, and 1 x H/PJ-38 130mm dual purpose gun.

The Swedish Visby class corvettes have been designed by Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and built by Kockums AB. They carry, 4 × 400 mm torpedo launchers for Type 45 (Saab) torpedoes, 8 × RBS15 Mk2 (Saab Bofors) AshM, and 1 × Bofors 57 mm Mk3. The Indian Navy’s project 15 B, Visakhapatnam class stealth guided missile destroyers, would carry, 4 × 8-cell VLS for a total of 32 Barak 8missiles, 2 × 8-cell Universal Vertical Launcher Module (UVLM) for 16 BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack missiles, 4 × 533 mm Torpedo tubes, 2 × RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers, 4 × AK-630 CIWS, 1 × 127 mm gun Oto Melara SRGM (likely).

Lastly, the Global Combat ship of the Royal Navy has been designed for 13000 km range at 15 knots with an endurance of 60 days. Its versatile design caters for anti piracy, anti terror, maritime security, and HADR missions. Its armament includes; 3 × 8-cell strike-length Mk 41 VLS (Martin Marietta/ Lockheed Martin) suitable for Tomahawk, ASROC and LRASM; 8 × 6-cell CAMM VLS (MBDA) canisters for a total of 48 CAMM (MBDA) missiles; Sting Ray torpedo system(GEC Marconi-likely); 2 × Phalanx (General Dynamics) CIWS; 2 × 30mm DS30M Mk2 (MSI Defence Systems) guns; 2 × Miniguns; 4 × General purpose machine guns; and 1 × BAE 5 inch Mk 45 naval gun.

The Naval Gun

The most striking thing about the armament packages of the formidable warships mentioned above is the fact that the Naval Gun continues to form an integral part of the firepower of these warships.

The Swedish Bofors 57 mm MK 3 gun is a dual-purpose naval gun designed and produced by AB Bofors. It has a rate of fire of 220 rounds per minute with a 40-round magazine within the turret. It features a new lightweight gun turret and a new gun barrel of   monobloc steel with a new servomechanism. This makes the gun respond rapidly and engage sea-skimming missiles with faster rate of firing. The Ammunition for the Bofors 57 mm gun is produced by Bofors, Sako Limited in Finland, and Nammo in Norway. BAE Systems AB also offers the Bofors 57 mm 3P all-target programmable ammunition, this allows three proximity fusing modes as well as settings for time, impact, and armor piercing functions. It has the flexibility to choose ammunition mode at the time of firing. Further, it has the ability to engage ground, air, and surface targets. This year BAE has announced a new round the Mk 295 Mod 1 Ordnance for Rapid Kill of Attack Craft (ORKA) with single shot kills of air and surface targets.

The Russian AK-130 is a twin-barreled gun with a rate of fire of 20-86 rounds per minute and a range of over 20 km. PLAN’s  H/PJ38 is a single barrel 130 mm gun. It is copied from the Soviet AK-130 and is considered more reliable and powerful than the original. The Chinese carried out the crucial improvement of adapting the gun to fire both separate and semi-fixed rounds. China has also developed a variety of sub-caliber rounds for the H/P J38.

The BAE Systems AGS & MK45 Mod 4 127/62, the Oto Melara 127/64 gun & the 76mm Super Rapido continue to be the most advanced guns today.

BAE’s Advanced Gun System, AGS, is designed for delivering precision munitions at a high rate of fire and at over-the-horizon ranges. It includes an automated magazine, the ammunition uses a separate propellant canister for both conventional and guided munitions. Projectiles include ballistic projectiles as well as guided land & surface attack munitions using course correcting fuses (CCF). The rate of fire of Long Range Land Attack Projectiles, LRLAP is 10 rounds per minute.

BAE Systems Mk 45 Mod 4 is 5-inch (127-mm) 62-caliber gun mount used in the U.S. Navy . The enhanced gun system has significantly improved capabilities for Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS), as well as overall gunfire mission performance. Upgrades have been carried out, which enable Mk 45 to handle and fire high-energy munitions. It also optimizes performance of new and existing ammunition types. As per BAE, firepower flexibility of the Mk 45 Mod 4 naval gun system is achieved with the combination of several features such as, Multi-mission ammunition inventory, mixed ammunition load capacity, Remote round-to-round selectivity, and  advanced fire control adaptability.

The Oto Melara 127/64 Lightweight Vulcano constitutes;  the large caliber 127/64 LW Gun assembly,  the Automated Ammunition Handling System, the Naval Fire Control Support, and  the VULCANO  family  of ammunition. It is a medium caliber naval gun meant for surface fire and naval gunfire support as its main role and anti-aircraft fire as its secondary role. The compactness of the gun feeding system makes it possible to install it on medium size warships also.  It has a modular automatic feeding magazine with four rotating drums, each holding 14 ready-to-fire rounds. It is thus able to fire 30/35 rounds per minute. The Fire Control System calculates the ballistic trajectories, programs the fuses and, it updates GPS data when the GPS-guided VULCANO rounds are fired.

