Tag Archives: Asia

U.S. Submarine in Asia Trip as Obama Seeks to Assure Allies


The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina sits moored at Changi Naval Base in Singapore.

A U.S. nuclear submarine is making a port call in Singapore as the Navy showcases its ability to operate in shallow coastal waters after questions about the fitness of its Littoral Combat Ship for use in Asia.

The Virginia-class USS North Carolina was designed with littoral combat in mind, particularly for special operations and anti-mine warfare, its commanding officer Richard Rhinehart told reporters yesterday. It is the submarine’s second visit to the region since its commissioning ceremony in 2008.

U.S. Navy officers in the Pacific fleet have raised concerns that the Littoral Combat Ship may lack the speed, range and electronic-warfare capabilities to operate in the vast Asian waters. President Barack Obama, who made a week-long trip to the region to shore up ties with key allies, has said the U.S. would protect East China Sea islands administered by Japan that are claimed by China and reaffirmed defense treaty obligations with the Philippines, embroiled in a dispute with China in the South China Sea.

“This is not the first Virginia-class to deploy to the region,” said Commander Rhinehart. “This does, however, represent a continued effort by the U.S. to send the best technology and capabilities into the Pacific theater.”

The North Carolina, which has been on its current deployment for four months, is the first class of submarine equipped with a periscope system consisting of two photonics masts with infrared and laser range-finding capability that makes it suitable for littoral waters, Rhinehart said. It can launch torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack missiles, has counter-mine capabilities and a nine-man lockout chamber to allow swimmers to exit, he said.

GAO Report

The Littoral Combat Ship, designed to operate in coastal waters, “might be better suited to operations” in the smaller Persian Gulf, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report obtained by Bloomberg News this month. The Navy should consider buying fewer of the ships if its limitations prevent effective use in the Pacific, the report said, following others that have questioned the cost, mission and survivability in combat of the ship.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a Feb. 24 memo that “considerable reservations” led him to bar negotiations for any more than 32 of the vessels, 20 fewer than called for in the Navy’s $34 billion program. The Littoral Combat Ship is made in two versions by Lockheed Martin (LMT) Corp. and Austal Ltd.

Operating in shallow waters is a bigger challenge because there are more objects for sound to bounce off, the mix of salt water and fresh water can cause changes in buoyancy, and there is a greater likelihood of encountering other ships such as fishing vessels, Rhinehart said.

Projecting Power

The U.S. Navy will probably keep buying Littoral Combat Ships because it doesn’t really have an alternative, according to Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore who focuses on regional military issues.

“One of the reason why they’re building Littoral Combat Ships is to give them the ability to project power from the water close to land,” he said. “Asia’s important, Southeast Asia in particular is important, and the United States is going to be demonstrating its intention to stay here.”

Obama Visits

Tensions in Asia have been on the rise as China asserts its military muscle and presses claims to territory and resources. In November, China prompted criticism from the U.S., South Koreaand Japan after it announced an air defense identification zone over a large part of the East China Sea. In January, it introduced fishing rules in the South China Sea requiring foreign vessels to seek permission before entering waters off its southern coast.

China will make “no compromise, no concessions” in such disputes and is ready to fight and win any battle, General Chang Wanquan said on April 8 in Beijing.

China has said central government defense spending will rise 12.2 percent this year to 808.2 billion yuan ($129.3 billion), at a time the Pentagon is cutting back, proposing a budget for the coming fiscal year of $495.6 billion and to reduce the Army’s personnel by 6 percent by 2015. China’s increased budget threatens to end U.S. military superiority, Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said Feb. 11.

Counter, Contain

Obama, speaking on April 24 after a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said a security treaty between the U.S. and Japan covers “all territory that is administered by Japan.” The commitment to defend the area is longstanding and he was not drawing a new “red line” with China over the issue, Obama said.

Yesterday, the Philippines and the U.S. signed an agreement that will boost the rotational American troop presence in the Southeast Asian nation.

The U.S. is seeking to work cooperatively with China in the region, Obama said at a briefing in Manila with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. “Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.”

“We have a lot of regional allies,” said the North Carolina’s Commander Rhinehart. “The entire Asia area is very important and we’re here with our partner nations trying to promote security and the rights of all nations large and small.”

