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Asia-Pacific

Korean Military Networks Flourish Under Duress

November 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The signal brigade in charge of U.S. Army communications in the Republic of Korea is incorporating new technologies and capabilities with one eye on ensuring success and the other eye on the hostile neighbor to the north. System improvements such as the advanced Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, voice over Internet protocol and a Korean theater version of the Joint Information Environment are designed to give allied forces a significant edge should war break out.

Pacific Air Forces Addresses Strategic
 Rebalance

November 1, 2013
By Rita 
Boland

Cooperation and conflict define the new strategy guiding U.S. Pacific Air Forces as the air element of the U.S. Pacific Command adjusts to the strategic pivot to that vast region. The former aspect includes efforts with many regional allies as well as closer activities with the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, the latter element entails power projection to be able to respond to crises whenever they emerge, including those over water.

China in Space

October 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

China’s activities in space have caught the attention of U.S. and other countries’ officials, altering how personnel must consider the domain. The importance of the area outside of Earth to military operations makes the location critical for any nation looking to put itself into a terrestrial position of power. During 2012, China conducted 18 space launches and upgraded various constellations for purposes such as communications and navigation. China’s recent expansion into the realm presents new concerns for civilian programs and defense assets there.

In the U.S. National Military Strategy, officials discuss their concern about China’s military modernization and assertiveness in space, also stating that the “enabling and warfighting domains of space and cyberspace are simultaneously more critical for our operations yet more vulnerable to malicious actions.” The United States has released several pieces of guidance on its approach to the domain such as the National Space Policy and the Defense Department’s National Security Space Strategy. The military defines the latter as a “pragmatic approach to maintain the advantages derived from space while confronting the challenges of an evolving space strategic environment. It is the first such strategy jointly signed by the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence.”
 

Unlike the 1960s-era space race when Soviets and Americans competed to be first, China approaches space with a different set of goals. Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who focuses on Chinese political and social affairs, explains that the Sino perspective asks, “What do we want to do in space? What can space do for us?”

China’s Navy Deploys
 Three-Tier Defensive Weapons

July 1, 2013
By James C. Bussert

 

China is adopting a multitier shipborne weapon system approach that flies in the face of the approach usually taken by modern navies. Instead of building a single design for weapons systems that is adapted for different ships, the Chinese Navy has developed specialized systems that perform similar functions on different-sized vessels.

Traditionally, nations that sell naval weapon systems field a given design applicable to a wide variety of ships. For the U.S. Navy, the Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS) has been the standard missile launcher for U.S. surface combatants and for foreign military sales. Originally, three sizes of Mk 41 modules were developed: the large “strike” size—commonly referred to by the overall designation Mk 41—that holds Tomahawk cruise missiles installed on cruisers and destroyers; a middle “tactical” size; and a “self-defense” quad pack for foreign customers with smaller ships.

In addition to these three types, four variants of the topside shorter-celled Mk 48 VLS have been exported to six foreign navies but are not used by the U.S. Navy. The six-barrel 20-millimeter Phalanx Gatling gun close-in weapon system (CIWS) is fitted to a majority of U.S. Navy ships and is exported widely to allied nations. A third defensive system is the multinational Mk 116 rolling airframe missile (RAM) design, which is deployed in the Mk 49 21-cell launchers used by six nations, including the U.S. Navy. A smaller SeaRAM with an 11-cell launcher in a Phalanx frame is replacing the 20-millimeter Gatling gun.

The Perils of the Pivot

July 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

As the Global War on Terrorism winds down in the minds of American military strategists, the rush to put this chapter of our history behind us without further reflection is palpable. Yet, by turning our focus to more easily understood conflicts, we risk missing the very real lessons of the past 10 years that likely will remain relevant in the coming decades.;

Having awoken from the nightmare of uncertainty and confusion that defined the unconventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our nation’s strategic planners have retreated reflexively to the intellectually comfortable contemplation of where our forces excel. “Give us defined, similar-looking adversaries, and we will crush anyone who dares challenge us,” they offer. “Let’s assume the future retains the same framework as before, iterate from our existing dominant structure, and we will remain pre-eminent.”

This mindset very well may reflect a counter to “the most dangerous course of action,” but it completely ignores “the most likely course of action” in world affairs. The two are related only very infrequently, and a focus on one to the complete exclusion of the other can have catastrophic consequences. It also is a perfect demonstration of how disruptive innovation can upend incumbents, a concept first introduced by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in the late 1990s.

In his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” Christensen theorizes how large, successful firms can fail by “doing everything right.” He goes on to describe further how past successes and incredible capabilities can “actually become obstacles in the face of changing markets and technologies.”

Cyber, Security Focuses for Marine Forces Pacific

June 12, 2013
By Rita Boland

Cyberwarfare is a primary concern for the U.S. Marine Corps as it continues its rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. With the growing involvement of cyber in every operation along with specific concerns of virtual attacks from large nations in the region, emphasis on the new domain is becoming increasingly important.