Status of Ammunition Development

In addition to the standard round the 127 mm Oto Melara can fire the VULCANO, which is a steerable sub-munition with tail fins and canards. The VULCANO range comprises of; the BER (Ballistic Extended Range) with a range of 70 km;         GPS / Inertial Navigation System;   GPS / INS / Infra-red Imaging; and GPS / INS / Semi Active Laser (SAL).

The GPS/INS ammunition is used against fixed targets, with high accuracy. In case of the GPS/INS/SAL round, Diehl provides the miniaturized, shock-resistant Semi-Active Laser seeker and Oto Melara supplies the projectile. The SAL guides the shell to engage small, fixed, moving, and re-locatable targets with very high accuracy. The addition of a SAL seeker to the GPS and inertial navigation guidance makes this variant of the round extremely accurate. With external laser designation of the target, it can even engage moving targets with high accuracy. The IIR seeker is used for anti-ship role. The built-in IIR seeker scans the surface of the sea to detect and track the heat signature of the enemy vessel a few miles before entering the target zone. On acquiring the target, it can maneuver to counter evasive measures if any. The 4AP (4 Action Plus) fuse of the Vulcano is a microwave fuse, which can detonate on impact, time, airburst, or proximity. The development of the BER variant has been completed. The guided variants, are more or less in their final leg  of the development phase.

BAE’s Standard Guided Projectile – Multi Service is a 127mm shell with GPS/INS guidance, propelled by a rocket booster. It has an in flight retargeting feature which is enabled by GPS feed to the shell. This enables it to engage even small moving targets. It has a range of up to 100 km with a CEP better than 10 m. It has a 16.3 kg warhead.

Oto Melara’s ‘Strales’ for its 76.2 Super Rapido Gun is a guidance kit, having a radio frequency beam antenna for use when firing the DART (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight). It is a guided, sabot-discarding high speed round meant to engage airplanes, missiles and fast attack crafts. The DART comprises of a 2.5 Kg pre fragmentation tungsten cube warhead located in the rear, whereas the front portion is free to rotate with two canard wings. The tail has backward looking radio receivers and six fixed wings for line of sight guidance. It has the 3A PLUS programmable fuse. The DART can fly 5 km in 5 seconds. The development of STRALES kit has already been completed and it has been installed on the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour. Oto Melara has also developed  the Stealth gun shield, made of carbon fiber, with foldable gun barrel and sliding cover. It would be fitted on the new FALAJ-class corvettes of the UAE.

Ongoing Research

Composite Gun Barrel.       Texas Research Institute Austin, Inc. is researching in to the requirements of US Navy for a low-cost, lightweight, composite outer wrapped rifled barrel design suitable for firing high-energy projectiles from the Zumwalt destroyer advanced gun system. The rapid firing of high-energy projectiles using high-temperature propellants causes high dynamic barrel pressurization loads, rapid heating of the barrel, and increased fatigue & wear on the barrel bore. The US Navy requires a composite outer wrapped actively water-cooled barrel design using high-performance composite materials to provide a gun barrel with superior dynamic strength, fatigue, wear, and heat dissipation characteristics. Texas Research Institute Austin, Inc., is developing a polymer composite filament-wound outer wrapped gun barrel design that will meet requirements of the advanced gun system. Use will be made of developments of lightweight, high-temperature, fatigue-resistant, filament-wound composite applications in the offshore oil and gas, marine, automotive, and aircraft industries.

Development of Materials and Processes That Eliminate Large Gun Barrel Wear & Erosion from Advanced Propellants & Projectiles.        Materials & Electrochemical Research, Tuson, have  demonstrated that molybdenum-rhenium (Mo-Re) alloys exhibited negligible erosion and wear in terms of weight loss, as compared to chromium plated gun steel. Research is now being carried out to optimize the Mo-Re ratio versus vented bomb erosion and wear, followed by mechanical property characterization including fatigue life.

Conclusion

It is apparent that the shipbuilders and war planners have decided that no warship should be without the Naval Gun ! This is due to the compelling reasons that; guns can engage various targets like air, surface, land and FAC; they act as a contingency to missile systems; guns have short reaction time, and can engage selected land targets; they practically operate in most weather conditions; they have a sustained bearing on targets, they are not prone to jamming; and  they can engage a number of low flying missiles due to absence of dead zones.