Source – Bloomberg News

Russia boosts its submarine exports to Asia

Two Malaysian Air Force Lady officials take a look at the two submarines from France "La Praya" and Pakistan "Hurmat" at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA '97) Exhibition 03 December in Malaysia's resort island Langkawi.
Two Malaysian Air Force Lady officials take a look at the two submarines from France “La Praya” and Pakistan “Hurmat” at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia’s resort island Langkawi.


During the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition taking place in Malaysia, Igor Vilnit, the CEO of the Russian developer of submarines Rubin, reported on the progress of a number of development projects aimed at exporting Russian submarines to Asian countries. Vasily Kashin, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, analyzes the situation.

This year Vietnam will receive the first of six Project 636 submarines it has ordered. At present, the first Vietnamese submarine, which was named “Hanoi”, is already undergoing testing. At the beginning of this year the Vietnamese team of the future vessel started its training in Russia. Simultaneously, Russian specialists are building in Vietnam the entire necessary infrastructure for using the submarines and training the submarine personnel.

One cannot exclude the possibility that the transfer to Vietnam of the Project 636 submarines will go more quickly than what was stated by Rubin’s CEO, – suggests expert Vasily Kashin. It is known for a fact that the second submarine of the Vietnamese order has already been launched, while the third one is expected to be launched in August. It is quite possible that this year Vietnam will get two submarines and another one in 2014. All six submarines have to be transferred to Vietnam by the end of 2016.

Thus, 2013 will be used to develop the Vietnamese fleet’s submarine forces. Prior to this Vietnam tried to set up its submarine forces by purchasing two superlight submarines from North Korea, but it failed. North Korea’s light submarines turned out to be too weak in their combat capabilities.

According to Vasily Kashin, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the acquisition of the Project 636 submarines from Russia satisfies Vietnam’s need to defend its sovereignty at sea and in reality poses no threat to the interests of Russia’s strategic partner China. The limited submarine forces would not give Vietnam any chance of winning the battle against the Chinese fleet, which supersedes it by several times, but would allow it to preserve the status-quo with its own resources. The lack of its own effective naval forces could push Vietnam towards a closer partnership with powers from outside the region, like it happened in the Philippines’ case. Taking all this into account, the real conflict between Vietnam and China has a very low probability as China’s policy towards Vietnam is based on the maximum engagement of the Vietnamese in trade and economic cooperation.

Another promising direction for the export of Russian submarines to Asia is India. The India’s navy is getting ready to announce a tender for the purchasing of 6 non-nuclear submarines. According to Rubin’s CEO Igor Vilnit, Russia is planning to offer the Indians its submarines of the Amur-950 project. Amur-950 is a reduced version of the Amur-1650 submarines, the acquisition of which China is currently negotiating to purchase. Compared to Amur-1650 they have a lower displacement and a lower range, while their armament is just slightly inferior to that of the Amur-1650 submarines.

The specific qualities of the Amur-950 submarines include the vertical launch for 10 ballistic missiles, which if needed could be launched within 2 minutes.

The offer to the Indian Navy includes the vessels equipped with ultrasound ballistic missiles “Brahmos” jointly produced by Russia and India. Russia’s participation in the Brahmos project is considered to give a serious advantage to the Russian proposal for this tender, in which the French submarine producers are participating as well. Obviously, these submarines of a low displacement are meant to be used in the Indian Ocean only.

 At the same time, the negotiations with China are still underway to supply four larger Amur-1650 submarines, of which two are likely to be equipped with the new Russian engines which work without air supply. Due to the extended range of action, the Amur-1650 submarines can be used in the Pacific Ocean at far distances from the bases. Compared to the Project 636 submarines supplied to China earlier, Amur-1650 boats have lower level of perceptibility, which increases their chances of overcoming Japan’s system of submarine defense.

The modern diesel-electric submarines are an effective and relatively inexpensive weapon, which gives the naval forces of Asia’s developing countries a chance to stand up to the large fleets of the developed countries, believes Vasily Kashin, a Russian expert on defense issues. The experience of the Falklands war of 1982 and the subsequent naval military exercises of the NATO countries revealed that with proper management such boats can successfully overcome the anti-submarine defense of aircraft carrier combat groups.

Source – The Voice of Russia