Razor Talon Sharpens Services’ Synergy

June 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Integrating air land, and sea forces on a monthly basis saves money and creates continuity of operations.

Technology experts at the U.S. Air Force’s 4th Fighter Wing based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, are networking joint units up and down the East Coast to provide unique training opportunities for the modern military. Through their efforts, advancements are being made to further the Air-Sea Battle Concept, simultaneously improving coalition interoperability. The events allow for interservice and international training without strain on organizations’ budgets.

These Razor Talon exercises are monthly large-force exercises that have grown significantly since their first iteration in March 2011. They evolved in part from an inability of units, because of timing or funding, always to send their assets to the major exercise of that type—Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. “We needed a large-force exercise to essentially grow mission commanders,” explains Col. Michael Koscheski, USAF, 4th Operations Group commander. Though units from the East Coast can receive world-class training by attending annual, large-scale events, the home station training offered through Razor Talon ensures they can keep up-to-date. Sometimes units miss out for years on attending other exercises because of costs or mission schedules. Razor Talon planners lay out the yearly schedule for their monthly events, and groups see when they are available to participate based on their operations.

Budgetary Concerns
 Dominate
 Pacific Pivot

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Declining defense funds and the rise of China may hinder strategic rebalancing efforts.

Whatever the threat; wherever the conflict; whatever the mission; the future U.S. military largely will be defined by forced budget constraints. The ongoing fiscal crisis, haunted by the twin specters of sequestration and continuing resolution, will have a greater say in shaping the future force than either adversaries or advances in weapon technologies.

Even resolution of the thorniest sequestration issues would not change the overall trend of declining financial resources for the defense community. The effects of budget cuts could be severe and might prevent forces from carrying out their missions. In terms of materiel, acquisitions will be slowed and new program starts largely could disappear. Operation and maintenance will be reduced, deployments will be cut back and support resources will be reduced—all as the United States rebalances its strategic emphasis toward the Asia-Pacific region.

These were among the lead topics discussed at West 2013, the annual conference and exposition hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute January 29-31 in San Diego. While the three-day event had the theme of “Pivot to the Pacific: What Are the Global Implications,” discussions largely focused on the dire consequences of the looming fiscal cliff. Audiences that were aware of the impending budget crisis were surprised by the bluntness of the assessments offered by high-ranking Defense Department civilian and military leaders.

One stark assessment came from the event’s first speaker, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., USN, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Speaking to a packed house at a morning keynote address, Adm. Winnefeld described the looming financial crisis as a “wolf,” adding that it is becoming “increasingly apparent that this wolf is going to catch us.”

China Employs Ships As Weapon Test Platforms

March 1, 2013
BY James C. Bussert

A handful of designs serves to validate indigenous and reverse-engineered technologies.

The People’s Republic of China has been introducing diverse new classes of ships into its navy for decades, but it also has employed some as vessels for weapons trials. Three ships distinctly have served as test platforms for many of the new technologies that entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN. An examination of these trial ships can illustrate the next generation of technologies about to be incorporated in the navy.
 

The first nominal weapon trial ship was the 1,200-ton Yanxi class AGE hull 701 Hsun, built in Shanghai in 1970. It carried no systems other than anti-aircraft guns and radars, but it did support Soviet Styx surface-to-surface missile (SSM) launch and recovery during tests.

In March 1997, the Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai launched the 6,000-ton Dahua class ship Shiyan for testing modern naval weapon systems. The ship, hull 970 (experimental), initially was hull 909, which was built as a weapon range test ship. It deployed to the South China Sea test range in January 1998. The trial equipment tested included electronic countermeasures (ECM), a prototype vertical launching system on the bow and several copies of the Russian MR-90 Front Dome fire control radar to illuminate air targets. The 970 operated off of Japan in February 2000 as an electronic intelligence (ELINT) ship prior to PLAN East China Sea exercises.

The lead Dahua class ship frequently changed hull numbers. Launched as 909, the hull number was changed to 970 by the time of its completion in August 1997. The hull number was changed again to 891 as a weapon trial ship in October 2002. China’s changing of ship hull numbers and even names makes determining the actual history of one particular hull difficult, which certainly is a reason for this practice.

Cyber, China Challenges Loom Large for U.S. Military

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 3

Quote of the Day: “Make no mistake: the PLAN is focused on war at sea and sinking an opposing fleet.”—Capt. Jim Fanell, USN, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Two separate issues, both on the rise, have become increasing concerns for U.S. military planners. The technology-oriented world of cyber and the geopolitical challenge of a growing Chinese military are dynamic issues that will be major focus points for the U.S. defense community in the foreseeable future.

Cyber security is becoming increasingly complex because of the plethora of new information technologies and capabilities entering the force. Security planners must strike a balance between effectively protecting these new information systems and imposing constraints that would wipe out most of the gains they offer.

China, the world’s rising economic power, is evolving into a military power with a reach that extends increasingly beyond its littoral waters. The U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is likely to enmesh U.S. military forces in local issues to a greater degree, and China’s steady growth in military strength will affect how international relations evolve in that vast region.

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