Further the reason for the naval gun to remain relevant in the modern warships despite the missiles lies in the advent of long-range precision guided ammunition. Micro-miniaturization of guidance electronics and developments in gun propellants, has ensured very high accuracy of rounds at extended ranges and at costs, which were unthinkable a decade ago. The development of the precision guided ammunition implies that targets can be selectively engaged with great accuracy, maneuvering targets can be attacked, quick reaction times are available, and costs of engagement can be substantially reduced. Thus for the next two decades it appears that the naval gun would continue to be a major component of a warship’s outfit.

49. A Tale of Two Ports; Gwadar versus Chahbahar

(Published in  World news report and Tazakhabarnews on 14 May 2015)

Two important declarations in the past few days have brought in to focus the importance of the Makaran Coast to Middle East as well as the Central Asian Region.
Firstly, the Chinese president Xi Jinping launched $46bn worth of infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan during his recent visit. The main thrust of these is to strengthen the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Chinese Xinjiang region. This also forms a part of the Chinese one belt one road and maritime silk route programmes. Chinese government and banks like, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd and China Development Bank will provide funds to Chinese companies investing in the projects. The likely Chinese companies are China Power International Development Ltd, Three Gorges Corp, ICBC Corporation, Zonergy Corporation, and Huaneng Group. The Chinese president has linked the investments to the safety and security of Chinese assets and workers since the projects involving railways, pipelines, and roads will cross through the insurgency infested areas of Balochistan.
The second important event has been the signing of MOU between Government of Iran and Government of India to develop the port of Chahbahar. The project will increase trade links between both countries. The Indian side has pledged to commit about $85 million to construct container and multi-purpose terminals.
Due to the geographical locations of Pakistan and Iran to the Caspian region and the fact that both provide the shortest routes to Arabian Sea ports, has led both the countries to progress developing infrastructure and connectivity of their ports with the Central Asian Region(CAR). Apart from oil and gas, the ports expect to harvest other trade commodities like cotton, which currently are routed through Russia to Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.
Just over 100 km apart, Gwadar the Pakistani port and Chabahar the Iranian port are competitors for accessing the CAR markets. Both Iran and Pakistan are wooing Afghanistan by giving trade and fees incentives to favour their respective port. Pakistan however fears that “Chabahar port would inflict a huge financial setback for Pakistan”.
As far as Afghanistan is concerned, its natural resources include, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 60 million tons of copper, and 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as cerium, neodymium, and lanthanum. It also has lodes of gold, silver, aluminium, zinc, lithium and mercury. The carbonite deposits in Helmand province itself are valued at $89 billion. The US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics have shown interest in these deposits. Afghanistan being a land locked country is currently dependent upon Pakistani ports for its international trade. If Chahbahar port starts operating it would provide an alternate port to Afghanistan without encumbrance of insurgency. In view of the above, it makes sense to look at both the ports in some detail.
Gwadar
Gwadar lies in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. A province, which is rich in natural resources like oil and gas. In fact, of Pakistan’s ~28tcf gas reserves, ~19tcf are in Baluchistan. The Baloch claim that, despite being the largest gas producer in Pakistan, they get only 20% of the royalty payments received by the other two gas producing provinces. They thus subsidise the rich provinces, even though they are in fact the poorest in the country and that nothing much has been done by the government for their development from the vast revenue generated from Baluchistan. No wonder that the Sui gas fields which lie in Bugti tribe controlled region, are the ones most affected by militancy. Baloch militants pose a credible threat to the vast span of gas pipelines, which are not possible to police or monitor effectively (for e.g. The Sui Southern Gas Company has a pipeline network of over 27,500 km covering Baluchistan and Sindh).
Current Phase of Insurgency. The Gwadar port development project was commenced in 2002.Millions of dollars poured in to the quiet village of Gwadar from Chinese and Pakistani investors (~$200mn was the Chinese investment for the first phase of the project completed in 2005). The premise was that Gwadar would be converted in to major port hub on the lines of Dubai and the locals would benefit most. The Baloch soon realised that this was not to be, and that once again their natural resources were being siphoned out by the Central government. In 2006, Pakistani Cobra helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter jets attacked Baloch areas suspected of insurgency; state organised disappearances and kidnappings culminated in killing of the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. The Then President Musharraf told his core commanders “the writ of the Pakistani government will never be challenged. Let that be a warning… if anyone challenges the writ of the government, I will crush it.”
‘Great Land Robbery’ story was published in The Herald in Jun 2008, claiming that hundreds of thousands of acres of land had been illegally allotted to non resident military and civilian personnel and resold to builders for residential and industrial purposes. The Baloch realised that their illiterate poor had been deprived of a rightful share in Gwadar’s growth. The insurgent attacks spiralled to about 33 attacks per month in 2009 and continue to this day, Pakistan blames India and Afghanistan for fanning the tribal Baloch sentiments against military excesses and economic exploitation. Many foreign analysts have however not found any credible evidence actively linking India with the Baloch insurgency. Gwadar has thus become the lynch pin for the Baloch hatred of Punjabi elite. Towards the end of Xi’s, visit this April 2015, separatist Baluch rebels launched attacks on a coastal radar station near Gwadar, and on a security force convoy in the Awaran district of the province.
Gwadar Port. Gwadar had a population of about 5000 in 2001, mainly comprising of poor fishermen, once the Chinese assisted deep-water port development began, it has crossed a population of 125000. Apart from a network of roads, rail air and infrastructural projects, Pakistan plans include a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, an international airport, a cement plant, an oil refinery, and a steel mill. China’s interests at Gwadar are very clear; China is looking for monitoring of its Gulf oil supply route as well as an opening for import/ export trade from its Muslim majority Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
The first phase of Gwadar port was completed on schedule by the Chinese in 2005. The running of the port was leased for 40 years to PSA International of Singapore in 2007 by the Pakistani government. The agreement however ran into problem with Pakistan blaming PSA of not keeping their end of contract with respect to the investments promised by them. The running of the port has now been handed over to the Chinese. With Gwadar port commencing operations it has given the Chinese an opening in to the Arabian Sea, a strategic depth to Pakistan navy and some cause for worry to India. In 2008 the then Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Gwadar could be used by Pakistan to “take control over the world energy jugular.”
Importance for China. Oil tankers from Gulf transit about 6000 nm and those from the African coast transit about 10,000 nm before they discharge their energy cargo at Chinese ports. Both the tankers routes have to pass through Malacca Straits in addition to problem zones in their respective routes. If tankers can unload at Gwadar, they would have to travel only about 680 nm from the Gulf and about 3000 nm from African coast (Angola). Pak-China pipeline from Gwadar to Kashghar in Xinjiang is likely to run parallel to the Karakorum highway and cover a distance of about 1500 miles over tough mountainous terrain. It would also provide berthing facilities to PLA Navy. Indicators that China is seriously contemplating Pak-China energy corridor are evident from the following development projects:-
-Phase II of Gwadar port and International Airport at Gwadar by China Harbour Engineering Company.
-Petrochemical city (including oil refining capacity of 421,000 bpd) by Great United Petroleum Holdings Company Limited.
-Rail link up to Xingjian by Dong Fang Electric Supply Corp.
-Upgrading of Karakoram high way.
-Construction of Kazakhstan-China and Turkmenistan – China pipelines and their eventual augmentation by feed from Gwadar-Kashghar pipeline.
– Most important of all the recent pledge of nearly $38 bn (of a total of $46 bn) infrastructure and energy projects in the region by the Chinese President.
Chahbahar
The Chabahar port project is very important for Afghanistan since it would enable shipping goods to Middle East and Europe as well as allow inflow of key goods to Afghanistan. Economically it would imply a significant boost to its trade and investment in much needed infrastructure. This has now become a distinct possibility with the US and Iran about to reach an understanding on Iran’s Nuclear program.
The port of Chabahar is located in the south of Baluchistan and Sistan Province and it is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean. It has historically been a trade centre because of its access Oman Sea and Persian Gulf. Chabahar port has an area of 11 sqkm and is interestingly located at the same latitude as the Miami port in the Florida. The weather at Chabahar port is quite similar to Miami port in that it is very pleasant in summer. It is also one of the coolest ports of the Middle East. The port has been under construction since 1973 but lack of resources has resulted in delays in its completion. Shahid-Kalantary and Shahid-Beheshti are two important ports in Chahbahar. Its location outside of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz has been very beneficial to Iran’s trade since the Iran – Iraq war. The port will be connected to the Trans-Iranian railway with the completion of the Kerman-Zahedan railway.
A trilateral agreement was signed between Iran, India, and Afghanistan In 2003. India was to build a road, known as Route 606, connecting Delaram, the border city of Afghanistan to Zaranj the Capital of Nimruz province in Afghanistan. Iran was to build a highway from Chabahar up to Delaram. Border Roads Organization of India constructed the Delaram – Zaranj highway and it was completed in 2009.
With the likelihood of West easing sanctions on Iran, India has once again stepped in with a modest investment to construct container and multipurpose terminals; this would make Chabahar operational in future. It would also provide India with ease of trade with Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Iran. Chahbahar does not lie in an insurgency-ridden area like Gwadar therefore, it is clear that nations would prefer Chahbahar.
India needs to keep promoting Chahbahar as a strategic port on the Makaran coast as it addresses both the ease of trading as well as India’s security needs in the region.